Alternative 1st May: Faunshead Play the Culture Container
There’s a meat crisis when I arrive at the Culture Container on Holzmarkt on the 1st May. I have arranged to meet Duarte, the mild mannered, Portuguese bass player for Berlin group Faunshead. There has been a miscommunication between the band and the organisers and now there’s a BBQ burning but no food. Duarte, however, looks relaxed. He’s telling me that the others are trying to find meat… on the 1st May. I don’t hold out much hope.
Duarte tells me that Faunshead have been playing together for two years, but the current line-up, with Duarte and new Italian guitarist Francesco, have been together a mere seven months. The singer and guitarist Matt (American-Swiss) and drummer Giorgio (also Italian) found their new band mates, where else, on Craigslist. They’ve played a few gigs together already, and they’ve got a few more lined up, but today, they are kicking off their summer dates. Shame then that three of them are currently MIA.
The rest of the band arrives twenty minutes before the first act is scheduled to start playing. They do not have any meat, lead singer Matt tells me this is good news as he’s got gout. When I tell him that’s known as the King’s Disease where I’m from, he looks pleased. Duarte introduces me to Francesco who tells me he came to Berlin with a collaborator who has since returned to Italy. They were playing electro-inspired stuff, he says. I’m surprised by this because the Faunshead sound is pretty classic rock, heavy even. He shrugs, there’s plenty of places to play electro in this city he says. This is a good point, and I asked Matt and Duarte about the difficulties in playing rock in a city so completely in love with electro-techno-minimal-DJ. They agreed that its tricky, bookers want DJs because they’re cheaper, and punters want music they can dance to, and finding a niche is hard.
Since the new guys have arrived, Faunshead’s sound has evolved. They’re moving away from the Rage Against the Machine heaviness into more light and shade. When I ask Francesco and Matt what they’re listening to at the moment, the answers come out rapid fire: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nick Cave, Joy Division, a Jimi Hendrix record I ought to know, Queens of the Stone Age… This was interrupted by an appearance by Franz, the straw-hatted guy running the Culture Container. He’s come to talk to Matt about some thoughts he’d had in the bath. About arseholes. There’s back and forth about social toxicity and anatomy, and I’m pleased to see Francesco arrive to excuse myself. He tells me he’s eking out a Berlin-living since arriving after finishing his degree in contemporary music at Berkley, writing jingles, teaching, gigging.
As the support arrives, something strange happens. Max, a skinny, hoodie wearing German takes to the stage with his guitar and a tangle of wires for his drum loops, and the audience begins to sit down. By the end of the second song, the audience are five deep and sat neatly in rows. I’m beginning to feel like I’ve missed a memo about gig etiquette as I sip my Astra awkwardly at the back. Max is doing a great job though, his music is pretty Berlin – its minimal, but in a way sounds kind of like Radiohead if they started in 2011 and came from Berlin. I hope that sounds like a compliment, because that’s how it’s meant. The audience seemed to like it too, happy to laugh a long when there’s a problem with the equipment.
As Max wraps up, Faunshead take to the stage and the audience dissipates while they set up. Save Matt, who looks like Josh Homme and Alex Turner’s New York cousin, off stage the rest of the band don’t look very, and this is the technical term, band-y. Up there it starts to make sense. Francesco’s hippie thing (Franz’s words, not mine) morphs into a kind of other-worldy commune with his guitar. Giorgio has a similar thing going on with his drums, and mild-mannered Duarte is suddenly a huge presence, power-stancing behind the guitarists.
I’d been told the first half of the set list is the old stuff that the original line up had written. The second half, I’m told is the new sound, the lighter stuff. The band kicks off and the guests start to file back in. Giorgio describes the band’s sound as: ‘a dark mountain side at night time’ and by the time we get to the third song I can see why. The QOTSA influence is pretty clear here, and has some of the same problems as 2013’s …Like Clockwork. It’s a bit flat footed, a bit overly heavy. Matt announces the midway point as tells his guests that we’re about to hear the new stuff. I’m won over immediately, there’s something that sounds very Joy Division and has the crowd dancing. The second half isn’t as slick as the first, but the crowd clearly prefer it and the cheers are getting louder in between each song. Francesco’s guitar solos get a big reaction too, which considering that we’re packed into a tiny (in theory) 30 person standing room container is a surprise; I thought it would be too much for this kind of venue.
The set list wraps up quickly, and the audience get their wish for one more before things close and I slip away to see the destruction I missed while cocooned in the Culture Container.
Faunshead are playing gigs in Berlin this summer. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Sarah Coughlan is a Berlin-based British writer, proofreader, editor and book reader. She has lived in Berlin for around three years. She now lives in Wedding with her cat. She’s OK with this.
You can find her at: www.bulletproofed.org where she hides her academic proofreading business.