Saturday, July 27, 2013

Concert Review - MAYHEM FEST 2013 - 7/24/13 at Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA

Prepare for a long review! We saw (or at least heard) almost every band at Mayhem Fest, and I have something to say about all of them, even if just that we took a food and beverage break ;)

We got to Jiffy Lube Live around 12:15 or 12:30, after about an hour's drive from Maryland. It was a little slow getting into the parking lot but not terribly so. We got a spot right up by the gate, and then proceeded to eat some sandwiches and drink some beverages while watching the line form past the car. Uh, why didn't we get in line five minutes ago, when the line was 50 people shorter? I wondered. I went to the portapotty, and when I got back, S and K had gotten into a shorter line that had just started near another gate. Good.We (by that I mean mainly S, social butterfly and 80s metal expert that he is) chatted with an old timer and slightly less old timer in line in front of us. The gates opened just after 1 pm, and we got in very quickly, then headed straight for the side stages as Thrown Into Exile was scheduled to go on at 1:10! I don't know whose brilliant idea that was - certainly not Thrown Into Exile's PR people, I'm sure. After passing through a second gate to the side stage area (where alcoholic drinks were not allowed - so, um, people have to choose between the music and drinking? That's not a good way to sell your overpriced drinks, JLL) we dawdled by the merch booths, and found out Amon Amarth and Children of Bodom's signing times were the same. Rage? Or good fortune? Finally, we walked out onto the baked desert of rocks and dust in front of the two side stages, which were conveniently placed, side by side.

I can't remember for sure how much of Thrown Into Exile's set we actually saw/heard - I think it was most of it. I had wanted to see them, because when I heard them on the radio, they reminded me of Killswitch Engage, with their melodic guitar riffs and not atrociously emo clean vocals. I thought they sounded good live - they were very groovy and headbangable for a metalcore band. There was even a ten second guitar solo in one song!

As Thrown Into Exile was finishing up, S started herding us toward the Jager stage, where a few people were waiting for Huntress to come on. I'm not a huge fan of them, partly because they have a little of that slow 70's occult metal vibe, partly because I don't enjoy Jill Janus's high pitched shrieks. I thought it might be fun to see her up close, though, so I went along. I don't wear earplugs, because I find they dull the sound too much, so I don't usually go up to the front even for bands I do like (unless I get pushed there from the pit, or get overexcited and run to the front heedless of what might happen to my ears - has happened at Sabaton shows..). It was the worst sonic experience of my life. The air was throbbing with the bass, distorting all the other sounds. I could barely hear Jill's screams or lows. Her high clean vocals were the only thing that cut through the distortion (and the dang earplugs) clearly. The only thing that made it worth it was the entertainment of watching her creepy expressions and poses up close.

Attika 7 came on next. We glanced at them, and then went to take a bathroom and beverage break. That meant leaving the side stage area, which was also where all the band merch tents were, and heading to the vendor and concessions area right around the JLL amphitheater. There we discovered the Sumerian stage, conveniently placed where the pit (full of ridiculous arm swinging) mostly blocked the path to the bathrooms.

Having traversed that dangerous area twice, we returned to the side stage area to stand in line for Amon Amarth's signing and listen to Battlecross. They possess the kind of energetic and aggressively melodic guitar style that usually appeals to me, but for whatever reason their riffs don't quite pull me in. I suppose it didn't help that they were on the stage further from us. So they were kind of bland background music until they played "Force Fed Lies". They finally hit on some epic grooves and melodies in that song.

When we got in line for Amon Amarth's signing, there were about 30 people in line ahead of us; COB's line was way longer. Johan Hegg is one of my metal idols, though, so I wasn't about to miss the chance to meet him and get his autograph. Even meeting Alexi Laiho took second to that.

While we were standing in line, Motionless in White played on the stage nearer us. This is another non-metal band that I was curious to see. This spring, they made their whole album available on youtube, so I listened to it after hearing "America" on the radio. The radio single has a very industrial vibe to it - Zombie-like guitars perfect for stomping about the floor, creepy swirling synth melody, Manson-like vocal inflections and stylings. The new album is a mix of that type of stuff and metalcore, with one honest-to-god blazing-riff metal song thrown in, too. Their first album, though, as far as I know, is just plain old metalcore. So needless to say, I was hoping they'd be playing more of the industrial material from their new album. But unfortunately, they played mainly their metalcore songs, and even more saddening, they metalcore is rather bland - boring guitars and emo screams. They did play one industrial-ish song early in the set and "America" at the end of the set. Their appearance was sort of industrial, with white and black make-up, and their keyboard/synth player was prominently placed on the stage, which was cool. I'm awaiting their next album to see what they do next - whether they keep going in the industrial/Manson direction, return to their metalcore origins or do something else entirely. I'm hoping for industrial, although if they pursued the blazing-riff metal direction I wouldn't be unhappy.

We were still in line, and Butcher Babies came on on the far stage. I only glanced at them once or twice, and hardly noticed their music. I can't seem to get past my suspicion that they are the Britney Spears of metal - half naked bodies fronting for meaningless, carefully marketed music. I can handle all sorts of over the top publicity ploys and efforts to create a certain "image" for a band, but lack of authenticity is something that just doesn't have a place in metal. Of course, I don't really know that much about Butcher Babies - this is just a gut feeling I have about them. In any case, from what we could see it looked like the frontwomen were actually pretty well covered up for this show. Dunno if that has to do with some sort of legal risk for public indecency, or whether they're parting with the electric tape and tattered clothing image.

Sometime during their set we made it up to meet Amon Amarth, and then walked away from their signing table to discover the line for COB had dwindled to about ten people! So we jumped in that line as well, and thus were able to leave the show with autographs from the two bands we most wanted to see :D I'm rather shy at best, so confronted with these metal superstars I couldn't do much more than mumble, "Hi" and "thanks," but Johan Hegg did look at me and chuckle when I told him he was my idol XD

After accomplishing our signing missions, K and I sort of stood around uncertainly half listening to Born of Osiris while S went somewhere. Born of Osiris were actually more interesting than I expected, with a sort of progressive sound - some technical guitar bits, some synthy bits. One of their songs had a synth part that sounded quite a lot like the Game of Thrones theme. :P

After that we tromped over to the Jager stage with a few more friends to see Job For a Cowboy. I'm not familiar enough with their discography to comment on what they actually played (except that the last song was "Constitutional Masturbation," because afterward JS remarked that damn, that would be a painful song to masturbate to). But I'm a fan of their fast and brutal sound, and they sounded good.

Then Emmure came on, and we took a dinner break. Breakdowns are fun every now and then, but I like riffs too.

We got distracted socializing, and so I was still eating during the first two songs of Machine Head's set (while sitting by some sort of decorated car near the band merch tents). We headed toward the stage at the start of "Locust," which is probably my favorite Machine Head song. I got into them when Unto the Locust came out, because the songs on that album seem to have a lot more complexity and also some great vocal hooks compared to their earlier songs. I think "Locust" was the only song they played from that album, though. During their set, S kept wanting to go save a spot in front of the other stage for COB, but I wanted to see Machine Head so I made him wait.

We still got a place in the middle left of the crowd for Children of Bodom, but I was perfectly placed behind several tall people so I couldn't see Alexi most of the time (karma, perhaps?). But at least I could clearly hear his fast and furious guitar riffs. They played a wide range of songs, from "Bodom After Midnight" to "Halo of Blood." I thought "Blooddrunk" was the least interesting song they played - the riffs are not as catchy as the others - but even that sounded decent. They were not as crushing as when we saw them in an indoor venue, but still fast and fun. A second pit appeared right near us (the main one was somewhere in the middle of the crowd). There was also almost a fight, one guy actually bringing over a metal trash drum which he tried to ram into another guy before security dragged him away.

As soon as COB stopped playing, we started booking it toward the amphitheater, because for some reason there was only a five minute break between their set and Amon Amarth on the main stage. We actually ran straight up the hill which forms the back of the amphitheater, and claimed a spot about halfway down the lawn just before AA came out. They started off awesome with "Destroyer of the Universe" (which is my favorite song from Surtur Rising). They had the front half of a Viking ship on stage, with the drum kit on the ship and a ramp on either side that Johan Hegg and the guitarists occasionally went up. Every now and then smoke would come out of the dragonhead's nostrils. It looked pretty cool. Amon Amarth is the only band of the main stage line-up I would have wanted to be in the pit to see, but we didn't think it was worth it for six songs. It was a still a good show - the sound was plenty loud and heavy even out on the lawn. They played a good mix of songs - I was worried their new album would dominate the setlist, but they only played "Deceiver of the Gods" from that album. Surtur Rising actually dominated with two songs (the second was "War of the Gods," which sounded great this time, compared to last time I saw them live). For an oldie, they played "Death by Fire," and ended with "Twilight of the Thunder God," which unfortunately sounded weak compared to the rest of their set - dunno what happened there. After they finished, I had no voice for a few minutes due to growling along with too many choruses.

Amon Amarth's awesome, giant prop. Photos contributed by a mysterious gentleman.

S and I talked about how Amon Amarth seems to be getting more mainstream attention - being included on Mayhem Fest's main stage line-up, for instance - and how that has both positive and negative aspects - more publicity and revenue, but also the danger of shifting to a more mainstream sound and image. However, I think the fact that Amon Amarth brought out a lifesize Viking ship with them is a pretty good indication that their Viking image is, if anything, stronger than ever, and I hope the same remains true of their sound. I haven't actually listened to their new album enough times yet to say for sure.

We took a break during Mastodon's set - sat on the lawn, chatted with J and K, ate funnel cake. Mastodon sounded good, clear and sometimes heavy, but I couldn't get into them. Their older songs such as "Blood and Thunder" (which they started out with) are heavier and more energetic, but most of what they played was kind of light and wandering, more like prog rock than metal. Somebody liked it though, because there was actually a pit on the lawn, at the end opposite where we were.

Five Finger Death Punch was more rousing, with their charging riffs and aggressive vocals. Although I enjoy their sound, I can't quite get on board with their alternating aggression and whininess, since I'm not quite sure that they don't mean it all literally. They have some nice groovy riffs and catchy choruses, though. The singer kept saying that this was the best crowd of tour. Yeah, ya think? This is Virginia after all. They had tons of props on stage made of what looked like aluminum - two giant brass knuckle logos, gargoyles, a skeleton mic stand. The glittery metal and some of their color schemes for the lights - magenta and greenish yellow, for instance - gave it a Bollywood feel at times O.o There was an enormous circle pit on the lawn for one song.

Finally, at the end of the night, Rob Zombie put on a great show. He and his band came out in costumes - just ghoul face paint and a coat for Zombie, but one guitarist had a cape and a goblin mask, and the other had some sort of techy armor suit type thing on. There was fire, screens with videos (or more fire), costume changes, a giant robot that Zombie rode around the stage, a giant radio he performed on for "Dead City Radio", a giant vampire that tottered about the stage. The giant vampire appeared while Zombie was running through the crowd - he even climbed the barrier between the seating area and the path at the bottom of the lawn area. I was pretty tired by time Zombie came on, so the entertainment helped me stay awake. I haven't listened to Zombie too much, so the only songs I recognized were "Living Dead Girl," "Sick Bubblegum," "House of 1,000 Corpses" and "Dragula," but the rest of the set had a similar sound - heavy and industrial. The set seemed a little short, but perhaps it was, about an hour, with the cut-off at 11pm. As soon as they finished playing "Dragula," we high tailed it out of the amphitheater, down the steps at the back. We got to the car and out of the parking lot within a couple minutes and got home before midnight.

I had an awesome time at the festival overall. It was unfortunate that Behemoth dropped off, since of the line-up that was originally announced, that was the band I was looking forward to most. Still, it was a strong line-up of bands that I wanted to see or was curious about, and the bands that I had most wanted to see - Amon Amarth, Children of Bodom, Machine Head, Rob Zombie - didn't disappoint. And I got a glimpse of some new bands like Thrown Into Exile and Motionless in White, and learned that Born Of Osiris might actually be ok. With water bottles and tons of snacks, I got away without spending too much on concessions (although next year I might want to bring a string backpack for that gallon ziplock bag of snacks (and sunscreen, and my sunglasses after sundown, and the new T shirts, and, and)). Amon Amarth had a cool shirt with their band name spelled out correctly in runes, not just written with runes that look like Roman letters like a lot of Viking metal bands do. By the time we decided to get shirts, though, the band merch tents had already been taken down and we had to make do with the Mayhem Fest merch stand, which didn't have as wide a selection. So if you want that cool AA rune shirt, make sure you grab it before the main stage bands start. If you send me a picture, I'll post it on here :)

I hope next year's Mayhem Fest is just as much fun, but I think it might be hard to outdo this year's.

Next show: Still contemplating Black Sabbath on Friday. But after that, definitely Wintersun, Arsis, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Starkill on 8/6!

Note: I had to untag a lot of bands cause blogger won't let me have so many tags, so if your favorite band isn't tagged, it isn't cause I hate them, just that blogger is mean.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Concert Review - The Agonist, Fallen Martyr, Demiz, March to Victory, Area 52, Iris Divine - 7/19/13 at Cafe 611, Frederick, MD

This show was the day after we trekked up to PA to see Amaranthe, but we decided to go anyway since it was so close by. I also felt like I was getting a cold, but thought I could power through the evening. I'm not a huge fan of The Agonist - I feel like their music lacks intensity somehow - but I was interested in seeing the long line-up of local bands opening for them.

We wanted to see Iris Divine, but left too late and missed them. We got there just before Area 52 started. They sounded like they might have some promise, but it was hard to tell. The mix was off, so they sounded like a lot of bass noise punctuated by way too loud (and slow and repetitive) drums. The guitar player did (mostly) clean vocals, and the bass player harsh vocals, but I could hardly hear them (from my seat at the bar). They had some promising moments, like when the bass and drums were obviously doing something thrashy, but I couldn't hear the guitar. They called for a mosh pit and the crowd actually obliged, which doesn't always happen with the local acts at Cafe 611.

Gettysburg, PA death metal band March to Victory was on next, and they sounded really good. They had a different vocalist than the last time we saw them - they had a male vocalist previously, but this time the vocalist was a woman (with fake(?) blood smeared on her face and neck). I liked her vocals more than the previous guy - I still couldn't make out what she was saying, but it sounded more like words than the former vocalist's unintelligible growls. Overall their sound was much clearer and groovier than last time. I headbanged a lot and would have pushed people around if I wasn't sick and wanting to save my seat for later.

Next was Demiz (pronounced like "demise"), who also sounded good. They played mainly fast, fierce black metal in the vein of Marduk, very loud and energetic. They had a song about Vikings, which sounded rather Viking-y. I think they need to work on their image though - the guy in a red Subway shirt and the singer's plug earlobe piercings really threw things off. They would look much more like a professional black metal band if they had a more unified image. The guitarist (who looked rather more black metal with his dark hair and clothing and crosses painted on his face) jumped on the speakers a couple times. I did enjoy their sound.

After that was Fallen Martyr, who also sounded better than last time we saw a whole set of theirs (opening for Blackguard). They collected a good crowd and had a very professional demeanor and sound. The guitars and drums were nice and heavy, and pretty well mixed, although I couldn't hear much of the guitar melodies. Still, they are not quite to my taste, mainly because of the vocals. The singer sang with a lot of gusto this time (lack of which was one of my gripes before) but I was not digging the anguished sound of most of his vocals. There were some moments where he sang with more aggressive punch to his voice, kind of like Halford's vocals, which I thought were good, but overall things tended a little too much toward emo for me.

By the time The Agonist came on, I was feeling rather weak. They sounded pretty good, loud and riffy (this is another venue whose sound system seems generally tuned to rumble), and I headbanged a bit when I was able to pay attention. There seemed to be something lacking, though; they didn't inspire me as much as March to Victory and Demiz. It may also have been that I was sick and tired, because I literally passed out on S's shoulder by the end of the set.

Next show - Mayhem Fest on Wednesday!

Concert Review - Amaranthe, Kobra and the Lotus, Shattered Sanctity - 7/18/13 at The Note, West Chester, PA

When we saw that the power metal/metalcore/synthpop fusion act Amaranthe were embarking on a headline US tour, and the closest date, while out of state, was right during our summer vacation, we knew we had to go see them. So, after a short vacation on the beach, we trekked up (through four states) to West Chester, PA to see their show, not sure whether we should be more prepared to mosh or to dance.

The Note turned out to be a tiny venue, with a stage at the far end of a long rectangular room, and a bar on the right near the door. There were a good number of a people on the floor when we got there, and the whole place filled up by the time Amaranthe came on.

We were curious to see the local opener, Shattered Sanctity, after reading that they might appeal to fans of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius. But the show started early, so even though we got there right on the advertised show time (8pm), we only caught the last song or so. We were stuck at the bar socializing and drinking, so I only caught snatches of some shredding and a couple wails, but not enough for a distinct impression. From the bar, they did not sound as fabulous as we hoped.

Touring with Amaranthe was Canadian band Kobra and the Lotus. I hadn't really heard of them before; a friend said they are pretty much straight ahead heavy metal, with a deep-voiced female singer. I was in the bathroom when they started, and if I hadn't known singer was a woman, I would have sworn it was a man, she had such a deep voice. Even then I doubted it for a moment. They were very good - solid NWOBHM metal riffs, verging on thrashy in one song, and the singer's rich, powerful vocals were a feast to the ears. They were quite thunderous for such a small place - it seemed the sound system was tuned to rumble.

After a rather longer wait than the first set change, Amaranthe emerged. You may know them for their single "Hunger" or the fact that their female singer has done backing vocals for Kamelot - up till a month ago that was pretty much what I knew of them. Once we decided we were going to this show, I listened to them more, and got pumped to see them. Their sound defies genres - clean power metal vocals from the female and male singers, Gothenburg-esque death growls from a third singer, riffs that range from pounding metalcore to In Flames like melodeath, and danceable synth melodies. It seemed like it should be one of the funnest shows I've been to. Unfortunately, they started out weak - the vocals were all right, but the instruments were off, even out of tune, and the synth inaudible for the first couple of songs. Guess they should have sound checked! (I didn't notice them doing so during that long break between sets.) Then they got it together, and sounded pretty good for the rest of the show. The synth was still a little low, but the vocals were very clear, and the guitar sounded good. The venue was full, and full of super-fans to boot. People I would never have pegged for knowing the lyrics to Amaranthe's "Amaranthine" were singing along to every word (here's a video). There was even a small pit for a few songs. Throughout the show, Elize, the female vocalist, profusely expressed the band's gratitude for everyone coming out to support them. So far, their first US tour seems to be a success, and I look forward to seeing them again sometime!

Next show - we went to The Agonist and co the following night.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Concert Review - "Kalmyk and Tuvan Music from Russia" and Heveder Band - 7/5/13 at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, National Mall, Washington, DC

What first drew my interest to the evening concerts at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival was the fact that pretty much every night there was a "social dance party," which I figured was something like line dancing where everyone dances as a group while someone tells you what to do, meaning you don't actually have to know how to dance and it's a ton of fun.

And then I realized that there was a concert of Tuvan and Kalmyk music on July 5, and I was hardly going to miss that.

The title of the concert is a little misleading, since even though Tuva and Kalmykia are both within the borders of the Russian Federation now, the Tuvan and Kalmyk people are actually part of the Mongol family of languages/cultures. Actually, my idea of what "Mongolian" folk music sounds like was formed (several years ago) by the Tuvan group Huun-Huur-Tu. So this wasn't what one would think of as Russian music - instead it featured a lot of the two-stringed string instruments, gallop-like rhythms and unique vocals one would associate with Mongolian music.

I met my friend M at the Tavern, and we headed to the Voices of the World stage around 6:15, getting there just as the 16-year-old boy from the Tuvan ensemble was leaving the stage after a solo performance. In contrast to the earlier Kalmyk and Tuvan concert I saw, this time, the two ensembles alternated every few songs. I don't think I would have been bored anyway, but the movement and variety helped to hold interest during the soporifically hot and humid DC summer evening. (The performers must have been dying in their costumes, which seemed more suited to a colder climate.)

We saw:

Kalmyk singer and musician
The elderly members of the Kalmyk ensemble. The MC didn't specify how old they are, but implied that they are very old, and that they can still be so energetic and make music is quite impressive.

Alash, a Tuvan folk music ensemble, playing the song Bai Taiga
The Tuvan ensemble (which is known as Alash) played a song in praise of the Bai Mountain, or Bai Taiga, or something like that. It was a rather slow, mournful-sounding song.

Kalmyk music and singing
The Kalmyk gents played/sang several songs, including a piece of an epic known as Jangar, which was much more low key than I would have expected for an epic story; a song about mother, or mother and father, I don't remember which, which was, by contrast, quite energetic and got the crowd clapping; and another whose theme I don't remember. There was some throat singing involved, done by the guy in white, I think.

Tuvan singer demonstratin throat-singing
Throat-singing demonstration by a member of the Tuvan group. He demonstrated three different styles: xöömei, which has a medium-pitched, wavering sound; sygyt, which is predominantly a high whistling sound (the Tuvan word for it is actually related to the Tuvan word "to whistle); and kargyraa, which is the lowest style, is made using the false vocal folds, and which the MC compared to the mountains - they're all connected at the bottom, but their upper contour goes up and down. This style was dominated by a low undertone, with a medium-pitched, oboe- or jew's-harp-like sound undulating in the middle, and sometimes very faint high notes. I've greatly admired throat-singing for some time now, so it was great to see the different styles demonstrated and explained. (Note: For the styles of throat-singing, I've used the spellings that are used on Alash's website, but there are several alternate spellings for these words in English. That page also has a wealth of information about throat-singing and its connections to nature.)

One of the Orgaeva Sisters
Performance by one of the Orgaeva Sisters, part of the Kalmyk group. The MC explained the themes of the songs as "a boy who likes a certain girl" and "a girl singing about all the nice things her man does for her." I kind of snickered at that, but perhaps it's unfair to judge a traditional culture by modern standards. These were energetic songs that got the crowd clapping. Overall the crowd was very involved and appreciative.

Kalmyk ensemble performing traditional songs

Orgaeva Sisters singing and dancing

Kalmyk musicians
Then other members of the Kalmyk ensemble joined her, and they performed a song about "a prince and a princess falling in love in the moonlight," and about a Kalmyk national hero of the early twentieth century. During the second song, the Orgaeva sisters danced a bit while singing - taking small quick steps with their feet and making flowing motions with their arms - and the older woman musician came out and a couple other women from the audience, who looked like they might be Kalmykian, started to dance as well.

Alash ensemble performing
The Tuvan ensemble came out one last time. They played a song of the Tuvan camel caravan herders, which the MC compared to songs of the American cowboys - a song that could go on for weeks and weeks but never repeat a verse, mostly about how much the camel herder/cowboy misses home and "just wants to leave the camels on a mountain and go back to his wife." After that, they encouraged the audience to sing along as they played "Aa-Shuu Dekei-Oo." This song is on one of the Huun-Huur-Tu cd's I have and is probably my favorite Tuvan song, so I was stoked to hear it live. Alash's version was a little thinner and more hollow-sounding than Huun-Huur-Tu's recording, which may have to do with the instruments used. The vocals, being done by a woman in this case, were also a little cleaner and less throaty than Huun-Huur-Tu's male vocals. It was still great to hear and sing along though. And I found out that in Tuvan, "Aa-shuu dekei-oo" means... "Aa-shuu dekei-oo" XD It doesn't mean anything, actually, it's just scat singing. As for the rest of the song, the MC said it was about "pretty women and fast horses." :P

Kalmyk ensemble performing
To finish the concert, the Kalmyk group came out and invited the audience to dance while they played a song that "no Kalmyk person can hear without getting up and dancing." The song was about the wedding of a famous woman - the MC noted that in Kalmyk culture, every event gets recorded in song. I think this song was also sung by the Orgaeva sisters the first time I saw them, and is the one where I complained of the poor explanation by the translator (different guy than this one). Actually, I thought I ought to snap a picture of "Mr. Explaining Guy" as well, so there he is in the shot as the Kalmyk group prepares for their last song. Research reveals that he is Sean Quirk, the only foreign member of the Tuvan National Orchestra, and interpreter for Alash. He is actually capable of throat-singing himself, but didn't perform at this event.

The wedding song did indeed get people up and dancing. Near us, a woman who looked Indian got up and danced in a way that looked pretty similar to what the Kalmyk women were doing, and a man came out of the backstage area and started dancing with her, his hands at his belt and his feet doing little kicks and hops. I was so entertained watching that I didn't really want to get up and dance myself.

Overall, I found this concert a lot more enjoyable than the last Kalmyk and Tuvan performance I went to at the Folklife Festival. It flowed much more smoothly, and the introductions of the performers and songs were more informative and engrossing. Having more context made the songs more enjoyable, although there were still places, such as the spoken parts of the Jangar piece, where I thought I really was missing a lot by not understanding the language. (Not much that could be done to remedy that with this set-up on the Mall, though; they hardly have the budget or support to set up sub- or supertitles, I think.) The music itself was superb, showcasing the variety of musical styles in the Mongolian family. This time, much of the focus was on vocals, so I didn't spend a lot of time imagining riding horseback across the steppe to the tune of galloping strings - the impression was more of epic tales and human connections, of the vast power of nature and the emotions of people journeying across it.

After that highly enjoyable performance, M and I wandered a bit and got frozen yogurt, and then returned to the mall in time for that night's dance concert, which featured the Transylvanian band Heveder. At the beginning I listened to the music enough to notice the rough, scratchy sound of the strings - a lot of pressure on the bow! - but I spent most of the performance trying to master the dance steps, so I have little further impression of the music other than the rhythm - da, da, dit-dit-da. (This seems to be basic dance rhythm across that region, because the other dance tutorial I took part in with my daughter several days before used the same rhythm.) There was lots of spinning and twirling, and we only halfway got the steps by the end of the concert, but it was a fun time. I wish I had listened to the music a little more, but what can you do; I went to dance, and mostly accomplished that goal.

Overall, it was a fun night. In particular, I feel like I would really have been missing out on experiencing Hungarian culture if I hadn't gotten to go to one of the dance nights. After language, music (and the dance that goes with it) is a pretty integral part of culture, and it was really neat not just to see this part of Hungarian culture, but to actually bodily experience it.