Notes From Hairenik
February 16, 2009
Last night Anush dragged me off to Stop Club to hear her cousin Tigran play flute with "some band." Although most of the music I've heard at Stop  has indeed been very good, I wasn't expecting anything special, not because that I doubt the kid's abilities but for the reason that I don't like to listen to cover songs for two hours. Many rock bands that play live here resort to playing material other than their own for most of their shows. By playing "Hey Joe" or "Purple Haze" it's a way of appealing to the masses I suppose, even though anyone can go to their local music store and buy all of Jimi Hendrix's recordings on a single mp3 disc for only a few bucks. 

When we entered the place the first set was winding down and Tigran had already finished playing. The band that was performing was called Sakvoyage as I saw printed on some paper taped to the front door. For some reason I was fidgety so I calmed my nerves with a brandy. I caught a glimpse of the shaved-headed singer/guitarist just before the music stopped and noticed that he was wearing pyjamas. Then a few minutes later I saw someone else wearing nearly an identical pair. It was weird, which intrigued me, just as I was about to bolt out of there. Tigran's younger brother, Aram, told us that some seats had emptied downstairs where the band was playing, so we headed down just before the second set began. 

Sakvoyage is power trio--drums, bass and guitar. After about a half-minute I understood that they are heavily influenced by the bluesy rock pioneers of the late 60s and early 70s--Hendrix, Cream, early Led Zeppelin and Peter Green came immediately to mind. The band is led by Mher Vartikyan, the dude who was wearing the pyjamas and who is incidentally from Gyumri. All three of them are very talented and play from the gut, especially the drummer who is phenomenal. His kit incidentally is a standard set you would see used by many great jazz drummers. Strange that no matter how well or weak the other members of a band are performing, if you have a fantastic drummer who keeps great time and can make magic come from the skins and cymbals, chances are you'll always have satisfied people in the audience. Every other original tune that they played was interrupted by a Beatles or Hendrix standard to keep the kids awake perhaps. A great band like this lives inside their music as they are playing it, as opposed to those which simply play their songs without thinking too much about it. Sakvoyage knows how to improvise very well. Their playing exhibits a multi-layered, sheets of sound structure that I haven't heard from any other rock/blues band in Armenia. It's an extraordinary rock band to check out, especially if you love the blues.