Thursday, 30 November 2017

Gig Review: Ducking Punches & We Bless This Mess at Cassiopeia, Berlin 23/11/17

Whenever Emma and I book a trip away somewhere one of the first things I do is get on Songkick and see if I can find any cool gigs that are on whilst we're away. I like doing this firstly because I always find it interesting to see what punk shows are like in places I've not been to before and secondly because going to gigs is my favourite thing to do, so it makes sense to see what's happening. So when Emma and I booked our recent trip to Berlin I immediately opened the Songkick app on my phone and discovered that one our favourites, Dan Allen from Ducking Punches, was playing on our first night in Germany's capital city. Excellent.

The gig was actually only taking place a short 15 minute walk from where we were staying at a club named Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia is situated in a small little area that kind of resembles a shanty town, as there seemed to be tarpalling everywhere over various small buildings. Once we managed to find our way into the venue, we found the room for the show after going up some stairs and then down some others to find a great little space for a punk show. The stage was not the highest but you could get a great view of the performers from wherever you might be standing. It was well lit as well and we soon found out that the sound was fantastic. So this had all the ingredients for a great show, now were the performers up to scratch?

For this tour of Europe, Dan was being joined by Nelson from Portuguese band We Bless This Mess. A crowd of about thirty people had gathered for the show and settled in to see Nelson perform. By settle in I mean quite literally as a few people at Cassiopeia sat down for the set. I found this kind of strange but I guess it's because it was an acoustic performance they did this. Maybe it's a Berlin thing? I dunno. Either way I thoroughly enjoyed Nelson's performance. I knew absolutely nothing of him before his set but quite quickly fell in love with his music. He plays a passionate and heartfelt brand of punk rock - often times it was sad, on occasion it was uplifting but it was always relatable. Nelson comes across as a sweet and humble man on the stage who absolutely loves playing for a crowd no matter the size. This just endeared me to him even more. After seeing Nelson live I've since checked out his full band stuff with We Bless This Mess, it's fantastic. Go and check it out!

Ducking Punches are one of the very best punk bands in the UK scene and are gaining a loyal fanbase all over the world. Whether it's full band or by himself, Dan seems to have a relentless touring schedule and is always playing a show somewhere. I've seen Ducking Punches quite a few times over the past couple of years now, both full band and acoustic and they are one of the few shows that I always enjoy no matter the setting. Fun fact: Emma and I have now seen some version of Ducking Punches in three different countries, after seeing Dan play solo at Fest last year and now in Germany - and, of course, in the UK. Dan took to the stage saying that he would be opening up with some older songs before moving on to some brand new tracks from forthcoming album Alamort. Starting with the older stuff including the really old Secrets, I'm as always captivated by Dan on stage. He's among the best lyricists in the game, with every song painting a brilliant picture of the struggles people go through in life. Then it was time for the new stuff. Playing three songs from Alamort acoustically felt like a fantastic teaser for an album I'm very excited to hear. My memory of all of the song titles is a little hazy, as I'd been up since 3am that morning, but the first song was named Sobriety, the second I've completely forgotten but loved it and the third featured an incredible lyric along the lines of "life is for more than just living." (Disclaimer that might not be right, I was really tired and this was six days ago at the time of writing.) Alamort is already shaping up to be one of the albums of 2018. To draw his set to a close, Dan played a song off of Ducking Punches debut self titled album named Wolf. Dan explained that it's about how men are a disgusting species who prey on women. It's extremely fitting that he played this song given all of the accusations and allegations that having been making headlines in the news recently. He then finished up, as he always does, with the heartbreaking Six Years and the sing-a-long Big Brown Pills From Lynn. Six Years is a song that deals with the affects of suicide. Did you know that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. That's a ridiculous fact. If there was less of a stigma around mental health then perhaps this number could start to fall. I'll always give Dan a huge amount of props for always making a point to speak about mental health whilst on stage. Big Brown Pills always gains massive crowd participation for its finale and it's no different in Cassiopeia, after Dan teaches those of the crowd who didn't know the words what to sing!

This was a great acoustic punk rock show to begin the first night of our holiday. We got to visit a cool venue, became a fan of one new act and got to see one of our favourites again. Lovely stuff.

This gig review was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.