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Stella Art Foundation 
Catalan Radiohead or Moscow Sensation
By Alana Marcu
Colorful yet low key. Thoughtful yet spontaneous. Jazzy yet soulful. With so many delightful and obvious contrasts that simply blend together while performing, it's no wonder Muscovites keep receiving Spanish band Refree with open arms.

Fresh off the plane and fresh off sleep - as singer/songwriter/guitarist, Raul Fernandez, later admitted - the eclectic quartet first graced the stage of Club Avant (35mm) on Friday, December 10, for the first of two scheduled performances in Moscow. It would prove to be just the warm up they needed for Saturday night's gig at Kitaisky Lyotchik Dzhao Da. Dubbed by some critics as the "Catalan Radiohead," Refree seems to take on a more classical American rock style/jazz mix of its own.

Their storytelling, contemplative songs didn't seem to work as well under the cold blue lights on the bigger, slightly elevated, more distant Avant stage. However, their candid easy-going style, and well-composed smooth music between Spanish accented English explanations and jokes, still managed to get the equally eclectic and interested crowd of young and old Muscovites smiling, clapping and on their feet begging for more songs. Most of their music selection came from their album "Quitamiedos" and some from their latest album "Nones" including a cohesive series of highs and lows made clearly distinguishable through the melancholy keyboard and accordion, slightly reminiscent of the Doors.

This seemed to be more audible Saturday night at Club Lyotchik where the band let loose, playing freely in the compact living room-like setting crammed with chairs and people encircling the smaller, warm, dimly-lit stage..."the perfect setting" for Refree as keyboardist/accordion player Baldo later described it, "We definitely felt better tonight...we like to play in smaller venues with a closer crowd."

"People are different here [Moscow]," Fernandez explained, "You are naked when you play, it is more natural...It's different than in Paris or Barcelona where people are more accustomed to concerts and people need to know you to come...people here just come, knowing or not knowing...they are more happy." Baldo added, "There is a feeling of calm and peace when I come to Russia...people can find solitude here."

Perhaps it was the overall setting and attitude or perhaps it was the fact that this was the first place Refree played upon coming to Moscow 18 months ago as the first foreign group, band manager Maxim Silva-Vega stated, which gave them this sense of comfort and ease on stage. Which ever the case, there was no pulling the four off once they started at Lyotchik and there was no need to as the whiskey colas kept rolling, the cigarettes kept burning, and the crowd kept cheering. Though Fernandez would threaten the audience with announcements like, "Ok this is our final song," he was quickly and easily persuaded into another as the roomful of responsive Muscovites pleaded, "Niyet! Niyet!"

True to his genuine, open, soft spoken, poetic stage presence, Fernandez made it a point to share, "I think it's stupid when musicians go off stage and come back for a final song...if you want us to keep playing, we'll play!"

Even though the Barcelona-based group had to go back home to fine tune a few things on their new album, with such a positive, supportive response here, it may not be long before Refree will find themselves back in Moscow hearing those same enthusiastic Niyets of this past week-end.

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