Lilypad, Cambridge, MA
September 14, 2017
Known as Vasko the Patch (in Bulgarian, Vasko Krupkata), Vasil Georgiev is a famous Bulgarian bluesman. In the 1980s, he was in various pop-rock bands (Parallel 42, Start); after the fall of communism in Bulgaria, Vasko founded the Poduene Blues Band and performed songs with titles like “Bureaucrat,” “Sunny Beach Blues,” and “Communism is Going Away.” Last night’s event at Lilypad, sponsored by Face Bulgaria and the Bulgarian American Cultural Center Madara, was a chance for local music fans to enjoy the music of this talented, accomplished musician. And, of course, just to enjoy a great night of blues.
Indeed, when one of the most renowned blues musicians (or jazz or rock or, really, a top musician from any genre) from any country comes to town, it’s worth going. Or, at least, it’s worth checking out some of his music online to decide if the talent lives up to the hype, and this YouTube concert video convinced me I couldn’t afford to miss seeing this top-shelf veteran blues talent perform live.
If there was one thing I wondered after viewing the online videos, it was how Vasko’s music would translate to an acoustic performance without a full band behind him; the result was a more intimate show with perhaps not quite as many rowdy-blues-wailing moments. A pretty good trade-off, and in a room full of people who know all of his songs, there’s the added sing-along aspect. I do love seeing musicians in smaller-crowd settings where the audience is primarily hardcore fans. And The Lilypad is an exceptional listening room, typically serving as a performance venue for some of Boston’s premier jazz musicians.
I know I don’t need to explain Vasko’s music to any Bulgarians reading this, but for the rest of us who don’t know about him (I didn’t before learning about him in advance of this show), I’ll give it a shot.
Vasko is often referred to as a blues-rock musician, and he does have a rockin’ flavor to his music, which spans straight-up blues, classic rock ‘n roll of multiple styles, including occasional psychedelic flavors, and some music that seems a bit in the ’70s folk-rock style. Some of the rockin’ numbers brought to mind the musical styles of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry. I thought I heard a little Three Dog Night in one song. And the purest blues songs spanned multiple sub-genres with well-recognized musical passages, often making it seem like I should know the words, though the words that sprung to mind were, of course, completely different from Vasko’s lyrics (and in English).
The first song of the night was one of those exceptionally pure blues numbers, guitar augmented by great harmonica-work, as if I had stepped into a blues joint in Chicago… or Memphis… or New Orleans. I suppose if I were a blues-only superfan, I’d’ve known which city to reference, but in any case, this was pure blues-joint stuff clearly delivered by an exceptional talent. That first song was rather introspective and blue in nature, maybe a little melancholy. Definitely blues. Vakso followed it with an uptempo singalong number, “Kade e Kupona,” that had the room rocking.
Next up was “Pulen Pleibek,” another classic blues number, this one more mid-tempo with some tension, followed by another energetic rock ‘n roll song, “Boogie Woogie Tsyala Nosht.”
The slower songs, often eliciting a knowing response from the crowd, tended to seem a bit ’70s folky with the acoustic guitar, and they settled things down nicely amid the more uptempo numbers. One that came across a bit like that, very heartfelt, was “Den Sled Den.” There’s so much expression in Vasko’s voice, which gets a bit rougher and more gravelly when he slows things down.
At least three of the evening’s songs were alcohol-related. Indeed, a few of the uptempo numbers, even those that weren’t about beer, seemed rather like lively drinking songs. One such tune that brought the audience to life even more than most (and actually is about beer… or lack thereof) was “Niama Bira.” And I also made sure to note the heavier-tempoed, oh-so-bluesy “Domashna Rakia Blues,” an song with an old-school blues tempo that almost has to be listened to with your eyes closed to properly soak up all the blues.
And there was a lone English-language song during the 90-minute-or-so set, a melancholy, jazzy, blue rendition of “Moon Over Bourbon Street.”
Vasko the Patch is a talented bluesman with something for everyone in his performance. At this particular show, he seemed to enjoy the crowd as much as the crowd enjoyed him, playing to his audience and giving a rousing, heartfelt performance. Then, of course, he stayed after to chat and take pictures with his fans. In addition to a fun evening for a few dozen Boston music fans, it seemed to be a great kickoff show to Vasko’s American tour.
As I just mentioned, this was the first stop on Vasko’s tour. Tonight, he’s performing at the Polish Eagles Sport Club in Philadelphia. (If you’re in Philly, sorry; you just missed it.) As listed in the cover photo on his Facebook page, Vasko’s tour will then continue with additional September dates in New York (at the Wolfhound in Astoria on Sat., Sept 16), Washington, DC, Raleigh, NC, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta, New Orleans, Austin, and Dallas. In October, Vasko will be in Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle. In addition to finding them on Facebook, these dates are also listed in the comments of Vasko’s U.S. Acoustic Tour ’17 YouTube video (and in the video itself).