@ The Cactus Club, Bruges, Belgium
Mavis is still undecided about DAAU. Mandi, of course, is their
greatest advocate and has a large collection of html pages to
prove it, and for months has said "do you like DAAU yet
Mavis? Do you? Do you?". Now, to be honest, the proposition
of travelling across the pond to see four stoner Belgians playing
accordians and what can be described best as large fiddles all
whilst yelling "nothing left but the hunger" at the
top of their voices hardly filled Mavis with a huge amount of
anticipation. And doubly so, seeing their latest album Life
Transmission is a confused mis-match of neo-classical stylings
and dub reggae. Seriously. But the nice people at Kindamuzik.net
had set us up with an interview and Bruges is always nice at
this time of year so we deemed it the old green Michelin guide
two-star rating, ie worth a journey, and so off from Swindon
to Bruges we did plod.
Did we say yet that Bruges is very nice at this time of year?
Except, the Cactus Club is perhaps the only building in the
whole of the old town that is made out of concrete, even if
the club itself is in an old cellar. And oh, how we loved waiting
for the delayed DAAU to actually arrive and unpack so they could
give us the interview, and how we loved it even more when club
staff actually chucked us out, saying the band were too busy,
without even checking with the band that they were. Especially
since Mandi is a friend of theirs.
Anyway, the Dream Crew, Mandi and Mavis, Trevor and Nathalie
and eventually Elise and Enrique decamped to the pub where many
Brugse Tripels were drowned, and where Mandi and Mavis decided
they were hungry and disappeared to the Frituur. And
only on our return did we discover DAAU had actually gone on
stage already. Ooops.
might be surprised at how dynamic a band composed of three
classically-trained brothers (the Lenskis, of whom more
later), an accordionist and a clarinet player could be live.
Not for them some gentle quintet, playing polite classical
numbers whilst old-money Belgians nibble on their mussel
sanwiches and sip their weak tea. No, this was the full
deal. The thing is, there's no-one like DAAU. Probably never
will be either. This is the sound of the avant-garde made
palatable without diluting its principles, the sound of
modern "serious" music letting its hair down after
a hard day's toil at the conservatoire, indulging in a few
beers and other substances before going out on the town,
getting royally pissed and slipping on some horseshit on
the cobbles on the way home. It's how Elvis might have sounded
if he was European. Tracks like Gin & Tonic or
Hot Shades go some way in proving that not only is
the accordion not the world's most bizarre instrument, but
it rocks too. Likewise, Simon Lenski pounds the hell out
of his cello as if he were trading it in for firewood tomorrow.
Adrian Lenski, replete with rodent-like facial hair, lurks
behind a stack of keyboards whilst brother Buni makes with
his fiddle like a guitar, thrashing it about all over the
place and putting more passion into the performance than
you'd see a normal lead guitarist. On form, these guys are
the classically trained equivalent of ...and you will know
us by the trail of dead.
almost inevitably, it's Buni that lets the side down. Life
Transmission hints at an ill-advised eclecticism, dalliances
with dub, hip-hop and beats predominate, and it's when this
is presented on stage that the whole thing falls apart. Whilst
songs like Merry Go Round on record are blighted by the
presence of Ya Kid "Poomp Oop The Jayyam, Poomp Eeet Urrrp"
K, live they throb and kick. But then DAAU end up taking the
title of Piano Dub way too literally, and while clarinettist
Han Stubbe downs his instrument and retires to work his extremely
loud dub machine, the rest of the band drag out what is at best
a tolerable song into a long dub workout that lasts the best
part of twenty minutes. And whilst the stoned kids behind us
love it, everyone else gets a little distracted after about
six minutes and wait politely for it to end.
The reason for all this becomes clear right at the end: Buni,
alone on stage after the rest of DAAU have left, stands, crucifix
like, in front of the audience. He's clearly worse for wear
- he disappears behind the keyboard and "treats" us
to a little piano solo, before heading for the drums for a quick
rhythm workout. It's difficult to know whether to laugh at him,
pay him attention or just simply ignore him and feel embarrassed.
Almost inevitably, it's the latter that the majority of the
crowd decide to do.