When people think of the country of Latvia and music together, Eurovision is probably one of the first thing that comes to their minds. But times are changing and right now indie-fourpiece Carnival Youth is one of the hottest exports from Riga. They are so hot that they have just recently won the EBBA (European Border Breakers Award) Public Choice Award. This led to them touring through Europe this May and stopping at the Knust in Hamburg on May 10th.
Before the show started we had the chance to sit down with the band (or well, ¾ of them since their bassist was sick and sleeping off his illness) and eat some self-made “Fischbrötchen” (a local dish consisting of a salmon in a bread roll). The (identical) twins Emīls and Edgars and their bandmate Roberts were down-to-earth and friendly boys who definitely impressed us with their German skills. Our conversation mostly revolved about typical German or Latvian things, tour life, professional golfing and music festivals. After good 45 minutes the band went on a quest to find a post box for their postcards and we got ready to catch the support act.
The opening act was Perry O’Parson (or as he is known under his real name Marcel Gein) and he serenaded the crowd with heartfelt acoustic folk music. It was pleasant to listen to him and his guitar but what made most of his performance where the stories he told between the songs. The singer-songwriter performed mostly songs in English but for the last two he switched to German lyrics.
When Carnival Youth took the stage thirty minutes later the crowd (probably 80% female…) edged closer to he stage. The set up was rather unusual as the band stood in a half circle so that every member, even the drummer, could be seen. This formation fits their music best as Roberts, Emīls and Edgars all share singing duties and all four members and their respective instruments come across as equal in their songs. Carnival Youth don’t have a frontman in the traditional sense – instead they have three, the drummer, the guitarist and the keyboarder. This opened up their musical style and made the concert even more interesting.
Due to his sickness bassist Aleksis had to play while sitting on a chair fort he whole gig. As his bandmates explained he was completely drugged with antibiotics. We have to give the band credit for not letting this affect their performance in any way.
The setlist consisted of songs from their two albums (released in 2015 and 2016) and sprinkled with “hits”. Already the first bunch of songs got the crowd dancing along. Among them were two of my favourite songs from the first album, Brown Eyes And All The Rest and Octopus. For the latter the disco ball was turned on and the sparkly reflections illuminated the venue, perfectly fitting the keyboard melody.
In between songs the band entertained the crowd with German phrases such as “Mein Lieblingsessen ist Kartoffeln mit Fleisch” and “Mögt ihr Tanzen?” or their general goofy behaviour on stage. They left the crowd with their single Never Have Enough, which was accompanied by a beautiful sing-along from the crowd before they returned to the stage to play Sometimes as an encore.
All in all it was a wonderful concert where everything fit together perfectly. Paired with the energy of a live concert and their friendliness, Carnival Youth’s already brilliant songs get even better. I would totally recommend going to their upcoming concerts or investing money in one of their records.