Schneeliebe (a rousing reprise)

2010/12/03

December has made a very impressive start in Germany.

First Snow

It is the soft new world, formed in a whisper,
tiny wonders breathing through the trees,
both chaos and perfect geometry.
It lays a hush across the city
and all would do well to listen.
It takes all that we hold to be real, unchanging
and solid, and grants us one more chance
to make every detail over again.
It is the childlike play of wind spirits,
laughing silently as they follow and scatter.
It dresses us in sky, puts stars beneath our feet.

mr oCean, Dec. 2010

And with this splendid white fanfare of Winter across the city, I am delighted to invite you all to Eric Eckhart’s final concert of 2010, accompanied by Sam Wareing and me.  It’s at St. Gaudy Cafe, Gaudystr. 1, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg.  It is also the cafe’s 1st birthday, so will be a kicking affair.  Get there early for drinks and maybe even a spot of nosh, and then we’ll belt out some tunes from about 20:30.

To sample the musical delights awaiting you, and to read the latest tour blog entry (the snowy delights and warm hospitality of Munich and Stuttgart), pop by Eric’s electric website.

And while I’m wielding the announcement shoehorn…  I’ll be premiering my new song at Joe’s Bar’s open mic on Tuesday evening (7 Dec.) – Schönhauser Allee 157, Berlin Prenzl-Berg, starting 21:00.  And come along to Meaganfest on the 11th: friends have organised this to raise money for an expat shoehorn-wielder who’s currently in hospital.  It will be 12 hours of music, poetry and comedy, and probably a goodly measure of madness and booze.  I’ll be spouting words sometime in the afternoon (details will follow when available).  The Community Space @ Schlesische Str 38, Berlin Kreuzberg, 2pm-2am.

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Sofa Sessions at Joe’s Bar 20100709

2010/07/10

Evenings like this are like a particle accelerator to every bit of my body. I’m buzzing. I can’t really describe it, but it’s wonderful. Probably the best I can do is to hand over to Ms Sam: her song, Planet Sized is stuck in my head at the moment, and gives a wonderful impression of the delight that is making it hard for me to hold all my atoms together. Wayward Breed, Ken Burke, Wasp Summer and Eric Eckhart. If you have to relocate to Berlin to hear them, it will be worth it. Look out for more. For now, bask in their respective MySpace glories, and to all you exquisitely beautiful audience members, please come again and spread the word widely. Heartfelt live music is the stuff from which beautiful lives are woven.


If the list were a tower…

2010/06/20

If Best Things Ever were bricks and I were building a tower from them, I would be wishing about now that I had made much much more substantial and deep foundations.  This weekend backed the truck up and just kept on unloading, and now the tower is listing dementedly*.  The Sofa Sessions, assembled and hosted by the wonder known as Ms. Sam Wareing, was a whole weekend of shiny.  Every performer delivered those moments that make you forget you have a physical form.  Those I’d heard before were at their best, and those newly discovered have me well aboard their respective trains.  The accoustics of the living room are great, and it’s such a beautiful experience to hear the music directly, with no mics or mixing desks in between; it also really shows off the quality of the performers.

Friday evening opened with Mesalina Trio, who were already great but seem able to keep taking it up another level.  When Christian and Sam came in for harmonies on “Nu” was my first evaporation for the night, and there were many to follow.  Their songs have been on high rotation in my head ever since (not at all unwelcome!), and their finishing up with Sam’s jubilant “Planet Sized” was like launching fireworks, and what better way to open the festivities?  The whole set was a joy, and a really polished performance from all.  Do keep a look-out for their gigs: a really rich mix of styles and songs that could be described as like an emotional roller-coaster, but enjoyable.

I’d not heard Lady Gaby‘s piece (from Overland – sorry, don’t know which issue) about a particular feisty Romanian clear spirit before, but I reckon it’s the best I’ve yet heard from her.  A great, flowing and at times amusing look into another society and a personal trans-global journey.

Simon Eugene‘s opening piece was another mr oCean evaporator.  Soulful finger-picked guitar and quite a unique vocal style – able to be at once both sweet and raw.  There were tender pieces and rockin’ pieces and a big stupid grin on my face throughout.  Looking forward to hearing more.

My set went over nicely.  As Grand Salvo pointed out today, one does feel quite exposed, standing so immediately before an audience, but the vibe was just so warm that it wasn’t at all intimidating.  This seems a good time/place to thank Becky at SAND for the editorial push to rewrite “To the Edge”, and also send my warmest thanks to Valerie for her speedy and splendid German grammar help with “ein Winter Aquarell”, and also to Pauline and Bettina for helping with the final polish thereof.  Both poems were very nicely received – the latter, even by people who were quite vocal in their distaste for long, cold, grey Winters.

Eric Eckhart delivered a perfectly executed guitar accompaniment on my poems, “The Happy Plant” and “Lines”, before assembling his band and filling the room with more musical goodness.  I realise that my review of his album is still waiting patiently to be written, but maybe I can give some impressions here.  The thing that I think best summed up his set was watching the faces in the audience: you could see how his music really gets through to people, connects with their own stories.  That’s probably what I love the most about Eric’s music – the way it conveys a sense of looking in on a pivotal scene in a tale.  I’m also enjoying that every time I hear him live, there’s something different in the arrangement/band.  It works beautifully all-accoustic, here as well as at the album launch, and Sam’s harmonies added some really nice shivers in my arms.  And the bass and cajón filled things out jolly nicely, too (esp. when I didn’t have my guitar tuned for the right song).

Saturday

I’ve been seeing Kiki Brunner on a few gig listings of late, and was jolly pleased with what I heard from her at the 2nd Sofa Session.  Very tidy and bright bass and electric piano accompaniment and good, heartfelt pop.  Fun to watch, and I found “Untrennbar” especially groovable (you can get a taster of it on her MySpace).

In addition to the beautiful “ear-worms”, “Housewife Accomplice” (some of my favourite ever lyrics in that one) and “Planet-Sized” (bliss!), Wasp Summer evokes emotion by the barrel.  “I Hope You’ll Mend” – about fathers and daughters – breaks my heart gorgeously every time I hear it.  Her vocal range has had my jaw agape many a time.  And playing solo in a living room gives every song that extra sharp edge of honesty.  Watch out for her with Lena Tjader in the U-Bahn stations of Berlin, but do hope you have time (and, of course, monies) to spare should you happen upon them.

Wasp Summer

Bocage are a French duo, which for some reason made me expect electro, which they were not (although there are some cracking remixes on the double CD I picked up – “Bon Chemin & remixed”).  Again, a perfect set for the venue – fairly minimal instrumentation, beautifully put together.  The semi-accoustic guitar has a funky fatness to it, but is also capable of a spiffing marimba impression.  The melodies had the lilt and evening feel to them that I associate with and love about chanson.  And when they whipped out some unexpected harmonies, there went the top of my head again…

Sunday

Christina Maria has a pretty black guitar with a feathered headstock (it also sounds nice) and a fantastically powerful voice that, every time I thought was pushing out the songs at its limit, took it up another level.  Very tidy pop songs, but the best for me were those moments when the guitar shifts from under the voice, which then leaps from it like a glider, and then the two come together again, flying.

I’m listening to Grand Salvo on MySpace as I write this, and can heartily endorse your doing the same.  Or if you’re in Melbourne, go see him perform!  And buy his records.  His music has an Iron and Wine vibe about it (I don’t think I’m just distorting my view on account of his beard) but a different tone and style.  The delightful common ground is in his story-evoking lyrics.  There’s something in his delivery, too – the lilt to his gentle voice and the mellowness of the classical guitar – that makes every song a scene that unfolds before you.  I saw lots of open spaces hosting intimate moments in his music today.

Daniel Hoth is a name I’ve seen in a lot of announcements for Berlin poetry events, but this was the first time I’d caught an earful of him, and I’m dead chuffed this finally happened.  Even with my quite rudimentary German, his poetry is richly visual as well as jammed with philosophy, wit and wonder.  He has a great command of rhythm, and it’s abundantly clear why he’s a slam champion.  If you’re German, I expect you’ll get even more out of his poems, but even if you didn’t understand a word, I reckon you’d still feel like you’d taken a pretty damn good ride.

Miranda Gjerstad is an amazing songwriter – the lyrical density of Augie March with the vocal gymnastics of Regina Spektor.  And when you add Lotta Fahlén and Jens Fløyd to the performance, you get harmonies and intertwining melodies and stories that turn your heart to fireworks (they both also happen to be splendid songwriters, too).  The arrangements are often spacious and minimal, but there is a richness to them that’s like looking really closely at a plant and noticing all its intricacies.  I would so love to gush a whole lot more about them, but I just don’t have the words.  You have to hear them.  Go and visit them on MySpace.  And if you’re in Berlin, listen to them live!  They were a perfect, perfectly blissful end to the festival of goodness that was The Sofa Sessions.

Finally, it would be remiss and entirely inadequate of me to neglect the visual arts.  Neil Leslie‘s slide-mounted collage miniatures gave me a wonderful sense of gadgetry and somehow implied a soundtrack, Christina Fischer‘s piece distinctly delivered an open space, seaside feel, Leena McCall‘s charcoal “Flesh” series have a dramatic B&W photo look to them, abstracted beautifully into almost sculpture by the composition, and Daniel Skornicka‘s sepia photos gave Berlin a dreamy sunset-drenched shine.

I must also add that the audiences were fantastic, too.  Really in to the performances and gave the room a great sense of community, which is a goodly whack of what the Moabiter Kulturtage were all about.  It’s a brilliant feeling to be reminded that there are a lot of jolly pleasant people about (in addition to a lot of jolly talented people).

* Thank-you very much, Mr Thompson.


Gig Ahoy!

2010/03/13

After last night’s delight of Eric Eckhart‘s album launch (fabulous musicks and an honour to be amongst it), my appetite for a spot of performance is well regenerated.  Although the temptation to run off and join the circus is strong, I shall content myself with a wonderful substitute: I’ll be performing a few poems – perhaps with a little magical musical accompaniment – at PhoneyIsland on Saturday evening, the 20th of March.  As I’ve mentioned before, these shows have been consistently amazing so far, and I’m very much looking forward to it.  For details, scroll down to my earlier post, or wander over to my Events page.

In the meantime, and for those not in Berlin, I highly recommend a visit to Eric’s electric website, where you can hear previews of the album, see video clips and order the electric album for your very own.  Great darts.


Beat Street November 2009

2010/01/02

photo by Ash IlottNovember’s Beat Street was great fun and the new home – Arch Angel, under the S-Bahn near Alexander Platz – works a treat.  The room had an warm and enthusiastic vibe and good accoustics, and if a performer had some impeccable timing, the rumble of the trains overhead could add some magnificent drama.

photo by Ash Ilott My set was a mixture of tested pre-Berlin poems, including one of the first I ever performed (A Fantasy in F), and stuff from the last year or so.  I opened with To the Edge, which, being an embarking poem, seemed as fitting a place as any to start.photo by Ash Ilott

After a sea voyage or two, we travelled through a sinister world below, the romance of a new life in an old world, the unsavoury spectre of Evil Pink Day, inspirations and transformations, obsession via creepy cliché, the desolation of good-bye, and time loss.

photo by Ash IlottIt was the first time I’d performed a full set without reading, and I’d recommend it heartily.  Not having your hands and eyes occupied with the paper lets you connect so much better with the audience and, I think, put a lot more energy into the performance.  Curiously, it’s also a lot less stressful, because you don’t seem as inclined to over-correct.  And learning the poems is a good way to pick up anything that isn’t quite working.

photo by Ash Ilottphoto by Ash Ilott

photo by Ash Ilott

Thanks to organiser Rob Grant for the gentle prodding to take the stage, and huge electric thanks to a fantastic audience: it’s beautiful to perform to an audience whose energy you can feel coming back at you.  Thanks also to the steady hand of Ash Ilott for the photos here presented.

photo by Ash Ilottphoto by Ash Ilott

Thanks to Rob Grant for the gentle prodding to take the stage, and huge electric thanks to a fantastic audience: it’s beautiful to perform to an audience whose energy you can feel coming back at you.  Thanks also to the steady hand of Ash Ilott for the photos here presented.