Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die

Day 3 of the concert marathon this week of January (20-24/01). As Atomic is keeping it up with the repertoire from their complete discography and continuing with set 7-9 tonight at Kafe Hærverk, I am changing the scenery and venue for my beloved Victoria and for a concert I was looking forward to since forever! This night was promising to be very long and full of excitement. I mean, even the afterparty with Atomic at Hærverk was planned beforehand 😉 So lean back, enjoy the reading, and let’s flyyy!

Victoria was already filled up, when I got there. Before our beloved birds from America took over the stage, duo of Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, and Sten Stendal on piano was warming up for us. Explosive and memorable combination! Paal, master of drums, improvisation, jazz and everything that’s the very opposite. Sten – piano magician, a man blessed with deep, characteristic voice, which weirdly is an excellent complement to his disturbing piano sounds and Paal’s free-improv percussion explosions. There is a chemistry, no doubt about that. And this trans-alike performance left us empty-handed, mind-blowned and well prepared for something completely opposite that was going to happen soon on the same stage.

Freddy, I know you said you weren’t gonna touch the lights, but if we can bring them down a little bit, that would be cool – said Jaimie from the stage to Fredrick, who was a host of the night at Victoria.

She started the show with a little breathing session with the audience. Before we start, I just wanna.. take a second, take a breath together. And the audience fell silent, just breathing deeply, following Jaimie. Let’s just start this concert together. Suddenly under this minute of silence and breathing, Chad begins with delicate, pleasant sounds of mbira, Lester on cello joins afterwards, then soft tunes of a trumpet, and a bass as a cherry on top. The intro. Hypnotizing, inserting you into a trance. And preparing for the best flight in your life.

And they turn right on to Prayer for Amerikka – one of my favorites. It’s not a usual tune, it’s like a ballad, a tale, little bluesy at first, but with a jazz feeling, slowly getting to the political message behind it, with amazing musical punchline.

We’re not one of those jazz-bands you gotta be quiet for, stated Jaimie, and a round of applause came right after. The audience got a little chilled up, as she was praying for America and howling together with Jason and Lester. This song is not only about America, there’s a whole bunch of fucked up places! – she screamed and immediately grabbed her trumpet, and a crowing, high sound came in. Hearing it live was such an incredible experience. They change its form a little bit, improvise and add, but only for the better. Like each version of this opus is different, tells the same story, but in different ways, with strong amount of emotions, that just explode into your heart. There’s a bunch of wide-eyed racist, between the howling and beautiful sound of trumpet, and a ballad-like storytelling. It’s a true story! And not to mention Jaimie’s fantastic and pure vocal, which makes you sing along, scream and stand for what is right.

They continued with Lesterlude – obviously a cello-focused interlude (notice the funny combination of Lester’s name and interlude). Simply beautiful, rough sounds in one moment smoothly transfer into something soft and delicate. They were all in this together, but also each of them had a moment to make a statement of their own. Chad’s drum solo blown everyone away. The audience went crazy and screamed for more and to give appreciation for his master skills. Jaimie was making the sounds with her shoes, shuffeling on the floor. One time she grabbed a drink from Lester, drank on the way to bass and passed it by to Jason, who also took a sip. They were flying and we were dying. Spreaded her arms like she was this litte bird dog, flying on the stage.

Well.. we’ve made it to the end. Thank you! The last one was of course Love song. A not so obvious and maybe not so romantic ballad, but anyway it grabs your heart, pierce it out and you won’t even notice before you sing along with Jaimie: it’s a love song, for assholes and clowns… And with a matching backing vocals from Jason. True love. And the audience, at first not so sure, like they’ve met their first crush, but then with Jaimie’s encouragement, eventually joined for the last lines, creating most powerful and moving crowd-choir.

They usually end with this one, but the crowd was hungry for more. We couldn’t let them go, not yet. And with a big applause, screaming and whistling, we’ve pleaded one more, and we got it. The cover of You don’t know what love is, which suddenly, but kinda smoothly, turned into Theme Nothing, from the first Fly or Die album. That knocked me down. Their version of this song answered my needs and reflected deepest emotions. It was extremely sad, but the best part was this trance-like part, where Jaimie loops with the title-line you don’t know, what love is, Chad’s soothing and intense percussion in the background with a fast rhythm, Lester making the feeling and mood, Jason’s deep bass and it was all so bitter and moving.

After the gig I was of course hanging around, and I caught Jason by the entrance, so I couldn’t help myself and say hi right away. Then met him again at the bar with Jaimie. They had two t-shirts left and I became a happy owner of one of them thanks to a quick cash loan from Jonas Cambien who was standing nearby. I also caught Lester on his way out, because his girlfriend surprised him and flew all the way from New York to this gig!! Well, I still managed to express my excitement about meeting him and we’ve exchange contacts. Then on our way out from the club I offered to help with their stuff to get it to the hotel and then go to the afterparty with Atomic and the gang at Hærverk. On our way out, we’ve stopped in the corridor by the showcase with posters of artists playing this spring at Victoria. Jaimie and Jason immediately spotted their friend, Jeff Parker (who was playing at Victoria next Saturday 1.02) and asked me for a picture with “him”:

We went to the hotel, and met Paal in the reception. I invited him to the afterparty, but unfortunately he had early flight the next day. On our way to Kafe Hærverk I gave Jaimie a special gift – Polish vodka Żubrowka with the grass. Zubrowka? My favourite!, said Jaimie. Couldn’t say no to a shot in the middle of the street with Jaimie and Jason. After a long 15-minute walk to Kafe Hærverk, we finally got there, went in a bit distracted looking for similar faces. A group of friends were sitting by two small tables, and after seeing us, welcomed us with a big applause and smiles, that we’ve finally joined them.

The rest of this evening will be our sweet memory and secret. But of course you get a little piece of it from me 🙂 Just check out what Jaimie and Jason have on their mind here, in my this is series. Recorded very late, in a very dark corner of Kafe Hærverk.

I love coming to Oslo, cause I’ve been here a few times, so I have friends here. And it’s always a good feeling – to have some friends in the audience, you know. – Jaimie.


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