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Gangar – Kinomaja, Tallinn, Estonia, 26.04.2024

Written by: Ivor
Published: May 06, 2024
Event: Gangar (Website)
Location: Kinomaja, Tallinn, Estonia
Organizer: MTÜ Eesti Pärimusmuusika keskus


Gangar - Kinomaja, Tallinn, Estonia, 26.04.2024 by Ivor (40)

It was by sheer accident that I stumbled on Gangar's gig on the ticket marketplace searching for something else entirely. What caught my eye initially was the advertised mix of folk, jazz, metal, and prog. What sealed the deal, however, was the description, which quoted, of all things, Metal Storm's Non-Metals review of the band's début EP Tre Danser and reminded me that I probably had a still-open Bandcamp tab somewhere as a reminder from way back when.

I eventually opted not to dive into Gangar's music before the event and decided on going purely on a hunch. Based entirely on highly positive reviews and introductory blurbs, I had a feeling that there must be at least a tiny amount of truth to what the collective internet is saying about these young Norwegians. And thus I found myself untangling a peculiar set of circumstantial contrasts that, in retrospect, are probably apt only for a band like Gangar.

Oskar Goedvriend Lindberget and Mattias Truell Thedens (Gangar)

As I was waiting for the warm-up act Lõõm to enter the stage, I was already somewhat intrigued by the audience – more on that later – and was beginning to second-guess my educated decision. That sinking feeling was emphasised when Lõõm revealed themselves to be a quintet of three violins, a bass violin, and a cello, playing a take on folk tunes. I mean, no fault there. Great and entertaining stuff by lauded young musicians but not quite in line with what I was blindly hoping for. You get what you mentally prepare for and this was, simply put – and no disrespect there – turning out to be slightly too traditionally square.

We Estonians pride ourselves on our folk music ways and our choir singing traditions. At the same time, we also tend to feel neighbourly kinship with the Finnish love for heavy music. And while at larger events you get folks of all kinds, sadly the demographical segregation tends to stand out like a sore thumb at smaller gigs. Moreover, as sexist as the following stereotype is, it just goes to underline the previous statement: for the predominantly male audience you turn to metal, and you turn to folk for a female audience. This particular audience was predominantly female by a very large margin. As I alluded to before, it was cause for second-guessing my decision but will also turn out to be important in a moment.

Now, Gangar were everything I could have hoped for and more. On the face of it they are a quintet consisting of a power rock trio as the backbone and with saxophone and Norwegian fiddle as the flourish. Musically they are firmly and deeply rooted in folk but also all over the place with jazz, rock, and metal, and thus drawing comparisons to various bands that have and have not consciously been an inspiration. To me they particularly nailed three associations. Firstly, there are their acclaimed compatriots Gåte, who also make elaborate use of the fiddle and lean expertly on Norwegian traditional music. Secondly, as their saxophonist Oskar later conceded: "yeaaah, there's a lot of Shining going on." Finally, I doubt that they even know it, but to me there's a certain Estradasphere vibe to them and their music.

Mattias Truell Thedens (Gangar)

The show was an absolute riot (in a non-riotous sense). On the one hand, there's the fiddle and the folk aspect prompting the audience to dance and jig along. Because, of course, it's folk. On the other hand, there's the sax and jazzy and even proggy interludes that kind of break the flow of rhythm and leave you admiring the musicianship. Finally, there's heavy that is well and truly heavy. And when it's good and heavy you headbang along to it like there's no tomorrow.

It looks like a sheer coincidence that Gangar have found their footing in the folk audience over here. As they were saying, they were a student band playing Oslo for 150 people. "Yeah, baby, we made it!" Then came Estonian biggest folk festival, Viljandi folk, two years ago that had their saxophonist "barfing and shitting before the gig" and, as the question from the stage confirmed, a large part of the audience were there at that gig. However, Gangar could've easily fit the bill for any rock and metal festival over here and would've been more than welcome with their upbeat energy among the rest of the probably grim lineup.

Which brings me back to the matter of audience. For a band as varied as Gangar is, it seems like the folk-oriented audience was a bit one-sided. I did see them go from swaying like trees in the wind to dancing a jig with the fiddler, from headbanging and throwing horns to doing a rowing pit on the floor. It's not like folk folk don't know how to rock; that's easy and comes sort of naturally by itself when the music is right. The rowing pit took some gesticulating and explaining, though. And, I mean, have you ever seen an all-female rowing pit at a gig?!

Oskar Goedvriend Lindberget and Mattias Truell Thedens (Gangar)

...I have and it makes me uncomfortably aware of the segregation in music and all the stereotypes that go with it. Don't get me wrong, as an audience they are as any other. The energy was a blast as you'd expect it to be. It's when you start thinking about it too deeply that you notice that something doesn't quite sit right; not here at the gig, but elsewhere, at large. It'd be just plain wrong to fault people who are, in fact, present at the gig. It does, however, make you wonder what's behind this kind of division along the gender lines, whether it's natural, and whether an effort should be made to tip the unbalance.

All of that, however, has little to do with Gangar. They were on top of their game. And while I would say that on recordings they may sound slightly too fiddle-heavy (heh) and more something-folk rather than folk-something, that is a matter of personal opinion. They could, frankly, have good use for a proper vocalist, but on stage this role is so far filled with sax and fiddle taking the entertaining lead. As I said, there's a lot of energy to Gangar and I can imagine them going places. The real question for me is whether they dare to wander that adventurously and wildly. Which makes me think of Estradasphere again. Or Shining, for that matter. They chuckled at the question but when is going to be their Blackjazz moment? The spark and restlessness are most definitely there. Could it really be only a couple albums away, maybe?

Written on 06.05.2024 by I shoot people.

Sometimes, I also write about it.

And one day I'm going to start a band. We're going to be playing pun-rock.

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