A year ago we set off to meet up with Dutch artist Blaudzun at Knust who also was headlining About Songs Festival later that day. Little did we know that DevilDuck Records was organizing the evening, we didn’t even plan stay for anyone else than Blaudzun, but one of DevilDuck’s most persistent crew members – let’s call her Ms. F. – said “Blaudzun is the last act on stage, why not stay the full festival?“. We did and had a great night out.
Fast forward a year and replacing About Songs Festival this year was DevilDuck Records‘ 15th anniversary at Molotow with local act Scotch & Water and Canadians Gunner and Smith and Yes We Mystic, bands we didn’t know much about ahead of the evening, not more than a few songs of Yes We Mystic’s debut album “Forgiver“ a few years ago. That’s how you get surprises and find bands and music you would never have listened to otherwise. And this night was for sure about a surprises.
The best with being at Molotow is that we turned it into our second living room and have lots of friends at the venue, and most of them had decided to go for a beer or five this evening just to celebrate DevilDucks birthday, and to eat of those snack sandwiches that were great when you hadn’t eaten anything after work. Let’s say we had a very pleasant start of the evening, hanging out with friends and finding new friends.
Label boss Jörg Tresp introduces the first act Scotch & Water, a band that too often is described as indie folk or folk rock. Indie folk to me is one of those genre labels people use to label bands they don’t know how to label, just like everything coming out of the UK that is always called “indie rock“ or “britpop“ because that’s what the UK is associated with. Even worse, as soon as there’s a banjo/mandolin or any kind of instrument from the violin family it just has to be indie folk because rock music can’t have banjos or cellos, ey? Let’s leave the genre-bending word games to those who want to make music more complicated than it is.
Just like John van Deusen was an overwhelmingly great start of About Songs last year, Scotch & Water is quite a surprise for us. It’s four very talented multi-instrumentalists on stage and musically it’s somewhere in the borderland of slower rock/pop at times with jazz elements in the songs. I later found out that someone in the band has a jazz background and maybe that’s why you hear bits and pieces of it in there (my experience of working with jazz musicians tells me that they’re really good at putting jazz fragments into whatever they create).
Music is also about embodying or performing how it sounds, and in that aspect it’s a perfect marriage between band members and music. Vocalist Samira Christmann has a lovely voice reminding me at times about one of my favourite vocalists in Swedish pop act Oh Laura (doesn’t exist anymore), especially in songs as “Time“ and latest single “Running“. I would love to see Scotch & Water at a better venue, preferably some sort of sofa session where you can listen to their music and not be disturbed by people talking loud (“beer talk“ as we call it); just a tiny intimate show. Even our photographer was seen stomping with her feet which is rare for a stoner rock/grunge lady.
After a run for some more snackwiches – thanks DevilDuck, I had more than enough – a beer, and finding out that the bartender in Molotow’s backyard bar is a fellow Swede, it was time for Saskatoon artist Geoffrey Smith’s alter ego Gunner and Smith to enter the stage, thrusting the evening into the borderland of classic American folk music, country and plain pop/rock music. Smith has toured Canada many times, playing several tv shows, and received great reviews already with his debut album “He Once Was a Good Man“ a few years ago.
Now, here’s the problem being at a venue when too many of your friends turn up at the same time (which rarely happens). After the second song the beers reminded me of the mandatory detour to the men’s room and while at it, why not bump into some friends you haven’t talked to for a while and miss the rest of the show. At least the photographer was happy because she got some great photos, and we’ll keep it to that; two songs don’t make much of a review. Just one thing; with that impressive beard you’re not allowed to play anything else than what Gunner and Smith do, it’s basically a folk music beard – love it!
Last but not least, Yes We Mystic arrived with a burst of gear. The Winnipeg five-piece brought in instruments for a full orchestra, but when you listen to the big sound they create you understand why they need it all. If Molotow isn’t the best fit for Scotch & Water, it’s an equal mismatch for Yes We Mystic – this is an arena band or something for Elbphilharmonie/Laeiszhalle (DevilDuck, next time they’re here just call Elbphilharmonie or Laeiszhalle). What a sound! What a performance! I still can’t get their performance out of my head.
Germans – at least Ms. Editor – often say “I got an Ohrwurm“ meaning they can’t stop hearing that annoying song in their heads, very often something they don’t like. The latest album with Yes We Mystic – never heard any song of it before the Molotow gig – have at least four Ohrwurm’s on there, and to em that means something really great. I just relentlessly switch between “Win Ben Stein’s Money“, “Panthalassa“, “Italics“, “Please Brint Me To Safety“, “Vanita’s Waltz“ and the amazing “Felsenmeer“. It’s just a completely insane album with a theatrical sound sound that sometimes approaches the arena-filling grandeur of Editors. This is the sound Editors wanted to create on their third album after two great albums, “The Back Room“ and “An End Has A Start“, but couldn’t reach. Where Editors turn to electronics, Yes We Mystic turn to creativity. Bang! Editors, listen and learn!
I can continue to talk about their latest album for another three pages but let’s not forget about their performance. Many bands rely on one person. It’s not unusual that the front dude/dudette shines a bit more than everyone else in the band, in fact, it’s just natural. However, in Yes We Mystic you get the feeling that it’s the collective that matters. Band members run around on the tiny stage, trying to find a way through their man-made labyrinth of gear, switching positions. The only member hidden in the dark, as usual, is the drummer (yeah, I feel for you, I’ve been there for sixteen years myself, but when you get famous and play arenas you can at least walk the streets with no paparazzis following you – pinky promise!).
Lead singer Adam Fuhr has that perfect indie rock voice found as in most bands at the top of the indie rock ladder, keyboarder/cellist/cassette deck manager (!) Jodi Plenert is one with the music (and was our photographer’s favourite photo object this night), Adam Fuhr handled two Korg’s, played guitar and mandolin, and Jensen Fridfinnson – yeah, she played it all! The drummer? Yeah, you know the story by know, we really don’t know but he (?) was like a drum machine (I promise to start an uprising concerning drummers right to the be in the spotlight, not behing the lead singer, in the dark and behind a smoke screen).
I may not go to church every Sunday, maybe not even any Sunday the last forty-five years, but this was some kind of revelation similar to what people in church might feel at Easter (or whenever there’s a religious revelation day), but that kind of revelation you find in the indie rock church. Just come back soon, ok?
DevilDuck Records did it again and organized yet an evening full of surprises and we just hope they will have something similar for us next year as well. Just like last year we met a lot of great people working with the label and it’s obvious that it’s that type of people dedicated to what they do. That’s a quality we appreciate a lot.
Photographer: ©Ms Anonymous