Koonda Holaa and the Beetchees
Barbarella, Orlando • May 7, 1999
I kept hearing about Orlando’s growing experimental music scene from one of my renegade free jazz friends, and I’ll have to say I was a bit skeptical about the idea at first, until I finally got the opportunity to check out two of the scene’s key performance groups: the mysterious Overhead and the already legendary Koonda Holaa and the Beetchees.
Overhead, a “pure sound” electronic group, started the show at about midnight.The group’s leader played an old military surplus square-wave generator in a similar manner to how one would play an early Moog synthesizer. He produced an engaging if unmusical array of frequencies. The other two members played Casio keyboards and other miscellaneous synthesizers.Although their music was strictly electronic, with the exception of some occasional live drums, it sounded surprisingly spontaneous and organic. They played one continuous composition that went on for about 30 minutes and recalled the calmer parts of Sun Ra’s “Atlantis” and the spookier sections of Pink Floyd’s side-long masterpiece, “Echoes.” The tones from the various instruments often combined to create human/inhuman wails.Snippets of foreign films and found home movies were projected on a screen behind the group, but this added little interest to their overall performance.
After Overhead’s excellent, lulling/grating warm-up, the two-man Koonda Holaa and the Beetchees took the stage.Their performance started off with a long, introductory piece that helped the newcomers get a little taste of the whole Koonda Holaa mythology, and bring the old fans back home into the surreal groove.After spouting out a farcical introduction heavily laced with delay effects, Kamilsky, the group’s front man, proclaimed with mock-pomposity, “I am Jesus Cock. I am the King of Pop,” over a sonic backdrop of shimmering electronics. His voice came across strong and charismatic, flavored by a wonderful Czech accent. After he repeated this proclamation several times, the frantic drumming of his co-conspirator Randy Scarbeary kicked in, as well as a barrage of demonic-sounding, modulated, vocal samples. After the music began to take on a more song-like structure, Kamilsky chanted his group’s hilarious theme mantra that pokes fun at the superficial people of the world while showing his love for wordplay: “Lying out on beetches [beaches], listening to Beetchees [Bee Gees], hanging out with beetches [bitches].”
Next, Kamilsky and Scarbeary crashed into their already classic “Fat Bitch Must Die,” a song in which Kamilsky expresses mock-hysterical bewilderment as to why someone would express such a sentiment out loud or in graffiti.The song is a masterpiece of programmed electronics and live instrumentation.Kamilsky’s punky bass lines and Scarbeary’s powerful, right-on drums fueled the song which grabbed me in a way I thought only early Pere Ubu and Eno-period Roxy Music could.Kamilsky’s programmed sounds came across like the insane clamor of a primitive synthesizer set on meltdown mode. Hearing Kamilsky’s music, I kept thinking that this must be what David Thomas of Pere Ubu means by datapanik.Koonda Holaa’s songs brought to mind the exhilaration of information overload, and would provide the perfect soundtrack to a Y2K disaster.
Much of Kamilsky’s music is an imaginative combination of punk, industrial, trip-hop, and minor key, eastern European dirges.Many of his songs feature a strong, theatrical bent. Kamilsky delivered some of his more satirical lyrics with a mock-imperialistic tone. Some of his songs seemed to be humorous attacks on the extremes of both the communist system he once lived under in Czechoslovakia and the capitalist system of his new home country.Kamilsky came across like a much-needed jester for our age — a persona that suggests a combination of Charlie Chaplin’s characters in Modern Times and The Great Dictator and a psychotic Mork from Ork.Kamilsky also dressed the part of the jester very well, in his orange L.A. County prisoner’s uniform with his hair tied up in a big, absurd-looking tuft. While Koonda Holaa and the Beetchees would be a great group to see anywhere in the world, I am convinced that are the group to see in Orlando.Hopefully, Kamilsky’s imaginative genius will continue to inspire other groups and breathe fresh air into a local music scene that often appears very dull on the surface.