The first Crossroads show from the mighty Rockpalast got underway with a band from my hometown, Portsmouth (UK that is). On the evidence of New Desert Blues and German punk rockers Angelika Express it’s going to be another bag of allsorts every evening – and I can’t wait!
It’s actually a bit empty by Rockpalast standards at the Harmonie when I arrive, and I’m thinking they will have their work cut out getting those dramatic ‘over the heads of the masses’ shots from the back of the hall. Maybe the local transport strike hasn’t helped get the crowd in?
New Desert Blues hail, their website says, from Whiteley in Hampshire. Not a place you would expect to find a heavy metal band, and you would be right. They do have a rocky edge to their music though which I put down to the bands Portsmouth contingent! They certainly have some quirky things to stand out, with three guitarists (+ a bass player) seeming somewhat of a touring luxury, especially since they also have a keyboard player. No shortage of rhythm in the songs then. Which brings me to the second quirk about the band – Their songs have names, literally. By which I mean that each one has a personal name: The setlist reads Elliot, Emile, Eli, Tobias, Adrian, Jose, Daniel… The name of each songs chief protagonist I’m told later.
The band is being championed by the BBC and their sound is pleasant, American even, a bit doom and gloomy maybe – needing something uptempo to give the set some light amongst the shade. It’s described by them as ‘Noire-infused, harmony-laden soundscapes’. It’s early days and they are young though; so young in fact that when I mention the Portsmouth areas last major pop hero Joe Jackson they shake their heads. A bit of cheerful nonsense like Joe’s ‘Is she really going out’with him’ would have gone down a treat though. Nice band, but write something upbeat and uptempo please guys.
You certainly couldn’t charge second band of the evening Angelika Express with being either downbeat or downtempo. Everything was delivered at breakneck speed, as if there were twenty songs to fit into a slot built for fifteen. Hailing from Cologne the band had a standard number of guitarists, but an extra drummer – which certainly meant no sleeping at the back of the hall.
The German press introduces Angelika Express as a modern punk ensemble with intelligent, often political lyrics. I couldn’t for the most part make out what was being sung, but a large contingent of the audience obviously took the road from Cologne to sing along:
“du bist so wunderbar reaktionär
dein verlobter ist beim militär (und bringt leute um)
nachts allein im reihenhaus
ziehst du das business-kostüm aus
du bist so heiss und so konservativ “
There’s no denying they have a live presence and energy to burn. They’ve been around some twelve years now in various guises and actually appeared in Rockpalast in 2003. There are songs about Francois Truffaut, and about ‘’Mett’ Damon’. I quite liked ‘Messy Girl’ even though they were the only words I could make out over the two drummers. “We mix Disco terror with a noisy mayhem, and sugar coat it with a dash of eternal Pop classic” is how singer and original band member Robert Drakogiannakis describes the sound – and far be it for me to disagree.
The first Crossroads Rockpalast evening of 2014 down then, and two bands of very different style that made for an enjoyable evening without it quite seeming something to tell the grandchildren about. Three days to go and maybe we’ll get that magic goosebump moment yet…