Potrvá is a poky cafe/bar located in the lower ground floor of a block of flats in the Prague suburb Bubeneč, near the rather fashionable Dejvice district and a short walk from Prague Castle. Intimate is one word which springs to mind when thinking of the space. There was just enough room to swing a guitar.
The sound of support act Frank Bigsby & His Satanic Majesty suggested guitar swinging could be in order, though the act was less grandiose than the name implied. It was one guy, his guitar and backing tracks. Despite the apparent limitations, his ambition came through. If – as I suspect – the instruments in the backing track were played by this one guy then we’re talking about some serious musical chops. He just needs a band to bring it to fruition.
He could do a lot worse than learn from the headliners. On Thursday, The Wave Pictures were an example of exactly how a band should be. It was more than tightness. The Wave Pictures played with cohesive intuition. Part of the pleasure was witnessing how effortlessly these consummate musicians melded their sound together. The band are more than David Tattersall’s virtuoso playing. Both bassist Franic Rozycki and drummer Jonny Helms had a chance to demonstrate their mettle, helped to a certain degree by percussionist David Beauchamp. The trio have the chemistry of a great band – equals playing in sync and off each other to forge something more than the sum of its parts.
The band treated us to tracks from across their extensive discography. They ventured all the way back to Instant Coffee Baby for “Avocado Baby” then fastforwarded to the present via “Fake Fox Fur Pillowcase” and “Frogs Sing Loudly in the Ditches” from their outstanding recent album Big Pink Flamingo Burning Moon. Personally, I was pleased to hear “Stay Here and Take Care of the Chickens” from what has to be one of their best albums Long Black Cars. Among the collection of brilliant original material, the band added two covers – a Stones’ number and “Hoping” by Daniel Johnston. Drummer Johnny Helms was also given the chance to leave the skins, thanks to Beauchamp, and come forward to sing. His performance of “Just like a Drummer” was simply gorgeous. However, the night drew most heavily from the double-LP City Forgiveness, though we the audience may have had something to do with that.
The one downside of the evening was the small turnout. About a dozen people braved the icy air to see this band. While I’m sure that for the band it was not overly inspiring, the small crowd meant I felt confident enough to request “The Woods” when The Wave Pictures returned for an encore. The song is one of the high points on City Forgiveness and the band brought its rough energy to the fore. Afterwards, Tattersall asked if there were any other requests and a couple asked for “Lisbon”, also from City Forgiveness and which the band ripped into with gusto, proving that despite the unfortunate circumstances it was about the music.
Though it is a cliché about many bands, The Wave Pictures are a band people need to see live. The real losers were the music lovers of Prague. The Wave Pictures owned that stage on Thursday night, playing with honest unvarnished passion. I pity those who didn’t make it to see them.