Tatran at Ozen Bar: Finding Myself in Strawberry Fields
Live music lovers are special people. You, reading this, are a special person. A unique breed. You notice details, you have passion and excitement. Appreciating a live show is not an easy thing; you have to be able to get past the expensive drinks, lines for the bathroom, text messages and Instagram tags, to get into the once-in-a-lifetime event that’s happening onstage (and I really mean once in a lifetime, because every show is a different experience and you might see something once that will change your life). It’s easy to get lost in the crowd at a show, especially when you’re going to shows all the time. Sometimes it feels like the magic is gone. Do you remember your first few shows, how exciting that was? Calling them concerts and not complaining about service fees? When did that feeling start fading?
I can’t tell you when the process started, but somewhere along the way I’ve become a concert snob. I don’t check out every set at festivals anymore, and I certainly don’t bounce around in the front row on the railing. I complain freely about sound quality and lighting, and I’m willing to take bathroom breaks. The other night, though, I felt the snob in me break; watching Tatran at Ozen Bar, I got shivers up my spine, I didn’t talk or text or take my eyes off the stage, I couldn’t stop moving and smiling because what was happening in front of me was unbelievable.
Tatran, Hebrew for ‘anosmic,’ is a Tel-Aviv based instrumental trio featuring Tamuz Dekel on guitar, Dan Mayo on drums, and Offir Benjaminov on bass. At this point, I wouldn’t trust any major Israeli festival that didn’t have them on the lineup; in the last year alone, they’ve played the Red Sea Jazz Festival, Tel Aviv University’s Student’s Day, In D Negev, and dozens of shows along the way. They are young and talented, creative and motivated, and a pleasure to watch onstage. Their show at the Ozen Bar in Central Tel Aviv was their second set I’d seen that week; over the weekend, they played late Thursday night on the main stage at In D Negev, Israel’s biggest indie festival (comparable to our Governor’s Ball or mid-2000s Coachella). At In D, I was shocked not only by the focus of each musician on their instrument, but also by the way they communicated with each other; especially with instrumental groups, it’s plain to see when artists really love each other, and the strength of bonds within Tatran can’t be ignored. The show at Ozen Bar was an early show in a much smaller venue, and it was one of the best shows I’ve seen on this side of the globe.
Music without vocals deserves its own categorization. There’s no lyrics to quote, or vocals to sing along with. If playing instrumentals is a challenge, and it is, then imagine covering a song that originally had lyrics, and making it just as relevant and meaningful without those. When Tatran started their encore with a cover of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever,’ I was done for. The band members’ amazing talent and creativity came to life during this song, which is hauntingly familiar but was played with a strength and fire that engulfed me. Even without vocals, Tatran conveyed the song’s depth of emotion and meaning, just by playing with energy and excitement that doesn’t often show itself. Sometimes, it takes something new to remind you of what you had. A night with Tatran not only brought my groove back, but also my faith in the Tel Aviv scene.
To understand where I’m coming from, check out this video of Tatran performing in 2012: