How Punk is Post-Punk: Nite Fields in Sofia
A story about post-punk travels and Bulgarian indie snobbism, thankfully all ended with a good show
I knеw the Australian post-punk band Nite Fields are about to tour our part of Europe (the Balkans, Romania etc.) since December. Back then when I heard the news they were just a cool band, few years old, with really interesting music, definitely worth being booked a gig here, definitely worth seeing live. Few months later Nite Fields are all over the place. Their new record Depersonalisation (out on Felte) has reached Pitchfork, Stereogum, Rolling Stone Australia even fucking Guardian. Yeah, I’m not a slave to the hype, but all this feedback surely means in barely two months Nite Fields jumped quite deservedly high. However, while all big music websites are taking turns in praising their new record Brisbane-based Chris Campion, Liza Harvey, Danny Venzin and Michael Whitney are answering interviews from post-communist hotel rooms, trains and buses. Yes, they’re touring with no van, but jumping on whatever goes from one show to another. How cool is that? For sure it’s tiring, but thankfully they didn’t hitch-hike, because that show last night might not have happened.
Okay, it’s almost 9 pm and I go to the venue. It’s few days after one of the fine spots in Sofia – Mixtape 5 has celebrated its 4th birthday. It’s nice the show is happening there, because the sound is usually awesome and that dreamy and specific music Nite Fields make needs to be heard properly. However, there’s a support band first. Indioteque, who are throwing the show tonight, have picked Bears and Hunters, an upcoming indie band from Sofia. I think with only one recorded single and just a bunch of shows/songs they go for a pretty okay set, maybe mostly dominated by cover tracks. The indie snobs / wannabe prog-rockers in the audience waste no time but murmur hard, criticizing the band ‘in academic detail’. While Bears and Hunters juggle between their own tracks and those of bands they like, the ‘high-profile’ music critics behind me pick on the band’s pitch fluctuations, their timing, sync and even the topicality of the tracks they decided to cover. Well done indie snobs, well done, you can’t do that on the WinAmp parties, which mostly describe the indie scene in Bulgaria.
What Bears and Hunters are playing is definitely not my cup of tea, but I guess it has the potential to indulge the regular indie crowd, even the assholes in Sofia. It only has to be given a chance. It might actually manage to do more, but that’s all in the hands of the band. For now they should stick to writing more of their own stuff, polishing the songs they currently have and play live a lot.
Bears and Hunters might be playing indie stuff, but are keeping the set-length punk so it doesn’t take much before Nite Fields are on stage. Somewhere between tired, slightly stiff and melancholic the Australian travellers play their first tunes. In the begining they present material with minimalist electronics (if any), classic post-punk rhythmic section and vocals. I’m thrown in the music I’ve been wanting to hear tonight right away. It’s melodic, personal and slightly lo-fi. What makes Nite Fields special is the warmth coming out of Chris’ guitar work. His melodies and effecting is going beyond the regular post-punk stuff and reaching shoegaze depths, but remains very listenable… okay, kind of sad, but mostly uplifting. During their few tracks Nite Fields feel somehow distanced, but halfway their set, the frontman Danny decides to break the ice throwing few tour stories and turn the post-punk melancholy in a way friendlier atmosphere. It seems Nite Fields finally managed to feel at home in front of the already pretty packed venue. They play several tracks, which are way more based on programmed electronics. Still, they stay mellow, slow and don’t turn the night into a party, but keep things atmospheric and dreamy. And that’s perfectly fine. In about 40 minutes the set is done. No encores, no hiding in the backstage waiting for applause, instead the crowd’s in for a 80s after party. See you again, Nite Fields, this time come with a van and bring more merch we’d gladly support your thing.