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Stereo Freeze 11.24

November 24, 2009

Why, that’s David Byrne, standing in front of a…Ramones museum, in Berlin? Read on for more, but be aware that this picture came from a website and David Byrne has nothing to do with this article.

Tales from Berlin, October 2009:

Presented here for your enjoyment are a few anecdotes from a week I spent in Berlin last month:

Via Flickr, click to see a whole set.

One of the main reasons I was in Berlin was a Sonic Youth show that took place mid-week, so I’ll start with that. It was exciting to see them, finally, and the show was, as could be expected, pretty excellent. Packed house, of course, and the place was big. With balcony, even. The opening act was a local noise guy who shall go unremarked upon, other than to say he was, well, unremarkable. The Sonic Youth set was largely stuff from The Eternal, of course, but there were a number of tunes from older records thrown in, too. They even pulled out “Tom Violence” and “Shadow of a Doubt,” much to my delight. The only complaints I can come up with were the foul, headache-inducing cloud hanging in the place from all the indoor-smoking (come on, Europe) and the lighting: between the seizure-tastic flashing backdrop pieces and some super bright fixtures that shone right out into the crowd, it was kinda hard to look at the stage. Those things, and the encore ritual. Why is it bands do this, exactly? Sometimes it’s fun, ok, but when it gets dragged out, it’s dumb. Like, all the gear is still on and the stage guys are tuning the guitars, everyone knows you’re coming back…for the third time. Not something I expected at a Sonic Youth show, really. Anyway, they did a huge version of “Death Valley ’69” as the last encore (though internet video evidence seems to suggest they came out still one more time?) and it was dope. Back out into the night. Three things related thereto: 1) Being that public drinking is no big deal in Deutschland, there are dudes that sell beer on the street to concert goers passing by. There are also dudes that sell sandwiches. I was confronted by one such guy, with a big tray of sandwiches, upon leaving the hall, and was too confused to react. Regretted that, actually…why not have a fresh sandwich after the rock show? Why not indeed; 2) Shows often happen early in Europe and are over by the time North American shows would usually be starting; and, 3) There was a Cannibal Corpse show going on basically next door to the Sonic Youth show, and both on the way there, and on the way back, the streets and underground were full of grisly metal kids. The Quietus has an article about this show posted, with some interesting commentary, take a look.

Did a bit of record shopping while there, and there are some great shops to check out. I managed to find the second DAF record in one of ’em. And yes, electronic music is kinda the law over there. Some music shops you go into have the electronic sections divided down into all these sub-categories, it’s serious business.

A spur-of-the-moment (i.e. just-found-out-it-existed-yes-gotta go!) thing: a visit to the first, and apparently only Ramones museum in the world. Nestled away in downtown Berlin, the Ramones Museum is run by superfan/collector Flo Hayler, who has amassed an impressive collection of Ramones memorabilia, including promo materials and photos from every era of the band, hand-written lyric sheets and messages from band members, instruments, clothing, and more. For 3.50 Euro you get a pin that enables lifetime access to the exhibition, which since 2008 has come to include a small café called Café Mania as well. If you ever get the chance to check this out, it’s not to be missed. Some of the stuff this guy has is just crazy. And the list of artists that have dropped by is also quite impressive. Actually, one remarkable artifact there (to me, anyway) was a zine from someplace in the states, hand-produced in the late seventies, that had The Diodes on the cover. It had some Ramones content, of course, but seeing this picture of The Diodes on the cover of an American fan zine, in the Ramones Museum…in Berlin, was a trip.

And finally, something I didn’t actually experience, but had to include. You’ve likely heard about this elsewhere, as there was a fair bit of fuss made about it, but it bears mentioning here as well: the U2 concert thing. A couple of weeks after I was there, the city was celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the borders between East and West Germany. A couple of days before the actual day of, U2 – whose album Achtung Baby, recorded, in part, in Berlin in 1991, was influenced by and touched on the mood of the times surrounding the German unification – played a concert at the Brandenburg Gate for the occasion, and in order to keep non-ticket holders from entering, the people in charge of the concert erected…yes, a wall around the area.

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