NORTH BENNINGTON -- It is a little of an exaggeration, but true none-the-less, that Los Angeles based Fishtank Ensemble warmed up for their Saturday concert at the Vermont Arts Exchange with a "blowout" concert in San Francisco last Friday. Hey, the band knows they have to bring their best to Bennington.
The "cross-pollinated" gypsy rhythms of Fishtank closes the VAE’s 2012 Basement Music Series season on Saturday, July 7, at 8 p.m., with doors open and dinner available starting at 7 p.m.
Fishtank, in fact, is embarking on very busy summer touring season, according to its website, with upcoming shows at DjangoVegas and California Worldfest "before we head off to Europe in August and the East Coast and Midwest in September. In October we’ll be back in the studio recording our 4th Album which should be ready by the beginning of 2013!"
Formed in 2005, Fishtank Ensemble includes two fiery violins, the self-proclaimed "world’s best slap bass player," musical saw, flamenco and gypsy jazz guitar, trombone, opera, jazz and gypsy vocals, accordion and one little banjolele. Tackling everything from French hot jazz to wild Serbian and Transylvanian gypsy anthems, flamenco and oddball originals.
According to supplied material, vocalist Ursula Knudson, who also plays the saw and violin, sang opera on the streets and town squares of Italy, until she found a love of gypsy music. French fiddler Fabrice Martinez journeyed around of Europe in a handmade mule-drawn caravan for 10 years, collecting music and experiences. Serbian bassist Djordje "el douje" Stijepovic player has spent time playing with gypsies as well as some of rock ‘n’ roll’s legends, and aptly defends his reputation as the best slap bass player in the world. And guitarist Douglas Smolen is a master of flamenco and gypsy jazz guitar who honed his craft in the gypsy caves of Granada, Spain.
"On paper, Fishtank Ensemble sounds like a mess," the San Francisco Chronicle said. Founded by "a French fiddler who trained with Romanian Gypsies, a vocalist who also plays the violin and saw, [and] a flamenco guitar ace ... the ensemble weaves together an unlikely blend of traditions at breakneck tempos. The resulting sound is consistently captivating, as if Gypsy swing continued to swirl around the world, picking up new inflections at every turn."
If you missed their sold-out gig last year -- and we pity you -- you can get a little sound and feel for the group by checking out their latest video, ‘Opa! Opa!’, on YouTube. According to the band’s website, the video was filmed by Dalen Muster and edited/mixed by "el douje’ with video effects by Michael Compton. Let’s just say it has the "flavor" of the band’s live concerts.
-- K.D. Norris
The VAE is located at the Sage Street Mill. Advance tickets are $18 through at brownpapertickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006. Tickets are $22 at the door. For information about the VAE call 802-442-5549 or visit vtartxchange.org.