Archive for the ‘Munich’ Tag

A very German approach to advertising

I love wandering around cities. In my younger days and earlier travels, I did it because it was always cheap and, largely, did not require communication. I have got myself into a bit of bother doing this. One can find oneself alone on an uncomfortable street with the sun going down. Athens springs to mind.

In Munich, where I spend quite a bit of my time, I have a “favourite” street. Actually it is a busy thoroughfare – a four-lane highway to-and-from the centre. What I like about it is that it seems to sum up the real city. I come from a wholly unattractive city, so I am used to finding beauty in things that are not generally regarded as beautiful. It is not an attractive street – it has more petrol stations on it than you can shake a stick at. It is dotted with mid-range hotels. There are more pharmacies on it than in the whole of the UK. And it has advertising hoardings in abundance. When I want to check out the latest cigarette advertising (one of the main draws to this blog, I have to say), this is the place to go.

In recent weeks, the cigarette companies have been keeping a low profile. They have been rolling out posters from20150504_143351 earlier campaigns; for example, JSP (right). Yesterday, we were walking along this street to a supermarket, something which we do often. I was keeping my eyes peeled for cigarette advertisements, but saw nothing. However, I did see the poster for…a sex toy (above left). My partner was oblivious. But it just  hit me in the face. It is a clever one, too. It draws on football – the concept of “extra time” or “Nachspielzeit”. 15 per cent discount as well. Extraordinary.

Tortoise, 29 May 2016, Feierwerk, Munich

20160529_212341For once, the recommendation for this gig did not come from Jools Holland, rather Stuart Maconie on BBC Radio 6 Music. Maconie choreographs an alternative music show on Sunday evenings. Quite a lot of it is “unlistenable” – as my partner reminds me often – but the nature of alternative music is that it is sometimes challenging. A few weeks ago Maconie highlighted the work of veteran musicians collectively known as Tortoise. Now, it is fair to say I’d never heard of them prior to an interview with a couple of the members  of the band; namely, Dan Bitney, most instruments; and John Herndon, percussion, keyboards. Maconie also played a couple of tracks from their most recent album, The Catastrophist (cover, below right).

So, what do we know of the band? They are a five-piece, “post rock” band. They have been together for 25 years and released 7 albums. They hail from Chicago. The three other members are Doug McCombs (guitars, percussion, stands at the back, mostly), John McEntire (percussion, electronic jiggery-pokery)  and Jeff Parker (guitar, bass, percussion). Post rock, in this context, seems to mean, jazz, progressive rock, electronics and a lot of percussion. It also means a bunch of musicians who have many simultaneous projects, some of which intersect with other members.

Before the band arrive on stage, one sees a curious array of instruments and order. For example, there are two drum kits both at the front. There is a xylophone and an electronic panel that also acts as a percussion instrument, itself hit with “mallets” (the latter is most evident on the track entitled Shake hands with danger). An array of guitars and three notional keyboards, one of which is connected to a compuTortoiseter enabling McEntire’s in-play jiggery-pokery. Suffice to say I have never been up so close to percussionists.

Of the music, I cannot really comment. I do not know the band’s music beyond this performance. And through their 100 minute set, we were spoken to twice. Once to say, Thank you for coming. And once to say, goodbye. The set was exclusively instrumental, so there were no lyrical clues. But it being the Catastrophist tour, I imagine most pieces were from the album. (I have subsequently bought the album and will listen carefully.) Don’t get me wrong, the lack of banter with the audience is not a reflection of some contempt for the audience (in a Bob Dylan way, for example). Rather, they are an intense band. The concentration is palpable. After the gig, I spoke to Herndon and there was not a gram of arrogance. He signed my CD simply with the word Thanks!

Venues are important. It is fair to say that Tortoise are unlikely to fill the Munich Philharmonie like Gregory Porter did a couple of weeks ago. But actually Feierwerk in Munich is that intimate venue that would have suited Porter. And this being a largely middle-aged audience, it was all very civilised and focused on the music. We were all being transported somewhere unexpected. This was impeccably orchestrated by five blokes who know each other very well. Extraordinarily, between each track there was a musical chairs – virtually all the musicians played all of the instruments.

The band play their final gig of this tour on 30 May in Frankfurt. They are back in Europe in July.