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Monsters of Spex Thursday

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This is about the first day of the Monsters of Spex festival 2006 in Köln. See also: Monsters of Spex Friday, photos on flickr, Monsters of Spex 2005.

Just like last year, I wanted to go to the Monsters of Spex festival in Köln this year because I really liked the idea of a small-ish festival in a big town. Which spells out to going there meaning I also get to see some friends and I don’t have to sleep in a tent but can enjoy the full comforts of modern civilisation. Just as last year, the visiting friends part didn’t work out 100% as not everybody was there. But, visiting my former flatmate Philipp – who joined my for the first day of music – and seeing my school friend Katja during her lunch break was at least disjoint from the selection of people I saw last year.

Getting to Köln was easier this year as I still had my mum’s car around. Gosh, I still hate driving. Unlike in the train you can’t read the paper, write e-mails or do other things. On the amusing upside, driving a car whose radio has a tape deck (only), I could indulge in some old mix tapes Jörg made for me way back when we were freshers. I suspect there may be a TDK SA-90 post in a few days, highlighting the glory of the mix tape in general and the wonderfully depressing rise of German indie music in the mid-1990s in particular.

As a bonus, I also met my brother who was also visiting Köln and wanted to take over the car. This meant a bit of shuffling around to make sure everybody – particularly me – was in the correct place in time, but that worked just fine. And it meant I could go on to Bremen by train on Friday night. With a friends’ wedding coming up there on Saturday, I had to skip the festival’s last days. (and thus miss the wonderful Dresden Dolls once again!)

I’ll just skip the generally blather about Köln and how it’s both nice and rather strange at the same time and how their traffic lights all seem to be red for really long times and go straight on to the music. We arrived at the Jugendpark just in time to catch the beginning of the first gig. There weren’t a lot of people there, so things were pretty a relaxed, in the beginning almost a bit lame I’d say.

Amusement Parks on Fire

The first band were Amusement Parks on Fire. Their music is nice-ishly mellow but I’m quite indifferent towards it. So while I generally think it’s a bit mean for the small audience at a festival to spread out when only few of them are there, we did just that for some ‘chill in’ and watched things from the back.

Amusement Parks on Fire on stage [Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]


While I like a song or two of the Infadels and even included it on a recent mix-CD, I am generally not their biggest fan. I guess their music has a bit too generous of an 1980s touch for me to feel comfortable with it. Yet it was fun to watch them – even though the pink in their stage setup seemed to be coming from the magic of masking tape and the band themselves were older than I expected them to be (which these days translates to ‘possibly not younger than myself’).

As with many other bands I found them a bit over-acting on stage. Particularly the keyboarder. I mean, he’s pressing little plastic keys, there’s no need to go and jump aggressively around for that (it’s not that he’s playing some wickedly sophisticated fugue either…). I’m really with the Kraftwerk guys on that one: if you can get away with just standing around and pressing some buttons, then do it, it’s less effort. Still, fun to watch, particularly with songs like Can’t Get Enough which I quite like. [Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Infadels on stage

Art Brut

After a short break, a snack and a one minute trip to the Rhine (the festival area is just there) we were back in front of the stage and musically, we had entered a high gear because Art Brut were on next. Wonderful, I really looked forward to seeing them again. And while I thought that they were a little better in January, they still kicked ass. Perhaps they’re just better indoors than they are at open airs because they – most notably Eddie Argos – make a great effort to get in touch with the audience.

Jasper and Eddie of Art Brut on Stage

In fact, he didn’t fail to do so this time either and we had him run across the audience in between (picture an excited roadie when when Eddie Argos wanted to throw the mike back on stage when he ran out of cable length but wanted to go on…) and did all the other cool things we also saw in winter, like telling us to form a band (or even do anything else noteworthy and worth consuming like writing…), going for endless Top of the Pops choruses (which I just love but which seem to have outlived the show by now!), telling everyone that they really should get over their old loves and of course singing the new songs like St. Pauli or Nag Nag Nag Nag Nag (I hope that’s the correct number of nags, but doing a song about listening to your walkman rather than your parents is just a brilliant idea. Like, haha, walkman, not iPod or any of that modern hipster crap.

Eddie Argos' Arm

Uh, and Eddie Argos shaved, so he doesn’t look like a pimp anymore but more like a school boy. And the bassist seemed to be the only one who could speak more German than Dankeschön and offered a eins, zwei, drei, vier for cheers! [Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Eddie and guitarist of Art Brut on stage;></a>

So that was great but after another short break there was more greatness to come…

<h4 id=Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Uh, I’ve loved the Yeah Yeah Yeahs ever since listening to their Master EP for the second time! (After the first time I thought it was just badly produced noisy crap, then I changed the last word to brilliance…) Seeing them play live a few years back was a revelation which went by with complete exhaustion (near collapse type I’d say) and completely kicked ass.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs on stage

Karen O. just is the scale of musical coolness and power. To begin with, the music rocks. But the show is also great – if weird. Yeah I guess I’m a bit of a fan and I was really looking forward to this gig. And then, I have to admit, it disappointed a bit. When seeing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs back in ‘03, it was a hot and extremely noisy affair. And that didn’t happen again this time. While I think that the PA could have easily been cranked up a bit more – it was significantly too quiet – in some songs I could even hear the guys who kept talking right in front of me chat along, that wasn’t the whole story.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs on stage

The songs also seemed to be presented in a less forceful and slower way. With Karen O. moving around slowly while draped in colourfully flying clothes. And while I don’t like that as much as the sheer forcefulness I had in mind, it strangely made sense after all. And it was amazing to hear and see Karen go for the more fragile or even ballad-like moments in that setup. She mastered that without becoming a victim of the mindless kitsch that so often comes with slow music and that even highly respectable musicians tend to fall for.

Karon O. on stage

In short, I would have preferred more violent show. But the one we got worked very well. And keeping in mind that it wasn’t particularly crowded, this may actually have been a very suitable choice as well. I did at times worry about the keyboarder – who looked like part of the Tenenbaum family –, though, who kept sitting on the ground and autistically bending forwards and backwards when wasn’t needed. All just show, sure, but somehow unnerving nonetheless. [Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

After Show

The gigs ended at 10 already thanks to some noise regulations. We then did a quick stroll over the big bridge right at the festival area with nice views up and down the Rhine and right on the cathedral at a distance. Then we headed for Gebäude 9 where some more bands were playing and a party was to take place. I guess that was fun – some of the bands were apparently going there as well, at least we saw Art Brut walk in there (with Jasper wearing that freaky Shakira shirt once more that we saw in January) – but in the end we didn’t go ourselves because we’re boring old farts. Or rather because we started being a bit tired and they charged a generous €9 to get in, so it would have been quite a pricey shortish stay. Boring old farts…

Ah well, instead we had another drink close to Philipp’s place (where no more driving was needed… and a rather questionable encounter with some drunkard who apparently didn’t find home anymore and when Philipp pointed the way to a nearby taxi rank, the guy started a little racist bitch-fest about how we couldn’t be serious to recommend that with all the African drivers they have these days – which is when we tried to get out of there quickly.

August 25, 2006, 1:24

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