Monday, November 15, 2004

Ian McKaye must love Scooby Doo

When The Evens arrived at Ekko, they soon found out that the cafe stage was too small for them. So we moved them to the "big" venue, and arranged a lightshow according to their wishes. Later on, they told us how surprised they were that we were so flexible and enthousiastic. I'm already getting used to these compliments, but it always makes me proud. Ekko has a great team of people.
The concert was very special. Intimate. He made us whistle along to the music. "Whistling is, after all, a universal language". It was fun to watch these hardcore punkfans - Ian McKaye is the frontman of legendary bands Fugazi and Minor Threat - sitting at candle-lit tables, nightclub style. They ate from his hands. "Lucky you have charisma", the drummer Amy said. At one time he made us sing out loud the words
"The police will not be excused. The police will not behave". You can download a video of this audience participation part, recorded with a handheld camera during a UK show. Ian really hates cops. When he was parking his van in front of Ekko- he drives his own tour, together with Amy - two policemen were watching his every move. He got so nervous about the cops, that he wanted to move to another spot when that was taken immediately by another car. What to do? That's when I helped him out and the parking went smoothly. I only have my license for half a year now and I'm really bad at parking so you won't hear me laughing...

The Evens are playing without PA, and without monitors. In other words, all they need is some electricity. They even got their own microphones and stands. They want to bring their music to new places. In the States, they never played in venues, but in museums, art galleries, churches, shops. Setting up their sound was fun to do. I was the only soundengineer in Ekko, because they didn't really need any. My job was to listen intently to the music they produced on stage. Were the vocals loud enough? Maybe they needed some more of that spring reverb? Stuff like that. They amplified their vocals through a Fender Twin Reverb, just like they did in the 50-ies. Ian was perfectly aware of that, and wanted to bring back the direct feeling of those liveshows. The drums were a bit muted, and miked. The drums signal was then processed with digital delay and reverb, mixed with guitar amp signal of Ian and amplified through yet another guitar amp. This is all getting rather technical, but you get the message. The Evens have a partly revolutionary, partly old school approach to making music. This results in a unique, haunting sound.

They believe in a free playing field. You can do whatever you want, no boundaries. Not only the lyrics and in-between stories reflect that philosophy. Also how they make multiple endings of their songs, like in the Scooby Doo comics. And then they ask us which one we prefer. Or the way they kept looping the ending of the last song, because Ian was striking the wrong chords every time. By the time he did it right, the loop had taken off on its own, almost feeling like a mantra. Leaving us with a few minutes extra of some of the greatest music around.

They don't have a cd out yet, but you can download their brilliant song 'On The Face Of It' on the Sonic Youth website. Unfortunately their vocals are not amplified through a good old spring reverb, so it all sounds a bit less haunting than it could. Don't make the mistake of trying to sound like a normal band, please!
You'll find a great review of a UK show that I totally agree with on Playlouder. I couldn't write it down that good. They didn't do the cellphone concert in Ekko, though.

You can still see The Evens in Paradiso, at Nov 19. They will be playing on a festival celebrating another band, The Ex.

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