Efterklang + Daníel Bjarnason + Samamidon – Le Poisson Rouge – March 3
It’s rare that I enjoy every artist on the line-up, but Wednesday night’s show at Le Poisson Rouge hit all the right notes. Sure, I was a bit bummed out that Balmorhea had canceled (due to “urgent family matters”), but the last minute replacement for the opening slot, Samamidon, was a welcome addition to the roster.
Samamidon is one of those artists that I’ve seen scheduled to play countless times in the area, but I’ve never gotten around to actually checking him out properly. His performance tonight made me regret not making more of an effort to see him in the past. Sam unceremoniously took to the stage, picked up a ukulele, and began playing.
Sam’s pleasant demeanor and warm voice make you feel like you’re hanging out with an old friend whom you’ve known for years. Perhaps it doesn’t hurt that he sounds a lot like Alexi Murdoch or even a bit like José Gonzalez. Sam rotated instruments, playing the banjo and guitar in addition to the ukulele, and he was accompanied by drums. The sound was minimal, but it was the perfect start to the evening. Whether he was telling a story about animatronic dinosaurs or singing a cover of an R. Kelly song (“Relief”), Sam captivated the quietly seated audience. (1) He closed the evening off with the lovely song “Wedding Dress.”
Samamidon is scheduled to release an album at the end of the month, entitled I See the Sign. Download a free track from it here.
Next up was Icelandic composer/conductor Daníel Bjarnason… or more accurately, I should say Daníel Bjarnason and his sixteen-piece orchestra. I’m still not quite sure how they fit so many people and instruments on stage, but it was marvelous. A piano, violins, viola, cello, upright bass, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, oboe, clarinet, french horn, suspended gongs, and a full-size harp all decorated the stage. It was truly a sight – and a sound – to behold.
Daníel’s music is beautiful, but often a bit creepy – discordant screeches were built into the first song the orchestra played. At times, just a few musicians play at a time and the sound is minimal and harmonious, but there are also sudden moments when all the instruments jump in at once, each jostling for attention to be heard through the pandemonium. During one such moment, I know I’m not the only one who visibly jumped a little, and when I looked over at Sam, I could detect a small smile creeping over his face. To get a taste for yourself, head over here and stream a few songs.
Playing Radiohead in between sets was a bit of an odd choice, but I suppose Efterklang is pretty much Denmark’s Radiohead. I love Denmark – don’t get me wrong. They just aren’t really known for their music (or their food for that matter). Before Efterklang had even started to play, I immediately had a big grin on my face as they walked on stage. They were dressed boldly and brightly – reds, purples, greens, and blues from head to toe.
Many of the songs the band played were from their new album, Magic Chairs, which came out just a few weeks ago, including “Alike,” which does remind me a bit of Radiohead.
In addition to the obvious – the music, I love Efterklang for their charming stage presence. All of the guys in the band seem so genuinely excited to be playing – as if they can’t believe that they’re on stage in New York. Even lead singer Casper Clausen was in high spirits despite having been to the doctor earlier in the day for his throat and almost calling off the show. Luckily, despite this setback, Casper’s voice was in fine form, and he still had plenty of energy to march around on stage. For more punch, Tim Cronin of Camera Obscura joined the band on stage to play the trumpet throughout the evening.
The set may have been relatively short, but the energy was all there. Following the one-song encore of “Mirror Mirror,” the audience applauded generously, and the guys from Efterklang stood on stage grinning, pointing at the crowd, and enthusiastically clapping as if we were the ones who had just put on the show. The effect was utterly charming.
Do yourself a favor and head over to 4AD to check out some sweet videos of Efterklang performing songs from Magic Chairs.
(1) Hear and watch Samamidon performing “Relief” at a show in Dublin here.