March 17th, 2006

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Absynthe Minded, Hal Flavin at the Rockhal in Esch/Alzette (16th March 2006)

What do you do if it’s Third Thursday and you don’t find an attractive international electro band to play at the Rockhal. Either you book two local laptop artists that only attract 30 people, making just enough cash for the Rockhal to pay their parking attendant, or you hire a very good but very unelectronic Belgian band, add an electronic local opener and that’s it!

This should already be reason enough to prove that this concert of First Friday, Second Saturday and Third Thursday doesn’t work. But it also seems as if the Rockhal adamantly wants to hold on to their concept. Well, good luck to them.

Tonight only about 100 people showed up, and many of them to see moussevingt. Well, bad luck, moussevingt do no longer exist, therefore they had the opportunity to see the newly founded Hal Flavin. A mysterious video show sign prepared the audience already for that. But as you can’t keep a secret, especially in Luxembourg, we all knew already that moussevingt chose this day to start anew as Hal Flavin, although the songs remained the same, more or less.

After a short haunting intro, they faced the first of a couple of problems, before “Jump Down (In A Real Way)” started the regular part of their show with a well known and much liked song. The sound was glass clear, the vocals (at times shared between the three members) were perfect, with especially Marc doing his best impersonation of the ideal pop singer. The instrumentation was again typically moussevingt, ahem pardon, Hal Flavin: computer generated beats with manually played samples, and of course a rock guitar that was crimsonesque at its most intense moments, a pounding bass guitar and Dieter, the handheld keyboard straight from the Eighties.

Some may find that their songs have too complicated structures, and yes, it all sounds like so many elements put upon each other, but the clean and sometimes clinical approach makes this the whole fun of the affair. They ended their too short six song set with a new song, showing hope that their streak of great songwriting hasn’t come to an end yet. If they continue this well, we can soon call them Disco’s King Crimson.

Unfortunately there were a sometimes unscheduled breaks between songs, with guitar and bass in need of retuning, and with me always thinking that on a Third Thursday there was no such thing as detuned instruments. But still it was a very satisfactory showcase of true talent by Hal Flavin, Luxembourg’s most promising band at this moment.

Only a couple of months ago, I saw Belgian newcomers Absynthe Minded opening for dEUS in a sold-out Atelier. Tonight they were back with a new album in the slightly bigger Rockhal, but playing in front of much less people. I thought some people at the dEUS show might have found reason to come back, but it didn’t seem so. Too bad! Although I prefer by far Absynthe Minded’s jazzier debut to their more accessible (and therefore alas less interesting) successor, they did their best to create a slightly anachronistic atmosphere with stand-up bass, violin, trumpet, organ, guitar and drums. As you can imagine, a very colourful cocktail that always worked best in the less pop, more angular moments, when it sounded like a folkier version of 1977 Van der Graaf.

I am grateful that the Rockhal brought Absynthe Minded back for a headliner show, and as good as some things work (bar team with clairvoyant abilities), they still have to solve a couple of problems. Mostly they lack aggressive marketing and a street team, which at times guarantee the Kulturfabrik twice the amount of people at a show of band that is only half as known. Or maybe they should decide on a couple of key genres they want to feature instead of making too many different things, never being able that way to generate a faithful audience.

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