Katzenjammer brought their high-energy brand of ballsy folk rock to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in a way that was as endlessly fun as it was defiant to the trauma of recent events on European soil. There was no room for fear in the small floorspace of the Empire; just dancing, chanting, and a fair bit of a Jäger.
It is frustrating to categorize a band like Katzenjammer as simply folk when their live performance perfectly showcases the incredible breadth of music they have created over the space of three albums. With a carousel of exhausted roadies serving out an endless rotation of instruments ranging from accordions to glockenspiels, trumpets, kick-drums, ukuleles, banjos, and a custom built-balalaika (essentially a giant bass guitar – don’t worry, I had to Google it too), it’s simply mind-boggling to appreciate the musicianship shared between the impressive foursome and to try shoe-horning them into a single genre.
Watching them live is the only way to experience the natural and playful bounce of Katzenjammer’s music that can move from foot-stomping traditional folk ditties to sensual blues, Euro-pop, and frantic rock and roll, in minutes. Encapsulating this harmonious genre dichotomy is Marianne Sveen; a woman who can bring a room to utter silence while leading the breathtaking a capella number God’s Great Dust Storm, and just a few songs later be leaping backwards off of a stage platform – while heavily pregnant.
Audiences who come to see Katzenjammer do so for the raucous theatricality of their live performance – while one band member blows furiously into a trumpet standing atop a drum kit, another growls demonically, prowling over a keyboard and bathed in a bloody red glow – and stay for the inviting charm of a greatly underrated group who endure through love of their trade and of one another.
There is something both charming and admirable about a band who could so easily lend themselves to becoming twee folk singers, but who instead embrace the musical foundations of their heritage to twitter, scat and scream their way through a finely crafted setlist. For every story to be found in songs such as Mother Superior, there are just as many (if not more) ways to be found into mischief and drama in A Bar In Amsterdam or Hey Ho, On The Devil’s Back.
Two things you are guaranteed to leave a Katzenjammer gig with is a song on your lips and the warmth of having enjoyed a well-behaved party while still being home in time for bed.