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Mighty Mastodon

4 Feb

I dropped history as quick as I could in high school. Still, I did think I knew what a Mastodon was. Prehistoric, huge elephant-type, right? Now, I am not so sure. I am thinking a Mastodon is an animal of magic. Or at least that’s what it was last week. And it had a number of tricks up its furry sleeve.

1. No-frills rockers Red Fang in the support slot
Hailing from Portland, this authentic four-piece is lovable for so many reasons. They make awesomely insane videos. They seem totally down-to-earth. They look like they immensely enjoy being on stage. They make you wonder how they ever found each other. And they really, really rock. A solid circa three-quarter hour set long. It was awesome to see these guys do their things someplace else than youtube. And what a monster groove. My buddies, all Red Fang fanboys, were elated. It definitely calls for getting all the music available and diving headfirst into it (possibly holding a liquid refreshment in each hand).

Mastodon @ Frankfurt Batschkapp and Essigfabrik Cologne2. Letting The Hunter speak for itself
There are chatty bands and there are not so chatty bands. I usually like it when there’s some talk between songs but for a band as atmospheric as Mastodon, shutting up really suits the show. They simply let the songs do the talking. Lots of stuff from the new record “The Hunter” on this tour, but also a few favorites from previous albums, lined up snuggly to form what feels like a narrative one could get lost in. I’ve never been to a show that told a story before. It semi-boggled my mind.

3. Charisma
Yes, I used that word. It’s usually reserved for self-important press outlets and frontmen like Bono. And it’s usually not used for four guys based out of Atlanta, sporting some very individual concept hair. But, regardless of the billions of years of jading gigxpertise under my belt, Mastodon did manage to create the illusion that they were truly playing for me – well, and everyone else there, obviously. Experiencing that is like the rock-version of finger-pointing, and it wraps you up in this beautiful gig bubble. It’s an incredible feeling and contagious, it seems – looking around the audience I saw a lot of blissed-out faces. And the best news is: this “high” lasts for a day or so. I mentioned this to a bearded ally of mine who has close ties to Mastodon and there was little surprise. Supposedly, I got a full dose of the Mastovibe. Which would explain why I went to see them again just four days later.

4. Sound you want to wrap your head around
Mastodon’s thickly layered sludge rock is the metal equivalent of 500 count Egyptian cotton. You can sink into it. You can feel it’s layers. It’s densely woven and intricate. It’s almost impossible to wrap your head around. But when you do, it’s like somebody pressed play in your mind. And the movie that follows is one of the best you’ve ever seen.

See, it was magic. All the way from the highly energetic “Dry Bone Valley” to the sing-along set-closer “The Creature Lives”. If you’re not intrigued yet, I fear you may have the emotional landscape of a Keanu Reeves character. If you’re a little petrified of experiencing this for yourself, I totally understand. However you feel about it, I would recommend that you do go see Mastodon for yourself. But if you come out a relentless fangirl/fanboy, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

More on Red Fang here.
Read Red Fang’s awesome blog here.
More on Mastodon here.

P.S.: On the subject of connections in metal, I read that bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders’ brother is Kyle Sanders of Bloodsimple, one of my all-time favorite bands. Looks like some families get all the talent.

Neon Legion

13 Jan

This New Year’s Eve, I was lucky enough to be in Buenos Aires. It’s a wonderful city with lots going on, especially at night (as it is really too hot during the day to do anything). In the week following New Year’s Eve, I got to see Neon Legion perform at La Cigale, a wonderful location in one of those “old-world-charm” buildings in downtown BA.

In case you don’t know Neon Legion, I will just give you a quick overview. Founded by Frankfurt’s own Philip Kressin, the band is made up of different musicians depending on where they are performing. And Kressin – as the frontman – is the only constant in this innovative game of musical chairs. Before forming Neon Legion, Kressin released one album under the name of Kirt. Based out of New York, Toronto, Buenos Aires and sometimes home sweet home Frankfurt, the different cultures Kressin experiences have found their way onto Neon Legion’s first album “La Revolucion” and make for some very versatile listening.

Seeing this live was a real treat. It brought out some new facets within the Neon Legion tracks. Not, that the music didn’t display a whole number of them already. An eclectic mix of electronic, rock and even classical sounds, the songs on “La Revolucion” are certainly uniquely layered, whether you listen to it live or recorded.

My favorite moment of the night’s performance was definitely the last song – the title track “La Revolucion”. Wonderfully varied electronic sounds paired with chunky guitars and almost eerie vocals, it feels like Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir on an industrial merry-go-round. If your synapses don’t sizzle trying to imagine that, I don’t know what will get your imagination going.

“La Revolucion” comes out February 2012.

More on La Cigale: lacigalebar.blogspot.com
More on Neon Legion: www.neonlegion.com

Birthday Songs

30 Dec

 

As much as I welcome the fact that – possibly fueled by the economic/music industry crisis – some of my favorite artists have recently gone on “reunion tours”, I prefer the anniversary tour concept. Most obviously, because it means the artists in question have continuously made music and never split up. Of course, 2011 marked a whole number of anniversaries including the 20th birthdays of Pearl Jam’s “Ten” and Nirvana’s “Nevermind” – not bands as such but still milestones in rock history.
On a more “national” note, 2011 also marked the 10th birthday of German punk rockish outfit Itchy Poopzkid, a band I last talked about on ROXITY in July. Reason enough for these three to finish the year with the second leg of the “Lights out London” tour with Austrian support 3 Feet Smaller (keep a watch out for these guys!) and a birthday party at the Roxy in Ulm.

Itchy Poopzkid @ Colos-Saal, AschaffenburgAfter a first show earlier in the year in Frankfurt and the second show in Wirges at the Spack! Festival, the gig at Aschaffenburg’s Colos-Saal came with an awesome feeling of familiarity. And I guess this is what really makes this band’s shows unique, too. Even if there is a distance physically – be it through rows of fans or barriers in front of the stage – they have a talent to make everyone in the room feel “close”. I have tried to demystify the way in which they own their fans. My best guess boiled down to a concoction of much-loved tunes, a down-to-earth performance attitude, and the way in which they do not take themselves or each other too seriously. Until I went to the actual birthday bash on December 23 at the Roxy, that is. There, the relentlessly enthusiastic performance was spiked with a few really moving special effects and performances that put a whole new spin on the concept of owning the crowd. I don’t want to over-dramatize this into an epiphany, but I guess I finally got it. It’s the essence of the cliché that has come to be known as “the American dream” – people like you and me turning passion into vocation and succeeding. The only difference in the Itchy Poopzkid version is: there is no envy involved. These guys are so ready to share the experience with their fans that all the fans can do is be genuinely happy that they are still going strong after 10 years. Hard to say no when it comes from the heart, I guess.

More on the Colos-Saal Aschaffenburg: colos-saal.de
More on the Roxy Ulm: roxy.ulm.de
More on 3 Feet Smaller: 3feetsmaller.at
Photos 3 Feet Smaller, Colos-Saal: bit.ly/xzaNci
More on Itchy Poopzkid: itchypoopzkid.de
Photos Itchy Poopzkid, Aschaffenburg: bit.ly/A5SkY8

Sad-Eyed Ladies

13 Oct

Before I get into telling you all about the two Keith Mina Caputo & the Sad-Eyed Ladies shows I got to see this fall, I will comment on the ongoing discussion on “Keith goes Mina”. This is the only time I will write anything about it, so listen up.

Keith Mina Caputo & the Sad-Eyed Ladies @ Nachtleben FrankfurtFrankly, I am pretty furious. Especially when reading things such as the comments by some Pete person that followed the tagging of Life of Agony members in a flyer (posted by the band Confusion on Facebook). Don’t get me wrong, this is just one example and not the most important one, either. But it does stand for the many reasons we have to be disappointed in our fellow human beings. In a musical context, I don’t understand who gave any of us “fans” the right to judge personal decisions made by any members of bands. First of all – even if you grew up listening to a band and have seen them on stage a million times – chances are you DO NOT know these people. You do not know their minds, their life, not anything really. Secondly, you are supposed to be there for the music. That’s it. Just the music. Thirdly, how backwards must you be if you can’t accept someone else’s personal choices – especially if they do not have any effect on what you get out of the art they are creating? I am sure that a big decision like the one Mina made isn’t easily come by and takes a lot more courage than writing derogatory articles, comments and such. So: if the music is what you came for, stick to the damn subject. Respect these people as artists. And don’t forget: if they don’t affect you, other people’s lifestyles are really none of your business. I can promise you that the two shows I saw still had all the edginess, character, voice and spirit they’ve always had. So get a life of your own to comment on or something, you opinionated, macho fools.

Rant’s over. Now for the actual info on the Cologne and Frankfurt shows. The awesome thing about this tour: Cologne was almost the first show and Frankfurt was almost the last. I can’t say which I preferred but can tell you that they were not the same at all.

The show in Cologne’s Underground took place on September 9. For some odd reason, most of the Keith Mina Caputo shows seem to happen in September and October. Good for one of my favorite allies. Since my birthday is on September 11, she always has the perfect gift lined up. (Though she would really be at a loss if my birthday came round half as much as Jochem’s seems to…) Anyway, as is almost tradition by now, we went on the birthday gig tour. And this year, I got a set that was lined with the most beautiful sense of melancholy. I saw a band that seemed to have found a whole new equilibrium in the joy of playing together. Plus, “My mind is dangerous” was on the set list. I love that song. And not just because it’s an old LOA track. Also on the set list was some new stuff, “Alaska” and “Identity”. While the former sent my mind to…well, my time in Alaska this summer, “Identity” – although it’s velvet to the ears – reminded of the predicament we are in when we set out to find ourselves and what we find is not what we expected. All in all, poetic and powerful – just like the rest of the set, including an impressive jam by the Sad-Eyed Ladies and Ryan Oldcastle’s acoustic performance of “Blessed March”.

Easy to see why I went twice, isn’t it? Though the setlist was roughly the same in Frankfurt on October 11, it was a completely different show. The mood, though as intimate as ever, had facets to it that I have not encountered at a Keith Mina Caputo gig to date. Dark, intense and brooding – meet cheeky, boisterous and a sense of arrival. I am surprised how well you all work together. And thanks for having me over for some tunes.

More photos from the show here
More info on Keith Mina Caputo: keithminacaputo.com
More info on Cologne Underground: underground-cologne.de
More info on Frankfurt Nachtleben: batschkapp.de

Rock Stampede

6 Oct

 

Fate is a funny thing. At times, it can take one opportunity away and present you with another. And that, I suppose, is what happened when I went to see Godsized at the Logo in Hamburg. All prepared to take photos and do an interview, I arrived only to find that Godsized had had an unfortunate mishap on the way there. Burst tire, leaking gas pipe. And all that on a Sunday. Chances were, they weren’t going to make it to the venue on time. However, there were two other bands on the bill that night. I hadn’t really done my research but still decided to stay and watch the second act of the night, a band called Muffalo.

Muffalo @ Café Central WeinheimIn hindsight, of the three things that crossed my mind, two are hilarious. Next to totally falling for the “real rock sound” of Muffalo as a whole, I found myself thinking that a) the drummer seemed to really know what he was doing and b) the bassist seemed familiar somehow.

Why is that funny? Well. First off, I later wikipedia’d that the drummer is actually Gene Trautmann, former member of Queens of the Stone Age/Eagles of Death Metal. So I guess it’s safe to say he didn’t need my judgment on his talent. But good call on my (non-instrument-playing) part, huh? Secondly, as I was sitting on the train back from Hamburg, I flipped through “Everybody loves our town” – an oral history of the Seattle scene I was reading – and there was Dean Gunderson, bassist of Muffalo (and of Cat Butt/Jack o’Fire, as it turns out), staring back at me from one of the photo plates that I had looked at one the way there. Mystery solved.

Anyway, back to the falling for the real rock sound bit. After seeing Muffalo in Hamburg, I also went to the Weinheim show at Café Central where they were supported by Swiss rockers Navel. In the meantime, I had gotten my hands on “Love Songs and Battle Hymns”, Muffalo’s brand-new album. Now, I keep repeating myself but I am really not big on labels. So, when you get your copy of the album, feel free to tell me whether it’s garage, desert, southern, stoner or whichever other genre you can dig up by then. I will just tell you that the album rocks. As did their set. From honest rock tracks like “Stitches” to contagious tunes like “Purpose of Aging”, Muffalo showed what almost a decade of work mixed with fine rock heritage can accomplish. While former Mondo Generator member and Muffalo frontman Derek Myers’ voice and lyrics laced the beautifully down-to-earth songs with the necessary emotive quality, Dean Gunderson, Gene Trautmann and Darren Musatto (the tour guitarist and newest member of the Muffalo family) rewarded the audience at Café Central with soothingly real rock music. Too bad you weren’t there. Better luck next time, I guess.

More Muffalo photos

Extra reading before the next tour:
find more on Muffalo on muffalo.net
keep tabs on the Logo schedule on logohamburg.de
keep tabs on the Café Central schedule on cafecentral.de

NEWERMIND: Spin’s tribute

15 Sep

NEWERMIND: Spin's tribute to Nirvana (Image courtesy of SPIN.com)

I was never the biggest Nirvana fan. But I can remember when Nevermind came out. And I can remember seeing the 20th anniversary exhibition this year at the EMP. A lot of things have happened in these 20 years. Like most of us growing up, for example. But still, when I hear an old Nirvana tune, I can totally appreciate it to this day. For all of you who feel the same, here’s the free download link to NEWERMIND. SPIN’s tribute album with all 13 Nevermind tracks performed by 13 different bands. I will spare you the “SPIN putting a new spin on things” remark at this point but I have to admit that what I hear is not what I would have expected.

DOWNLOAD NEWERMIND

I’m with them

31 Aug

Red Hot Chili Peppers @ E-Werk Cologne, filming I'm with youSome time ago, I got an e-mail. It stated quite blankly that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were filming a live DVD for their new album “I’m with you”. Now, the album hadn’t been released and I can’t deny having been in two minds about it. Honestly: what were the chances of another “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” coming along? Anyway, the DVD was to be filmed in Cologne and the audience would be extremely limited.

I’ve seen the Chili Peppers three times. The smallest venue was probably the Brixton Academy. And that already sums up the trouble with going to see a band of that magnitude. Any show will always take place in a stadium or similar. No club atmosphere, no close-up experience. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still always try to squeeze through to the front, even in a stadium-size venue. But it’s just not the same. So when this e-mail came and offered me tickets to the filming of this DVD, I had to take the chance. Whether I’d listened to the new music or not.

Red Hot Chili Peppers @ E-Werk Cologne, filming I'm with youSo my two favorite allies and I made our way to Cologne to the E-Werk. The Chili Peppers came on stage and “funked” each and every song off the new record plus “Me and my friends” and “Give it away”. And two of my wishes came true. First of all, Anthony Kiedis sounded good. Sometimes, I think the arena sound doesn’t do him any favors. Second of all, Josh Klinghoffer – the new guitarist replacing legendary John Frusciante – did an awesome job. Flea and Chad, as always, did not disappoint.


Seeing them in a smaller space, probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and hearing the new music live really rekindled the comatose relationship I’ve had with the Chili Peppers lately. “I’m with you” isn’t a first-listen winner. But it does grow on you unbelievably over time. It’s funky, soulful, complete. So I guess I have to admit – all doubts aside – I’m with them. Once again.

 

 

Red Hot Chili Peppers @ E-Werk Cologne, filming I'm with you

Red Hot Chili Peppers @ E-Werk Cologne, filming I'm with you

Spack! Festival

20 Aug

Itchy Poopzkid at Spack! FestivalThere’s nothing like a summer festival experience. Especially if the sun is shining and there’s some of your favorite bands on the bill. Sure, a festival is something you have to WANT to go to. I mean, it can be a whole lot of waiting, muddy campgrounds and such. But especially when they are small and “cozy”, they become one of the most honest music experiences.

Itchy Poopzkid at Spack! FestivalMost recently, I attended a festival called Spack! which takes place in Wirges about an hour outside of Frankfurt, Germany. After a number of smaller, local/German bands the first of two days came to a close with three headliners. First up: Itchy Poopzkid, one of my favorite German punk-rock bands. As expected, the three-piece delivered a vibrant set incorporating some of the finest tunes from their ten-year-career. Now, I never get tired watching this band do a live show. Witty remarks, instrument switcharoo, guitar case stunts – these guys have all that and more. On a side note, I have more reasons to go and support this band. While I try not to include “work” in this blog, I did include Itchy Poopzkid in my work. Check out the new Suzuki campaign I got to work on here.

 

Boysetsfire at Spack! Festival

Back to the festival, though. And the bill. Second up were none other than my favorite post-hardcore band of all time, Boysetsfire. And yes, it was my third BSF show this summer. But honestly, I had to make up for lost time, right? In short: It totally blissed me out once again. From “My Empire” to “Rookie”, it was all there. Outstandingly delivered.Boysetsfire at Spack! Festival

Oh, and then Good Charlotte played.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on Itchy Poopzkid here: www.itchypoopzkid.de
More on Boysetsfire here: www.boysetsfire.org
More on Spack! Festival here: www.spack-festival.de

 

 

 

 

No Pain, no gain

20 Jul

House of Pain @ BatschkappThere’s truly nothing better to heal the hurt of a jet lag than a nice, sweaty, indoor show. So, upon returning from the saga that was my summer adventure, I obviously could think of nothing better to do than frequent my local live music hall, the Batschkapp. Luckily, the timing was perfect. House of Pain was scheduled to play a show.

Of course, House of Pain is not strictly “rock”. However, it is a regular – and always has been – on the turntables of all my favorite clubs. I’m not denying that “Jump Around” and the track from Judgement Night got the most play, but as a loyal expander of the musical mind, I did get all the records, including Everlast’s solo stuff, and listened to them religiously for quite some time. I must admit, I was biased by my environment. I had an old-skool b-boy type showing me the musical ropes at the time. A broadening of the horizon I am grateful for to this very day. After all, we all should learn about Grand Master Flash and such, no matter what albums we end up buying in the long run.

House of Pain @ BatschkappAnyway, I digress. I didn’t catch much of the support due to aforementioned jet lag. But I did catch the House of Pain show. Granted, a hip-hop based show has a very different energy to – let’s say – Slipknot (Or Limp Bizkit, thank God). But all the necessary tunes were played to get the crowd moving, nontheless. From “Danny Boy” to the must-do “Jump Around”. The proverbial sprinkles on top? An acoustic session by Everlast aka Whitey Ford aka Erik Schrody himself. A couple of solo tracks. A big yay from me,as I have nothing but respect for the guy and have spent many an awesome moment listening to exactly those tunes. By the way, new stuff is being released as we speak.

Now, it’s hard for me to really compare this to anything or itself. I have never seen House of Pain live. I haven’t really seen many hip-hop based acts, period (Not counting J-Zay at Rock am Ring, where I actually decided to get a drink from the bar instead). But all in all, I have to say it was a pleasant surprise, a good time and exactly what the insomnia doctor ordered. Head-bobbing and all.

Tickets for Batschkapp: batschkapp.tickets.de/en/customer/home
More on House of Pain: www.myspace.com/houseofpain
Everlast: www.myspace.com/everlast
Also check out Everlast’s, Danny Boy’s and DJ Lethal’s side project, La Coka Nostra: lacokanostra.com

 

 

 

Rockin Red

18 Jul

There’s this thing about growing up in Europe. I mean, sure – all the bands drop by sooner or later. But you seldom get to see them at a really iconic venue. You go to Wembley, Slane Castle, Rock am Ring and other “big” locations. But you never really feel like it’s the full experience. I put that down to the existence of Live DVDs. If there is a waiting period before your favorite band arrives, you may watch their live show – or snippets thereof – beforehand. In doing so, you get acquainted with said iconic venues. Madison Square Garden seems to be a popular one, for example. And then there’s also Red Rocks.

I think my first glimpse of this place was through the “Alive at Red Rocks” DVD Incubus put out (which a friend lent me ca. 2005 and I still haven’t given back and I officially apologize for that here). And I can remember being mesmerized. A stage nestled into an awesome red rock structure, right there in the mountains behind Denver, CO. A natural amphitheatre that can hold up to 10,000 and sets an incredible scene. Illuminated rocks, starry skies, you get the picture. Of course, I wanted to go. But Denver isn’t really a place you “swing by” if you live in Europe, is it?

Finally, this year, I came to terms with the fact that the Red Rocks Experience wasn’t going to happen coincidentally. So I planned it instead. And got lucky, too: The band to fit my travel plans was none other than a-bit-too-rock-for-grunge Seattleites Soundgarden who I hadn’t seen before. Needless to say, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The band went through an almost two-hour set of all the favorite tunes from Jesus Christ Pose to Black Hole Sun. The acoustics were awesome. And so was the atmosphere.

As a fan of the club-size gig, I have to admit that going to Red Rocks was more than worthwhile. The place makes you wish the night would never end. On that note, do pay attention to where you park your car. I swear it all looks different when you come back to the parking lot.

More info on Red Rocks: www.redrocksonline.com
More info on Soundgarden: www.soundgardenworld.com
Photos from the Red Rocks Show here

Some rough quality photos here:

Soundgarden at Red Rocks

Red Rocks