It’s been a while since I managed to catch two concerts in one evening (festivals don’t count, obviously), so I was very pleased to be able to see Radian at the Gartenbaukino and then Bulbul at the Rhiz a couple of hours later. The double-header was a breeze to pull off, in fact, thanks not only to the perpetually late start time at the Rhiz but also to the fortuitous route of the number 2 tram, which runs directly from one venue to the other.
If you’re tired of the usual New Year’s Eve party locations, or you don’t much fancy having firecrackers thrown in your face by children on Stephansplatz, why not head over to the Rhiz for a special end-of-year show by Bulbul? This fun-loving Austrian trio are a regular fixture on the Vienna live circuit, bringing home the point that there’s nothing like frequent gigging if you’re a band that wants to get noticed. Fresh from his triumphant appearance with Jandek in October, drummer Didi Kern will be joined by Raumschiff Engelmayr and Derhunt (possibly not his real name) for an evening of angular, splintery rock with lots of distorted guitar and pounding bass – the ideal way to wave goodbye to the old year and say hello to 2010.
My final recommendation of the year also goes to an Austrian group, The Scarabeusdream. The duo from Burgenland serve up an electrifying mix of keyboards, drums and screamed-out vocals. Pianist Bernd Supper approaches the keyboard like he’s fighting with it, standing up to play and hammering relentlessly down on the keys, while drummer Hannes Moser’s engagement with his kit is similarly deranged and physical. The group’s début album Sample Your Heartbeat To Stay Alive showcases their aggressively minimalist approach to great effect.
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.