Story online since: 06.04.2010 / 09:44:35
A dripstone cave, formed by the forces of nature over a million years, unique in its bizarre and fabulous aesthetic underworld shape – can there be a more appropriate place for a concert evening with artists who perform somehow otherworldly music?
Not for AMENRA on this very evening of the 1st of April. I had downloaded some songs of the Belgian band before the concert, yet this gig was announced as special acoustic set, thus as obviously quite different to what AMENRA usually unleash on stage and on most of their albums. Lacking any deeper knowledge of their music, their history, their origin, their role in any "scene”, I was overwhelmed by the enthralling performance of this quintet. It’s a seldom experience to visit a concert of an almost unknown band and to immediately drown in its melodies with so much pleasure. AMENRA played music which harmonized perfectly with the atmosphere of the Dechenhöhle in the low key illumination, and please excuse my superficial associations, but those calm men resembled darker brothers of Sigur Rós, playing music in their very own world. Sitting in the cave, massive dripstone rocks all around, I closed my eyes and let me lull by the ultimately warm guitar sound, the softly drums, dived deeper into the cave guided by a voice echoing through the tunnel behind my back – what a sound experience! Unfortunately the band stopped playing after a few songs and even left the small stage without any encore, which surprised me indeed – that was all?
Playing songs from their "Afterlife” record in the subterranean darkness of the dripstone cave, AMENRA harmonized well with the surroundings.
After this memorable, but very short gig and a cup of mulled wine – yes, it wasn’t exactly hot in the cave – I went to the merchandise stall where I told one of the AMENRA musicians that their gig was dreamlike, but way too short and he just hinted at the fact they were "only” the opening act for Steve van Till. In my humble opinion a more than just talented band like AMENRA deserved a bit more playing time in a place like this, equal whoever might play afterwards. I bought the "Afterlife” CD cause the musician told me that it would sound wise come closest to the concert they had just played that evening and I looked joyfully forwards Mr. Van Till’s performance.
Steve Van Till searching for the right sounds
And this is where the April Fool’s joke turned up. I’m not here to judge the impressive life work of this musician, but his performance in a fantastic and inspiring surrounding like this cave was unfortunately close to ridiculousness. Steve Van Till started with an introduction way too loud instead of keeping a balanced sound like the opening act, playing a chord and then letting the effect pedals take over the leadership – this meant that he sometimes didn’t touch the string for half a minute and instead drank some coffee or tea! Not to be misunderstood: I like calm music and I’m open towards experimental, psychedelic and unusual sounds, but Van Till’s performance seemed surprisingly uninspired and half-hearted. There’s a difference between the art of noise and pure loudness for the sake of loudness, especially in a place with such an acoustic like a dripstone cave (which comes close to a small church). Steve Van Till didn’t undertake any distinguishable effort to use the cave and its atmosphere, he acted more or less like a musician a bit too confident about his skills, but at least this evening his whole performance was limited, his vocals as well as his guitar playing. In order not to punish my ears, I left after roundabout half an hour and strolled through the subterranean corridors and caves, listening to the echo which seemed way more friendly than the sound in front of the stage.
Thus I left with mixed emotions about the thrilling discovery of a band that I will surely meet again at a hopefully longer gig and about the concert of a musician who maybe just had a bad day. Nevertheless there’s no doubt that the Dechenhöhle is a nice place, especially for music with flair of the otherworldly.