Sometimes a Thursday night is just a Thursday night. Sometimes it's raining, you're running late and you're not wearing waterproof shoes. Sometimes it's dark and it's cold and you have loads of work to do. Sometimes the guy in front of you in the queue for the venue is confusing albums by artists that you hold in such high regard, you want to put your cold, dark, sodden foot in his back. And then sometimes you go inside and forget any of it ever existed. Sometimes.
The Hackney Empire, the venue for this evening's performance, is a beautiful space. Echoing the sentiments of the label it is set to showcase, the room is filled with dark corners, unexpected intricacies and the most gorgeous sense of theatre. As the by now large crowd makes their way to their seats, A Winged Victory For The Sullen take to the stage, bringing with them a string section, just because. Their short set speeds by with a wonderfully lit backdrop casting shadows across the room as they crescendo through their ballet like performance. Almost faultless, but strangely tinted by a slightly jarring cover mid-way through, they have set the evening's bar somewhat high.
Next up, Olafur Arnalds charms his way through the first half of his performance. Inviting the audience, headliner Nils Frahm and special guest Anne Muller to join him, he galavants through a string of carefully crafted piano pieces, ultimately stamped with his now trademark dissonant drum samples. Changing the tone at the end of his performance, Arnalds makes a moving dedication to a dear friend before closing with the solemnly beautiful 'Song For Grandma'.
By the time Nils makes his way to the stage for his own set, the audience are feeling pretty safe in the knowledge that they know how this is going to play out. But our headliner, it would seem, has other ideas. Declaring he is only going to play one song because he has broken his thumb (true, we'll give him that) and we have run out of time, he proceeds to play a percussion piece on the lid of his piano before promptly exiting the stage.
Label founder Robert Raths clumsily steps out from behind a curtain, laughing at Frahm's famed reluctance to perform with all the airs of a proud parent. Reeling off a list of thank yous in a speech that could easily isolate the audience but ends up feeling somewhat sentimental, there's almost a sense of pride, and of relief, when Nils decides he does want that spotlight after all.
Closing the evening's celebrations with a collection of performances that heavily feature collaborations within the Erased Tapes family, Frahm exudes his token nonchalance as he sores and sweats his way through the accomplished set.
Sometimes what starts out as a normal Thursday night can take a bit of a turn for the special. Happy Birthday, Erased Tapes. May there be plenty more to come.
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