Eastern European folk music has been on the rise in recent years. Bands like Gogol Bordello and Beirut have married it with elements of punk and indie rock with great success, while other artists, such as violinist Alicia Svigals and renowned clarinetist Joel Rubin, who leads the UVA Klezmer Ensemble, have helped carry on the music’s more traditional strands. Charlottesville has seen its fair share of both ends of that spectrum, with Gogol Bordello tearing through town a few times, Svigals teaming up with the Klezmer Ensemble at Old Cabell Hall in December and bands like Verbunk and Accordion Death Squad spreading their own local brand of rousing originals and traditional tunes. On February 16, Luminescent Orchestrii, another car on the accelerating gypsy-klezmer train (whose Grand Central Station seems to be NYC) will roll into town for a show at Gravity Lounge.
See the light: Luminescent Orchestrii brings folk melodies and punk energy to Gravity Lounge.
What we’re listening to
"All Things Must Pass," by George Harrison (from All Things Must Pass)—The former Beatle riffs on impermanence with head-swelling horns and a slide guitar that’s the sonic equivalent of a tug on your heartstrings.
"Be Mine," by Robyn (from Robyn)—Late ’90s Swedish pop princess (remember "Show Me Love"?) re-emerges on her own label with a distinctly less sickening style. Euro dance pop beats and violins complement a refreshing lyrical take on unrequited love.
"Marquee Moon," by Television (from Marquee Moon)
"Pimp," by The Dwarves (from The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking)
"Today," by Jefferson Airplane (from Surrealistic Pillow)
Feedback got the chance to chat with the group’s guitarist, Sxip Shirey, and one of our first questions was, well, what in the world is an orchestrii? “It’s a word we made up, meaning small ensemble with orchestral intent,” he tells us. Violinist Rima Fand first wanted to start an all-girl orchestra, Shirey explains, but after the members of the band took a trip to Romania, that idea morphed into a gypsy music ensemble, and the Orchestrii was born. “Most people in the band have Eastern European blood in them, so it was kind of a natural exploration,” he says.
The band has also traveled to the Czech Republic, Transylvania, Istanbul, Macedonia and the long-running GuÄa festival in Serbia, experiencing many memorable moments along the way. “I remember we were in Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia, and we went into a youth hostel with a bunch of musicians from New York and New Orleans,” says Shirey. “We met a little French marching band, women from Denmark, a bunch of singers from Poland. We all got together and we went to this ancient fortress that was built during the time of the Turks. We drank and we played music from all of our different countries and everybody sang. The Polish girl taught us Ukrainian tunes, we played hip-hop tunes and the French people played French tunes. That was probably my most international music jam.”
Though exploring the world has no doubt helped the Orchestrii hone their musical perspectives, they’ve also found a comfortable home in the Big Apple. “It’s a good scene,” Shrirey says. “There are some really great bands here, like the Slavic Soul Party, the Zagnut Cirkus Orkestar and, of course, Gogol Bordello and Balkan Beat Box. It’s just like in the ’80s when you had a lot of African music mixed with Western music, and now you’re getting the same thing with Eastern European music.”
The Orchestrii weaves elements of Appalachian old-time, hip-hop rhythms and classical progressions into their gypsy tunes, and, even without a drummer, they manage to keep things moving. “We are an exceedingly high-energy band. We have a lot of punk energy, except we have the complexities of a folk tradition,” says Shirey. “And we have a lot of 20th century dissonance.”
“We do really well in countries and states that have a fiddle tradition,” he adds, so we have no doubt the Orchestrii, who played Gravity back in October, will once again make a good impression on Charlottesville, home of many a fiddle lover.
Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted six more weeks of winter, but we can tolerate the cold knowing that some really great shows will be coming to town when the buds finally begin to bloom. On April 12, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists will play at Satellite Ballroom, and Feist, who hit it big with last year’s The Reminder, will open the Charlottesville Pavilion’s third season on April 26. We’re also excited that two of Charlottesville’s most happening bands, rockin’ country brothers Sons of Bill and infectious popsters (and this week’s cover boys—see page 20) Sparky’s Flaw, will co-headline a show at Satellite Ballroom on March 21. Tickets are on sale, so scoop them up now, because they’ll be gone before you know it.
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