Review of Dornenreich’s Concert in Uster, Switzerland

I stumbled upon the event entry for this concert by accident while browsing last.fm a few weeks ago. I couldn’t believe my luck — one of the (arguably) most inventive and powerful bands of the genre would be coming to Uster, a mere 10 minutes by car from my apartment.

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My expectations were rather high, and I wondered whether they could transform any of their earlier work to the acoustic setup they use on tour. After Valnes left the band, Eviga was basically the sole member. In 2004, Inves (violin) joined as a full member, but without any additional tour musicians, this reduces Dornenreich to one acoustic guitar, foot percussion and one violin. No drums, no electric guitar, no second vocalist.

Before I say too much about the concert, though, something about the venue. Dornenreich played at the Rock-City in Uster. What a cute little place! It’s a small rock/metal bar built into something that I assume must have been an underground warehouse. “Backstage” doesn’t really exist here, the musicians just walk off the stage to the side, into the back area of the bar. There’s space for maybe 100 units of audience, if you count the ones sitting on bar stools here and there, with no view of the band. Between bar and band, there’s space for five rows of people perhaps 10 wide. Didn’t I say it’s cute? 🙂

But back to the music. They did a wonderful job performing their material, also playing four songs from the upcoming album “In Luft geritzt”. The new stuff sounds very violin heavy, and all of these pieces were instrumentals. The encore was particularly riveting, with its powerful crescendos and the cat-and-mouse chase of violin and guitar. I am very much looking forward to this album.

The rest of the material was a mix between stuff from “Hexenwind” and “Her von welken Nächten”. Unfortunately, some of the songs (like “Der Hexe flammend’ Blick”) lost a lot of power due to the lack of proper drums and guitars. I’m not sure if we can blame it solely on the band, though. They did try their best, but some of Dornenreich’s songs consist of 70% silence dotted with playful melancholy, and they need a quiet atmosphere to really work. This message hadn’t quite arrived in the brains of the audience yet — many of the people in the rear were cheerfully talking and yelling with absolutely no respect for the part of the audience who had come there to actually listen to a concert. And for those who waited outside in the cold hoping to still fetch a ticket for the totally sold out event, it was an insult.

If you want to chat and drink beer, just go somewhere else, don’t ruin other people’s evenings and steal their tickets. Fans in the front row first tried to quiet the idiots with rounds of “sshhhhhh!” between songs, and since no one seemed to care they upgraded their arsenal to include shouts of “shut your traps back there!” and “quiet!” (or actually “Hebed endli mol d schnurre!” and “Ruhäää!”)

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All in all, it was a very good evening. Dornenreich’s performance was stellar, but concentrating on it was made very difficult because of people left and right talking about the minutiae of their tax report and/or how to properly housetrain dogs. This just didn’t permit the right atomsphere to develop. How can you feel all witches-and-forests-in-the-moonlit-night when someone’s burping in your ear from the left and the guy behind you is telling Hitler jokes while smoking pot?

I hope that Dornenreich are soon booked by larger venues like the Z-7 in Pratteln. While I’m sure that place plays host to same tactless audience who just wants a drink on a Saturday night, at least the bar(s) are quite a way from the stage, so everyone gets what they’re looking for without disturbing each other.

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