So, I think I need to work on a little time management, since this week seems to have gotten away from me with no postings until today. I’ll definitely need to work on that going forward, as there are a lot of bands on the horizon that I’ll have a lot to write about. Thankfully, this week didn’t spawn as many posts as I thought it would. I was able to publish to one I wanted to about my grandfather, and I’ll sum up in this post, but this is going to get harder going forward, especially with the holidays coming up. But enough about current events, let’s talk about DeVotchKa!
The first time I saw DeVotchKa, they were opening for The Dresden Dolls. I had never heard of them before, I was more interested in seeing The Dresden Dolls again. But we got to the venue early enough to see them anyway. I had gone on their MySpace page and listened to a couple of their tracks and was intrigued and impressed, so I wanted more. I’m so glad I did. They opened their set with the song Twenty-Six Temptations. The lights were all out, and all you could hear was the opening drums. But then, in the darkness, you could hear a sousaphone. You could just barely see it, too, since it was strewn with Christmas lights all over the bell of it. The lights came up on the full band as Nick Urata began to sing, and strobed as he cried out the chorus of “tempation.” I watched this four piece group switch instruments througout the set, the drummer had multiple different percussion set-ups, and a toy piano at his side. The woman playing the sousaphone switched between that and an upright bass. The trumpet player also played violin. Nick was always singing, but sometimes he had an electric guitar and sometimes an acoustic. I didn’t know much about the band at that point, including where they were from, but due to a lot of the melodies they used, I assumed they were eastern European. When I found out they weren’t, but were actually from Denver (never a city I associated with interesting music, sorry Denver) I was even more impressed, and got their first three albums at the show before leaving. I picked up their other releases as they came out. I’m a little upset that they haven’t put out anything new in several years, but the stuff they have given me has been worth it.
So what makes them special? Why are they hear? Well, bands like DeVotchKa are, for me, an affirmation that there is always more interesting music out there. They are a reminder that you don’t have to stick to the same tired formulas to make music. And they remind us that everything old can be made new again and great.
I do lose faith in music from time to time. I have listened to a lot of music in my life. I’d wager to say I’ve listened to more music than most, but of course not as much as some. The positive result of this is that I’ve heard a lot of music. The Negative result is that I sometimes find myself thinking that I’ve heard everything that can be heard and there is nothing new out there. This is, obviously, incorrect. First of all, there is no way that I’ve heard it all. There is a lot out there. Even if I’ve heard more than most, it’s definitely not all. But, sometimes I can get into that rut, where everything I listen to starts to blend together and sound the same. I lose faith, thinking I’ve hit the edge of “new.” But a band like DeVotchKa, who sounds like nothing else yet sounds familiar enough to be accessible, can come along and shake me out of my funk. They remind me that there is so much more to explore. Because of DeVotchKa, I got into Gogol Bordello and I can even say that they’re the reason I got into Beats Antique in recent years (for those wondering, it’s the “world music” connection that links them). DeVotchKa reminds me that, no matter how much I’ve heard, there is always new ground to explore. I just need to look around a little more.
For as much as I think of DeVotchKa as new and different, it is worth noting that they are playing off of things that are old. They would not sound out of place in a smoky Spanish bar in the early 1900’s. They also wouldn’t sound out of place in a wandering Romani camp even earlier than that. But they still don’t sound out of place today either. They were able to take music that is timeless and bring it forward a few hundred years, with modern and classic instruments and modern and classic methods. They prove that music doesn’t ever go away, some of it just waits to be refreshed with some modern sensibilities and a new audience.
I look at DeVotchKa as an experiment that managed to go incredibly right, for them and for me. For them, they were able to bring music back that had been forgotten and neglected and shine a light on it again, exposing it’s beauty to a new generation of listeners. For me, I took a chance, went to a show early, and expanded my music vision further than I had before.
Plus, they have this excellent cover of Siouxie and the Banshees that I played at my wedding: