High energy fun: Lemon Bucket Orkestra kicks off SLAS season

MORRISBURG – “They are, seriously, Canada’s only Klezmer/Punk/Folk/Party band,” said St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage president Sandra Whitworth, describing the Lemon Bucket Orkestra. “There are 12 musicians and they play everything from flugelhorns to strings.

Their music is inspired by the traditional folk songs of Europe, but they put their own punk, rock, soul, folk spin on the pieces. The Orkestra is incredibly high energy, and such fun! “

On Saturday, October 7, the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage will kick off its 2017-18 season with an exciting concert featuring Lemon Bucket Orkestra, 7 p.m., at Upper Canada Playhouse.

LBO has been nominated for several awards internationally, and was named Best Band in Toronto in NOW Magazine’s 2015 Best of Toronto issue. With four albums released and another in the works, LBO has a wide-ranging fan base that crosses international boundaries.

I talked to Mark Marczyk, co-founder of Lemon Bucket Orkestra about the band’s absolutely unique sound and appeal.

“Our appeal?” Marczyk laughed. “It probably has a lot to do with people basically having no idea what LBO is about. That curiosity initially draws them in. They find our music is joyous and contagious because it pushes back against the darkness. We try to pass our own exuberance and joy on to the audience.”

The band, formed in 2009, has been strongly influenced by Eastern European traditions, a kind of “cross roads” of Balkan, Middle Eastern, even Indian music.

“But we put other things into our music – jazz, punk, even gypsy music. LBO’s music comes out of tradition, but our approach is very original,” Marczyk explained.

“Eastern European music reflects how people celebrated, mourned and told their stories. There is a longevity and a grounding in those traditions, going back hundreds of years, that we tap into.”

The protests and turmoil that have marked the political scene in Eastern Europe, and the Ukraine in particular, in the last few years, strongly influenced the band’s recent work. Marczyk, who was in the Ukraine in 2014, brainstormed with other band members to incorporate a sense of the emotional upheavals of these times into LBO’s new album, If I Had the Strength, due out in November.

“For this album we had a number of songs on the go. Ultimately we wanted to tell a story, based on an old Russian prison ballad, about a man returning home from jail, and wondering what he will tell his mother and his family about what he has been through, what he witnessed, what he now feels.”

The band took the five verses of the original ballad and created five different songs: these form the motif of If I Had the Strength.

I asked Marczyk if LBO’s music was “political?”

“I honestly think that all music and writing is inherently political,” he said. “But the word ‘politics’ tends to leave a sour taste in many people’s mouths, since they associate it with governments.

The act of organizing one another and of establishing relationships within society is actually natural and human.  Music, I think, expresses how we live, how we react. LBO does not go out on stage to be ‘political’. We go out to share what interests, intrigues and inspires us about life.”

He pointed out that LBO has done many different projects over the years from collaborative theatre at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York City to selling out the Opera House in Toronto, appearing with a Romanian brass ensemble. LBO’s performances at Lee’s Palace and the Opera House continue to be huge hits. In the summer of 2014, the band also toured cross Canada.

“Remember that we have always been a party band,” Marczyk said, “totally interested in celebration. Celebration of life is very vibrant in Eastern European culture.”

Spontaneity is a hallmark of Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s concert appearances: audiences have been thrilled by the 12 member band’s musicianship, by their exuberance, by their joy on stage. “We actually choose not to go out on stage with a set play list,” Marczyk laughed, “and we love to ‘converse’ with our audiences.”

“The act of making music is a communal event between the performers and the listeners. There is such a special experience which comes out of music.

I think people will come away from our concert ‘feeling’ – our goal when we perform is to make people connect with their ability to feel.”

Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s concert at Upper Canada Playhouse on Saturday, October 7, will be an thoroughly exciting, thoroughly unexpected and totally joyous experience.

After all, where else could one hear a self-described Balkan/Klezmer/Gypsy/Party/Punk/Super Band?