So Saturday night I went to what’s becoming yet another musical staple in Berlin: Cranky Fest. Started by self-proclaimed Irish scrooge, Barry Cliffe, Cranky Fest is a monthly festival showcasing local Berlin musicians. In typical fashion, the fest is housed in the quaint but crumbling Antje Øklesund venue in Friedrichshain. Here’s a breakdown of the lineup:
Originally from Melbourne, like many Aussies before them Creatures have since made their home in Berlin. Their music has an intimate and subdued sound; it’s simple and not too cluttered. The echo-y, reverb-drenched guitar work is a bit reminiscent of The xx. I thought the singer had a real sincerity when he sang, but at times the lyrics erred on the melodramatic side. As a whole, it was a nice performance and I’d recommend checking them out.
You know how sometimes primarily electro shows can seem pointless? When the musician presses a button then let’s the audience use their imagination, the thought always crosses my mind, “I could’ve maybe gotten the same experience in the comfort of my own room.” Slow Steve did a good job of dispelling this unfortunately common sentiment. His set was dynamic and engaging; at one point, he even came into the audience and danced with us. This Berlin-based French DJ is probably most well known for his remix of Fenster’s Oh Canyon, but you can also find him around town spinning beats at local dives like Monarch.
If you couldn’t tell by the oddly placed “u” in “colour,” The History of Colour TV hail from the UK but currently live and work in Berlin. I took a listen to them prior to the show Saturday night and was really pleased by what I heard: a sound that’s solidly shoegaze, characterized by the usual swirling guitars and distortion, but it also had a refreshingly ambient quality to it, with soundscapes to put you in a trance-like state. However, my experience Saturday differed quite a bit. Maybe it can be attributed to the sound system or any number of issues that can arise when switching from the studio to the live venue, but I thought that their performance on Saturday was imbalanced and lacked focus. Now, I know that this genre is typically noisy and at times cacophonous—I’m totally cool with that—but I felt like the core of their music was swept away in all of said noise. The vocals were completely lost in the mix, and as such, actually detracted from the rest of it. Despite all of this, one thing I can say was they still rocked out. My final verdict: they’re definitely worth another shot.
I hadn’t heard of Ruins of Krüger until I saw the lineup for this festival and I didn’t get a chance to give them a listen before the fest, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Boy, was I blown away; not in the omg-where-have-they-been-my-whole-life way, but in the way that I couldn’t understand why they were even headlining at all. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of heady punk sub-genres, so a band whose sound descriptors are “psychedelic post-punk” probably wouldn’t be my cup of tea anyway, BUT let’s just put all of that aside for a moment. Firstly, though I could see that the instrumentalists were skilled musicians, the music was so erratic that I was too distracted to even appreciate it. Secondly (and most importantly), the lead singer barely deserves that title. I know, I know: “But it’s punk,” you’ll say, and there is truth to that. Scores of seemingly bad singers have lead great bands to make great music: The Clash, Bob Dylan (not a band, but roll with me here), Violent Femmes, Le Tigre, just to name a few. A part of the charm associated with these musicians is their lack of vocal prowess. But that charm was absent with Ruins of Krüger, along with any sense of cohesion. A friend of mine who was there with me put it well: “how distinctly underwhelming.”
And I think that sums it up. All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good night filled with some good tunes and many Mexikaners.