Show Review: Douglas First at Comet Club 23/04/15

Douglas First - Photo courtesy of Douglas First

Douglas First – Photo courtesy of Douglas First

At a concert, sometimes everything seems to magically fall into place: the venue, the people, the music—they all seem to share a certain attitude and create a vibe, a mood. It just fits. And sometimes it is just the other way round: very different musicians and very different people come together and create a common vibe. And everything falls into place, too.

It was like this last Thursday at the release party of Douglas First’s debut album “Seeds” at Comet Club. The four-piece alternative rock band from Berlin had invited funk rock outfit Transit FM and The Bar Sinister (self-described “theatrical rock”) to play along with them. It was a combination that seemed odd at first glance, but proved to be one that—although maybe not coherent in the strictest sense of the word—nevertheless created an atmosphere that was both inspiring and very enjoyable.

Transit FM played the first set of the night. The sound was energetic, dynamic, and constantly changing: a funk verse might be followed by a rock chorus followed by a reggae verse followed by a rapped crossover interlude.

The band evoked both The J.B.’s and Rage Against The Machine—particularly the latter, because singer Manu sounded amazingly like Zach de la Rocha when rapping. And while the music itself sometimes seems to be packed with so many different ideas and influences that it loses its focus for an instant, it is always genuinely catchy and danceable.

The Bar Sinister—imagine goth Fleetwood Mac—introduced itself as “the cabaret,” which was right on target. The group’s sound definitely conveyed a theatrical glam vibe and so did the show: singer Andrew wore a white frock, to symbolize that for 45 minutes, he was Master of Ceremonies—as if this were not already clear by the way he incessantly danced and ran around the stage.

The actual music, often featuring soul verses and rock choruses, is rooted in late 60s-rock as much as in recent garage pop. It was carried by guitarist Frank’s fuzzy, Cream-like guitar sound as much as by the harmonies of Andrew’s and keyboard player Katrin’s voices, which made for a warm northern soul appeal.

When Douglas First eventually appeared, the crowd rushed to the stage and did away with the small safety margin it had kept before. This, and the instrumental track the band played as a first song, created an intimate atmosphere that lasted over the course of the entire concert.

Singer Fabien employed a range of different voices, from passionate and bluesy, to soft and melancholic. Similarly, the band’s music took numerous different forms: the four started off with a series of alternative rock songs which differed from more generic forms of the genre by use of progressive, dynamic song structures, and a lot of reverb that created a very passionate, orchestral sound. In fact, only a few of the sounds the drummer used on his electronic drum kit did not quite fit into the band’s otherwise very coherent sound.

The middle of Douglas First’s set the consisted of a number of blues songs (introduced as “hangover songs”) which featured some amazing slide guitar play. They started in a gloomy hangover atmosphere but then transformed into Led Zeppelin-like blues rock explosions. Accordingly, the band’s attitude on stage went from rather introverted to very extroverted, from contemplating to dancing.

It did not come as much of a surprise that the crowd did not accept it when the band tried to end the concert after about an hour and a number of quieter songs. Even after a very energetic encore—that really was the night’s grand finale—the audience only very reluctantly accepted the band going offstage. Everything had fallen into place, obviously.

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