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Night of Hard Rock: Brought to You by K61

As an American, rock music is in my blood, coursing through my veins along with the plaque from I don’t even know how many McDonalds burgers. Rock music wouldn’t even be around if it were not for the U.S.’ knack for being a “melting pot”, or for the unpleasant fact that they enslaved thousands of people from African tribes with a strong musical tradition that enhanced the classical music style developed in Europe.

My parents, god bless them, raised me on the rock music that they had grown up listening to. I always believed this put me a step above my friends who were listening to… well, Fall Out Boy, Avril Lavigne, Panic at the Disco. I walked the halls of my school proudly wearing my Led Zeppelin or my Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band shirt.

With this in mind, I spent 17th June at the Loud Lounge for the third in a series of shows put on by the fellows at Studio K61 and their resident band Faunshead.

The evening before the show I had the opportunity to go to the studio to meet with Matt, the singer/guitarist, and Duarte, the bassist of Faunshead. Set in the outskirts of the city in Weißensee. Studio K61 is part of a complex rightfully called Kreativ Stadt since it houses many artists’ studios. Matt and Duarte were waiting for me in a small café within the complex. From there we walked into the old Stasi building, and then down the stairs into the basement where their studio - most likely an old holding cell for enemies of the state - is located. Despite the old, crumbling building the studio looked properly and painstakingly set up, and Matt, obviously proud of the work he and others had put into the place, gave me a quick tour.

Photo credit: Studio K61

In the back room set up for sound mixing, we took a seat and chatted about their motives for putting on their series of shows. As an up-and-coming band, Faunshead has found it hard to get a firm grip on the German music industry, which doesn’t always look for fresh new acts, but instead books big names. To spread their name and increase their fan-base, it’s almost necessary to go on tour to places like France or the UK where their music is more mainstream. But these guys are sick of touring, and they are trying to make Berlin a place where they, and other like-minded artists, can flourish. By working together with the Loud Lounge, they have been able to create a sort of platform for bands to reach new audiences and get their name out there.

Originally, three bands were set to perform: Red Booster, Faunshead, and Cats & Breakkies; but due to a hospitalization, Red Booster had to drop out at the last minute and their slot was filled by two bands: Volk and Musgos.

The night of the show got off to a slow start. At first set to kick-off at 9, the start time was pushed back to 9:30 in hopes that more people would show up. When I met with Matt and Duarte, they had expressed concerns about the publicity efforts around the event. Facebook is an unreliable way of promoting gigs, so to take matters into their own hands, the guys from Studio K61 passed out fliers for the event, which seemed to draw in quite a number of people who were in the area looking for something to do.

The first act to perform was Volk, made up of an American male/female duo. Before they took to the stage, I had a chance to chat with Eleot, the girl. It’s always a treat to meet like-minded Americans living in Berlin, and we had a smooth discussion about life here as a musician. She told me how it can be challenging to play at smaller venues in the city because so many have been shut down over the years, due to noise complaints or otherwise. It’s almost essential for a band to tour if they want to play gigs, but Berlin is now her home and for the time being she wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else. Berlin fosters creativity and has an incredibly cheap cost of living compared to other major cities, which allows people to pursue their dreams.

When they got up and began to perform, Eleot on drums and Chris on guitar, I was immediately transported back to the U.S. by their country/rock sound. I felt like I was speeding down a dirt road in a vintage convertible with the sun beating down on my neck. Eleot ruled the drum set like a kick-ass Karen Carpenter, and Chris could play the guitar as if he sold his soul to the Devil down in Georgia for his amazing gift. They played unapologetically loud and had the perfect amount of energy to kick things off for the night.

The next group, Musgos, is made up of four guys all hailing from different parts of South America.  Consisting of a bassist, a guitarist, and a drummer, they played some truly unique instrumentals. I would classify their music as being borderline bi-polar. One moment they’d kick into a groove and play as hard and as fast as they could, with the drummer even breaking his drumstick at one point, and then without any notice they would stop and slow it down to just a few spaced out bass notes, and suddenly break into a more danceable rhythm with a strong Latin influence in the drumming

Third to take the stage were the men of the hour, Faunshead. By this time the crowd had grown to a large size, everyone in anticipation of the main act. The guys had a strong, confident stage presence despite the current lineup of the band playing together for just shy of a year. With the new lineup, the sound of the band has evolved to include darker scales, with a trashy, hard rock sound. Matt was every bit the frontman in his leather jacket. With his commanding attitude, he played his guitar and sang with a depth to his voice like Jim Morrison. Duarte came alive behind his bass guitar and looked at home up on the stage. Playing alongside them was Francesco, grooving on his guitar, and Giorgio supplying a solid rhythm on the drums, at one point even breaking into a more hip-hop like beat. They all played with an energy that was contagious, causing an outbreak of dancing.

Last to perform was Cats & Breakkies, a sextet of Germans with a well-developed electro/rock. Using only their instruments, they produced sounds that you’d think were coming from a skilled DJ in an underground club, and through their music they brought the audience back from our journey and home to Berlin, who’s heart beats with the sound of electronic music.  They had everyone up on their feet and moving along as they played for the next two hours.

Before the show was over, I had to leave to catch the night bus or I’d risk waiting up to half an hour for the next one. Sitting amongst the other rag-tag bunch of passengers, in the sanctuary created between my headphones, I was able to reflect on the night. While rock music doesn’t have as strong of a foothold in Berlin as electro and techno do, it still has a modest presence that is likely to remain constant. As long as there are venues for bands to play in, people will come out to see them perform, and through word of mouth they can only grow in popularity.

By Jacob Houvener

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