Tonight is an evening of contrasts, we’re here in one of the last surviving old rock and roll venues and yet the stage is bedecked with a grand piano and an impressive array of noodling devices. By which I mean pedals and miscellaneous kit that emits strange and wondrous noises.
It’s a curious juxtaposition of old garage rock surroundings with experimental composition. A fact which is not lost on tonight’s headliner and the reason we’re here.
One thing that strikes me about this gig is the stillness of the crowd. People are fully connected with the music. There is some dancing, some chin-stroking, some vigorous head-nodding all going down but what is really impressive is how involved everyone looks. There are no random pockets of chatter, or any obvious distractions during each song, or rather piece. Everyone looks transfixed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gig at the 100 club quite like it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I admire people who take what they do seriously without taking themselves too seriously. Düsseldorf’s Haushcka (aka Volker Bertelmann) is definitely one of those performers. He takes to the stage alone to begin with and remarks that he hadn’t been aware that 100 club was such an old rock club and how he had been playing in the Barbican a few days earlier but he seems pretty fired up by it. He kicks off with a solo piece where the piano – filled with all kinds of strange implements ranging from (I believe) e-bows, beads and other miscellaneous items produces a whole ensemble of music at his touch. At one point it almost sounds like he has a tiny harp in there. After this he is joined by album-collaborator, Múm drummer and recording artist in his own right, Samuli Kosminen on drums and assorted percussion.
He is touring to promote Salon des Amateurs which signals a departure from the more classical approaches he is known for (he recorded this album and one for an orchestra at the same time) and into more of a dance realm and explains that that the album gets its title from his favourite Dusseldorf club – it seems when he is not creating strange and wondrous music, he likes to lose it on a dancefloor just as much as anyone. It’s certainly interesting to watch the dynamic of Bertelmann and Kosminen sitting opposite one another – replicating with live sound the build up and breakdown format of dance music and my friend remarks on a similarity between one track and Laurent Garnier’s ‘The Man with the Red Face’ . The musical interplay is so tight and it’s like a game of musical tennis with two equally able players. Even the titles of the tracks tell a story. ‘Girls’, he informs us is a tribute to the phenomena of girls standing in club lines, wearing very little. Something he was fascinated by on a winter trip to visit friends in Liverpool where he passed out in the garden through a combination of ‘beer and central heating’. ‘Radar’ is hypnotic with a thudding bass – heavy beat.
Although he is incredibly proficient at what he does, there is no aloof musicianship on display. He effectively kicks down the fourth wall and invites us to see what’s on the other side. It’s probably a fun departure from the relative seriousness of the concert halls and cultural spaces he is used to playing in.
And he takes great pleasure in explaining about his favourite effect in ‘Ping’ where the ping pong balls he has poured into his piano fly up with every key hit and bounce percussively back off the strings. I’d like to dance at the ‘Salon des Amateurs’ sometime, for now I’m happy to bask in some interesting and inventive sounds right here in old London town.by