Moment in a song: Berlin’s unsung indie scene

I came to Berlin for electronic music, and I haven’t been disappointed. Let me say that first.

However, I can also appreciate that not everybody is into techno, and it can be a bit of a culture shock if you’re used to a more in-your-face local indie scene. Berlin doesn’t have much of a hey-it’s-Friday-night-let’s-go-see-a-band culture, not like there is, say, in the States—when I was living in Seattle it seemed like if you yourself weren’t in a band (whether presently, formerly, or longingly), you were one or two degrees removed from someone who was.

Well, if everyone in Seattle is in a band, then everyone in Berlin is a DJ. I’m only half-joking. Come the weekend, when a profusion of club nights, open-airs, festivals, raves, and parties routinely replaces the circadian rhythms of party-goers with four-on-the-floor bass drum hits … it can make the live band circuit feel a bit like a foreign import, like something brought in by sensitive guitar-toting expats to console themselves during those long, bleak techno winters—or so my non-techno-loving friends would have me believe.

When it comes to live shows, a lot of people think about the more prominent concert venues. This means touring bands: bigger names and higher prices. It’s a pre-planned affair. I’ll admit it, I belong to this demographic, whereas number of local indie shows I’ve been to: zero. Chalk it up to too many other options.

Unsung Indie Scene IMG 2

Meanwhile little local stuff is surely unfolding all over the city on the regular. It’s just a matter of paying attention, not always my strong suit. More than once I’ve noted a band somewhere in passing, paused outside to appreciate—that’s not half bad—and kept on walking because I had Klubnacht on the brain.

There’s actually a group that rehearses in my building sometimes. Quiet guitar strumming and a forlorn-but-folky vocal harmony fills the shared courtyard. Wistful German syllables float in through opened windows to pluck a tender heartstring before dissolving abruptly in a cutoff to discuss phrasing. Meanwhile I’m standing in my kitchen with a jar of Nutella in one hand and a spoon in the other, inexplicably compelled to wonder, what am I really doing with my life—well played, Neighbor Band, inspiring me to existential quandary …

It gets me to thinking about the indie scene here in Berlin, about that unexpected and magical connection that can suddenly crystallize between you and a moment in a song you’ve never heard before. It gets me to thinking about paying a little more attention.

Article submitted to and published via Berlin Logs.

Update: my article is featured in the August 2015 printed edition.

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