Gigs, dance, art

September 27th, 2008: Wire


And then for something completely different. From Kurdish music to my first Wire gig. I had expected this to be my favorite gig today, but I liked Miço Kendeş better. A big part of that relative letdown is due to the conditions: I was still upset about losing my ankh — I am still upset now — and they didn’t have an opening act, which kind of sucks.

Maybe I was expecting too much, maybe I was too self-centered, but I was not impressed. Yes, it’s still good music. But it was a bit too close to the records, in that I didn’t get a new perspective on their music by seeing them live at last. It was pretty much what I thought they would sound like, and the lack of surprises was disappointing. On the other hand, I had listened to some of their live performances, and that probably explains that impression. I guess I should give it another try if I have the opportunity, but they just didn’t come through to me like the Kurdish musicians did, and that tells something nonetheless. It could turn out to be a good thing, as I have some incentive to see them again with deflated expectations.

I guess there’s a lesson for me in there, at least it brought into sharp relief the method behind my habit of going to see bands I don’t know much — or anything — about. I like to get my first impression live, and this experience makes me rule out listening to anything by the next band I’ll be seeing, especially live recordings.

September 28, 2008 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

September 27th, 2008: Miço Kendeş


This season I took a few tickets for some traditional music I don’t know much about, and this was the first in that series. Kurdish music by performers from Irak, Iran and Turkey, though most of them seem to be based in Europe. These diverse origins made the “music from Kurdistan” label a fitting description, and besides the great music they gave me a more personal insight into what had been a pretty abstract issue for me.

Miço Kendeş was singing and played some instrument that looked like a bouzouki for a short time. The other musicians played oud, violin, daf and a kind of duduk. Miço Kendeş’ voice is great, and his powerful singing was a gateway for me, guiding me effortlessly into a music that was completely unfamiliar, and making me feel at ease within it. Of course I didn’t understand a word, but that didn’t stop me from having a good time, which was no small feat considering my state of mind. I had just lost a small ankh I had been wearing for twenty years, and I was very upset. Yet the music and singing came through and made me forget about it for a while, for which I am still grateful.

Even though the singing was the best part for me, I enjoyed the daf solo a great deal. I’m partial to percussions, and Abbas Bakhtiari is very talented. All these musicians are very good, but he just stood out, by getting diverse sounds from his couple of drums and also by being a showman, in the best sense of the word. His playing brought a welcome liveliness to a setting that always threatens to stifle the joyful parts of a performance: sitting in a theater with the expectations that come with the reputation of this place for traditional music. Maybe I’ll get used to this along the way, but it felt weird. I guess some performances will be quieter and it will feel more suitable.

September 28, 2008 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

September 20th, 2008: Secret Chiefs 3 / Fear Falls Burning / Drums Are For Parade


Second day of the Fiasco System festival. This time I could hear it all, as there were only three bands. More people showed up as well.

Drums Are For Parade went first. Powerful and efficient, though probably too straightforward for me. I write this now, but I quite enjoyed it at the time, so maybe I would be better off putting aside what came next. It was more interesting that just plain rock, first because there seemed to be something else than the usual elements, though I couldn’t pinpoint what. Then because it was not exactly fitting in a specific subgenre. So it had something personal despite being the less interesting of the evening for me.

I liked Fear Falls Burning better, which is no surprise with my being fond of dronish noise. I got a nice serving of that, and I loved the slower pace. Just one guy with a guitar and electronics, but that didn’t stop him from generating a deep and rich soundscape. I was very much into into, bobbing on the sound waves. That’s the kind of music I can get lost into for a while. This might be even better suited to smaller venues, I hope I can test this theory someday.

Secret Chiefs 3 was quite a shock to me — as is often the case, I knew none of the bands, and didn’t try to get more information before — and a great one at that. How sweet it still is to me to discover a band through a very good show. The music mixed many things, with a noticeable influence from middle-eastern music, which I like a lot. The violin alone would have made my day, and there was far more to this set. A totally original sound, something I never heard before, and an engrossing show, what more can I ask for from a gig?

September 22, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

September 19th, 2008: Temple Of Bon Matin / Radio Eris


I first heard of this gig close to three months ago and booked that day because of the name of the opening band: Radio Eris. I mean, having gone public as to my favorite part of the principia discordia, how could I miss this gig? It turned out that I was suitably mistaken, the “radio” part coming for Patti Smith’s Radio Ethiopia. I was not wrong about the Eris part, as Matt immediately blurted “the Steve Jackson edition” upon seeing my copy. Funny how I spent years calling myself a discordian and only got to meet another one when I stopped doing so.

It took place in the basement of a bar. That gig was supposed to take place at the Miroiterie squat, but the people there had another gig planned. That’s bad and maybe worse, but I don’t know what went on. The predictable result was that not many people showed up. Eight people paid to get in. Eight people on stage, and that’s using the latter word loosely. To make the cramped conditions worse, the Radio Eris keyboard player had problems with his gear and kept getting shocked because of faulty grounding. He eventually did get his theremin going halfway through the set.

Despite the poor conditions, I loved Radio Eris‘ set — dig the 5 in the myspace url. I think Lora Bloom’s charisma played a big part, but maybe she was just lucky enough not to suffer from the many technical difficulties. Anyway, I’m partial to processed voice, and to theremins as well, but my liking them went beyond that. The music had a strong current of freedom in it, something that could had led to great things if at least something had gone their way. I really got the sense that I was missing a lot due to the conditions, and I’m afraid they won’t be eager to come back around here after that experience. My loss, and one more reason to contemplate going to Philadelphia someday to sample the local scene: I’d still love to see King Kong Ding Dong, and paying a visit to Eris Temple would be high on my list.

Temple of bon matin were lucky enough to avoid the technical problems that plagued the first set, but they sure could have used a little more space on stage. Lora Bloom and Lisa Sunshine played with them, but just in front of the stage for lack of space. They sure sounded better, and were definitely sounding more in control, in a good way. I liked the drummer’s play, but not his voice. Again, the conditions probably didn’t do justice to them, but they did pull off a good set anyway. From my perspective, it was better than the first set, but less interesting. Maybe that’s because I was actually more familiar with their music.

I do feel bad for the people who made this gig happen and probably lost quite a lot in addition to feeling bad for the musicians. The gig was nice anyway, but it still sucks.

September 21, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | 3 Comments

September 17th, 2008: Talibam & Rhys Chatham / Zun Zun Egui / Peeesseye / Corridors / Gala Drop


First day of Fiasco System festival. There was one more band, Religious Knives, but I left before they even started playing because it was too late. This sucks — well I suck — but I just didn’t want to walk a couple of hours after another set. Not many people in there, which was an unpleasant surprise.

But Gala Drop was a pleasant surprise, in that seeing the couple of keyboards made me brace for a boring set whereas I liked it a lot. The drummer was pretty good and interesting, a perfect counterpoint to the krautrockish jam of the keyboard. Bonus points for the creative effects transforming the sound of a small drum on the side. I liked the first and last tune best, and as each one was about ten minutes long, I would have had plenty of time to get bored but didn’t. Come to think of it, that set was probably my favorite of the evening. I hope I can see them again.

Corridors was the kind of immersive sound experience I had come to miss lately. I quickly tune out the abstract video in the back and focused on the sound only. Dronish, with overtones and slow changes creating additional layers as I got a better feel for it. A lot going on in a somewhat subdued way, very well worth the focus. The hardest part was ignoring the people talking around me, so I moved to sit square in the middle of the room. That proved a good idea, as I noticed additional bits like moving pulses. Maybe they were not really anywhere but in my mind by then, but I don’t really care as long as I enjoy the effect.

Peeesseye went next and started with guitar, harmonium + many effects and voice. The vocalist later switched to drums and the kind of object use I lost interest in. I liked the heavy processed sound, but that’s about it. Been there and heard that too much I guess. I might have liked it better in a different setting though.

Zun Zun Egui don’t play a kind of music I like, but I ended up liking their take on it anyway. Too sunny for me, but the keyboard was my gateway into it, bringing a welcome twist to what could have been predictable. What I just don’t understand is how most of the people there could just be sitting around. Even that didn’t suck all energy out of the band, which tells me they’re probably very good with a responsive audience. Having me rank in the most alert half is a bad sign indeed.

I was my third time seeing Talibam!, and it was the charm indeed. Of course having Rhys Chatham playing with them helped. Not just because of what he did — often adding layers of long trumpet notes or short bursts — but because he managed to break their sometimes closed system. The drummer was his usual frantic and relentless self, but there was more of an interplay between trumpet and keyboard. The details paled compared to the overall effect though, and the times when Chatham overlaid slow and long notes over the regularly breakneck Talibam! assault worked very well, somehow subverting the rhythm and speed but in a way that added another dimension to it.

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

September 14th, 2008: Sex Mob / The Bad Plus / Fly

@la villette

That was the final performance in the la villette jazz festival for me. It has been a good one, with more than a few outstanding shows. But I have to say I was really close to burning out, which adversely affected my enjoying this gig.

The opening trio, Fly, was probably the most mainstream music I heard during the festival, but in a good way. I appreciated the way they let the music say everything, and the balance within the trio. By then I was eager for something less experimental, and they provided just that while remaining interesting.

I didn’t like The Bad Plus. Just a matter of taste, with that burn-out effect keeping me from making the effort required to get beyond that first impression. They got my attention back when Wendy Lewis joined them; their Nirvana cover was nice but the different covers were so close it seemed like a system to me. I pretty much hated their Pink Floyd cover and I drifted off again.

Sex Mob got me back big time though. Grating at times, but with enough energy to wake me up completely. And their cover of Gainsbourg was great, with enough of the original to be a cover yet enough twists to it to be interesting. I liked the drummer a lot, but I liked the others too. A rousing set, and a fitting way to conclude these two weeks. My only problem, again, was the venue. There are only four of them, and with their dynamic style I’d like to hear them in a smaller venue, and not have to be stuck in a seat. Either Trabendo or Cabaret Sauvage would have been a better fit in my opinion.

September 15, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

September 13th, 2008: DJ Spooky, Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa

@ trabendo

Another of the performances that had me looking forward to this festival. Some personal reasons, but musical ones as well. I’ve been wanting to hear DJ Spooky live for years, but somehow never did. His play in a place I like during a jazz festival looked like the perfect opportunity. I saw Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa last year in my first time at the sunset club, one of the first jazz gigs I ever attended and the one that turned my curiosity into genuine appreciation. That made more sense later, when I first heard Steve Coleman and as my usual NY tendencies emerged. Anyway these are people I’d like to hear more, and by now I’m very curious about their other, separate projects.

The one thing I didn’t like about the gig was the footage from Debord’s usual saw, because I’m just tired of it after all these references over the years. But it didn’t matter. Again, I was uncharacteristically close to the stage, for no good reason because there was not much to see anyway, but that probably helped me to ignore the video. Later, there was another video, a sequence of flags fast enough to blur into each other. That struck a chord with me, because there are a bunch of countries that are close to my heart, and I like their separate identities; it’s nationalism I can’t stand, not nationalities. Interacting, evolving yet retaining their personality, it’s also what I like a lot in music, and that was fitting in this setting because that’s exactly what was going on.

But the music was what really mattered, and I liked it a lot. Spooky was better than I hoped he would be, I liked this performance better than anything I heard from him so far — then again, I do prefer gigs to recordings, so it’s no surprise — with a strong hip-hop element that kinda made complete my experience of the whole festival.

Iyer and Mahanthappa didn’t go pure acoustic like last year, so even on their own it was a completely different sound. Overall I liked their thing better than last year, especially Mahanthappa who generally avoided the fast stuff I didn’t like last year and just captured my attention several times. I liked Iyer’s moments in front less, but whenever he was more in the background or all three were more on equal footing, he pulled some amazing stuff.

The best was the way the ensemble just worked. Each had a personal, distinct sound and style, which didn’t disappear in the whole. The whole was better than the parts, but the parts were still there, giving me the best of both worlds, hearing all four at the same time, focusing on one aspect or another, making my way through the sound and enjoying every second of it despite the certainty that I was also missing a lot. This gig left me both happy and hungry for more later, at peace with the past and eager for the future, if only in that department. It doesn’t get any better than this.

September 14, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment