July 2016. I’m chilling at Jubilee Gardens during some downtime in London, as I have done a few times before. After all, Southbank is often a good place to kill time. I see these cool-looking dudes with guitars on their backs walk past. Our glances meet so I give them a nod, they give me a nod. I worry that they’re a band I really should recognise so don’t bother asking who they are. A while later I decide to head to the undercroft to check out the skaters, and I see these guys again. Ok, I think, it must be fate. So I catch one of them and ask them who they are cause they seem to be my kind of band, then he proceeds to give me a couple of stickers with their name on. Breathe Atlantis. An alternative rock band from Essen in Germany. We say goodbye and go our separate ways.
Two months later after some Facebook chats and semi-impulsive plans being made, I find myself at their album release show in Essen. I had a short work shift the morning of the show then travelled there afterwards as it was my weekend off. My flight was late, I have not even checked into my hotel yet and I have missed all of the support bands, but I am here. Despite having had some introduction to them online, I am still nervous as I only briefly interacted with the drummer back in July. During the show I gave a confused look to him whilst the singer was saying something to the crowd and he motioned for me to ‘jump’. So I jumped along. Sang along. Loved it. The show was very energetic with crowd surfers coming from the back of the room and mosh pits but it was so much more respectful of personal space than similarly energetic shows in England. It balanced enthusiasm with not actually hurting anyone else. Afterwards, one member poured me a drink. The merch guy invited me to the afterparty. Despite being overwhelmed with the language barrier and general social aspect of it, I felt welcomed. A walk around the city the next day and I get a feeling I hadn’t had since my first visit to Copenhagen 3 years prior. I feel at peace. However this time it is somehow different. It just feels ‘right’. I cannot explain it, but something about the ambience of the city makes me feel like this is where I am meant to be.
Over the next year I branch out, listening to other bands on their label (Redfield Records/Redfield Digital), through Facebook connections and on the compilations of a little clothing company called Oakheart, who had a stall at the release show. I start planning a longer trip and come August 2017 I have a whole week in the city planned, staying in an airbnb apartment, navigating public transit and living like a local, which only solidified my sense of belonging.
Breathe Atlantis have no show on, so they invite me to come hang out in their rehearsal space. Hearing the pure non-mixed sound through headphones gave me an even greater appreciation for their talents, particularly the vocalist. I go to four other shows that week. One is a punk show with a Mexican band & a Croatian band and the atmosphere is just as good as last time. I also catch The Creepshow, who I am ashamed to say I had not seen previously. I also took a trip to Bochum to see my favourite musical in its dedicated theatre – something I had wanted to do for several years.
On the last day of my holiday I go onto Düsseldorf and see two shows in one night. Firstly a small festival that appears to actually be someone’s back garden but hey that sorta thing isn’t unheard of (Leefest, anyone?) and there’s a pretty good band called Vanbargen playing. After a couple of bands I head out to the main event I was in the city for – When Stars Collide at ‘Rock Am Kraftwerk‘, another outdoor all-dayer. When Stars Collide, Breathe Atlantis’ label-mates, are a synth-metal band with a fantastic light show. One of them I had been talking to came out to meet me and gave me a wristband for free entry. He also allowed me to use his band food/drink stamp card to save me money. They put on a great show despite the technical difficulties. I received a dedication before their pma anti-suicide song ‘Blind’, my favourite of theirs. It was a perfect end to a perfect week.
Over the rest of the year I continue to expand on my collection of German music and wonder when my next trip will be. After all, I need to start slowing down on big trips and sort my finances/life out. I decide to go to one show in February 2018, called Riot Vision Fest. It’s a hardcore half dayer with a couple of Redfield Records bands (The Pariah & Elwood Stray) and some other acts including one from the U.K. called Polar so it was admittedly nice to hear some English accents. Whilst I didn’t quite have the rapport with them that I did with When Stars Collide & Breathe Atlantis, it was still a good night. Two other gigs pop up that I want to go to within the two months following that event. I can’t afford both, I don’t know if I can afford just one, but I figure it out & thanks to a couple of friends letting me crash with them manage to get to both.
March 2018 was a dream line-up. Two of my favourite Redfield-related bands, Team Stereo (who actually have a couple of Redfield staff as members) and City Kids Feel The Beat plus another pop-punk band called Waste of Mind who I was initially less familiar with but loved after seeing them. The latter play a song called ‘Home’ which gave me the title of this article, and hearing it in the area I love was great. Team Stereo were just as happy to see me as I was them, much like Breathe Atlantis were in previous visits. They wanted to take a photo with me. I had wanted to meet the frontman since my initial discovery of the scene back in 2016. During one song we moved closer to each other & shared a mic for my favourite line of one of my favourite songs by them. CKFTB put on a brilliant show & it was great to finally see them. Whilst the show wasn’t in Essen, the atmosphere of the show was still the same I was used to.
Most recently, I went to see a band I had discovered through a merch company promo pack that came with the order of another band’s album bundle. The Prosecution are an amazing semi-political skacore band who put on a brilliant show despite the frontman having to be seated due to a bad back. The support acts, Sidewalk Surfers and Rag A Muffin, also put on a good show and again the atmosphere is on point. A notable moment was during the song ‘Where We Belong’ by The Prosecution. A crowd/band chant of “say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” that, as an outsider (though not refugee) who hopes to move there one day, rang especially true and gave a sense of camaraderie against the xenophobia creeping back up in the world.
I currently have no solid plans to return for a long time, beyond catching a farewell show in November (a band called A Traitor Like Judas) due to a small convention I needed money for plus that whole ‘sorting my life out’ thing I was supposed to be doing in the first place. My financial & medical ties in the U.K mean I am unlikely to be able to move there pre-Brexit and I am unsure if I ever will – perhaps I will find a good reason to stay here beyond needing to for my medical issues, gender transition & whilst paying off my overdraft. I know I have only seen a fraction of the country for very brief amounts of time but I found myself getting more emotional as I waited for my flight back to London every time. I get ‘homesick’ for it. I miss Breathe Atlantis so much it hurts, as OTT fanboy as that may seem. I hang an ‘I <3 Essen’ keyring from my backpack and a ‘Germany’ keyring from my workbag. I have a Redfield Records/Oakheart tattoo because that label and those compilations have been big players in my music tastes and experiences over the past two years nearly.
The best way to end this is with a quote from a song called ‘Fire Fighter’ by Grizzly. I think it sums up my feelings about Breathe Atlantis, Essen and all the bands I have seen in the past two years. “Because of you I know where I belong, I finally found the place that I want to call home”.