Monday, July 24, 2006

I Shook It Like A Polaroid Picture

Of the three potentially great concerts last week, I ended up only making it to one. I worked almost the entire Monday and had no desire to haul myself out to see Diplo once I was done. And I didn't anticipate Jens Lekman selling out as far in advance as it did. Good for him, I suppose. I did, however, make sure to attend the Konono No. 1 show this past Wednesday at the Museum of Fine Arts. And thought I'm not usually too keen in picking favorites, Konono certainly ranks very highly on my list of favorite shows.

The MFA's courtyard is really a lovely venue--trees and vines growing along the walls behind the stage, soft grass to relax on, and a view into their gorgeous library. It's just small enough to feel very intimate without being prone to uncomfortable cramming of people. The weather was also perfect for an outside concert. Walking into the courtyard and seeing the stage all set up, I had a feeling this was going to be a great show. There was a very diverse mix of people in the audience. There was the older crowd that sat in the chairs, clearly dressed for an evening out on the town. There were both hipster kids and hippies. And there were a few professorial types; anthropology or ethnomusicology perhaps? It takes quite a band to bring that broad of an audience together.

I enjoyed looking at their equipment before the show started. In particular, their homemade amplification system seen here. They had two of these bullhorn-like PAs on stage with them, which looked, well, pretty rough. They also had "Fragile" stickers on them, indicative of how much they've been traveling. The band did use some professional amps and microphones, too. But it was neat to see that they still kept these, which had become such an integral part of their sound. The homemade amps must not be that powerful, though, because they had a mic on each one to further boost the sound.

The band made their way to the stage pretty promptly and after saying their name a few times, started right into their groove. There wasn't much potential for chatter since they only speak a little bit of French and their native language [I don't know what language that is--there are an awful lot of languages spoken in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and I'm not too good at differentiating African languages].

It didn't take long before audience members worked their way to the front to dance. And once a few had done so, many more joined them, myself included. Their Bambazo Trance influences were even more obvious live than on the record, as they let their songs continue on for twenty to thirty minutes at a time. They really only played a handful of songs in their set, despite it lasting well over an hour. I don't think I've ever had a better cardio workout. But it was quite fun wiggling around without having to worry too much about looking silly--I don't think anyone had a definitive clue how to dance to Konono No. 1's music. Some approaches to the dancing were pretty . . . Unique. One kid looked like a DDR mat belonged under his feet, while others looked like they aught to be on a club floor. I really wonder what the band thinks of Americans' methods of dancing to their music.

Even though I was jiggling about, I still paid quite a bit of attention to the musicians during the show. They really seem to love music and performing. Most showed it outwardly, via dancing and smiling. But the two elders of the group [pictured right] were quite somber and serious throughout the whole show. They played their thumb pianos intently, only making occasional gestures, but still seemed to sincerely enjoy themselves. And they quickly became my favorites. It was endearing to watch them play, stern faced, shaking their head as if disagreeing with what was happening.

The group put on a really great show. They're very solid performers, and it comes across well on stage. They created the dense rhythms almost effortlessly, the intensity and pace rising and falling naturally and seamlessly. They truly are a band that needs to be seen and heard live. Congotronics is wonderful, but it was nothing like this.

After their lengthy set and generous encore, I hung around to see about getting at least one of them to sign my ticket. My friends and I approached the primary singer and attempted a conversation with a bit of difficulty. I had forgotten the French word for autograph or signature, and in lieu of that, asked him: "ecrivez vous nom?" [write your name?]. Either he misunderstood the request, or was hitting on me and my friends, because he returned our tickets with his name and phone number written on them. Not what I had intended, but a pretty great souvenir anyways.


Anonymous Maria said...

woooooooooooo amyo! i bet he liked your dancing skillz! ;)

12:18 PM, July 25, 2006  

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