The Lucerna Palace (Palác Lucerna) is a huge building in central Prague, housing small shops, cafes, a music bar, a concert hall, and a cinema. There is also a paternoster lift that takes you to an amazing rooftop terrace.
The roof is open until the end of October 2020, Saturday to Monday 14.00 to 22.00 and entry is 100 Kč. If you arrive between 14.00 and 16.00 you can have a free drink from the rooftop bar.
The entrance is opposite the Great Hall in the Lucerna passage. A really friendly girl sold us our tickets and a grumpy security guard showed us to the paternoster lift – a chain of open compartments that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping.
These things both scare and excite me, as I think I’m going to misjudge the jump into the compartment and be chopped in half – I’m also not good with revolving doors! Hence, I couldn’t start my video until after I was safely aboard.
You’re supposed to jump out at the top floor, but I stayed in the compartment and let it take me over the top and back down again – no you aren’t turned upside down!
At the top, another really friendly girl checked our tickets and we were inside. We wandered around the various rooftop terraces. The space is huge and there is work in progress to expand the terraces. The views are amazing.
I’d previously written to Střecha Lucerny and asked some questions about the space – they didn’t reply. But I found one of the organizers and was able to ask him. My questions and his replies in between each of the following pictures.
Q. How do the rooftop concerts work – is there some program?
A. They are just short 15-minute concerts played at sunset. You can find out more from the Facebook page
Q. There are just a few tables – can I reserve one?
A. Yes, if you call ahead, we’ll do our best. There will be more tables when the reconstruction of the other terraces are complete.
Q. If I purchase a ticket and visit during the afternoon, can I return with that ticket in the evening?
A. No, you would need to purchase another ticket.
Q. Is food available?
A. Yes, some small bites, like tapas.
Q. What happens when it rains?
A. There is indoor space and we also have umbrellas that you can borrow.
Q. The website looks lovely, but doesn’t show any events or other information about visiting.
A. Yes, we know about that and we are working to resolve it.
We visited the bar. There were three staff working and they were really friendly.
Our first drink was free. The prices looked pretty good for the location; large beer 58 Kč, glass of wine 65 Kč, cappuccino 65 Kč. And we were given real glasses, not plastic cups.
There is an exhibition devoted to the history of the Havel family. The text is in Czech. My basic knowledge is that the palace was built between 1907-1920. The investor, organizer, and constructor was ing. Vácslav Havel, entrepreneur, whose grandson – Václav Havel – later became President.
Everyone working at Střecha Lucerny is friendly. It reminds me of when you visit a stately home run by amateur volunteers – all happy to chat, take your ticket or sell you a piece of homemade cake. It’s a nice atmosphere, but as a business, it’s ridiculously overstaffed and I have no idea how they can make any money – but maybe that isn’t their intention.
Palác Lucerna, Štěpánská 61, Praha
Before rap become synonymous with gangstas, and mostly misogynistic rhymers there was the hey-day time or “the daisy age” of the perhaps naïve but more peace-loving hip-hop artists, and among the best of this period is De La Soul from the late ‘80s—formed in 1987 to be exact from Long Island, NYC.
Back in those days, hip-hop had a sense of humor, it had creative verve, and it grooved relentlessly. There was sexiness to the music and risqué lyrics but without masochistic put-downs and posturing.
Public Enemy was already a force (and not a peaceful one for sure), but they had a dignity and spirit that did not rival or counter this newer wave of hip-hop collectives, which also included A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, and the Beastie Boys as more positive hip-hop messengers to the mainstream.
Approaching the end of this year’s Strings of Autumn Festival 2019 is a celebration with the legendary hip-hop group De La Soul still together with the original trio, Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo to honor the 30th anniversary of their best-known recording “3 Feet High and Rising” and, of course, more importantly for the Czechs to celebrate 30 years since their November 1989 Velvet Revolution.
“3 Feet High and Rising” released on Tommy Boy Records is considered a high-water mark in hip-hop recordings. With interludes of short comedic skits similar to Cheech & Chong between songs, including a sly (but sadly legally-challenged) sample of The Turtles “You Showed Me” but with spoken words in French “Translating Live From Mars,” followed by simply one dope-jam groove after another. There is not a bad track on the album and it was done still when the track order on albums had a purpose for full enjoyment (and with no commercial interruptions courtesy of You Know Who or That One Too).
De La Soul did want to improve society, but they looked at it from the perspective of one guy at a time. The light-hearted rhyme to their “A Little Bit of Soap” is all about making the community more livable.
“Please listen to this simple De La style I’m gonna sing
It’s strongly directed to all the misery you’re bringing
Now I’m not all about dissing someone else personnel
But there’s no quota on your odor
That’s right, you smell!
Now you might feel a little embarrassed, don’t take it too hard
And don’t make it worse by covering it up with some Right Guard
Before you even put on your silk shirt and fat gold rope
Please take your big ass to the bathroom
And please use
(A little bit of soap….)”
Now in its 23rd edition, the Strings of Autumn Festival brings top-notch experimental, classical and jazz or cross-over musicians for a series of concerts in October-November, and this year’s De La Soul concert is a testament to their commitment of programing for a broad spectrum of music lovers.
De La Soul, with opening act Chris Dave & the Drumhedz
A few years ago, Sweden suddenly had the most innovative music scene in Europe with groups like The Knife, Little Dragon, and Jose Gonzalez to name just a few acclaimed on the international scene. Movits! joined this tier, but with even better sales internationally, by combining hip-hop and old-time jazz in a new direction—or at least it was new when they got started about a decade ago.
After all, jazz and hip-hop have been joined at the hips since the beginning of hip-hop and in the UK with the Acid Jazz scene since the mid-90s, but hip-hoppers had never fully reached out to Swing, the golden age of jazz (the 1930s through 1950s), when swing dancing was the rage in America and Europe.
And so, it took Movits!, a trio from Lulea, in northern Sweden to finally bridge these worlds. Movits! debut album in 2008 “Appelkynckarjazz” which translates in English as “Stealing apples jazz-style” combined the high-energy acoustic swing jazz of Django Reinhardt with the power of swing orchestras (thanks to modern electronics). Actually, it was only after hearing the Benny Goodman classic “Sing Sing Sing” at a party, that the brothers Anders & Johan got the idea to merge swing and hip-hop.
Movits! is at its core a trio with brothers Johan Jivin’ Rensfeldt (vocals), Anders Rensfeldt (keyboards and DJ-producer), and tenor saxophonist Joakim ‘One-Take’ Nilsson, and for the upcoming concert at Lucerna Music Bar they’ll have a new sound too–it’s no more “hip-hop swing” for these boys.
From hip-hop, their influences are still Old School from Mos Def, Outcast, the Roots, and Gang Starr, but their new sound is a harder electronic beats meets Bollywood and Swedish rap. Their older playful and even poetic deliveries (and all still in Swedish, by the way) seems to be a sound of their past.
T-shirts and jeans have also replaced their original attire, which was a mix of swing-era suits and rappers street gear–matching suits (black or white), bow-ties, and tuxedo tails, like Swing-era jazz dancers, but with matching ankle-high sneakers. Another earlier influence of theirs, the Rat Pack, popular lounge-singers of the ’50s and ’60s, led by Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. is also gone.
Back to a decade ago, Movits! unique and tongue-in-cheek rap did not go unnoticed across Europe, but also in the U.S., where their album was released on the label Comedy Central Records.
Their appearance on the satirical news-show the Colbert Report in 2009, where they conversed with the host in near-perfect English, also catapulted their sales, and in 2011, MTV tracked their cross-country tour of the US and Canada to humorous effect. Meanwhile, they have since grown up in a serious way.
Alternative rock once ruled the music halls and radio-waves, but that was ages (certainly decades) ago.
Among the most influential groups in alt/indie rock, Sonic Youth ended as a band in 2011, and it was a tabloid affair for indie rockers’ media sphere, since they had been the foremost alt-rock band in the States for two decades, led by Thurston Moore and his wife Kim Gordon with Lee Renaldo since 1981.
However, Thurston Moore has had his own group since then carrying on the torch as a sonic rocker and experimenter continually expanding his horizons, but not at all with the attitude of “no looking back.”
His current tour is for their most recent album “Spirit Council” an artistic tour de force in his wide discography. It is a collection of three exceptionally-long instrumental compositions recorded between 2018-19 representing a period of his life reflecting on spiritual matters, collective musical friendships, and overall, a meditative sonic exploration—a deeply reflective effort both compelling and explosive.
Just as Bob Dylan dissected his failed relationship in one of his best albums “Blood on the Tracks,” Moore’s “Spirit Council” could be acknowledged as a similar gesture, but in epic instrumental tracks. After all, Sonic Youth broke up due to the separation of Moore and Gordon, both co-founders and soul mates after a long relationship that began with their rise from the New York scene in the early 80s.
They rose from the punk scene but then forged an alternative/indie rock sound like no other. When the punk zeitgeist in America suddenly ended with Nirvana’s leader Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994, Sonic Youth rose to the occasion as the new leaders of a post-punk, alternative rock sound merging the 80s with the 90s, punk in spirit, but at the core a visionary guitar rock group without gimmicks.
Most distinctive for their high-velocity guitar assaults alternated with a punk-pop growl, their later recordings also became most influential to the best-known post-rock groups around including Mogwai, Sigur Ros, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Especially in their later live shows with songs like “Hits of Sunshine (for Allen Ginsberg),” etc. they explored improv-jams midway in sets like the Grateful Dead. Yet Sonic Youth seems to be hardly known to younger rock music fans and too bad.
Thurston Moore’s group on this tour includes Debbie Googe, the bassist of the legendary My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth’s drummer Steve Shelley, and the English guitarist James Sedwards. This same line-up last played Prague’s Lucerna Music Bar touring their debut album “The Best Day” in 2014.
While Sonic Youth’s first concert ever in Prague was a sold-out event in the early 90s, in the Grand Lucerna Ballroom in 1993, headlining a tour with Pavement and Sebadoh. The last performance of Sonic Youth in Prague was another sold-out event, but this time at the smaller Divadlo Archa in 2007.
By Tony O.
Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” taps into the myth of Hollywood in Los Angeles in the mid-late 60s as an idyllic oasis, but it likely was as he shows it for the hippest filmmakers, the grooviest bands and their groupies, etc. The LA bands of that era and its milieu are thus still influential and most obviously in the group Allah-Las, from LA of course, as carriers of the torch.
Allah-Las are playing at Lucerna Music Bar for a night of mid-60s LA good vibrations if you seek it.
The LA bands that live on, or at least deserve to live on, include most importantly The Byrds, Love, and Spirit as early and obvious influences of the Allah-Las for that lighter psychedelic rock sound.
The Allah-Las are Miles Michard (vocals, guitar), Matthew Correia (percussion, vocals), Spencer Durham (bass, vocals), and Pedrum Siadatian (lead guitar, vocals), and their self-titled debut album in 2012 best captures the “60’s LA sound,” a laid-back vibe that good Southern California living still may have to offer in its shady labyrinth of smaller houses and cottages in the hills above the sprawling city.
This life is harder to find as developers devour the hills and canyons with McMansions, not to mention Manson and his aftermath there. And so, the Allah-Las have an admirable determination and resilience to maintain an LA sound natural to its roots, and perhaps it should never be retired despite the times.
Three of the four Allah-Las met while working together at Hollywood’s Amoeba Records, which is housed in an architectural gem that has an exterior like a giant Johnny Rockets diner, right on Sunset Boulevard, though this building is soon to be razed due to developers’ plans to build a residential tower.
Their other releases include “Worship the Sun” (2014, Innovative Leisure), and the last two are on the Brooklyn label Mexican Summer: “Calico Review” (2016) and “LAHS” (2019). Of these “Worship the Sun” is closest to their original sound, while the newest one is the most nuanced, perhaps their best.
“LAHS” is still a mellow psychedelic-rock, but it’s a deeper or more introspective sound with twists and turns or with tricks up their sleeve, such as “Royal Blues” which seems like a sly reworking of the melody to Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” with an odd exotic chant, original rhymes in English, and an overlapping monologue in French. There is also “Prazer Em Te Conhecer” which is a cover of a Brazilian pop-dance song, but in the hands of the Allah-las, it glides in a weird Americana. The last song on the album, “Pleasure” is sung in Spanish, possibly as a simple nod to their hometown.
Overall, “LAHS” is a rich collection of original songs, neo-psychedelia with an upbeat bounce, as on the trance-groove “Star” or the meandering and breezy “Light Yearly” recalling The Seeds or CSNY, or stretched out jams as by the grand-dad of LA psychedelia, Frank Zappa (“Willie the Pimp”), who else?
They also have original music on the surf film “Self-Discovery of Social Survival.” It’s a cool neo-surf psychedelia where the Allah-Las, among two other experimental groups, created a live score inspired by the waves and award-winning surfers in remote locations. With tracks Mulberry Jam, Raspberry Jam, Blueberry Jam, and Blackberry Jam on the film’s soundtrack, they should play these “jams” too.
Where: Lucerna Music Bar
When: Oct. 19, doors open at 18:00