I first heard about Istanbul punk-blues-rock band The Ringo Jets from reading Anthony H. Wolfstadt’s review of a little-known band at Peyote. His description of an eardrum-rupturing live experience of power and cool left me unprepared for the dynamism and sheer surprise of their show at Istanbul’s leading live music venue Babylon this evening.
Having recently completed a tour of Germany, and after releasing their debut EP, The Ringo Jets are an impressively unified stage experience, two guitars, drums, three vocals and no bass combining to form an utterly convincing channeling of 20th and 21st century popular music history into a magnetic hour-plus of rock and roll. The Dead Weather, The Black Keys, Beastie Boys (particularly in their matching boiler suits) and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion collide to produce a raw, unpretentious, super sexy sound unsurpassed in my eight years in this bejewelled city.
Deniz Ağan – long hair, stage left – a man of few words but lots of high-pitched barking, comes on like Cedric Bixler (At The Drive In, The Mars Volta) in a bicycle-chain fight with Jack White, while co-guitarist/vocalist Tarkan Metoğlu is the polar opposite of his Turkish pop star namesake. A performer totally at ease with himself, his band, his voice and his instrument, he is the hidden hand, steering in a Lou Barlow (Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr) direction here or a Guy Piccotio (Fugazi) one there. While all this absence of a front-person is admirable and groovy, a true star shines in such systems – and drummer/vocalist Lale Kardeş is she.
With the rhythm of Charlie Watts, Meg White or the original Ringo himself, her formations are funky and compelling as hell, and when she sings, as on the band’s interpretation of ‘You Done A Bad, Bad Thing’, she is absolutely captivating, a genuinely clear, beautiful soul voice, as unselfconsciously clear-bell as Dusty Springfield or Nina Simone, all from behind the drum-kit on the stage of a venue in a country dominated by patriarchal domination. Kardeş is a unique force, once seen and heard, never forgotten.
From their opener, a scuzz-rock version of ‘Helter Skelter’, through their own Queens-Of-The-Stone-Age-sail-down-the-Bosphorus-strait stomp ‘Tease’, until their dynamically abrupt ending (no encore), The Ringo Jets affirm your belief in music through a collective middle-finger raised to an increasingly oppressive society. The best, most passionate, life-affirming show I have seen in nearly a decade of living in Istanbul, and like Wolfstadt, my ears are still ringing…