Six middle-aged gentlemen. Clubs, wedding receptions, parties, synagogues, churches. A rock outfit with a musical presence that some euphemistically refer to as “natural”. Klezmer standards, ditties that share their place of origin with klezmer music at best, a pall-mall inspired by YouTube. Translated lyrics; lyrics that pretend having been translated but are easily discernible from the former due to their naiveté. A bit of original creation here and there, trying to express the difficulties of life for a klezmer in an era where he does not belong.
All of this is Klec. But first things first. It is 1997, it is the last Thursday of the spring, and a trio of the Šmíd brothers together with bassist Kudyd are taking the stage at a tiny music club known as U Rafa. They perform a few klezmer standards nicked from the Klezmatics, one original song and their reworking of Leonard Cohen’s Lover Lover Lover with Czech lyrics. They elicit surprise more than anything else.
More concerts ensue along those lines, adding Antonín Hluštík’s guitar and Jakub Schmid’s trumpet as time goes by. “The repertoire is great, but their take on it...”, one audence member notes. When Antonín unexpectedly cranks the controls on his amp up to eleven on the set for a Czech TV documentary on klezmer and former punk rock skin basher Janinka Modráčková joins the fold, the doors to decent audiences close with finality. For reference, listen to 15 písní o lásce (Fifteen Songs About Love, 2001).
About that time, being with a band was no longer the ultimate thing in life, and the amount of one’s spare time was diminishing as well. With family members added, players were compelled to reduce their band portfolios, so the following album, Klezmer všeho druhu (Klezmer Of All Sorts, 2009) captures Klec with a different line-up and, as a result, a different sound: Honza’s drums and Jirka’s bass are less thunderous while Štefan’s guitar gets tougher in turn. The brass section adds Adam’s alto saxophone and Karolína joins on violin. What does not change is the sheer variety of venues played, ranging from former synagogues to a blacksmith feast held at Castle Buchlov.
The line-up remains unchanged for the next ten years, as does the diversity of gigs and venues: an educational concert for high school kids in Trutnov, a brief visit to Bucharest, a Moscow club with skinheads in the audience, outnumbering the audience and security guards in a South Bohemian village where a Jewish ghetto once was, a fishermen’s feast in Blatná... The band’s last recording to date, Poslední klezmer (The Last Klezmer, 2019) is a sort of return to its roots. The line-up is exclusively male again and Kudyd, one of the founding members, is on board again – only he is playing the drums this time. One thing is certain: well-mannered audiences expecting an “interesting folkloric experience” will most likely not be happy – again.