… downstrokes ad infinitum!

Despite all the recent setbacks and sad loses life is good. And for some it was extra good on this hot Wednesday as them Clowns (from sunny Australia) finally came back to Hamburg. Life though was not good for my mate Frank as he finally caught Covid and had to stay home. And pass on this ticket. Where is sun, there also is shadow.

The DeathSet, who provided support, where completely unknown to me. Maybe due to stickers on them that read “Art Punk” or, a more sizable sticker, “Experimental Music“. They seem to be half Australian half American (i think that is what i heard from the stage) and they sport Drums and twice Guitar. And they add soundscapes, film snippets and background noise from tape respective computer.

How does it sound? Surprising!

It was a bit of everything in a surprise box. A lost luggage auction where you buy a large travel bag without knowing the contents. You may hit gold, you may hit 6 weeks of dirty underwear from a disillusioned “i take a break and trip the world” person.

The DeathSet (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 20.07.2022 (c) gehkacken.de 2022)

I was just about to leave for some outside chats when something made click. I can not pinpoint what it was but somehow it glued me to the stage. And from song to song the show got more entertaining and more diverse.

And then i knew that i was double lucky: Not only them Clowns (where i knew what i would get, downstrokes galore) but also a surprise with something very unique on both sound and presentation. And more structured songs and longer snippets actually where way outside the bad annotation of “Art Punk” or “Experimental Music“.

I chatted a bit with someone in the know on them and understand they got quite some length under their belt as a band, including a sad loss with one of the founding member passing away in 2009 and driving an extend hiatus.

My verdict: Check them out. It is worth it. You might be fended off initially but listen in and get into the groove. I will definitely check out their recorded output.

Changeover was easy, as The DeathSet placed their minature amps in front of the Clowns gear. Though size does not mater really (thanks to a PA) the kit of them Clowns gave away what was next. Big heavy riffs and downstrokes.

And this how them Clowns, all the way from somewhere in Europe, came down on Hamburg:

Back with a bang. And the new guitar player adding a slightly more metalic scent. Eager fan boy that i am i took note of the setlist and was well prepared for the entertainment to come.

Clowns - Setlist (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 20.07.2022)
Clowns – Setlist (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 20.07.2022)

That is about half/half old and new stuff, with actually one very old one in it (fan boy me). As always Stevie (singing) and Hanny (shredding the bass) took stage center and the action but the hidden gem of the Clowns is the twin guitars and the near-perfect drumming. Boy, they push a great sound forward in front of them.

Clowns (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 20.07.2022 (c) gehkacken.de 2022)

Stevie took frequent leave crowd surfing and also Hanny (who sat lonely at the merch when i entered the largely empty Hafenklang but still managed to throw a smile when i said “Hi there” in passing) took a dive into the pit.

From start to finish you realize that they are stage and tour hardened, fully in sync with what they do and they are very self aware on how to throw a perfect set under any condition. And on top those in the know assured me that they are non-nonsense, professional, always friendly, grateful and always delivering 150%.

Clowns (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 20.07.2022 (c) gehkacken.de 2022)

And they leave behind each and everyone of the participants satisfied and happy. For me little fan boy that was being served my fave song.

Here is “Pickle” in just another live version:

As always, sing-a-long:

i’ve woken up in gutter
turning shades
of yellow, black and blue
the only thing keeping myself alive
is a memory of you

take this iou
promise that i’ll do
a little better 
next time

i’ve got my self in a downward 
spiral
and there’s nothing you can do
the only substance in your life
is a bit 
of substance abuse

take this iou
promise that i’ll do
a little better 
next time

self diagnosing
self prescripting
self destructing

pickle

I guess it is the third time now that i got to report that it is a perfect song, with brilliant guitar work, perfect breaks and build up and words that make absolute sense to me. Kudos Clowns, Kudos.

The audience was fully engaged, loads of sing-a-long and many able to complete verses when Stevie was lending the mike down the to fist wielding front line. It was also great to see quite a number of female fans in the pit enjoying it.

Clowns (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 20.07.2022 (c) gehkacken.de 2022)

Puuuurfect though after 15 songs with no encore a wee bit of an aborted ending after i guess about an hour of stage time. But it was a damn hot day in Hamburg, though cooled down a bit in the evening, and them Clowns had been on a very long run in Europe. Forgiven, without a doubt.

And me sad mate Frank? He got some live pics from me, was phoned by another friend and could listen to s song via phone and another Good Samaritan took home a setlist (hopefully signed) for him. Does it feel better now, Frank?

Them Clowns though are expected back at the Hafenklang next year. This is non-negotiable. Everything else would result in a trade war vs. Australia. Brace yourself Melbourne!

And if you can not wait you get a chance on a slightly bigger stage with better sound at the Knust, 06.12.2022 that is, in support of some Nathan Gray. But it’ll be a bit pricey.

… DOWNSTROKES galore: The triumphant return of the Clowns!

I was working in sunny Kyiv during the week but made it clear to my boss that i had to be home in time on Thursday, as the mighty Clowns would be back in town (he had no clue what i was talking about). Still, a risky undertaking, as only indirect flights would get me back and Lufthansa these days is not 100% trustworthy to be one time, always.

I made it just about, arriving at the Hafenklang only to be taunted to not have ticket #1 (an anal fixation of my humble self) and to the sound of the support already playing.

Playing towards a well filled but not packed house where The Gotobeds from Pittsburgh, PA from the US of A. 4 guys and loads of … Indie sounds rather than hardcore punk. Wild guitars and stomping rhythms.

The Gotobeds  (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 14.11.2019)

In good moments they created a neat swirl of guitar work, in rather dull moments it was typical (and to my dumb ears boring) indie rock sound – something that i tend to avoid. But i did not leave for chats and beer outside, as they at least had some good mu-sick-al moments. But not my thingy and paired with the Clowns maybe a shot too wide.

After a swift makeover it was then time for the Clowns, all the way from Down Under, to take the stage:

Bang! High energy rock’n’roll i’d say in a very modern setup. And little space for boring sounds as much as there was little space to gather your breath. They took off exactly where they left it back in August last year, on a hot and sweaty night at the Hafenklang.

Clowns (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 14.11.2019)

I am not sure about how many people they did draw this time round but they would not care – they seem to dig Hamburg and the Hafenklang and they gave the impression they love playing here. They fucked up the tour plan though, once done on stage they would have to pack up and drive to Belgium to catch the early ferry to England, they had to achieve a load-in time in London at 15:00 next day.

Hanny made a point of the fact that this would mean her missing breakfast, the most important meal of the day. She thus declared the audience to be her breakfast already tonight, something that was echoed by the lot…

Yep, thats full on fun right down from the stage into the audience. Someone in the know (as a guitar player) after the show made a point of how great the endless barrage of downstrokes was. Others just expressed pure appreciation of having been bulldozed completely.

Clowns (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 14.11.2019)

For me it was just outright fun, after a long work week abroad it injected the right amount of energy back into my body. Recharging that was and for me that works best with #thereaintnuthinbetterthanlivemusic! And just for me they finished off their set with an encore, giving me (and nobody else for sure) my loveliest song:

I’VE WOKEN UP IN GUTTER
TURNING SHADES
OF YELLOW, BLACK AND BLUE
THE ONLY THING KEEPING MYSELF ALIVE
IS A MEMORY OF YOU
TAKE THIS IOU
PROMISE THAT I’LL DO
A LITTLE BETTER NEXT TIME

I’VE GOT MY SELF IN A DOWNWARD SPIRAL
AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO
THE ONLY SUBSTANCE IN YOUR LIFE
IS A BIT OF SUBSTANCE OF ABUSE
SELF DIAGNOSING
SELF PRESCRIPTING
SELF DESTRUCTING
PICKLE

from Lucid Again, released May 12, 2017
(c) all rights reserved

Thats “Pickle” if you are not in sync with their mu-sick-al output and it sums them Clowns up like no other song. I am happy to repeat my judgement from last year:

Oh boy, that got everything in the mix – literally. And that is why i got a ticket for them in the first place: They throw hardcore, trash, metal, psychedelic guitars and some scent of pop into a happy sunny mix and push it down from the stage with relentless energy.

Nuthin to add, just the complaint that many of the regulars going to shows with me did let this opportunity pass by – i don’t understand why. Is it the amount of hair on stage? Is the fact that they are – without fitting really – on Fat Wreck? Or is the metal connection on them fending you off? Trust me – they are just class and are a guarantee for a powerful evening.

I hope they did catch the ferry (in fact by the date writing this i know it), i did catch a free ride to my new home in the suburbs with a mate who already resides there.

… long hair and sweaty bodies: Them Clowns from down under in a sauna session!

With more than a week rest another sweaty show down at the Hafenklang. Hamburg is still suffering from 30something degrees of heat, for those visitors from down under it must feel like home. For most of us north Europeans it is just painful and our clubs are not made for it. But that did not fend of people, the Hafenklang was well packed (though not sold out).

First on Bench Press, also from Melbourne, with a slightly different twang than the headliner. They are rated top talent down under and they are what some people dub as “critically acclaimed” despite being together only since March 2016.

Bench Press (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 01.08.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)

I guess they are on the happy side of Indie and Post-Punk, not so much as in happy mu-sick but as in to the more enjoyable side of that label. A good rhythm section with a nice vibrant bass is topped with an excellent guitar: A scent of surf, some clean bright chords, a wee bit of power and distortion when needed and all performed very well – impressive axe work!

If you like your songs complex, back and forth play between the guitars and if you like your singer somewhere between caged animal, spoken words and sheer anger then they are for you to check out. If you are like me an dirty old and stubborn sod than you take positive note of them but you need to admit that it ain’t your thing for a full set/show. As much as i like the one or the other eg. Gang of Four song it is hard for me to listen to a full LP.

What they do, they do well – so give them a choice if you dare.

Next on the Clowns, around a bit longer (8 years by now if i get the math right) and with much longer hair. And hair metal it was through out the set, sweaty long hair being thrown around on stage. Some like it, some not. I am slightly offended by that but if it is delivered unpretentious and as a matter of fact i can accept the challenge.

And this is how they kicked off:

Oh boy, that got everything in the mix – literally. And that is why i got a ticket for them in the first place: They throw hardcore, trash, metal, psychedelic guitars and some scent of pop into a happy sunny mix and push it down from the stage with relentless energy.

And they got some stage personas too: Commanding singer, smiling blond girl on bass providing backup vocal and two great guitars (that you hardly make out as hidden … under hair). And a sturdy drummer there in the back sporting a nice Wipers shirt.

Clowns (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 01.08.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)

When it come to fusion i would think they are the ultimate example. And they had one thing instantaneously: They got the damn audience flying around and moving like there ain’t no tomorrow (and there needs to be full workout at 45° heat). More than one male member of the audience did throw his wet shirt onto the stage and went on to bounce into other members of the audience shirtless (thank goodness these exhibits did not sport long wet hair or, worse, long wet chest hair).

Clowns (Hafenklang, Hamburg, 01.08.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)

I thoroughly enjoyed them, others in the audience enjoyed them even more up to and including some being able to literally sing every fucking song. Fans i’d say. Some actually sounded Australian, i guess the local expat community was around to support a band from home. A band they could have seen in their backyard back home, as the singer duly noted.

Here is everything together: An Aussie saying hello (and being thrown back into the pit) and a song with that special scent of psychedelic and pop as an undercurrent that makes them so … special? Unique? Nevermind – just great:

They played for an hour or so, came back for an encore and then had to head off towards Wacken: They are to play the Beer Garden Stage on 02.08. at 20:00. That’s hopefully mainlining and hopefully they get some of that beer to replenish the lost minerals and water on the damn hot stage of the Hafenklang. Go and see them, it is worthy! And for a start listen here:

Another sweaty night, another worthy cause. And with me a lot of sweaty and thirsty customers enjoyed the warm night before heading home with a big smile (and a wet shirt).

... a happy sweaty audience yearning for fresh air (outside the Hafenklang, 01.08.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)
… a happy sweaty audience yearning for fresh air (outside the Hafenklang, 01.08.2018 (c) gehkacken.de)