Heathers’ Thom Lucero Talks Eyebrows

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Yesterday was pretty charming, first and foremost because it was May Day, which meant necking beer and three person piggy backs and dancing to crackly soundsystems and hardcore. But ALSO, because serendipity (and the UK border’s ultra strict policing) meant that we got to hang out with none other than the willowy Thom Lucero of Heathers fame. Here’s Thom working some serious Blue Steel for the camera.

imageSo, just to get this straight if you’re not au fait with Heathers’ music, don’t confuse Heathers with the folky Irish girl duo of the same name*, but the LA band that plays Smithsy emotional guitar pop.

When I think of the Smiths, I think of Morrissey. And when I think of Morrissey, one part of his anatomy stands out. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Are you seeing where this tenuous analogy is headed? ENORMOUS BUSHY BROWS. What would Stephen Patrick be without his forehead adornments? Probably just a really committed karaoke-ist, laying down Sandie Shaw covers his whole life. So, without further ado, I present to you…Battle of the Berliner Brows!

Q. Thom Lucero, who has the best eyebrows in PowwoW hamburger restaurant?

A. If we’re doing a battle of the brows, suspense is key. Can I give my answer in a 3,2,1 format?

Sure.

Ok! Drum roll…

3. Norman, professional cat lady, 37

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These eyebrows have all the charisma of a young Frida Kahlo. 

2. Robert, record store owner, 35

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I’ve only got one word for these brows: mesmerising. To express this via the medium of confusing mixed metaphor - they’re kind of like eyes in old oil paintings - wherever I was in the room, they FOLLOWED me.

1. Mia, fuck knows, like 15?, au pair

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Hmm. Again, I wanted to say something about Frida Kahlo, because, eyebrows? But that seemed pretty racist because you can’t draw parallels between Kahlo and women of latina heritage without sounding like a raging colonialist. So, Groucho Marx. In a good way.

Other questions:

Q. If you were in the film Heathers, which Heather would you be?

A. Veronica. Because…err….

Q: You want to sleep with a young Christian Slater?

A. Yeah, probably.

Q. If you were going to be in any 80s movie, which one would you be in?

A. Die Hard because I’ve never seen it.

So there you have it. Brows, Slater and Die Hard. Dreamsville.

*I’m peculiarly charmed by the other Heathers, too. They’ve got this ultra manipulative/totally natural “just normal girls” vibe with lots of cutesy home video shots cut in and they totally trick you into thinking that they’re just like how you and your best pal would have sounded like if you’d started that band in senior school.

Senate Proposes Library On Tempelhofer Freiheit

On Wednesday, the Berlin senate produced two different designs for a central library that would be next to Tempelhof Airport’s now-unused landing strip. 

As an ex-English Lit student, ex-publishing flunky and book junkie, I think books are The Sexiest Things, and therefore libraries are that but times a hundred. I can’t think of much I like better than spending the afternoon curled up in a library. Sorry, cafes, you’re kind of ok, too.

So I should be getting excited at the prospect of a library a stone’s throw from my flat that’s going to have all kinds of crazy visuals because Mayor Klaus Wowereit has commissioned designs from fancypants architecture agencies like MOA (Swiss, stern looking website - check it) and Stuttgart’s own Kohlmayer Oberst (see their design for the library above). 

But I can’t help but get sad at the prospect of a large chunk of idyllic Tempelhofer Freiheit being turned into a library, especially as there’s also talk of more of the land being used for student accommodation.

While fairly priced accommodation for students and libraries sound great, let’s take a goosey at the stats. The figure they’ve named so far is 270 million euros and they’d be starting building in 2016, with the end date set at 2021. Bear in mind that the last big building project started here - Berlin’s second airport - is now roughly three years past its projected completion date and that 270 million isn’t exactly pocket change for Berlin.

Now, I like libraries. I like cheap accommodation for students. But why there? The thought of Tempelhofer, somewhere with historical significance, being built over is pretty depressing to begin with. Then add on the extra depressing of it being a building site for 5 years in an ideal world, and more like 8 in a Berlin world.

Still, that’s not really what I’m sad about. Less factually - it’s just bloody beautiful. Yes, there’s tons of green spaces in Berlin and we’re spoilt for choice for grassy fields to loll in come summer. But Tempelhof feels the way Instagram photos look: summer soaked and full of pure joy. And if we keep heading down this path, Tempelhof’ll have the Instagram nostalgic factor ticked off, too.

Think I have a point? Even just a little bit? Head down to the address listed here ASAP and sign the petition.

Berlin Is The Second Best City For The Youngs

Holy smokes! Yesterday Youthful Cities, an organisation which tracks statistics on all things urban and youth-related, placed Berlin as the second best city in the world, 2014 for the lifestyle it offers the youngs. The really weird part of this study is that the city that pipped Berlin to first place is TORONTO.

Now, c’mon. If Berlin had been beaten by Rio or Buenos Aires or Barcelona or anywhere a bit sexy and Spanish speaking and with awesome food, I’d have accepted that rating. But Toronto? City of Quite Nice Cafes and polite people and not great weather?

The plot thickens: Youthful Cities is based in Toronto, which kind of makes that rating seem a little suspicious, no?

According to thestar.com, Youthful Cities made their decision based on ‘16 categories, including civic participation, diversity, safety and mental health, food and nightlife and more.’

Pah! Toronto beat Berlin for nightlife? Say it to my face, Youthful Cities, say it to my face.

'Riders on the Storm' seemed like the only appropriate music to be listening to right now…good luck, Berlin! I'm going out for dinner tonight - cross your fingers for me, ok?

Interview: Jacco Gardner Talks About Hats

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Last night I got to see waifish Dutch manchild and perennial Pitchfork favourite, Jacco Gardner play live for The First Time.

It was all pretty exciting because I actually won two tickets to the gig, courtesy of blog extraordinaire Aquarium Drunkard. Since I’ve never won anything better than a jar of sweets at a school Christmas fair, I enjoyed a similar level of breathless excitement to Charlie circa winning the golden tickets (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, natch). First Jacco. Next, the lottery? 

Anyways, the gig? 

Everyone bopped non stop, except for JG’s slightly prog-rockish 20 min instrumental solo when people started to look a little glazed. But apart from that, it was The Best. I haven’t felt so full of Joy since watching Philharmonic Spree aged 15 at Leeds Festival. And that was my first festival! It’s hard for any musical performance these days to come close to anything you first watched after 5 alcopops and a fully-clothed snogging session with a boy in a tent, amiright?

After my no-holds barred t-shirt centric interview with No Age, I figured I could follow this up with a similar avant-garde (read, feckless) fusion of FASHION and MUSIC in one concise interview.

So, I interviewed Jacco and one of his guitarists.

Here they are, beaming away, presumably because they knew this photo would be so fucking twee that kittens all over the world would just give up and die, because what’s the point?

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I asked them to rate the gig’s best accessories.

This decision was inspired by Jacco’s striking choice of headwear:

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Yup, I was a bit ill and woozy, so forgot to put on the flash for some of these photos. Apologies.

Jacco on his hat:

See that orange slice? That’s actually a real orange. My booking agent made it - she glazes pieces of fruit and makes them into brooches. 

So, this is a real mountie hat from Hamilton, Canada. I used to have a hat I liked better - a big black Stetson from Las Vegas, but I lost it, so.

My hats might look good, but it’s a practical decision - I wear them to keep my hair out of my eyes so I don’t get distracted while playing.

Jacco’s Top Three Accessories At The Gig:

1. Erin’s awesomewickedcool hat:

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"This is a great hat. Seriously! Look at the way it frames her face. It’s just right."

What a charmer.

2. Norman’s specs

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"I like these, they’re unexpected. Loud and proud, plus, transparent? Who doesn’t love transparent?"

I hear ya, Jacco. Pronounced ‘Yacko’. Who knew?

3. Zach’s shirt

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Not strictly an accessory, but honestly, by the time I did this interview the venue was emptying out and we had limited options.

"This is a bold shirt. You’ve got to have a lot of confidence to wear a shirt like this - and he pulls it off really well!"

Finally, I managed to switch the flash on and get a picture of Erin and Jacco together, having traded headgear and looking like an advert for why young pretty people should all wear hats and hang out together talking about the 60s:

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Ahh, Deutsch Plus. If you’ve not come across it previously, and you’re trying to learn German, press play with caution.

This will, I repeat, will, become your visual crack-cocaine and you will find it difficult to ever stop watching the peculiarly compelling adventures of Romanian intern Nicolai Antonescu and his attempts to master the German language.

Reasons you’re going to fall madly in love with Deutsch Plus:

(a) According to the BBC’s website, it was made in 1996, but it actually looks more like it was made in the late 80s eg. lots of shoulder pads, big hair, bigger eyebrows, lycra, magenta. Deliciously dated.

(b) The first episode will almost certainly be too easy for you, even if you’ve just arrived in Germany. Same for the second.

And yet…are you suddenly feeling a creeping sense of arrogance about your German, after listening to Nicolai say for the fifth time in a row ‘Ich verstehe nicht! Wiederholen, bitte.’ after someone just asks him his name? Yup, the BBC know what they’re doing. Creating a generation of weirdly-confident A1-B1 level German speakers.

(c) Strange coffee fixation. For the first six episodes, most of the plot revolves around drama caused by a lack of coffee/broken coffee machine/no milk for coffee. This should be like watching paint dry. And yet…oddly addictive. Makes it seem like minus coffee Koln will crumble.

(d) Who are you rooting for? The stylish cougar in the editing suite? The luckless only-other-man in the TV station who never seems to get any of the women he pursues? The snarky hipster in the video library? The only-non-white-character who also happens to be a drug dealer (oh, BBC.)?

The entire series is available on Youtube and it is The Best Thing. You’re welcome!

NK Projekt: Avant Avantgarde

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Berlin’s abstract music events can sometimes tread a thin line between genius and Emperor’s New Clothes-esque posturing. Never was this more evident than at the AVANT AVANTGARDE event at the NK Projekt on Wednesday: an event that was wonderful, ambitious and more than a little silly…

The evening was meant to function as a prelude to the Avant Avantgarde show at Berghain on Thursday.

The charismatic Michal Libera opened the evening on a lecture in which he challenged the assumption that avant-garde music is a modern invention, namechecking devices that amplified sound in Florence theatres amongst other pre-20th century musical experimentation high-jinks.

Then the organisers of the night, Marion Worle and Maciej Sledziecki, demonstrated the instruments they’d made from scratch with a charmingly whiskery old organ maker from Koln, Gerhard Kern, who won the hearts and minds of the audience by apologising (!) for only being able to speak German. This made those of us whose Deutsch isn’t as good as it should be after eight months here feel like terrible human beings - which seems about right.

Marion and Maciej had put together the sort of instruments that only exist in your dreams, ie. An instrument crafted out of the chimes of grandfather clocks, an accordion that was made out of metal and looked nothing like an accordion, etc.

Then they broke out the salt.

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The gentleman photographed above opened six cartons of supermarket own brand salt and started scattering the salt over metal plates, which were attached to speakers.

Everyone stood around in rapt, reverent silence for ten mins while he did all the relevant prep. I don’t know what I was expecting, but something big, impressive, jaw-dropping, especially after the events that had begun the evening.

Well, too bad. The plates vibrated. The salt made pretty patterns, but musically, it wasn’t anything to write home about, because the sound of salt vibrating doesn’t vary much.

This went on for thirty minutes – when the salt vibrated clean off the plates, the same man, unperturbed, simply opened a new carton of salt and started from the beginning again. The only vibrations I was profoundly affected by at this point was the gentle shaking of my friend Norman’s shoulder, as he tried to giggle inaudibly.

Touché, NK.

Ballet School - ‘Crush’

Ballet School might be based in Berlin, but their sound is all Manchester: The Smiths-esque jangly guitar backing and wistful vocals. I guess you can take the Brits out of Blighty, etc. They’ve only been playing together for eleven months and they’ve already got the sort of mad musical chemistry that sells out stadiums. Check ‘em out.

https://soundcloud.com/balletschool

Hidden Berlin: S-bahn Siemensstadt

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Today I decided instead of lounging in bed watching bad TV, as is the Way of Sundays, to do some urban exploring at a Geisterbahnhof (or, ghost station) armed with my camera to try and get some suitably gorgeous snaps.

I was inspired by Digital Cosmonaut’s article on exploring S-bahn Siemenstadt.

As the article states, Berlin’s got a huge number of ghost stations due to bombing during the war and various administrative wrangling when the Wall was built.

S-bahn Siemensstadt’s fate was far less dramatic than most of the ghost stations - it was closed down not due to bombing or political wrangling, but simply because it wasn’t used enough.

To quote Digital Cosmonaut:

Berlin used to be the largest Industrial city in Europe – hard to believe when one looks at it today. One of the many companies with their headquarters in Berlin was Siemens. In the early 19th Century the Company grew so quickly and so large that it became a city in its own rights called Siemensstadt.’

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In 1925 Siemens and the Deutsche Reichsbahn-Gesellschaft agreed on a new dedicated S-Bahn line directly connecting the Factory Plants and the Workers housing.  The Line originally ran from Gartenfeld to Jungfernheide, and in the first few years often ran all the way down to Neukölln and Papestraße (now Südkreuz).’

All was going swimmingly until Siemens decided to move their headquarters to Munich, the line was used less and less. It didn’t help that the transport authorities, responding to this change, sent their oldest, ricketiest trains for use on the line, meaning a vicious cycle: less people wanted to use the service since it wasn’t particularly reliable. Eventually the numbers got silly: according to the Digital Cosmonaut article, at its worst point, the line was being used by approximately 30 people a day.

Anyhow, Berlin’s loss is our gain: it’s a peaceful, atmospheric place to photograph and isn’t too tricky to get into. This said, it requires a little bit of climbing, and unless you’ve got great upper body strength, I recommend you take a friend with a bit of muscle who can give you a hand getting up the first wall.

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If you have the time, I’d recommend walking along the train tracks - it’s ridiculously beautiful and autumnal at the moment and it’s so quiet up at the station that it feels as if you’re miles out of Berlin when in fact, you’re not far from the centre.

All in all, guaranteed good times that’ll be way better than a Sunday lounging in your PJs, mainlining the Breaking Bad boxset.