It’s Saturday evening and what better on such a day than head out for some live music? Looking through the ‘What’s Happening in Bonn’ pages of the local paper reveals that my tips for Toys 2Masters glory last year The David Nevory Band are supporting a band I have not seen before with the odd name of Master’s Monkeys. Odd I like -so it’s time to head for Quantius Strasse and Kult 41‘s odd Art exhibits, abandoned coach in the courtyard, and dark but magical interior.
When I arrive it’s shortly before the start time of 8pm and David Nevory is finishing a sound-check. He seems to be dressed all in red – including his skin. In fact so do the band. This might be the time for a hopeful word with the sound/lighting man. Said man is very helpful and offers me two options: all red lights (for a brothel effect) or all green lights (visitors from outer-space effect). Green seems a little brighter so ‘Alien’ it is and the creepy light turns out to be a perfect foil for the main act, but more of that later. David Nevory and his fine band are returning to the stage…
Nevory has a very likeable, easy going, presence. He even apologizes that he has a cold and his voice is clearly under pressure this evening but remains just the right side of Barry White growl meets Darth Vader croak. The roughness even adds an edge musically (maybe cultivate that cold David!)
The band’s set this evening closely follows that from the Bruckenforum’s Toys 2Masters Final last year. Stomping Folk/Pop/Rock with ‘Burn down the Empire’, the chunky chords and Hendrixy soloing of ‘Look in the Mirror Now’, the pure folk magic of ‘Seven Seals’. What I like about he Band is it’s sheer variety. A favourite of mine is ‘St Louis’ that hops with ease between folk, pop and rock with ease. My favourite DN song though is the anthemic ‘Wake Up’ with it’s gradual build up to the crashing line – “I Care!!!” and a cracking finish that hauls the best out of guitarist Nathan Henschke and that is a treat because Henschke gets a great sound out of his white Gresch and I love catching Rockstar guitar poses which are in abundance as Henschke attacks the strings with gusto and flying hair. Rounding off the set I’m wondering if there is anything left in Nevory’s voice for an encore – thankfully he can still manage a sedate acoustic number sitting with the band stage front for ‘Falling Free’. A varied, enjoyable but never dull set then, and I look forward to a CD release from The David Nevory Band, before too long I hope.
Break time then and I’m becoming nervous. Should be here this evening? Don’t tell Folk Club impressario John Harrison, but Master’s Monkeys lurk on the BeSonic labels website under the category ‘Anti Folk’. Kult 41 being a venue for alternative Rock I’m consequently expecting a long haired metal band screaming out ‘Streets of London’ to three power chords and an un-musical ten minute stratocaster solo. I’m somewhat relieved then to see the band’s founder Paul Aka Kessler is sitting down with a Martin acoustic and that behind him are a stand-up bass, a drummer with an accordion and a keyboard player. Only the keyboard seems to have an an aerial on one side and a metal loop. Oh, and no keys. Interesting.
The first song is a microcosm of the Master’s Monkeys musical style. It starts with about the jolliest line you will get from the Band “Buy ’em ice-cream on a sunny winter’s day” but it’s sung in a voice that Penny-wise the evil Stephen King clown might have if he chose a musical career instead of a murderous one. it transpires to be about little girls and it gets nasty. Paul Aka Kessler’s gravely Tom Waits voice pulls you in though and that’s the strength of this band. A Master’s Monkeys concert is rather akin to reading a book of short stories – especially if you’re a Stephen King fan. Songs of lost love, lost innocence, lost hope, in fact mid-set Kessler announces with a wry smile “But enough of this misery – let’s play some Blues…”
If you’re prepared to stay with them (and your english is up to it) though these really are excellently written vignettes – songs seems too light a word for what’s inside each shadowy tale. If you don’t follow the songs you might find the musical pace gets a bit bogged down though. Set against the perpetual darkness of the lyrics, there is some light and shade in the music itself via instrumental changes. Frank Bellstein switches from drums to accordion which gives a Klezmer feel to proceedings. Most interesting though is Farsin Chaidi who switches from trumpet, to bluesharp, to Theremin. Ah yes, research discloses that the aforementioned keyless keyboard with a two foot aerial is said instrument. If, like me, you assumed those scary B-movie music scores were filled with violinists making an extra dollar on their day off from Carnegie Hall, then check out the Theremin being introduced by it’s inventor HERE. Okay, now back to February 18 2017 and Kult 41…
I even feel a Country influence creeping through at times, as Kessler delivers his lyrics in a talk-sing style that reminds me a little of Johnny Cash.. ‘Turn Away From Here’ has a nice loping style and a hook-line that creeps into my sub-conscious and sticks there. There’s a song called ‘Happiest Day of All’ but don’t expect many laughs or smiles even – Master’s Monkeys do what they do very well indeed, but it doesn’t include Happy. A band to listen to with a glass of good wine and a friend. But beware – do not listen alone!
Master’s Monkeys is far more than just one guy with an acoustic guitar playin’ singer/songwriter stuff. I decided to be free to work with whomever I want – and Master’s Monkeys simply sounds better than “Paul A. Kessler & Friends“, doesn’t it?