Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tinariwen - Architecture in Helsinki - Sophie Hunger - Dom - Lo Fi Fnk -- 9:30 Club - Nov 15 2011

Lo Fi Fnk - From Sweden comes this synth pop trio with vocals, a couple of keyboards and drums. There is some brief bass for a bit as well. Alas, their 32-minute set was played to a crowd about the size of the Velvet Lounge due to the quantity of bands on the bill tonight. This is pleasant synth pop with nice vocals. The band has some nice energy, particularly the guy on keyboards (mostly synth). My favorite part was when he jumped off the stage and bowed or shook hands with everyone on the dance floor. It was pretty much a football line-up at that point, although there were a few of us in the balcony, too. Nice enough music, not too dazzling and quite hard to rate with this crowd. My guess is it would have been more fun at the DC9, but I would not be raving about the set.

Dom - Now this is exciting--it's Dom, the band that brought us one classic underground psyche record in the 70s called "The Edge of Time". No wait, it's just five guys from Massachusetts. This also has a nice polite pop element to the sound, but it rocks out more. Well, guitars will do that won't they. At their best, they had a handle on the poppier moments heard on the Nuggets compilation. There was also even a touch of drone in one song. Interesting enough for me to catch a return show some time. The crowd still is slow filing in as this set at least started at the normal Birchmere time (7:34pm). At least a full football or soccer game could now happen on the dance floor.

Sophie Hunger - Sophie Hunger starts the show off with a solo vocal that is pretty high on the Mesmer scale. Her two band members accompany her on all but one of the songs thereafter. Sophie adds a bit of guitar and keyboards to some of the songs. Her keyboard playing is excellent and probably could be featured more. But it really did not matter as the three of them created a fascinating array of sounds that really blended together. One guy focused mostly on guitar while the other had trombone and percussion going most of the time. There was some flute and backing vocals, too. There is an exotic European feeling present and indeed they are from Switzerland. Since Switzerland has French, German, and Italian roots depending on the part of the country you are in, I would guess there was more Germanic approach here with a bit of Italian. Quick research shows she was born in Bern which is closer to the France/Italy borders, but she also lived in the more Germanic Zurich and the even more Germanic Bonn (as well as London). But enough off the roots, the presentation tonight was breathtaking at times and solid throughout. The sound was folk, both gothic and traditional. There was a jarring yet successful Americana/folk song as well. The crowd was finally growing into, well a crowd and you could sense the growing excitement they were feeling with this set. It was accessible, yet daring in many spots. This is her first US tour and if she does anywhere near as well in the rest of the cities, she should have a great future here. It was obvious to all as she took the time to say "thank you for being so kind. It's like you were hired... but you're not."

Architecture in Helsinki - I was only in Helsinki for a few hours and I don't remember the architecture. It was a cold, quiet, dreary Sunday morning and the one thing I noticed was people walked with the poles used for cross country skiing, even when on sidewalks and paths. But this band has nothing to do with that as they are from Melbourne, Australia. There are five of them and I am not going to document the instrument switching but keyboards dominate the guitars. Bass and drums are around, too. Lots of vocalists (one female) are used with leads and harmonies varying nicely. This is slick electro-pop. Frankly, it sounds like a lot of other bands that I never listen to in depth. For once, I see a band from Australia that has not heard the Stooges. I regret not following this type of dance/feel good music when I was younger, but it does not serve much of a place for me now. The crowd was somewhat into this, but it was mixed until the rousing closer where even I could detect the excellence. This is a baffling bill as if this band were touring with the two openers and Sophie Hunger was with the headliner. It's also a lot of music, but there is still time for one more band...

Tinariwen - This band certainly looks like it came straight from the deserts of northern Mali. There is a buzz about this band and African music has really given us some exciting touring bands over the years, so there finally is a good crowd. They have one percussionist, bass, backing vocalist, electric guitar, and lead vocals w/acoustic and electric guitar. The sound is familiar if you follow either generation of Toures along with other music of that region. It is well done and sounds great in the club. The only problem I am feeling is that they lack the guitar excitement of the Toures, as well as the intense songwriting of a Thomas Mapfumo, or even the vocal prowess of a Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Rather they cozily fit in between it all. I should listen more as I am trying to figure out if I'm worn out by all the pop dance music I've heard tonight, or they simply don't have that extra gear needed to lift me to higher planes. They did manage some nice grooves with their songs and reminded me of the African version of Canned Heat or other cool easy going psyche acts from the past. A solid band for sure, just one I will have to give a little more thought and listening to.

Quote of the Night: From the 'Yeah, we've heard of it department'...   Sophie Hunger - "We are a band from Switzerland, a small country in Europe."

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