When a new friend in a foreign country offers to take you out, you accept. However, I can’t say I was terribly excited about seeing Balkan Beat Box and Miss Platinum. It was the description – dub reggae crossed with Eastern European gypsy music – that put me off. Assurances that ‘Balkan beat’ is the next big thing in Berlin were drowned out by images of white people with dreads throwing a party in a squat.
Actually, both bands were brilliant. Balkan Beat Box are one of the stars of the scene and their entrance from the rear of the auditorium had a triumphal quality. Wearing pig masks and marching to a military snare roll, they led a procession through the crowd (a capacity 500 on a Monday, incidentally). When they launched into their first song, the audience reaction was deranged. The drug of choice on the Balkan beat scene is vodka, consumed neat in Slavic quantities and tossed off in a single motion that ends up with the shot glass sailing over your shoulder. It showed. Every time Balkan Beat’s two saxophone players launched into a chorus the Glashaus looked like the set for the video of Jump Around by House Of Pain. The energy was totally irresistible.
Miss Platinum is a 22-year-old from Hungary and she appeared on stage wearing a rustic frock topped with a white apron. She’s a big lass and it looked like she’d come straight from the cheese counter at the Co-op. Thankfully, the music owed less to dub and more to hip hop, with Eastern European horns and melancholy melodies that recalled the Sicilian funeral scene in The Godfather. The end result was like The Streets if Mike Skinner came from Budapest, not Birmingham (and had a fantastically ample rack). Miss Platinum releases her debut single, I Want A Mercedes Benz, in the UK in December.
“It reminds me of when I first went raving,” said the German friend. Meanwhile, it reminded me of the first time I went to a drum’n’bass club in 1994 or when I saw Babyshambles play a secret gig in a dingy East End pub – a visceral thrill all the more exciting because hardly anyone knows about it yet (Miss Platinum doesn't even have a Myspace site!).
“Do you think the Borat thing will make it seem like a joke?” asked the German. Leaving aside the geographical objection that the Balkans and the Central Asian steppes are hundreds of miles apart, yes, Balkan beat does sound like the kind of made-up shaggy dog genre that Nathan Barley might play down at Trashbat. Until you hear it, that is.