Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jaki Liebeziet & Burnt Friedman, A Hawk & A Hacksaw, Nijdrop 15/05/09

A Hawk & A Hacksaw is a band from New Mexico. The poor dudes must have been confused arriving here in the middle of nowhere (of Flanders in fact) playing in an nearly empty old warehouse. Nevertheless, they have the right attitude and can't be bothered. 'We're here now anyway, so we play what we've got' is the attitude for this sort of occasions. With accordion, mandolin (or is that a bouzouki?), accordion (this guy also sings and has a sort of floor tom at his foot), violin, trumpet and tuba they play the sort of folk music that's heavily influenced by Balkan music with perhaps some hints of mariachi here and there. They manage to create a good atmosphere, automatically I think of some Kusturica movie scenes: weddings, drunk funerals, family parties etc... throw in a dog with three legs, cats eating from the table, a lost goat and you know what I mean. All in all, I liked the set and it made me thirsty. One advantage of a low turn-out at concerts is that you seem to own the place: no waiting at the bar, no endless trying to get the bartender/bastard's attention, no pushing your way through the audience and spilling beer etc...

Fortunately a bit more people have arrived when Jaki Liebezeit & Burnt Friedman kick of their set but the turn-out is still very disappointing. Where is everybody? Seeing Liebezeit drumming is some experience. Seated before (and a bit higher than) his four toms and three cymbals (and some well placed mics) - no footwork - he starts without hesitation hitting rhythms that he changes slowly, but never is there one hit out of place or out of rhythm. If you follow his hands and sticks it becomes mesmerising, he's like a human beat box. Sometimes in the beginning of each track you think that it mustn't be that difficult to follow him but his timing, attack and volume is perfect and damn, he subtly adds quite some variation. Liebezeit is in the music business since the middle of the sixties, starting in the German free jazz scene (see Manfred Schoof and even Brotzmann) before he played with Can and now, forty years later he's still going strong. Respect! Burnt Friedman is very complementary to what Liebezeit does. He contributes to the rhythms with lots of nice bleeping sounds (lots of lovely steel drum-like sounds) while at the same time weaving very beautiful sound blankets through the rhythmic patterns. Sometimes hints of melodies shine through, some dubby bas feelings show up and at one time he even used some acid house sounds in the mix. The duo works nicely towards some impressive climaxes to which the audience reacts very enthusiastic. They even come back to do an encore. I already saw them a couple of years ago (with a guitar player who wasn't that good) but this time I experienced it as much better. I must admit that at that time the beer flow had been going goddamn fast for a while, so maybe that element had something to do with it.

When experiencing the duo's high quality & highly recommendable chill out studio Cd's at home (first two Secret Rhythms volumes are wonderful, haven't heard third installment yet) I wouldn't recommend beer in plastic cups like I digested that night but I would suggest some nice dry white wine. And before the thousands of readers of this blog start to regard me as some sort of wine snob: I don't mean sipping on a glass like some sort of upper class idiot, while you most probably don't know anything about it but just swallow the stuff like a big boy and at least empty the goddamn bottle would ya?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No Neck Blues Band & Adam Egypt Mortimer, Bozar 05/05/2009

We arrive at Bozar and join a select group of people waiting in the entrance hall. There are only perhaps 30 people for the gig/film, which is a real disappointing turnout. I can't remember seeing any publicity for this show on fora or concerts (knew about the gig via band's newsletter) but then, I'm not following up 'the scene' as close as I want to. First off we receive a short informal speech from Adam Egypt Mortimer, the man who's making the No Neck Blues Band movie 'At 6 AM We Become The Police', which is scheduled to be released at the end of this year. He tells us the movie is almost finished, but he regards it as a work that is still in progress and as he is still shooting material it could be that things will be added/deleted. He warns us that it wasn't his intention to make a story about the band, its members and how they think about the band, music, musicianship, neither is its aim to inform the viewer about how the music is built, thought out, conceptualised or whatever. Instead, he wanted to keep the sort of mystery about the band alive. Indeed, the band members, sitting relaxed in the audience during the screening, confirm that in the beginning they were not open about his filming but after a while (Adam Egypt Mortimer has been following the band since early/mid '90s) things started to work out nice.
The movie itself is - just like the band and its music - one strange affair. All sorts of concert and rehearsal fragments are presented (some of them from a long time ago). The focus is rather on details, the camera shifts follow each other quite fast and the band is shot from different angles. The aim is clearly not to present statically how the band plays (from a more technical point of view), but rather to try to give the viewer an idea about how the band deals with chaos, improvisation, unexpected things, unusual concert settings (in open air for instance). The music sounds more chaotic/improvised/more extreme than the No Neck stuff I have at home. The fragments are mixed with fictional elements, sort of video-clip-style. I remember seeing the beginning of the movie on you tube, a strange thing where two band members (swimming and walking) are confronted with some sort of mirror closet or box and a shining purple eggplant. If that doesn't make much sense to you, well nothing about this band and this movie does. You just have to go with the flow and enjoy the weird but fascinating trip. No questions are answered, but I would say, leave the questions behind and enjoy the images. All is well filmed, cut, pasted. O yeah, there is nudity in the movie ... a man in the nude fighting it out with some lobsters (only a few, not that much, for budget reasons Adam explains afterwards :-). Rock Lobster indeed!

After a short pause the band enters the stage one by one. At first we thought the sound check was still going on but it appeared to be the guy from Embryo (I think ...) sitting on a cheap keyboard, rubbing it, pressing his hands on it and doing some vocal improvisations. Afterwards, a huge flight case (looks almost like a coffin) is put on the stage. In it is Matt Heyner, who leaves the thing, covered with a black cloth and his addition to the rest of the show is him in a sort of slowed down fight with the flight case and the cloth. Meanwhile percussion, guitars and vocals enter the mix. The atmosphere of the music is loose, relaxed, a bit tumultuous and chaotic. A band member is standing in the audience, clapping, shouting and suddenly he enters the stage with white tissues he must have got from the toilet and soon he is dressing every band member with it, while dropping the pants of the percussionist before he picks up the bass and starts playing along. The last part of the set is more introspective, some slightly melancholic/melodic elements turn up (from the bass and guitar players). After perhaps three quarters of an hour they stop playing, leaving the people a bit in a surprise that the set is already finished. We hit town to drink a couple of beers and conclude that the show and the movie were good. Surely strange but good.

Digested the show with regular beer, experience could have been better with Chimay Blue