It’s been a couple of days since the show, but I have been thinking about it ever since. We got there a little bit early, but the good tables were taken. No biggie, there were three barstools along the wall next to the dance floor that wee pulled into a circle and so wound up with the best seats in the house.
The setup on stage was promising. On the left, right in front of us, was an upright piano, its face open to expose its insides to a pair of microphones. There was a small drum kit and an array of other Mysterious Devices, and a hollow-body bass guitar. Add microphones and speakers, and you’ve got yourself a concert.
The first act was Filip Topol (pronounced Philip Toepole – see how much simpler czech spelling is?), a piano player and singer. He was a skinny guy, tallish, and he carried with him a folder which he placed on a stool next to his as he sat. He opened the folder to reveal a pile of tattered sheets. He took the top three and placed them on the piano. I saw that around the edges of each sheet were dozens of little stickers. He pulled the mike closer and began to play.
At first he played only with his right hand and I thought to myself, “Holy Crap! He’s the guy I wrote about in Moonlight Sonata!” It’s wasn’t hard to imagine him talking to Cowboy Bob in some dark shadow-place. Eventually the left hand joined in and things really got going.
Filip Topol was just plain good. He had that Czech way of singing, attacking the words even as they ate him alive. I couldn’t understand the words, of course, but I was OK with that; the sound of them was mesmerizing. Usually when I go to a show I drift off in my own bubble, letting the music carry me to some of my most abstract and disconnected places. With both these acts I was rooted right there with the musicians, an active participant in the performance.
I had no idea what to expect from the headliners. We had gone to the club to hear Filip Topol; none of us had even heard of 4 Walls. They played jazz. real jazz, not the watered-down Kenny G. elevator music crap people call jazz these days. I don’t go looking for jazz often, and when I do I rarely find it. This was a 4-piece band: piano, percussion, bass, and vocals. In this case “vocal” is not limited to singing. These guys were all over the map and left me reeling. Everything they did felt slightly dangerous; Rather than marching in step they were held together with bungee cords, flying apart and snapping back, bouncing off each other, but somehow in that chaos they stayed together and the result was music.
Alas, Filip Topol had no CDs for sale. The 4 Walls CD just doesn’t convey the experience of the live performance. So it goes. I had included a cut from the CD in this episode, but end the end I took it out. As much as I enjoyed the performance, I’m not likely to be listening to the recording very often. It all goes to show that sometimes you have to be there with the musicians to really understand. Or at least I do. I’ve gotta get out more.
The trams had stopped by the time we got out of there, which meant a long walk home. That was fine, the night was cold but quiet. I considered popping into an all-night bar, but only for a moment. I like walking in this city.
As a post script, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Picture Boy. There were two guys up front with their digital cameras, and one of them in particular was really annoying. He would climb his fat ass right up on the stage, take for frickin ever to take one damn shot, then get back down the look at the result, then back up he would pop for another attempt. Dork. Still, he’s good for mocking.