Fishtank Ensemble graces SMC Broad Stage
As she prepared to sing the opening song with her band already in play, Ursula Knudsen of the Fishtank Ensemble carefully adjusted the mic, and then froze as it fell into her hand. "Look at him, not at me," Knudsen said, pointing to her bassist. The group performed for the first time at the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center on Saturday March 12, 2011. Fishtank Ensemble consists of vocalist Ursula Knudsen, French fiddler Fabrice Martinez, double bassist Djordje Stijepovic, and master of 21st century flamenco guitar Douglas "Douje" Smolens, along with Dan Cantrell on the accordion. The band has gone through a change in members since first starting, including current members of Estradasper Kevin Kmertz, Adam Stacy, and Tim Smolens.
Formed in Oakland, California in 2005, Fishtank Ensemble's style comes from traditional Eastern European music, gypsy jazz, flamenco, Japanese folk music, and Klezmer influences. The group has released 3 albums, and their most recent, "Woman in Sin," was released in 2010. They have performed across the USA and Europe, from the streets to top LA clubs.
The gypsy influence was clearly present as the band played, adding in unique melodies consisting of tongue clacking, hand clapping, and shouting.
In addition to vocals, Knudsen also played the violin and musical saw, which she mastered on her own. "I sing songs in French and Japanese, sometimes in English, very rarely," Knudsen said.
The band played songs from a wide range of countries including traditional Spanish, French, and Turkish songs.
A woman and a hula-hoop added visuals to the fast melodies of the group with a dance performance. The dance was meant to be comical, physically and befittingly reflecting the lyrics of the song titled "Cuckoo."
Opening for the group was LA-based chanteuse, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jessica Fichot. Fichot's style, similar to that of Fishtank Ensemble, comes from gypsy jazz, Chinese, Latin, and American folk music influences.
"What I have for you tonight is a very international set," said Fichot as she prepared to sing a song, "Velvet Silk", in French, Mandarin, and Chinese.
A full change in instruments took place as the opening act came to an end, and the Fishtank Ensemble brought out their double bass, fiddle, violin, accordion, and musical saw.
Fishtank Ensemble will be performing in Hollywood on June 17th with Rachel Rice.