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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pirate Satellite Festival, Stuttgart, April 2013

Pirate Satellite Festival, Stuttgart, April 2013

Bad Religion, Propagandhi, Iron Chic, Masked Intruder & More

The LKA Longhorn in Stuttgart, a venue which is “older than Bad Religion” according to lead singer Greg Graffin, is the location of the bands first European performance of 2013. The former factory, which has been converted into a music hall, is also hosting the 3-day long ‘Pirate Satellite’ festival, which brings together many bands that play various styles of punk music. 

The Longhorn

In late 2012, when the line up was announced, the appeal of attending a concert that featured Bad Religion AND Propagandhi playing on the same day was too much for @Vegetauren and I to resist. We had to take a stance, and take up this rare opportunity. Given the longevity of both bands careers it comes as much of a surprise to hear that they have never shared the stage together in the past. Only the world-renowned efficiency of the Germans was able to make this happen.

The day started off in a nearby hotel with a bottle of Flensburger Pils for breakfast – the hoppy and herby taste of this beer represents the ‘True North’ brewing of the Schleswig-Holstein region. 

 Morning drinks cabinet

The opening band of the day was Gnarwolves from the UK: an insipid, dull, and ‘langweilig’ performance that failed to make much of an impact with the German crowd. Gnar wolves? More like Nah Mate! Laters. The UK representation carried on with Apologies, I Have None, a band that @Vegetauren assured me were worth getting out of bed for. Three guys, all with good voices, leading the songs – rocking out to music that isn’t that rocking – nice guys I’m assured by the folks from my hometown of Leeds who run the ‘Out of Spite’ collective, yet come in the category of the Frank Turner posh boys public school of punk. @Vegetauren, where is my apology for having to endure this? Still, they were good coffee table warm up music that was leading to up to a dual assault from two of the world’s punk-rock masters.

We took a break to drop off our newly acquired records back at the hotel, and stopped off to consume our last meal of the day. We couldn’t manage to finish off our pizzas without feeling sick, which lead @Vegetauren to picture us post-drinking session, throwing up all our cheese at the feet of an angry Chris Hannah from Propagandhi. I managed to lighten the mood by improvising with my German skills, and asking the waitress “Over here, can we have the final score please?” Making reference to the bill. 

Shai Hulud stuck out like a sore thumb on the bill – whilst at times they can be quite melodic, they are easier to pigeonhole in the hardcore category – and their plethora of chuggs and breakdowns seemed to go down well with their small and rabid following. Note to self: Not worth bothering to watch again. And then it was time for the main event of the mid-card…

I’ve always been in awe at the passion of the crowds at ‘gruff-punk’ gigs: seeing them all singing along down at the front, knowing every single lyric, and contributing heavily to the bands sound. Secretly I always wanted to be part of one of those occasions but never enjoyed any of those bands until @Vegetauren put me onto Iron Chic. After stumbling into a Letterman gig late last year, I instantly noticed the distinct guitar sounds that rings out in the first song Cutesy Monster Man off the Iron Chic LP, ‘Not Like This’. This is down to the legendary Phil Douglas – a man looking like he’s in his middle ages, baggy trousers strapped at the waist, a bald patch shiner to be proud of, and a dress sense and style akin to Paul Caporino from M.O.T.O. – somewhat lazy drifting pop-punk rhythms intertwined with solos that instantly warm me up and make me smile like someone with special needs. Combined with this are the slightly brooding, slightly melancholic, yet realistically reflective and positive lyrics of Jason Lubrano. They’ve got that classic ‘duality of man’ happy/sad combination that great pop bands such as The Smiths and The Pet Shop Boys have pulled off in the past. It was half an hour of pure pop-punk joy from the ‘Chic’.   

Iron Chic getting ready

The world normally rejoices at Germany for it’s wonderful beer, yet we became merry gentleman that night by enjoying the joys of the liquor and energy drink mix. On legal speed the German way! Here are the chart positions after the festival:

1)   Relentless Green & Vodka
2)   Red Bull Cola & Jagermeister
3)   Club Mate & Jagermeister

Liquor Energy

Next up was the final installment of the UK contingent, a band that go by the name of Pure Love. Just because they feature the former vocalist of the commercially popular hardcore band Gallows meant that they had a high spot on the bill. They were by far the worst band of the day – some kind of bluesy rock n roll band. When they hit the stage the singer exclaimed “I wish we’d have come to Stuttgart sooner”, which was followed by a cold silence from the crowd. Yeah right mate. We left after three songs. When we returned at the back end of their set, the guitarist was being crowd surfed and the singer was leading the crowd in a ‘woahs’ singalong. All style, no substance.

More like Pure Shite

This is why there were playing - same sponsors as the venue and/or festival

After another gas station booze stop, we returned to catch the last few songs of The Menzingers. A catchy, standard pop-punk affair, good at what they do, yet nothing special. It was a hard task to convince the crowd, who were clearly in attendance to witness the next two bands. However, to be fair to them, they sneaked in a cover of ‘Roots Radicals’ by Rancid at the end of the set, which got the crowd warmed up for the ensuing assault.

Propagandhi are a unique band in punk-rock – they are hard to pigeon hole, and it’s hard to compare then with other bands. There are elements of thrash metal, straight up hardcore, punk-rock, and emo – all combined together in their output. Their latest release ‘Failed States’, out on Epitaph Records due to their public beef and subsequent split with Fat Wreck Chords, is an example of a band still at their peak.

One massive plus for the set was the excellent sound in the venue, I heard every note and every melody - these Germans certainly know how to do live music. When the band opened up with the intro to ‘Coaches Corner’ the place went nuts, and we we’re straight in the pit for the rest of the set. They treated us to a full-on one-hour hadron shredding collision course on how to master the punk-rock genre, playing a mixture of songs from the new album, popular songs, and obscurer songs from the back catalogue. Towards the end of the set when my tired legs had run out of steam, I could do nothing but stand at gawp at the amazing guitar skills on offer, whilst they still managed to sing the songs. The hairs on my back were on the rise. I was left shell-shocked, thinking how the hell can people play music like that?   

(still making me feel guilty for wearing sweatshop t-shirts, and still making high guitar straps cool)

Moving on from the best technical punk-rock band of all time, it was then time for the best melodic punk-rock band of all time, Bad Religion. We’d heard a rumour earlier that day from their German tour driver that Greg Hetson was not with the band. This was confirmed when they stepped onto the stage as a four piece, leaving Brian Baker to take on the whole of the guitar playing duties. This situation didn’t sound good on paper, yet we we’re soon proven wrong. This rare opportunity to see them as a four piece brought a whole new dimension to seeing the band live (something that @Vegetauren and I have done on way too many occasions).  It felt and sounded like Bad Religion of the past: the songs sounded more urgent as they weren’t able to let the songs be carried by the usual depth of rhythm and melody, and this resulted in a purer punk sounding Bad Religion, akin to their sound we’ve all heard on the bootlegs from the earlier days. Brian Baker was hitting note for note, and holding it strong, and Jay Bentley owned that stage, moving around like a punker is his twenties, not forties. Thankfully they’d also mixed their set up a little since their last visit, so as well as playing the usual classics, we were treated to seven songs from the latest album True North (which is testament to how much of a great record it is), none from The Dissent of Man (!), and a plethora of rarely played live songs, such as Beyond Electric Dreams, Against the Grain, and Submission Complete. Greg Graffins’ usual dose of dry humour between songs was also on fine form, when he was teasing the crowd about the rain, finishing with the words, “the easiest thing to do, is say fuck you”, a line from their last single that was specifically released on the day of the US presidential election. By the time they had finished their 90 minute set with the ‘Department of False Hope’ I was shattered, yet full of faith that Bad Religion still are and always will be the best punk-rock band of all time. And if you don’t believe me you’re a schmuck, because the trend won’t die out without any luck.

Bad Religion

The day didn’t need to be anymore complete, yet Fat Wreck Chords’ latest signing, Masked Intruder, were playing a free after show in the centre of town. We managed to get on a tram, and make the show just as they had started to play. The small basement club was already kicking off, and we just had to get straight into the pit and summon that last bit of energy from the depths of reserves.

Masked Intruder

In case you aren’t familiar with the band, it’s basically four dudes who wear different coloured masks, and go by the names of Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue. They play straight up pop-punk akin to The Lillingtons, This is My Fist, and Screeching Weasel. The singer has a strong voice, and all the lyrics are about stalking and having pretend girlfriends. They totally smashed it, played way faster than they sound on record and the pit was insane throughout the whole set. They had to play two encores, as the crowd were going so wild. They even treated us to covers of Green Days’ ‘She’, and Teenage Bottlerockets’ ‘Repeat Offender’. A great end, to a great gig. 

Best merchandise purchase 
Our voices were gone, adrenalin was drained, and our bodies were stiff from so much moshing. It was worth every penny and all the effort to get there (two hour traffic jam on the M62 to the airport! I just made my flight by 5 minutes!), and we’ll never experience such joy (the only joy that punk-rock can bring) like that for a long time - until the next show of course.

Extra notes:

If you want to view the setlists from the show, then they are available here:

If you get chance, go and see Iron Chic, Bad Religion, and Masked Intruder who are all still on tour in Europe.

Follow me on Twitter @Schwarzbrennen

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