The Hooters live in Neuleiningen

The Hooters are touring Germany relentlessly. Having seen more than 20 gigs and having written about several of them here, I find it a bit tiresome to write about the regular stuff afterwards. The trend away from lots of jamming towards a tight collection of classic songs and a few other tunes continued at the concert in Neuleiningen on July 3, 2015. The small town near Mannheim used a (gorgeous) castle ruin to stage the show. It was a really hot day, but it became bearable towards the evening. The walls around the court provided some shade and nobody seemed to mind the absence of an opening band. The show was sold-out.

I find it funny that I have never seen the Hooters in the same venue twice. They keep branching out into small towns and other pampa regions. The audiences are remarkably similar (unless it’s a big, big festival thing like Sound of Pop with about 100,000 people in the audience). The front row consists of die hard fans. They are rocking out from the first note on. The rest of the audience needs a few songs until they start grooving along. It helps when “Day by Day” appears early on. The Neuliningen concert featured a surprisingly large number of songs off “Nervous Night”. I was happy to hear “Hanging on a Heartbeat” for the first time. I’d suspect, however, that German audience are well familiar with the subsequent albums, too. From what I read in interviews, “Zig Zag” isn’t the band’s favourite album, so that might explain the reluctance to go beyond “500 Miles” and the occasional “Deliver Me”. The first encore, “Give the Music Back”, made a strong case that the album does deserve some of the limelight.

From “Karla With a K” onwards, everybody was eagerly cheering, singing along, and simply having a great time. Naturally, “All You Zombies” had paved the way, and the German parts of “Private Emotion” elicited a strong reaction. All in all, it was yet another excellent gig that underscored band’s reputation as a live band.

The Hooters setlist in Neuleiningen (2015-07-03)

  1. I’m Alive
  2. Hanging on a Heartbeat
  3. Day By Day
  4. Silver Lining
  5. Morning Buzz
  6. Private Emotion
  7. South Ferry Road
  8. All You Zombies
  9. The Boys of Summer
  10. Graveyard Waltz (Slight Return)
  11. 500 Miles
  12. Where Do the Children Go
  13. Karla With a K
  14. Twenty-Five Hours a Day
  15. Satellite
  16. And We Danced
  17. Pissing in the Rhine
  18. Give the Music Back
  19. Johnny B
  20. Major Tom (Völlig losgelöst)
  21. One of Us
  22. Time After Time

Dar Williams live in Krefeld

Dar Williams has been touring in the United States steadily for over 20 years. She also played a few shows in the UK and in the Netherlands from time to time. On Saturday, 30th May, she played her first German concert in 17 years. I was thrilled! Much to my delight, I wasn’t the only one at the Kulturfabrik that evening. About 100 people showed up, filling the small club to the last row. The opening act was North Alone, a singer/guitarist with a fiddle player. The voice reminded me of Tom Waits, but the music was quite folky and upbeat. The audience (myself included) needed a few songs to warm up to the duo. I liked the songs “Missing Heart Shadow”, “Scatter My Ashes in the Sea”, and the closer “The Road Most Traveled” best. That last song in particular sounded really good and had everybody sing along at the end

Dar Williams entered the stage with a somewhat lengthy welcome speech that included the German translations of babysitter and hippie. Her first song was consequently “The Babysitter’s Here”. Dar accidentally said “The play was called ‘The Babysitter'” in the middle part, which was funny. Each song was met with friendly applause. “Emerald” and “Buzzer” were two highlights early in the set. When Dar asked for requests, many different song titles were yelled – and she played pretty much all of them! First came “Iowa”. Dar timidly asked us to sing along and someone in the audience replied “We won’t let you down!”, which drove any tension that might have remained at this point. Sing along, we did! It’s such a great song. Dar’s voice shone on “You’re Aging Well” (another request). <fanboy>She really is the best!</fanboy>

There was the usual banter between songs. Some stories did not really relate to the following song (e.g., her husband had asked her to thank the Germans for improving the passive house building techniques over the past few decades), some were funny, some were graceful, some were sincere. It still baffles me that Dar never seems tell any anecdote twice. Much too soon, she had played her final song. Thankfully, she came back for two encores (“February” and “Are You Out There”, both fantastic in their own way). Afterwards, she patiently signed cds and talked to the fans. There seems to be hope for future concerts in Germany. I’ll be there!

Dar Williams live in Krefeld (2015-05-30) - Picture by Johannes Schult

  1. The Babysitter’s Here
  2. Spring Street
  3. The Beauty of the Rain
  4. Emerald
  5. Slippery Slope
  6. Buzzer
  7. Empty Plane
  8. Iowa (Traveling III)
  9. You’re Aging Well
  10. Something to Get Through
  11. The One Who Knows
  12. Mercy of the Fallen
  13. New York Is a Harbor
  14. When I Was a Boy
  15. February
  16. Are You Out There

Chris de Burgh live in Mannheim

Perhaps the most magnificent element of the Chris de Burgh concert in Mannheim last Tuesday was the perfect sound mix. Unlike most live concerts, it wasn’t too loud. The vocals were crystal clear, the bass present but never obnoxious, the drums a piece of the puzzle instead of a bulldozer driving all across the puzzle. The acoustics of the Mozartsaal certainly helped transporting the sound to the audience’s ears. The light show was inventive but again never distracting from the actual star of the show: the music. Sure, some fans might indulge in seeing Chris de Burgh. I, however, was there for the music. Once again, the setlist (see below for pic and details) contained a balanced mixture of old and new material. There were plenty of songs that hadn’t been played for many years; there were the inevitable classics; there were seven songs off the new album “The Hands of Man” – some great (like “Where Would I Be?”), the rest at least good; there were other songs that were neither classics nor obscurities – “Where Peaceful Waters Flow”, “The Spirit of Man”, “The Same Sun”.

The mood was good on stage as well as in front of the stage. In addition to the usual presents (flowers, wine) Chris also got tomato soup. The first few songs were presented without comment. Later on, the banter between songs grew longer. It was generally filled with thankfulness and a bit of wit. In my opinion, the only flaw was the use of click tracks and samples during some of the band songs. Don’t get me wrong, “Go Where Your Heart Believes” sounded brilliant with those strings. It just made the show seem a bit like a TV show rather than a live show. I’m sure the band could have easily played the songs without additional help. I still enjoyed the songs, of course, even with the diminished tempo dynamics. As for the highlights, there were plenty.

“Transmission Ends” was wonderful, “Say Goodbye to It All” made me cry, the acoustic session proved that the players on stage don’t need to rely on backing tracks. And the solo section with “Carry Me”, “Borderline”, and “Where Peaceful Waters Flow” demonstrated that Chris de Burgh is still very much an amazing singer, musician, and performer. Then there was the cheesy synth sound in “Man on the Line” (awesome!). “Spanish Train” and “A Spaceman Came Travelling” were a blast from the past that got lots of applause. And for the encore, “Patricia the Stripper” made an (acoustic) appearance!

This was my fourth Chris de Burgh concert. Once again, the Irish singer delivered a fresh performance with just a few inevitable repetitions (which, by the way, haven’t lost any of their appeal – “don’t do it!”). And not only did he cover most periods of his career, the fans embraced pretty much every song with equal appreciation. The “cost” of this is probably a slightly smaller audience (the hall was pretty much sold out with maybe 1,700 people) compared with the draw of a pure best of program. The ticket prices were rather steep, so you certainly won’t find me at another concert of the current tour. Yet, from a musical and emotional perspective, it was an excellent show, sincere, uplifting, thoughtful, moving, and towards the end even rocking.

Setlist Chris de Burgh Mannheim (2015-05-26)

  1. The Hands of Man
  2. Big City Sundays
  3. The Light on the Bay
  4. Have a Care
  5. Go Where Your Heart Believes
  6. The Candlestick
  7. Ship to Shore
  8. The Same Sun
  9. Spanish Train
  10. Through These Eyes
  11. Transmission Ends
  12. A Spaceman Came Travelling
  13. Man on the Line
  14. Missing You (acoustic)
  15. Pure Joy (acoustic)
  16. Love of the Heart Divine (acoustic)
  17. There Goes My Heart Again (acoustic)
  18. Carry Me (Like a Fire in Your Heart)
  19. Borderline
  20. Where Peaceful Waters Flow
  21. Where Would I Be?
  22. The Words “I Love You”
  23. The Keeper of the Keys
  24. The Lady in Red
  25. Africa
  26. The Spirit of Man
  27. Say Goodbye to It All
  28. Don’t Pay the Ferryman
  29. High on Emotion
  30. Patricia the Stripper
  31. The Moonfleet Finale

Dota live in Saarbrücken – eins der letzten großen Abenteuer unser Zeit

Dota Kehr spielte heute Abend zusammen mit Gitarrist und Kleininstrumentebediener Jan Rohrbach im kleinen Club der Garage in Saarbrücken. Es war ein hinreißender Auftritt voller Spiel- und Wortwitz. Grob geschätzt 150 Leute füllten den Raum gut, so dass den gesamten Abend über eine gemütliche Atmosphäre herrschte. In diesem Rahmen wurden zwischendurch auch zahlreiche neue Stücke zum Besten gegeben. Jedes einzelne davon gehörte zu den Höhepunkten des Auftritts. Entsprechend erwarte ich nun ungeduldig das nächste Album, wann immer es rauskommen wird. Passend dazu lud Dota zum dazugehörigen Crowdfunding auf die altmodische Art ein, sprich zum Kauf ihrer bisherigen Alben.

Aus ihrem bisherigen Schaffen wählte die auch als Kleingeldprinzessin bekannte Sängerin neben den meisten Stücken des aktuellen Albums “Wo soll ich suchen” allerlei Perlen, bei denen häufig Mitsingen angesagt war (“Kein Morgen”, “Ohrsteckermädchen”, “Astronaut”). Das Schöne dabei ist natürlich, dass die Musik kein plattes “We Will Rock You” war, sondern hochmelodische Liedermacher-Stücke mit peppigen Jazz- und Folk-Einflüssen. Jan Rohrbach unterlegte die Musik mit herrlichen Klangfarben, so dass der Auftritt nicht so eindimensional wie Lagerfeuermusik wirkte. Gleichzeitig haftete den Liedern kein unnötiger Ballast an, also kein wummernder Bass, keine hektische Lichtshow, keine Multimedia-Spielerein. Einfach gute Musik!

Die eigenwillige Stilkombination spiegelte sich auch im Publikum wider, in dem sich diverse Generationen und Geschlechter tummelten. Zwischen den Stücken entwickelte sich der Running Gag vom letzten großen Abenteuer unserer Zeit, das den Scorpions zufolge der Rock’n’Roll sein soll. So wurden dann Autobahnraststätten, Bonustracks, Mitschnipsen und Wackelkontakte zum letzten großen Abenteuer unserer Zeit gekürt, sehr zur Erheiterung aller Beteiligten. Dieser Leichtigkeit, dieser Freude stand in der Musik meist eine gewisse Melancholie gegenüber. Genau diese Mischung empfinge ich gerade jetzt noch einmal. Denn einerseits habe ich die schönen Erinnerungen an das Konzert, dem trotz Deutschem Kleinkunstpreis irgendwie der Geheimtipp-Charakter anhaftete. Andererseits möchte ich die Freude teilen, also der Welt diese faszinierenden Lieder über das verwürschte Leben nahebringen, auf dass Dota goldene Schallplatten bekommt und die Welt ein besserer Ort wird.

Übrigens brauchte Dota an diesem Abend noch nicht einmal darauf hinweisen, dass Fotografieren und Filmen während des Auftritts störend ist. Alle lauschten gebannt und niemand fuchtelte mit seinem Handy in der Luft herum. Sehr löblich! Hier noch die gespielte Setlist:

  1. Hoch oben
  2. Sommer
  3. Warten auf Wind
  4. Neues Lied (Da ist ein Monster…)
  5. Die alte Piratin
  6. Das Wesen der Glut
  7. Im Tausch
  8. Neues Lied (Ich hab die Blumen weggeworfen und die Katze verschenkt)
  9. Risse
  10. Neues Lied (Geld verdirbt den Charakter)
  11. Neues Lied (Bald fang ich wieder an zu kiffen)
  12. Neues Lied (Ich meld mich ab / Erdenbewohnerin / Es gibt Grenzen)
  13. Bis auf den Grund
  14. Kein Morgen
  15. So gut riechst du
  16. Ohrsteckermädchen
  17. Du musst dich nicht messen
  18. Konfetti
  19. Wo soll ich suchen
  20. Utopie
  21. Astronaut
  22. Alles Du

Dar Williams live in York

Dar Williams played at the Fibbers in York on March 11, 2014. She was her usual charming self and played a wonderful collection of songs. Given her back catalogue, it’s impossible to honour all requests. The upside of this is that pretty much every track is a winner. First, there were some gripping songs from her recent album, “In the Time of Gods”, and standard songs from her live repertoire. I was really happy that she played “Buzzer”, not only because I was there with some other psychologists. “The Ocean” and “February” were also personal highlights. The mix of upbeat and softer songs was perfect. Needless to say, the classic songs like “The Babysitter’s Here”, “When I Was a Boy”, and “As Cool as I Am” received the loudest applause from the roughly 90 people in the audience. I was pleasantly surprised that they sounded as fresh as the first time I heard them many years ago.

The music was great. The guitar was a tad too loud sometimes but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment. And there was, of course, a lot of insightful and funny banter between songs. The unique voice of Dar’s storystelling alone is worth the (humble) price of admission. I do hope there won’t be another eight year until I get to see her in concert again!

Dar Williams - live in York (2014)

Setlist:

  1. The Light and the Sea
  2. The Beauty of the Rain
  3. Spring Street
  4. I Have Been Around the World
  5. Buzzer
  6. Holly Tree
  7. I’ll Miss You Till I Meet You
  8. The Babysitter’s Here
  9. The Ocean
  10. The One Who Knows
  11. As Cool as I Am
  12. Storm King
  13. February
  14. When I Was a Boy
  15. The Christians and the Pagans

Over.

Chris de Burgh live in Trier (2013-04-05)

The concert was the first of the current tour, so the setlist was a complete surprise to everybody. Once again, Chris de Burgh had compiled a nice mix of old and new tracks. I really like how he brings back different older songs every tour. He also presented a new song, The Fields of Agincourt. It was in the vein of his battle songs with various moods that culminated in a forte ending. The audience was attentive and rather relaxed, especially towards the end. I especially enjoyed the Moonfleet songs and The Ballroom of Romance. The cover songs worked surprisingly well and brightened the atmosphere even further. Brother John felt a bit out of place; and The Mirror of the Soul and Bal Masqué had already been played four years ago at the same place. Anyway, it was a pleasant concert with a solid band performance and De Burgh’s impressive voice.

  1. Waiting for the Hurricane
  2. The Spirit of Man
  3. Up Here in Heaven
  4. Missing You
  5. The Traveller
  6. Ship to Shore
  7. The Mirror of the Soul
  8. The Same Sun
  9. The Escape
  10. Greater Love
  11. Already There
  12. The Fields of Agincourt
  13. Tender Hands
  14. Living on the Island
  15. Love and Time
  16. Summer Rain
  17. I’m Not Scared Anymore
  18. Borderline
  19. The Ballroom of Romance
  20. The Lady in Red
  21. Blue Bayou
  22. Let It Be
  23. Lady Madonna
  24. Long Train Running
  25. Africa
  26. Brother John
  27. Bal Masqué
  28. Don’t Pay the Ferryman
  29. High on Emotion
  30. The Snows of New York
  31. The Moonfleet Finale

Chris de Burgh live in Bamberg

Maybe the most impressive feature of the concert in Bamberg (29th August 2012) was the sound. Live concerts tend to be loud and more often than not individual voices are lost in the mix. Not so here. The sound was crystal clear, yet warm and chiming. No pounding drums, no thundering bass, no screeching guitars, no dominant keyboards – just music. The venue was filled with melodies and, of course, Chris de Burgh‘s strong voice. He appeared on stage shortly after 8 pm and received a lot of applause. The first two songs – “First Steps” and “Fatal Hesitation” – seemed to me a bit like a warming up. It was the next song, “Sailing Away”, that really grabbed me, possibly because it was pretty much the first de Burgh song I consciously heard, back in 1990 as a 10 year old boy when my parents watched the Live in Dublin VHS tape.

The solo versions of the songs lacked extensive solo parts – which was a good thing, if you ask me. There were no excessive sing along parts, no fancy song intros; we got “pure” Chris de Burgh. There were a lot of ballads on the setlist, which was fine with me. “Love and Time” worked very well in the new arrangement and “Carry Me (Like a Fire in Your Heart)” was just soo beautiful. There were a couple of songs I found less engaging, like “It’s Such a Long Way Home” and “Oh My Brave Hearts”. The latter one is just rehashing “The Revolution” in my opinion. Thankfully, “The Revolution / Light a Fire” was played, eventually. I had seen some of the previous setlists online, so I wasn’t completely surprised by the setlist. Still, the songs that were requested specifically in Bamberg (e.g. “In Love Forever”) were pleasant surprises. I’m so glad this tour takes place, because as much as a “regular” concert can be entertaining, the “immediateness”, the anything-goes aspect made this evening unique. Chris also told us that he had learned a new phrase in German: “Die Küche ist geschlossen.”

He was in a good mood and had no trouble at all entertaining 1200 people for about 2.5 hours straight. It was clear that he couldn’t play all requests; and personally I would have liked to hear any other song from Moonfleet (great album) than the two he played (“Pure Joy”, “Everywhere I Go”). But I’m not complaining. There were so many great songs (“The Road to Freedom”, “In a Country Churchyard”, “Where Peaceful Waters Flow”, “Waiting for the Hurricane”, “The Girl With April in Her Eyes”) from almost all albums, I rarely stopped smiling. A particular highlight this time around (itwas only my second Chris de Burgh concert after Trier 2009) was “Say Goodbye to It All”. It was preceded by “Borderline”, which sounded good, but cheesier than necessary due to the e-piano-strings. The all piano version of “Say Goodbye to It All” gave the song a fresh feeling, made it less repetitive and, well, I enjoyed it immensely. I was surprised how well “A Woman’s Heart” worked as a dancing song. The funniest part of the evening was probably when he sang the line “the perfect man” and hinted at himself with a grin.

The performance was spot on and certainly not something you get to see every day (or even every year). I don’t think it resembled the early days of Chris’ career, when he had to struggle with sound, lighting and (Supertramp) stage managers. Still, it showed the essence of the music as well as the charming personality of the man way better than any fancy stadium show could ever do. My seat in row 2 had cost more than 80 Euros, which was quite expensive in my opinion. Then again, there were hardly any empty seats in the room, so it all comes down to supply and demand. And this evening wasn’t about economics, but all about music and stories. And I had a great evening!

Chris de Burgh live in Bamberg 2012

  1. First Steps
  2. Fatal Hesitation
  3. Sailing Away
  4. Missing You
  5. Here Is Your Paradise
  6. It’s Such a Long Way Home
  7. In Love Forever
  8. Tender Hands
  9. Songbird
  10. Pure Joy
  11. Borderline
  12. Say Goodbye to It All
  13. The Road to Freedom
  14. Sailor
  15. Oh My Brave Hearts
  16. Waiting for the Hurricane
  17. In the Ghetto
  18. Love and Time
  19. Carry Me (Like a Fire in Your Heart)
  20. The Girl With April in Her Eyes
  21. Spirit
  22. In a Country Churchyard
  23. The Lady in Red
  24. The Revolution / Light a Fire
  25. Everywhere I Go
  26. A Woman’s Heart
  27. Where Peaceful Waters Flow
  28. Don’t Pay the Ferryman
  29. High on Emotion
  30. Those Were the Days
  31. The Snows of New York
  32. Goodnight

Dr. Frank live in Aachen

Just three months after I had seen Dr. Frank in Baltimore, he came to Europe for a string of acoustic gigs. The last show of the tour took place at the Autonomes Zentrum in Aachen, a former bunker located beneath the train station. There were about 40 people, few enough to allow Kepi Ghoulie play the first couple of songs unplugged. His music combined classic Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones vibes with a vivid punk rock spirit. His performance was certainly entertaining and enjoyable.

I usually prefer artists who don’t stick to a static setlist during a tour. Now last night was very much a dynamic event. It helped that the concert felt a bit like a living room show due to its size. Consequently, Dr. Frank’s set was filled with surprises and requests. (I got to hear “Will You Still Love Me When I Don’t Love You?”!) All those great rocking songs from the Mr. T Experience worked very well in an acoustic setting. For once, you could hear all the lyrics perfectly. Did anyone ever award some prize to Dr. Frank for the most clever and wry punk rock lyrics? Why not? What do you mean, there’s no Nobel Punk Prize? Anyway, the show was great and the mood was relaxed. There were so many amazing songs! I feel compelled to list some titles, because they remind me of the fun I had during the gig: “You’re the Only One”, “Swiss Army Girlfriend”, “Jill”, “Sackcloth and Ashes”, “Swallow Everything”! The lack of recognition from mainstream music fans breaks my heart. And yet I’m totally happy that I got to experience this concert close up. The next time Dr. Frank comes to town (or as in my case to a town that’s a three-hour drive away) you better go see him!

Dr. Frank live in Aachen

  1. How’d the Date End
  2. I Wrote a Book About Rock and Roll
  3. You Today
  4. My Name Is Morgan (But It Ain’t J.P.)
  5. More Than Toast
  6. Mr. Ramones
  7. You’re the Only One
  8. Swiss Army Girlfriend
  9. ???
  10. Fucked Up on Life
  11. Now That You Are Gone
  12. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
  13. Jill
  14. Will You Still Love Me When I Don’t Love You?
  15. Sackcloth and Ashes
  16. She Turned Out to Be Crazy
  17. Swallow Everything

Dr. Frank and Jutze

Sophie Madeleine live in New York City

Thursday, June 28th, found me attending the seventh music event on the eighth day of my vacation. I had strolled the streets of Manhattan earlier that day and ate a delicious veggie burger at Earthmatters (177 Ludlow St New York, NY 10011). My feet got tired, eventually, and it was still rather hot outside, so I went to the Rockwood Music Hall in time to catch a couple of songs by the first artist playing there that evening. Matt Dorien sounded quite nice, playing some sort of mellow but not really mellow country folk songs (a bit Paul Simon-y in terms of the vocals) with a neat backing band. The sound man provided a good, balanced mix throughout the evening; my tortured ears were thankful. There were eight people in the audience (including me). I could write a whole post about this alone, because it shows a) that playing in NYC isn’t necessarily as glamorous as it sounds and b) despite the meagre attendance, the musicians gave it all and earned if not money at least valuable respect and experience.

Next came Emily Elbert, a jazzy singer who accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. She actually tore one of the strings towards the end, because her playing was quite energetic, yet still artistic. Her command of her talent was impressive, however, I’m not a fan of such daring tonalities. The crowd (about 25 by now!) liked her quite a bit, though. Daniel and the Lion played laid back folk songs, but they had an aweful lot of very somber, soft songs. My attention drifted time and again as I failed to connect to the songs. The duo (piano and guitar/vocals) had come from Wisconsin to find about 30 people listening (which made the venue half-empty/half-full). Again, I doubt any artist can achieve sustainable success without this sort of commitment. Still, even then it comes down to whether the front row is swinging in the groove or not. People seemed to enjoy the show and were listening attentively during the quiet parts, even though they had chatted loudly just a few minutes earlier. This certainly helped to make the performers feel good.

Around 9 pm it was time for Sophie Madeleine, the reason I had come to the venue. She’s one half of Rocky & Balls whom I first found out about through Tom of the Boffo Yux Dudes. Some of her songs are way too “fluffy” for my taste. Still, she has produced a few gems – and admission was free, after all! When Sophie (together with Timothy on guitar and harmony vocals) entered the stage, I was skeptical, because there was a ton of gear. Miraculously, the change over didn’t take too long and everything worked. When the show began with pre-recorded loop samples, I was afraid that the gig would turn into a karaoke session. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. Most songs were played 100% live – and for some songs, the loops were recorded on location, which was quite fascinating. Sophie did play my favourite song of hers, “Little One“, so I was happy. She also premiered a new song that was possibly the most introverted of the songs she played. The audience (still 30 noses) was once again attentive yet a bit reserved. I found it quite impressive to see such a flawless performance close-up in this small room right there in the middle of the big city.

Sophie Madeleine live in New York

I was tempted to stay longer because all artists had been quite skilled and four more were to play. (The venue has hourly slots for artists every day of the week.) But my hotel bed beckoned and I wanted to end my week-long music adventure with a positive memory – and Sophie Madeleine had just provided one.

  1. Song to Fall in Love to
  2. The Rhythm You Started
  3. Little One
  4. Stars
  5. Butterfly Child
  6. Beautiful Lie (new song, not sure about the title)
  7. Come Follow Me

Dr. Frank live in Baltimore

It was Thursday, June 21st. I had arrived in Philadelphia coming from Zürich and drove south into the heat of Maryland (104° Fahrenheit). Not the most relaxing way to start one’s vacation but I didn’t want to miss the rare opportunity to see some one of the most underrated punk musicians coming out of retirement. After three hours of sleep in the hotel I got up and drove to the Ottobar. I got there half an hour before midnight local time. Mikey Erg was still on stage and sang some pop punk songs on his own with just an electric guitar (sounding excellent). His songs were pretty cool and he was obviously enjoying the gig. The audience – maybe 200 people – was in a good mood, too, albeit a bit exhausted, because the event (Insubordination Fest) was already rolling since 6 pm.

Mikey Erg live in Baltimore (June 21st, 2012)

Dr. Frank hit the stage after a really quick change over. His backing band that night were the Mixtapes, who delivered a powerful, passionate performance. Dr. Frank himself wasn’t completely sober and kept on drinking throughout the show. I guess a proper punk rock concert was a nice change for him compared to his usual book reading events that take place during the day and have young adult readers in the audience. I had no idea what kind of setlist to expect. Needless to say I was thrilled when “Sackcloth and Ashes” was played as opener. A barrage of MTX classics followed (“Here She Comes”! “Semi-OK”! “I Love You, but You’re Standing on My Foot”!). I loved every minute of it! The 30-second song “Told You Once” (off the “Short Music for Short People” compilation) was played three times in a row before the other musicians left Dr. Frank alone on stage for a couple of softer songs (mainly about alcohol and romance).

The mood during this part of the show was especially relaxed. It was cool to see several other artists standing by the side of the stage and singing along every word by heart. After a formidable version of “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend”, the House Boat guys joined Dr. Frank for a couple of songs. Finally, two of the best songs (“Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba” and “Dumb Little Band”) from the best MTX album “Love Is Dead” concluded the set and the audience went wild one last time. There were stagedivers and happy faces and all was good despite the Baltimore heat at 1 am.

Dr. Frank (and the Mixtapes) live in Baltimore

I hesitate to lament the lack of public interest in the event. It was great to see this style of music played in such a small place. No way a stadium gig could feel as imminent. It all reminded me of the MTX concert I attended back in 2001 in Stuttgart, Germany. Maybe it’s even a good thing that shows like these have become scarce. We’re all getting older and punk rock nostalgia is one of the ugliest forms of nostalgia if you ask me. Still, on that sweaty Thursday night Love might have been dead, but Punk certainly wasn’t.

  1. Sackcloth and Ashes
  2. Last Time I Listened to You
  3. Danny Partridge Got Busted
  4. Here She Comes
  5. She’s No Rocket Scientist
  6. I Love You, but You’re Standing on My Foot
  7. Semi-OK
  8. I Wrote a Book About Rock and Roll
  9. Told You Once
  10. Told You Once
  11. Told You Once
  12. Now That You Are Gone
  13. She Runs Out When the Money Does
  14. Two Martinis From Now
  15. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
  16. Gilman Street
  17. More Than Toast
  18. Somebody Who Cares
  19. Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba
  20. Dumb Little Band
  21. How’d the Date End?

PS: I’ll leave you with the wise words of Ben Weasel, who wrote on February 1st, 2004: In the meantime it’s worth the price of admission and then some to see [the Mr. T Experience] play. Whatever one of those American Pie bands might be worth, the MTX is worth double, and I’m being kind to the AP bands. Buy their CDs. See them play. Be one of those few people who vote with their dollars for substance over posturing; for quality over marketing magic. Because twenty-five years from now, do you really wanna be the person who decided to see Journey when you could’ve seen AC/DC with Bon Scott? Of course you don’t.