The Angelcy. It’s a name that reaches for something far away, something with wings. It’s not afraid to show the rough and sentimental ragged edges of emotion, but knows how to smile. It’s a secret meant to be shared.
Last week The Angelcy shared their music with the world, launching their debut album Exit Inside, with a concert at The Barby on May 20, 2014, where it seemed like at least half the world was there to show their love for the band.
I first heard The Angelcy at InDNegev in the fall of 2011, when the band was just a few months old. I remember being struck by the poetry and raw poignancy of the lyrics, the rhythms that carry you away, music that makes you want to sing along. I wrote about that concert: “They looked more like a group of friends playing music together than a band, and their connection to the audience was just as immediate, simple and direct.”
The band’s itinerary has been full in the three years since: they’ve performed non-stop, just about everywhere, and it shows. The band that stepped up to the stage at The Barby is confident and cohesive, the songs and delivery well-honed, their impact is powerful, even at a whisper. One thing remains immutable: The Angelcy’s connection to the audience is still immediate, simple and direct – straight to the heart.
Rotem Bar Or is the lead vocalist/songwriter of The Angelcy, the imprint of his vision and journey is felt in every aspect of the band. Yet at the same time, it is very much a community, as may be heard in the instrumental texture of the songs, as the expression of each person/musician. The Angelcy are: Maya Lee Roman – viola; Aner Paker – double bass; Maayan Zimry – percussion; Udi Naor – percussion; Uri Marom – clarinet, flutes; Rotem Bar Or – vocals, guitar; Gilad Piker (sound and production). Former band member Dov Rosen (percussion) is on the album, but resigned from the band not long before its release.
The band has a loyal and growing group of followers, these were out in full force at the concert. Not only do they know the lyrics to all the songs, but there was a feeling of happiness in the club, and that’s not the usual club feel. A good concert will energize a room, people dance, there’s a feeling of excitement in the air; but this was different. Looking around at people’s faces, they looked happy. Happy to be there in that moment with The Angelcy, celebrating the band’s first album.
What’s their secret? They are all excellent musicians, that usually inspires admiration and adulation – which there was plenty of, but there was also something more. I suspect that The Angelcy’s effect comes from something that they genuinely share with their audiences: they like music. Listening, watching them onstage, following their performances over the past three years, beyond their talents and qualities as performers, this group of musicians, individually and collectively like music, all kinds of music. When they come to work together, each brings something to that mix, and there is a beautiful freedom to the layers of folk, reggae, jazz and what you will that plays on that stage.
And the songs are good. The songs are really, really good. Angels are a central symbol in many of the songs, one that is not without ambiguity, after all, as the story goes, Lucifer was once an angel too. As the song says – these are rebel angels. Their ability to embrace duality, dance with contrast and contradictions, gives me the feeling that they are speaking for me and others, conveying something of what it feels like to live in this place and time.
The concert opened almost casually, as the band took the stage and Rotem began singing, “I work for the Angelcy/can’t you see how sweet I can be?” Conjuring in a word the quiet bravado of spy movies, secret codes and subversive innocence, taking the crowd with him, he goes on: “I’m a killer/I kill with words.” The stage lights get brighter, the volume louder, and the song takes you down to desolation and despair: “Sometimes I wish I’d never feel again/but in the end I cry for more.” I don’t know what it means anymore to talk about indie or alternative music, but perhaps at least in part, here in this time and geography, it is music that gives voice to all those people who somehow are not heard in the mainstream discourse. Six hundred, a thousand, however many people were there, joining in the chant of despair at the end of the song: “Let’s get it over with.” But this is no ordinary despair, this is a despair fed on desire and hope: “But in the end I cry for more.”
And that was just the first song.
The Angelcy let the songs speak for themselves, music flowed like dark red wine through the night, one song after another surging through the bloodstream, dancing out a rhythm. They were joined by the inimitable Idit Mintzer on the lively instrumental Captain Zero, and a string trio on the haunting Secret Room. In a music scene that has never somehow managed to grow its own protest genre, The Angelcy has some songs that verge on the anthemic, like The Call: “You’ve seen the writing on the wall/you’ve sensed the fire/heard the call for something better.” Hearing the crowd join in on the refrain in Freedom Fighters (ethereal flute solo by Uri Marom) never fails to send my balance on the hope/despair scale in a positive direction: “Nobody’s soldiers in nobody’s land.” When Rotem sings “wish me love my beautiful fucked up family,” I feel like he’s singing about my family and perhaps yours too, and then again, singing of this strange beautiful-ugly human family to which we all belong.
They sang about love – sweet, sinful, painful, funny. Songs that are sentimental and down to earth, fanciful and frank. Towards the end, winding up with Pile of Compost, with the audience singing backup – one part for the men, another for the women (feel free to identify with any gender you choose on this one). “I lost my love in a pile of compost” – you just have to smile, there’s no way you can hear that without smiling. And maybe feeling a bit of pain for a lost love.
As the concert drew to a close, Rotem said, “Soon it will be over… and then it will start once more anew, some other time.” Until next time, there’s the album.