Waves Vienna Festival Day 3
Co-written with Anna Deutsch
Day three of a festival is usually the one that calls for headache pills, water bottles and sunglasses. Not quite well rested and yet ready to hop on a bus along with a couple of other courageous delegates, we take the opportunity of a morning business mixer to have some breakfast while catching an act we'd missed the previous night: The Bianca Story, a five-piece band from Switzerland. From the next room - the bar area of a pub almost empty at this early hour of the day - a girl in a twenties' dress, black hair, pearl earrings and red lipstick appears. Though their whole set is an acoustic one, one can catch a glimpse of the power of their pop songs. Tunes like 'Dancing People Are Never Wrong' and 'High & Low' are the highlight of the showcase: the former an upbeat, eclectic track, the latter impossibly catchy through the refrain "We're in the ocean, darling / Lost in the ocean". Another, Friends Bar, which is jokingly introduced as a slightly cheesy anthem to late nights, is inspired by a hangout in their hometown: both voices (Anna's and Elia's) complement each other wonderfully and recall the Tom Waits of Nighthawks at the Diner.
Our next stop is a show in one of Vienna's best record stores, Recordbag. Surrounded by The Beatles In Mono, the new The XX vinyl and the complete The Smiths collection, the singer-songwriter duo Talking To Turtles are standing in the middle of the shop with a guitar, a keyboard and a xylophone. With their natural charm and songs ranging from fragile and melancholic to whimsical and humorous, the music of the two Germans hailing from Leipzig feels unobtrusive and sincere. Florian Sievers and Claudia Göhler also revealed the secret to their songwriting: verse – chorus – verse – chorus, then add something different and start off quiet to end loud. So simple, yet so effective - leaving half of the audience in tears.
One of our greatest discoveries of this year’s Waves Festival is Botibol from Bordeaux. In Roald Dahl’s short story Mr. Botibol, an odd man dedicates himself to the strange passion of pretending to conduct symphonies. There doesn’t seem to be anything odd about the French psychedelic-folk pop band, but their passion quickly becomes clear when the four musicians present their stunning arrangements through interlacing percussions, electronic elements, guitar and their striking polyphony. It’s especially in their melancholic tunes backing up the frontman's falsetto and in the long, instrumental interludes reminding us of Live-At-Sin-É sessions that the comparison of singer Vincent Bestaven to the musical grandeur of Jeff Buckley and Justin Vernon seems obvious and thoroughly legit.
Festivals just wouldn't be the same if it wasn't for wild-venue-hopping, meaning that during the short break, one of us must simply head to Brandwagen for the Mopedrock! set - just to check whether the Viennese band would fulfil our expectations. After a couple of songs, the answer is yes and no: the band play what we were prepared for prior to their live set, meaning French Rock the way we heard it in the nineties with a lot of energy and intelligent, witty lyrics and plays on words, but sadly they don't manage to impress us the way we hoped they would. As the show kind of drags on, we head back towards the water for yet another gig.
The second band of the Daka Tour label night on the MS Schlögen and yet another great pick of the French focus of Waves 2012: Concrete Knives bring their lively pop with a dynamic combination of female and male vocals and catchy melodies on this boat, quickly infecting the audience with their own enthusiasm. The five piece band from Caen have recently stirred the waters with their announcement of having signed to Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde's very own Bella Union, and the moment it starts, we understand his enthusiasm. The band, described by critics as France's new hope for pop music, present mainly songs from their EP You Can't Blame The Youth: 80's-flavoured pieces with stirring rhythms, pervaded by their unison chants. The cool-as-can-be, incredibly charismatic and yet very down to earth vocalist Morgane Colas makes the whole deck her dancefloor, swinging her hips in dark leggings and inviting the public to dance along, before the show ends in an energetic encore with percussions by the audience and members of Botibol off and on stage, turning the boat into one big party with your new French friends.
Devotional silence when we enter the big hall of Odeon theatre. Gravenhurst, the brainchild of Bristol-hailing singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nick Talbot, is already halfway through his set, accompanied by a keyboard player and surrounded by darkness. The atmospheric setting intensifies the haunting beauty of his songs and the nostalgia in his voice, as if he sang of old times past; he takes his time, spends long seconds sliding his fingers along his guitar strings, lets the notes vibrate and the chords echo against the cold theatre walls while the audience hold their breath, for fear of letting the magic fade away. Rather than building up to a climax, like many acoustic-electronic artists seem to do nowadays, Talbot rather strips his compositions bare, until there is nothing left but the ghost of a melody. Finishing his intriguing and somehow unsettling show with the 2004 song 'Black Holes In The Sand', it seems odd that despite consistently positive reviews from critics over the past twelve years, Gravenhurst still doesn't get all the attention he would deserve.
With our hearts still somewhat resonating, we move onto the last French band of this festival: Housse de Racket from Paris, who are playing in Austria for the very first time, as they point out the minute they grab the microphone on the stage of Clubschiff. Pierre Leroux and Victor Le Masne have been session musicians for Air and Phoenix before releasing their debut in 2008 – and that influence is quite obvious. On tracks like 'Les Hommes Et Les Femmes', synth traces are layered with indie guitars and energetic drums. It might not be the most original act we'll see, but it’s their pleasant conversation and buoyant way, the catchy tunes and the danceable sound that give them the certain je ne sais quoi to involve and charm the Waves public.
There would have been several ways to finish something as exciting as Waves Vienna 2012 in an appropriate way; most of us chose the big boom of Rangleklods, the project of the Dane Esben Andersen that became one of the bigger insider tips over the past two years in the underground scene of Berlin and Copenhagen. Behind the foggy haze, he performs his intense, electronic-pop pieces with heavy bass lines and a crystal clear voice, combining pre-recorded elements and female vocals - on the catchy first single 'Clouds' of his upcoming album - with several instruments live on stage. After a one-hour show, he screams out "I can't help it, I'm having too much fun!" to the dancing crowd below him; starting off with minimal and reduced sounds, Rangleklods steadily turns up the beat more and more, putting the audience at fluc wanne in a thrill of ecstasy with his wall of sound and leaving us unexpectedly breathless.
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