Waves Vienna Festival Day 1
Co-written with Anna Deutsch
To slowly get into the swing of things, we start by heading to the Polish/Austrian afternoon reception at Hotel Stefanie - mainly to see Paula and Karol, a wonderful pop outfit from Poland. Everything about their presence on the improvised stage of the Hotel Stefanie Dining Room screams loveliness. With the two main voices accompanied by bass, electric guitar, violin and, of course, a xylophone, their music is upbeat and catchy, sometimes tipping into the slightly nostalgic.
One of the most peculiar venues of this year's Waves is the Red Bull Brandwagon, a truck on two floors parked in the middle of the busy square behind Vienna central train station Praterstern. Dust-Covered Carpet, who define their music as 'action-folk', gave it the kick-off on Thursday evening, among crowds of passers-by. The band's frontman led the game with a light sphere in his hands and his quivering, almost whiny voice - in a manner not unlike Conor Oberst's early works - alternating between quiet and loud passages, all the while escorted by cello, drums and bass, at times picking up a trumpet, making it clear to the audience that the world of DCC is a perfectly contained, harmonious and yet distorted, universe.
The first thing that comes to your mind when you enter Vienna's Odeon Theatre, a 19th century building with its high ceiling and the massive columns, is probably 'wow'. And so, one's mind still set back in the Italian Renaissance, Einar Stray and his band enter the stage to the first beats of 'Chiaroscuro'. In the big hall of the theatre, his post-rock instrumental parts seem even more powerful, while the combination of Einar's and double bassist Ofelia's voices reaches dramatic heights.
Einar is one of those musicians you can actually see feel his own music: when he plays the keyboard with eyes closed, leaning back and forth, or when he sits on the ground with his legs crossed and his head in his lap, while the violin and the double bass fade out.
Absynthe Minded, Belgium's 'best-kept secret', have several influences to be found in their pop-rock: swing, jazz, gypsy music. On stage among clouds of fog and under the red spotlights, they go wild, performing many tracks from their new album As It Ever Was, the frontman jumping with his guitar, keys and strings perfectly synchronised to create a very accessible sound.
The entrance of a woman with a long, dark robe. It's Dillon, the girl from Brazil who moved to Germany and released her highly-acclaimed debut album there in 2001. There she stands, out of the spotlight, with only some bright spots touching her face from time to time. She plays 'Thirteen Thirtyfive', and the excitement as to when the shadow will fall rises. But you are literally left 'Tip Tapping' in the dark: the spotlight perfectly manages to avoid Dillon at every single song, leaving this mystery around her person even though she's been printed on her own CD cover. Her reserved attitude is only interrupted by short interactions with the audience, when all of a sudden she turns into the outgoing type and encourages all the ladies to sing along. The singer who has experienced quite a hype around her debut album and has who been compared to Björk and Joanna Newsom still manages to unleash this feeling of intimacy with the honest stories told in her songs, the reduced and spare beats and the powerful yet not pitch-perfect voice, that takes your breath and closes your throat. And even though her performance tends to seem too orchestrated, too flawless, you leave the show with goosebumps all over your body, unconsciously humming "the sound of the leaves when my feet hit the ground."
Agent Side Grinder have been compared to Joy Division - not without reason, as frontman Kristoffer Grip's droning, hypnotic voice resembles Ian Curtis' in an astonishing way. By the end of 'Look Within', the first track of their latest effort, the band already have their audience stuck in a trance in the small, smoky venue, nodding to the repetitive percussions and synths. ASG play a blend of raw industrial and rhythmic dark wave where everything is made up primarily of unsettling bass, echoes, reverbs; the incredible anti-charisma of Grip plays a huge part in this disturbing mix, as he dances away and freezes for minutes at a time, forcing his mesmerized public into a bizarre time warp.
Next up are Me And My Drummer, no longer an insider tip: the filled Flex Café shows that the word about the German duo Charlotte Brandi and Matze Prölloch spread since the release of their début album The Hawk, The Beak, The Prey in May. Piano and drums come together to form electronic sounds and bittersweet indie-pop, with raw, straight-forward lyrics. The performance is a truly poignant one, playfully intimate and accompanied by Charlotte's charming interludes: when she sends back the sound technician because it's her temper we hear and not the creaking of the piano, or when she dedicates a song to her soul sister Britney Spears.
It may sound like a band, but it's not. It's just Tobias Siebert, his guitar, his chucks, the bottle of red wine in the roll cart and his old record player. Tobias has been producing for several German bands, but then decided it's time to write his own stories and put them on vinyl. One man on stage with an invisible band, the crackling noise of the record turning, the love stories, his fragile voice, the changing of vinyl after each song – And The Golden Choir creates a special atmosphere, an atmosphere which words can't even capture, a coarse intimacy that recalls Elliott Smith's delicate recordings.
The last stop of the evening is at fluc wanne for London-based Ghostpoet, who creates layers of experimental hip-hop merged with dubstep and pulls them together flawlessly by means of his poetry: yes, Obaro Ejimiwe is a true poet, of the sensible and hilarious kind, and a perfect ending to our first Waves night this year.
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