The band respond, soloing wildly, hitching up their pants (did I tell you about the fabbo range of chain-store pants on display? Never have chain-store regulation grey pants looked so fucking punk)...
Fanfare Ciocarlia – Paard van Troje, Den Haag 28/02/07
I've just got off the plane from London, hotfoot after playing some records at the wonderful Headphones Off night which featured the UK debut of Dutch duo Appie Kim. It was a great night, but things are shaping up to be a shit return journey for yours truly. The flight was of course delayed and in an oversight that could reach Biblical plague proportions if not quickly rectified, I forgot to change my socks that morning. In short, I'm not in the mood to watch a gig. Still, its not really often Romanian brass nutters Fanfare Ciocarlia make an appearance in Holland, so it would be criminal not to make an effort. It seems half of Den Haag thinks so too. The place is rammed, and its noticeable how many Poles and Romanians are in the audience (apart from the ubiquitous Dutch Middle Aged Folk Dance ensembles that are all the rage amongst quiet suburban folk...)
Really, it's an excited, expectant atmosphere and justifiably so. Fanfare, as anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with their music (be it through films like Black Cat White Cat, or their demented LPs such as Baro Baro and Iag Bari) don't mess about playing pretty stuff. As Holger Witzel put it, "With up to 200 beats per minute, Fanfare Ciocarlia blows every musical frame. Techno on battered brass, too aggressive to be punk, out of lungs as big as balloons: powerful, tender, dangerous." Yep, that's right.
After about an hour, the band take the stage, one by one, each adding to the build up that eventually becomes Asfalt Tango. There are some are big lads at the back on the tubas; one is the spit of (now ex) Newcastle United chairman Freddie Shepherd. The three lads at the front on clarinet saxophone & cornet respectively are incredible technicians; each takes a turn to solo (normally lasting about 3 minutes), and then, once finished do a little suggestive gig (replete with winks) to the ladies at the front. Now and again we get a ballad sung by the oldest member. Slowly the crowd warm up, appreciative head nodding gives way to something a little more rhythmic. During one untouchable sax solo I turn to my girlfriend and suggest these men possess the spirit of Jimi Hendrix (albeit in brass form). So far, so very enjoyable. There's a lot of sweat being passed on stage; refreshments are routinely brought from behind the curtains. It's funny to see a band member wander off for a pint & a fag mid-gig. (All that is save the sweating drummer who sticks it out. He must have a right arm like a piston).
Halfway through there's a break, the band go off and everyone jigs around for twenty minutes. Thus far it's been a very relaxed, appreciative atmosphere in the main hall. Nothing that would suggest the mayhem that will commence once the band comes back. Through some unseen complicity the Dutch Folk Dance ensembles move to the sides and allow the Eastern hordes through to the main dance-floor. The band strike up again, and all hell lets loose. I've never seen an audience go as barmy as this. Not manic, not intermittent, not flash in a pan waiting fro the right moment dancing; just determined, controlled, non-stop jigging. They're like robots I tell you! The band respond, soloing wildly, hitching up their pants (did I tell you about the fabbo range of chain-store pants on display? Never have chain-store regulation grey pants looked so fucking punk). Half way through, a girl gets on stage, carrying a little weight it has to be said, but boy can she dance. It's an incredible sight. The crowd goes ape and a mini stage invasion takes place. This chaos is allowed till the band politely asks all to leave, save the original heroic girl dancer who gyrates like she's an initiate of Dionysus. Off the band go to tumultuous applause and we get ready to shoot off.
Except it's not over; the band reappear at the very door we're leaving through, all in line and proceed in a wobbly crocodile to the centre of the dance-floor. Looking back over this incredible spectacle you can just make out the dull gleam of the brass amidst a miasma of sweat and beer spray. I wonder to this day if they got out intact. Anyone know?
Words: Richard Foster