1. September. Paris. Unknown trio in a bar somewhere on the Rue de Oberkampf.
Its members boasted various Central and South American heritages; its sound borrowed from every kind of Latin and Hispanic music you’ve ever heard of. Flutes and congas and accordions and guitars and more guitars and shakers and between two songs one of the two members taking to vocal duties spoke into the microphone that “This is a song from my beautiful Cuba, and this is a song for my beautiful Cuba.” The bar had Havana Club rum on hand and this moment of endearing patriotism drove me to order a glass. Rocks, please.
“No mixer?” the bartender asked.
I shook my head no. He shrugged and handed me the drink which turned out, to put it gently, vile and disgusting. As a cocktail, it was poisonous. As a political statement, it was delicious.
2. May. Chicago. Black Breath at Reggie’s.
Loud. Heavy. Brutal. Occasionally nonsensical. Masterful, in that heavy metal kind of way.
3. September. Munich. Konnexion Balkan in the Marienplatz.
They’re a six-piece, by turns musicianly and goofy with not one but three great front men. It was late in the evening and from down an alley I could hear something that sounded like a violin, followed by the hearty laughter of a crowd, and the sound led to a corner in the city’s central plaza where these fellows are apparently known to hold court. They play like a band that’s been playing together for a long time, and against a crowd of shoppers and tourists and general passersby they were able to strike that odd, delicate balance between corny and endearing: not afraid to ham it up with their antics, and not afraid to go after the cheesy jokes. A duel of Rachmaninoff etudes, perhaps. Or maybe that Gotye song from a few years ago. Whatever works, right?
“If you like us, buy four copies of our CD: one for you, and one copy for three people you like. If you don’t like us . . . also buy four copies of our CD: one for you to throw away, and one copy for three people you don’t like.”
Sometimes the show doesn’t have to be confrontational or righteous or call back to a time and place cut off by the world. Sometimes inviting people to have fun is enough.
Chicago, IL / January 4, 2015