Katzenjammer Live 23rd May 2012

At XOYO

Katzenjammer is four girls from Norway making mad and energetic folk pop. They are incredibly upbeat and are hard to dislike. It was the kind of gig that left you with a smile on your face for the rest of the night.

[youtube http://youtu.be/-kbdCDeKSoI]

The opening act, Ben Caplan, was a solo singer-songwriter from Canada. Just him, his guitar and is impressive beard. This time without his band, The Casual Smokers, he took to the stage and caught the appeal of the crowd. His humour and good songwriting won us over and had us singing along before the end of his set.

I didn’t catch the name of the second act. He was a soul singer with a good voice and a talented, if very understated, guitarist. Unfortunately I didn’t find them very engaging and it served as a chance to go to the bar.

Katzenjammers entrance was unpretentious. The entire night ran very smootly, not a soundcheck in sight. Simultaneously showy and understated, the band lacked a front person. Or rather they rotated. Between them they played guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, glockensiel, trumpet, harmonical, piano, acordian, banjo and more that my amazed mind can’t remember.  As if this wasn’t enough they were constantly swapping instruments and all singing simultaneously.

Even if renditions of songs like Demon Kitty Rag were less frenetic than in the studio the band themselves were not. There was a constant energy and air of fun about the entire show. We were encouraged to chant ‘in Norwegian’ to which a bemused Norwegian in the crowd commented that it was nonsense.

Charming and charismatic, you can’t help but react to their infectious rythmns. It was a damn good set and I hope they visit again.

[youtube http://youtu.be/3f8IPjm_-nc]

Strive

The future is all around us. Its in the air; we live and breathe it. Each day it shifts in and out of focus. There are brief moments that I feel I know what I am doing. There are others I am lost.

There are times I feel I’m heading in a direction I want. There are other I feel myself drift away. Day by day I strive to head only where I want. Sometime I make progress.

There is a sea of distraction within an ocean of possibility. I can create and I can consume. There will always be something new.

There are options. Most boundaries are illusory. The path is just poorly lit. There is drive and there is ambition, but without bounds focus is sorely lacked.

Another day brings another distraction. Always on the move. I make what I can of this world. I take what I am given and return what I can.

I am callous and confused, but I strive.

Bristol Folk Festival 2012

A week on from The Bristol Folk Festival and I have decided that a blow by blow account of the festival may not be the best idea. It would leave me with questions such as ‘you spent how much?’ and ‘you did what until seven in the morning on the bank holiday Monday?’

As a result, I’ll just list some of the moments I found note worthy. In no particular order:

Solarference and Duotone both had interesting uses of live looping. The former using Max/MSP to create ambient soundscapes from voice, guitar and specific props. The latter using a traditional looper on voice, cello and guitar to create some big building tracks, as well as some prettier moments. Unfortunately, I doubt either will translate adequately to a recorded medium.

The duos Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin and Katriona Gilmoure & Jamie Roberts used purely acoustic instruments, but showed songwriting prowess with some modern influences. The former beatboxed whilst playing harmonica and lapsteel very well. The latter had one of the more poppy sounds of the weekend and played guitar percussively to good effect.

Show of Hands and 3 Daft Monkeys were good, as always. The former have just played The Royal Albert Hall and are deserving of their reputation. The latter are just fun. This time they had a dance floor and got us all to waltz.

Afro Celt Sound System were the find of the festival for me. I was familiar with who/what they were, but not their material. As with last year, the headliners were different from any of the acts before, but you could hear their influences throughout their sound. They married Celtic sounds with African and modern drums, as well as synths to make a unique sound. All this whilst having an enormous amount of fun and feeding that energy to the crowd.

As well as the acts above a couple of songs stood out. The Chemical Worker Song was sung by The Young ‘Uns. The song is a tragic 20th century tale of a post-industrial pre-health-and-safety world where people would go where the money was well aware of the effects it would have on their health. The Young ‘Uns’ a cappella that was immediate and powerful.

Lady Maisery sung The Changeling’s Lullaby. One thing I like about the folk tradition is the story that the song brings and the group suggested that this song about a changeling (i.e. a screaming child in the night) may have been a way of attempting to explain post natal depression with a lack of understanding. It has been said that a song should speak for itself, and it did, but what it could not do is explain the world in which it was created. A gap that the group ably filled.

http://www.bristolfolkfestival.com/