zondag 16 april 2017

Gather: The Wanderer + No Ninja Am I. Haarlem, 14 April 2017

Photo by Wo.
How nice. A living room concert in the former V&D store in Haarlem. Now V&D was a many floored department store chain that went into bankruptcy over a year ago. Part of the building now is a pop up store, a galleria and now also providing room for living room shows. My girlfriend was quite nostalgic though, missing one of her favourite stores, reminiscing what was where as we walked around the ground floor, looking at the works of art.

A lady called Sabrina Vermeulen organised the show in Haarlem for the first time and we attended, because Sander van Munster, better known in a musical context as  No Ninja Am I, emailed me to say he would be playing in Haarlem.

About 40 people gathered in a partly secluded corner of the former store. Every thought between improvised and well-layed out was an option. The Gather logo very present and all sorts of old furniture and self-made cushions to sit on.

The evening opened with The Wanderer, the trio of Nikos Frangiskatos. Together with a pianist and a lead guitarist, Nikos ventured into serious land. Making music is not something to take lightly there. Just like life is not. Frangiskatos has gone through a lot and found his home: making and playing his music. And he seems quite at home in his new realm.

His music is full of atmosphere. His own guitar playing is elementary. This is not the kind of singer-songwriter who plays all sorts of complex patterns underneath his songs. He strums in a light way. His voice is clear, with a good diction and pleasant to listen to. The piano is the instrument that takes care of the lighter touch, the electric guitar is like the sea. A continuous ripple of waves, more like a synthesizer producing long held notes. Flat like the sea on a windless day, rough when in storm. Overall the guitar produces the bed the rest lays itself down on.

The Wanderer makes beautiful songs, full of atmosphere and introspection. Over the length of a show that turns itself a bit against the trio though. When all is said is done, the music is very uniform and the songs are more or less in the same tempo and have the same texture. This could be alright, but then it comes down to being able to catch all the small nuances. This is were the soundmix did not assist the band. The harmonies were hard to hear, as was the mix between the two guitars and the keyboard. And let that instrument be the one where most of the nuances had to come from. A missed opportunity.

Frangiskatos said somewhere that he doesn't write happy songs. Be what it may, his show would win a world if he forces himself towards a few songs that would give the show a bit more dynamics and release. Diversity would accentuate the serious songs so much more and allow the audience to breath for a few minutes before digging in again. Most songs were good and deserve some space. The Wanderer has a world to win here.

Photo by Wo.
How dynamics in a show work, was shown by No Ninja Am I. The four piece band switched instruments, song types, tempo, the whole of the time and played some serious songs as well. The result was a lively show that brought out the best in No Ninja Am I. From what basically is a solo project, with a little help from friends, the translation to the stage was made with confidence and the pure pleasure of playing together.

The show started with a three piece harmony sounding so impressive that I knew right away it would be simply impossible for this show to go wrong and it didn't. The interaction between the electric and acoustic guitar, percussion, bass and violin was there from the very beginning. So light footed, sung without amplification, yet all so clear in sound. The audience hanging onto the very last extended note on the violin before graciously applauding the performance.

The approach to playing these songs in a band context, makes the songs quite different from the recorded version. Alternate versions that deserve to end up some day on a live album of some kind. As those interested were able to read, I liked the latest EP by No Ninja Am I, 'We Share A Dream',  a lot. I can assure you, I like the band live even better. The songs got this little extra, making them come alive, sparkle even more.

In the intimacy of living room shows there is no hiding. There was no need to hide, for either artist, nor the audience. No Ninja Am I is a great live act, with songwriter Sander celebrating his birthday on stage. There are worse ways to celebrate a birthday, much worse.


The Wanderer's new EP 'Silence, Part 1' is on Spotify.
No Ninja Am I's music is on Bandcamp:


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