Do you ever go to a concert without any expectations? Not necessarily in a bad way, just… no expectations whatsoever. The night is a blank white page. Whatever happens, you will not see it coming.
That’s how Yours Truly enters Molotow Club on a chilly Friday night, in the exact moment Parasite Single start. Tonight, they’re the support act for singer SoKo, who plays only two German dates on her European tour, this one in Hamburg. Experimental electronic beats sound from the drum computer and MacBook, but they didn’t miss to bring a guitar, too. The Hamburg-based band is excited to play and is lucky enough to look onto a packed club by the end of their set. The gig apparently sold out in the course of the evening, and I’m ready to leave right after the first three songs I’m allowed to photograph tonight – I need to be up at 6 AM on the next day.
SoKo is actually a Polish-Russian-Italian-French lady born and raised in France named Stéphanie Sokolinski. Back when her debut album was released, she sported a hippie look with a long brown mane. As you do. Now, with her new album “My Dreams Dictate My Reality” out, along with her soft guitar sounds, the hair is gone. She’s become gradually more ‘white goth’, as she says herself – taking the stage with a dirty black-rooted blond bob, old leather jacket and red eyeshadow. And she’s so ready for this. SoKo has brought along her four-piece backup band – two guys and two gals, including her brother Max. They race through newbies like “Ocean Of Tears” and “My Precious”. In between songs, SoKo ponders on the lack of vegan burgers, legal weed in Amsterdam, and simply changes the setlist the way she wants to. Four girls have the honour to be asked to come on stage for “I Thought I Was An Alien” and animate the crowd to dance from up there – which they do, very gracefully. It is decided that an alien’s best name would be Jake.
This is just one of the unpredictable things SoKo likes to do on stage – before “Bad Poetry” she’d like someone to come on stage and recite poetry, later she lifts her shirt and informs us that her view on feminism is that ‘everybody should show their tits’ … when nobody but one girl volunteers to free themselves of their tops and bras and dance onstage half naked, she’s severely disappointed in the Hamburg crowd. Are we especially conservative? Who knows. Not really.
By now you might have noticed that I have, indeed, not left after the first three songs. There is no way I would miss the rest of this set just for a couple hours more sleep.
After a fun dance party for “Who Wears The Pants” (including the splits behind the synths – no biggie!) and multiple shared kisses with her bandmates, for “Lovetrap”, the singer introduces us to a virtual version of Ariel Pink – phrases recorded by the L.A.-based musician on different buttons on her drum computer. It’s maybe the most experimental duet I’ve ever witnessed.
As fun as the night starts, as melancholic it ends. SoKo’s songs get gradually slower, sadder and more quiet. During “For Marlon” she even interrupts herself and tells the bartenders collecting empty bottles to ‘shut the fuck up’. For another song, she asks her dear friend Ryan Karazija from Low Roar to come on stage and sing a song with her – their voices perfectly in harmony, and the whole room as quiet as it could possibly be.
It’s not getting any better after the encore: “Nervous Breakdown” is a short intermission with SoKo herself on the drums, while for “Keaton’s Song”, a beautiful track dedicated to fellow singer/songwriter Keaton Henson that wonderfully channels Henson’s own melancholic melodies, the bass is exchanged for a contrabass. As if we weren’t in love with the whole band enough already.
If I’d had any expectations, they would definitely have been exceeded. And for an experience like this, I happily give up part of my sleep. My last words of wisdom: Even if SoKo plays at 2 AM on a Sunday at any festival, if you’re there, go watch. You will not be disappointed.