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Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys – on the verge of greatness

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys – on the verge of greatness
Lucy Kruger of Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys. Image: Marcel Boshuizen

At the recent Rotterdam festival, Kruger and her bandmates moved through their songs with graceful intensity, creating an atmosphere that was charged with enough energy to encircle all onlookers in a near-hypnotic close embrace.

In all the years of being at Oppikoppi there was always at least one conversation, usually on one of the dusty paths that traversed the festival grounds, that went like this: “Did you catch so and so at the Top Bar last night? No? Really?! Well you missed the best show of the ‘koppi! The best!”

There’s likely to have been a similar conversation between those people who found themselves watching Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys at De Doelen Up in Rotterdam on a late October evening and those who were exploring one of the other shows of the Left of the Dial Festival

In its third year – after a Covid break – the Rotterdam festival styles itself as giving music lovers the chance to experience “the best new alternative bands” through a passe-partout ticket that gives access to all the music at venues spread across the city. This year there were more than 100 to choose from and Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys, an art pop noise project fronted by Berlin-based/South African-born musician Lucy Kruger (as their Bandcamp bio describes them), was one of them.

It was at the merchandise table after the show that I was back on that Oppikoppi path – either as the receiver of the bad news that the peak show of that year’s festival was done and dusted and I’d missed it, or, at times, as the excited bearer of that very news. Gathered at the table were what could accurately be described as new and immediately devoted fans of Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys. A couple told Kruger about the goosebumps they had during the performance and another shared how thrilled they were at having taken a chance to see an unknown act and how they were sure it was going to be the best show of the festival.

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys perform. Image: Supplied by the author

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys perform. Image: Marcel Boshuizen

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys perform. Image: Supplied by the author

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys perform. Image: Marcel Boshuizen

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys perform. Image: Supplied by the author

Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys perform. Image: Marcel Boshuizen

The performance had been short – 40 minutes – but indelible. Kruger and her bandmates – Liú Mottes (guitar), Andreas Miranda (bass) and Martin Perret (drums) – moved through the nine songs with graceful intensity, creating an atmosphere that was charged with enough energy to encircle all onlookers in a near-hypnotic close embrace. 

At the centre was Kruger herself, on the small stage revealing the possibilities available to an artist who surrenders control, who sets out to play but who also offers up a calibrated, startlingly direct performance full of gestures that, like a sculptor, shape the audience’s response. She lays bare by stripping away. Watch the video for “Play” and you’ll see what I mean.

Most of the songs at De Doelen Up came from 2022’s Teen Tapes (for performing your own stunts) which, alongside Sleeping Tapes for Some Girls (2019) and Transit Tapes (For Women Who Move Furniture Around) (2021), is a substantial body of work and a distinctive, enthralling conceptual songbook. 

Kruger describes the trio of albums as “an intimate roadmap back into feeling”. There are now actual cassette tapes for each record but, as Kruger told me in 2020, “the ‘tapes’ references the idea of intimate documentation… An invitation into my processing. A sharing of stories. I think that what I am able to offer as an artist is a detailed expression of my experience, for although the situation may feel unique to me, the feelings are universal.”

And so it is that, in Rotterdam, we stand hushed before Kruger as she delivers these feelings through songs like set opener Evening Train 

“Could it be that these feelings/

Have been misleading?”

The unflinchingly honest Hold You Back, the superb Autobiography of an Evening (“a song is about trying to hold onto moments of intense connection as a way out of the terror of the every day,” Kruger has said) and Half of a Woman which moves slow and steady, with few flourishes, teetering on the edge of something – despair? – that’s so intimate we are there, ready to catch the singer should she fall. 

Lucy Kruger of Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys. Image: Marcel Boshuizen

Lucy Kruger of Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys. Image: Marcel Boshuizen

There is something deeply literary – yet never overly studied – about Kruger’s songs. Lyrics like:

“I came to find a friend/To interrupt the ending/I didn’t know it then/How skilfully I could pretend” 

These are off Risk and they do the work of the very best sentences, conveying meaning beyond the words, a narrative in itself, urging the listener to stick with Kruger for what comes next. The economy of words in the 32 songs that make up the Tapes trilogy reflect the sparing efforts of a careful author selecting the lean from the lavish.

In Rotterdam, Play is the pinnacle of what Kruger & The Lost Boys deliver as a band, guitars fuzzing through the layers of sound provided by the bass and drums before a song about teen desire and longing bursts its boundaries – as if through skin itself – into a fearsome rendering of (The Stooges’) I Wanna Be Your Dog. The proto punk song’s signature riff fits so magnificently with Play that it’s hard to imagine that more than 50 years separate their recording and reminds us of the primacy of the guitar in the music of Kruger’s explosive band.

A little while ago, on their Facebook page, someone wrote: “You guys have the biggest greatness to obscurity ratio.” After their recent performances there’s a sense that things are shifting and that people are waking up to Kruger’s extraordinary gift and the musicians she’s gathered to deliver it to the world. DM/ML

In case you missed it, also read South African rock band BLK JKS: A transfiguration of the message of revolution and change in music

South African rock band BLK JKS: A transfiguration of the message of revolution and change in music

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