If the fashionable watering holes of Camden and Hoxton are a world away from my usual musical stamping ground, then a small basement bar in South–East Berlin appeared to be a whole paradigm shift away from either. It’s that change in attitude that says a lot about the differences between the creative arts and music scene of the two countries. For a start I doubt if a venue like Tiefgrund could actually exist in the UK, what passes for unique charm and DIY ethic in one country would fall foul of those four all important words in another…. Health and Fucking Safety.
It is also a venue that says a lot about the cosmopolitan nature of Berlin itself as the punters that I met that night were either English, Irish, Antipodean and other non-German Europeans, I also suspect that most of the Germans in the audience were also not native Berliners as it took me two days in the city to actually find someone born and raised there and then that encounter took place on a station platform at about 2am.
So the scene is set and the band take the stage. Mushi Features are a newish all girl band who, being that it’s Halloween, are dressed as a spider, a pumpkin, a ladybird and some sort of space vamp, though being Berlin this might just be the dress code for such a gig, after all I did see a guy in a sequined dress with canine head gear on grooving away so you never know.
Mushi Features musical charm lies in their ability to take a core doomy, stoner rock and add enough melody and Riot Grrrl sensibilities to create something that is unique yet marketable at the same time. Heavy and uncompromising enough to appease the gods of rock yet melodic and accessible enough to catch the ear of the mere mortal music punter. On stage they deliver the goods as well, engaging and charismatic as a band yet remaining slightly enigmatic and showing just the right amount of rock aloofness in their performance. The shyness of a new band or a deliberate strategy? Who cares, it just works.
It was also great to see the room full to appreciate this band who were after all the support band for the evening, something that seems to rarely happen in the UK, where everyone would have been in the upstairs bar bemoaning that there are never any new bands to check out whilst one is actually going through it’s paces in the next room. Oh, the terrible irony. But if this venue and this band are a taste of how the underground music scene can and should operate than it is something that can teach the rest of us a thing or two.