Ingrid Michaelson at Chelsea

Posted April 22, 2009 by benjkitz
Categories: Gigs, Music


Thou shall not think having a blog makes you a journalist

– From Thou Shall Always Kill (De La Edit),

Dan LeSac Vs Scroobius Pip

I should probably start with that point.  I am fully aware that I hardly qualify as part of the new wave of journalism.  I will not be reporting,  nor offering commentary about the news any time soon, mostly because if I were to look into what’s going on in the world today, my first stop would be Wikipedia.  However, one of the great many benefits of having a blogging account is that I’m able to give into certain pretensions, certain desires to be something like a journalist.  And so it is that in this entry, I will be reviewing a gig.

I’ve adopted the view that, whatever I do, I’ll leave my Erasmus year in considerable debt so I may as well enjoy myself.  So it was that last night I found myself in the Chelsea pub to watch Ingrid Michaelson perform live.

Before the gig, I had never heard Ingrid Michaelson, I’d barely even heard of her, nor had I been to the bar she was playing at, despite it being a major Viennese venue for up-and-coming performers.  I went in with absolutely no expectations, nor preconceptions about what I was about to see, which made the overall experience all the better



Chelsea is the perfect underground music club; built into the arches of a U-bahn bridge just outside of the city centre.  It reminded me of the Cavern in Liverpool, all brick archways and windowless walls with tattered posters everywhere and I was lucky enough to arrive early with my friends and find a perch at the bar next to the stage, a perfect place for music appreciation, especially if the band turns out to be bad.

Martin and James

Martin and James

The warm up act were a couple of Glaswegian guys called Martin and James who played a set of acoustic indie songs, which to my mind were completely indistiguishable from one another.  This is not to say they were bad, they both had voices tempered by a Gallic lilt and they played their instruments well, but there was no song or tune which stood out and stuck in my memory.  They did manage to generate a good rapport with the crowd and I got the feeling that they have a charisma which they’ve not yet fully tapped.  Maybe in a few years I’ll come across them again and I’ll reserve full judgement when and if that time comes.

The main event however, was a totally different story.  Ingrid is a talented songwriter; each song is distinct and she makes use of several different instruments (Piano, Guitar and Ukelele), while following the same folk style.  Her songs speak of love and happiness in simplicity, with memorable lyrics and tunes which make me smile when I hear them all sung in a voice which is simply beautiful.  It should say something that the morning after the gig, I downloaded Ingrid’s first album from iTunes because I still had Breakable stuck in my head.

The highlight of the gig was her banter with the audience between songs.  You can see that she enjoys her job and it shines through as she jokes about such simple things – an audience member’s high pitched sneeze, for example – with a quick wit and improvisation which would put many stand up comedians to shame.  She has a very self-depricating sense of humour as well.  She joked several times about how she and her sidewoman, the charming and understated Allie Moss, stare at each other during her love songs and was not afraid to laugh at herself when she made a mistake mid-song.

Ingrid Michealson (Right) performing with Allie Moss

Ingrid Michealson (Right) performing with Allie Moss

From going in having never heard a single Ingrid Michaelson song, I left sad that the encore – a rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, in which she showed off her vocal skills – hadn’t been longer or contained more of her own songs.

At the very least I would recommend her first album Girls and Boys to people, but I would most certainly go out of my way to attend a gig if she were playing near me again.

Ingrid Michaelson can be found at

Martin and James can be found at


I don’t know the Irish for “Welcome Back”

Posted April 20, 2009 by benjkitz
Categories: Erasmus, Philosophising, Travel

The Irish are back. Most of my time spent in Vienna is spent with a group of three Irish girls and an Irish guy and they arrived back on Sunday. Jon rang me when they got back, inviting me out to lunch – which, incidentally was the first internal call I’d received since arriving here, causing me to jump out of my chair at how loud the phone’s ring was.

Despite having just flown in from Ireland, we went to an Irish pub for food, and whilst we were sitting, talking, it occured to me that this was the first time in a fortnight that I’d had any contact with my peers. For all that I love about it, everyone I know in Kitzbühel is at least ten years older or younger than me, which can leave you kind of alienated.

They also meant that I got out of the house more.  I thought that I would wander around the city during the last few days of my Easter holidays, but I felt no real compulsion to do anymore than I needed to.  I have a theory that, whereas in Seville, where I would go out to get personal space away from my roommate, in Vienna, where I have no roommate and infinite personal space, I want to spend time with people when I go out.  Of course, I could just motivate myself, but I want to justify my laziness.

Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?

Posted April 19, 2009 by benjkitz
Categories: Ben is a strange child, Bloggery, Philosophising

I have a sneaking suspicion that I have a subconscious desire to make life more complicated for myself.

As of today, for example, I possess accounts for Hotmail, YouTube, Twitter and – obviously – WordPress (to which you probably don’t need a link).  Quite aside from being an affront to nearly every grammatical rule I’ve ever learnt, these are websites dedicated to messages, videos, shorter messages and blogging, respectively.  All of these service are offered by Facebook.  And yet, I find myself more and more disinterested with Facebook, in spite of its services.

At the same time, I have, for many years now, resisted any suggestion that I should get a phone for anything other than calling and texting.  Blackberries and iPhones can probably take pictures and video as well as my digital camera and play music as well as my iPod and they have the added benefit of being a phone in a casing so slim that people wouldn’t even notice it in your pocket.  Yet, I possess a phone, a camera and an iPod which, when carried together, make me appear to be following in the fashion footsteps of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Moreover, with the combined amount  I spent on phone, camera and pod, I could have easily purchased a top of the range phone which offered the features of all three and paid the monthly fees for a year with change to spare.

Admittedly with the internet sites there are some benefits not offered by Facebook; relative anonymity for one.  I enjoy putting myself online, I enjoy the feeling of being connected, even if very few people read what I have to say, but I would never be so open on a site like Facebook, because everyone I know in real life is on there, from people I’ve known since before I started school, to people I’ve had a passing encounter with once, to potential employers.  There are friends who, if I learnt they read this, I would not mind – I might even encourage it – and they would be the ones most likely to read a note of mine on Facebook.  Nonetheless, I don’t want everyone to have access to it, which is why few of my friends know of my my myriad [insert letter here]logs.

However, those same benefits don’t exist in the phone world, most of the options I’d lose from my iPod or camera would be the superfluous ones I don’t use in the first place, so I’m spending more money for things which I don’t use.  With websites, I just have a few more bookmarks, with electronics I have a lot less money.

The irony here is that I’ve always insisted that I choose to have seperate things for specific taks for the sake of simplicity.  When did simplicity become so complex?

Things to do

Posted April 18, 2009 by benjkitz
Categories: Bloggery, Philosophising

According to a list I wrote on the back of a receipt last night, today I had to do the following things:

1.     Buy Spanish exercise book

Attempted, failed.  I tried several bookshops local to my flat with no joy, eventually I had to go the the Bucherei (German, lit: bookery – a bookshop) at the university, where the teacher had assured the class they could find the book.

It wasn’t there either

I was delighted to find some Jasper Fforde books in there – in English, though I do wonder if I could find them in German – but the Spanish book won’t be in until the end of the week at the earliest.

I’ve resolved to go to the library on Monday to find the book, they should have one copy, at least. (update: did you buggery – 20/04)

2.     Top up phone

Done.  It was a remarkably easy thing to do, I only had to go to the one shop.  However, the guy at the counter twigged I was English and apparently wanted to practice his.  We both seemed to think the grass was greener in the other person’s respective country (he preferred England to Austria and vice versa).  After fifteen minutes though, I started to worry he was going to keep me there all afternoon, but he had to deal with a phone call and bade me goodbye not long after that.

3.     Go to gym

Done.  Now repeat daily.

4.     Finish editing and uploading videos from Kitzbühel

Did one, still have to record a bit for the fourth one.  I should also do a few “lost weeks” videos for Sevilla using photos.  I’m not sure why I think this is something I should do.  Maybe it’s a symptom of the era I grow up in; all our lives must be broadcast!

“Our lives must be broadcast”.  That suddenly got me thinking of a friend of mine who I haven’t heard from in ages, because she deleted her Facebook account.  I feel bad about it, but I wonder if I would still want to contact her if she did have Facebook.

I’ve found myself wondering recently if Facebook allows me to take people for granted, because they’re always in plain site.  Why do I need to get in contact with anyone, when even the most trivial of news is all laid out before me in a convenient feed.  I’ve been debating recently whether or not I should delete the thing, the people that care enough will find another way to contact me and I’m sick of always feeling the ned to update photos and statuses and other such gubbins.

We shall see.

If music be the food of love

Posted April 17, 2009 by benjkitz
Categories: Recipes

What a great day, I was mildly productive whilst doing barely anything at all.  It was a guitar day!

I don’t know why I’m suddenly taking an interest in the guitar again.  I’ve been playing for about six years now, but have done barely anything with it in the year and a half before I came to Austria.  I brought my sister’s acoustic guitar out here with me on a whim and now I feel like I’m getting more out of it than I ever have previously.

I blame Travis.

I learnt Writing to Reach You about a month ago and it seemed to be a Goldilocks song; not so easy as to be dull, but not so hard that it can’t be perfected in a few days.  Since then I’ve been focusing on rhythm guitar rather than lead and I’m loving it.

I’ve spent the past few days learning songs like Drops of Jupiter and Wild World, songs which offer a fun challenge.  But today I tried learning American Pie and I can’t decide whether I love of hate Don McClean for this song.  On the one hand, there are a lot of chords, which makes it hard to commit the song to memory and the changes between them are sudden.  But everytime I pick up the guitar to play it, I feel happy, because once you have a basic idea (and a list of chords in front of you) it’s incredibly fun to play.

Also on the productive side of things, I learnt a new recipe.  I can now make a fairly decent carbonara sauce, though the next time I make it I need to make a few changes:

Problem: Started frying garlic and onion too early, so it stuck to the pan (I do this so often when I’m cooking)

Solution: Chop everything before you put anything in the pan

Problem: Egg sauce too thick

Solution: Well, that’s because you misjudged how small your eggs were and used four eggs when the recipe said two.  Also the crème fraîche was mostly solid when it was added to the egg; heat it gently before mixing it in next time.

In spite of those two hiccups, the sauce was delicious.

Now it is nearly midnight, I’m going to get ready for bed, listen to the Now Show and the listen to something less interesting to fall asleep to (podcasts are the only was I can get past my insomnia at the moment).

‘Cause I’m leavin’ on a sleeper train, don’t know when I’ll be back again

Posted April 15, 2009 by benjkitz
Categories: It's not just me, Travel

I forgot to write about the dog with dreadlocks yesterday, being entirely too excited about my sledless sledding.

I was an entirely bizarre sight, made all the weirder for me having to explain it, as I wasn’t quick enough off the mark to get my camera out.  It was a live action version of Dougal, the dog from The Magic Roundabout, except that all the visible fur on it had been braided into hundreds of thin dreadlocks, in such a way that it must have cost the owners a great deal of money and yet served no other perposed except that it made the dog look ridiculous.

Despite having to wake up entirely too early, the journey back to Wien was very relaxing.  Aside from the first half hour of train to bus to train again switching, I spent most of the 6 hour journey on one train.  The biggest drama was that I had to walk along the train and back to find a seat, but when I found one I got really lucky.

The train had individual compartments, something I have never seen on a real train, only in movies, so I was a little overexcited by them.  When I’d finished walking along the train for the second time, I noticed that one of the compartments had its curtains drawn in such a way that it appeared to be closed off.  On closer inspection it appeared just to have a stiff door and was absolutely fine.  I sat myself down and none of the ticket inspectors questioned me about why I was there.

I am just a little bit of a poser

The compartments in Austrian trains are the height of luxury when it comes to rail travel, each contains six seats which recline inwards to form three beds.  I was able to spend most of the journey lying back, listening to podcasts and watching the higher bits of the world go past.  Lovely.

The one thing that did annoy me today didn’t happen until I got back to the station in Wien.  A guy came up and asked me for 2 Euro odd for his train.  Unfortunately for him, any money I had was deep at the bottom of my bags, so I told him I didn’t have any.  But he asked again, so I repeated, clearly, that I couldn’t help him.  And still he persisted, which really worked against his as – sleeping compartment or no – long journeys exhaust me and this guy was beginning to get on my tired nerves, making me even less inclined to part with my money.  Eventually, I had to turn out my pockets and, in rather clipped tones, tell him that I didn’t have any money.

I am aware of the inherent irony that by the time I finally got the guy to leave me alone I could have just as easily dug the money from out of my bag, but that he came to the station without extra cash is ridiculous, that he didn’t have a cash card to get some more money, doubly so.  I neither know if he got his train, nor care.

I should probably be mildly concerned that at the age of 20, I am becoming a grumpy old man.  But then, it will happen eventually, I may as well get the practice in now.

Not goodbye, auf wiedersehen

Posted April 14, 2009 by benjkitz
Categories: Ben is a strange child, Deftness for Daftness, Travel

Today I managed to spend a lot of time rolling in snow, quite a feat considering there’s barely any left.  So little, in fact, that the cable cars have stopped running to the top of the Hahnenkamm; yesterday was the last day of the ski season.

Today I went with Waltraud, Heidi and the kids to the Schwarzsee, literally translated as “Black Sea”.  It reminded me of when I first watched The Sound of Music.  It was from this film that I learnt that Austria had a navy (in which Herr Von Trapp is a captain) and this has never made sense to me; why should a landlocked country possess the means to defend shores it doesn’t have?  At the time, I jokingly asked if the enemy ships were flown to lakes so that the opposing sides could shoot at each other, to this day I still wonder if that’s what happens.

There were people swimming in the Schwarzsee, which was strange.  I’ve swum in it before, but that was in summer, we’ve just left the ski season and the lake was iced over less than a week ago.  I was also slightly disappointed that there was a light wind causing ripples on the water.  When it’s still, the lake is a perfect mirror, and it’s hard to tell which is the real mountains and which are the refections in photographs.  I did learn that the lake and its mud is over 300,000 years old and very good for rheumatism – interesting stuff!

It was inevitable, really

It was also here that I had my first close encounter of the snowy kind for the day.  We went of the beaten track following a kind of woodland adventure playground for kids, part of the track was covered by snow, which was hard packed.  Except when I stood on it and wound up buried up to my ankle!

This was only a taste of what was to come, though, a taste of what I would subject myself to just a few hours later when I went to the Hahnenkammrennen track.  During the winter, the piste in one of the fastest, most dangerous race courses in the world.  But now the snow is mostly melted away, the last layers being just slush and ice.  This evening, I decided I had to climb it.

It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing.  There is a large hoarding of Kitzbühel’s symbol (a modern rendering of the coat of arms) and from my arrival, I’ve wanted a picture in front of it, but it was always too far away.  So this evening, it being my last night, I resolved to climb up to it.

The first part – getting across the kiddie slope between the road up the mountain and the actual course – was fairly easy, the little snow that was there was soft enough to give me grip, but hard enough that I wouldn’t go through.  Gradually, however, it became slippery slush and my shoes were quickly soaked.  I got to the main piste and just had to keep plowing on, heading for a grass patch just in front of the sign.  It was only a few hundred meters, but I was worried about slipping, I was worried that I wasn’t allowed to be up here and the Polizei might come after me, I was worried that my camera my not save the pictures properly, making this all for nothing.  I was loving every minute of it.

When I made it, I went snap happy.  Every angle, expression, gesture I could think of, I took a several pictures of each.  I felt I had earned every one and the right to make sure that I had at least on perfect picture in there.  I even filmed some video whilst I ewas up there, which I want to use later (I’m putting foresight into my vlogs, now I shall be unstoppable).

Of course, then I had to get down.  I wasn’t keen on walking; the snow was soft and slipping over would be a lot more hazardous whilst walking down than it had been going up.  I thought it was a shame that I didn’t have a sled… and a thought struck me.  The snow was soft, I was wearing sturdy jeans, it would probably happen anyway if I tried to walk.  I should slide down!

It took me maybe five minutes, during which my thought processes alternated between “this is stupid” and “this is genius”.  I resolved at stupid at a plateau, where I could cross to the main road and head into town and where I stood up and was able to crack the ice in my half-frozen jeans: it was an entirely stupid idea, but totally worth it.  I also found the eaiest way to the road was using a skiing/skating movement, so I have now (sort of) skied in Kitzbühel.

Whilst I was in town, I bought some gifts for the family.  I bought a bottle of Austrian wine – called Servüs, the dialekt equivalent of aloha – for Heidi and husband, Michael, in thanks for their food and hospitality.  It was only a cheap thing, but they appreciated the gesture.

I also bought Waltraud a plant.  She has several Phalaenopsis, which Heidi pointed out to me, and I bought her another.  I was going to get a small one for €13, but it was a choice of that or a much bigger one for only €3 more.  For the past 10 days, Waltraud has fed me, given me a bed, washed my clothes and gone out of her way to take me places in the area.  She allowed me to stay with her family and in doing so, invited me to take part in her family’s Easter celebrations.  An extra €3 was the least I could do.

She was almost in tears of happiness when I gave her the plant – she calls it her Queen – and Robert was beaming at me.  I’d wanted to get him something as well, but I couldn’t work out what.  In the end, what I’ve learned about Robert is that his greatest joy is his family.  It’s subtle, but whenever he’s listening to his grandchildren babble or he sees his wife and kids happy, there is never anything other than a smile on his face.  I kind of hope he smiles like that when he thinks of me.

I’ve really enjoyed my time in Kitzbühel.  This place is my home, even if I am barely here.  The one downside of the place is that there’s no one my own age here to experience this with me.  A friend in Wien said he wanted to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck.  I’m going to see if he wants to add Kitzbühel to his itinerary.  I’d like to show him around.