Under a mass of shifting clouds and with northern winds threatening to knock me off my feet, I slowly made my way to Ucho, a music club where I attended my first gigs ever. In a way, it felt like being home and reliving the youth days when gigs were scarce and of a different kind. And to make things even more special, the 1st of June marked the Children’s Day in Poland. Now, could one think of a better gift than an evening filled with explorations deep into the stoner realms?
Embarking on a European tour yet again, Elder this time focused primarily on the regions of Scandinavia, the Baltics and the Balkans. With three dates in Poland, the guys opted for playing in Gdynia which is now the second city on the coast that has been blessed by Elder’s sonic storytelling. Supporting them were Red Scalp and Diuna, two polish bands that have played numerous shows together and know how to deliver a solid performance.
After all bands were done with their soundchecks, came a brief moment to finish up that beer and have a last chat before the opening concert. Meandering between various band members and attendees pottering around, I made my way towards the stage to indulge in the incoming riffage…
As a matter of introduction, let me metaphorically paint you a picture of Diuna. All hungry and craving for nourishment, you pick up a rather typical apple from a nearby tree. Having eaten a good amount of those in your life, you expect the usual bland taste that so commonly found, would at best be just okay. After a couple of bites though, you realize something peculiar in that very fruit. It soaks in grit, irony and heavily distorted riffs that evoke the unforgiving power of the desert. Dazed and confused, you suddenly fall victim to a myriad of sounds, seemingly coming out of nowhere and punching straight in the brain.
Diuna opened the evening with Jarmark Cudów, a premiering track off their upcoming record. Obliterating the air with some crunchy chords, the quartet had quickly made themselves comfy and invited everyone to party along. What is perhaps a distinguishing feature of Diuna is that they sing in their native tongue and always put on some fascinatingly random visuals on the backdrop. While gameplays from GTA Vice City mixed with psychedelic glitches and cringy quotes might have seemed… distinct, they still perfectly fitted with the relentless music that Diuna brought about. Most of the setlist consisted of new tracks that altogether sounded like a major step-up in comparison to their fantastic debut, The Very Best of the Golden Hits.
While the band is still in its infancy, it boldly keeps on forging their freaky yet unique identity. It could be best illustrated with their show in Gdynia, where apart from playing a handful of dusty tracks, Diuna managed to treat the crowd with a highly contagious essence of stoner rock. Set in a rather satiric framework and refusing to follow any beaten tracks.
Diuna is: Mitzig on guitar, Kostek on vocals, Kuba on drums and Malies on bass.
These Space Indians have been around the polish underground scene for around 7 years now, yet it feels like their spirit roams these grounds since a much longer time. Driven by the Iommic wisdom and a need for astral exploration, Red Scalp steadily pave their way through space and time to preach about what they hold most dear – the power of the riff.
Having just returned from the studio, the band decided to put their experiments into life and share their recent endeavors with those who made it for the ritual. Playing just before Elder, whom they accompanied on all three polish dates, Red Scalp finally climbed the stage and welcomed the assembling crowd. Without further ado, the band dropped the first riffs.
Despite having no name yet, the opening track gave everyone a highly energetic kick which left me particularly curious and excited about the upcoming record. Dancing amidst the prevailing shadows, Red Scalp continued with their madness and played Lost Ghost, a good example of how to build up a track and weave various instruments together. The mind-boggling sound of saxophone, synths flowing in the background and the fierce guitar work, all came crashing down to rip people’s souls out and watch them whirl around the sonic campfire. On top of that, perhaps my most vivid memory was when Jan and Mateusz, both on separate drum sets, were hypnotically beating their way through one track and doing so with the help of some wicked forces. It was one of the most captivating moments of the whole performance.
Saving the classic bits for the end, Red Scalp treated the crowd with Tatanka, a gem of a track which holds the power to move mountains or other stoned entities. Supported with a smooth groove and wild riffin’, the recurring chanting bellowed louder every time chorus came around. And when all the reverbs and noise finally settled down, time had come for gathering the thoughts and setting the mind back to reality mode.
Following Red Scalp for quite some years now, I must admit that they laid a solid foundation upon which they gradually build their identity. Live, the band brings their music to an entirely different level with the help of passion and a sense of friendship that binds the musicians together. While two of their premiering tracks haven’t (yet?) stole my heart, they felt like Red Scalp was seriously up to something and hopefully, they will keep our turntables busy later this year. Howgh!
Red Scalp is: Jędrek on guitar, vocals and synths, Jan on saxophone and ritual drums, Mateusz on drums, Jankes on bass and Łukasz on guitar.
If someone says that gigs are no place for elderly, then drag that person to the front of the stage when Elder happen to be hitting it. While the band appeared to be of rather young age altogether, they were surely inhabited by some ancient psychedelic spirits that only made their presence when summoned on stage. Let us welcome a band that never ceases to surprise and continuously pushes their art out of any rigid frames. Ladies and gentlemen, Elder live at Ucho in Gdynia.
Elder kicked the gig off with Compendium, a masterfully-crafted opener of Lore, a pearl of an album released in 2015 that had left a permanent mark on the whole stoner/doom/psych scene. Riding the riff-laden waves, the band slowly began to unfold their arsenal and drift away into the stories they so carefully like to tell with their music. While the vocals seemed slightly unintelligible at times and Nick had hardly any light in his corner of the stage, it didn’t stop the band from putting out a maximum of their power. Proceeding with Thousand Hands and Lore in its entirety, Elder was then already deep inside the abyss of their own musical narrative. And just when the latter had been rounded off after more than 15 minutes of pure craziness, a surprise timidly crawled up the speakers. Weißensee, a premiering track off their upcoming LP, The Gold & Silver Sessions, made its appearance and slowed down the gig’s tempo substantially. Reminiscent of the hazy jams of Causa Sui, the track went off to explore mellow territories only to later abruptly gain a more menacing momentum thanks to the organ-like intrusion of Micheal’s keys.
The second half of the concert was dedicated to a blend of tracks coming from both Dead Roots Stirring and Reflections Of A Floating World. Songs like Sanctuary or Dead Roots Stirring were among some of the fans’ favorites so no wonder one could hear screams of excitement or other sonic ecstasies occasionally piercing the already tense air. And just when one thought that there was nothing that could possibly spike up the buzz, came Gemini literally bursting its way through the speakers. Leaving no one behind, Elder embarked on a final quest of the night and for the last time lost themselves in the heavy dimensions of their fable. Accompanied by a lively round of applause and many disbelieving stares, Elder closed their chapter and thanked the crowd for joining them on that wild ride. Damn, I thought. This gig took me to places from which it will be hard to ever return. I might be possibly still finding my way back just when you read it now…
Elder is: Nick on guitar and vocals, Matt on drums, Jack on bass and Micheal on guitar and keys.
To sum up, the 1st of June couldn’t have turned out any better. With three fantastic gigs, each of different character yet all falling under the common stoner denominator, I was beyond blissful having been able to take part in this event. Being able to hang out with the bands and their mates, see them prepare for the shows and talk about everything and nothing at the same time, felt priceless yet pretty much part of the whole experience. The grassroots movements and sheer passion for music were essentially the reasons we came there, all for which I’m eternally thankful.
If I had any criticism it would mainly involve the rather underwhelming sound quality inside the venue and the attendance rate as it could ideally be slightly higher. Oh and the beer was quite pricey. Not much right? That’s because truly all the bands put up a great performance which overshadowed any possible drawbacks. And it wasn’t only me, plenty of people I talked to had serious fun and agreed that the dose of the widely-understood stoner was just on point. Till next time!