… a smile, a warm laughter and heartbreaking songs: Thanks Descendents!

It has been 21 years. Twentyone fucking years. A painful long period without my loveliest band gracing home shores. Damn. Others where lucky and caught them abroad but i am a homie and specifically i’d love to see them at a place like the Markthalle.

It was a great show back then and all of Hamburg seemed to be eager to make it a great show again. And thus it was sold out in record time. When FLAG played the Knust two years ago we chatted with Mr. Egerton and he confirmed they were keen to get back to the Markthalle and sell it out – which indeed they did. He noted that for them it is a cozy club show they love compared to the bigger places they play in the US.

With two support bands it was an early start and Spider from Long Beach had the unfortunate task to play the rather empty hall.

Spider (Markthalle, Hamburg, 10.07.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)
Spider (Markthalle, Hamburg, 10.07.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)

They did not play long and they did not get a lot of applause. For me they were just not to the point – they had elements old LA punk, elements of H/C and then some more. But all crushed into a rather long song. I guess i would need to see them in a smaller setting to make an accurate judgement. I gave them some of my time but then resorted back out for more chats with the endless number of mates around. Check them out for yerself over here.

Next on and competing with France vs. Belgium where A Wilhelm Scream and neither myself nor most of my friends where anywhere near being fond of them.

A Wilhelm Scream (Markthalle, Hamburg, 10.07.2018 (c) gehkacken,de)
A Wilhelm Scream (Markthalle, Hamburg, 10.07.2018 (c) gehkacken,de)

They had the space in front of the stage pretty full and they had a number of fans apparently. And they had a mu-sick-al style that i just do not like. Period. Form your own view but i will forever avoid these soundscapes.

Frank, if i’d have a say (and the money) i would have paired the Descendents with Daikaiju as the sole support band. They would have blasted the room to the max (and their speedy and heavy surf would have been a perfect match).

And once the support was done all of the 1000+ folks attending moved into the main hall, filling it up like it was filled up in the hey-days of Punk (79-83) in good old Hamburg. But before they took the stage they did have a date with my football team in the afternoon and joined the cast of US bands that do cross promotion with the FCSP. I am not necessarily a fan of it but hey – if the band wants it, why not.

Milo and Karl at Millerntor Stadium
Milo and Karl at Millerntor Stadium

The one thing though that i do accept is that is carries a cause and the cause is a shared good one. And the Descendents went quite some length with Who we are (and got some flak in the US of A for it) and they got a message across that also the FCSP and the majority of it’s fans dare to carry – loud and proud. The only item of concern is actually the lackluster artwork on the front, sorry that can’t be the work of Chris Shary (else i need to divorce with him!).

And then they took the stage and they took it with grace, a broad smile and pretty relaxed. And off then went into „Suburban Home“ and the Markthalle went apeshit. Lots of dancing, lots of fists and some singing. Yep, the Descendents. Yippie!

Descendents (Markthalle, Hamburg, 10.07.2018) (c) gehkacken.de)

And what did they do? By and large they played songs from all periods and records. They also played one song that i still believe is a hidden gem (and for me has an annotation to a long lost girl that did not turn out to be me love) – here is Clean Sheets (and listen up youth, keep yer sheets clean!):

What did strike me yet again was the broad smiles all four carried on stage with Bill up there behind his drums sporting the biggest one. They are up there, very self aware and self confident and they do know what it take to deliver some of that joy, love and energy back to an eager audience.

Another example is Good Good Things, a song that many passed by on „I don’t want to grow up“ and that i believe ranks in the top 10 of the perfect pop songs (next to stuff like Sunstroke from Guns’n’Wankers). And yet again it carries a message for the youth:

So come on down and walk with me, and tell me I'm your man
Let's see if I can get it right with you this time around
I'm not afraid of losing you my little girl
But do you still believe in me like I believe

I taped this song for me love ages ago with a singular intent (and me love later said YES, lucky me). Here it is youth:

Fun fact: At 00:55 on the lower right corner you can see a very famous person entering the picture and singing along. Little did i know that i was actually standing next to a Punk Rock legend from sunny Brasil. As i was tipped of the day after by Paulihno (from Flanders 72) it was their executive producer Davi, who is the capable guy behind recording, mixing and producing every single Flanders 72 record. It is a small town world on the punk rock circuit!

I think the Descendents gave the lot something like 90 minutes, they took on a couple of encores before hitting home with an on stage improvisation that had elements of Catalina and other songs. A really cool jam but most likely way too heavy food for most of the audience.

Just a perfect set in most likely a perfect setting (venue, date etc) for Hamburg. But this time round that ain’t the limit for me. With a gentle push by some of the Punk Rock Hamburg Descendents connoisseurs i took on to see them again, together with SIOA and some others, in sunny Barcelona.

In hindsight i should have just taken the week off, travel to Berlin and Munich and then Barcelona. Or i should have just abandoned all of these plans and travel south for some Ramonescore and Surf at the Punk Rock Raduno in Bergamo (something that some others of the Hamburg lot will do).

But hindsight is a silly thing (not a silly girl) and thus i just stick to what makes my heart warm and me feel good: The Descendents and their œuvre!

And for those who ignored it so far: It is you sole duty to get this movie into your household – you will be proud of the tears you will shed.

… a Northern Irish rock band packs the Markthalle – yet again after 37 years!

It was 1980 and all of the punks in Hamburg had been blown away by Stiff Little Fingers debut album „Inflammable Material“ that came out in 1979 that – according to some – made Punk worthwhile again.

For me in Hamburg it was me 16th Birthday and SLF played only for me. At least i’d like to think so.

Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 22.04.1980 - from the vault of the Archive)
Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 22.04.1980 – from the vault of the Archive)

I do not really remember the detailed sound but recollection of many was that it was shite. A rather poor tape bootleg exists that seems to confirms it. And on top they have been referred to „cool stars“ rather than approachable punks. It may or may not have added to the shit storm The Clash got a month later, same stage. My regular Fanzine back then (regular as published by school mates) did report it as such:

Willkürakt No. 4 (Fanzine from Hamburg, 1980)
Willkürakt No. 4 (Fanzine from Hamburg, 1980)

Now fast forward to 2017 and 37 years later me is still there and an incarnation of SLF is also still there. The punk SLF existed from 1977 to 1983 and their first four LP’s (Inflammable Material, Nobody’s Heroes, Hanx! and Got for It) are just killer material. When they released „Now then“ in 1983 they folded and only ever came back … different.

Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017 (c) gehkacken.de)
Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017 (c) gehkacken.de)

What was not different was the packed Markthalle – back then and now. It came much as a surprise, the last few times they played at the Knust, which is only 1/3 of the capacity. But next to their punk roots they are nowadays a bit of an Irish Rock legend and well known beyond punk nostalgia. And, fun fact, plenty of Northern Irish fans took cheap flights from Manchester to be in Hamburg.

Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017 (c) gehkacken.de)
Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017 (c) gehkacken.de)

They kicked off with a variety of songs and made it known upfront that they where to play a wee bit longer than normal, given it was their 40th anniversary tour. What was clear from the start was the simple fact that whatever sound they play (and the sure leaned more to the rock side) it was carried by the excellent and unique voice of Jake Burns. And i’ll guess he has worked a lot on his voice – it is perfect singing by now (back then it was harsher and sure fitting the time, the anger and the songs).

In the later part of the set they also delivered to their punk roots and more people got dancing on the dance floor. Less people compared to the Undertones last year but them Undertones are sure the better party band (period). SLF delivered their message loud and clear up to and including nods like this one – to the one and only Mr. Strummer:

By now we were clearly over the 1h30m mark and they kept going. And thus it was time to give the crowd what the crowd wanted (at least those aged greedy bastards like my humble self). So here is my loveliest Stiff Little Fingers song in the 2017 live edition:

Yep, that one was ok. Actually it was to my liking. And the message that is carried is not lost these days, let’s be frank – it is a message oh so true nowadays too.

And like every SLF show the final bit was their plea for an Alternative Ulster, something they may or may no have today (some things are better up there, some things appear to be the same old shit) and that might be at risk from that thingy called Brexit. And frank – i can make out that riff amongst anything and would be able to identify the song, it is a killer one!

So as a fond memory and a loud message from the past remaining not only valid but also relevant here is … Alternative Ulster 2017:

And that was almost 2 hours of SLF, on a perfect spring Friday, delivered as a rock show. And there ain’t nothing bad with that at all – if you want to see something fresher, wilder and … whatever then you gotta go somewhere else. If you are happy to see a Northern Irish rock band that has messages and developed to something that covers much broader territory – then SLF is for you.

And the sold out house did applaud them and gave them a big HANX!

Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017 (c) gehkacken.de)
Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017 (c) gehkacken.de)

Some people complained about the ticket price, i think the 12 DM from 1980 (unbelievable 6€ if you just do the simple currency math – in reality it compares to 37€ if you take inflation, buying power and and and into it) was cheap by the sound but not really for me as a young school boy trying to see as many shows as possible (and boy had we shows back then).

Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017 - nuthin for the vault))
Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017 – nuthin for the vault)

I was relieved from these cost and could spend the money rather on fuel aka booze, both because of that little Top Trump business called Keressinho and of SLF, as they got me in for free thanks to my translation job in the most recent UK Punk edition.

KRRSNH (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017)
KRRSNH (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017)

And booze was needed too because we did watch the painful loss of St. Pauli away at Aue at the Dschungel prior to the show – something so painful (and pulling us back down) that it needed counter beer (or harder stuff).

Happy and done! (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017)
Happy and done! (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017)

Where people happy? Yes, until after midnight people stayed at the Markthalle, listened to DJ Tiki Boy playing old punk singles and talked – many faces that where young and fresh in 1980 where there in 2017 too and it was literally the equivalent of an old school class meeting.

And, full disclosure, i was a VIP for that show. I guess that was thanks to my 16th birthday back then.

Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017)
Stiff Little Fingers (Markthalle, Hamburg, 31.03.2017)

NB: I used the term rock band a lot, eh? It ain’t bad mouthing or else it just ensures that you get the setting right. And the setting includes that Jack is a very very gifted musician.

Just look at this effort from 1994, also released as Stiff Little Fingers. It is not only a great song but also carries lyrics that yet again are still relevant today. And is where you have to accept that style and looks might change but what someone is never changes. And for that due respect Jake!

Just to make sure you get it though Jake sings it pretty clear- here are the lyrics:

Don't pity this poor immigrant
My eyes were open when I caught the boat
All I wanted was your shelter
And maybe just a little hope
But you turned your anger on me
For the courage that you lack
I don't want your half assed freedom
You can have the whole deal back
So now I'll tell you something
Let's get this straight from the start
Don't call me Harp
Don't call me Harp

You said: "Bring me your poor and destitute
And I can kick them when they're down"
Cause there's always enough misery
And we'll be sure to share it round
Now I'll turn my anger on you
For the decency you lack
For the morals you fail to uphold
Your cocaine, crack and smack
To the land that wears it's heart up front
I'm screaming from the back
Don't call me Harp
Don't call me Harp

And the ghettos almost full now
It's time for trash to move uptown
And the sight of all those beggars
On the streets must really get you down
Soon they'll turn their anger on you
For the promises you broke
For all the lies you told them
As their dreams went up in smoke
And I feel I stand among them
As I shout this from the heart
Don't call me Harp
Don't call me Harp

You built your land on principles
Decent, brave and true
I find it hard to understand
Just what went wrong with you
Don't call me Harp
Don't call me Harp

(c) 1994 SLF (Jake Burns)

… in search of the 5th Undertone: A party band in high speed mode!

In Hamburg we have a saying that goes along the lines of „…if a party is in doubt throw in some Undertones and folks will dance and sing-a-long“ which is pretty much a true statement: Rarely a band from „back then“ has material that is as crisp, almost pop like and literally transporting a smile into peoples faces.

As such it was no surprise that a rather large crowd was up for just another „fond memories“ show at the Markthalle, where plenty of people felt like in a time machine: The sample around them was the same as in 1981 when The Undertones played Hamburg for the very first time.

DJ TIKIBOY (Markthalle Hamburg, 09.06.2016 (c) gehkacken.de)
DJ TIKIBOY (Markthalle Hamburg, 09.06.2016 (c) gehkacken.de)

DJ Tikiboy kicked off the proceedings and flooded the empty Markthalle with some neat sounds – but as most others i stayed at the bar and talked to many of me fellow oldpunks. I heard some reggae tunes, some NDW – no punk (at the request of The Undertones actually).

Quite early on at 21:00 The Undertones entered and kicked it off like this:

Unpretentious, smart and full of energy! And from the first vocals some of the doubts of some folks in the audience where settled: It is The Undertones and they do work sans Feargal – and that sine 1999 actually. So get used to it! Already now quite some sing-a-long in the audience and smiling faces. This is the real deal!

The Undertones (Markthalle Hamburg, 09.06.2016 (c) gehkacken.de)
The Undertones (Markthalle Hamburg, 09.06.2016 (c) gehkacken.de)

And without further ado they entered into what can only be described as the perfect party set: 34 songs in 90 Minutes, that is about or just less than 2 Minutes per song. What a perfect math! It really felt like an unstoppable party machine!

13 songs later they reached „Male Model„, just another smasher from the fantastic 1979 LP:

And the party just did not stop, on position 22 of the playlist comes „Billy’s 3rd„:

… and that is just another hit from that very same record that can stand the test of time. By now the audience was fully engaged, people moving, singing and a large part of the contingent had a smile cemented into their faces. Just great to see how Hamburg loved them (and odd that they do not come over on a more frequent schedule).

After a short break they came back and started they 10 song encore like this:

What can i say more than they know their trade and happiness was all over.

And down to song 27, can they still pull something special? Yes indeed – it was hats off to just another Northern Irish legend: „Just another Teenage Rebel“ from The Outcasts was thrown at the crowd and they loved it!

Next it was time for just another sing-a-long stomper from long ago (and most likely the 7″ with the smartest footie cover of all times – Subbuteo, hint hint):

Cool as fuck and just confirming that they are … just … so … smart. Or smarter?

Yep, they are. Without the slightest doubt. Some might call it „lightweight“ pop and dismiss it for that but i just phrase it out: pop is popular and by all means The Undertones play popular music. Period!

And once they where done and the playlist was completed they just could not stop and threw another classic – the critically underrated B-Side of „Jimmy Jimmy“ was to finish the set finally of:

How cool is to start such a show with a 7″ A-Side and then finish it off with the B-Side of that same single? I do like books and movies that at the end come back all the way to the start, that is a cool way of telling a story indeed but on stage? Who has dared that before? Fuckin‘ hell, The Undertones just made my day!

And the search for the 5th Undertone? That was on because Damian O’Neill played his guitar like a left winger that plays tied to the sideline: He stood way left on stage and somehow hidden for some parts of the audience (and you will just about see his head on some pics – he did not seek the stage light!).

In the end that old saying from Hamburg stood strong: If you have a party throw in some Undertones – the sun will come up, people will smile and dance. Thank you lads!

PS: Thanks for Christiane (of Gerd fame) and her memorabilia collecting habits we also have the full playlist (sans „Mars Bars“ at the end). Now all be jealous!

The Undertones - Setlist (Markthalle Hamburg, 09.06.2016 (c) gehkacken.de)
The Undertones – Setlist (Markthalle Hamburg, 09.06.2016 (c) gehkacken.de)