Clap Your Hands
Sunday Dinner

Hrdlička (Love Bird)


I suppose most people's idea of how to spend Valentine's Day involves candlelit dinner and flowers, which may explain the less-than-full attendance last night at local experimental venue Issue Project Room. Which is a shame, because they missed a mesmerizing performance by Czech songstress Iva Bittová that captured the true spirit of the holiday, in a way no tableside violinist ever could. 

As if making a nod to that stale tradition, Bittová paraded up and down the aisle with her own violin. But, instead of playing heart-rending romances, all sorts of creepy, unearthly sounds flowed from her instrument. Her passionate vocals - most of which weren't in English, or any recognizable language - fell somewhere between Meredith Monk-type shrieks and the traditional Moravian melodies of her homeland; often, she sounded like a flock of birds, ululating and cooing with varying degrees of intensity. Clearly, she was channeling something well beyond herself, becoming a medium for the wild and untameable symphony of nature. 

Later in the set, she was joined by her gangly son Antonin (Tony) who, at 18, is already an accomplished musician in his own right. He played a jazzy piano improvisation ("Salzburg Butterfly"), and then accompanied his mother on several more songs, switching back and forth between piano and percussion.
They closed with a sad and strange version of "My Funny Valentine," which flirted with a cabaret-style before Bittová deliberately messed it up with vocal distortion and emotive gestures to give this holiday standard just the right kick:

"Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart? 
But don't you change one hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentines Day" 

For an encore, she and Tony played a duet on kazoo, which was as heartwarming as it was hilarious, the perfect foil to this often overly-sentimental holiday. (More pics below.)P2140011