With even colder temperatures but at least no further snow, we made our way to the third preselection night of Emergenza at the Kulturfabrik in Esch. The program didn't seem too interesting at first glance, but I was not that disappointed in the end, even if musical abilities prevailed over inspiration. But let's have a look at the different performing artists, because that's what you are probably here to read about.
There was no doubt who would start this evening: Les Poubelles, The Pubbles not only have a rather long name, they also don't need guitars and keyboards or any other melodic instruments to perform their art. The stage was dominated by a weirdly constructed drum kit and assorted installations of percussion that normal people would have taken immediately to a recycling center. But that's where the Pubbles take their inspiration from. The band, consisting of six drummers, had many well known musicians we have seen in as diverse bands as Couchgrass, Inborn and Kyrenee. With a guest appearance on the Inborn CD, people knew already slightly what to expect, but then percussive music is something that always works far better when you see the drummers in action, especially with a band like the Pubbles who were dressed up like half-naked garbage men, much to the pleasure of the female audience, and their polyrhythmic noise assault had nearly everybody stunned. Where all other following bands left enough space in the concert room, you had to really force your way inside to get a glimpse of the band. Most spectacular were the dangerous fight with two garbage can lids, where I was afraid I would have to see blood at the end of it. It would be easy to dismiss the Pubbles as another gimmick, but as tribal African drum music is at the beginning of everything we call rock'n'roll these days, you might as well say that the Pubbles made the transition from the primeval forces of early times to a post-industrial metropolitan universe, where the pastoral tranquillity of forgotten days has receded from urban clamour. Les Tambours du Bronx have a similar attitude towards music, so the Pubbles are not entirely original, but this is the first time that a young local band has tried something like this, and they more than succeeded, as could be seen from the audience's reactions. This was muscular music at its best.
From here on, things could only go down, so Silent View had the unlucky task to keep the people interested. Apparently it was their first public concert ever, and if that's true, they didn't fare to bad tonight, although I have rarely seen a more nervous vocalist in my entire life. The music oscillated between post grunge stoner rock and weirdly traditional early Eighties heavy metal, with especially the guitars duelling each other in the best longhair tradition. The vocalist paled in comparison to the solid musical frame, and after the first song, he was already so much out of breath and gulping down cans of Red Bull that I saw him in my inner eye collapsing every minute. Fortunately he survived the short half hour, and they mildly entertained the audience with their politically charged ("Hey Mr. W, Fuck You..." what a great rhyme) rock music. All in all theirs was a nice enough show, although never truly that engaging, so that it was no surprise that they didn't make it into the semi-finals tonight. But who knows, we might hear more from them in the near future.
Heavy metal or no metal at all, that was the leitmotif from the third band of the evening. Mercury have been active in the North of the country for a long time already, but like so many bands from the further regions of our big country, they have a hard time getting gigs in the South and Center of Luxembourg. It was clear from the first moment on that Mercury are talented musicians. Even if they claim to have thrash and death metal elements in their songs, it all sounded to me much more traditional, like Iron Maiden anno 1981 crossed with Metallica anno 1985. They even borrowed actively from the song archives of these bands, without ever actually playing a cover version. And just like last week the (in my opinion) unoriginal Death Symphony left people with split opinions, we had the same happening tonight. Not few people were angered at the unashamed way with which Mercury stole from their idols, although I felt slightly amused, because honestly it was done in a cool way, considering the instrumentation, even if the vocalist was still young and should work harder on his voice to make it sound as powerful as their music deserves. Another anecdote: it is astonishing how many bands from the North participate at this year's Emergenza competition: Mercury, Breet, John McAsskill, Graceful Rage and maybe even some more I can't think of right now. So the rumours that they are actually building paved roads into the desolate North seem to become true eventually.
And now for the scary part of the evening. I should have been warned (and I probably was), because I once saw Blue Shade playing a show with Couchgrass at the Rox Bar about a year ago, but that night I spent the most part of their gig upstairs filling me up with beer. Tonight I did the same, except that it was not upstairs but in the adjacent bar. The concert room was nicely filled again, and I was scared that so many people still seem to be into cheap local blues music. The origins of blues come from slavery, from all the evil white man inflicted on black man, leaving at that time black man with blues music to vent his sadness and despair. In such a context, blues music makes sense, but not when some perfectly trained young musicians who probably never have seen actual misery (except on TV) decide to perform this genre as a strict formal exercise. I won't blame Blue Shade exclusively for this disgraceful use of the blues genre, because there are still enough musicians hooked on that genre, but for such young people, you could have expected a more progressive outlook on music. So they were talented musicians, with guitar solos that melded into the music, a bass player who even had a stand-up bass, and varied keyboard sounds, but a) their vocalist had a very limited range and b) one of their ballads sounded suspiciously like Led Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You", showing clearly why that kind of music worked with Led Zep (Plant's emotional vocals and Page's singing guitar) and worked not with Blue Shade who had a much too academic approach to that music. You can't play blues, you have to live it. Once you learn that, maybe you will succeed on of these days. But until then, I have nothing but contempt for your white collar blues sound.
The tragic band of the night were Ky-Lin. These youngsters had a former Fast Friday guitarist among them, so it was obvious that they would head into the nu metal field. What I don't understand from here on is why so few people bothered to listen to their music. My main suspicion is that they are no longer school kids and therefore didn't bring their school friends, something fatal at an Emergenza contest. I don't know if Ky-Lin played already many shows, I at least never heard of them before, but they had a very solid sound that was carried by melodic yet crushing guitars, and even the vocalist delivered a far above average performance. They were strictly inspired by modern American rock music, and it wasn't really original at all, but after so many copycats tonight, I didn't mind one more. Their second or third song was mellower, and had even true hit potential. Still I guess they were the band that scored the fewest hands tonight. But talented bands like Ky-Lin shouldn't need Emergenza to make their own way in the end.
Last band of the evening were the highly anticipated Breet from the high North of Luxembourg. I had heard already much good about this very young band, but unfortunately my expectations were not fulfilled. The guitars sounded not tuned exactly, the vocalist didn't set any marks, and the songwriting was too diffuse to catch my attention this late at night. True, there were good ideas, and unlike the other guitar bands tonight, they were not into stoner, grunge, metal or blues. Breet seem to be influenced by the more experimental alt rock movement (Sonic Youth, Pavement), but they lacked the necessary musical discipline to pull it off. They even added some Buddhist atmosphere to their music, because maybe they heard that you can win the Emergenza with such an image. It's more than just an image you need to win the Emergenza, and even though they made it into the semi-finals, I doubt that for now there is more to get out of them.
The final results of the night were:
3. Breet (who had the audience going along well)
2. Blue Shade (as if this was Luxembourg 1985 again, help!!!)
1. Les Poubelles, The Pubbles (who proved that also openers can come in first)
The three bands that didn't make it tonight delivered solid performances, all of them, so who knows, maybe we get a lucky loser out of them. How about Silent View maybe? With a bit more restraint on the singer, they could give another good performance.
And finally some afterthoughts: Vox Mobile will give a price to the best looking or best dressed band. I think that's a truly ridiculous idea, but if I have to give my opinion, The Pubbles would be my bet.
Also thanks to the people who wrote in our guestbook. It is always fun to read the different opinions, from agreements to slight disagreements and people who seem to truly dislike us. But that's what writing these Emergenza reviews makes so fun. If you want a different angle on things, go to Fanhead, they also write about Emergenza. Apart from them and us, I haven't seen much talk going on, and Emergenza Luxembourg unfortunately don't even have a forum, which would be really interesting.
See you all tonight then!