I don’t get down to the Junction Bar much these days. It’s become slightly naff, or it least it became slightly naff quite a few years ago, who knows, maybe it’s in again. But it doesn’t completely deserve that reputation, if only for how long it’s been standing and what in its time it’s stood for.
In the 80s when the city was divided into West and East and not just in terms of the choice of Spätverkauf or petrol station for your Sunday sixpack – it was one of the best music clubs around if you wanted to see some live music in Berlin in those days, and every Berlin musican I know has had a gig there at some point in their career and usually a story to go with it.
And they have live music every single night, and have done for decades now, and you have to hand it to them for that at the very least.
Anyway, on Wednesday I did go down the Junction, because I really wanted to see a band that various completely unconnected people have been recommending to me recently.
Von Wegen Lisbeth.
Von Wegen Lisbeth are one of a breed of new Berlin bands. Young, hungry, not fooled by the bullshit, singing, thank God, in German, they’ve grown up in what everyone has finally found out is the coolest city in the Western world, they’ve soaked it all in, they’ve watched it all come up and go down, they want to say their piece, and they have both the language and the fire to do so.
The support was ably provided by Schmidts Kater from Hamburg. After that Von Wegen Lisbeth were up. The place was packed and the audience knew them and loved them. The singer Matz has what makes a good frontman – the charisma, the throwaway good looks and the ability to share the joke of it all with the audience.
It’s a biggish band, with six members, and this is also good in that it gives them the extra member to add a little colour and variation of sound to each song. Also, how many young indie bands do you see who have a miked up steel drum on stage? Not many. It was also cool, although I don’t know if that was intended, that it was slightly distorted. Great! I thought – a steel drum played through a distortion pedal! That must be a first. Now I wonder if that was just the Junction Bar’s peculiar sound setup (the sound engineer sets up your sound and then leaves before you take the stage – nowhere else have I seen that!). But if it wasn’t intended and if you’re listening, Von Wegen Lisbeth, go on, stick a distortion pedal on the thing and be the first.
Yeah, so the singer also plays guitar, then there’s a keyboard player, a second guitarist, a drummer, a bass player, the bloke who plays steel drum but also heavily reverbed saxophone on one song as well as a bit of extra keyboard and some hand-held percussion. The second (dare I say lead?) guitarist is also cool, he’s got his own look, he was dressed up in a kind of very orange outfit with a pierced lip and a shaven head and a good vibe about him (and he also played the steel drum on one song) – the rest of the lads were in standard indiekid look.
One thing that struck me especially during their performance was the sense that they had an inordinate trust in each other. There was a warm-heartedness on stage and an ease of communication that made me wonder if they are what they seem to be – a group of good friends who have known each other aeons, picked up some instruments and started jamming and have just gone on from there, and who have an innate understanding that if they’re going to do this then they need to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other. I didn’t sense any ego on stage, and there was no instrument fighting to make itself heard over the others. This, I think, is one of the most subtle but most important aspects of a potentially really great band – that sense of trust, and that willingness to work together without any shouldering each other out of the way, in order to make the song the best that it can be.
If you hear of Von Wegen Lisbeth playing soon, I strongly recommend you go and see them. A great vibe, good songs (the obvious crowd favourite “Kafka Luise”). And I hope the freshness doesn’t fade, but in case it does, then go and see them soon.
Review by Noel Maurice