Gigs, dance, art

September 25th, 2010: Hofesh Schechter – Political Mother

@théatre de la ville

That was my second time seeing Hofesh Schechter‘s work, but I’m already a fan. There are things I don’t like so much in what he does — the pomo attitude can get a bit overwhelming — but there are so many things I love, and I get a sense of something developing and growing, something that is rooted in the present and getting to shape a possible future of dance. Not by being something radically new, but by striking a nice balance between new and old. I don’t know what will come out of it in the long run, but I’m very keen on seeing where it ends up going.

On the pure dance side, he’s just as talented as I thought for group sections. The way subgroups emerge and melt back into other patterns was proof of an amazing mastery of one the things I like best in dance. I’m seriously impressed. I’d like him to combine that with a little more individuality from the dancers, but that may come later. For all I know it’s there already, maybe I just need more time to pick up those details. Of course it’s likely to be there in the latter sense, but what I’d love would be to see that side brought on by the choreographer, intentionally, not just by his accepting the dancers’ contributions. I hope this grows, and I hope I can see this — or something else — make its way into his language.

Again there were a few quotes from earlier works — and I’ve only seen Uprising and In Your Rooms, so it had to have been obvious — and a few sequences that went a little too far on the pomo side for me. The rock concert, political rally or empty stage parts felt a little too isolated, a little too smart. Maybe I missed what tied these into the piece though, I may have grown over-sensitive to post-modern poses.

I want to single out Lee Curran for the lighting. Amazing job, maybe even more striking than last year. The lighting was at least as much a component as the music, and was at least an extra dancer or two on its own. I think the live music was designed to grab attention, even though the few moments of silence or sudden change outlined that dance was really what it was all about. I liked that. A lot. The music was driven and definitely no wallpaper, but it knew its place as support. Not that that means it has to be boring, but it shouldn’t become a distraction either.

Here’s hoping Hofesh Schechter will become a regular in this venue, because I’m so hooked by now. The most addictive thing in his work is that I get the sense the best is yet to come. He seems very — maybe overly — aware of what he’s building, but the good side is that he seems to be building something anyway, and that would be a great sign on its own. Coming from someone who clearly have been fed the pomo kool-aid, it’s even more promising.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

September 16th, 2010: Melt-Banana / Circle


I’m still kicking myself over missing Circle when their music was more of the repetitive stuff I like best, but that lineup was too good to miss. Their set was weird in that it mixed over-the-top elements — dress, acting and some of the music — with music that was too good to be just a joke. It featured a lot of visual nods to seventies-to-eighties heavy metal, a fact most prominent when the four guitar/bass player came together for a choreography worthy of a spinal tap outtake — each dressed as a different cliche. The singer was covering the white-leather-and-cap gayish angle, and went into a few spells of slow-motion running that were more than a little ridiculous.  But even when they were most in character, the music was too good for it to be a post-modern joke, there had to be some appreciation for the genre in there, with just enough self-confidence to be able to joke at the cheesiest part of it too. They did have a couple of lapses into slower and — for me — more interesting music during the set, but I did enjoy the whole set, though I probably wouldn’t sign for another dose of that.

Melt-Banana‘s set started with just two of set on stage, in the dark, sporting head-lamps and playing samplers. Just as hectic, but with a different edge, a little less punk and somehow rawer, despite the medium. The rest of the set went back to the usual format. That is to say there were every bit as good as when I saw them first, but it did last longer, to my delight. Punk energy and intensity with a lot of interesting stuff at work too, I love that. Note to self: next time I should pay more attention to the bass. Again, I had to hear people saying they were down a few notches from their earlier days. I don’t believe that, but even if it’s true, I don’t care, because they’re still more than good enough for me to want more.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

September 12th, 2010: David Murray – The Last Poets – The Roots

@la villette

The show was called “tongues on fire”, and was a tribute to the black panthers. David Murray did a great job of staying consistent with the musical spirit of that era, but as it’s not one I’m fond of, that was my loss too. But it all made sense, and that’s not so easy and was critical for it not to become a complete joke — a definite threat with the overwhelmingly white and affluent audience the ticket price all but guaranteed.

The Last Poets were amazing, very much worth all the praise I’d read and heard over the years. That part of the show made it all worth it, and far outweighed the relative disappointment I got out of the overall thing.

The Roots were OK, but I felt they were a little bit too respectful. ?uestlove remains very good, and I’m glad I finally got to hear him live, but it’s still a bit of a letdown. I guess they had reasons to tone it down playing with The Last Poets, but I’m sure they could have been a bigger part of it to no ill effect. Vernon Reid was a little too present for me, though that kinda made sense too, as he does have roots in that musical era.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

September 11th, 2010: France Sauvage / Oso El Roto / Fusiller / Ero Babaa


A surprisingly quiet set from Ero Babaa. The good side is that it was a little bit more interesting than usual on the musical side, but the drawback was that it was more like two threads side by side. Then again, maybe that was just me not being used to that.

Fusiller’s set was pretty cool. Not really alien to what he does as part of Opera Mort, but I got the feeling it didn’t go as far as it could/should have. I’d like to hear him play with TG for some reason.

As usual with Oso El Roto, I suspect whether I like the set or not is really mostly about my own mindset. I guess I was in the right mood. His starting outside on voice only was nice. Some of his songs are familiar to me by now, and I don’t like that much. I guess I shouldn’t see him too often then.

At first I didn’t like France Sauvage, but by now I think I get it. I remember them being more elaborate somehow, but I like their intensity. Maybe it was always there and nothing changed but my perception. No matter why, I like them a lot now.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

September 10th, 2010: Napoleon Maddox


If there’s any silver lining to my being so late in posting this, it’s in my being able to say this was my favorite show of the festival. It worked way beyond my expectations, because they managed to strike a very precious balance. Each component — Sophia Domancich, Napoleon Maddox, and Bellatrix and the Boxettes — had an opportunity to shine on its own, while still being a unit when it mattered, and striking a perfect balance between being true to themselves and paying tribute to Nina Simone. I guess it’s just impossible to do the latter without the former, and I just think doing it right is a real challenge. In my book they did pull it off.

Sophia Domancich was left to dispatch the French minefield on her own at one point, and she did OK even though I wish they had skipped that part altogether. I liked that part, but I wish I could have heard her on something less charged. I guess she took one for the team. My loss so far, maybe my gain if it gets me to hear her on her own.

Bellatrix had a few totally amazing spells; I just want to hear her again. Her band is just a genius idea, they have different voices that mesh just right. I’d love to hear them on their own show, doing their own thing.

Napoleon Maddox had a great forefront spell when he brought instant relevance to Nina Simone’s legacy, and he managed to pull it all together into something more than a tribute. More like a celebration and a taking over of what she did, embracing the inconsistencies. All of the above, and then some. A riot called Nina indeed, and that riot is raging on, even if Nina isn’t. How perfect.

September 18, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

September 9th, 2010: Antipop Consortium

@point éphémère

I don’t like the place much these days, but I like enough of what Antipop Consortium does to overcome that. Beans wasn’t there, but I’m not sure that changed the outcome all that much for me. They do different things, and what I liked and didn’t like was pretty much what I expected.

My favorite parts were the instrumental ones, which featured intricate sample-based rhythms. Sometimes it felt on the brink of breaking down, but they always found a way to pull it off. In a sense that was closer to the most interesting electro than to hip-hop proper. Then again, what I like in that band is not really the times they stay close to what hip-hop is supposed to be.

No surprise either that I didn’t like the times they got closer to melodic singing, that’s my usual reaction. And as MCs I think they’re far from being my favorites. But they make up for that with all-around creativity. That side was there, but I think like them better on records. The brilliance that they can show there doesn’t translate fully to the stage in my opinion.

September 11, 2010 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

September 4th, 2010: Abraham Inc. / Push Up!

@cité de la musique

Tentatively restarting this thing. The private version is much more fun to me though, so it may very well be a short-lived attempt.

I’m really not all that much into funk, so this concert was a stretch. Push Up!’ s set had a narrative side I didn’t like much, but also something blue-collar in its mix of grinding repeated patterns and cheerful escapism. Interesting. That had me listening to Mr Fine Wine’s compilations looking for something different. I still think the performers’ timing wasn’t that great, but they conveyed something to me, and that was nice. But it was all funk and that music is out of my reach.

Abraham Inc. was a mix of jazz, funk, hip hop and klezmer. All of them were good musicians, but the result was a mixed bag. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it fell a little flat, or just one part came out while the other influences were muted. Surprisingly, I had little affinity with the hip-hop side. SoCalled had great moments on melodica, but he otherwise didn’t bring the edge I was expecting. And the MC never really jelled with the rest of the band in my opinion. He was OK on his own, but it felt too separate. All of them were good as musicians, but funk often turned into a too mild middle ground, even though guys like Fred Wesley or David Krakauer are definitely able to find each other in more challenging territory. Krakauer is really good — not exactly breaking news — and my favorite moments were those when he was clearly taking things over. I just wonder whether a more avowedly imbalanced project with him squarely in control wouldn’t have turned more free, trading a duty to give equal consideration to other styles to doing at least the same just because that’s what he does and makes him and everyone richer in the process.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment