Sunday, November 20, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Cologne - 11 November 2016

Biffy Clyro at Lanxess Arena, Cologne

When I moved to Glasgow I was sure my life would slow down and I would travel less. Theoretically that is right and I got rid off that permanent inner urge to run away, but then .. it did not because .... TOUR! I was just upgraded to the next frequent flyer level at KLM (I can recommend - one of my fave airlines to travel with.) and the last two flights I needed to achieve that were to the ones for my trip to Cologne. 
There will be no hotel recommendations this time, because I am staying with my dear friend Anita every time I visit this magic music city at the river Rhine (place of my first The Black Cowes, David Bowie, Biffy Clyro gigs ever), but there is a shout out to the café "Meister Gerhard" at Chlodwig Platz for offering hot chocolate with lactose free milk - pain free bliss!  


The Twilight Sad
To be honest with you - initially this trip wasn't even booked for Biffy. Many moons ago the lovely people in one of my favorite Scottish bands - The Twilight Sad - got the amazing opportunity to tour the world with The Cure and there was no way I would miss that. Since there was no Glasgow date I opted for the show in Cologne at 10 November 2016 which my friends would attend and booked my flights and days off for the time in Germany a long time ago already.
As much as I was looking forward to seeing the Sad playing that huge arena stage as much scared I was I would get hit by every music lover's biggest curse: THE CLASH ... no not the band ... the unfortunate event of two of your favorite bands playing the same day in different locations. The last quarter of the year is touring season and this year is especially clash-tastic. The fear was real, but then a miracle happened. The Biffy dates were announced and ... it did not clash, but fit PERFECTLY:  

Biffy Clyro - Lanxess Arena, Cologne - 11 November 2016!  

YES!!! It literally could not have worked out any better. While we were all more than happy I was also little concerned for my precious Biff though because a) that is some big ass arena and while they are big in Germany they are not The Cure type of big and b) 11 November is the opening of the carnival season 2016 / 2017 - a day when drunk hordes in silly costumes wander the streets of Cologne but not spend 50 EUR on a rock concert. We will see how this worked out ... 



The Cure
... but before that let's have a quick chat about the night before the Biffy show. It was absolutely lovely to see and hear The Twilight Sad. It has been almost a year for me and it was really overdue to sink into that beautiful music again. The venue was not too packed yet when they started but filled up quickly during the set and by the end there was a huge cheer from a sold out arena ... and that means almost 20,000 people. Like ... twenty thousand! I can tell you that is a lot and it sounded impressive. 

I am sure not the biggest The Cure fan in the world, but of course they were part of my youth and I sure had the one or other goth inspired phase in my life. I still really like to dress up accordingly and so does Robert Smith who entered the stage with his trademark hairdo and make up in place. The show was very, very good. The Cure play night after night on this giant world tour for about 3 (!) hours, change the setlist every day and they sound freaking amazing. Many bands half the age would not be able to pull that off. I have so much respect for this and it was really a great evening. 



Simon Neil
After a good night's sleep (not for poor Anita though who had to work) it was show time AGAIN and this round it was Biffy Fucking Clyro time. No more wandering around the arena lazily going for a drink while the gig is on ... this night had to be spent at the barrier and damn sure it was. 

It quickly turned out that my worries about the size of the venue and the date were unnecessary. It was of course not sold out but the standing room was 100% booked and so was the very most of the lower level seats (upper level was closed).  There must have been something between 8,000 and 10,000 people, I think. That is a very good turn out especially considering the carnival day and the fact that there are a couple of more Biffy dates pretty close by as well on this leg of the tour as the upcoming one in February 2017. What is even more important than the numbers game though is that the audience was absolutely up for it! Remember when I wrote about Munich that the performance of the band was great but that it was not in my fave shows for the venue and the crowd? Totally different picture in Cologne. Everyone who goes to concerts a lot will know what I mean when I say that there was this special electricity in the air that turns a good show into one to remember. The crowd was on fire and so was the band. 



Mike Vennart
The whole show - which was the final one for this part of the European tour - was amazing but I will try to pick out a couple of highlights:
- Herex - was on the setlist again and I absolutely LOVE it live 
- Biblical - had the people singing very loud. After the song and before the next one the crowd picked up the melody one more time singing completely on its own. It sounded HUGE. Simon had his back turned to the audience to switch guitars but I could see his face with a mixture of a smile and concentration on it breathing in deeply and taking the moment in. 
This band is different from the Opposites Tour Biffy. There is a new, different type of confidence and even more closeness if that is even possible and it peaked for the night at that moment. 
- Friends & Enemies - is quickly becoming a crowd favorite. We are still kind of struggling with those hand claps and poor James needs to look away to not get thrown off by our clumsy efforts but it is a lot of fun. The hand waving bit though worked and was amazing. I turned around and everyone in the seats was up on the feet with the arms in the air and so was the endless sea of people behind us. Just beautiful. 
- Wave Upon Wave - I have no idea how many people in the arena were realizing what they were witnessing but our jaws dropped for sure. The outro ... MAN ... THE OUTRO. You know when it fades out slowly on record? They did just that - they let it fade out. This is so damn hard to put into words, but if that full force steam train of a rock band manually fades out a song like that it feels like for a magical moment they hold on the time. I am sorry ... that is the best I can do describing it. 

Lots of people ask if it is worth to put a lot of effort into being right at the front and for a night like this the answer is a clear YES. Besides simple advantages like being able to see despite being hobbit sized and being able to breathe you get to see a different show than the mass of people behind you. Although this was the biggest indoor Biffy show I have been to in all these years it felt like a very personal, almost small and intimate one that I will cherish for a good while.

Thank you, Biffy Clyro - for the music and for the smiles. We all needed it! 


YesDragon - Hustle 




This song is from the first EP also called "Hustle", which can be purchased here. I wish I had a picture of my face when I listened to this for the very first time on a full moon lit street in Münster, Westfalia. Stunned disbelief might describe it best, I guess, although I was prepared for a lot already. But damn ... it is SO GOOD and SO MUCH FUN ... just like that show in Cologne.

Barrier squad, Cologne
Also ... folks better think we were G.O.A.T. that night because we totally were - the squad on stage as well as the one right in front of it!

PS: There is a brand new YesDragon EP which was released only a few days ago. It is called "Be My Armour" and is beautiful. Check it out here.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Don’t panic – act!

When I was a kid we had endless history lectures about Nazi Germany and WW2 at school. I certainly most enjoyed the ones held by our oldest teacher who could tell us the things from her own memory. My grandparents form both sides – for very different reasons – did not talk about this time and so I needed that teacher. We all did. 
When I was growing older there then was always this question that I asked myself and that I would get asked by foreigners as well: "As a German, do I feel guilty for what Germany did to the world? Do I feel guilty for my countrymen falling for the dictator and making his sick visions real? Do I feel guilty for the millions who died, because of what started in my country? The millions who died because they were marked "wrong" and not worthy to live? The millions that died in the huge war and the even more people who lost everything (including my family)?"
The answer to that question is No. I do not feel guilty. I did not do anything – I was not even born nor were my parents. I have no reason to feel guilty. BUT and now comes what is a big BUT: I do feel responsible. I feel responsible for having that lesson learned. I feel responsible for making sure that nothing like this happens ever again. And here were are in 2016 and this responsibility which was a mainly theoretical thought for the most of my lifetime became horrifying reality.

I have a master degree in political science, modern history and communication science. That covers nicely all the madness that is going on at the moment and to be honest with you … that knowledge from my university days scares me to death at the moment when I look at the latest events. I am fearing for our lives and the future of my nieces and all the other children. What the heck are we doing? We are on a hell slide, on the way to ruin everything. What is wrong with mankind that like following a stupid algorithm every few decades we make an even more efficient attempt to reach total destruction?
 
This is not about Donald Trump. This is not a "local" problem. The picture gets a lot, lot scarier if you take a step back to get a wider perspective. It would be completely naive to think for example that the two most politically earth shattering events of the last few months -  the election of Trump and the Brexit vote – are not related. They absolutely are. And there is a lot more going on that is easily as scary and dangerous. Mankind is in a weird and very bad place right now and we are at the urge of really screwing it up with consequences too horrible to imagine.

We also need to understand an important thing: this did not happen over night. The only thing that happened over night (kind of) is that our bubble burst. Now we can see and it is not a pretty picture.

BUT …

in this may lie our chance. We are not helpless victims. We can act and we must act. Now.

When I look around I see a lot of good. I see people – while being scared and terrified and shocked – speaking lout out that they have values which are different from what they see represented in these latest elections and votes. I see people wearing safety pins, people assuring their friends and strangers alike that they are NOT okay with this. Let’s not marginalize these actions. They are important.
We need to stick together.  We need to stick together across borders and oceans. We need to speak out loud that we do NOT agree.  We need to re-learn what sadly the Brexiters and Trump supporters realized first:  that together we are not powerless but can induce change. 

We really and urgently need to get our asses out of our (no longer existing) comfort zones and act accordingly.  We have elections coming up in Germany and France and please get yourself out there and vote. If you do not agree with any party, look out for the one you can best live with. I can promise you if you do not vote it will support in the end the party you agree with the least. That is how these things work.  But this will not be enough. We will need to defend our values.  We will need to defend the freedom and the peace that are the foundation of the lives we live.

This is not a call to arms – at least not the type that kills people -  but it is a call to speak out loud, to act after your words, to step in where you see things go wrong, to call out the racists and xenophobes and misogynists and muslim- and gay-haters and whatever ugly is out there.
But also … travel and encourage your friends to come with you and show them the world and other people and other places and the beauty in all this. Read and educate yourself and your children. Go to readings, art exhibitions, to the theater or music concerts. Protect and support the writers, comedians, painters, actors, musicians - they are our special forces in this. 

Also and maybe most importantly: Be open, be kind and love.

I know this is asking quite a lot and I am not just calling for you but even more for myself to do my best in this. It was totally also my comfy bubble that burst here … just to be clear.

I strongly believe that we can turn things around, but we need to stop panicking and get moving.  


"Let's use this dynamite, we're only making noises
we want to affect a change with voice and electrical noises

Together we stand,
we're at the bottom of the cove
it looked like rain but, it felt like snow
Because wherever we stand, we're at the bottom of the hole,
we'll dig our way out, but we'll still say no"


Whorses / Biffy Clyro


Monday, October 31, 2016

On the road with The Biff - Munich - 23 October 2016

   
Not long after London it was time for the start of the proper Ellipsis European Tour. One of the first stops for the band was ... my old hometown Munich and that would be where I would start my Ellipsis journey, too. So basically it was back to the roots for me to begin something new.  

Coming back to Munich was very weird. The first couple of hours were very nice - my friend Gabrijela picked me up at the airport together with her (my god-) daughter and we went to the playground enjoying the very nice fall sunshine.
In the evening Gabrijela dropped me off by my hotel. The super nice hotel I had booked for my last night before the move was a bit too pricey for a longer stay and so I opted for the Cocoon Hotel Munich Stachus instead. It is located between the main station and Karlsplatz (Stachus). The area is not the nicest - like most main station areas - but there are a lot of hotels because the city center and tourist sights are very close by. It is also only five minutes walk from the Munich office of my company where I would work on the Monday after the show. The location was ideal for me and would be great for everyone who wants to explore Munich. The hotel is not super fancy but it is new and very modern and clean and comfortable. For a city trip it is all you need really. The breakfast costs just 9,99 € and is amazing - I strongly recommend booking it if you ever decide to stay there. 
After checking into my room I quickly went for a shopping spree at some of my fave shops. When I was walking down Kaufinger Straße I started to feel really weird. I lived in this city for 16 years and I knew exactly where I was going but it felt so different. Kind of ... disconnected?  I felt like a stranger with an extremely good orientation. Everything looked familiar but felt very unfamiliar. I was aware that I at some point might feel that way when visiting Munich but I did not think it would happen so fast. I thought it would be more a "coming home" type of feeling but it was absolutely not. Looks like Glasgow became even more my home already than I thought. That's kind of bittersweet. On one hand Glasgow IS home and so everything is right like it is, but I kind of felt the farewell to my old life a lot more intense now than at the day I actually left. Probably I was too exhausted and excited on that day to get through to it. 

The next morning after enjoying the excellent hotel breakfast I was heading out to the venue.  It has been a long time since I properly queued for a show, but in Munich it had to happen. Sadly the venue - Zenith - isn't great.  It is big and if you are at the back the sound is terrible and you see absolutely nothing (you can go over the wings but still ...).  It is the type of place where you better make the barrier to be able to really enjoy it. Thankfully for the majority of the day it was sunny and I had great company of much loved friends.
Much less enjoyable was the actual entrance into the venue at doors. I had print-at-home tickets because that is safer when you order from another country, but the security took FOREVER to scan the codes and there is nothing more frustrating than a long day of queuing and then having dozens of people being in before you anyway. I made the barrier with a LOT of luck and the good will of some folks (which I did not know before) that had queued with us. In the end I even got my normal spot in front of James and Mike. Once I had settled down the only thing between me and my first show of the tour was some wait time ... and Lonely The Brave. Thankfully the latter ones did not play for more than 30 minutes. I know lots of my friends are fans and like them, but it is a big NOPE for me. The music is not bad, but kind of dull. I cannot make a single song stick in my brain even if I try and I really do not like the way they manage their stage presence. It is a bit sad .. Arcane Roots and Walking Papers last tour were so much more fun, but I have my hopes up for Brand New on the UK tour. 




Finally it was time and there are not many things that feel better than the moment the light goes down, the intro music goes up and finally the first song - for this tour "Wolves Of Winter" - kicks in. It is always the moment all the effort feels already worth it.
Biffy were amazing. The current set list is amazing - very energetic and exciting. One of my personal highlights for sure was hearing "Herex" live for the first time. I had a feeling already that it would have a completely different dynamic live and that was definitely the case. It is a lot of fun and the heavy outro is incredible - so powerful. I generally enjoy hearing the new songs a lot - it makes it all feel fresh and exciting. Thankfully the list of new and currently played songs also includes "In The Name Of The Wee Man", which - I cannot point this out often enough - might rank for me as one of the top 5 best Biffy songs of all time. It makes me shiver in the best way on record and it makes me drift on a cloud of sound and words live. It is just IT. 

Then we got "Wave Upon Wave"! I love this song to pieces and the version Biffy are playing live at the moment is fantastic. It is showcasing in such a great way what magnificent musicians all five are and that "Do you believe in magic?" line is basically what this gig traveling is all about. On the downside I do miss the "WAVE FUCKING WAVE" screams. I totally get that it is not happening. A few years and lots of voice coaching lessons later it is a reasonable decision to not do it, but ..... it is still a bit sad. I also miss the hand claps (besides Mike's honorable effort in the intro) and that leads automatically to what I most did not like about it in Munich: It is sadly wasted to most of the audience. The Zenith in Munich is not the Barras in Glasgow and a moment like this makes you painfully aware of it. The good point about "Wave Upon Wave" though is that  - other than some of the other older and more rare songs I heard them trying in front of a bigger crowd before - it is not killing the flow. I just hope that irritated faces from about row 5 to the back of the venue are not stopping them from putting songs like "Wave Upon Wave" on the set lists. 


One of the most interesting things for me was to see what "Re-arrange" is doing to people - people as in not the hardcore fans who like it really weird and complex and heavy, but the other 6,000 people standing behind us. What is happening there is quite magical. I guess ... it is watching live and in person how a song becomes a hit. When I was sitting later in the night in the train back to the city center basically my whole carriage packed with people was still singing "Re-arrange". 


Other than that it is just worth mentioning that it was a great show but will not go down as one of my favorites because of Munich being Munich and the Zenith being Zenith. It is just not a great place and Munich does not have the best crowds. I know ... it sure felt not that way for many of the people there (and good for you that you had the best time), but if you have the comparison with the crowd in other places you know the difference.  If - to stay in Germany even - I remember how incredible the crowd was in Münster in April or if you watch the Reading set from August then you know there is room for improvement. I also need to apologize to Mike for my countryman shouting "Oceansize reunite!" right behind me. While I appreciate that he at least knows that there are 5 people on the stage, that was so annoying and I could see Mike rolling his eyes in front of me (and so did I in my VENNART shirt). It was a great night nevertheless and definitely a good start for my tour.
Next stop will be Cologne with the back-to-back shows of The Twilight Sad / The Cure and Biffy. That will be very exciting (and exhausting). 


On the Monday after the show I went to work in the Munich office and that felt for a change very "normal" - like I had never moved away.  The trip back via Amsterdam was long, exhausting and like a weird déjà-vu again. Hanging out at Schiphol I had to think about how often I had traveled that route in those two years of going back and forth between Munich and Glasgow and I realized how stressful that was and I how incredibly glad I am that this is now an exception and not a routine anymore.

YesDragon - Hay Mirror 




This song is from the 2nd EP called "7 Bells".  I chose this track because that trip to Munich had a lot of self-reflection, of looking in the mirror to it. It is also catchy as hell. Just hear how vivid that bass is!

The "7 Bells" EP which includes "Hay Mirror" can be purchased here.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Series: On the road with The Biff - Introduction and first stop in Kingston

Intro

I haven't written anything for the blog lately because every time I felt like writing it was about scary and depressing stuff like Brexit. This thing turns more and more into a full blown nightmare for the country, for lots of the country's citizens and for me ... that EU foreigner living and working in the UK for a company that sells UK produced goods to customers all over Europe. Basically my whole way of living .. my home, my work .. it all got a question mark behind now by this dump bullshit. Most of the days I just put this aside because it does not make much sense to put energy into things you cannot influence, but it is not easy at times to not freak out. Thankfully Scotland and the people here make me feel at home. I did not hear one stupid comment about EU foreigners going "home" anywhere here at all (and not from my English friends and colleagues either).

ANYWAY ... while this blog is definitely a place to share thoughts and fears and worries it should also be a place to share the love and light and all the good things. I felt there were not enough good things on here for a while now and that although life is - despite the general worries about the downward-spiraling state of the world - pretty good. So I decided to pick up writing again and start a series about my favorite good thing in the world ... The Biff.  Better ... touring with the Biff .. traveling, spending time with friends, seeing great places and enjoying the music. 


I will try to stick to the same pattern for every upcoming installment and tell you about 
  • the trip including accommodation recommendations and such things if I have some. I am old and have a bit more budget than most of the gig travelers so think more affordable but nice hotels than hostels. There might be something about the actual travel destinations as well but do not expect too much. We touring people usually do not see much more than the airport, the hotel and the venue. It is all less exciting than it seems and a lot is about securing some rest, food, drink and acceptable bathrooms. 
  • the show ... obviously because it is about the music mainly 
  • The going home music. I do not know how this works for you but while I can listen to the band I am going to see for hours on the way TO the show I cannot listen to them for a bit AFTER the show. That was always the case and not just for Biffy. After a good show everything from record feels like only the second best choice and I need to give it a break.
    Lucky if you have more than one band / artist you like as much and my man especially for an emotionally fragile state of mind - like the hungover post gig mood - is usually Dragon (Sucioperro, Medals, YesDragon).  At the moment I'm listening mostly to the brand new awesome stuff from the YesDragon EPs and the releases will accompany the tour for a good while. So every gig travel post will feature one YesDragon song that fits to the respective gig trip with streaming and / or video and of course the purchase link.  Give it a listen and if you like what you hear, buy the EPs. They just cost £ 4 each and downloading only takes a quick minute. 

So let's try this out already: 


Stop 1 -  Kingston upon Thames - 9 October 2016





When the acoustic show - as a very fancy version of an "in store" gig for the fabulous Kingston based Banquet Records - was announced I did not expect that I would be able to go. Tickets were rare and hard to get (queuing in person required, which I could not do being hundreds of miles away). It happened though with a lot of voodoo and help of kind souls and good luck that not only I could go but most of my Biffy pals as well. A big part of making this possible was down to the band itself who added a second show before the actual event to give more people a chance to get their hands on a ticket. 

When the Kingston weekend arrived I had actually spent most of that week already in London for work and was not exactly excited to go back to the big city (might be an unpopular opinion but I am not a fan) but what can you do?  I traveled with friends by train down South and that was good fun.
Accommodation for the weekend was the Tune Hotel near Liverpool Street Station / Shoreditch which I can recommend.  It is for London measures quite affordable and brand new. For dinner I took my friends to my favorite Wahaca at Charlotte Street. If you like delicious, reasonably priced Mexican food Wahaca is your place to go. There are several restaurants in London and other cities including a new one in Edinburgh now as well. I hope Glasgow gets one next
!

On the gig day we escaped London fairly early to travel to Kingston upon Thames, which is an absolutely beautiful little town. I loved it!  
The last proper Biffy tour had been quite a while ago and so the occasion was perfect to catch up with the gig pals over the day.
The band arrived in the early afternoon and were so gracious to take a lot of time to say hello, catch up with everyone, hug, cuddle, laugh, pull faces, take pictures and sign stuff. There were so many happy faces beaming with big smiles - just beautiful. 


At 6 pm the doors opened for the first show which went on for about 45 minutes and then lots of smiling people came out of the venue - many to go back to the queue and re-enter for show 2 because they were lucky enough to secure tickets for both.
I personally just went to the second show and that's more than fine with me because that show was all I had ever hoped for.  I could watch it from a prime first row spot and I enjoyed it so much. Besides the quick in store for the album release in Glasgow it was my first time to see a proper Biffy acoustic gig and the setlist was made of my dreams.
I am not ashamed to admit that music can make me very emotional and when Si put that harmonica holder around his neck my heart almost stopped ... would they ... would they maybe play "Drop It" ... that odd little extra track that they played only half dozen times spread over almost a decade? That little song that has all my heart?  It took maybe half a chord to confirm and yes ... yes ... DROP IT! Let's just say there were tears. Lots of happy tears.
I barely had my shit together again for the next song when accompanied by loud "YESSSS!" shouts from all over the venue the intro of "A Whole Child Ago" kicked in. Another song one barely gets to hear anymore. The one single time I heard it live before at the Barras we had a lyrics hick up that broke my heart a little because it is the first verse I really love. This time all was good on the lyrics front and the song sounds AMAZING played acoustic. When Simon finally announced that the next song after that would be "Breatheher" we got to a point where down in the audience we were giving out Hi5s gratulating each other that we actually made it to this very special night.
The whole set was amazing, but another highlight was definitely "Re-arrange" when the crowd directed by our friend Jamie on the balcony and also a laughing Si and Ben on the stage managed to adjust to the correct hand clapping pattern. Just see yourself - we had the best of times:



To me this day is on the same level of awesome with one of the Barras shows. It was of course a much shorter set, but it was so out of the ordinary (the two sets were btw completely different and had only 2 songs played both times) and very intimate ... something rare in the time of arena shows and festival headliner sets. It was also so close to the feeling of the Barras because the audience was just right .. so so many familiar faces of folks who really love that band and know their business when it comes to lyrics and the appreciation of rarely played tracks. Just perfect.

I think it is safe to say that the band enjoyed the day as well - here is the post show picture proof:



Source: Biffy Clyro on Instagram

YesDragon -  A Game Of Kings 



This song was actually not yet released when the show in Kingston happened but since it is a beautiful acoustic tune that perfectly fits to the feel of that day it is my choice for the first link. 

The "Dick Panto" EP which includes "A Game Of Kings" can be purchased here

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peace


The last few blog posts were quite dark because we really live in a weird and quite disturbing time at the moment and sometimes it needs a bit of writing to process the events. When I finished the latest one though, I really felt that this was enough now and that it is time to think and write about good things again and so I do today. 

To get things started lets go back in time a bit ... to the beginning of 2014. The fall / winter 2013 had been a total blast touring with the Biff for a bit and starting off what would end up being a whole new life. 
The first few months of 2014 though were then painfully quiet. I remember well that from New Year's Eve to Easter I went almost nowhere. I was simply at home in Munich, went to work and lived day after day. And it was horrible. I felt like the famous black panther behind bars ... pacing day in day out. I hated it. I felt trapped and at some point I was considering to go to the airport just to smell the kerosene, the smell of freedom. 
Later that year up from April / May I was back on the road including the first half a dozen trips to Scotland and it made me happy. Traveling made me happy. Yet ... I was still pacing. I always called it my nomadic blood, because l just could not sit still and be homebound - at least not without suffering. 

Two years later life is very different. It is not that I do not like traveling anymore. I certainly do and there will be a LOT of touring in the second half of the year - lots of airports, hotels, gigs ... road life at its best, but there is still a big difference: I am not pacing anymore. 

The place in the picture at the top of this post is called "Rest and be Thankful". It is a mountain pass in the West Highlands between Tarbet and Loch Fyne. It's a magical place and very symbolic, because that is basically what I am doing at the moment. I am resting and I am thankful.
Scotland took the nomad out of me. When I am at home I am not feeling behind bars anymore. I just feel at home. 


I am not romantic and I am not wearing pink glasses. Life is still  ... life .. with lots of obstacles - old and new ones.  I am also still me ... with all my weaknesses and fears and insecurities. Also everything they tell you about Scottish summers is true. I gave in today and had the heating running for the better time of the day. 


But still - I stopped pacing and I am enjoying the peace and quiet in me. A lot. 

...



Ah wait! When I said, I write a happy blog post next, I also said I would write a review about "Ellipsis", didn't I? Well here it is:

This album is fucking awesome. It is everything. For the very unlikely case that you are a reader of this website and still did not buy this yet, do it now. 


At a bit more differentiated note:

There are two main types of great music for me
1) music that is me - like a vital part of me. Kind of symbiotic. 

2) music that is opposite me - like the best friend you need to talk through things. The person you love and trust and that you need for providing a different perspective on things than your own view

Both types are equally important but the perception is very different. I could not live without the one or the other.

Biffy were always type 1). From the very first moment of me listening to them the music they make was like a piece of myself. I cannot even explain why exactly it is like that, but it just is.
A new album of a type 1) band is a nerv wrecking experience because musicians are people and they evolve and change and there is always the risk that the evolution tiers you apart, that the emotional symbiosis gets lost.
We could hear a few songs from the new album before release and I had more than a bit hope due to those teasers that I would be fine, but nothing is replacing the process of hearing the album in one piece the first time. I did that on the radio with the BBC listening party just before release and it was great. It was such a relief because ... yep: still a piece of myself - no level of separation.

That night had also one of the sweetest moments of listening to music that I had in a good while and it came at the very end. The last song .... "In The Name Of The Wee Man" had me very literally in tears, shivering of goosebumps .. that special feeling only an extraordinary great song can give you. I am convinced this is one of the 5 best songs they ever made and it makes me god damn happy that it exists. 


A few folks said that the album is less tight than the others, the songs more loosely connected and presented in a slightly odd order. I would not fight this impression. I just think a great album reflects the state of mind of the people who made it at the point of creation. And just like for all of us there are times when you kind of settle into a situation and there are times when life goes upside down. Both has good and bad sides, both are natural parts of life. The important thing is that the music is true to it. Sounds easy but is not because for that you need to be aware of yourself and strong enough to put yourself out there. I certainly feel that the Biff achieved exactly that with Ellipsis and that is why although it is technically really very different it is also still so very recognizably THEM.

Bring on Bellahouston .... MON THE BIFFY! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Close to home

I guess in the meantime more or less everyone got the news about the horrible tragedy that hit Munich on Friday evening, but especially for the not German friends who might have not heard too much detail here a quick summary:

A few minutes before 6 pm on Friday July 22 an 18-year-old boy started shooting people in and in front of a McDonald's restaurant at Hanauer Straße in Munich, crossed the street heading towards and then inside a shopping mall still shooting. He ended up killing 9 people and injuring over a dozen more - mostly (but not only) teenagers his age and children younger than him. He managed to escape at first but when the police later made contact with him he killed himself. 


What is known so far is that although he is from a German-Iranian family the horrible attack has NO religious background.
The boy was born in Germany and lived with his family in a nice area in central Munich (an area I could not effort). He was filmed communicating with a bystander who was yelling at him from a balcony and he answered in accent free German insisting he was German.
The shooter was treated for psychological problems, had trouble at school and with other teenagers his age and was fascinated by a shooting where a teenager killed former classmates and teachers in small German town a few years ago. Books about kids on killing sprees and articles about similar motivated and executed attacks were in his room.


So basically we look at an attack planned and executed by a mentally very sick person that finally snapped. What we do not have is the classical political / religious terror attack.  I cannot stress this enough. It does not make a difference for the families who lost their loved ones, it does not help the innocent children in hospital traumatized and wounded and their parents, but it does make a difference for the city of Munich, for Germany. (* please see update about Ansbach a bit below)


Because it was not clear from the start what was going on and traumatized, shocked people are very bad witnesses and could not properly report facts the police treated the event as a terror attack until they knew better and put the city under something like a lock down. Public transport was stopped, people were asked to stay home or find a safe place, main hubs in the city were evacuated especially since spontaneously rising waves of panic made people "hear" shots everywhere (there were no other shootings in the city anywhere in the end). I personally got the impression the police did the exact right thing, but I was not in Munich (later more on that) and I leave that in the end for those to judge who experienced it first hand.

This time Germany was "lucky" (as far as lucky goes with so many dead and injured) and it was not a terror attack, but it gave everyone quite a taste of how that case of emergency would look like and it was very scary ... even from the distance just staring on the news unfolding on the screen.


*Update 1: Only hours after I posted a Syrian refugee killed himself and injured 12 people in the city of Ansbach, Germany, with a bomb in his backpack. He arrived in Germany over 2 years ago - well before the main wave of refugees - and made several suicide attempts (not involving others) before, had a record with the police and his application for asylum was denied. The reason for him being still in Germany is the active war situation in Syria. He had tried to enter a small music festival but turned away when he realized he would not pass the mandatory bag check at the entrance and so brought his bomb to explosion a few meters down the road in front of a pub.

So far the general summary ... now a few more personal words. My story here begins the night before. I was on the phone with my sister. We had no chance to properly talk since a while and were catching up. One of her questions was how I feel in Glasgow and if I was still enjoying it thinking it was the right thing to do to move here ... even now with the Brexit shit (and it is big bad shit). I told her that was I was still very happy with my decision and that I love my flat and my life here and Glasgow and that I was not really homesick BUT that I would kind of love to go to the OEZ as I used to do Friday after work and go for a little shopping tour in all the familiar stores and buy some of my favorite things.

I was talking about exactly THAT shopping mall where less than 24 hours later people would die from bullets randomly fired at them.
THAT shopping mall is only 5 minutes walk from my old apartment in Munich where I lived for 12 years. Fridays used to be my home office days where I would finish work just before 6 and get out of the door and do all my weekend shopping at the mall between 6 and 8 pm when the shops would close. I loved doing that ... it would kick off my weekend.

If I would not have moved away a few months ago the likeliness I would have walked right into the shooting is almost 100%.  It was exactly the right weekday at the exactly right time of the day and he even entered the mall through exactly the entrance I would always use and injured and killed people right in front of my favorite store and on the escalator and stairs I used hundreds of times to go to the downstairs grocery store.  

IF ....

Don't get me wrong. I am fine. Absolutely nothing happened to me and I am no victim here and thankfully as far as I know also no one I personally know. I was very lucky.
But what happened was that my sister and I both had our weak knees moment at some point that evening which she put into words:  "You could have been on the floor of  that mall now - dead."

For quite a long time the fear that this could be a terror attack was very real also. We all are aware that in the end every moment something like this could unfold basically anywhere but a situation like that adds a good portion of reality to it. You immediately feel a strong wish to grab the children (in my case my nieces) and hide at the safest place you can find and wait with them there until mankind comes back to sense again .. at least a bit more than just the now. I am half seriously considering some village hidden away in the Highlands at the moment.

BTW ... If you feel the same and I guess lots of you do then think for a moment of all the refugees we look at as "a danger" for our culture and economy and what ever. The very most of them are just like you ... they press their children against their chests and RUN for their lives. So before you get irrationally scared by a tired faced family because of the man having a dark beard and the woman probably covering her hair just think for moment of that cold hand grabbing your own heart when smelling some real danger in the air ... and then try to mentally add some very real falling bombs to that picture. Just saying ... 


Update 2: I still stand to these words after Ansbach. The thing is that attacks like these make the majority of the refugees to victims again together with us. They try desperately to escape the terror but can't really. It also robs them off what they need most: humanity and hospitality and hope.
That is btw exactly the goal of terror ... to make you feel trapped and powerless and separate and divide people by fear. 


Back to the big IF.

As you know I did a lot of thinking before I moved to Glasgow. It was one of the biggest forks in my life path and the decision was hard to make for me because it brings uncertainty, change, a loss of routine and security. Just ... security ... what even is that?  Now just imagine I would have decided that I am too fearful to make that move and had decided for security, normality, routine. That "security" would have had me walking right into the arms of the shooter. 

We are not secure. Never. Life is fragile and short and happiness is even more fragile and just in the moment. That is on one hand the scariest learning ever but then again it is the most liberating as well. If nothing is "secure" then why hold back, why not taking the leap of faith and at least try to do what you would love to do?
I do not mean to act dumb or reckless obviously but I mean trying to live life for the fullest whatever that means for you personally.



PS: I think the next blog post I write is a review of Biffy Clyro's new album "Ellipsis". Not that it would need another review and especially not one written by a helplessly biased person like me, but I so desperately want to write a silly happy blog post as soon as possible. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

We're on a hell slide ... help us, help us!



At the peak of a windy but wonderful evening in Belfast, Northern Island, on June 25 2016 I was singing these words (9/15ths by Biffy Clyro) back at my favorite band from the top of my lungs taking them very seriously and literally. Obviously guitarist Mike Vennart playing a few arm lengths away from me felt the same thing in the same moment because he posted this after the show:

Mike Vennart ‏@Vennart  Jun 26
Most cathartic version of 9/15s I've ever played tonight in Belfast.

I will try not to write too much about the political background of what is going on in the UK. I could but it all cost me so much nerves and energy since the referendum that I spent almost all day today in bed / on couch sleeping. I simply could not take it anymore.

Here my position in very short bullet points.

  • I am an EU citizen living in the UK and I am obviously and logically in the REMAIN camp. I am also aware that almost half of the citizens of the UK are as well (in the meantime maybe even more than 50%). 
  • I do not think everything is great in the EU and how the EU works - far from that - but I strongly believe that leaving the EU is the most stupid idea ever - for the society, for the economy, for every single citizen of the UK and especially for the youth. The effects will be overwhelmingly negative. 
  • There will be no awesome and special deal for the UK - the EU has zero interest in allowing this. Believing there would be one just shows that lots of people including politicians do not understand where the UK stands in a bigger context. They should probably listen more to some of those pesky EU immigrants that seem to be such a thread .. they can offer valuable outside perspective just as these weird folks called experts, too. 
  • Yes, I am very worried for my little self because me living in Glasgow is based on EU laws and regulations and I am worried about the economical impact as it will directly influence my work life and career.
  • I have not given up the last bits of hope as the referendum is not binding. Only a parliamentarian mandate for the PM to invoke Article 50 will be binding. I hope that will never happen although I am aware that this is not a big hope. 
  • I rather live in an independent Scotland that is part of the EU as in an united Great Britain outside of the EU. Is that even an option? I do not know at this moment (depends very much on the position the EU will take on this). Did I want this to be the options I might have to consider? Absolutely not. 
  • To everyone that read the horrible news about the outbreak of xenophobia in the UK towards all kind of people (white with accent, of color with and without accent) and is worried about my well being:  I am fine. The Glaswegians are as friendly as always. I had only one person making a comment and that was my regular taxi driver who always takes me to the airport and he was actually worried what it all means for me and if I was alright. 


I could write a lot more .. for example what an absolute MESS the two biggest UK parties are and how disgusting UKIP is or how incredibly irresponsible the politicians are acting in this situation. I could also give a lecture about parliamentarian vs direct democracy. I mean .. I have a master degree in political science ... and I chose that topic for a reason when I started university, but I want to focus on something else. Something bigger:

WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE???????

It is not just what is going on in the UK. I mean ...  How the hell is Donald Trump a serious presidential candidate? How can we let thousands of people drown in the Mediterranean sea? How can we have hundreds of thousand people in refugee camps under terrible conditions? And how could we let it get so far that millions of people need to leave their destroyed homes saving nothing but their lives .. if they are lucky? Who had the weird idea that said people are a threat and not the victims? How is racism, hate and xenophobia acceptable behavior? How it is a thing that you can get shot at a rock n roll show or dancing with your friends in a night club? Why do people still judge other people for who they love? How do we still allow big companies to destroy our planet and pretend evoking earthquakes (as one example) is a good idea? How do we have a significant concentration of military forces at the Eastern European border of the NATO and it is not even properly in the news? Why could I spend days extending this list nightmare by nightmare, horror story by horror story? How did we end up on this hell slide????

You know, I am learning a lot at the moment and it is probably the first time ever I am sad about learning something. At school in Germany you hear about the Nazis a lot. Questions I never really found answers for despite the many history lessons were  "How could this happen? How did the majority of people not see what was going on? Why did the people who were understanding it not doing more to stop it?" 


I now understand that those people likely felt as helpless as I do now. Communication seems to be pointless, discussions are leading nowhere, lots of people seem to be out of reach of arguments with closed minds and hearts. 


I have no solution, no smart ideas how to stop it. Leading with example is probably the only thing ... trying to be kind to the person next to you, practicing humanity, tolerance and inclusion - and being clear and outspoken about it.

Simon said down from the stage on that windy Saturday last week: "Music makes everything better." He is right - it really does. And it brings people together in the best way possible.

That said .... I will go to bed now, listen to "Medicine" a couple of times and despite all the things that are frightening and sad at the moment I will keep counting down the days to the release of "Ellipsis". We can't let the darkness win and take away the things we love and looking forward to.