Saturday, January 20, 2007

Le bal des boîteux - 19/01/2007@next to the CC Belgica, Dendermonde

Lieven Nijs - g, banjo
Joris Blanckaert - accordion
Jeroen Baert - vln
Tim Vandenbergh - b
(band myspace)

When I walked out of the CC Belgica after the Dhafer Youssef concert, I saw through a window that right next door another concert was taking place. It was still quite early and the lineup looked interesting, so I went inside. It turned out that it was also the opening of an art exhibit, which meant free drinks.

Le bal des boîteux's songs jovially blended popular music, classical and rock in a way that would not have been too out-of-place on Yann Tiersen's Amélie Poulain soundtrack. The bass would hit a rhythmical ostinato, the guitar chugged rock-ish chords (he had a very small amp, so the volume level was appropriate in regards to the other, unamplified, instruments) while the accordion and violin played short, repeated melodic motifs or twirled around each other to create denser textures. The excellent bassist would often slip almost imperceptibly between emphatic accompaniment and jazz-like soloing.

I was reminded of this drum and whistle band we randomly came across in a Kilkenny, Ireland bar, back in 2002. They shared a sense of a long tradition of a popular music that, in LBDB's case, pilfered liberally from more "sophisticated" or contemporary genres, integrating them smartly enough not to lose its popular core. That process seems to me a really timeless one, conceptually similar to Tatum playing Dvorak.

Just when I began to think that they could occasionally have done with a percussionist, Nijs introduced an old Casio keyboard. A few buttons were pressed and the knowingly cheesy canned beat it issued underpinned a really simple, almost naïve pop melody. In a hilarious moment, a one-bar break allowed the Casio to come through in all it's glory.

The tracks on their MySpace page come from their two albums, have more musicians and are more produced. Unfortunately, they're not nearly as good as what I heard in this informal setting.