Hodja is one of those bands that are just waiting around the corner in that metaphorical dark alleyway you walk past so often. So close but yet so easy to overlook and miss out on. One day you feel that thing in your guts and for no apparent reason, you happen to walk that ominous path. All you can think of is why you haven’t taken this path before…
After the summer break, I was extremely thrilled to be able to return to a gig. Somehow Hodja caught my eye on a gloomy night when I was browsing the list of concerts that would take place in September. I put on a song like I always do and was greeted by those sweet and heavy sounds escaping the loudspeakers of my laptop. They immediately made themselves at home in the living room filling the empty space that silence had left for them. Thick, heavy and haunting. Needless to say, I had to go.
When I entered the Museumskeller later than I usually would the first thing that hit me was how empty it was. I think that was when my nerves got to me. Shooting a gig when there aren’t many people around is a lot scarier than a sold-out show. I hate the feeling of being watched when I try to capture a concert. This fear faded a bit when finally people started to slowly fill the cellar but the fear lingered on still. After a while, I decided to disappear into a dark corner and just wait for showtime.
Then the lights got darker and the sounds from the speakers got louder. Three men made their way to the stage. I grabbed my things out of the bag. The gig finally started. The first few sounds hit my ear and it was better than I had imagined.
The concert started with “Everything is Everything” from their latest album “The Flood” and I was immediately sold by the sheer stage presence these three men brought with them. Every eye and ear was eager to see what they will do next. The stage was flooded with smoke dancing through the rays of red LED lights creating a hellish look and feel. It is pretty much every photographer’s nightmare but it just suited them so well. Gamiel Stone’s voice filled the air with such mysticism and power that you could feel it crawling up and down your spine filling your body. Accompanied by F.W. Smoll’s rhythmic beating of the drums and Tenboi Levinsons hauntingly beautiful guitar playing, the music took up all the space that was left in this moody cellar.
It is rather hard to describe the music that was played that night if you have never listened to a single song by Hodja. It was well balanced. It was dark. It attached itself to you and wouldn’t let go. Every single song felt unique and carefully crafted while it embraced the musicians’ various talents and was still Hodja. Even listening to them now while writing this I am taken by the darkness and heaviness that is ascending from those tunes. It is oddly consuming but calming in a way. The best way I can think of to describe is that of a ritual you dive into that just doesn’t let you leave. You embrace it and let it get to you. You don’t necessarily have a different choice but to let Hodja take you in and hypnotize you. The very theatrical moment this band has just added to the ritual associations.
The singer seemed possessed by the notes he was singing. The melodies came out it with such passion and emotion. His whole body was taken by this task. In general, you could feel how much music means to this band while the chemistry between them was electric and not in need of many words. The concert lasted a good 1.5 hours with no break which was just the right amount in my opinion.
The night was still young so I stuck around a bit more also due to the train schedule. I was standing awkwardly in the middle of this cellar for a while before out of nowhere someone started a conversation with me. Gosh did my nerves get to me when I offered him my very first business card but he was extremely supportive and happy for me. After the merch table got a bit quieter I could finally start a talk with the band. As far as I can recall my nerves made me act like quite the weirdo but the musicians didn’t seem to mind much. They even took my business card and they were supportive as well which was pretty nice. My highlight was definitely that Hodja gifted me their latest album as vinyl and a signed poster. I was so confused at first as this very rarely happens. Last time a band gifted me something was a good two years ago when I was still in Australia. Needless to say, I was freaking out a tiny bit. I will honour it and surely will get my hands on a record player at some point. Of course, I managed to leave too late and almost missed the last train home (again).