The MW:M music conference lists itself as the better, weirder music convention. It’s hugely well-run, endlessly informative and two days of well-thought out content and meetings of minds. But this article is about MW:M Live, the brand new showcase.
In the middle of these two days is the brand new, all-singing, all-dancing MW:M Live: a showcase of Berlin’s best upcoming bands. The location is the prestigious new Berlin Music House, on the famous RAW Gelände where half the best clubs in Berlin reside. So I was naturally all agog to check out these best new bands, and equally curious to check out the new Berlin Music House in all its finery.
Add to that the fact that some of my favourite Berlin bands were playing, and the night looked promising.
As I say it was my first visit to the Berlin Music House and….well, yeah. It’s just me. It’s all a bit too shiny and new. You know what I mean? Music venues for me need to have at least a whiff of…age? Of having been lived in? Maybe music does permeate the walls. Maybe the million molecules of weird energy that arise when music is going on and people are flinging themselves about stay in the place after everyone’s gone….or maybe it’s just the cigarette smoke that seeps into the bricks. Whatever. I look forward to visiting Berlin Music House in 10-20 years, when the money’s run out and the same lady is at the bar but older, wearier, wiser…no, you’re right. It’s definitely just me.
Maybe music does permeate the walls
As you walk in, on the left is a sitting area with bar and stage. On the right is a music shop. Incongruous. But hey, it’s not a venue, it’s a music house. And if you break a string on the stage and forgot to buy some spares, I mean convenience? It doesn’t get much better.
You can either go up the steps at the front or walk through into the ground floor rehearsal rooms. The front way brings you to the first floor and a glass door through which is the lobby of the BIMM Berlin music school. If you go up another floor you find Shure. If you stay on the first floor and walk on you’ll find yourself on a walkway, from which you can look down onto the venue. Walk further and you go through a glass door, and there are the next level of rehearsal rooms, belonging to Noisey.
I thought all the bands were to play on the stage in the hanging-out area at the front, but I was wrong. Bands were set to jam, appear, perform, etc, in various rehearsal rooms spread through the place. It was an interesting way of doing things, and I suppose you got more people playing more music over a shorter period of time, but what with somewhat confused starting times and with those starting times then being delayed, it was easy to get confused.
Okay there were free drinks at the bar and that probably didn’t help me to keep my senses sharp and my mind rational but hey. No one’s perfect.
I would have loved to hear and see every band that was performing that night, but here’s what I did see:
Hit of the night: Ponte Pilas, fresh from their having won a music prize at the Listen to Berlin Awards. They’ve been going from strength to strength, quietly – or perhaps loudly – acquiring more and more fans while also becoming more and more rooted in who they are and what they do. Frontman Calum Bolland knows what the people want and and has become expert at giving it to them, doing a wild Britrock frontman thing to the delight of all and sundry, but especially all the younger ladies that had pushed their way to the front while I wasn’t looking, while his Ecuadorian sidekicks look cool in that particularly South American way and provide the wall of solid indie rock that you’re looking for at a gig like this.
Banglist were in effect in a rehearsal room on the first floor, playing to a crowd that I thought was too small for their performance. But I got there late, confused by starting times and delays, and I suppose so did others. Still, they did what they do, which is come, hit it and conquer. Singer Asdis was on top form; the band seemed a little tired, but who can blame them.
Finally a band on what I suppose we should refer to as the main stage: Nosoyo have been doing this for long enough now that they come over as the honed, professional duo that they are. Which is probably why they’d also won the Jury Prize at the Listen to Berlin Awards the night before. Nosoyo have been through some rough times over the last year with labels and managers and all those bone-dry kind of things that music shouldn’t be about but often unfortunately is; but as they told me, they’ve emerged from the fire harder, stronger and more determined, and I don’t see this duo going anywhere but up. Two years ago it looked like that journey would be a rocket-trip to the stratosphere; but even if it turns out to be more of a slog, still you know: this band is going to make it.
In my opinion it would have been better if they’d kept the night as a big party in the main chamber. It was instead one of those events, a bit like a music conference, where people wander around from spot to spot, no one completely sure of where they’re going or what should be going on when they get there. I wanted more sense of celebration, more raucousness, I wanted the lights turned down and the drinks flowing and the music pumping. But with everything else about the conference being organised to a T, it was just fine if the brand new showcase event needed a little more love. Looking forward to next year.
Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.