So, there's not a whole lot I like about the modern music industry. Something about the endless chain of 'new sensations' bellowing the same auto-tuned line on repeat to the sound of computer generated bass and drum sounds just doesn't quite give me any pleasure hearing. And so many concerts just seem so mechanized and rehearsed, from the mounds of sound equipment to the countless number of back-up dancers. Maybe I'm already becoming a nostalgic, old man at age 26, but I miss the days where bands actually had musicians, and could entertain with energy and personality instead of studio effects.
Therefore, as you could imagine, I was incredibly relieved and elated to come across a Balkan-style brass band in Moscow the other week called Добраночь (Dobranotch). The incident actually happened by chance as I had just gotten back to my hostel after a day's work. Usually, things were pretty quiet that time of day, but when I opened the door this time, I heard some sounds. Wanting to know the source, I followed as it grew louder and louder until I made my way to the common room. To my surprise, a group of middle-aged guys (many of which with large mustaches), sat around practicing an eclectic array of instruments that included a tuba, trombone, trumpet, and fiddle. There were no electronics, no one taking photographs, and absolutely no sign of auto-tuning. It was wonderful and I wanted more.
Once the music died down for a second, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and ask the band if they were playing a show that night. Noticing my interest, they told me they would be at this nearby Serbian bar and gave me directions. My excitement grew.
It was about nine in the evening as I walked up to the door of the Serbian bar. A crowd of people hung around the door, some conversing, some smoking, but everyone seemed to be caught in this aura of good spirits, all too often absent in Moscow. Some were laughing, others smiling ear to ear, a few dancing, and some all three. I couldn't wait any longer. I had to be part of it.
Approaching the brown, wooden door, I reached my hand out to push it open and was immediately overtaken by a rush of sound and energy bursting forward from every direction. The band stood in the front of the room, horns blaring, singing their hearts out, and (at least for the fiddle player) jumping up on tables. The sound was so lively, organic, and flowed together in a way that just compelled you to forget your troubles and dance, and oh yes, it resonated with the crowd. All around me, people cheered, jumped, waved their arms, and repeatedly handed drinks forward to each of the band members. I felt so caught up in the moment, I couldn't help but happily follow suit.
And just when I couldn't decide what was better, the music or the performance, the mustached fiddle player in a red shirt, now jumping from table to table, put the bow in his mouth, gripped both ends of the instrument, and began playing with his teeth. Shaking the fiddle back and forth, he cranked out an intricate, complex solo, and actually sounded incredible while doing so. I stood there, jaw hanging in amazement, having just seen something I could never have imagined. However, it did not end there.
As the band quieted slightly, he jumped off the table, fiddle in hand, bow in mouth, and shouted for a volunteer. Without hesitation, one woman with light brown hair stepped forward. He told her to bite down on the other end of the bow. She looked a bit confused at first, but that quickly changed to excitement as she acted accordingly. He then raised up the fiddle with both hands, still holding his end of the bow in his teeth, and began to play. The crowd went wild and soon the rest of the band cranked up the noise once more.
The band continued long into the night, making the best of every moment and never losing a bit of their musical drive. Nothing was choreographed, and no one was high strung. It was complete musical joy, playing whatever felt right at whatever moment. Anyway, I'm rambling, but if you want to check out more of Добраночь, check out their website and the videos below.