it’s just past 5 pm on a saturday in february, and georgie fisher and i are on a hunt for plastic cups. wandering down marianenstrasse in kreuzberg, carrying multiple bags of ice, it would probably have been smarter to look for the cups first. i’m helping her set up for the travelling music event that she and her boyfriend, writer/poet wolf arand have brought to berlin. originally run by georgie’s sister and fellow musician stephanie grace in sydney, australia, the muso next door is a small-scale concert series that takes place in a different living room every month. february’s is their second. “we thought that after the first one, we’d have gotten the hang of it,” georgie says, balancing the bags of ice with one hand and smoking a cigarette with the other, “but you know… the second time around has taken even more organizing.” wolf has already had to rush back to friedrichshain to pick up the hand-painted signs their friend peer made especially for the night.
that’s the thing about putting up an event in someone’s living room. no matter how prepared you are, you’re never quite prepared enough. all things considered, georgie and wolf have done something really special. sometimes it seems like there’s an entire other world in berlin of which i’ve only just scratched the surface.
guests are allowed in by reservation only, and the events are kept small and intimate. the whole thing has the feeling of roots; like it’s home because, well, it is. in the end, 40 people showed up, huddled together on the floor, in chairs, and in doorways. it was warm and lit by candles. each artist takes the stage for 20 minutes, garnering two video/audio recordings that will serve as professional music videos for each — muso is not just a show, it’s a tell, too.
we welcome milly blue, a manchester-born, london-bred, berlin-based vocalist who plays with a loop pedal and a ukelele. there’s something sneakily sensual about the way that milly performs, and especially about the way that her voice moves like liquid over itself. she weaves tales of heartbreak and loss, joking that misery makes for the best creativity. milly has blue hair. her style is a mix of amy winehouse meets harajuku girl meets african queen, and it’s pulled off with flawless ferocity. she is at once honey and vinegar, with an unparalleled voice and technique.
next, german singer-songwriter max buskohl picked up the guitar. his singing voice carries so much that he barely needs the microphone, but he leans in close to it when he’s telling stories in between his performances. he talks about writing after heartbreak, describing the scene of drink-fueled haze in which he came up with “i made a mess.” there’s something about his lyrics and his honest guitar that makes all his songs feel like real life; his voice has a warmth that is familiar, and truthfully so comforting.
alice hills takes the stage last. compared to max’s big voice, we all worry that the recording might not take. having heard her delicate rehearsal performance, i thought of alice as all lace and flowers. but when she picks up the guitar in front of the crowd, she is all fire — the recording will be no problem. her demeanor is shy but her voice is not; she sings originals and covers florence + the machine with equal gusto.
the show ends. people talk continuously about how incredible the event has been. at the end of the night, we sit on the floor of the empty living room, drinking gin and tonics, listening as fellow musician harry leatherby has alice, max, milly, and laura guidi (the flat’s owner) sing bob marley tunes. the song breaks down into georgie’s “old saint charles” and everyone shouts the chorus. i can’t help but smile at how nostalgic it makes me feel, even though it’s my first time meeting most of these people. like i said — roots.
++ the next muso next door is set to take place on march 28 2015, by email reservation only. to reserve your spot, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “berlin” or visit their facebook page for more details.
++ all photos by jesus ortiz