Donaufestival 2006

Went to the Donaufestival on Saturday night. This was the last night of the festival, held in the town of Korneuburg, half an hour away from Vienna by train. The venue was a building in an old shipyard on the bank of the Danube – very blasted-picturesque.

First up were the No-Neck Blues Band, one of those groups whose name I had often heard but had never previously listened to. Their set was pretty interesting. The barefoot Japanese singer created a great racket with various cymbals and metal objects strewn on the floor, and later had fun throwing a bunch of oranges into the audience. (Does this betoken a trend? I recall the two male ornaments at a Coil gig at the Festival Hall wandering naked around the audience handing out apples.)

Things did get a little unsavoury when the blond college boy-type percussionist stripped naked and threw most of his clothes into the audience before smearing himself with fake blood. But for the most part NNCK created a highly enjoyable freeform improvisational squawk. I can’t help feeling however that Sunburned Hand of the Man do it better.

Next were the Kammerflimmer Kollektief. They were a lot more considered but still managed to impress with a version of Terry Riley’s In C plus a bunch of shorter pieces. The saxophonist and double bass player kept things bubbling along nicely.

My main reason for going was to see A Silver Mt. Zion, and they didn’t disappoint. It was heartening to see Efrim engaging so warmly with the audience after hunching himself over his guitar so often with Godspeed. he’s not exactly Warren Ellis yet for between-song monologues, but he’s getting there. The harmonised vocals were deeply affecting, and the string section, guitars and drums were perfectly co-ordinated to form a huge firestorm of collective energy.

I was very pleasantly surprised by how popular ASMZ were (and I think the band themselves were a little taken aback by it as well). Every song was rapturously received and they played two lengthy encores, throwing the schedule for the rest of the evening out of kilter. So, a late finish and a 2am return to the city (thanks, Walter).

Going to concerts here is such a pleasure after years of suffering in London. Venues are well run, ticket prices are reasonable, security is unobtrusive, PA systems sound great, people are cool. Bring on more.

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