Bulbul/Carla Bozulich, Vienna Rhiz, 27 May 2008

The last concert of a very Rhiz-y month for me. For this one the Austrian group Bulbul were joined onstage by American singer (and occasional Bulbul collaborator) Carla Bozulich, who is in the middle of a European tour with her own group Evangelista and played at the WUK the following evening. This was an unannounced appearance by Bozulich, although I had been tipped the wink from various sources. And although her appearance wasn’t advertised in advance, it wasn’t entirely under wraps either. The Rhiz had the evening billed as “Bulbul plus surprise act”, while Bozulich’s website listed a “secret show” on this date. Guys, if you tell people you’re playing a secret show, it’s not a secret anymore. If they’d wanted to do the secret thing properly, they would have made no mention of it at all rather than being all coy about it. But that would have been less annoyingly teasing.

Anyway, the concert itself was pretty entertaining. Bulbul have passed me by up until now, although P. tells me that they play regularly in Vienna. And this was confirmed by the existence of a loyalty card which was pressed into my palm as I entered the Rhiz. Cute marketing ploy: go to four Bulbul gigs and get into the fifth one free. (I would have thought a limited CD-R or something would have been a more appropriate reward for such loyalty, but let that pass.)

The music was hard to pin down: angular, splintery rock with lots of distorted guitar, pounding bass and busy drumming. This was very much a Bulbul gig, not a Carla Bozulich gig: as far as I could tell, all the songs were theirs, not hers. But her contributions on vocals and effects-heavy guitar were raw and expressive. There were also two moments of diverting theatrical business. At one point, first Bozulich and then the guitarist and bassist decided to mount an onslaught on the sanctity of the drums. Each grabbing their own drumsticks, they carried out a delirious improvised raid on the kit, falling over each other in the process. Later, Bozulich brandished a sheet of paper containing some lines of verse, which H. told me later were the words to a Viennese drinking song. Holding out the microphone and encouraging audience members to recite the words, she initially got a couple of deadpan spoken recitations. She struck lucky, however, with the third – a girl who was not only happy to sing the words but (after some initial reluctance) was persuaded to join the group onstage to sing them. Both incidents reinforced a view of Bulbul, and indeed of Bozulich herself, as refreshingly unaloof and persuaded of the will to connect and communicate.

Fine photos by David Murobi here.

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