It was one of the first proper fall nights in Berlin as we rode out west to a venue for the first time. As we dodged puddles and attempted to keep warm, the graffiti and trash of Kreuzberg was gradually replaced by the glitz and glam of Charlottenburg. Our destination, Quasimodo, sits in the basement of the Delphi Filmpalast that was built in 1927. Formerly hailed as Berlin’s “Mecca of Jazz,” it has hosted countless giants of the genre, including Dizzy Gillespie, Chet Baker, and Art Blakey since the ’20’s. There is even a rumor floating around that Prince made an after show appearance at Quasimodo in ’87.
With all of this music history floating around in our heads, we descended the stairs and staked our ground to catch the first act, Sultans of Gedankenbrain. The Sultans have been members of some pretty heavy hitting bands in the past and the head Sultan happens to be Kristof Hahn, a current member of Swans and a former member of Angels of Light. When Hahn & co. took stage, the dusty rock & roll unfurled and had this west Berlin crowd twisting all around the floor. It sounded as though Poison Ivy from The Cramps was having break up sex with Leonard Cohen à la ‘Death of a Ladies Man’, in the best possible way. The crowd lost it when The Sultans covered The Gun Club’s Sex Beat and maintained the energy until the lip-licking end. Seriously, there was a lot of lip-licking.
After a break that was intended, I’m sure, for everyone in the audience to take cold showers, the tribal noise of Father Murphy beckoned all loyal apostles back to worship at their shrine. The music was abrasive but rhythmic, the chanted lyrics were of pain and realization, the crowd stopped what they were doing and focused on what was before them. This was an extremely brief set and there was a moment of confusion to as what was going on as Father Murphy left the stage.
The mystery was soon solved when the two members of Father Murphy returned to stage followed by the lady of the (witching) hour, Jarboe. The queen of experimentalism has had her fingers in so many pies over the years and released some inimitable albums; the crowd was charged and ready to consume this musical treat. With Father Murphy as her backing band, Jarboe caressed those in the audience in a way only she knows how. We were guided through a world informed by ambient, new age, goth, drone, and so much more. The crescendos were vast and the crevasses were narrow. The audience was hushed, for no one wanted to miss a note of this rarely witnessed séance.
The ritual couldn’t last forever, but we’re beyond pleased to have FINALLY seen Jarboe, and very grateful for her support Father Murphy and Sultans of Gedankenbrain. Let us share a moment of silence and pray that she graces Berlin with her presence again soon.