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LIVE SHOW review!

VENUE:  "Traditions", downtown Olympia, WA, 6/27-28/2002

 

     As often happens with th' Olympia Experimental Music Festival, I was unable to attend th' entire event (it went on through the 30th of June - check th' festival calendar for the full schedule of events, at 8th Annual Olympia Experimental Music Festival... age creeping, family obligations & other unexciting things got in th' way... so, what you see covered here is only the first 2 nights (& jam-packed nites they WERE) of th' 8th iteration of this gala event!

 

6/27/02

     Nice quiche (salmon), very friendly atmosphere, chit-chat with Arrington & the Agent (Duckhugger, ya' know)... cider, cool chill, a definite sense of that ol' "hippie retro"... waiting for Jeffrey (Morgan) & Bert (Wilson) to show, as they're 2nd in th' lineup... peruse th' program, Arrington makin' a few last-minute changes (he improvised, IOW)... got to smoke&chat with Mike Bisio (from Seattle), cool rain, E-Z intro... Dick (the owner of Traditions) plays an "Imaginary Band" in th' background (thanks, Dick)... brings sweet mem'ries for me, seemed to be apropos for the fest, methinks... hyper is th' keyword, seems to be "on the edge" of something soon to burst forth... direct view of the "cracked" Capitol, where all the wheels turn, uncreatively, in pursuit of capital for unexperimental purposes... as the room fills to (near) capacity, Bert arrives, Jeffrey in tow, ready ta' rawk... 

     ...announcements, Jen (Kleise) to start off... solo piano... uses lots of silent spaces... sorta' "makes" th' audience slow to a crawl... weaves vox in among the car noises and chords... a nice gentle opener, violin to punctuate; no grand splendor, a musical interlude... moves on to the orchestrals, reminds me (in certain shades) of (John) Alkins, tho' not nearly as generous with th' chords... still revealing, tho', & very introspective... some confusion on schedules & (of course) what to do???  Impro, impro, impro... re-vise, switch 3 with 2 & let Jeff/Bert scope on the vibe before releasing their monstahz'... 

     Bisio (bass), Burns (keys) & Reese (drums) with Mike bowing in the forelight, rovin' on into the night, starts with resonating bass, flow is nice, keys are in warble-mode, drum-set leads a rather rapid move to fever; clear they're very familiar with stratosphere & beyond, GREAT lead-in to the next set, I suspect, & just as smoothly return to the quiet spaces... Mike looks a bit like Garcia reincarnate, but with much larger headspace; if his hair moves any faster (near light-speed), it will drag us all into a wormhole... nice that they can reach the frenetic without blasting the audience... VERY high energies being unleashed on a BEAUTIFUL 2nd set (so Bert was right to wait - but then, he usually is)... this stuff is DOWN where th' nerve-endings grow, & they know how to explore the very core... establish NICE audience contact, move STRAIGHT into the next piece, keeping th' listeners intent... a GREAT group!

     Jeffrey (Morgan, on piano) & Bert (Wilson, on reeds) up next... bird sounds starting, moves to deeper shades of tone very quickly, lil' guy (of HUGE stature) makes his monsterness apparent in rapid fashion, hard to believe how "ready" he is, double-tones all OVER, with a clarity that is hard for any "average" listener to grasp... Jeffrey leads Bert to kosmik zones no (sane) man would ever try to approach in the "real" world; Star Trek happening only feet from the seats of power... this is the REAL power... no floundering, ev'ry note is ON... any who thought the Oly fest to be "going nowhere fast" were dead wrong... this 8th is the most mature yet & you won't get better (or more focused) jazz/experimental than this (on the Left Coast, anyway)... solo piano for a 5 minute stretch, Wilson listens to the outer limits as Jeffrey moves into Warp, celestial alignments becoming visible... Bert puts it into hyper-drive, audience won'dring if they'll ever get out alive... Bert's version of "little ole' fashioned be-bop" will make th' "smooth jazz" fans of the world cringe (or roll over in their graves)... concise deep tones, "smooth" for an improv horn, but disturbing for the normals, to be sure.  Morgan looks & moves like a little troll on th' keys... You can (definitely) hear Bert dancing  against Morgans' solid wall of piano keys... a SHIMMERING performance, masters at work here, to be sure...

     Matthew Goodheart trio (actually, they're called th' "Goodheart (piano & stringboard), Allen (saxophone), Powell (drums) trio), from San Francisco, up next... serpentine start, lots of little shadows, particularly from Powell's drums... great interrupts & flow... Wilson/Morgan were a hard act to follow, but these guys have got it together (in many ways); VERY nice pluck-string stuff on the piano... sax player KNOWS how to punctuate, never late, with super energy, looks a bit out of place in Johnny Cash black-suit (tho' th' ear-rings belie that image) & there CERTAINLY ain't NO "twang" in what they're doin'... VERY tribal impressions... his sax tones are crisp as berries, but with TOTAL body...  some composed & charted pieces, nice in a way, because the build is evident... when Josh "gets" there, though, he arrives blowing th' SOCKS off the whole phroggin' audience!  Powell looks like he's just havin' FUN!  NICE section... knows HOW to use open spaces to punctuate th' music... these guys are HILARIOUS on th' 3rd piece, on which th' drummer starts off with a duck call & a hand horn... 4th piece leans (believe it or not) toward a piano blues... jazzy undercurrents, very tightly integrated with HARD blowing on th' sax... a REAL pleasure to listen to, very mind expanding...

       ...stray thought, MUCH thanks to Arrington, who GOT th' lineup RIGHT...

     Kalisti, a local act from Olympia, featuring Dan Blunck, th' trombone player (Dan Eaton) & double-bass (Nathan Levine); it is definitely "random"... muted bone, smooth interplays, bass digs deep about 1/2 way in, almost in solo mode, VERY effective bowing... light mayhem, charted, but high energy in spaces... really DIFFICULT to be th' last act... great communication between th' players... Dan's horn is deep-sweet, not afraid to tackle the spaces between piano notes th' bass player hits on th' string-board... those who indulged in th' alleyway will HEAR the dialogs... last piece is much more "straight-up" jazz, & their energy is definitely ON with this one... accomplished playing to be sure... you wouldn't hear it on "smooth jazz" station, & that is a COMPLIMENT!   "Color Composition" gets audience attention & is a perfect closer for a nite just brimming with energy!

  

6/28/02

 

     Control R Workshop, guitar (Daron Key) & sax (Randy Sutherland)... guitar player (originally) from Lancaster, CA... lots of lick trades, nothing (at th' start) to drive audience over edges, no sledges, no jackhammer duo... 2nd piece is pure attack mode, on th' crash road, very intent on ranging deeper, sorta' "in-yer'-face" rocket piece, somehow relaxed, despite their red face(s)...  moving to "way outside", some shades of Davey (Williams) lurking there, sparkle-fire glitter in hair, joined by drums (didn't catch his name), trio moves rapidly to high gear, 15-speed, lots of guitar overtones, requires intense ears, drummer creates nightmare visuals with odd facial expressions to punctuate his beats, no lurkers here & if you FEAR, you can't join this workshop, amazing part is they make it seem RELAXED, definitely "talking in tones"... up from Oakland, long way to drive for 4 or 5 songs, but we're grateful they made th' trek...

     John Shiurba Quintet up next, joined by th' drummer from Matthew Goodheart's group, who is total zany, 2 horns (clarinet & soprano sax) with VERY interesting patterns, tho' thee John the Baptist(s) in our society prob'ly wouldn't think so; all chart based, guitar & drums are focal points for sure, horns painting around the edges, BEAUTIFUL quiet stretches, clarinet switch to (of all things) violin (pluck&bow), once again clear that they LIKE having FUN with th' music (& the audience can hear/see that, even if a few ARE scratching their heads)... the piece descends to absolute silence & sound spaces, very relaxing... going for th' FLURRY at th' END, psycho-climax... this drummer is MONSTAH in disguise... definite insect sounds that a grasshopper would consider a symphony, or Unka Frank would groove on as "Jazz From Hell"... it's going to be a HARD ACT to follow...

     Arrington (reeds) & ForgetThingsWith (piano) insert to cover "tech difficulties" by "Cindy Wonderful",; piano is nicely flexible, intense at the same time, makes for a great diversion, assuredly SMOKIN'... Arrington goes off into some (near) TUVA talkin' into th' bell of th' horn & they W-O-W th' audience... a simply brilliant improv duo, total spontaneity & a real "grabber" for audience ears!

     Next up is "Cindy Wonderful", something (I assume) was in th' lineup to "ease th' edge" from th' intensity of all th' experimental music... disco-hip-hop with dollie-dancers, bubbles & a smoke machine to round it all out... lots of cuss, video clips to backup th' "singer"... not totally impressive for me, but then I'm not easy to impress... many in th' audience enjoyed it greatly, took th' tension off, I s'pose... uno's?

     Raymond/Salvatore/Harmon (from Chi-town) follow... some interesting video leads off, scratch & bars, face behind, very interesting; wild child, tho' sloe, plum fuzz impressions, very intricate; definitely bring the ambience back as th' experiment continues & grows the mind higher, feels much like a shroom trip, flowing under minds leaving worry behind & blots out th' taste of th' smoke machine... Ernesto (Diaz-Infante) & th' Abstractions arrive (just in time)... sax behind th' white curtain... once again, th' undermind comes to th' fore, as before, some surreptitious videos & not a nuance is lost on those who can hear th' quiet between the notes, porno film as th' evolvement to th' "basics" of sound & climax, it is an odd juxtaposition of sound & instinct being painted for th' ear, tho' th' images are cruder than they needed to be & I think "passion is in th' music, not th' balls on th' wall"... it is th' tones that are subtle...

     "The Abstractions" lineup is fantastic... Rent Romus (alto/soprano saxes, toys & sounds), Ernesto Diaz-Infante (guitar), Scott R. Looney (percussion & toys), Bob Marsh (vibes/violin/voice) & Jesse Quattro (vocals) open th' last act of the evening with th' opener from their new CD, "Sonic Conspiracy"... it is a celestial blast of energy, radiant & forceful, that lasts only (about) 30 or 40 seconds... but th' audience KNOWS these guys have ARRIVED, to be sure.  Rent invites me (keyboards) & poet 99 Hooker (who one would THINK would be doing poetry, but he comes out with a sax) up to join them!  The rest of the tune (which lasted nearly 45 minutes & yes, I DO  mean just one piece) ventures into some of th' strangest territory I've ever been part of... sections at th' front that have fantastic bursts of energy (as well as a few quieter spaces), but th' magick from th' rocks (here in Olympia) must have invaded Jesse, as her vocals move into a tribal/sensual kinda' "midnight-bluesy" piece that is simply amazing in clarity & scope... audience (from my perspective behind th' keyboards, anyway) is rapt & totally attentive... th' spontaneous composition ends (nearly) 8 times, but those deep & sultry tones continue to emanate from Ms. Quattro, & it turns into a near psychedelic THANG... perfect piece to end th' night with, tho' no-one (including th' players) were quite sure where it came from, or where it was going... 

    As mentioned earlier, other obligations kept me from attending th' rest of the fest, but there was SO much energy generated/used up that I was (also) a bit burnt!  I have no doubt that th' rest of th' acts were just as scorching as those I had the privilege to listen to & hear... my apologies to any acts I didn't get to see/hear/review - I can assure you, it wasn't becoz' I didn't WANT to be there!  

 

     We were VERY happy to receive th' following review(s) of Saturday & Sunday shows from a local writer... tho' th' reviewing/writing style is a bit different (ALWAYS a "good thing"), it captures th' essence & spirit of th' events NICELY... THANKS, NC...

Saturday June 29

     I went alone to the Saturday matinee concert. It was a nice day, so I walked around town when I didn't like the stuff.  Lots of electronica, turntable manipulation (and the breaking of vinyl LPs for the sonic & shock value).  Beat-box Fred (Fred Kellogg--know him?  He does a free-jazz show on KAOS) did a set with a boom-box of (more straight) jazz cuts, which he punctuated with mouth percussion.  It was weird seeing him up there, doing oral drum-hits into a headset mike (beating his foot like he had a kick-drum & hi-hat).  Someone wondered if he ever breathed (he was keeping the sound up so continuously).  I was a little tired, and didn't watch the whole set, just interacted with the Dead Air Fresheners' sax player (who was either in love with me, my soprano sax, - which he coveted deeply - drunk and/or on a lot of drugs - or all of the above).  Fred could have used a greater variety of music, or a more tampered-with recording or something... Someone said he should've used other musicians, and I think some kind of interaction up there would have grabbed my attention more.  I did a hat draw piece with a guy doing creative things with trumpet for a non-trumpet player (most didn't involve actual playing) and a singer (of sorts) on bongos.  I found something to play on soprano sax with them and the Dead Air Fresheners' sax player was so moved (drunk?), he jumped up and started playing (even tho' his name wasn't drawn).  It could've gone somewhere after that, but it would have taken some time, and Chuck Swaim cut us off to go to the next act.   They had to be out of there at 5pm, and Chuck Swaim and the Dead Air Fresheners were the last act.  They were quite an act.  I wasn't sure when it began, or whether it might not have begun during set-up, while the band donned their respective masks (ski masks, tall feathered bird masks and a tribal number with lots of hair) and the sax player tried to get members of the audience to buy his ski mask.  Chuck Swaim didn't have a mask, just his shades and white jacket and his pontificatin' loud voice.  What did he say?  I can't remember!  It was surreal.  If you don't want anyone to remember your words, just have a lot of mayhem going on around you...  The guitarist (in the tribal mask) played from atop his amp.  It wasn't exactly Rock&Roll...there was a drummer (in a ski mask) played all over the set, only played time sometimes.  Meanwhile, on stage left was the horn section: alto sax, didg',  and clarinet/recorder (sometimes the recorder was used as a drumstick upon a guitar & the didg' player hit and shook things as well).  Sometimes it was a coordinated effort, sometimes not--it was improvisation.  Sometimes I could even hear the didg'.  Chuck Swaim's voice, with all it's surreality, cut through it all.

 

     The ambience was very nice at the Limelight on a Saturday afternoon, there were only about 25-30 people, though it was hard to tell because the place is so large.  It was well worth the $4 cover charge...And other downtown businesses made out as well, because while about town, I bought a hat & pair of earrings.

 

     Jeffrey & I saw some worthy things on Saturday eve at Midnight Sun (& in between, we caught Ocho Pies & drank at the Spar).  This show was curated by Michael Griffin, and featured quite a few Bellingham musicians. There was a jar full of earplugs at the door for audience members who wanted them.  A considerate touch...  A-Frequency was literally dangerous.  I'm really surprised no one was injured or electrocuted. Afterwards, Jeffrey & I went to the Spar, figuring it'd take awhile to clean up the stage and air out the place--and missed the next act.  We returned in time for Crank Sturgeon, who came all the way from Portland, Maine.  It was more performance art than music, though there was a sonic element that involved a headpiece made of cardboard, bubble wrap and tuna cans, cheap & homemade electronics and a  lobster-claw harmonica. The performance defies  further description--just see it if you ever get a chance.  The Spooky Dance Band was definitely a dance band, tho' not terribly spooky.  They were a trio of Farfisa organ (where do they dig up these working vintage instruments?!), violin and drums.  They had brought an entourage of dancers with them from B'ham, and the seats were empty.  Everyone was on the floor, surrounding the band and shaking their bodies.  While not exactly "experimental" (even though the organist played some pretty bizarre chords), it was a welcome break--people were ready to get up and dance.  This was followed by 202 Schtrings: not like 101 Strings, it was mainly an improvising group with varying levels of ability.   There were at least a dozen players on stage, all playing violins, violas, and 'cellos.  Most stood, (except for the 'cello players and one violist who played "gamba" style. I think there may have been some pre-arranged moments and textures, tho' I can't say for sure.  I liked them.  It was kind of a relief to hear acoustic music after a bunch of amplified stuff, and the glow of the wooden instruments in the lights imparted a warmth that added to the sound.  The Midnight Sun shows on Sat/Sun night went well after midnight.  We left at 12:45 (after 202 Schtrings) and Noggin, the last act hadn't set up yet. 

 

     I didn't catch much of Sunday night.  Bert Wilson & I saw Andrew Maxwell & Gregory Reynolds, an interesting sax/drum duo.  The drummer played texture more than time, but obviously had studied his rudiments (he could play rolls!), and used them differently.  He got some interesting sounds from hitting the cymbals and immediately stopping them from ringing.  He was all over the set.  The saxophonist began playing by creating a rhythm with shifting his weight on the creaky floor.  The fact that the audience could hear the floor creak while the drums & saxophone were playing is a testament to the dynamic control of this duo.  The saxophonist had a few multiphonic sounds happening, and a few reed & finger tricks that he had worked out, but these two (playing together for the first time in 3 years) had a telepathic groove going on.  forgetthingswith was a guy on a digital piano who sang(?) poetry.  He obviously knew his way around the keyboard and a thing or two about harmony (tho' he might not admit it), and his compositions were primarily pre-composed.  Was it experimental?  Well, it couldn't be pigeonholed as any other kind of music, so may as well call it experimental (the catch-basin for all the "other" kind of music)...I'm regretting that I didn't pick up his CD, because the music deserved more of a listen.  I missed the next 2 or 3 acts--(a transportation mix-up)--but returned later with Jeffrey to hear the Curtains, Xiu-xiu, and Tiny bird mouth.  I may be mixed up, but I believe the Curtains and Tiny bird mouth were electric-guitar/drum set+ vocal kind of indy-rock sort of thing, not really my thing, so I won't comment on it.  Xiu-xiu (I think) was a pair of women moving things around on (metal?) plates that were amplified somehow (but not very much).  It was very quiet and subtle, and (as I arrived in the middle of their set) I couldn't really see what they were doing--but it would unquestionably qualify as experimental!  By this time the show was an hour and 1/2 behind schedule and the last 2 acts, Super Unity group and Wood Paneling hadn't played their sets yet. Too much fun!  But too late for me...I left, and the Midnight Sun was still at least half full.  Overall, I had a good time & I will certainly take in the Experimental Music Festival again.  At the very least, it's a great way to hang with other like-minded weirdos.  I'll be prepared to stay up later, next time...

    

     Happy Independence Day.

        

NC

     YOU owe it to yourself to stay in touch with this festival... no doubt the 9th will be even BETTER!  Once again, you can see th' full calendar for this year's festival by clicking HERE!

 

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If you enJOYed this LIVE review, please e-mail us at   rotcod@attbi.com  tell us so... & if you DIDN'T enjoy it... tell us THAT, too, eh?

 

Rotcod Zzaj

    

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