I’m going to break another rather long silence by telling you all about my Friday evening. It was magical. It involved listening to an indie-folk songstress called Mariee Sioux and bald-headed man with a beard from Appalachia Matt Bauer sing their hearts out in a semi-deserted cinema in the bowels of the French Institute. Great stuff. This is not merely my attempt to stray off into the territory of music criticism: I want to make a more general point about life in Prague versus life in London but I’ll save that until the end.
My nights out here are pretty tame and don’t involve one very Czech ingredient: that amber liquid produced by Pilsner and Staropramen. This was no exception but I wasn’t the only one abstaining.
“We saw all these huge white birds when we were driving in here,” Bauer said, pointing to the logo on the a bottle of Mattoni mineral water he’d just taken a swig from, “but we didn’t know what they were about. We thought it would be a beer or something.”
There was something a little surreal about sitting in an almost deserted cinema watching Matt blast out bluegrass-flavoured tunes of murder, heartbreak and sorrow but in a good way. Broad-shouldered Bauer acknowledged the strangness of the situation as he quipped in a break between songs: ‘I feel like I’m in a Fellini film.’
Bauer shared the bill with Mariee Sioux, a self-taught singer songwriter with a doll-like face and appropriately Native American influenced dangly blue earrings. (I’m not much of an earring-wearer myself which is why I was admiring them.) If you had to try to define Mariee’s music, then I suppose you’d end up calling it something like ‘indie-folk’; complimentary comparisons have been made with Joni Mitchell.
In a world where most so-called recording artists have their voices digitally enhanced when they play live I was impressed by how melodic and magical Mariee sounded with just her guitar for accompaniment. I used to listen to a lot of angry music (I came of age as part of Generation Grunge) but these days I prefer soothing tunes that make you forget your cares and transport you somewhere else. Mariee Sioux’s music hits the spot for me in this respect.
Czechman enjoyed it too. He even made a few very shy wooing sounds while applauding and then shocked me further by buying Matt Bauer’s CD which apparently was “a good price”. Allow me to digress slightly at this point in defence of Czechman who would like me to stress that his thiftiness has been overstated in this corner of cyberspace. He can be extravagant too on occasion and has specifically asked me to make it known that only last weekend he spent 500Kc (around £15) on the New York Times.
When I lived in London there were thousands of different live concerts I could have gone to every night but I rarely did. When something happens here in Prague, you make the effort to go along. London’s enormity, the sheer vastness and bulk of it, defeated me in the end. Prague is a place on a human scale.
I’m sorry you weren’t at the concert on Friday. Really. You missed out. But it makes me feel smug and special that I’m one of the few people who got to see a really fantastic gig and I didn’t have to spend an hour of my time and use three different forms of public transport to get there. Viva Praha.