Been gone. Am now in Prague until the end of August.
Yesterday I traveled to Boskovice for the Boskovice 2006 Festival, sponsored by the collective Unijazz, which shares office space with Tamizdat. Faithful TMI readers will know that I worked at Tamizdat last year and this year I returned to poke around the office, write album reviews, and see what else they're up to.
Boskovice is one of Unijazz's three festivals, and is dedicated to rebuilding the city's historic Jewish quarter. The festival was set up in the open air theater at the base of the biggest hill in the city. Of course this means it was just below the ruins of a 13th century castle, which became incorporated into the 'festival city' topography. Outside the gated concert area was a second hall where jazz and drumming workshops occurred, and outside this hall was a giant pond full of lotus flowers. Arranged in a circle were craftspeople selling wares, hippie outfitters, small food stands, and the gratuitous Hare Krishnas that seem to populate most 'alternative' events in CZ. People dropped down into the city below, where other events were occurring. I regret not getting to see the city, but I had a rather severe headache through the afternoon and did only festival city exploring.
I left Prague at 8:30am on a train that cost $1, going to Cesky Brod. The koruna has risen steadily on the dollar since my fascination with CZ began in 2000, and apparently is now the fastest gaining European currency. One of the few things that remain inexpensive is transportation, and I am constantly thrilled by how easy and convenient it is to use all manner of public transport here. Of course, I have help looking through the endless timetables...
Got to Cesky Brod and was met by Iva, a girlfriend of one of the Ememvoodoopoka guys. She and I walked through the city, talking about grad school (she just finished a Masters in Archeology/Greek history, congrats!) and playing music (her sister is in a retro-pop band) and arrived at a storage facility at the edge of town, where Emem were packing up their gear into a friend's van.
We listened to the 101 (ex-Christie Front Drive) and Cee-lo on the way there, arriving 20 minutes before Emems were scheduled to go on. A seamless load-in and suddenly they were on stage, early, in front of about 150 people. Today was Emems first day with their new guitarist, but they played with relative ease and Martin put on his heroic punk stageshow in the mid-afternoon sun. I think that standing in the space between the bleachers, in front of the stage, is the sign for 'I'm into this band' and they certainly won over a few folks during the set.
The band who 'everyone was there for' in the afternoon was next, Psi vojaci. Throughout the day I had people tell me that the band's leader, Filip Topol, was 'legendary' and indeed, he is. Last summer I got a chance to see a similarly revered art rock pianist Marian Varga at the Micholuv Festival. Topol's style is a lot more impressionistic (than Varga's, who tends towards counterpuntual virtuosity) at times, recalling Debussy in harmonies but with the aggressiveness of JL Lewis through Lou Reed (as go most things pop in '60s-inspired CZ). On stage he was a middle-aged, self-employed middle class male Tori, seeming nervously animated and shy than full of stage-sensuality. Someone said to me, "All the intelligent young girls love Topol," which I think was meant to be a diss, but I took as a compliment for Topol.
Next was BBP, a sort of Plastic People-inspired growling madman rant forum with serious looking backup orchestrations and a guitarist who sits down when he plays. They were followed by Vitrholc, an ambient electronic/industrial type project with live guitars and a guy playing what seemed to be a circuit bent box of noise. They were playing as we were up in the castle, exploring the grounds and it was perfectly spooky, tinged with those additive rhythm that sounds vaguely 'ancient' or 'exotic' in a way suited to wandering a castle filled with colorfully dressed hippie kids and curious weekenders caught in an unfortunate cross with the festival. Later I went down to see them, and the lead singer was wearing bright orange capris and smiling ash he hurled weak insults at the late afternoon crowd, 'you are out buying things, you have everything already.' certainly no whitehouse, but fun none the less.
We left during the evening break, when everyone was milling around the pond and I was beginning to fear that the new guitarist was going to get slapped, as he spent the whole day taking photos of cute girls. a worthy project indeed.