If you’re looking for somebody to adequately explain to you what Trupa Trupa does, I’m not that person. All I can do is try to provide some impressions because I really don’t have anything to compare it with. It’s bits and pieces. It seems chaotic but you always feel a structure. It can be aggressive. It can float and dream. It can do both in the same song. There really aren’t any rules going on here. It’s kind of like trying to define what Syd Barrett was doing with Pink Floyd before he went off the deep end.
My sense is the band is painting in the air. The lines are not concise. Instead it’s a sprawl of colors and swirls, some dark some bright. Each song feels as though it’s spontaneous and being created out of whole cloth. But it’s not. All you need to do is watch front man Grzegorz Kwiatkowski. He’s hearing notes and tones, spaces between notes, that we’re not. He’s reacting to them. Pawing at them. Directing them. If you’ve ever watch The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn get animated, that’s the vibe. It’s like he’s off in his own world, only to suddenly connect with you to blast a line or guitar lick that sucks you right back into his experience. Mr Kwiatkowski is one of the most interesting frontmen I’ve ever seen.
Maybe it’s like this: 99% of the music we hear is commercially driven. By that I mean that it’s designed to be accessible. To survive you’ve got to make them like you. People like melody. They respond to hooks and choruses. If you want a hit, you come up with a song that essentially sings itself. In other words, you deliberately make art which will please your audience. I don’t mean that in the sense that it’s a sell out or compromise. It’s just reality and the way the vast majority of successful artists survive.
Trupa Trupa is that 1%. They’re painting soundscapes and we’re all welcome to witness the process. They make you work for it. I found myself constantly surprised and challenged. Isn’t that one of the things that makes a great piece of art? The artist creating impressions and leaving the interpretations to those who relish the challenge.
This was a lot of band in that room. Few, if any, in attendance were established fans. It was more a curiosity. But the band owned the joint and left everybody buzzing. Reactions ranged from: “I have no idea what that was but it was really cool!” to “I wonder if what they do is as out there in Poland as it is here?”. Maybe it was best described by two of the music nerds in the house, Saint Small’s Jimmy Olson and Larry McDonough, who brought their jazz pedigrees to bear. “Did you catch that 7/8 on the last song? How’d they do that? But it really wasn’t what it seemed. Did you feel that 4/4 going on under the beat?”
Well, the short answer is No. I didn’t. I’m not that sophisticated. All I can say is that I heard something I’d not heard before. It was a mental challenge but had this remarkable attribute of drawing me in. It was sonic art more than commercial music. Done without pretense. Delivered with delight.
One wonders whether Trupa Trupa will gain enough commercial success to return to the Twin Cities. I hope they do. Next time, you can be sure there will be a lot of word of mouth ramping up the audience. One day, I’d expect to see them on major festival stages rather than intimate little clubs like The Entry. If you ever find yourself a bit bored with the same bands coming through town, the same genres/styles rocketing up the popularity charts, remember Trupa Trupa. It’s Alice’s rabbit hole. And it’s worth the trip.