Our Man in Berlin


Other Music Links
Reviews and Comments - Index 
Wezel's Music Page
Wezel's Web
Page updated January 26, 2000
Thomthom's Reviews
Contact Thomthom | Thomthom's bio | Next |
By Thomthom Geigenschrey

We hope to present reviews from Thomthom on a regular basis. At the moment - because this music section is a non-profit operation, Thomthom is kindly contributing his work to us free of charge. This is the first of his reviews and it is presented exactly as he sent it to us - untouched and un edited.  Please forward comments directly to Thomthom.

Vast- Livereview from the 29.1.99/Berlin/Germany: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Its a cold cold world .....- as Julian Dawson sang. It's so cold and frosty, especially if you are lonely, young and stuck in wintertown. Some of these fragile human beings seem to be lost before the entrance of eastberlin Knaack-Club in the Greifswalderstrasse, not too far away from Alexander Platz, this friday january-eve at 19 PM, where the young and desperated "Mister Shy-Sensitive" John Crosby with his highly critical recommended project V.A.S.T is announced: The Post-Generation- X-Twen of the year? The archetypical milleniums Woodstock child? He looks like he could be the child of Brian Wilson and Mama Cass - and... he is from California....!! Nobodys there to sell tickets - not yet. What a shame - what a cold world. Should this be the reason so many clubs go bankrobbed these days in Berlin? Door policy and other bad service for general?? "Trinity" is the organizer of the gig, once owner of Berlins biggest underground location "Huxleys", now financial ruined closed down. Basically a good intentioned rockfan-institution for ambitious, innovative underground events made up by rockaddict/alternative-professional alltime-youngster-boss Tom Spindler, who is later to be seen controlling tickets himself at the door tonite: he is - like all the visitors tonite - guest in a foreign club. Cruel or fair world? Tickets you can get finally at 21 P.M. - the time the concert should start. Puh!... Okay... forgiven. If it wouldnt be so wintercold. Many lost souls shiver and freeze in the cold... But there is - like on the amazing many-sided debutalbum - this warming sheltering soul, whose energy calls even thru the walls and backdoors of the Knaack-Club already... Its seemingly soundchecktime for VAST.... But whats that..? A rough garage-metal version of Metallicas"Enter Sandman" reaches the ear..."Sleep with one eye open..."...The voice is stumbling a bit... a Twen, pretending to be the hard one.....Who's that? The supportband ? Its no one announced.. Straaaaaange.., but anyway, the stairroom behind the backdoors near the backyard and entrance are warmer than the outside, so the fans come as they are, warm up and listen. And its surely Vast.. no doubt..you can recognize pieces of one of the very astonishing newcomer-debutalbums these days. As we can proof later, its not such a far away association or step from Metallica to John Crosby's delights. Just listen to VAST- songs like "Three Doors". VAST combine Heavy-Rock-edges with Grunge (their are some fine, charming Nirvana-associations), Gothrock-aura and Progrock-bits of conceptual artrockism to a proper, ornamental Rockmonument with fine contours, rich coloured drama- and many differentialising elements. Lets call it Gothic-Grunge.... Like Nirvana or Radiohead would team up with theCult and Pink Floyd in the mood of the "Dark side of the moon".. This is the sensitive dark side of the youth of America..(and the fragile alternative to comic-kinds like Danzig, Nine Inch Nails or Marylin Manson). The real soundtrack to "American Gothic" (the series) and John Crosby is the little now a- bit- gone- out -of -shape- boy in this series, who fights again and again his sensitve war against the big bad mainstream-music-overtaking, the everlasting story of the establishment of the devil himself on earth via the big biz-(-music-)-industry and its pollution of bad taste in the name of muzak and other definitions of so-called modern (pop)life asthetics.. But this here is not only a depressive, sensitivity-songwriter impersonification of kinds like Cobain, Mark Eitzel or Nick Drake.. Vast/Crosby (he recorded all of his debut by himself alone) offers a lot of this kind of power, which some not too attractive, nonconformistic children - as compensation for missed respect, love and other daily lifes' trouble - may be able to create: some deep deep powerful art like this rockish popmusic here. A music that takes its stand - the same loud, harsh and offensive, as it's able to differentiate and crawl into a silent hug of a drama-lovesong.. Loudness and silence-changes with a feeling of good old grunge-dramaturgy...but not too obvious or too stereotype, that you might know too well what comes next. The little 21 year old boy, with his good-natured face hidden behind a pubercent with- good-will- you- can- call -it "beard" , and a non-fashionable pullover hiding his body-shape, is shy but selfconscious like somebody, who is willing to impress the world of his art, even if the world doesnt want to listen or know about. But in (t)his case -as an exception - the world wants to listen! So take up the chance and rock the town, blue boy.. ! What he definitely does.. while drinking gallons of mineralwater (!) without bubbles. PC or wimpish? .. lets not get too ironical..this is meant to be serious songwriting, selfirony comes with the time... The 12 guitars behind the desk on the side of the stage are all well tuned (may be differently for different song-use) by a roadie.. 12 !! Man ........ looks like Pink Floyds megalomania...and what comes along then, definitely has the adaquate sound and soundformat.. Not so structrured dynamic and produced like the impressing fat, but transparent, compact and wellproduced, multilevel-debutalbum, but bombastic enough. The debut was produced by Bill Laswells old genius >Material<-companion Fred Maher (the big explorer and supporter of little John), and, not to forget, mixed by Andy Wallace (of Nivanas "Nevermind" -fame). Wow...This boy deserves only the best - it seems. Live now some of the records' fine details come from tape or computer, which is not too wonderous, cause it would've been too early and expensive for a newcomer to take all the bombast and stageshow he might be dreaming of as equivalent to his musical effort ( for example all the mysterious bulgarian voices of nuns and monks chanting) live on tour. Not even Floyd would - regarding the richness of bits and pieces of VAST's debut - have been sucessfull to arrange this, for many obvious reasons. And sampler-keyboardplayers on stage are often only boring. So some essential pieces of the complete variability of exciting extra-ingredients, like some breathtaking pathos of dark shadowy soloviolins or stringsections, exotic bits of eastern and orientalic rhythm and melody feels, old Prog-moods from deep Deep Purple-hammondorgans and some exiting, attentionwaking computer/sample-experiments or Depeche Mode-electronic-grooves from the record (all Fans especially of last DM- rock-approaches are welcome in the Visual Audio Sensory Theatre) had to stay at home. Also some songs. A bit uncomplete.. Anyway Vast mainly also impress without. But as the whole thing never seems to have a static or playback feel (even if some parts come from tape or computer-interplay) Crosbys stagepresence is, with all shyness, strong enough to take over and keeps the ambitious constructed material rocking , and so he could have taken the whole rest of the patchwork and background from the record with him (on tape), too, plus the liveband. Both would have fit and have been worked. This boy is gifted enough. Even for purists he proves his talents, when he plays some songs purely and unplugged on one of his acousticguitars. All together the perfect combination of rocknrolls' past, present and future, of live and studio possibilities. Strange funny guy though - more of a studiopuzzler- and musicfan, a record-, sound and guitarcollector than a rockstar- it seems. His live band consists of 3 pretty boyish twentysomethings from the neighbourhood, who just play their instruments unpretentious, say unspectacular, but reliable... good, basis-laying craftsmen - no more no less...Pale nice guys.. compared to them Crosby is a.. character.. The bassguy often plays the dominating melodypart and contercarictures the rhythmguitar and the spareful sololicks of his contrahent on the other side of stage - a thinny blonde guy hobby guitarrist with even more non-charisma. Huh -what did I say? In one second the bass-sportsman even spits some mineralwater into the air, while kicking the metal-distortion-footswitch the same moment, and suddenly the bass contributes some naughty rough edges to the folky 6 string feel of his boss. Wimpy punk rock gestures - yeah, alright the boys try to ....RocknRoll. Fugazi meets Floyd? Yes and No.. Its all very backlashed, easy drifting, well balanced. Warm basic sounds to fall into safely - a sheltering music, sometimes dark sentimental sometimes like the longlife teddybear at home, not only for the lonely, lost in wintertowns. Save me... sugar me... ( as Lyndsey de Paul would comment). Crosby sings silently with a slightly rough voice and moves and seems like this little akward bear, nearly forgotten at the sofa at home, while he opens up his soulcages, mindgames and innerperspectives. Cobainish. The only manko: In compare the material on record is much more dynamic, because of good production and much time put into care in preparation and praxis. Live - but may be only on this eve, and 'cause its foreign terrain... strange, foreign language-germany - its sometimes a little the same procedure like the song before, sometimes a bit harmless and pale like the boys who play it, but only sometimes.. Mostly the ballad-rocker-dramaturgy keeps it going, and more live-praxis will change the rest and shape this character and presence of weakness. And while the beauty and variability of the record suffers live a little, and also drowns a bit in technical problems (backgroundtape is too silently) and to less charisma of the young livecrew, they are much better than many B.O.F.-hired studio-hares, who only do their job. In many moments enough, the potential then breaks thru and shows the talents of the wonderful gifted hometaper/producer John Crosby, whose songs initially -may be - were never meant to be played live, changed and mutated for the unromantical stressing live-proof-situation. In which the material surely -more than partly- manages to attract: Especially his earcatching ballads like the tearjerker "Flames" , his ladies-catcher song - or the other one, the acoustically done "You" , he plays both as nearly last songs - a good farewell.....and the dynamic, more rockish /stop- and- go-numbers..like "Temptation" or "Touched" with the mentioned bulgarian voices..., hit the essential nerves and senses, not only of the enthusiastic, loyal mixed fan-audience, who finally outsold the Knaack Club. As little Crosby comes back, saying he wasn't prepared for a longer set, cause he didnt know, how long sets in germany were (set was little longer than one hour), and that they are a totally blank poor band - its so innocent, that you have to believe this guy. Then he pulls us in again with a last, melancholic, heart- and stonemelting number .. on his own.. Seems like the " real nowhere man sitting in his nowhereland making all his nowhere plans for nobody" nowadays, in the year X after Nirvana, has many friends, that share his stories and visions. A shame that Cobain couldnt see that...he would have liked him.. and may be wouldnt have suicided. Hey Hey..... Winnie Puh, play us some more sentimental sad songs!!

Thomthom Geigenschrey reporting from Berlin/Germany's capital out of the: KULTURTÄTER - Büro: Postfach 420405 12064 BERLIN Fon+Fax: 030-7863491 E-Mail: violintt.schrey@berlin.snafu.de

Contact information

- Gruss TT Geigenschrey aus dem Kulturtäter-Büro für Freelance-Journalism Event&Artist-Booking +Kulturmanagement+Promotion c/o: KULTURTÄTER & GEIGENSCHREY Postfach 420405 12064 BERLIN Fon+Fax: 030-7863491 E-Mail: violintt.schrey@berlin.snafu.de