An 11 pm slot on a Monday night isn’t the most opportune time to be making your U.K. debut. The audience had drifted away about half an hour earlier as the third of three synth-based acts neared the end of his set. Someone said it looked like Trupa Trupa had been landed with ‘the graveyard slot’, but then it all changed. The audience swelled to around a hundred as the four-piece Polish band took to the small, low level stage.
Led by poet and lead vocalist Grzegorz Kwiatkowski their line up of drums, bass, and two guitarists, may sound orthodox enough but the songs they create are something special. If you can imagine Syd Barrett and Nico playing with Wire on a dark night in a Gdansk cellar, then that’s somewhere near it. The titles of their songs – ‘Wasteland’, ‘Getting Older’ and ‘The Sky is Falling’ – make it clear they’re decidedly sombre and the music swirls and growls to match the intensity of the lyrics. It’s always hard to recreate such atmospheric songs live but they had a good stab at it. In a forty-five minute set they performed nine songs, all sung in English – essentially the bulk of their third album Headache – and sent the audience away well happy.
Wojtek Juchniewicz played some fluent bass lines and showed on the title track that he can howl and roar with the best of them. He was tightly knitted with his rhythm partner Tomek Pawluczek on drums while Rafal Wojczal was a whizz on synths and on his customized guitar: made out of a large oil-can, not something you see every day. The vocals at times were deliberately harsh and repetitive but they could also be, notably on ‘Rise and Fall’, sweet and harmonious. The set culminated in ‘Picture Yourself’, which also closes the album. Starting with a lightweight riff that could have been on a Joe Meek single in 1962, it pulsated through seven hypnotic minutes – a suitable showstopper.
Cafe OTO is a friendly, atmospheric venue and it surely won’t be long before we see Trupa Trupa welcomed back there – or elsewhere in the capital.
Trupa Trupa’s Headache is available from iTunes, priced at £5.99. Find out more information on the band by clicking on the image below.