Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Gigs: Arkona returns (opening for Epica) plus Pete Campbell's Coach Strobcam
Interesting album cover, eh? What do you figure is going on there? Are the soldiers there to protect the ritual, or shut it down, or just keep an eye on it? What is the ritual, exactly? Is that a sun cross on their shield? What are those "totem poles" in the background? What's with the guy who looks exactly like one of them, standing next to the - what is she, a priestess? Is that supposed to be Masha, the singer for the band in question?
Something I have looked forward to for some time happens tonight: Arkona - a fantastic Russian folk metal (or pagan metal) band - returns to Vancouver to open (alongside the Agonist and Fleshgod Apocalypse) for Epica, in a gig that has been moved twice: from the Vogue - an appropriate venue, since seats are a good way to see an Epica show, given the somewhat symphonic nature of their music - to the Rickshaw (also appropriate) and now to - yep, the Venue, a cool, atmospheric space, indubitably in a "better" neighbourhood than the Rickshaw (if you prefer drunk people with money to poor people on drugs, which, come to think of it, I'm not sure I do) but a kinda not so appropriate place to see a band (and here I'm thinking of Magma and Wolves in the Throne Room, both of whom did I see there) where being seated is the optimum way to take in their music. Arkona doesn't count - their music is eminentently danceable, with a lot of folky bounciness to it, so standing up will be great for the audience during their set - but not so much for the headliners, I suspect. Ah well! Facebook page for the gig here.
I saw Arkona blow away the Rickshaw, maybe five years ago now, when they opened for Korpiklaani, with their fur-clad, hide-drum-beating frontwoman Masha getting everyone dancing very enthusiastically from almost minute one of their performance (which can be seen here, after a couple minutes of darkness). I immediately bought a fistful of their CDs and have been keen to catch them live, again, since that time. They've recently chosen to revisit their earliest material - 2004's Vozrozhdenie ("revival")- and re-record it; I'm not quite sure what I make of the album, actually - it sounds tougher and more "metal" than the more atmospheric Slovo, which is what they were touring when last I saw them, and which remains, maybe alongside Goi, Rode Goi!,. my favourite album of theirs - but I have no doubt they will deliver live and teach me how to listen to this music. I actually attempted to interview them about this gig: I am very curious about Russian paganism and how it relates to the political and music scene over there, and whether there are any controversies or conflicts between people who follow nativist/ neopagan beliefs to those who subscribe to Orthodox church doctrine (or, indeed, if there's any of the troubling racial element that can surface in contemporary heathenry?). How does the band locate themselves on these religious and political spectrums? Is the Russian music scene affected by these issues? Do they actually practice a religion related to Russian paganism - are they into Rodnovery, say? How is that similar to or different from Wicca? ...or, like Amon Amarth, are they just mining folklore and myth for the sake of writing good songs? I'd be happy with any answers they might give - I have no idea, especially since their lyrics tend to be in Russian - but I'm just curious what their music might mean in a Russian context, and if that's at all different from the context of touring it over here). Sadly, as seems to be happening somewhat frequently these days, I sent them my questions (via appropriate channels) and never heard back from the band. Maybe some other time - I'm glad I'm going to get to see them tonight, regardless.
Friday, meanwhile - conflicting with a Willie Thrasher event I plan to write about later, at SFU Woodwards - there's a concert by Pete Campbell's new unit Coach Strobcam, whom you can read about here. (There is also this, but I don't really understand what it is).
In fact, we gather that SOME of what Pete has told me about the band is playful disinformation, but I guess I will let it stand. As you see, Pete is a veteran of the Wardells and the Sweaters and has a standing request to do "Hockey Sucks," my favourite Sweaters song, when performing live (I would settle for "Harder," though, which is actually on Youtube). David M. - of recent Province article fame - will be doing an opening set at 9pm, featuring his song "Leonard Cohen Says Love" and his Small Salute to David Bowie, which is actually a really terrific, thoughtfully curated set of Bowie songs, which I shot some video of here and here, featuring, of course, Ozzy.
(Hi to Tom Harrison, the only other music journalist in Vancouver occasionally given to writing about David M. Actually I think there might be a band in between David M. and Pete, but no one seems to know who. Or else they know who, but not what their name is, maybe because they don't have a name yet. Or else they just don't want to tell me.)
There's more that I'm supposed to do, more that I want to do, but right now I gotta go back to bed for a bit, I'm still not feeling right (been sick) and only got about five hours sleep, which won't do.