A mismatched selection of buildings line the Neuköllner Schifffahrtskanal canal, which is located just outside of Berlin’s ‘ring’ metro line in the district of Neukölln. The jagged, out-of-place pointed edges of the Estrel Berlin Hotel sit uncomfortably next to several blocks of low-rise industrial units. Walk down Ziegrastraße, the street which runs alongside the canal, and between the car repair garage and casino is the small alleyway which offers access to Bei Ruth, one of Berlin’s more hidden music venues. Amazing views of the neighbouring buildings and looming East Berlin socialist plattenbau housing can be enjoyed from the windows that line one side of Bei Ruth, which is located up four flights of crumbling stairs in an old industrial building.
You could never call such a view spectacular, but witnessing the sight of the sun sinking below the rooftops last Sunday was undeniably a special moment. I was at Bei Ruth to see Sleaford Mods, a duo from Nottingham whose slow rise to (relative) fame must provide satisfying vindication to front-man Jason Williamson, who formed the band in 2006. Plenty of the 300 or so people who queued outside of the nondescript venue doors were turned away and there was a definite feeling of anticipation in the slightly muggy spring air. It seems as Williamson and bandmate Andrew Fearns’ brand of heavy drum and bass combined with bleak social commentary has found the audience it was looking for. They stand out from the ‘class of 2014‘ like unkempt 40-year-olds at a student house party and such refreshingly blunt and caustic music is very welcome indeed.
With sweat dripping from the ceiling onto the dense crowd of hipsters, punks and rockers, Sleaford Mods took to stage soon after 11pm for the final date of their brief tour of Germany’s punk squats. As expected, their violent post-punk poetry is even more malevolent and vicious than it is on record. Williamson’s raw vocal delivery and engaging stage presence ramped up the atmosphere inside Bei Ruth and the audience actually moved (a rarity in Berlin).
Highlights of the set included tunes from new album Divide & Exit such as ‘The Corgi‘ and old favourites like ‘McFlurry‘ and ‘Jobseeker‘, both of which Williamson screamed into the heaving crowd whilst Fearn danced to his right whilst pulling on an E-cig. ‘Pubic Hair Ltd‘ was another late-set highlight, particularly the biting chorus lyrics that rip into the band’s peers:
‘Who gives a fuck about yesterday’s heroes / Who seem to think they’re still today’s heroes / It’s not a pyramid you’re not a fucking Pharaoh’
‘I’m sick of all these pissy sellouts / ignoring actuality / that everything that made them great / lost it’s validity’
For the uninitiated and curious, it’s time for some tunes. Sleaford Mods are on tour in the UK in September. Go check ‘em out.
Tied Up In Notts
Taken from the new album Divide & Exit.
This has got a great chorus.
This was extremely heavy live.
Thanks for reading!