Gigs, dance, art

December 21st, 2007: Darling / Buttercup Metal Polish / Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp

@instants chavires

Most likely my last gig for the year, that was a benefit for la Cave 12, a collective based in Geneva, Switzerland. Before each set, a piano-cocktail was in operation. I went with the Ethiopiques tune, an easy choice having heard music from Ethiopia the day before. Getting away from my usual fare of beer or wine was welcome, but the real treat was just watching it; there’s a video out there, and probably a dozen youtube others, but they probably won’t do it justice — and definitely won’t deliver the complete experience.

The first band was Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp — great name — and it turned out to be my favorite of the evening. A lot of instruments: marimba, drums, double bass, guitar, trombone and voice, with occasional violin and small percussions. Their performance was much better than what little recorded material I have able to get so far; no real surprise with this lineup, but there was a lot more energy there. Amazingly enough, I’d say there was some very positive vibe to this music, yet I loved it. The singer is especially amazing.

Buttercup Metal Polish was a bit of a letdown after that, but I think it would have been better had there been a guest as first advertised. It had its moments, but’s it hard to pull of a whole set with just two drummers going at it with such abandon. They’re fast and good enough, but I would have liked something else, or a change of pace, anything really. Or maybe just a shorter set. Maybe I was not in the right mood, but by the end I felt they had run out of ideas.

I didn’t have such hopes for Darling, I was actually eyeing the exit, turned off by their reference to glam. It wasn’t that annoying though. I even liked a couple of songs, and a few guitar tricks. But I don’t like the singer’s voice, and the drummer just bored me real quick.

Anyway, OTPMD alone was well worth going there, and it was a good way to end my active year with an eventful week. Now on to the regular Xmas/New Year boredom, I can only hope things don’t bog down for too long after that.

December 26, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

December 20th, 2007: The Ex with Getatchew Mekuria / Le Tigre des Platanes / Melaku Belay

@theatre Gerard Philipe

At least I got another wish fulfilled this year. Back in August I wrote that The Ex with Getatchew Mekuria was a gig I was eagerly expecting, and I did get that one (the other was Sunburned, no luck on the rest of that list). The evening didn’t start all that well with some public transportation trouble that had me running late. I did get there just in time though.

I don’t know the name of the first performer. I read that Melaku Belay was the dancer that joined him during a song, with these typical shoulder and head moves that just scream Ethiopia to me. I’d go out on a limb and say this was an Azmari performance, but that may just be me being ignorant. What I did see was a lively performance by a singer using a single-stringed, box-shaped violinish instrument. I didn’t understand a single word, but he proved to be adept at working a crowd, which seems to be a common trait to Ethiopian performers I’ve seen so far. I would have liked that set to last longer.

Then came a French band, Le Tigre des Platanes, who performed Ethiopian songs except for a great Dog Faced Hermans cover, appropriate enough in that setting. Drums, bass, sax and trumpet combo, they sounded like they had deep roots in jazz. It wasn’t that much of a good sign when that showed, but they did a great job of performing Ethiopian standards with some unusual personality. I’ve been told they are great people as well, which may have biased my opinion. On the other hand, I really wanted them to be done and make way for the main act.

Meaning The Ex, Getatchew Mekuria, and additional guests on saxophone, trombone, clarinet and bass. Maybe it was a bit too close to their record, but that’s just nitpicking. That show was great, Katherina remains my favorite drummer, G.W. Sok was his usual commanding presence when not hiding on the side, and Getatchew was just as good as advertised. The best was how much he seemed to be enjoying being there. He smiled throughout and danced with his instrument when not playing. That was such a great touch. The guy is definitely no dummy either; makes me wonder what he sounded like a few decades ago in his own country. He probably changed a few lives way back then, I wonder what came out of that. I feel blessed to have witnessed that performance, great as music and heart-warming in a way few have been in my experience. Even Wax and Gold turned out just as powerful but less painful than usual for me — I got some serious vibes about that song…

December 25, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

December 19th, 2007: Michèle Noiret – Les Arpenteurs

@théatre de la ville

Here I wish I had proved smart enough to write it all down that day. I have enough trouble writing about dance without letting a full week go by. I had high hopes for this one, because there was a percussion ensemble on stage, and I’m a certified sucker for such things. At first it did hold up to these expectations, but overall the music wasn’t that great, so I just let it drop out of my mind. That was the first time I saw anything by this particular choreographer, and I think I might need more exposure. I really felt there were bits I should have understood but didn’t.

Overall I was disturbed by how realistic it was. I mean there were echoes of everyday situations, and I’m much more into abstract stuff, especially these days. And I was really put off by the aggressiveness of it all. Well, not all, but a lot, most prominent in the beginning, but going as a perceptible undercurrent throughout and emerging again at the end. It was not a single thing, more like the way I received it. Which means I may very well be the one responsible.

There were a lot of outstretched arms throughout, which I didn’t mind at all, providing some pure movement thread I could hang onto. So much so that some waving arm moves were a surprise and a treat, even though there really wasn’t much to it. That makes me thing some more familiarity with her work would have really helped me getting into this. I hope I have the opportunity to get that knowledge, because despite my misgivings I enjoyed this show and feel thwarted at being left outside so much of it.

December 25, 2007 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

December 18th, 2007: Stars of the lid / Peter Wright

@les voutes

Late post time. I went for close to a week without internet access or even a phone line. Poor time for that, but I’m lucky enough to have had that fixed right in time. One more day and that would have been blackout until next year. Not that I’ll have anything to write in that frame anyway.

That show started even later than usual, they blamed some traffic jams on their way from Germany. Peter Wright had some black and white images in the background, most of the time in slow motion and heavy on contrast. The music was a long slow arc from faint clean sounds to louder, dirtier mess. Of course I liked the latter better. No surprise, but good enough. I think the cold and wait actually made me more receptive.

That didn’t seem to carry over to the main act though. I was not all that familiar with Stars of the lid, but I had heard a lot of praise and some good enough songs here and there. I guess it would be easy to blame the delay and lack of a sound check, but I’d rather bite the bullet and say I was disappointed. I blame the three-piece string hangers-on for that. No, what I really blame is the unimaginative way the strings were used. Whenever the droning guitars were dominant and the strings just played some secondary role, it was actually pretty good. But at times the strings were out in front and the guitars subdued, and I was getting bored in a hurry. Kronos they’re not, but I don’t think anyone could have done much with that kind of lame material anyway. Didn’t exactly make me want to check out their latest release.

December 25, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

December 15th, 2007: Axololt / Weyes Bluhd / Curia / Heatsick

@instants chavirés

Interesting gig with six sets, and more diverse than I expected — yet safely within my usual experimental-noise-weird stomping grounds. Sparse audience though, which sucks.

Heatsick was first, a solo project of a member of Birds of Delay. I saw them open for Sunburned late last year, but I can’t really remember what it was like — that’s why I write this down now. I wasn’t sold at first, some electronics, loops and all behind a curtain. But took to using the drumkit next to him at one point, and then won me over. That gave a very nice counterpoint to the electronics, and that mix was real good.

Curia looked promising, with a bowed electric guitar catching my attention, but unfortunately I was repelled by the heavy use of a wah-wah pedal by the other guitarist; I just despise that sound. Then two of them did another set, this time just keyboard and drums, and I liked it better, unsurprisingly. But I guess the whole was just too seventyish for me.

The best was still to come, first with Weyes Bluhd, solo project of a member of Jackie-O Motherfucker. Various effects with a really great use of her own processed voiced, increasingly distorted in a stormy wailing way. I really loved that. Then Axolotl for more mayhem, starting with a viola — a sure way to get me intently listening — and building a nice structure of interweaved loops. Then they both did a set together, which managed to put most of the best of their separate sets into a whole that just made my day — even sans viola. More loops of distorted voices, a many branching path through a dense forest of sound. I took great pleasure in getting lost in that landscape.

December 16, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

December 14th, 2007: Colleen / Tetuzi Akiyama / Hervé Boghossian

@instants chavirés

Acoustic time, with a nice setup in that the performers were sitting in the room and people were in a semi-circle around them, including on the stage itself.

Hervé Boghossian started with a solo set on acoustic guitar. He sure is a gifted musician, but his playing a tad too verbose for my taste. So I drifted off as I usually do during those kind of performances. I have a hard time staying focused when so many notes are thrown around; my bad.

Then another acoustic guitar solo, but this time by Tetuzi Akiyama. Interesting to see him again in such a different atmosphere. The last time was for a “don’t forget to boogie” set, i.e. a repetitive, loud and lively set on electric guitar. That was more to my liking than the opening set. I wouldn’t call it introspective, but there was less of a barrage of notes, so I had time to settle in and find a thread to follow around.

After a break, Colleen took the stage, playing viola da gamba, a kind of seven-stringed, narrower cello. The sound felt, unsurprisingly, as between viola and cello; I think I like it better than either. I had seen her play that same instrument last year, and even though I like that sound a lot, I wish I got to see her play something else. But that’s irrelevant. I liked that set, which isn’t a surprise with with tendency to hold onto what I like, in that case, a favorite instrument, played well enough, in my opinion better than last year, though it might be related to the smaller venue and the fact that she didn’t use anything else this time.

Then Hervé Boghossian joined her and played his guitar with a bow, which just reinforced the sound quality for me. I was relieved to find something I liked in his play — I can be hopelessly cheesy that way. I was thinking it could have gone on further, but maybe I’d have gotten bored then, so I’ll say it was right.

The final set featured Boghossian and Akiyama, both on acoustic guitar. I had been expecting that, but it was a letdown for me. Less display of technique on Boghossian’s part, but nonetheless I thought not much was happening. Then again, it may very well be just me being dense. Most of the time they sounded like a single guitar; the half-full take would be to be elated at the fusion, but I stuck with the half-empty take of “what’s the point then?”.

I can’t help but wonder what Tetuzi Akiyama and Colleen playing together would have sounded like. Different enough to make for an interesting mix. On the other hand, it could very well have been a dismal failure. Just the kind of chance-taking I love. I was kinda disappointed in the whole affair, but I do take full responsibility for that. Unrealistic expectations? More like expectations getting in the way. More frustration, feeling that what was kinda good could have been much better on another day. No way to know for sure, anyway.

December 16, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

December 12th, 2007: Hervé Robbe – Là, on y danse

@théatre de la ville

That one was a keeper. Great. No buts and all, I just had a very good time. I was seated closer than I like, in the second row, but that wasn’t so bad because there were not that many dancers on stage. The music was neat as well, half was by Stravinski — I’m partial to that composer — half was a new work commissioned for that purpose, pretty good too. Few props on stage, some angular shapes in the back, a few red neon squares at the end, an orangish brick-like block moving around on the ground, but none ever stole the show. I really was all about dance itself; a few words later on, but that stayed in the background and didn’t stop the action. No distractions, no acting, just some abstract dance, but not in a geometrical way either. Pure movement, beautifully executed, mostly upright without leaping or rolling. Neither fast not slow, no virtuosity on display, but with a steady rhythm to it. Perfect balance, or as close as it gets outside of Rosas.

It might not seem to be much, but I really appreciated this going back to the basics. I’m all for trying stuff and mixing in elements from other arts, but when everyone seems to be doing it, I’m somehow left outside after a while. Too much going on maybe, and also I feel there’s nothing wrong with dance itself, it can be its own language quite nicely, and does not need to be propped up. It really felt good to see someone trusting this, and probably also himself. In that sense I also felt it was better to have the music just recorded, without musicians on stage. I usually love that, but here it would have been a distraction. Maybe that’s just the mood I was in, some blind luck bringing me at the right place at the right time. Not that I’m complaining. I mean I love this so much that I’d probably go again if my schedule allowed it — I’m surprised it’s not sold out yet, but maybe it will be.

December 13, 2007 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment