Monday, 14 September 2009

Gig Review- God is an Astronaut/Caspian/Tides From Nebula, Poznan & Gdynia, Poland

Luton to Poznan courtesy of W!zz Air is one of the less well-trodden airline routes in Europe, I guess (can an airline route be "well-trodden"?- probably not, actually, barring disasters), but my brother Kevin and I enjoyed a lovely, hitch-less ride over to Central Poland for the first night of our Post-Rock double header, in a city famous for once-crack Polish football outfit Lech Poznan, its fairly old cathedral, and err, not a lot else.

We arrived at the plush, 800 capacity Blue Note Jazz Club just as local (as in Polish rather than Poznanian, they are from Warsaw) types Tides From Nebula were firing up one of their splendid I Like Trains-like crescendos, to the delight of a packed crowd, apparently very familiar with the music of their fellow countrymen. Although recently released album "Aura" manages just a 6 out of 11 for me in OTSD scoring terms, any band capable of writing a song as good as "Apricot" will most definitely stay on the radar for future releases, and potential UK gigs. Although I will be relying on Kevin, my Post-Rock afficionado, to keep me informed, as I have 500 other bands to keep an eye on!

Within 15 minutes, Caspian are on, and what an awesome proposition they are. A 5 piece, from Beverly, Massachusetts, with 3 guitarists, one of whom is a mountainous 6' 8" (I would guess), they tear into their 50 minute set as if their lives depended on it. "The Raven", from new album "Tertia", is my personal favourite, with the 4 standing, excellently hairy members riding the waves of colossal white noise emanating from their heavily effected guitars, whilst the clean-cut, ex-US Navy looking drummer propels the song to a dramatic, thunderous conclusion. Absolutely bloomin' marvellous, and the drum solo at the end of set closer "Sycamore", where the 3 guitarists and bassist grab sticks one by one and join the drummer in a climax that I have already decided all live sets should now end with, is wonderful.

The crowd are well and truly fired up, then, by the time Irish 3 piece God Is An Astronaut take to the stage. Kevin and I have been following this band now for about 3 years (they have been going for 7), and 4 albums in, their music continues to impress everyone we have played it too. Why they are not opening for U2 tonight in their space rig is a discussion for another day, for tonight they are before the 800 of us (798 Poles presumably, and us), and despite suffering what could be described as some "Jazz Club Monitor Syndrome" i.e. the guitar just isn't loud enough, they deliver an hour of the finest, most dramatic instrumental Progressive Rock music we may ever hear. It is fair to say, however, that to these ears, and those of Kevin, they didn't come close enough to their ecstatic, supercharged set we were witness to in Leeds earlier this year. As a result, the score after the first leg had to be GIAA 0 Caspian 1, but with all to play for in Gdynia the following evening.

POZNAN scores
Tides From Nebula 7 out of 11
Caspian 9 out of 11
God Is An Astronaut 8 out of 11

As I am sure all you Basketball fans out there know, last week saw Poland holding "Eurobasket 2009", with 16 teams, including Great Britain, competing for the European Championship. We stayed overnight in Poznan at the Novotel, and as the elevator arrived and slowly opened, my first thought was "Why have they got one of those joke mirrors that you used to get at Seaside piers and pleasure beaches around Britain's coastline, where your reflection is distorted to such an extent that you could be 7 foot tall?" And then I thought "But joke mirrors that I remember didn't used to replace your own, and that of your brother's reflection with that of 5 individuals, give you a tan, and dress you in full Basketball training attire". It was then that I realised- it was in fact the Croatia Basketball team, all of whom were at least 6' 10". At least we thought they were all from Croatia. As we piled into the lift, which proceeded to groan with possibly its greatest load ever, I decided to strike up a conversation with the elongated chap to my far right;

"Who are you playing today?" (in mock Eastern European English accent, perfected whilst ordering copious amounts of Warza lager the previous evening). "Croatia" was the reply. He obviously didn't understand me, and thought that I had asked who he played for. Silly, I thought, 4 of them were wearing Croatia shirts, so he must know that I know that, surely? "No, who are YOU play-ing to-day?" "Cro-atia" was the sarcastic answer. "Oh, forget it". I said, as the lift arrived at Reception.

Kevin pointed out as we checked out that I had picked the single Greek opponent in the lift to ask the question. I could have caused a fight. Blimey, there would have been arms and legs everywhere.

A very jolly 6 hour train ride from Poznan to Gdynia ensues...

With Tides From Nebula again warming things up nicely (although with a little too much metal posturing for my liking- I have decided that this was because they are from Poland and probably grew up on a visual musical diet of Aerosmith and Def Leppard. So far, no spandex, thankfully), it was soon time for Caspian to again fire up their colossal maelstrom, with a second live outing for "The Raven" in consecutive evenings suddenly propelling this beast of a tune into my Top 10 of 2009 so far.

After the slight disappointment of GIAA's set in Poznan last night, Kevin and I were hoping that the volume was going to be turned up this evening. Halfway way through opening track "The End Of The Beginning", when a guitar sounding like what I can only describe as an apocalyptic buzzsaw to the brain kicked in, I think we were both certain that it had been. With a set almost entirely different from the previous evening's, containing a lot of the more uptempo songs from the band's 4 album output, this was a brilliant performance, and far more akin to the explosive set we had seen them deliver earlier this year in the UK. With an accompanying film reel depicting carpet bombing, burning cities and, perversely, TV Evangelists, providing additional visual entertainment, I was, as almost usual, fairly well awestruck, so that when they left the stage 70 minutes later, it was as if they had only just arrived. See this band and buy their music, they are simply majestic.

Tides From Nebula 7 out of 11.
Caspian 8 out of 11.
God Is An Astronaut 10 out of 11.

An honourable draw then, 1-1.

And if that wasn't enough excitement for one trip to Poland, we went to Gdynia Aquarium on Wednesday morning and saw some really excellent fish;

Garden Eel 10 out of 11


  1. 8ft eels fighting 8ft basketball players would be a great gig to be at

  2. Sounds like it was a great trip. I dont like the look of those eels though.