There’s eclectic, then there’s Fishtank Ensemble

Perhaps the most eclectic and eccentric musical act you will ever see will roll into Sonoma on Friday evening for a show at the Sonoma Community Center.

Fishtank Ensemble, with roots going back to Eastern Europe, but formed here on the west coast, play a variety of instruments including searing violins, slap bass, musical saw, flamenco and gypsy jazz guitar, trombone, accordion, and vocals that flow from opera, jazz and gypsy, all encompassing European overtones.

A case can be made that these four musicians – Ursula Knudson, Fabrice Martinez, Doug Smolens and Djordje Stijepovic — may be the wildest and most unique musical ensemble to play Sonoma in many years.

“We all met at a performance space called the Fishtank,” explained Knudson. “It had a lot of windows, so passersby could peer in on the activities inside like a fish bowl.” When the four united, they spent a weekend learning an entire repertoire of Romanian folk music. They quickly got a local gig, and when someone asked the name of the band, Knudson just blurted out “Fishtank. It doesn’t fit what we do, but I actually like that,” she said.

Since their founding in 2005 the band has released three albums “Super Raoul,” “Samurai Over Serbia” and “Woman In Sin,” which was released last year. As this wandering caravan forges new musical trails, each member contributes their own aesthetics and experiences to the collaborative process. “I like to start songs,” said guitarist Smolens, “but I really love when the band helps finish them. We all end up shaping them and creating something unexpected.”

Fishtank Ensemble plays at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 10 at the Sonoma Community Center, 276 East Napa Street. Tickets are $15 at and at the door.
­­— Mike Hyland

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