My route to RIO was circuitous this year with an all-day meeting in Poland on Tuesday and a couple of days visiting friends in Fumel before the festival. On the plus side this meant I traveled business class for the transatlantic flights. Arrived on Friday afternoon and chilled until the first band at 8pm.
Started with the unusual No Noise No Reduction, three bass saxophones and no other instruments. Was interesting and entertaining for 25 minutes but I tired on the lack of difference over the full set. Next up were Pixvae another of the endless interrelated Lyon based bands. This one featured members of polymorphie, Chromb & ukandanz. Ukandanz are the band they are most similar to, replacing the Ethiopian singer with two girls sing Afro Colombian vocals. Bongo's were the other change and seemed a bit superfluous. A lot of fun and the highlight of Friday. Last up was Haco & The Nippon Eldorado Kabarett, Haco is well known from After Dinner from Japan & NEK are an Italian band who focus on covering Japanese music. They also featured a very good Italian female singer singing in Japanese. Good fun cabaret style music with fun vocals though Haco's voice wasn't as strong as it probably was in the past. Overall a great start to the festival. Chris Cutler sat in on one track.
Saturday started with the festival long Japanese theme with Cicala Mvta, a kletzmer, fusion, Zappa, Japanese street music mix. The band is led by Wataru Okuma on sax & clarinet and also features tuba, bass, drums, 2 saxes and japanese street instruments (ching-dong, gorosu). Yoshida was quite restrained (by his standards) on drums. Lots of energy and fun. Second up was Jump For Joy, an improv krautrock band made up of Zappi and Jean-Herve from Faust, Chris Cutler & Geoff Leigh from Henry Cow, plus Yumi Hara on piano, Geraldine Swayne on keys. They played a full hour of a general structure (rather than score) with sections of pure krautrock grind apparently about a rabbit dying having seen the bizarre pictogram flow chart that was the set list. Featured wood being chopped, bowls being drilled. Worked really really well, lots of fun and very entertaining. Magma were up third, individual tickets were sold for this and as usual the theater was packed, more than twice as full as any other act. Weird start with Philippe's bass feeding back, had to stop and fix and then restart. Then halfway through MDK the guitarist left the stage not to return, apparently tendonitis. The band carried on regardless and put in a very good show. The vibraphone could have been higher in the mix but otherwise good sound. The evening ended with the first use at the festival of the small hot house side theater, Richard Pinhas & Arthur Narcy played a long set of ambient layered guitar industrial noise with accompanying drums, wasn't for everyone's tastes with some leaving early, but those that stayed loved the intensity and demanded two encores. A really engrossing set that was very well received. A very good varied day.
Sunday was the day I was really looking forward to with three bands that really ensured I'd be at RIO this year. First up were Czech Avant, punk, pop band Uz Jsme Doma. A stripped down four piece of guitar/keys, bass, trumpet & drums with all four also singing. UJD tore it up with high energy and had me & a bunch of others bouncing around t o the fun tunes. Absolutely loved it, there were a few people who left early wondering what a punk band were doing there but they were one of the highlights for me. Second up were Apollonius Abraham Schwarz a heavy jazz fusion trio of guitar, drums and bass sax from Switzerland. High energy instrumental music that probably suffered from being surrounded by three other bands I really wanted to see, I dozed a bit in their set but it was pretty fun stuff. Third up was Upsilon Acrux, this version of the band featured 2 drums, 2 guitars & keyboards/sax (played by Patrick Shiroishi from Corima). This band plays intense complex interlocking brutal prog at high volumes. The interlocking patterns across the band were a wonder to behold. I struggled to understand them the first time I saw them at Cuneifest in'11 but have since bought 3 of their albums and have come to love their stuff. They killed it here with lots of material from the new album and really sucked me in all set. Again some people left early probably put off by the brutal attack but they clearly also made a lot of new fans. Finally the festival closed with the highlight of the festival, Half The Sky are made up of Chris Cutler & Dagmar Krause from Henry Cow, Yumi Hara, Cloe Herington (from Knifeworld) on bassoon, Mitsuru Nasuno, on bass from Korekyojinn & two members of Cicala Mvta playing Lyndsay Cooper music from News From Babel and Henry Cow. I cannot adequately describe how wonderful this was with the whole crowd rapt and rapturous (and the largest crowd bar Magma). People who had been at the Lyndsay Cooper tributes in England featuring original HC members said that this was a better performance. I loved it.
Overall a very varied wonderful festival that was very well organized. Crowd was probably slightly smaller than last year for the Art Zoyd party. There were a few of the usual crowd missing but it was great to mix with so many of the regular group again this year. As usual I spent a lot of time socializing as well as at shows though I didn't stay up as late as some. Small USA contingent of me, Debi & Helaine. A big upgrade at the Auberge with wifi there this year plus a double bed (rather than narrow cots) and a shower curtain. A wonderful weekend, thanks to Michel and his team.