The re-opening of Club Rio, after its seemingly never-ending “Sommerpause”, was always going to be something special. As a guy that knows what he likes and sticks to it, Rio is something of a staple of my Saturday night diet; the varied live acts, guest DJs, maze-like building site interior and mixed-bag crowd make Rio essential for a “Sonnabend” out on the town and pretty much single-handedly embodies the so-cool-it-hurts-all-night-party attitude of Berlin.
Add one of the finest live bands around to that already impressive mix and you’ve got a sure-fire recipe for success. You Say Party! We Say Die! hail from British Columbia in Canada and have more or less made Berlin a second home given the frequency with which they’ve played here recently. I first caught these guys at the newly-opened Lido in Kreuzberg in May and was gutted to learn I’d missed their Rosi’s show a few weeks back so to catch them at Rio was a must.
Rio’s back room was packed in anticipation of the band starting and once they stepped up on stage, plugged in their instruments and started to do that “thing” that only they can do, the crowd, which seemed to swell by the second, were captivated. For around 45 minutes You Say Party! banged out hit after hit with virtually no let-up in the pace, frenzy and emotion of the set. To try and describe the You Say Party! sound is like trying to explain what black tastes like or how heavy light is. Is it power pop? Or punk? Indie rock? Maybe it’s a bit of retro disco? Perhaps it’s all of these things together and a secret ingredient, the X-Factor if you like, that makes it all work together in a delicious, shambling sort of way. One thing You Say Party! can do like no other band is make noise…in fact, Noise with a capital N. It’s difficult not to be swept away by them when they’re flogging the PA to death and causing such vibrations around the room as to make your internal organs re-organise themselves and your ears want to take a day off and go and lie down somewhere quiet. I’m sure the speakers went into therapy after the audio-assault inflicted on them. Forget Phil Spector’s legendary Wall of Sound…You Say Party! play with such passion and ferocity as to leave the Wall in ruins and take volume to stratospheric heights.
Favourites from their debut record, Hit the Floor, were of course present and correct…Stockholm Syndrome Part 2 had the crowd going epileptic, the obligatory hand claps of Cold Hands! Hot Bodies! got everyone joining in as though they were pensioners at a pantomime and the spiky pop-punk He! She! You! Me! They! We! Us! OK! was a blinder of a track which, by the time it had finished, had more or less ruptured my pancreas. The band were incredibly tight (not surprising given their recent, hectic touring schedule) and literally careered from one freak-out party track to the next. One thing about this band that is less evident in many of their contemporaries, is that it is blidingly obvious that they love being up there, love to have an audience and love to play. I’m sure that if you offered them €5 and a packet of biscuits to play the opening of a new Pankow branch of Netto they’d be there 3 hours early and itching to get on stage. Their obvious love and enthusiasm for what they do is infectious and rippled throughout the crowd, ensuring they were ready to party and/or die.
Lead singer Becky Ninkovic is less of a frontwoman and more of an event. It’s impossible to take your eyes off her for a moment. She’s a dinky creature with crazy hair and maniac eyes; she dances like a cross between something that comes out of a cuckoo clock and a clockwork toy, and how God managed to shoe-horn such a powerful pair of lungs into such petite housing is one of those biological miracles. She’s a combination of punk bitch, cute pop star, Amazon savage and ballerina…and she could kill a man at 10 paces with one frenzied rattle of her ever-present tambourine. At one point in the set she straddled the monitor and howled like a banshee…was she fucking her own music? Probably, and who could blame her?
Mention also has to go to bass player Stephen O’Shea. Dispelling the myth that a bass player has to look bored as fuck and stand in the background with his back to the audience, he’s as much a showman as Becky, leaping around the stage like someone with Tourettes on a sugar rush; whirling his bass round his head and jumping up and down from a box at the back of the stage. Quite how he managed to perform such musical acrobatics on a stage the size of your average public toilet without taking his band mates’ heads off is quite breathtaking.
By the end of the set, the band, not to mention the crowd, had all sweated off about 10 kilos and such a breakneck, intense and, above all, fun set was the perfect way to reintroduce Berliners to Rio.
*On reflection maybe this review is a little too laudatory and maybe I should say at least one negative thing…so, erm…well…Becky looks better in heels.