By Laura Meyer, www.LauraMeyer.net
Musical Notes is a regular column by Laura Meyer, a touring songwriter and guitarist. Each month, Laura clues us in on musical venues in towns and cities around the world.
Berlin’s love for the arts is written on every street. Vibrant murals are everywhere--on boutiques, galleries, performance spaces, and homes, which are often one in the same. Street musicians perform day and night and night. And there’s no shortage of live music options.
For this story, I had the opportunity to speak with fellow American touring singer/songwriter Aly Tadros who summed it up. “Berlin has become Germany's go-to for young budding European (and even American) artists. Its laid back, open-minded atmosphere and affordable lifestyle has made it a hot spot for 20 to 30-something writers, poets, and musicians. You can catch many of them lazing about on a Tuesday afternoon in the street-side cafes and parks of Kruezburg and Neukolln.”
As an alternative to well-known pop and rock venues that host many of the same bands one would see in the US, there are smaller, more intimate listening rooms throughout the city.
Art-Gerecht, a beautiful café in Friedrichshain, has built its community around original independent art and music. Patrons enjoy tea, coffee, and light fare while listening to local and international singer-songwriters and folk artists. In spring through fall, outdoor café tables offer a welcome break from shopping and sightseeing, while indoor bar seating enables people-watching throughout the year.
Intersoup, in Prenzlauer Berg, hosts live music in its downstairs listening room every night of the week. The café caters to a later, more alternative crowd and its cozy interior and oversized couches invite visitors to linger over delicious soups (vegan and vegetarian options available), coffee, teas, and alcoholic beverages. The concert area offers an eclectic assortment of seating and features a warm-toned sunset mural as the performance backdrop, which adds a nice touch in winter months when the underground venue can be quite cold.
Tadros told me that her favorite experience in Berlin has been with a singer/songwriter living room concert series called Sofa Salon. She explains, “The series typically brings in international acts touring through Berlin, and combines them with a local artist, ranging from singer-songwriters to slam poets and classically trained instrumentalists. The host is extremely picky and really brings in some awesome acts. It's your basic house concert concept - everyone piled into a tiny living room - with the promise of an intimate, one-of-a-kind interaction with the artist.”
Tadros is also fond of the city's dub-step and electro-clubbing scene. She cites Watergate and Berghain as good venues for more nocturnal travelers looking for a taste of trance, hip-hop, and even all-night live swing bands. She summed up the city’s appreciation of the arts for me just by saying, “Berlin is the first place I've ever lived where, when I told people I was a musician, their first response wasn't ‘Ok, and what's your real job?!’”
The supportive environment provides artists with the resources and respect they need to grow, which benefits not just the artistic community but also the visitor to the city, who will enjoy musical offerings as vast as the city herself.
Photos: The photograph of the street mural was provided by ©Günter Steffen/Visit Berlin; the black & white photograph of Aly Tadros was taken by Stevan Alcala.