My feelings toward White Trash have changed somewhat of late. Suspicious from the outset, I initially discarded the venue as faux-trashy dross, pushing overpriced food on non-German speaking tourists. Turns out the burgers are delicious, and the place’s reputation as one of the premier sub-academy music venues in Berlin is rightfully earned. If you can stomach the hefty entry free (over 15 Euros for some nights), the larger stage im Keller guarantees bands of a certain calibre.
So there I am in the basement, rubbing shoulders with the perennial cast of every rock gig; the heavily tattooed, vaguely punky 20-somethings (a staple of this venue, might I add), the ageing rockers-at-heart still in their winter coats, and a healthy dollop of your bonafide leather-clad rock mob. For a band on an independent label, with only one full length album to date, 600 miles from their London home, the palpably electric pre-gig buzz around the group was nothing short of impressive.
Too many times through this role I stand at the peripheries of a concert hall, scoping out the band in question from a respectable distance, gently nodding my head to avoid suspicion but privately wondering how the ceiling would have to collapse in order to kill the most people inside. Moreover, I’m tired of reading reviews (my own included) from disinterested people describing bands, by that I mean a few blokes behind instruments, with magniloquent language better suited to the dessert menu of an odious five-star restaurant. Crippling cynicism may not be my ally here, but let’s get on with it, eh?
It takes a lot for a live band of whom I’ve never heard before to break into my soul, animate my limbs and totally hijack the ability to control my head or banging thereof. The Temperance Movement did just that. They were unreservedly, f*****g fantastic. Vocalist Phil Campbell has the wiry frame and jaggeresque hairstyle that immediately conjures up parallels to the supple frontmen of old. This is all pretty apt considering the music draws heavily from the 70’s and early 80’s, with the cocksure swagger of classic rock in all it’s open-chord-riff glory blended with the vulnerability and supplication of Rn’B and gospel.
It was simply heartfelt, organic music at its purest and best. Campbell’s gritty vocals crooned over tightly-crafted songs, swinging throughout the set from delicately melodic to bouncy and raucous. Flanking Campbell were his axemen Luke Potashnick (ex-Rooster) and Paul Sayer, both of whom are very, very good at what they do. I’ve seen enough shit guitar players to know how much practice and conscious dedication it takes to make a guitar sing, and that they did. Indeed, from the honey-sweet slide guitar, quivering blues licks to the biting tone of the Fender Telecaster, all of my buttons as a guitarist and general fan of human artistry were well and truly pushed.
Yes, of course the music occasionally got a bit slow or tired for my ears, but I’m from the generation which, before becoming the world leaders and astronauts of tomorrow, has triumphed in condensing entertainment into 7-second online videos. I probably couldn’t even watch the doomsday asteroid hurtling through our stratosphere without the compulsion to check my facebook or do something else. The Temperance Movement are without doubt one of the best bands I’ve seen in Berlin so far. Sure, other bands may have been bigger on better stages with better sound systems, but pound-for-pound, The Temperance Movement really match up. They seem to herald a new-wave of rock music with the spiritual endorsement and attitude of their predecessors, but with a distinct sense of modernity. Most impressively considering the similar themes they address, it avoids the pitfall of sounding as contrived and noxiously earnest as say, what Mumford & Sons are to new ‘Folk’. Off the back of one gig these guys roped me in and turned me into a fan, and I wasn’t aware that could still happen in rock music.
Review by Neelesh Vasister.