Show Review: Scala & Kolacny Brothers at The Independent, 4/12/2011

by Gordon Elgart on April 13, 2011

Guess which 2 of the 24 people on stage are the Kolacny Brothers

Scala & Kolacny Brothers need marketing help. They admitted during their set on Tuesday night that the had sold “500,000 units in Europe, and about 50 in the U.S.,” and asked us, “tonight, let’s make it 60!” Part of this is probably due to piracy, but part of this must be name recognition. I told many people beforehand that I was going to see them tonight, and they said, “who?” I said, “Y’know, the group that does the cover of ‘Creep’ from the Social Network trailer.”

“Oh! Them! I bet that’ll be good.” But none of them came. The crowd was made up of people more likely to be seen at a classical music event than at the Independent. But then again, the Independent has proven itself to be a versatile venue. So how would a Belgian choir go over on a cold San Francisco night?

First off, it’s true that Scala (the name of a women’s choir that tonight had 22 members) & Kolacny Brothers (the conductor and composer/arranger) are getting known for their cover songs. But the show started with two originals, “White Moon” and “Masquerade (of Fools).” Throughout the night, there would be a clear demarcation between the originals and the covers. There’s the obvious “this song was not written by Steven Kolacny,” but also all the original songs used prerecorded drums and samples, whereas all the originals were played straight for piano and voice. I’ll admit I was going to the show for the covers, but the original songs were all excellent, and the set closer “I Fail” was particularly good, sounding like something fit for the dance floor.

That was surprising for one big reason. Watching Scala on stage can get a little boring. There’s plenty to look at (22 girls, natch), but not much to watch. They pretty much all stand there, hands to their side, as still as possible for the most part. I kept scanning around looking for emotion in the singing, but instead I saw precision. This sounded great, but didn’t look like much. So toward the end of the set, when some choreography happened during “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” I was surprised, as was the nearly 200 people in seats at the Independent. Rather than the silence that had pervaded the entire evening, there was some hand clapping going on. It was a welcome change, and I wish there had been more of that. Seeing 22 girls singing “You Oughta Know” while standing still just seemed a bit odd.

Although I must tell you, the cover songs really are the bread and butter for Scala & Kolacny Brothers. Yes, we were treated to “Creep,” as expected, but I hadn’t spent much time researching their catalog, so I was overjoyed to hear a brilliant take on Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” as their first cover. This band will cover anything! And I’d say that some of the songs are so bulletproof, anyone could cover them and sound great, but something about the arrangements brought out the strength of certain songs, and exposed the weaknesses of others. My personal favorites of the night were “Everlong” and the aforementioned “You Oughta Know.”  Songs I love but didn’t quite thrill me during this performance were Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” and U2’s “With Or Without You.”

Their next gig is at Coachella, and I really don’t know how that will go. They’re playing at the same time as Chemical Brothers, Flogging Molly and Boys Noize, late Friday night, when they should be playing early in the day when things are quieter. There’s going to be a lot of sound bleeding. How their lovely melodies will go over, I’m not sure. People looking for something a little different will find it, even if it’s just that they want to see girls on stage at a rock festival. (This whole band thing is very male-centric, I hear.)

 

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Scala & Kolacny Brothers set list from 4/12/2011 at The Independent in San Francisco

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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