posted on September 11, 2007 04:32
DeVotchka (live in Crawdaddy, Dublin)
Review Snapshot: They may be known predominantly for the soundtrack of everyone’s favourite indie film of the past few years, but the Denver based band show Dublin that there is much more to them than yellow camper vans and wee Miss Americas. Despite the claim that their "live performances are considered transcendent- with audience members dancing and crying, sometimes in the space of a single song", the Dublin crowd are happy enough to cheer and dance. We’re just a little more restrained I suppose…
The CLUAS Verdict? 7.8 out of 10
Full Review: Spending a balmy and surprisingly dry Friday evening in the beer garden of Crawdaddy is not entirely unpleasant. However the prospect of having to enter a cramped, dark and sweaty room is not exactly enticing, even if it is to see a band that are reluctantly forced to refer to themselves as “Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack composers” in advertisements despite the beauty of their mournful songs. As I enter the venue ten minutes late (lounging in the setting sun delayed me) I am greeted by the sight and sound of Jeanie Schroder playing a huge illuminated sousaphone decorated in flowers and lights, a violinist who is either incredibly sedate or concentrated (quite a bemused expression in my opinion) and lead singer Nick Urata delicately crooning into a vintage microphone with an expression of grief that, one would presume, only a Latin singer can bring to a performance.
For the more sombre and heartfelt songs, Urata stands to the left of the mic as if whispering into a former lover’s ear. Throughout most of the set the drummer is in recluse behind Urata only to emerge to play trumpet when needed. In terms of categorisation Devotchka are a juxtaposition of mariachi influenced horns, guitar and a definite Yiddish/Eastern European fiddle but with the twist of an indie consciousness that invigorate the songs with a distinctive elegance which separates them from the pigeonholing of their influences. Twenty-Six temptations’ thundering sousaphone backbone is fair too loud and rumbling for such an initially timid audience.
The reluctant atmosphere gradually shifted as the trademark song from that soundtrack is aired. How It Ends alleviates any pretensions that they are a one trick horse. Thankfully this brought the rackety talkers of the venue to an abrupt and attentive silence. People began to loosen up: unfortunately I was right beside someone who did not relent in her movement or swaying and I was caught in a constant melee of dodging her grooving limbs and the same went for any unfortunates in her vicinity, but at least she was enjoying the flamenco claps. One of the highlights of the evening was definitely We’re Leaving where the band descended stage amongst the crowd a lá Arcade Fire at their recent gigs. The mariachi influence and lack of amplification brought both crowd and band (literally) closer and by the end of the second encore the crowd had finally been wooed with the polka of Lunnaya Pogonka that almost has me doing Russian squatworks. But not quite.
Whilst they are currently known mostly for their input to a soundtrack, it’s easy to see why they are much more in America. Their collecttive influences may perhaps restrict them from universal acknowledgement but with bands such as Gogol Bordello, Beirut and the North Strand Klezmer Band breaking through to the public, modest success may not be far off.
Solid performers and musicians as they are, it seemed they were waiting more for the audience to get into the gig, allowing them to relax in winning the crowd over. Perhaps the only complaint would perhaps be Urata’s over-earnest posing, giving each song such melodrama that he saturates some songs needlessly with his whispering pose. This was a great live introduction and with a few more visits and word of mouth approval they should garner a solid troupe of followers. Plus it’s nice to see a dressed up sousaphone once in a while.