Concert Review: Jen Cloher @ Musik & Frieden, Berlin

I’ve only just become a fan of Jen’s music. I think it was an article I read about the making of her new album, though I had definitely heard about her through various media, and through Milk! Records’ newsletter.

I wasn’t a musician tonight. After experiencing similar feelings to how Jen feels on her latest, self-titled record, I want to be a punter and nothing else. I want to experience these songs for what they are, and to accept what the night will bring me.

I take a short walk down to Musik & Frieden near Schlesisches Tor, as I do with many gigs in Berlin as it’s such a walkable city. Being out in the cold also helps you to normalise, and perhaps accept the climate a little. “Forgot Myself” is rattling around in my head, after cranking her latest self-titled album before heading out. To me, the song is so powerful and slow-burning, but its power comes not from the volume in my apartment but in its restraint. Though it is only restrained in some ways. i’ll get to that later.

Hachiku, a fellow Australian is supporting, with a reserved and composed set atop synths.  This is the last date in her European tour, as Jen announces when they come on stage, and you can almost hear the sigh of content relief. The life of a touring muso, indeed, as she explains on Sensory Memory, up and at-em in another place each day.

At first though, they crack the gig wide open. “Forgot Myself”, coming in at the second song in the set, is wild, and it’s already a peak in the show, or more accurately, a marker they set for songs with similar energy later on. They keep the slow-burning energy coming as they progress throughout the night.

When they play, you feel like they’re playing in your living room. Or in theirs. Comfortable, honest chatting with the audience, there’s no “how are ya Berrrrliiiin” here. Thank God or Allah that we still have musicians who know how to talk like real people. The crowd appreciates this. We are all listening intently, and there is a loving vibe in the room.

Courtney Barnett is in her element, quietly and steadily providing guitar and backing vocals and building upon jams within the band.  She is equally talented as a frontperson & songwriter, and as a band member.

Jen Sholakis, on the drums, you can actually see from the middle of the room — this is great as drummers are often tucked away. She is smiling pretty much the whole concert and locked in with Bones Sloane on bass, on par with Robert Sledge as having one of the most perfect bassist names. This is a band that loves what they are doing.

I could sum up the gig in one word — warmth. Though I’m not as familiar with her earlier work, Jen’s latest album and songs have such a homely familiarity to it. Perhaps that’s not describing it the best. What I mean is — when you listen to her music, you feel like you know her. She’s singing to you, even about some subjects that are quite personal.

Jen & the band come back for a few encores, the last of which is a solo song, and is a beautiful way to end the night.

You may say, where’s the articulate detail in this review? Well, I had had a few beers while I was there, and was happily lost in this concert. It was a beautiful wave of good feelings that I needed that night. And I was immensely proud, too — often, you see expats come out in force when an Aussie comes to play, and that was true to some extent, but at least 50% were Berliners or non-Aussies here. And they were with Jen and the band every step of the way (I have read she has done particularly well with UK audiences, also).

It is the eternal dilemma of a reviewer, and indeed as any writer, to come up with words that are profound and descriptive, but not overused or cliched. Before I went to Jen’s concert I was intrigued by her music and her stories.

By the time I left the concert, she sealed the deal and won herself a new fan.

Jen Cloher – Shows

Concert Review: The Beez’s 20th Birthday Celebration @ LUX, Berlin

As is often the case in Berlin, I attended this concert in a place I’d never been to before. It was literally next door to another new place I had only visited a month prior.

LUX bears its name across the factory-like building that was indeed a spring factory in previous years. While talking to some people I meet through the band members, a lady says her son and his partner are serving food (little sausages and sauerkraut!!!). It’s a sweet touch.

The room is quickly filling up for The Beez (from Berlin!)‘s 20th birthday celebration. I have a chance to meet some people who know the band, and who have been following them around as they have toured Germany, and the world many times over. Apparently they have already been to my home country of Australia four times!

Now we’ve had our Rotwein and Krautli, the celebrations commence…

Deta C. Rayner on the accordion provides the anchor and the lion’s share of the introductions. She gives the impression she is watching everyone… well not watching, but watching over everyone, like playing the best concert that they can is her mission. As founder of the band, this would come as no surprise. She is from Kreuzberg.

Peter D’Elia on the banjo is unshakably witty, and doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of talent in the process. He has done this before, but shows no age in performance. From belting out hilarious vocals to providing beautiful harmonies on the other songs (the “ok, we should be serious for a bit… maybe…” ones).

Rob Rayner is a fellow Aussie who I have met before the show. He reminds me a little of Mikelangelo, in presentation and in charisma. He doesn’t disappoint on guitar and vocals. Annette Kluge is on drums and backing vocals — man, it’s fun just watching her sing and play. She is well into the zone, and as I later find out she’s also an actress. I said hello to her before the show in my not so shaky German.

Their set is built around songs penned both by the band, and by individual members. Now, I warn you I’m not very good at summing up a music style, but the best way I could describe them would be a travelling Roma-French troupe that has just put on the most fun house concert. It is like you’re in their living room, or they in yours. The music is fun, upbeat, often fun in the silliest but most honest way but never throwaway or gimmicky. They really love what they’re doing up there, that’s for sure.

While I found the upbeat songs very fun and relatable, I particularly loved the 3rd or 4th song in their set, which was haunting, and simply beautiful. The melody sweet and affecting. (Note to self:  find out the name of this song).

A Hawaiian cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is one of the best covers, and one of the most funny I’ve ever heard. Not in a trivial way, mind you — the unusual Hawaiian slide guitar and interesting chords, it’s almost psychedelic, as are the vocal parts.

And when you think this performance couldn’t be any friendlier… there is an interlude with another band, comprised of musicians including tuba and singing. They circle around us and we all dance together… then suddenly we’re all sitting on the ground for a solemn interlude… and jump back up again. What happened? Ah, who knows!!!!

One of the last songs is a little-known rhapsody by an English band. We are invited on stage, or indeed anywhere in the place to sing along. We dutifully oblige.

The Beez are that feeling you get when you feel relaxed and happy enough to freely dance without thinking. They are that moment when you start singing along to a song, and eventually realise you’ve just heard for the first time.

I left a little after the next bands started, as I only knew Peter and didn’t have the courage to march up to unknown people that night. But as I was bumbling home to Kotti, I feel like I have enjoyed a night of being in someone’s living room, putting on the best party they could.

We were all deep-down friends in that room.

That’s what you really want from a party, isn’t it?


AUSTRALIANS — these guys are hitting NSW and VIC for a 2-month-long tour, and you should catch them when they’re in your area.

DEUTSCHE MENSCHEN — die Band kommt zurück am April!

Check out their shows here.