Immersed in soundscapes, echoes and many buttons

Nils Frahm – Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg; June 8th, 2019

On a nice June day I was back at Elbphilharmonie – this time to see Nils Frahm. Ever since I’d heard about him playing there the previous year I had hoped he’d return and bought a ticket as soon as they were available. Last time I’d seen him was a few years ago and I didn’t really remember much about his music, but I knew I found it fascinating to watch him perform and was looking forward to it. He gave us over two hours of great entertainment that left nothing more to wish for.

The concert was part of the “Reflektor” series – three days made up of concerts, movies and exhibitions. One of those was a photo exhibition by Nils’ father Klaus Frahm that I saw in the afternoon and quite liked. Originally I had planned to see one of the movies too, but decided against it and rather enjoyed the nice weather. In the evening I walked to the venue and once more admired the beautiful architecture of the building. Had a second row seat this time so I was right up at the stage. Unfortunately I had a tall guy in front of me and the view was partly blocked. I learned then that it is better to sit a few rows back where te seats are raised. This was not going to spoil my enjoyment though.

There were two “sets of keys” with three pianos/ organs / keyboards in a half circle and lots of effects and mixing equipment each. I really have no idea how to properly name any of this other than saying there were a great number of knobs and buttons. It looked fascinating even before the concert started. While I looked at the pianos and wondered how much Nils would switch between them I also realized that I was going to see a lot of Nils’ back and thought it must also be interesting to sit behind the stage and have the view for the other side, despite not being to able to see much of the mixing desk from here.

Right on time Nils jogged out (yes, he did not walk ;)) and was greeted with loud cheers. He looked happy and told us how much he liked it that they were letting him do what he wanted for three days, organizing the whole Reflektor series and seeing great concerts. But before doing that he’d play one of his own. Next he sat down and did just that, making beautiful melodies come alive. The first song already seemed to last forever and it took a little time for me to get into it, but when it ended I was smiling. This was exactly what I had come for. 🙂

“I hope I set all these buttons right,” he joked “because there are so many of them”. Everyone laughed and if they had not realized it before there were indeed many. He pressed a button here, turned a know there, ran over to the other set of pianos, doing the same, saying he was pretending this was exciting for us too. 😀 We learned that he hat cut himself and bled all over the piano last time he’d played here, but “I have healed since.” I did not remember that he was funny and enjoyed the banter as much as the music. From the second song I was really into it and loved what I heard. Not that I remembered or recognized any of the music, but it had a good flow to it and all the songs were long so it was easy to fall right into them. 🙂

It was all beautiful and all the effects were used wisely, creating soundscapes that surrounded me with music seemingly coming from everywhere, soft echoes here, amplified notes there. I felt immersed in the music, no matter how softly it was played and enjoyed the variety f the different pieces. I must admit though that either I got too lost in the songs to count them or didn’t fully realize when one turned into another, because I thought he played seven up to the encores and according to the setlist he played nine. They all felt very different to me though. Maybe I just lost count. 😉

There were lots of speakers hanging from the ceiling, but I forgot about them as soon as the concert started. As far as lights go there was no special lighting that I remember so I spent the entire time on watching Nils move between instruments and mixing desks while he played. For a brief moment I envied the photographer in the house. I would have loved to capture all this with my camera. Right after, I was happy I did not have to, because it allowed me to fully immerse in the music without worrying about pictures. 🙂

Most songs started without an extra introduction, but after close to two hours of playing he told us that the next song ‘Says’ was our favorite, i.e. his most-played song, adding that in an age of total digital surveillance he could safely make such a claim. He went on to let us know that this was an easy song: “I just pressed two buttons, then played three notes and it was more or less done.” 😀 Well, I guess trick lies in pressing the right buttons and playing the right notes. 😉 It sure is a great piece of music and just because it was easy for him does not mean it was simple.

He had already told us he was going to play the encore right away and just symbolically step to the side of the stage, because really who needed this act of leaving and coming back when there was not much to do backstage anyway. 😉 He did run back there very briefly to get a beer, but other than that he was back in a flash as we cheered him on. One more song ‘For – Peter – Toilet Brushes – More’ followed. It immediately made me think of something my friend I. had said “and then he gets out his toilet brushes”. Until I saw them I had thought of it as a joke, but yes, here they were, used to hammer the strings of the grand piano. Little did I know and I wasn’t aware a song with that title existed either… 😉 The concerts could not have ended any better and for a while after he had jogged off the stage, people still stood there clapping, not wanting it to be over just yet. Eventually we realized that this was it and left, still feeling the echoes of the songs.

I tried the after party at MS Stubnitz for a while  and enjoyed being back on the boat. The music wasn’t for me though and sleep seemed a lot more appealing so I left after about one hour. Next time Nils Frahm comes around I will sure be looking for tickets again. 🙂

Setlist

The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched
Sunson
My Friend The Forest – The Dane – Familiar
Fundamental Values
Human Range – Forever Changeless
All Melody
#2 – Momentum
Hammers
Says

Encore:
For – Peter – Toilet Brushes – More

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Rock ‘n’ Roll is very much alive in Camden

Camden Rocks – various venues, London; June 1st, 2019

Sometime earlier this ear, Flight Brigade announced they were playing Camden Rocks Festival. Since it was a Saturday and didn’t have any plans this weekend, I checked it out, saw Frank Turner and New Model Army in the line up, thought “why not?” and bought a ticket. It had been a long time since I’d last seen Flight Brigade and getting to see some other bands too would be interesting. The two day festival is a bit like Iceland Airwaves with venues all over Camden, mainly introducing up and coming bands. I went for one day only and did not see all that much, but enjoyed everything. It was a great day.

I flew in Saturday morning which meant getting up insanely early. There was no chance to rest before the festival, because it started at noon and check in time was 2:30. Thus I made do with taking a nap on the plane and lots of caffeine. Left my luggage at my hostel, had some tea and got my wristband for the day ahead. I’d marked down a few bands I wanted to see, but never got around to checking on all of them, deciding to just take my chances.

VENUE: THE HAWLEY ARMS

My first stop was the Hawley Arms were I wanted to see Izzy Thomas and figured I’d check out whoever played before her. The stage was to be found at the upstairs bar that had a nice patio too. Stayed out in the sun until it was about to start and went inside. Slow Mojo gave us some fun Blues Rock. After one song people came closer and some were even moving with the Music. it liked it, they had a good groove and, as the singer put it, their dancing shoes on. For a moment I felt as if I’d landed in the middle of a Blues Brothers movie. 😉 They played well and there was some good banter going on with the audience too. I really enjoyed it. It was entertaining to watch them. What a nice start to the day it was.

Spent some time in the sun, waiting for the stage to be changed and then stood front row for Izzy Thomas. She put on a great performance, passionate and powerful. She went into it full force from the start and I was immediately impressed with her voice. Instantly liked the music as well as the topics she sang about. It’s always difficult to get all the lyrics on first listen, but I can say that it spoke to me. After the first song she introduced herself “My Name is Izzy Thomas and I write angry bitch songs”. It put a big smile on my face. You go woman! For every song she played she made a short inroduction so we learned that ‘Sell your Soul’ is about the record industry. It was a good song. She also covered Rag n Bone Man’s ‘Human’ and was a tad disappointed when nobody raised their hand as she asked who knew it. Truth be told I understood the title, but not the artist when she said it, but I immediately recognized the song as she started singing. In the end she asked us to tag her if we took pictures since this would help her doing what she loves and wants to do. Sure thing.The band was damn good too and when they ended their set with ‘Trouble’ they got much deserved cheers. I really wanted to hear  more – too bad there is never an encore at such festivals.

Setlist

Wicked Way
Mad
Be a Man
Sell your Soul
Human (Rag n Bone Man cover)
Trouble

After this I had some time for a walk and found the next venue.

VENUE: THE MONARCH

At the Monarch I sat down for a bit until it was time for The Wild Things to start. I had checked them out online beforehand, wasn’t fully convinced, but decided to give them a try anyway. Many people wanted to see them and the venue was nicely filled. When they started I thought they were OK, but ptrretty soon their live energy drew me in and I enjoyed watching and listening to them. They had a lot of fans in the room who knew the songs well and were really into it. There wasn’t much of a chance for this not being contagious. 😀 It was a fun set overall and I loudly cheered with everyone else.

Setlist

Loaded Gun
Only Attraction
I Think You Can Do Better
Skin & Bones
You’re Really Something
Devil’s
F.I.A.

Finally it was time for Flight Brigade, the band I had really come to see. While they were setting up I chatted briefly with Thomas who had waved as soon as he spotted me. It was really nice seeing them again. Mirijam was missing and they had a different drummer, but everyone else was there and busy getting ready. It had been over two years since I’d last seen them play and I was happy to finally get a chance again.

They started of with ‘Tearaway’ and pretty soon the crowd moved closer and listened. The band still sounded just as good as I remembered them and I was smiling already. I even recalled some of the lyrics and managed to sing along  at times. 🙂 They all looked happy to be on stage and in-between songs Olli bantered with the audience telling us he was seeing a lot of cool band shirt on display. A bit later he pointed to someone wearing a “dying Fetus” and declared it the best one in the house offering to swap with his plain white one. 😀

Apart from the familiar songs Flight Brigade had three new ones on the setlist one of which, ‘Stranger Things’ I’m not even sure I’d heard before. All three of them rocked, but I especially liked ‘Fury Road’. These songs made me look forward to the upcoming album even more than I already did. It was one hell of a show and the only criticism I have is that it was way too short.  They already got a bit over 30 minutes because when they asked if there was time for one last song it was already close to the end of their allotted half hour. Nothing you can do about festival sets always being shorter. It really made me want to come back for heir tour in October, but it would take a miracle to fit that in my schedule.

Afterwards I talked to Olli, Dorrie and Thomas. They were all excited about the upcoming album and tour. Neal, I learned was on vacation and hence a friend helped them out on drums. I let them know how much I’d liked it and promised to be back eventually. Hopefully in less than two years.

Setlist

Tearaway
U Kill me
Where Eagles Dare
Stranger Things
Hurricane Season
Fury Road
Tinderbox
39 Steps

Took a longer break this time, went back to my hostel to check in and rest up a bit. When I first saw the lineup I’d wanted to see New Model Army as well as Frank Turner. Unfortunately, they were performing at the same time. I’d seen Frank Turner before and loved his show, but I’d always wanted to see New Model Army, so I finally decided to give them a shot.

VENUE: THE UNNDERWORLD CAMDEN

When I arrived at The Underworld Punk Band Angelic Upstarts‘s set was in full swing. Lots of people were pogoing and having fun. It’s not my preferred style of music, but I think they were good. The crowd response was for sure and they helped pass the waiting time.

Setting up for New Model Army took a while and they started a bit late. I had a nice spot near the mixing desk with an OK view of the stage, because I did not want to be on the floor where it might get wild. It was good music, but I have to admit that it did not grab me. I don’t know if they are not for me in general or if the mood just wasn’t right that night, but I soon realized that I was not going to enjoy it, so I left after two songs.

Setlist

March in September
Angry Planet

VENUE: THE ELECTRIC BALLROOM

Luckily The Electric Ballroom was just a little bit up the road and I got their soon. Frank Turner‘s show as in full swing when I arrived and the venue was packed. I felt immediately drawn in and forgot all about the fact that I needed to pee and wanted something to drink. I believe it was ‘Back in the Day’ he was playing as I was looking for a good spot from which I could at least see the stage. The entire room was bursting with good energy and everyone seemed to be singing along. 😀

While I was walking upstairs and finally found a place to stand in the second row on the side I wondered how I could have forgotten just how good he is. He was performing solo acoustic and held the entire audience in the palm of his hand. It was brilliant. The two couples I ended up standing behind were really nice and even offered me a spot at the barrier for a while so I had a better view. Thank you! At least two of them were long term fans and showed me a picture they had gotten with Frank. Having good people around you make a good show even better.

I did not remember any of the songs and while a few seemed familiar I could not have named them, but that did not matter at all. Just standing there listening and seeing the crowd hang on to Franks every word made me happy. I felt like I was being welcomed with open arms and I tremendously enjoyed being there. No matter which song he played they were all greeted with great cheers and enthusiastic participation. From my vantage point I saw people dancing in the midst of the crowd and everyone was having a great time.

He spoke about how good Camden Rocks is and that it’s really not about going to see someone like him, but up and coming bands. He mentioned a few that he has seen and like and ended with telling us not to listen to any geezer telling us Rock ‘n’ Roll was dead because this festival alone proved how very much alive it is. At some point, i think it was right before the encore he climbed down into the crowd and walked among his fans.

For the whole show I could see a lot of people standing side stage and for one song one of them shared the mic with Frank. Then, as he returned  for the encores, he returned with a band. The Sleeping Souls were not available that night, but the organizer of Camden Rocks and other friends now shared the stage with him for a brilliant encore of cover songs. It was impossible to stand still during those and the entire venue was partying.

When it was over the two couples around me said goodbye and asked how I’d like it. I replied that it was great and that I was going to check I I could see him again soon, since I knew he is playing in Duisburg in June. The festival could not have ended on a higher note – I walked home smiling. 🙂

Setlist

Don’t Worry
Recovery
Long Live the Queen
Back in the Day
Little Changes
Be More Kind
Jinny Bingham’s Ghost
The Opening Act of Spring
I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous
The Road
The Way I Tend to Be
Photosynthesis
The Ballad of Me and My Friends
The Next Storm
I Still Believe
Get Better

Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols cover)
Teenage Kicks (The Undertones cover)
London Calling (The Clash cover)
If The Kids Are United (Sham 69 cover)

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