REEPERBAHN, WHIRLEY-POP AND SISTER SLEDGE A.K.A. HOW HAMBURG DESTROYED CHRISTMAS
So, after four months of virtually non-stop global touring, this decade’s surprise reunion success story wrapped up at the weekend as the all-new Atari Teenage Riot closed 2011 with one final gig and festive party at Hamburg’s Gruenspan.
Now bizarrely, the idea of ATR throwing a Christmas party was met with about the same level of criticism among online fandom as if Alec’s suggestion had been; „So the plan is to charge 80 bucks a ticket, play only two songs really badly and then go and push some orphan children into traffic.“ Clearly for some it’s impossible to have an opinion and celebrate Christmas and while many may have a glamourous idea in their heads that ATR spend the holidays smashing up toy stores and making kids cry, I suspect they do as we all do; lie around on the couch in pajamas watching dreadful TV and chain-eat chocolate.
Anyway, I thought it was a great idea and so I jumped at the chance to tag along and man the merch table for a couple of days.
I like doing merch primarily because you are in the position to be able to see and talk to virtually everyone who comes to the gig and watching the never-ending stream of motley characters arrive for the show is entertainment enough in itself before ATR even play a note.
It’s really fascinating what a diverse crowd the new ATR manages to draw. Sure, there are the hardcore fans who were scrawny teens jumping around and kicking fuck out of each other way back in 95 but you’ll also see cute goth chicks, anaemic boys with indie hair, guys in slick suits and even the occasional bearded hump-back mutant thrown in for good measure.
The festive bonanza started in Copenhagen where just about every ATR fan in Denmark was present. The show was great but this was probably the coldest club on the earth and my genitals had all but vanished before the promoter took pity on me and issued me with a chunky Scandinavian security jacket which was heavier than me to keep me warm (*Note: next time, steal the jacket).
It was in Copenhagen that one of fans asked the question which is rapdily passing into tour legend: „Are you always a Travelling Merchant?“ For a moment I had visions of myself wandering the deserts of the Middle East selling exotic fabrics and curious incense rather than just some freezing loser with a bunch of T-Shirts.
After Copenhagen we piled into the bus and set sail (Ahoy!) for Hamburg with CX educating me about the advantages of having a home popcorn maker (I guess he’ll be using the good ol’ Whirley-Pop to cook up Christmas lunch). After a couple of abortive attempts at listening to a podcast – the best we could do was some guy who sounded about as interesting as a fridge analysing the social effects of the i-Pod shuffle function – we settled for a disco playlist.
Before I go any further, fuck off with your snorting and sneering at disco, right? It’s probably been the most consistently excellent genre of music ever created and has been more influential to both mainstream and alternative forms of music since the 70s and any song that can make a lyric out of „Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci“ should get some sort of honour from the United Nations. Probably. And anyway we were on the way to a Christmas party. What were we supposed to do? Listen to Norwegian Death Metal and kick each other in the face?
Hamburg’s Gruenspan, a stone’s throw from the famous Reeperbahn and right next door to legendary club The Indra, is a fantastic venue. Apparently the first disco in Germany, it has a huge concert hall complete with roman pillars, upper gallery and a massive Buddha set into an alcove above the stage. It’s large and glamourous but with shabby, faded edges which dreary interior designers would no doubt helpfully label „character.“
Doors were at 10pm and no sooner did they open than a healthy supply of clubbers started to pile in. These were largely semi-drunken, rowdy party types who caused a rush at the merch table and so I thought to myself, „Yes, this is going to be good.“
But contrary to expectations it all fell a bit flat thanks to some rather silly internal office politics at the venue which I still don’t quite get to this day. Before I knew where I was, I heard Nic announce the start of the show without my ever having heard a note of the support show, Rowdy Superstar, who’d been flown in from London.
„Oh well,“ I thought, „I mustn’t have been listening properly.“
ATR were firing on all cylinders for their last gig of the year and the crowd in the sold-out venue were jumping around and generally making nuisances of themselves for the duration. They clicked into the rebellious nature of the music and at one point a spontaneous chant of „All Hamburg hates the police“ thundered through the Gruenspan which did rather make me wonder who on earth they’re going to call when crack addicts burgle their houses and steal all the Christmas presents.
So ATR finished, three quarters of the „party“ people promptly disappeared and THEN the support played for about 50 people. Yeah, yeah, don’t ask…only God knows why the main act warm up the crowd for the support. I’ll understand Steven Hawking’s Expanding Universe Theory before I figure that one out.
So that was that; a great show for a packed house, an unfortunate support band who play to a handful of people and a Christmas party that didn’t happen. The sense of despair and dejection I felt after packing up was quite handily visually summed up for me by the sight of some lonely, lumpen girl who look like she’d just wandered in from the Blair Witch Project stood in the corner next to the stage sadly picking her nose.
On the basis of the available evidence I can only surmise that Hamburgers are great at concerts and utterly rubbish at parties.
Perhaps we should’ve kicked kids in front of cars after all…