Enter Music Festival 2013
1 Jun 2013, 3:22 p.m. (updated: 1 Jun 2013, 9:18 p.m.)
I received tickets for this year's edition of Enter Music Festival from my sister. The last few weeks have been so intense that when finally the time came to visit the festival, I was really surprised (seriously, it's the end of May already?).
All this somewhat raised my expectations ("since I'm here already, it better be good"). They haven't been totally fullfilled but let's start from the very beginning...
My friends organized a lovely conference in Warsaw in mid-May. They chose a circus tent for the venue, located just next to the Służewiec horse race track. This was very risky, since bad weather could easily turn the event into a mudfest full of sick people with wet electronic equipment. Fortunately, it all went just fine and the weather was probably the best they could imagine. On top of that, the conference turned out great so it's going to be a thing to remember for years to come.
Enter, on the other hand, has traditionally a worse track record in terms of weather. The decision to set it just before the Corpus Christi feast (which is a bank holiday in Poland) looks great on paper but in practice it's either cold, rainy, or both. This can be easily foreseen by analyzing historical weather data for these dates. My friends from Warsaw did a great job doing just that -- they chose a date with the least probability of rain. The music festival should do the same, because while it was warmer than last year, there was more rain.
The precipitation alone would not be a big deal if it weren't for the crowd. For some reason the mob mind told the people to open their umbrellas on the slightest sign of rain. In effect, some of the concerts looked like the image above from where I was sitting. If you can't see any musician it's because neither could I.
I see, therefore I hear
You can say that a musical concert does not require seeing the performers. I would agree some years ago, but I remember how profoundly my "Pasodoble" listening experience changed when I saw a live performance and could learn how Leszek Możdżer and Lars Danielsson conduct a musical dialogue together.
Witnessing musicians working together gives me -- an amateur fan -- a better view into what's important at the moment. Additionally, I tend to focus very heavily on the piano parts. Without visual aid I often drift towards analysing the line of the piano even if it's clearly only a background for a bass solo, etc.
This made me leave the crowd a couple of times and shamelessly squat just in front of the scene to see what's happening.
The festival couldn't possibly have a better opening. For one thing, the weather was fine. More importantly, the trio of the Cuban pianist Marialy Pacheco gave an exceptional concert. Mariolka, as she was called by Leszek, is a great performer and her technical abilities are seriously advanced. This doesn't stop her from being pleasantly thrifty in building movements in compositions of her own. Her performance wasn't a race measured in notes per second. In fact, whenever she felt like, she could easily show her claws. All-around, this was a terrific marriage of technical prowess and Cuban sensitivity. With a Swedish twist, as she also played Esbjörn Svensson's "Spam-Boo-Limbo". It was beautiful!
The highlight of the show was her own "suite", especially the conga. You can find them on her Spaces Within album. Speaking of albums, we should soon witness the release of her first album under the ACT label.
Balcanic Adrian Gaspar
In fact the Balcanic factor of the music was for the most part figurative. Gaspar, an impressive piano player, is also a natural crowd charmer, keeping great contact with the audience. Apart from the piano, he played a melodica and whistled during improvised parts, which was at the same time effective musically and humorous. He was not alone on the stage, far from it. Among others, you could see a bass clarinet and a girl behind drums, which is always an interesting thing to see. Drumming is perceived as requiring physical force and so it's less often chosen by women. Indeed, Maria Petrova's performance was laid back, quite different from what Maraly's drummer did just an hour earlier. One way or the other, this fit Gaspar's music very well.
The performance was recorded and I hope you'll be able to see the live performance because the show was fun.
Możdżer Danielsson Fresco
It started raining. I mean, now, when I write this, as well as then, when they started to play. I don't know what I expected. I don't really know what I received. This concert was advertised as the pre-premiere of their third album. For the most part, it sounded like "saying the same thing thrice". In other words, I'm afraid there's not going to be a revolution. Worse yet, it seems like there's hardly any evolution.
There's a saying that you shouldn't fix it if it ain't broke. You could say that here, the trio consists after all of three respectable professionals. Unfortunately, the new compositions presented Tuesday night sounded like the old stuff shuffled around. I respect and like Lars Danielsson very much, yet I started to want Leszek to rather start a totally different project than to record yet another album with the Swedish bassist.
If there's one thing Leszek likes, it's for sure Komeda's "Svantetic". From their vast back catalogue, they chose to play this tune and another cover, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (called "the obligatory hit" by Leszek). I understand jazz is all about standards and constant re-interpretation but come on, why not play something of your own? You had to wait to the encore to hear "Asta". But if you wanted "Suffering" or "Pub 700", tough luck. This was disappointing because it is "Suffering" which I find to be the actual "obligatory hit" of the trio. I especially value the extended version with Lars' solo intro, which you can find on "Możdżer Danielsson Fresco Live". I love it since I first heard it back in 2009.
Day 2, Zohar Fresco and the clay pot
The opening gig of the second day was Zohar Fresco with friends from the East. Among others, you could hear Ghatam Shuresh, a master of the Indian drum, which is casually called the clay pot.
The weather was particularly unsettling during this concert. The kind of trance music that Zohar presented with his friends is something I have a soft spot for. In terms of repetitiveness and rhythm there were many movements that fans of Philip Glass, Steve Reich or Brian Eno would find delightful. I guess connotations with "Ambient 3" are entitled? Unfortunately, bad weather was an effective distraction and didn't let the listeners focus on the content.
On the other hand, it seemed like Zohar heard my disappointment the day before and performed a very interesting version of "Abraham's Bells" with Antonello Messina, an Italian jazz accordionist. The show's climax was another piece from the upcoming third MDF album, performed with Leszek and Lars. This time I felt like I hit the jackpot. The tune was very engaging, interesting rhytmically, well-paced and fresh. Maybe there won't be a disappointment after all?
Cæcilie Norby and Occam's blunt instrument
Don't get me wrong, this woman is an exceptional vocalist. Some people like this kind of thing, an artisan taking known music and re-arraning it to their own liking.
In this case, the brain behind the project was Lars Danielsson, who is also Norby's husband. Naturally, you had Leszek Możdżer behind the piano, so it all felt very well tuned. Nguyên Lê played the guitar, it's a pity the songs didn't give him more space to show his talent. Right, the songs. To put it bluntly, it was a bunch of rock hymns rehashed rhytmically (and harmonically): Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", Cohen's "Hallelujah", Simon's "Hearts and Bones", or "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone", probably best known from George Michael's rendition.
Among others, the band also performed "Hurt", originally by Nine Inch Nails. It isn't an original idea, the song has been covered by the icon of country -- Johnny Cash. Moreover, this interpretation lacked the rising tension of the original. On top of that, Cæcilie clearly decided that she's a more capable lyricist than Trent Reznor. She sang "Everyone I know goes away till the end" instead of "in the end" and destroyed the final verses which I think are essential in making the song work. We were given some homespun poetry instead.
If you think after reading the last paragraph that I treat "Hurt" far too personally, you're probably right. I can't help it, even though I think covers should in principle steer away from the original (like the world's probably greatest cover ever: "To Love Somebody" by Billy Corgan). In case of this version, I felt like the meaning went away, even though the music was still there.
The whole performance was rather uneven, including Leszek Możdżer's speeding up. During the more dynamic parts he clearly hastened. On the flip side, two pieces were actually good. I liked Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides, Now" best, even though the arrangement was quite close to the original. The climax of the show was Jimi's "Purple Haze" played in 7/8 time. Spectucular. Made me wish Leszek did a heavier project of his own, with vocals. Maybe someday.
We missed the funky final of the festival, unfortunately. It seems like the concert was planned as the groovy equivalent of last year's Nils Landgren Funk Unit but the weather and cigarettes around made us tired badly enough to skip it. Judging from the number of people joining us on the way back, it was not such an unpopular choice. Bummer.
Summing it up
Generally speaking I am very pleased by the festival. The stuff I liked is priceless. The things I didn't like I could at least confront with my expectations, which is a valuable experience. It was very nice to see Agata Kołacz hosting the show, as well as many familiar faces among the audience from former editions.
The festival grows each year, which is a pleasant thing to watch. This time the tickets were sold out ten days before the event. I wonder if the scene will be moved to a different place to accomodate the growing interest?