Secret Oyster

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author BV date 28/11/13 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

There are those nights where you are unsure of what you are actually going to experience. In my book, those nights have massive potential as you rarely have any idea of what’s going to hit you, why so and what impact it might have on you in the near future. This gig was really no different at that point. Having heard tales of the psych-jazz prowess of Secret Oyster beforehand, I had already started getting accustomed to the thought of a night of musical eclecticism and the like. So as I entered Amager Bio to witness a jazz-psych supergroup of days long past, I feared the worst whilst hoping for the best – as one tends to do with gigs where you aren’t really that acquainted with the band in question.

All photos by Kenny Swan

Secret Oyster

As my trusted photographer of the night and I made our way towards the stage, the attendance was looking poor, enforcing my initial notion that the glory days of Secret Oyster are long gone. However, as the band took stage some 20 minutes past 8 o’ clock, the venue began to fill up – nearing a half-full state. Supported by kaleidoscopic and heavily trippy visuals the band wasted no time in launching themselves head first into a lengthy jazz-psych jam called “Sirenerne”, fueled by saxophonist Karsten Vogel’s soprano lead-lines as well as guitarist Claus Bøhling’s eclectic, jazzy soloing. At this point I was already having a hard time identifying some of the tracks played as my knowledge of Secret Oyster was, and still is, relatively limited. What I did realize, however, was that these tracks were as effective as they were difficult to perceive. Large portions of the crowd were now dancing mildly to themselves, when they weren’t laughing politely to the band’s rather humor-less between song banter. At least it was humor-less to me, seeing as the average age of the crowd seemed to be at least 20 years older than I am.

Following a series of lengthy solos, the band launched into a track called “Straight to the Krankenhaus”. Once more, the soloing seemed to be of the essence in this instrumental journey. Unlike many other instrumental acts though, Secret Oyster seemed to have a really tight group dynamic going – effectively complementing each other at every turn, making the increasingly hairy tracks seem melodic, exciting and, most of all, accessible. At this point, I started to get really impressed with keys/synth-player Assi Roar, as his very progressive playing added a truly magnificent vibe to the soundscape – completing the audio-visual journey which the visuals seemed to be there for. As this first of two sets by the band came to an end, the venue was now beginning to fill up nicely and the crowd seemed anxious and restless when faced with the outlook of having to wait nearly 30 minutes for the second set.

As the second set came under way, guitarist Claus Bøhling dazzled the audience with a magnificent version of “Blazing Lace” wherein his jazzy leads where carefully complemented by the utterly magnificent bass-playing of Daniel Fridell and the tight, yet eclectic drumming of Ole Streenberg. Once more, the abundantly skillful playing of Karsten Vogel left the crowd yearning for more saxophone and as the band members took turns to show off their skills, Vogel consistently teased the others by playing small, melodic lines that either complimented or contrasted what they were playing – forcing each individual member to stay on his toes during the jam, making sure that the jam never really lost its edge. Following some bass-drum issues that required a break of nearly five minutes, the band approached the set’s absolute high-point, the slow-starting yet completely mind-blowing, “Mind Movie”. At this point, the band was at its tightest point of the night – brimming with an absolute joy of playing that left no soul in Amager Bio doubting why this band has chosen to be on the road again, in spite of the fact that their commercial glory days have long since passed.

What was perhaps most notable at this point, was that the crowd was at its most active point throughout the night. The somewhat elderly crowd moved around, cheered excessively at the end of every melodic solo and looked as if they were truly excited to be there, reliving something that might have meant a great deal to them way back when this band was at its high point. After these two sets of approximately 40 minutes of length each, I left Amager Bio with a sense of satisfaction that I couldn’t really place. It wasn’t the typical ‘I heard all their hits and it was awesome’ kind of satisfaction. It was more like the satisfaction of experiencing five very skilled musicians giving it their all to an appreciative crowd. – Even though Secret Oyster might never be a staple in my musical taste, I can honestly say I had a good time watching these guys. Hell, I might even do so again.

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