The packed crowd in the concert hall of the Palac Akropolis stands silently in the dark and waits. A lone blue spotlight fires and moodily illuminates a waiting drum kit, and cheers erupt from the previously hushed masses. Being a long time skeptic of Czech music, especially with the nueter-nomer ‘rock’, I roll my eyes and puff out my upper lip. I am not expecting much, and it is going to take more than parlour tricks to win me over…
White smoke billows out from somewhere on stage, generating more gleeful responses from the crowd. ‘Jesus, what’s next?’ I think to myself. ‘A blow-up devil?’ or some other such Spinal-Tapesque gimmick?
I had seen Priessnitz before, about a year ago, and they put on a solid performance of dreamy, melodic pop tunes, one set accompanied by a children’s orchestra, and though this was a release show for their new CD, I wasn’t expecting anything too much different. The first performance of theirs I saw was good, but not the type of show to elicit this kind of excitement from the crowd. I stared at the people around me, wondered at the glassy gleam in their eyes, and asked myself in a bad cockney accent, ‘What the ‘ell are they on about?’
The first song, a solid rock anthem driven by highly amped drums and bass and augmented by the more than competent play of the lead gutiarist, answered my cockney question with authority. The crowd eagerly responded, shouting, dancing, waving their arms, but I stood firm, feet on the ground and arms folded, trying hard to maintain some personal continuity. My skepticism was well-grounded, dammit, and I wasn’t about to let it slip at the first song.
Unfortunately for my skepticism, the second song was better than the first, and exhibited a kind of hard-edge moodiness similiar to the Cure and The Church. I soon found myself tentatively tapping my feet and moving my head with the stiff, thumpy beat of the drums, while the rest of the crowd had long ago been swept away by the skill and sincerity of the group.
The lyrics flowed through the lead singer in a deep, at times booming, voice, and were simple enough for someone with an intermediate hold on the language to understand most of them: mostly love songs, days in the sun, walking in the forest, you know, Czech stuff. They reminded me, once again, that Czech is a very musical language, and can be quite haunting and beautiful.
Priessnitz, from the small Moravian town of Jesenik, are, like their lyrics, simple. They are not too into live experimentation, they don’t toy with electronics or disharmony, and they are not a band I would call cutting-edge or ground-breaking, or any of the other hyphenated industry calling cards.
They are, however, a solid rock band that churns out melodic, up-tempo, fun tunes with an honesty and sincerity that has become a rare jewel in the musical communtiy chest. Some of their songs I have to say walk a thin line between heart-felt and cheesy, and a few of the slower numbers lessen the accelerated feel, but all in all they put on a great, thoroughly enjoyable show as long as you grant yourself the license to like them.
While it may be a bit cliched to feel young, contemplative and full of hope and optimism while gently swaying to crooning rock ballads, it still feels alright every once in a while.
This article originally appeared in Think Magazine. Photo by Tomas Martinek