The smiles captured by my friend Jeff's camera sum up the evening perfectly. The return engagement of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers to casa del Zombie was an evening awash in laughter, a celebration of friendship and camaraderie.
It seems an odd juxtaposition, that there be so much mirth accompanying a band whose songs often detail the struggles of the politically oppressed, the downtrodden. Poignant songs of loss and revolution rang out into the calm of the evening, escaping the embrace of tiny spruce-enclosed yard, Olenka's heart-wrenching voice occasionally punctuated by an incoming 737. But somehow, the odd low-flying jet, the occasional bark of a neighbourhood dog, only served to make the music more powerful. To have the luxury to relax in a suburban backyard, surrounded by friends, neighbours and hardcore fans who would brave Calgary transit on a Sunday for a trip to the southeast, all the while being sonically transported to a Poland struggling under communism, really magnified how privileged we are to have these special moments.
When an abbreviated version of Olenka and the Autumn Lovers first graced our house last May, everyone in that living room was stunned by the power that could be transmitted by three women, a guitar, a cello and a violin. To experience the richness of the full band, six people with guitars, bass, drums, cello, violin, and the sweetest slide guitar you could hope to hear, outdoors on a beautiful summer evening, was really something quite sublime.
Olenka and the Autumn Lovers played two sets, allowing us all time to mingle and refill our plates and glasses between bookends of song. Despite the hostess with the big glass of wine (who obviously succumbed to the lure of the microphone) insisting upon delivering both introductions and denouements, the show was magical. With the power of bass and drums mimicking the raw power of Olenka Krakus' iconic voice, with the poignancy of her words reflected in the sweep of the violin and cello strings and in the cry of the lap slide guitar, we were all transported by the music of this incredible band.
Powerful musicians and performers they are, but also wonderfully warm and funny human beings. Mirth, merriment and bone-crushing hugs were rampant.
If you have never attended a back yard concert, I urge you to do so as quickly as humanly possible. The intimacy between performers and audience, when that invisible barrier breaks down and is eradicated forever, is a moment that I cherish most in a small setting. A small back yard, walled by trees and under a blue sky ceiling, is arguably the perfect setting in which to forge new friendships, bond over food and drink, and celebrate the love of live music.
Stay tuned for photos and videos.