This weekend I joined the Radio Wave crew on location for their recording of a concert by the band Midi Lidi in the town of Ostrava, CZ. The concert was supposed to be live, but due to "pre-election live broadcasting censorship," namely that the band might say something on public radio about one of the candidates, the show was held for broadcast tomorrow. Which is a public holiday. Also, the election was supposed to be held this fall but is not going to be now. So the rule actually should not have applied.
Moving on, we arrived at Cesky Rozhlas's building at about 5pm, with enough time to see Midi Lidi sound and video checking. As a performative electronic in the Kraftwerk (through Mixel Pixel) tradition, they have an integrated light and sound set up. The band was busy in their prep, so we went out to wander the streets of Ostrava, which is known as "the steel heart of the Czech Republic." Having grown up in Youngstown, OH, which is "the buckle of the rust belt," I was curious about my town's Czech sister. The pre-evening night out downtown was basically abandoned, and no shops were opened. Restaurants were prepping, but few had patrons or even on music. Men at kebob shops were rolling their carts out onto the street. Things were sleepy.
We returned to find the street outside the club full of fans. The show was free with guest list request and about 120 people responded, most of whom were in their 20s. The show began promptly in this larger radio hall with quilted sounddampeners along the back and iron covered pastel sound absorbers on the vaulted ceiling. The space felt like a shrunken high school auditorium and the threesome Midi Lidi, two laptops, two midi controlers, a drum pad, Korg snyth and vocal effects box stood in front of a large screen and the projector stacked on top of road cases in the middle.
Although they all sing, Petr assumes lead with the most animated gestures. He plays confused or confounded by his tech, he is bashful or exhuberant, he jigs sideways or runs between the walls like a raving madman, but always back to the mic for the chorus. Prokop, the analog synth player, tosses his now new wave hair sideways and tries not to smile as he pecks out naive melodies and the occasional breathetaking fill on his keys. Marketa, in the middle with vocal effects, is more successful at not smiling as she adds harmonies. She only breaks after the encore when the crowd, who'd been dancing tiny controlled movements, breaks into a more full on raver mode. The room begins to sweat and laugh at the more whimsy of their earlier tunes, then ends with Prokop and Petr bounding acrosss stage like hugging bunnies, and the lights go on.
Half our crew breaks down the gear, the other half is upstairs in the mixing room - something has gone wrong with the snyths on the first four tracks and has to be remixed. Then we tumble out into the night, where the meats are now well roasting in the streets of Stodolni, the drinking street, and groups of guys in their party shirts and ladies in heels wander between grotty themed bars. The Radio Wave team finally all comes together at an upstairs, smoke-friendly club local to one Waver who's proudly wearing his Banik anorak and DJing "Moravian hip hop funk," which as far as I could tell mean P Funk interspersed with Onyx and Naughty By Nature. I left the crew at 2am and ventured back to the Rozhlas house, which features serveral hostel rooms for out of town programmers, and lingered for a minute in the hall outside the elevator where pictures of the 1930s Ostrava Radio Orchestra, sound effects men, and an interviewer with Janacek hung.