Žiga i Bandisti, Kavaliri @ Tvornica Kultur
Žiga i Bandisti, Kavaliri.
Zagreb Tvornica Kulture. 01mar08.
Zagreb’s Tvornica venue is a former ballroom, which should have been a clue; that Gogol Bordello are playing here in the next fortnight a red herring. In the end it is the grannies in the audience, sat round the curved terraced seating at the back of the venue that is the gives away that my gig of choice has been the rather more conservative option.
Not that it was for the want of trying to find something a little greasier; a little more alternative; more challenging. The first choice, an anti-landmines gig featuring five Zagreb bands, had been challenging alright, in terms of finding the venue if nothing else. The location of the Mochvara warehouse, which is apparently a magnet for alt.types, shall remain a mystery. So underground a show was it, I’m starting to think it may well have actually taken place beneath terra firma. Or that I really can’t read maps. Having wandered down a long desolate track by the Sava river, retracing the steps seemed a touch foolhardy, so the Tvornica back-up plan kicked in.
Still, I wanted to experience a little Croatian culture, and who am I to suggest that young local fellas with guitars have all the answers, when it could easily be a paunchy, middle-aged crooner backed by six-piece brass and a drum-set. We’ll discuss Žiga and his band later.
First up were Kavaliri. From their matching suits and apparent playing of popular ‘folk’ standards it appeared that their being here meant that, somewhere in Croatia, a wedding reception was missing its post-dins entertainment. The two fiddlers also took on the leadership and vocal duties, the strength of their harmonies powerful despite the language barrier.
To their left, was a chap hammering at a dulcimer, a further fiddler-come-guitarist and a double bassist. Their tunes veered from standard Eastern European folk to a country twang which not only inspired the crowd into a few yee-haws and ITV-studio-audience clap-alongs, but also to waltz around the dance-floor, making the most of the wide gaps between the groups crowded around the bar tables dotted around.
Kavaliri’s seventy-five minutes of effective warm-up meant that Žiga needed to be on form. After an initial fanfare from his mini colliery band, the star (Kurt Russell in face, Adam Faith in hair and suit) arrived to a great ovation and, to keep the mood flowing, his opening numbers were amongst his most jaunty; whipcrack polkas parped out as though by a military marching band collectively tripping and rolling down a hill – the adrenaline pumping but retaining their discipline.
Halfway through the set was a ‘This Is Your Life’ moment as the compère interrupted a tune to bound on stage and present Žiga with what appeared to be something equivalent to a gold disc. Genuinly touched though he was, this did appear to put Žiga off his stroke a bit and the rhythm of the show noticeably calmed. More was the pity as the later stuff, like his version of ‘O Sole Mio’ or the elongated ‘encore’ set – just him and a weatherbeaten guitarist who had been waiting patiently backstage – felt, when compared to his brisk and joyous beginnings, pretty pedestrian.
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