• By: OLM Staff

Lemon Bucket Orkestra is Ready to Bring the Party to Chamberfest!

All photos by Andre Gagne.

It’s like they descended out of the Carpathian Mountains, wild eyes, frantic, bodies full of lightening. You can picture them roaming the roads shortly after the midnight hour, from village to village, these roving Romany with only one need: to pump into an audience as much energy as they have with their music.

They have been described as a Balkan-Klezmer-Party-Punk-Super Band, and that’s just the terminology they have used themselves. They are unbridled, seemingly near feral musicians that live in a perpetual state of boisterousness, they are coming to Ottawa in two days and they want to meet your children!

They are the 15-piece Lemon Bucket Orkestra, led by Mark Marczyk, a man whose stage presence borders on sheer madness, a mixture of Tom Waits and Renfield. The rest of the group’s unleashed inmates are not far behind their leader in insane intensity and if you have never seen them perform live it’s suggested you bring something to strap yourself to your seat unless you either: a) are prepared to be blown out of it; or b) are ready for the uncontrollable urge to dance in motions you didn’t believe were humanly possible.

And, oh yeah, you’re going to feel it in the morning, folks!

Ukrain (34 of 88)

Returning to Toronto after a stay in the Ukraine, Marczyk met fellow musician Michael Louis Johnson. It was him that introduced Marczyk to the style of music that would later give Lemon Bucket Orkestra its own blend of sounds. He thought big and soon his little band grew to 17 members that were described as a “motley assortment of cultural ambassadors”. With them they carried violins, guitars, darbouka, an alto sax, tambourines, sousaphones, flugelhorns, sopilka, trombones and something that can only be called the savage drum.

The group’s breakout success came when, heading out on a three-week tour of Romania, the band found themselves delayed on an Air Canada flight. While most people would watch an in-flight movie or attempt a few Sudoku puzzles, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra did what they do best: they performed. Yup, right there on the plane.  The impromptu show and video taken by a passenger made headlines. Did I mention that a second flight delay on their way back sparked another on flight concert?

In 2012 the band released their first album (Lume, Lume), which was nominated for a Juno Award for Best World Music Album. Two years later they set out on their first cross country tour to much acclaim, frenzied crowds and the kind of word of mouth that puts butts in the seats. Not for long, though, because at a Lemon Bucket show you got to dance. It’s all part of the experience.

The entire musical madhouse makes its way to the Ottawa International Chamber Music Fesitval’s Chamberfringe showcase on Thursday, July 28 for a 10 p.m. show at La Nouvelle Scene. However, you can get a free sample the same day at 2 p.m. when the group performs a totally free outdoor show for the entire family. Energetic kids are not only welcome but encouraged.

Ukrain (44 of 88)

We had a chance to pin Lemon Bucket Orkestra’s Marczyk down for about a minute and half for a few questions before their coming show.

Ottawa Life: So, what goes into a Balkan-klezmer-7-party-punk-super-band show?

Mark Marczyk: We're a bunch of guerrilla-folk party-punks from Toronto who came into our own imagining Eastern Europe through street performance and partying a lot. Then we got willingly coerced (mostly by circumstance) into refining our show and touring the world. What goes into our shows? Every place we've been and some we haven't plus a hefty dose of cultural exuberance and musical exploration and slivovitz!

Can you tell me how you came up with unique and interesting name for the group?

You know the old saying about lemons? When life gives you buckets, make an Orkestra.

From what I have seen, your shows are pretty rambunctious affairs. How do you maintain all that energy on stage?

A healthy diet of lemonade and harmonic minor modes. That and a rambunctious audience. When the audience sucks, we pretty much sound like the wedding of some distant relative you don't really like. But when the audience is amped, we sound like the wedding where everyone is getting hitched!

I read that some members performed at the eastern front of the war in Ukraine? Can you tell me more about that and what that experience was like?

It was intense. Not lemon bucket intense. War intense. Real soldiers with real tanks attempting to stave off real invasion in an attempt to secure real peace. They feel like they have been abandoned and yet they continue to fight because they believe that if they don't there will never be a chance for peace in Ukraine ever again. Many of these people are volunteers (I’ve even met musicians and actors on the front) and most of them get very emotional when Marichka and I sang them songs, conversed with them, brought them much-needed supplies, especially when they found out we had come all the way from Canada to do so. How is life over there in Canada, they ask? Good, I say, there's no war over there. Thank God, they say. Maybe you can come visit one day, when this is all over, I offer. Thank you, they say, but when this is all over, I’m going to go back to my family and never leave them again.

How do you go about merging so many styles of music to create a sound unique to the band?

The sound of the band is a combination of a deep infatuation with and respect for the Eastern European traditions we draw on, an aggressive sense of imagination, and the inability to escape our Canadian sensibilities.

How do you showcase Ukraine culture in your band that mixes so many styles?

We don't only showcase Ukrainian culture. We showcase as many Eastern European cultures as we've come in contact with and not only that. We recently spent three weeks in South Korea making music with a traditional drum band. Toronto itself is a cauldron of eclectic musical influences. But, for me, the Ukraine is where it all began. It's where I learned to play violin, where I discovered folk music and storytelling, and where I realized the power of standing in the street and imagining what you want it to sound like out loud. When you do that, people throw change at you@

What’s a typical day like on tour for the band?

Typical day? There’s like 50 of us! Some of us wake up at the crack of dawn and eat papaya and flax seed and go for a jog; others wake up hung-over to loud banging on the door and the sudden piercing realization that they slept through their 1 p.m. alarm. Some of us can't go a day without practicing scales, others dream about burning their instruments on stage.

What are some of your ties to the Ukraine community back in Toronto?

Toronto Ukrainians are an enigma to me. I suppose that's one of the reasons that we created Lemon Bucket Orkestra. Some of them get that. Others don't and never will. We’re lucky to live in a country where that's OK.


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