Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sold Out Felabration Has Rough Start, Ends On A High

For the fourth time Jungle by Night are organizing Felabration, the annual celebration in honour of Fela Kuti. So far they have been able to come up with great bands and this year this is no different. Next to German band Karl Hector & The Malcouns they were able to book Ethiopean jazz master Mulatu Astatke. Plenty of reasons to join the celebrations again.

Felebration at Paradiso Amsterdam, October 11 2014

The celebrations are off to an early start and we can't make it in time for the beginning. Unfortunately this means we miss most of Karl Hector & The Malcouns' performance and walk in during their last song.

Mulatu Astatke
I'm glad though that we're on time to see Mulatu Astatke and his great band. After their wonderful performance at the Into The Great Wide Open festival last month I'm ready for a lot more. Unfortunately the sounds is absolutely awful and Mulatu's vibraphone is almost impossible to hear. The sound engineer must have been sleeping since it doesn't really improve and the sound stays pretty band throughout their performance. Mulatu and some of his band members are sometimes looking desperately in the direction of the monitor engineer, so I'm guessing things are sounding bad for them as well.

It doesn't get them down though and the band are trying their hardest to play a good show. The Ethiopean master is sometimes explaining what composition they were playing, but this is hard to understand. You can tell he has composed sound tracks since some of the songs sound cinematic. In other compositions you hear why he's performing here tonight, when the songs are explosive and percussive. The skill of these musicians and the strength of the compositions make their performance beat the miserable sound.

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Jungle By Night
Things are different when Jungle By Night take the stage. Maybe the settings of the sound table were saved only for their performance, since there don't seem to be any problems during their performance. The young boys are once again in a festive mood and totally turn the night into a celebration. By now they can turn any venue into a party and get any crowd to move. Where their older songs are typical afrobeat songs, the songs of the new album are so much more. What they have in common is that they all sounds exciting and are played with a lot of heart.

The boys are firing up the willing crowd and are totally killing it tonight. And of course they go out with a blow, when all musicians of the night are joining in on the ultimate Fela Kuti song 'Zombie'. Kuti himself would have loved to be on this stage himself.

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Monday, 13 October 2014

Fool's Gold Still A Hidden Gem

Mixing together African music with Western pop, Fool's Gold are an interesting band. The songs in Hebrew on their first self titled record made them sound even more exotic and managed to cause quite a buzz. This mix definitely works well and the band turns it into irresistible swinging songs. Time to check them out live.

Fool's Gold at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, October 8 2014

Only a handful of people found their way to the cosy venue for the band from LA. It's a small turn up for such an exciting band, but the band is determined to show everyone a good time. And that is very hard work tonight, since a part of the young crowd is a little more preoccupied with themselves and each other, than really paying a lot of attention to the band. When singer Luke Top is talking to the crowd, there's not much response.

It still doesn't get the band down, who work their way through a varied set. They have now found a stable line-up and have turned into a tight five piece. This is also noticeable in the new songs of their third album which will come out next year, that sound more coherent. The good thing tonight is that people did come in to do some dancing. And that is no problem with this band whose music is very hard to stand still to. The upbeat African rhythms are perfect to shake your booty to, which is exactly what everybody is doing. In the end that must be satisfying for this band who deserves much more. I'm definitely looking forward to their new album a lot.

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Thursday, 9 October 2014

An Adventurous Journey With Gruff Rhys

With his band Super Furry Animals, Welsh musician Gruff Rhys already proved to be a versatile and unique musician. This is also showing in his other bands and solo career, where he's exploring different aspects of the musical spectrum. And besides musician and composer he's also an author and film maker. Tonight these things come together in his American Interior show, in support of his latest solo album and book by the same name.

Gruff Rhys at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, October 7 2014

The concept album American Interior has an incredible story as a base. It's the story about Welsh explorer John Evans who in the 18th century travelled to Northern America to track down an Indian tribe that was believed to be of Welsh descendant. There was a story in that time that America was discovered long before Columbus did by a Welsh prince Madog in the 12th century. Evans eventually tracks down the tribe after a perilous journey, but finds out they are not Welsh descendants at all. By then he's backed by the Spanish, annexates a large part of Northern America by accident in the Spanish king's name and has drawn a map of the Missouri river. Tragically on his way back he dies in New Orleans.

Rhys will backtrack the story and journey of Evans tonight with us. Wearing a wolf's head (super furry indeed) he introduces us to the legend of the Welsh indians by showing a short movie. Then, supported by slides starring a puppet representation of John Evans, we see Rhys following in Evans' foot steps. It's a hilarious journey where Rhys proves to be an entertaining story teller, sounding almost a bit confusing, but with a lot of tongue in cheek. I'm sure it has many believing he made the whole story up, but if you google the internet, you'll find it all really happened.

Every time Rhys tells part of the story and follows it up by a song of the record. The songs match that part of the story or at least have a connection to it. Rhys plays an old out of tune guitar while singing and has all kinds of inventive tricks to back him up. He uses a loop station to create harmonies, playing records that he recorded himself with some beats and soundscapes, and sometimes uses an old fashioned metronome for rhythm. He's really skilled at it and you don't miss a band for one minute. On top of that he has a wonderful voice that sounds warm and pleasant. Rhys proves tonight that he's a one of kind artist, a proud Welsh man with many talents and a true entertainer.

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