by James Glazebrook
Feeling nostalgic? Listen to the Best of Berlin 2012 here.
Feeling nostalgic? Listen to the Best of Berlin 2012 here.
It’s a bit outrageous that we haven’t featured Mez Medallion before. He’s well within our little expat bubble, as an Australian in Berlin and the boyfriend of überlin favourite Phia – with whom he shares songwriting brilliance, onstage charm, mastery over any number of instruments and a penchant for loop pedals. Of course, double M is his own man, especially when it comes to crafting the crisp beats that underscore his earnest electropop, and shredding on guitar.
Let’s get you up to speed. Here’s Mez’s autumn-appropriate video for “Move Towards the Light”…
…and the naïve white-boy funk of “I’ll Remember You” (live at Nicolassee on Fritz Unsigned):
If you’re digging this, you can preview and pick up Mez Medallion’s new EP Live in Berlin here, or catch him actual-live supporting Phia on her first headline tour of Germany – full details, including a Berlin date at the English Theatre, here. You shan’t regret it!
The Loxx Miniature Railway version of Berlin is probably the city’s best-kept secret, or at least it was until our photos ended up on the front page of The Guardian website. Small world(!) – on our second visit to the mini-Berlin on top of Alexa mall, we ran into Dave from the blog Andberlin – who also named Loxx as one of his highlights of the year. This is the perfect place to go on a rainy winter’s day.
To celebrate Zoë’s birthday we went to Stockholm and Copenhagen and while we were there, visited the most beautiful and inspiring place we’ve ever been. Looking back at our post about the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, I feel like my words fail to live up to Zo’s stunning photos, and even those can’t capture the breathtaking beauty of the museum and its coastal environment. We thoroughly enjoyed our short time in Scandinavia, but the Louisiana was the hands-down highlight.
The first of our articles to appear on The Guardian, 5 Apps Berlin Really Needs, was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the buzzy, bubbly startup capital of Europe. Our iProtest app concept gamified civil disobedience, while Angry Berliners turned German bureaucracy into an addictive platform game. Our Buskamatic app aside, March was a great month for music – Modeselektor released the iconic video for their “Berlin” anthem, and we discovered Big Stu’s comedy rap tributes to Hühnerhaus and Kottbusser Tor.
Our personal highlight of the year has to be getting our hands on this little ball of cute. In fact, Olive is probably many readers’ main reason for visiting the blog – we might be better off training her to work a camera and a laptop and leaving her to it! The unofficial überlin mascot, Big Ö is recognised way more frequently than we are, and has turned up in the unlikeliest of places – including an Instagram tutorial video and a conversation with a Bully-obsessed stranger at my cousin’s wedding (“you own Olive the dog?!!!”). Apart from welcoming our fuzzy daughter to the fold, we also ate the meal of the year (with matched cocktails!) at Rollin Restaurant.
If our May pick was a movie it would be the überlin prequel, Escape from Newcastle. While our home toon stands for everything we hate (or is that the other way around?), we still have a soft spot for the football-loving Stella-downing lads and lasses we grew up with – something we hope came across in our “origin story”, From Geordie Shore to Germany. Back in Berlin, visiting friends introduced us to the Ramones Museum, the only such institute devoted to the Detroit proto-punks in the whole world, the personal collection of a Berliner who must be their greatest fan.
It might seem obvious, but our What I Know about Germans post is like David Hasslehoff’s “Looking For Freedom”: ubiquitous, infectious, and every German loves it . Credit for our “greatest hit” actually goes to writer Liv Hambrett, for her keen observations about her adopted countrymen, and illustrator Mischief Champion who’s busy bringing them to life for WIKAG – the book! Photo op of the month (year?) had to be Berlin Gay Pride 2012 – so many queers! So many colours!
It seems like a long time since Zoë spent a boiling Berlin Fashion Week maximising her time in the air-conditioned tent, and occasionally popping outside to photograph slebs like Fashionbloggerin Miggy. Lucky for us, she braved the heat long enough to get these impressions of Berlin Fashion Week SS13.
While Peaches was never exactly a reason for moving to Berlin, we’ve never been able to think about the city without picturing her merkin. Since we arrived, we’ve been lucky enough to see her twice: “doing herself” live on stage and orchestrating a protest/video shoot in support of Pussy Riot. We weren’t the only starstruck fans following this freak parade into Mauerpark, and it was impressive to see Ms Nisker whipping up a storm to publicise an important – and still ongoing – cause. Less colourful, but no less eye-opening, was guest blogger Russell Dornan’s look behind the closed doors of Berlin’s Natural History Museum.
You Know You’re a Berliner When… you pose for a photo pretending the TV Tower is your penis, which then becomes a lightning rod for critics of hipsters, expats and archisexts (I made this one up). Having regular “Berlinergasms” was just one of 11 sure-fire signs that you’ve become a Berliner, along with dancing in a U-Bahn station and witnessing at least one daily act of crazy. Zoë saw more craziness at London Fashion Week SS13 – here is just a taste.
October was a month of light and dark. The gloomy nights provided the perfect backdrop for the Festival of Lights and (we think) our animated GIFs were the perfect demonstration of the event’s kaleidoscopic displays. Far less joyful was Berlin Crawling: 10 Halloween Horror Films, a list of creepshows shot here in the Haupstadt, ranging from the slick (the neo-Giallo short Yellow) to the just plain sick (corpse love story Nekromantik).
We’re so glad Phia agreed to be the first subject in our series of Berlin portraits. We’d heard the Australian singer/songwriter/thumb-pianist at an intimate concert in a fellow musician’s house, and loved her stories and songs about her granddad, a Berliner, and what it meant to live in his hometown. We spent a beautiful, crisp day discovering her Berlin, and sharing our love for the creative, open city we now call home. Oh, and we celebrated two years of überlin/living in Berlin!
As we entered our third winter in Berlin, we thought we should share the survival skills we’ve picked up with expats who’ve recently arrived from warmer climes. With the help of Josh Bauman’s awesome caricatures of us (and Olive!), our more-or-less practical tips about How to Survive a Berlin Winter helped to restore calm among the panicky sun-botherers freaking out at the first sight of snow. I wonder if anyone’s quit their job or grown a beard on our advice? And giving away €250 of Berlin-themed swag was a great way to end another awesome year of überlin.
Join us in 2013 for more Berlin love and LOLs. Happy New Year!
What have Roxy Music, Depeche Mode and Thom Yorke all got in common? They’re all in our epic “Best of Berlin 2012″ playlist, a collection of (most of) the tracks I’ve posted on every Music Montag for a year. But what have they got to do with Berlin? Well, you’re going to have to read the original posts to find out, which you can get to via the epic list of tags at the bottom of this post.
Or you could just listen to the playlist, which features more obviously Berlin acts like Alec Empire, Bodi Bill, Pan-Pot and Modeselektor, plus local expat stars Emika, IAMX and Phia. You’ll notice that some of the more underground artists I covered haven’t yet made it to Spotify (sorry!), but otherwise this is a pretty well-rounded, surprisingly danceable mix, interrupted by the odd short, sharp metallic shock One for Silvester, maybe? Enjoy…
My name is Phia and I’m an Australian musician living in Neukölln, Berlin.
How long have you been here?
My boyfriend Josh (also a musician) and I moved here 15 months ago.
What brought you here?
Well in part it was for the reasons so many people move to Berlin – it’s cheap, in the centre of Europe and is a hub for other artists and musicians…
I also have a family connection – my grandfather was from Berlin. He moved to Australia in 1938 where he met my grandma, who was originally from Vienna. I didn’t think too much about the family connection until I got here, but once I arrived, knowing my ancestors lived in the same city as I now reside in was very poignant. In fact it is something I think about nearly every day. My grandfather may have walked the same streets that I do now, strolled along the same canals.
Of course, Berlin is a very different city from the one he left behind: the street he lived on isn’t there anymore, due the bombings in World War Two. Germany was his home, and he made it a part of my childhood, but he was also forced to leave. The emotions are complicated! But every now and then I see or read things that remind me of my grandparents – hearing a nursery rhyme they used to sing to me, seeing the particular way apartments are furnished here. I now realise how European their suburban Melbourne apartment was! Even the fact the chose to live in an apartment in a city of standalone houses.
They both died years ago, so it’s lovely to feel close to them.
Tell us about your Kiez, and what you like about it.
I live on the corner of Neukölln, Treptow and Kreuzberg, which is sometimes described as Dreiländereck (“three border triangle”). My apartment looks over the intersection of two canals and very often the sound of ducks quacking will drift through our fifth floor apartment. There is a bridge over one of the canals and this is a real hub – people riding to work, walking to school… very often you see two people meeting and sitting on the bridge having a beer. And I love that in my Kiez everything I need is only a bicycle ride away.
What are your five favourite things in your neighbourhood?
The canal. I like that Berliners like to just get outside – go for a walk, ride their bikes or just sit in a park somewhere… and all of that happens along the canal outside our apartment. The idea that you can buy a cheap beer and go and sit somewhere, it’s really nice.
Ä bar in Weserstrasse is just around the corner from my place. They have a regular Wednesday concert series, and I’ve done two shows there this year. The bar is always crowded, hectic and full of atmosphere, as are the gigs! I’ve loved playing my music there, hanging out, and then slowly riding my bicycle back to my place, across the wooden footbridge over the canal.
The Croissanterie on Pannierstrasse makes the most amazing croissants – particularly the nuss-nougat one. And if you get there early enough (well early for a musician, maybe 10am) the croissants are still warm.
Nowkoelln Flohmarkt. Being on a Berlin salary, I only really shop for clothes at markets now! The Flowmarkt runs every two weeks on Maybachufer. They have nice food stalls too and I always run into at least two or three people I know there. I’ve performed a few times at the market at Prinzessinnengarten, which is run by the same guy and is also really lovely.
Five Elephant has great coffee and simply amazing cheesecake. I don’t even like cheesecake, but I love theirs. I was introduced to this cafe by a good friend of mine, who is also Australian but we only became friends since we both moved to Berlin. We’ve collaborated on some creative projects since then, so I guess the cafe reminds me of the wonderful connections that can be made in this city.
THURSDAY 25th OCTOBER
A Night and The City at Prince Charles
I don’t know what it is, but Prince Charles doesn’t feel very Berlin. Maybe it’s the high poser quotient, or the carefully contrived design touches, or maybe I’m just acutely aware of all that because it’s so bastard bright. Well, Night and the City have come up with a solution to that: make the club pitch black. They’re erecting walls around the dancefloor to completely cut out all light, in order to see “what impact the situation has on your music experience.” Click through on the image below to find out the full event details, more importantly, how the team plan to stop it becoming a Berghain-style dark room.
FRIDAY 26th OCTOBER
Horror Night at Filmpark Babelsburg
We freaking love Halloween! And there looks to be no better way to spend it than at Filmpark Babelsburg’s Horrornächte. Take a trip outside of the Ringbahn (scary enough, right?) to be pursued by monsters, mutants and zombies through haunted houses and creepy mazes. Get a combo ticket and you can go back on Saturday for a “Monster Party” in the Prince Valiant restaurant. According to a sketchy Google Translate, it promises to be “memorable, flashy and trashy!” Click through below… if you dare MUHAHAHAHHAHAHAAaaaaaa
SATURDAY 27th OCTOBER
Handmade in Germany 2012 opens at Direktorenhaus
That the Germans are great at building/making stuff won’t surprise anyone who’s read What I Know About Germans, but it’s always nice to see the products of their labour. Direktorenhaus is opening its doors to 30 master craftsmen, innovative manufacturers and experimental designers, for what should be a very special exhibition indeed. If you’re waaay richer than us, it might be a good place to get Christmas gift ideas! Click through on the REAL MAN below to find out more.
Mez Medallion Cassette Release Party at Loophole
If you want to know where the Australians will be on Saturday night, look no further. Melbourne’s Mez Medallion is debuting his album Move Towards the Light, with a little help from his talented (and capitalised) countrymen/women TUSK and PHIA. Oh, and you’d better dust off that ghetto blaster you bought at Mauerpark, because the album’s being released on limited edition cassette tape. Event details here and pretty video here:
I think loop pedals are the best thing ever. They make the Battles trio sound like a full orchestra (of Smurfs), and allow singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalists to ditch their bands, follow their own artistic vision… and then reproduce it in full, live. That’s why Berlin-based PHIA sounds so special; likewise, her angsty male counterpart, Petula.
Petula is a solo project of Sn Cleemann, who describes his sound as “loop tectonics, honey-y melody and the occasional clicky beat. It’s all action, drama, beauty – it’s all well buried under layers’n'layers of microsound.” As much about passionate performance as pristine production, Cleemann has to be seen live for the full emo effect – these fan videos should give you a rough idea:
Petula’s most recent release is a split EP with The Micronaut, out now on Dia Records. Check it out below, and buy it over here.
Catch Petula’s emotive live show at:
19.09. Festsaal Kreuzberg
…and check out petula.org for more updates.
[EDIT: Petula just sent me a link to the video for "Say Yes", so here it is in all its cute, crafty glory]
How come artists based in Berlin keep covering Radiohead? Because of the same impeccable taste that brought them here, probably. Hot on the heels of PHIA’s version of “15 Step”, comes an Emika take on ”Exit Music (For a Film)”, recorded for Musikexpress’ Tribute to OK Computer. Check out the Ninja Tune star’s wonky future-garage rework after the jump.
Cool huh? We found out about PHIA when the waitress in our local Thai restaurant recognised us and pitched us about a special house concert happening this Friday. Only in Berlin!
Turns out our wait staff was OOi, a classically-trained musician who’s going to perform a solo viola work, a collaboration, and is also going to VJ for PHIA. As for the headliner, she’s going to work her magic armed with a kalimba (thumb piano), a set of loop pedals, and maybe some more rearrangements (scroll down for a Fleet Foxes cover). For details and reservations for this special event, email email@example.com.