Text by Ellie Sellwood, Photos by Fred Bonatto
Midway through their set, with the audience hanging on to their every beat, Go Go Berlin’s album art backdrop fell down with a dramatic swish of fabric, to reveal a shining, black and gold ‘GGB’ sign lit up by flashbulbs. As frontman Christian Vium hit the high notes with the band behind him effortlessly strumming out high intensity rock riffs, the crowd erupted, and not for the first time. Although this dramatic unveiling was an obvious allusion to the band’s rock ancestors, this was Go Go Berlin’s moment and they seized it with both hands.
They played as if they were headlining Roskilde festival surrounded by thousands of adoring fans which made the SCC stage and surrounding space feel far too small for the rock energy that was gushing from the stage.
It was almost as if this was their last ever performance. Every lyric, every drumbeat, every piano chord was filled with infectious energy, which had the crowd bouncing along, grinning their heads off and unashamedly strumming their own air-guitars from the very first song.Their set was a definite highlight of this year’s SPOT festival.
Go Go Berlin is made up of five guys from northern Jutland who look and sound like they’ve jumped out of a time warp from the 1970s. Bassist Emil Rothmann, lead vocalist and guitarist Christian Vium, drummer Christoffer Møller Østergaard, guitarist Mikkel Dyrehave and organist Anders Søndergaard came together in November 2010. Since then they have been taking their Rock and Roll sound around Denmark, Europe and most recently to the US.
The band’s potential for stadium stardom was recognised by band manager Stefan Facius really early on. He recalls the moment he first discovered the band with a glint in his eye. “I was out one night celebrating my girlfriend’s 39th birthday or something, we were in a small pub, in April 2012. I was standing and I remember clearly I was standing with my back to the music, to the band playing and there was a jam going on and I heard this voice and I was like…whoa,” he says. It was from that moment on that Stefan knew he wanted to back this band.
“I remember clearly I was standing with my back to the music, to the band playing and there was a jam going on and I heard this voice and I was like…whoa,”
Go Go Berlin then signed with Heartbeat Music, run by Stefan and his colleague Thomas Bredahl (ex. Volbeat member), in September 2012. They then went on tour with Danish rock legends ‘The Blue Van’ in October.
Since then they have taken their Rock and Roll sound around Europe, signed with Mermaid Records (April 2013) and Sony Music (Germany, October 2013 and Switzerland November 2013). In the past year they have released their debut album- New Gold (September 2013) and singles ‘Raise Your Head’ (May 2013) and Castles Made of Sand (January 2014).
Go Go Berlin played at SPOT festival last year and attracted a lot of press attention. Gaffa, (Denmark’s leading music magazine) rated their performance 5/6, and said “they’re young, talented, and they want to go places. Judging on their performance, they will – in the near future.” It certainly seems that the band has taken this on board as they returned to SPOT this year with a slick and accomplished performance worthy of any classic rock fan’s full attention.
“They’re young, talented, and they want to go places. Judging on their performance, they will – in the near future.”
The set opened with a deep-sea radar beep which was reminiscent of that used by The Who. Anticipation built up as the beep intensified and the band burst onto the stage singing ‘Gimme Your’. Charismatic front man Christian Vium warmed up the crowds with his raw, husky, glam-rock vocals. After the first verse the band broke it down and stripped the lighting back, ‘has anyone got rhythm…’ Christian calls out, his voice slightly Americanised but undeniably Danish. Then the pure rock energy was released as the bass, guitar and drums built up to reach a frantic but skillful rock crescendo.
As an audience member you could tell that this performance, unlike others we’d seen at SPOT, was created with us in mind. Christian addressed the audience many times, both speaking and singing, ‘cmawwwwn’, ‘has anyone got rhythm?’ This was intensified by the fact that all five members of the band thrashed and jumped around in a display of sheer enjoyment. You could see Anders on the organ, head banging away.
Occasionally Emil, on bass would get right up close to the edge of the stage, looking like a vision from the glam-rock era with his long hair flowing and bare arms strumming the guitar. There was also a moment when Christian put a rose between his teeth and sang like a Rock and Roll lothario. And another when he screamed out beneath a white towel which he’d flopped on his head.
From our experience over the past few days, you can tell that a band is good when they’re able to bring a Danish audience to the brink of a mosh pit. Go Go Berlin certainly achieved that and more.
The set was also interspersed with sweet moments that showed the band almost grappling with the sheer volume of everything they’ve achieved in the past year. At one point Christian calls out, “How did we get this far?” going on to say “we played here one year ago and I need to ask you, are we topping ourselves right now? You have to prove it by showing me how much you can dance.”
“we played here one year ago and I need to ask you, are we topping ourselves right now? You have to prove it by showing me how much you can dance.”
We caught up with the band backstage before their performance; they look younger and more wholesome in person. They seem almost to have been swept up in the excitement of it all, speaking over each other at times. Christian comes in a little late and it’s immediately evident that his stage persona is a well-polished act that isn’t replicated in every day life. He, like the rest of the band is very humble, and fairly softly spoken.
The band has just come back from the USA where they met with industry professionals and music lawyers who, according to Stefan, all got excited about the band’s future. “It’s a big thing to take in, none of us had been to America before and we stayed in nice hotels and drove in big cars and spoke to lots of people,” says Mikkel. Adding, “it’s hard when it’s that far away, right now it feels quite surreal and like something that happened in a dream, I think we should go back and pinch ourselves when we’re there.”
“It’s a big thing to take in, none of us had been to America before and we stayed in nice hotels and drove in big cars and spoke to lots of people,”
Go Go Berlin go on their European tour tomorrow, and begin with a big TV show in Berlin. They will be travelling back and forth between major European cities and Denmark for 10 days. But this way of life is something the band has become used to in the past year, “I think we were on tour every third day of the past year,” says Mikkel.
One highlight of this already incredible set was during the song ‘Castles Made of Sand’. Christian stood in the middle of the stage, bathed in pinky, red light with the other instruments stripped back to basics. He filled the line ‘go easy on me, we all die young’, with such intense emotion that the audience was right there with him, breathing along to every word. It was a beautiful, vulnerable moment from an accomplished rock and roll front man which slowed the performance down just for a whisper, before the band went straight back in with heavy drumming and catchy guitar riffs.
It has to be said that Go Go Berlin are not doing anything new here, they’ve learnt from rock legends as epitomised by The Doors, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. However, in 2014, a year in which SPOT has heavily featured cool electro-pop in its many different forms, it seems that people just want some good classic rock and roll, to rock out to.
Go Go Berlin have reinvigorated old school rock and roll with some much needed adrenaline and the sharp shock of a defibrillator.
Go Go Berlin have reinvigorated old school rock and roll with some much needed adrenaline and the sharp shock of a defibrillator. When they left the stage they left many of us with the feeling that they’d only just got started and had far, far more to give, so I can definitely see them doing what Christian told us they plan to do, just keep going “up, up, up, up, up”.
Ellie Sellwood is from the UK and is an editor and journalist for Jutland Station. You can follow her on Twitter @EllieSellwood.
Fred Bonatto is an independent photojournalist and writer who has great passion for getting beneath the surface of his stories. More of his work can be seen by visiting fredbonatto.com.