Special report by Nicolette Johns with photos by José Gallois: Braindogs feat. Ian Siegal and Ripoff Raskolnikov at A-38 in Budapest
First of all the reporter and the photographer of ‘The Blues Alone?’ would like to apologize to all readers for this long overdue report. Due to the, alleged, loss of the memory photo-card ‘The Blues Alone?’ wasn’t able to publish this report earlier. Was it ‘BluesHeimer’ or sheer chaos? We’ll never know; fortunately the card was recently found in the lining of a jacket, therefore we wish you ‘Happy Reading’.
Finally the day has come that we catch our 1hour 50 minutes flight from Eindhoven Airport (the Netherlands) to Budapest Hungary. Today, Monday December 5th 2011, we’re off to spend a 5-day holiday in the capital of Hungary which shall include the annual performance of ‘The Braindogs’ tribute to Tom Waits on the A38-ship on the river Danube to celebrate Mr. Tom Waits’ birthday. Friends whom have made the trip last year have encouraged us to do so, will join us tomorrow Tuesday Dec. 6th, on Tom Waits’ birthday.
A-38 is the reincarnation of a Ukranian stone-carrier ship. With its opening on 30 April 2003, it started a new life as a cultural venue on the river Danube on the Buda side of the Petöfi bridge of the beautiful city of Budapest. Since its opening it has become one of Budapest’s most important venues and according to us, ánd artists’ feedback, one of Europe’s coolest clubs. There have been a few thousand concerts from stars like Maceo Parker, Courtney Pine, Erik Truffaz, Richard Bona, Bela Fleck, John Cale, Michael Landau Group and lesser known musicians. But it also hosts an excellent restaurant to enjoy a fine meal if you’re attending a concert or not. We had to opportunity to enjoy a fine, affordable ‘foie gras’ as a starter and more delicious dishes of their excellent menu. The Bulgarian wine has a reputation in itself so you can’t go wrong there!
We descend down the stairs to the room of the venue which was originally the cargo hold of the ship with a capacity of 650 people standing. Tonight the A-38 is sold out, not very suprising if you consider the popularity of this line-up. ‘The Braindogs’ are 9 fine musicians of which 4 of them are from the immensly popular Hungarian band called ‘Quimby’ (popularity equivalent to the Dutch bands ‘de Dijk’ or ‘Bløf’) who attract up to 20 thousand people when they perform. Therefore the majority of the attending crowd is young, between 20 and 35 years of age, which makes us feel rather old but happy at the same time that a young audience like today present is interested in the music of Mr. Tom Waits.
Let’s get ‘The Braindogs’ introduced first before we continue the report of this memorable concert baptised by us (Tom Waits’ Annual) Birthday Bash by ‘The Braindogs’ in Budapest; Tibor Kiss (Quimby, guitar/ slide/vocals), Livius Varga (Quimby, percussion/vocals), Sandor Toth (Quimby, sax/clarinet), Jozsef ‘Dodi’ Karpati (Quimby, trumpet ánd Tom Waits look-a-like), Frenk Gábor Torma (drums/piano/vocals), Ian Siegal (guitar/slide/vocals), Laca Varga (bass), Ripoff Raskolnikov (guitar/vocals), Szabolcs Nagy (keys).
We like to take this opportunity to emphasize and explain to the readers of ‘The Blues Alone?’ that Ian Siegal and Ripoff Raskolnikov both function as members of the band not to be confused by ‘The Braindogs’ backing up both these fine musicians, áll members of the band will solo and excel in one song or another.
>To the readers it will come as a surprise that this era Mr. Tom Waits was and is a big influence on many musicians, songwriters and vocalists. Many singers are covering his songs, some mediocre, some good, some very well. One of the singers who’s up against the sound and voice of Mr. Tom Waits is Brit Ian Siegal. He’s one of the best in Europe, if not thé best in Europe! Mr.Tom Waits is also a big influence on Ian Siegal, “from an early age on” as Ian replied in a tv-interview in Hongary in 2010. Ian Siegal was triggered by Mr. Tom Waits’ lyrics, bluezy and raw sound which we all know so well.
The band kicks off with an intrumental build-up to the introduction of Ripoff Raskolnikov and Ian Siegal and the applause given and the roaring of the crowd shows us ‘Dutchies’ that Ian’s popularity in Hungary is considerable. Ian sings his first tune of the night; ‘Goin’ out West’; already with this first song the crowd is roaring! We’re up for a big party, I think! Admitted; we’re Waits and Siegal fans but the combination of the two makes us feel like a kid in a candy store, we’re already loving it! We’re treated to ‘Swordfishtrombones’ by Ian to be followed by Austrian Ripoff Raskolnikov, Dutch readers might remember him from the line-up at Blues Open Festival 2008, who sings ‘2:19’. He’s even dancing to his own performance of the song, apparently he’s enjoying himself a lot. Strange, not the type of man you would expect to dance! Ripoff continues with a rendition of a song from the album ‘Closing Time’ called ‘Old Shoes’ (& Picture Postcards) which climaxes in Ian joining him singing harmony.Most members of ‘The Braindogs’ are graduates of the ‘Academy of Music’ in Budapest. In my humble opinion this is not just another band. They’ve got all the works on stage, bongo’s, percussion set, megaphone,horn-section – you name it they’ve got it!
It’s guitarist Tibor Kiss’ turn now; he’s no longer sitting down playing his six strings in his own timid way but takes control of the stage. He sings‘Temptation’ from the Waits’ album ‘Frank’s Wild Years’ including the megaphone, what a joy to watch these guys perform! Percussionist Livius sets off towards the mic; his rendition of Tom Waits’ ‘Down Down Down’ is a vibrant one which just hás to make you move. ‘Down, Down, Down’ takes 10 minutes and has solos from Ripoff on guitar, Frenk on drums and Ian again on guitar.
From the interview given by Ian Siegal to Hungarian tv we’ve learned that these shows apparently are mostly done without having rehearsed first, the fun these guys have on stage is contagable. It feels like you’re watching a jam-session but a really, really good and groovy one. One as fantastic as you can only imagine to happen very seldom.
Siegal looks fresh, sings and plays well tonight, something which is not always the case when things are not running like he wants them to. He appears to feel more free on the stage, we’ve seen this happen before when Ian was injured and substitute Dusty Ciggaar played the guitar. Apparently he loves being a part of this band of friends, whom are all very skilled professionals.
Ian Siegal is of course the sound-a-like of Mr. Tom Waits thus we await another great rendition of a Tom Waits classic; ‘Jockey Full of Bourbon’ to be followed by the more often performed in Ian’s own shows on the continent ‘Clap Hands’. By the time we ‘Dutchies’ think it doesn’t get any better than this drummer Frenk steps down his drumstand to take place behind the piano to play and sing ‘Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis’ (probably one of Tom Waits’ songs with the longest title) from the 1978 album ‘Blue Valentine’. What happened next is difficult to put into words even for me; the way Frenk sings this song is so incredibly fragile that it makes tears run down my face. Frenk has a very fragile physique but has a very strong voice. If I múst compare him with someone he’s best compared with David Bowie in the eighties (Heroes) but with dark hair. While we try to recover from the emotions guitarist Tibor Kiss and Ian Siegal start the Keith Richards/Tom Waitsco-written song ‘That Feel’ , wow another tear-jerker!
If I would not mention the horn-section to you readers I would do them wrong, Sandor Toth on sax and clarinet and Jozsef ‘Dodi’ Karpati on trumpet ánd Tom Waits look-a-like are the piece de resistence of this band of friends.‘Rain Dogs’ (of course why else call the band Braindogs?), ’16 Shells’, ‘Romeo is Bleeding’, ‘Chocolate Jesus’ and ‘Big Black Mariah’ are only a few of the approximately 30 songs we witness ‘The Braindogs’ perform tonight in a sold out A38. 30 Songs with the indistinguishable signature of Mr. Tom Waits, 30 songs of the more than 200 hundred songs this composer, poet, genius has written over the years.The apotheosis of this four hour (!) concert is Ian Siegal’s rendition of ‘Jersey Girl’ , a 12 minute rendition I must emphasize, the whole room is ‘Sha-La-La-ing’ along with Ian who is evidently feeling the love of the audience for this band of friends.We all know that Ian Siegal is unique, he’s in a class of his own, but no words can be found to discribe ‘The Braindogs’, they’re powerful, incredibly talented and absolutely unmatched!!Gentlemen promotors: ‘The Braindogs’ (firstname.lastname@example.org),this fabulous band, a band of friends, needs to be seen over in the Netherlands, Belgium or Germany!
En hier de foto’s van het hele optreden door José Gallois: