There was a time when I might have tacked the set list to the wall with drawing pins. The corners would have grown ragged, and eventually the whole would have all but disintegrated. Now, in my later years, I fetched the special sheet of paper to a picture framer and, more like than not, have ensured that it will last significantly longer than I will. It’s paradoxical that, as the time left to me diminishes, I’m more concerned to preserve this memento than I would have been in my youth. But the older I grow, the clearer it becomes that life is full of paradoxes.
I referred to this set list as a special sheet of paper, and so it is. After my first experience of Katzenjammer as a live band, I peeled the document from the stage, folded it and slipped it into my bag.
Katzenjammer is primarily a live band. Nothing can prepare a person for encountering them thus for the first time – not even the truly wonderful Blu-ray of the band live in Hamburg. This is surely doubly so when that first Katzenjammering is in an intimate setting such as the Lexington. The maximum capacity of the venue is around two hundred souls, and there must have been about that many people in the audience – the joint was both packed and jumping. Even better, I stood right next to the stage, so close that – at the end – I had only to reach forward to lay my hands on the set list. The word overpowering sums up the evening.
The Lexington, as I have intimated, is a small venue. Accordingly, it has a small stage. If one knows anything of Katzenjammer, part of that precious knowledge is almost certain to be that the band plays a great many instruments. Never before had I seen a stage so fully occupied by musical instruments, leaving so little space for the musicians to play them. Perhaps the most obvious (surprising?) omission from the set list was I Will Dance (As I Walk Away). Possibly, the band didn’t play the song because they felt there was insufficient space for Anne Marit to play the accordion and glockenspiel simultaneously. Yet Katzenjammer don’t just play, they dance. How could anyone fail to dance to their music? And, seemingly against the odds, nobody so much as stumbled. Perhaps it was the goddess’ very own choreography.
Not choreography, but an oddity of the show was that it took place more than a month before the UK release of Katzenjammer’s Rockland album, although a while after the record went on sale in Germany. I suspect that some of the audience listened for the first time to a fair number of the songs. My own position was different. Too wise – or perhaps too impatient – to wait for the UK release, I’d bought the album from German Amazon, and had played it repeatedly. The set included ten of the eleven Rockland songs – omitting only Oh My God. In addition, I – and the rest of the Lexington audience – was treated seven other numbers.
The set list abbreviates more than half of the song titles. Perhaps as compensation, Land of Confusion received an additional S – an extra measure of confusion (or confussion) I suppose. The only title in the list which I’m unable to identify with any Katzenjammer song is the mysterious finale: Blues. My feeling is that it was Ain’t No Thang, but I’m by no means certain. As I was there, I should know. But, by the end of the evening, I was there and not there. As the performance continued, my level of bliss spiralled. It is maybe not true that, had the band sung excerpts from the Norwegian dictionary as the final number, I’d have been none the wiser – but my brain had ceased to think, ceased to register a great deal more than the uttermost enchantment.
When I took my precious set list to the picture framers, I asked them to retain the tape at the top and bottom: black gaffer tape that had once secured the sheet of paper to the Lexington stage. I also asked that they should preserve the roughness of the document. The mark towards the bottom is probably a faint imprint of a band member’s shoe. (More likely that not, Anne Marit’s shoe – it was on her side of the stage.)
So, there it is – currently propped against the foot of my DVD shelves – a preserved set list, combining satisfactory roughness with the neatness that is the picture framer’s skill. As such, it will remain a tangible memento of one of the finer nights of my life. I still haven’t decided where to hang it. Where would be sufficient pride of place? But that’s not today’s decision. It is enough for today to look upon it and recall the delight that it represents.
Thank you Anne Marit, Marianne, Solveig and Turid for that magical evening in January.