Lonski and Classen and the soul of independent Berlin

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Lonski and Classen are one of those few Berliner bands that have basically done everything right. Can’t fault them: They haven’t put a step wrong. Having got to know them first at the beginning of the zeroes, when they were making music together but before they’d become Lonski & Classen, they always had something about them. They always had a vision; a purpose. They were new in town then and they had initiated a project that involved recording street musicians for an album featuring the same, and which then expanded to include a documentary film about the street music scene in Berlin. Being myself one of these street musicians at the time, when I walked into the place they’d set up for the initial meetings, I immediately liked them. They’re those people who include you in their amused acknowledgement of the absurdity of things, their smile an unspoken invitation to share the joke.

It was around this time that they started out as the duo that would become Lonski and Classen.

They issued their first EP by themselves in 2007; their second, and first full album, Climbing on Branches, through a satisfyingly small and rather obscure local label; they have a vinyl release on the cool American Typewriter imprint; and now their third album is awaited early in 2013 through a slightly bigger label. In between they kept it small, playing in Berlin’s more eclectic venues to a slowly and steadily growing group of loyal fans; and having Yann Tiersen hear them and like them so much that they ended up supporting him on his next European tour. So that in between for-those-in-the-know Berlin concerts in obscure locations, they were out playing to huge crowds around Europe. Nice.

And now L&C are in Japan, playing three concerts courtesy of the Goethe Institut. As a warm-up gig for their Japanese tour they played one of their hard-to-find intimate shows, at the Salon Remise, and I was lucky enough to be there.

Salon Remise is one of those locations that thrives on its hiddenness: There’s very little information on the website (including where the fuck it is) and it warns darkly: „Entrance by invitation only“. It’s so far off the main strip that you get that comfortable feeling that only those in the know would even be aware of its existence. In short, the place is perfect for a Lonski and Classen concert. When I found the place (okay, I didn’t know where it was either), they hadn’t yet started. Through a little industrial estate, to the warehouse at the back, up a little windy staircase, and Salon Remise proves to be a not overly large room on the first floor. It’s like someone’s living room, with a bar.

After saying my hallos I got a beer and settled in to watch the opening act. About whom we won’t say too much. Each to their own.

Finally L&C take the stage, and they are instantly brilliant. The crowd already know and love them – it’s a home crowd for the band, mainly friends and long-term fans – and with good reason. Since last time I saw them they’ve grown still more in terms of both confidence and skill. It’s not hard to tell that they’ve known each other since they were at school together, and that they’ve played together nearly as long. They work through their set with a playful intensity, with an always inventive Lukas on guitar and Felix on drums, percussion and things that you blow into complementing him perfectly.

We leave with a warm glow, and look forward to the upcoming album.

by Noel Maurice

Lonski & Classen – Day oh Day from Lonski and Classen on Vimeo.