Gigs, dance, art

March 24th, 2009: The Ex / Ililta Band

@café de la danse

My main motive in going there was that Mesele Asmamaw was part of the Ilalta Band, because he had been great when he played with the late Mohammed Jimmy Mohammed. Asnake Gebreyes was the third member of that trio and he was there too, so it looked very promising. And the show was great indeed. Mesele Asmamaw and Asnake Gebreyes played the first couple of songs on their own, with the latter singing, and this opening was just beautiful. Then Chalachew Ashenafi joined them, singing and played masinqo, and even though he doesn’t have the charisma Jimmy had, he’s a very talented musician and this was so good I was left wondering at the lack of warmth of the audience. After a couple of songs he left the stage for a few others before coming back for the last few ones. The music got progressively faster and more upbeat, and at long last I was no longer isolated in clapping. They turned on their showmen selves to bring everyone standing and singing, which probably is second nature to them. Great show, despite the not ideal setting.

I was curious about Arnold de Boer being the new singer for The Ex. It promised to be very different and it was. He had the good idea to be himself and not try to ape G.W. Sok at all, which was good because he would have been hard pressed to reach that level of intensity and authority. He was in front and center, and was probably closer to singing that anything I heard from The Ex. Right now I’d say I liked it better before, but it will definitely take some getting used to, and I wasn’t there to think about the past. His obvious difference helped a lot in that respect, and the only time I was annoyed by his voice was at the very end, during Theme From Konono, and really that was because I felt he missed the point of the parts that were an obvious reference to Konono n°1. His playing guitar definitely brings something to the band, probably making Andy Moor and Terrie Ex even freer to explore, but bringing a new sound as well. I’d say it’s a good thing, but I felt the set was a bit too consistent and lacked some of the change in direction I’ve seen them pull off before. Time will probably help with that, and the set was good enough to have me willing to come back for more next time.


March 27, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

September 12th, 2008: The Ex & Getatchew Mekuria

@cabaret sauvage

Before the gig itself, there was a stationary marching band — if that makes sense — in front of the venue, the final performance after a master class by the Surnatural Orchestra. The conducting in itself was quite interesting, both from the gestures and from the fact that a musician would at times leave his or her instrument behind for a while to conduct. The music was better than I would have expected from such a project, with my favorite moment when there were some voices involved. I guess I would have been getting more impatient if I hadn’t seen Terrie Ex, Colin McLean, Getatchew Mekuria and Melaku Belay still hanging out outside nearby.

I know it’s my fourth time seeing The Ex this year, and I saw them with Getatchew less than one year ago. But it just doesn’t get old. And even though I usually sulk in the back of any venue, I again ended up right next to the stage. That was deliberate, and for the most part because of Melaku Belay and my being vertically challenged. For the most part, it was pretty close to last year’s performance, and thus to the most excellent record they cut together. In my opinion, it was even better.

There were many reasons for that. Xavier Charles was a factor, especially a rousing solo that Getatchew seemed to enjoy. Speaking of which, he again seemed so happy to be here, enjoying his and the others playing, his interactions with each of the others was a heartwarming sight. And anyway, Getatchew Mekuria alone is well worth hearing, as he proved when he performed a solo, and another time with just Katherina. But the best was when all were involved, with different elements just working so amazingly well together, from the Terrie/Andy sonic fights to Jos’ commanding voice to the warm brass sound.

And then there was Melaku Belay. His first appearance was all about shoulder shaking, and he even brought a guy from the audience on stage, possibly from Ethiopia as well from the shoulder moves. His second involved an amazing display of balance while throwing his legs up and front, and of humor when he grabbed his outstretched leg and air guitared with it while Terrie and Andy were in full swing. He’s great as a dancer, but what made his performance so special for me was his interacting with the others. And that reached a climax with his next appearance, with a stick and a curved knife. What he did with those was good enough, but when he handed the stick to G.W. Sok and they spent some time moving in synch that image was a perfect summary of what made this performance special.

Nothing at all like the arranged weddings world music stuff can be made of, this was a real meeting of real people who are both open and confident enough to be themselves and interact in a way that enriches everyone, including lucky bystanders like me. The only regret I have is of not having been convincing enough to have people I care about come and see this. Maybe some did, but I don’t think so.

September 13, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

January 18th, 2008: The Ex & guests / Api Uiz

@instants chavirés

Final day of this series. Even more people were left out this time; I would usually feel bad about hogging tickets like this, but not this time. Had it been The Ex alone, once would have been enough. But I really enjoyed the various combination in the other sets, and that’s why I wanted to get more of that.

The opening set featured Christine Sehnaoui on saxophone, Clayton Thomas on double bass, and Wolter Wierbos on trombone. This time I moved up front and that proved a good move as the set was great. One of the very best of the three days, with each performer doing something I just loved along the way.

Then came a shorter set with Andy Moor, Terrie Ex, and Ian from Api Uiz. Complete change of mood there, three guitars and full speed mayhem, and I mean that in a good way.

Then Anne-James Chaton read three of his “events”. I didn’t like that much, as usual. I’m fine with hearing one, but then it’s just too much of the same, with that monotone reading and a booming loop of a short phrase as background.

Api Uiz delivered a good set, even though there were some awkward pauses. They were joined halfway by Emma Fisher who painted on sheet of papers taped to the wall. Fun, but it must have been hard on them because of the smell. I think I would have enjoyed it more in another setting, though. It was markedly different from the rest of the sets, and a bit too predictable. Then again, that comes from familiarity.

Afework Negussie again did a solo set before being joined by Clayton Thomas, Katherina Ex and Andy Moor. It was too close to the sets of the previous days, which means good but I was really spoiled at that point.

For a fitting finale, The Ex started alone, then were joined by Wolter Wierbos and Clayton Thomas, with Christine Sehnaoui and Anne-James Chaton added for in the event. Again, it was a high intensity set, which more than made up for the occasional slips. They performed some songs that they already had the previous days, but that’s fine with me as they were favorites.

January 20, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

January 17th, 2008: The Ex & guests

@instants chavirés

Second day. Why go again? Different sets, different people, and new combinations of people that were here the day before. About five sets this time, even though it’s not really that clear cut.

First came Andy Moor, Anne-James Chaton and Colin McLean. At least I was told the latter was there, I didn’t see him; I guess he was seated in a corner, I’m too small to see that. I was fearing the worst, having been bored before by Chaton’s reading of ATM tickets or such. But it turned out OK, even real good at times, thanks in part to Andy Moor, but even the layering of snippets of speech did work on its own.

Then Terrie Ex did a short solo set, a pedal to the metal affair that changed the mood of the evening to a punkier, messier one for a while.

Then a composite “set”, or maybe three of them, go figure. First it was just Katherina Ex and Christine Sehnaoui. Good mix once it got started, really different style meshing and converging while keeping clearly separate. Then Afework Negussie did a few songs on his own, before being joined by Katherina Ex and Christine Sehnaoui. Problem was that I couldn’t hear much of what the latter was doing, it was just drowned out, and that got worse when Clayton Thomas and Andy Moor joined them for the last song of the set. It was dynamic and pretty good, but I think I liked yesterday’s set better.

Two guys from Api Uiz — no drums — did a very short set, more like one song, then left the stage to Clayton Thomas on double bass, Wolter Wierbos on trombone, and G.W. Sok on vocals. Wierbos was impressively good; that set was closer to the regular improvisation sets I’m used to, and proved very interesting.

I would say the final set — The Ex without any guest tonight — was even more on the punk side than the first night. Maybe that was just me being closer to the stage for a while; but I doubt it. So that tops the previous day as the most energetic performance I ever saw them deliver. I can’t wait for the final evening.

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

January 16th, 2008: The Ex & guests / ZEA

@instants chavirés

First gig of the year. Actually it was day one of a three-day series of concerts curated by The Ex. I originally planned to go only on Friday, but I was getting restless with my not having been to a single gig in close to one month. So now I might just go to all three. It was that good.

The first set featured Terrie Ex, Andy Moor and Christine Sehnaoui. The guitars were often close to the dueling moments of many The Ex concerts, but the saxophone added a nice twist. In return, the more melodic bend of the guitars — as well as the louder sound — made her play in a more assertive way than the last time I saw her. A good thing for me because it was different, and because I’m getting weary of the barely audible whispers of that Lebanese improv scene.

Then it was ZEA, a duo from the Netherlands. Guitar/voice and keyboard/electronics, kind of a bouncing pop with an edge. I was not expecting much from a couple of videos I had seen while checking out the lineups, but I was pleasantly surprised. Energetic and far more interesting than expected. Maybe that break just proved good for me, making me more open.

The third set started with Afework Negussie alone on voice and Masenqo, a single string bowed instrument with a square resonator. I’m really coming to dig Ethiopian music these days, so I enjoyed this a lot. Even more so when he was joined by Clayton Thomas on double bass and especially Katherina Ex. I just love her play, so the combination was just gravy to me.

And finally The Ex took the stage, featuring Colin McLean — former member of Dog Faced Hermans — who just got me on his side from the start by wearing a Public Enemy T-shirt. As usual, they were great. The smaller venue probably played a part in my feeling that set was the most intense of the few times I’ve seen them so far. Short, but very good indeed. So how could I just go home and miss the other two now?

January 17, 2008 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