"Those Poor Bastards on Walpurgis Night"

TPB European tour 2017Those Poor Bastards is finally here in Sweden. At the moment they are touring in Europe from April 20th to May 6th (just a single day off for logistics) in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and last but not least Russia. The gloomier the music, the happier they will be. Maybe, the dark streak in the music of TPB fits their very troubled mindset all too well. To my knowledge, this is Those Poor Bastards first tour in Europe. It may be a pure coincidence, but they actually played on Walpurgis Night in Stockholm. Debaser Strand is a perfect venue (the closest you get a deep and dark dungeon). It's almost to good to be true. Walpurgis Night is an old pagan rite which has become Christianized (the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Francia). Walpurgis Night (english), Walpurgisnacht (german) and Valborgsmässoafton (swedish) are all names for the night of 30 April. In older German folklore this is believed to be the night of a witches' meeting in the Harz Mountains, a mountain range in central Germany. Local variants of Walpurgis Night are observed throughout Europe in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, and Estonia. In Sweden we light bonfires to scare off witches. 30 april marks the last the day of winter and the first day of spring. It's also a great day for hedonistic student festivities. In Uppsala there's a 36-48 hour party for those who are have the right stomach and disposition. Yes, those were the days. Nowadays, older and wiser, I'm perfectly content watching the bonfires. However, I'm not dead yet and decided to buy two tickets to Those Poor Bastards and went with my friend Johan. Time is of the essence. Someday it will all be over. It may very well turn out to be a once in a lifetime event for a gothic-starving swede. The tour poster is an example of false advertising (depicting The Minister below left). In fact, The Minister (bass, banjo, percussion and backing vocals on studio recordings) never appear live or on tours. The Minister doesn’t want to show his face. For this reason he wears a burqa-curtain like hood. At live shows and on tours Vincent Presley plays drums and moog. A pretty unorthodox band constellation, but it works.  


TPB Debaser 20170430 500Well, what about last night? My friend Johan and I arrived ridiculously early, because we believe what we read. The evening started out with Stockholm-based female DJ-duo called Andersson & Räv that played music from the 1960-70's with a great help from a pre-programmed playlist. Very good choices, but the real job was obviously already done. There was an opening act, Vurro, a one-man-band who plays multiple instruments (organ, piano, drums) carrying a cow skull on his head. He was interesting at first, heavily inspired by Jerry Lee Lewis and banging his cow horns on the cymbals, but "he overstayed his welcome" as Johan nicely put it. The opening act's performance serves to "warm up" the audience, making it appropriately excited and enthusiastic for the headliner. A mystery to me. All good things come to he who waits. At 22:30 Those Poor Bastards finally went on stage. They took a firm grip of the audience and never let go. What TPB have to say in a song is said in about three minutes. As a listener, you also need to catch your breath. Their relative short songs works in both ways. The tempo was by any standards furious, no chit-chat between the songs and no crowd-pleasing mutual recognition phrases. In fact, Lonesome Wyatt is totally focused on the music and stares frantically right out and through you. He had the setlist written on cardboard paper on the music-stand, but didn't look at it many times. Those Poor Bastards are perfectly attuned and overly experienced. The soundscape is impressing. Vincent Presley manages to combine exquisite drumming with handling the moog. However, I miss the bass and banjo playing from The Minister, who probably at the moment is hiding out somewhere in Wisconsin. The high-tempo show ratched up even further in "Crooked Man", "Satan is Dead", "Headed Nowhere", "Ten Ton Hammer", "This World is Evil", "Glory Amen" and in the encore "Evil on My Mind". Vincent Presley had some initial problems with the stage monitoring system (too low volume), but the sound quality was very good (by rough gothic country standards). My overall impression of the show: very professional, hilarious and well worth the money. But where were the audience? I estimated that it was only about 150 people in the audience, which is pretty scandalous for a band of this magnitude. Johan and I count ourselves in "we few, we happy few" for going to this maybe once in a lifetime event. As promised, I studied the audience since there are no reference studies for Sweden at all. The method I used was participant observation. Common feature: black clothes and a lot of bunch of keys. This is, however, where the similarities end. The audience consisted of strange mix of young hippies, black and ordinary metal fans, a few David Eugene Edwards copycats, beardy hipsters, some hard-to-define outsiders but only two truck caps. What I experienced yesterday was a blast. When I got home I had to undergo debriefing with Midlake's "The Courage of Others". "You're getting old, buddy!" as TPB elegantly put it.         


Setlist (as I perceived it)

1. The Bright Side (Satan is Watching)

2. Your Faith Shall Be Tested (Behold the Abyss)

3. Stay Away From the Forest Boy (Hellfire Hymns)

4. Unwanted (Sing it Ugly)

5. Crooked Man (Satan is Watching)

6. Open Wounds (Gospel Haunted)

7. The Dust Storm (Hellfire Hymns)

8. No Light (Sing it Ugly)

9. Satan is Dead (Necrosphere)

10. The Accident (Country Bullshit)

11. Headed Nowhere (Sing it Ugly)

12. Family Graveyard (Hellfire Hymns)

13. A Curse (The Plague)

14. Old Pine Box (The Plague)

15. Ten Ton Hammer (Sing it Ugly)

16. Pills I Took (Country Bullshit)

17. With Hell So Near (Songs of Desperation)

18. Chemical Church (Gospel Haunted)

19. I am Lost (Vicious Losers)

20. He of Cloven Foot (Behold the Abyss)

21. Everything is Temporary (Behold the Abyss)

22. This World is Evil (Satan is Watching)

23. Judgement is Coming (Gospel Haunted)

24. Glory Amen (Gospel Haunted)


25. Evil on My Mind (The Plague)



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