GamVille at Club Helsinki

On Friday the ninth, Club Helsinki hosted what was definitely one of the coolest events at the venue ever, either at the old location in MA or the new one in Hudson, NY. The event was a variety show, titled GamVille, and was hosted by The Wiyos. The night was filled with music, acrobatics, and dancing, and the packed house hooted and hollered for each act. The name for the variety show (and the variety show itself) was inspired by a gam, a social gathering where stories and laughter were exchanged by seafarers. In-between acts the performers all mingled with one another and friends in the audience, new or old, adding to the authenticity of the event. Although there weren’t any seafarers in the audience (at least not as far as I know), stories and laughter were nonetheless abundantly exchanged.

The Wiyos, from the start, played bizarre and artistically fruitful new material. The band has undergone many changes over the years, and this might be the most exciting direction they’ve taken yet. The Wiyos first started out as a duo of Parrish Ellis and Michael Farkas before Joseph “Joebass” Dejarnette joined in. The Wiyos later added Teddy Weber as a full-time member, and when Joebass left the band Seth Travins took his place. Now that Parrish is only performing with The Wiyos for a few shows here and there, I wasn’t sure how the band would sound, never having seen the musicians without their rhythm guitarist (and occasional banjo ukist). I needn’t have feared, however, for I was rendered completely speechless by the outstanding new material The Wiyos presented. The  members of The Wiyos never cease to amaze me with their ability to reinvent and transform the music they play, and although the band’s sound is more soulful and loungy than it once was, it’s just as quirky as ever.

 

After The Wiyos opened the show, a band called the Grand Track Railway took the stage. The band consists of Kip Beacco, Sara Parrilli, and Jonathan Talbott. They played only a few songs, but each was a beautiful masterpiece that was profoundly moving. The songs were all originals (each of which had an intriguing name), and the medley of accordion, guitar, and violin was both lively and haunting.

Video of the Grand Track Railway, “Osmanthus”

After that Lady Moon, Ryder Cooley, and Ngounga Badila took the stage. They too only played a few songs, and the band also featured accordion. Lady Moon is a local musician who plays in many different bands, and this one was more mellow and folk-like than some of the others. The music was somewhat mystical in nature, ethereal and hypnotic.

Video of Lady Moon, Ryder Cooley, and Ngounga Badila

Barushka of The Bleeding Heart Belly Dance performed next, whirling barefoot on-stage. She was outfitted in a draping skirt, midriff baring top, and plenty of gold jewelry, the whole ensemble topped off with a headdress.

When Barushka’s dance was finished, yet another physically demanding act went on: a swing was installed, on which painter, musician, and performance artist Ryder Cooley (the same one that performed with Lady Moon and Ngounga Badila) swung, posed, and climbed. I knew there would be music and dancing, but the acrobatics was completely unexpected and it’s amazing what could be accomplished in the intimate venue that is Club Helsinki.

Also performing was Julian Seidenberg, who is a member of Mother Fletcher along with Jonathan Talbott. Julian was performing solo at Club Helsinki, however, and said to Adam Matta, “As dirty as it sounds, I’m honored to spit on your microphone.” Although both men are beatboxers and vocal percussionists, their style are quite different and it was great to get to hear both in one night.

Video of Julian Seidenberg beatboxing

Chris Neumann performed next, his music like flowing poetry both in regards to the music and the lyrics. He lulled the audience with his clear guitar strumming and chord progressions, weaving meaningful tales with his words, tales that were full of life’s adventures.

Video of Chris Neumann

Adam Matta, who performed with The Wiyos during both of their sets, also performed solo. He is much more than your average beatboxer, and creates sounds that you would think were impossible to create without an instrument other than the voice. He is a one-man orchestra of sorts, creating drums, trumpets, and numerous other sounds with only his vocal chords. Like The Wiyos’, Adam’s performance was incredibly entertaining — especially when he performed a skit he wrote about living in New York City, complete with miming the actions it involved. It was hilarious and truthful, and really showed how imaginative and inventive vocals can be.

Video of Adam Matta beatboxing
Video of Adam Matta, “A Day In The Life” skit

 

The Wiyos‘ performance was incredibly theatrical, and the new material is brimming with innovation and wit. Michael, the mastermind behind many of the new creations, is one of the most creative and brilliant people I have ever seen, and I was completely blown away by what The Wiyos played. One song in particular, going by the working title of “Marry My Daughter,” really conveyed what The Wiyos’ new sound is about. It had hints of Appalachian inspiration, contained soulful vocal harmonies, and was also high-energy and had a slight rock edge — all the while still retaining a distinct old-time flavor. I’m not saying that certain aspects of the material hasn’t been done before, but The Wiyos bring all those aspects together like no other band. Not only that, but the musicians are brimming with originality. They add an oddball, theatrical twist to all that they do, a twist that is becoming, well, more and more twisted! This is most evident in another one of the band’s new songs, “Momma Had A Baby And Its Head Popped Out,” an entertainingly wacky song which is both psychotic and dreamy at the same time. The musicians of The Wiyos have always been inspired by vaudeville (they were, after all, a self-described “Vaudvillian-Ragtime-Jugband-Blues & Hillbilly Swing band”), but that inspiration is much more pronounced than it used to be. At Club Helsinki, The Wiyos performed some of what they wrote for a show called “The Wiyos of Oz” which was an event in Kansas featuring choreographed dances along to live music of The Wiyos. That music, and everything The Wiyos played at Club Helsinki, is wild but expressive. Although the band is certainly different from what it used to be in regards to both the music and the members, the underlying essence is still unchanged and I can’t wait to hear where the band goes from here. The Wiyos are truly visionaries, and their visions are dreams that realize their potential.

Video of The Wiyos, “Yellow Lines”
Video of The Wiyos, “Airline Baggage Handlers Suck”
Video of The Wiyos, “Momma Had A Baby And Its Head Popped Out”

 

 

 

 

 

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