vonicka

Mushroom tour day 5: Neples Saturday 13th April

the array of cymbalons before the party

Today is surely the peak of our tour in the sense that we will never again have the honour of playing alongside such an array of folklorists, of inciting so many people to waltz, nor of consuming so much alcohol in such a short space of time.

Tonight is the (ne)ples, which translates as (non)ball or simply “nipples”, the 5th edition of an annual party organized by jiri´s childhood  friend jura and his cohort of dedicated companions.

The party: 7 bands, 3 stages, canteen style goulash, pivo on tap and all the local varieties of schnapps. The prognosis is looking serious!

But first, a game of football with some local kids (in which Jiri fouls fred into the mud) and then a right and proper moment in the nearby evangelist church where each band is given 15 minutes to show their stuff. The place is chilled but the music is anything but – highlights are vonicka, the local band started by the slaviks, and jagar, jura´s band – these guys really sing like mountain men! We played a couple of our tunes and fred´s arrangement of walter page´s “pagin´´ the devil” (appropriate as ever), which was well received after all that folk.

So now for the party, our strategy, which goes out the window fairly early on, is to start them off with some swing jazz, warm it up with some funk and then play them some klezmer… People seemed curious about this funny american music at first but by the second set they were swinging away. Two guys seat themselves in the middle of the dancefloor as to say “i’m gonna check this out”. After us comes a folk dance group, and after eating the canteen goulash, we get ready for the “killer 3rd set”, entering the stage as the previous band invites us to jam with them, playing a czech folk rendition of “ja da”, the jazz standard. As the night moves on, the younger people start taking control, and the music becomes raunchier.

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Vonicka’s set was the hottest of the whole night

In the eye of the storm we manage to get ourselves a second portion of goulash – vital drinking food (that, alas, could have been consumed earlier by some). As Jura explained, musicians eat twice. “This is a party, but for us (musicians!)”. In fact, its as if the audience were there in order to celebrate the music and dancing more than the other way round. 

We suggest to Jiri playing the song “the band has nothing to drink”, a Czech song (the intro of the Chanson d’Ivronge on our album) that we’ve translated years ago into the following lyrics: “the band has nothing to drink, the band has finished all wine, oh my lord, if only we could find at least one noble guest who would then buy for us one litre of wine, oh my lord”. This song is played slower and slower and the quantities become greater and greater, so that the audience feels compelled to keep the party going. However, Jiri warns us that singing such song in the festival would be suicide, because it would be all too successful in its purpose. Indeed, without asking trays of beer appear on the stage at a scary rate. If we are to last the night we are going to have to start refusing shots. Fred is the first to go, cautiously self-evacuating, as on the last such occasion he ended up walking bare-foot into the forest to dispose of a hotel room bin. The rest of the band stays until the early hours of the morning and runs through the fields staging snow fights, catching the first bus of the morning back home.