2021 Concerts and Thoughts

I have been to wonderful shows this year and am grateful for them all. I will mention most of them. First, Galaxisok, whose show tomorrow was postponed until March because of Covid. I got to hear them twice this year: first, at the Kobuci (above), where they played their record release show for Történetek mások életéből (Stories from the Lives of Others), and then later at the Kolorádó Fesztivál. I come back to their songs again and again. Benedek Szabó is a brilliant songwriter—understated, wistful, slightly outrageous—and his bandmates bring riches to the sound and songs.

On a related note, one of the most beautiful concerts of the year for me was Benedek Szabó’s solo concert in October, opening for Péter Jakab’s record release (also great). Szabó played the keyboard and sang. As for Péter Jakab, I had the joy of attending that show and two Jazzékiel shows (one at the Monyo Land in August and one at Turbina last week).

There were a number of other musicians I got to hear twice this year: Kolibri (whom I will get to hear for the third time tomorrow evening, if all goes well), Marcell Bajnai (solo), Idea, Cataflamingo, Felső Tízezer (whom I will also get to hear a third time, this very Thursday, along with Esti Kornél). And a few I heard just once this year and look forward to hearing again: as mentioned, Benedek Szabó, Péter Jakab, and also Pandóra Projekt and Noémi Barkóczi.

I also attended two synagogue concerts played by members of the Budapest Festival Orchestra, one in Szentes and one in Szekszárd. They are part of a series of synagogue concerts that began in 2014; I have attended eight since 2017 and look forward to many more.

I had only heard Dávid Szesztay play once before this year, so it was great to be able to hear him three times: twice in Budapest and once at Fishing on Orfű. I have yet to attend a Santa Diver concert, though I want to very much. I meant to watch their streamed Barcelona concert, but somehow couldn’t access the streaming when the time came. (I probably missed the instructions or tuned in at the wrong time; I was extremely tired that evening.)

Hearing Cz.K. Sebő for the first time, at the TRIP Hajó, was a life-lifting experience for me; I loved every minute of it, wrapped myself in the sound and surroundings, and was joined at my table by Zsuzsanna, Mesi, and Atti, who have become my friends and whom I often see at concerts. I attended four Cz.K. Sebő’s concerts this year; one solo concert and three with his band. The record release show on December 16 was absolutely beautiful (and the album itself is one of my favorites ever, and definitely my favorite of the year).

As for Platon Karataev, I got to hear the full band six times, the Platon Karataev acoustic duo three times, Gergő solo once, and Gergő twice at literary events. Each event had its particular character and beauty. I am listing them for myself, so that I can remember them later, years down the road.

  1. Platon Karataev at MiniFishing on Orfű (June 18, 1:20 a.m.): the first time I ever heard the whole band in person. I had been listening to them a lot over the previous year and had heard the duo and Sebő in concert. There were sound problems, because Sebő’s amp broke at the beginning, but the concert was beautiful and thrilling. Here’s the video.
  2. The Platon Karataev acoustic duo (Gergő and Sebő) at the TRIP Hajó (July 5). I didn’t want to describe it then and don’t now, either. But here are some pictures.
  3. Platon Karataev at Kobuci (July 28): About as perfect as a concert and a day can get. I also heard Kolibri live for the second time. (The first time was in 2020.)
  4. The Platon Karataev acoustic duo at Papírkutya in Veszprém (August 11). I remember the warm sound and atmosphere, the gorgeous songs, the treasuring. I mentioned it only in passing on the blog, but here’s a picture. (After a while, I stopped taking pictures at concerts, though I make exceptions now and then.)
  5. Platon Karataev at Kolorádó (August 12): Great show. No pictures, nothing. But I happened to be standing next to Kolibri (Bandi Bognár), who was dancing his head off, and I danced mine off too.
  6. The Platon Karataev duo on the water at Fishing on Orfű (August 26): One of my favorite concerts of the year and beyond.
  7. Platon Karataev at the Grand Café in Szeged (September 24): A very special occasion because they hadn’t played in Szeged since 2018. A large and enthusiastic crowd, a terrific show.
  8. The Platon Karataev record release—a sold-out double concert—at the A38 Hajó (October 23-24): Glorious, delirious, intense, and so happy. This was the release for Atoms, since the original release had been canceled due to Covid. I was lucky to be able to go both nights. That was the last Platon Karataev concert I heard this year.
  9. Gergely Balla played a solo concert at Központ on November 22. It was originally going to be a duo concert, but Sebő had to cancel due to illness. This was the first time I had heard Gergő play solo, except at the Krúdy Irodalmi Szalon (and later at the Csoóri-Szalon). It was stunning.
  10. I also attended two events that Platon Karataev held for people who had contributed to their fundraiser. Those were down to earth and relaxed, with a focus on the music itself.

But I didn’t come here just to list concerts. That isn’t the point. Together, they built into something. With Platon Karataev and Cz.K. Sebő in particular (but others too), I came to learn how “whimsical and warmhearted” they are (a Cz.K. Sebő quote), how much they give to their art, and how highly they regard their audiences. They show profound humility and respect. Sure, they party sometimes. They have lots of friends, acquaintances, fans, and admirers. I imagine that they enjoy the popularity up to a point. I would, too, up to a point. But they are about a lot more than that. They take time for introspection. They need solitude. They read and love literature. They lead lives with conundrums, adventures, frustrations, losses, joy. They want much more than to belong to a youth music scene (or any music scene, for that matter), though that too can be fun and important.

These concerts, musicians, and audience members have created something together, something that will last and grow. I’m not sure how I attended all these concerts (traveling from Szolnok) on top of teaching, translating, medical stuff, and so on, but I think that’s the point. We don’t really know how these things come about. But I am glad and amazed that they did.

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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

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    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

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