I came to Atelier Babylon on 12 April not knowing exactly what to expect. I also came a bit late and missed more then half of the set played by the Slovak jazz all-stars. Oops. There was.. traffic.. lots of it. Babylon was packed to the brim, yet the sound level was kept at a ‘jazz-club’ standard, which was a nice surprise. Their set culminated with an epic double-drum jam featuring veteran drummer Martin Valihora (also the organizer of the evening), and young come-up star David Hodek. DJ Vec joined in on the turntables and saxophonist Radovan Tariska cricket-footed his way through some amazing solos.
During the break, I was helping some friends to move all the equpiment used by the first band to their van. Backstage, Chris Dave and his musicians were making their way to the stage. My friend whispered: “that’s him”. Seeing him up close, it wasn’t hard to imagine him being ID’d at every bar and liquor store in the States; stone-headed bouncers oblivious to the fact they are talking to a veteran drummer in his 40’s. Dave and the Drumhedz hit the stage and it was on!
From the first notes, every instrument and every note had it’s own role and space. Dave was joined onstage by a bass player, a guitarist and a trumpet player – all top notch musicians who, when combined together, were a powerhouse to be reckoned with. Even early in the concert, however, I got the feeling that very many people did not know what exactly they were paying 20+ euros for. A funky poster and a funky Z at the end of the band name apperantly was enough to lead a majority of people to believe they were going to a groove-jazz concert to drink and dance the night away. This was not the case. Dave and Drumhedz play complex music. Rhythm changes were frequent, time signatures were odd, and any ‘dancable’ groove lasted less than a minute.
Having made my way to the front-and-center of the audience, I floated on the soundwaves with my eyes closed, playing a mental game I like to call one-at-a-time, in which I take turns focusing on one single instrument on stage and mentally blocking out all the other. Though closing your eyes normally is not a rule, this time it was a must, as it helped me mentally and visually block out endless drunk couples trying to kiss, hug, and dance to the music, only to be thrown on their metaphorical ass by the ever changing rhythm. Several friends were of the opinion that the band did not bother to show their best, opting instead to mess with the audience in the way described above, but I can hardly agree.
As a special treat, the band dived in to a super fast and potent version of the great Fela Kuti’s afrobeat classic ‘Zombie’, as well as soulful cover of ‘Hey Joe’. The concert was interesting, professional, and musically confusing, leaving me satisfied and looking forward to the Drumhedz EP coming out later this year!