It turns out that Saint N can't play Club Cafe tonight, so there'll be a special spur-of-the-moment Stoic Sex Pro set at 8PM. We'll also have (unless the karma gets *really* bad) Vampire Nation and Cutups.
I hadn't expected to do this gig, as I'd booked it a while ago, and the principals seemed to be ripe for the gig--Fredrik asked to be booked, Goeff also asked (and was having his Club Cafe debut a month late, as he'd gotten sick the last time), and Peter now works at Club Cafe (or soon will). I got down to the club, and found...nobody. That was ok, but as time went on...it got disturbing. Eventually some of the Vampire Nation posse appeared in the house to my relief, and I figured Geoff would show (because if he couldn't, he'd email and I'd posted the show to both lists he's on). But Peter was the unknown...so I called. And it turned out that he'd just arrived back from a camping vacation that day, and was too tired. Happily I had the PowerBook on me.
Geoff and the other VN crew came in, so I knew we were good for the show. I led off, and actually had a pretty good set. I first did a sample-only version of "The Apparition," which actually worked, although was somewhat overloaded at times (hence its new title, "The Clipparition"). Then I did a longer piece involving some beats and samples I've been dropping into things, which veered from beaty to ambient and disturbing. I did about a half hour, and it was well-received. I had fun.
Geoff's set of turntablism was also a lot of fun, working in some unlikely records, good sample and holds, and ended with an unusual choice--a two-platter extended version of "Blinded by the Light."
The Vampire Nation set went well, particularly as I now knew the board better than I had the first night (VN's first night as a full band). Denny dropped by to help with the sound, but it turned out that Fredrik wasn't playing the drum kit. Instead they just gave me stereo out and I mic'd the vocalist--quite easy compared to their first night on the Monday series back in April. And the audience seemed to dig it, too.
Overall, a decent commando set.
It's a week off of Club Cafe, so what do I do? Play two shows in quick succession, that's what. This one, an Evening of Eclectic Music, will be with Mr. Funky (as Unfinished Symphonies), no less. I'm cultivating this new space, so this is something of a try-out gig. We have...
* The electro vinyl grooves and keyboard avant-garderie of DJ Translator (a Lawrenceville homeboy!)
* The witty and urbane phony organ excursions of Unfinished Symphonies
* A set veering between ambience and beat, courtesy of Stoic Sex Pro. (I almost made this an Asian Porn Bots show, but thought the [relative] better of it.)
If you haven't seen us in a while, we sure could use you in the audience. So come on out, check out this happening coffee shop with ultra-hip furniture (for sale!). And have a listen to the deep eclecticism of the scene.
COCA Coffee Lounge, 3811 Butler St., Lawrenceville, 7-9:30 PM. All ages, $3.
This was a good evening. It didn't begin as ideally as it could've, but it all worked out. The snags were largely mine--I was running late, and didn't get to Greg's (Translator) place in time to help him load the PA, and I was the last one to the venue, at about 6:40. That pushed our start time a little late, but we didn't have much audience in the house apart from us, Janice the owner, her assistant, and Manny, who I brought down to the show.
The stage at Coca's pretty small, too small for more than one person to be set up on it at the same time, so Greg got partially set up and put his stuff to the side, Rob put his keyboard and pedals at the front of the stage, and I grabbed a small table for one and moved it in front of Rob, down on the floor. Due to setup time and the audience issue, I wasn't quite ready to go until 7:30, but that seemed like a fair start time.
Greg's PA was nice to have in the house, as I could get stereo (which one can't with the small PA at Kiva Han). All the pieces I did this evening were guitar going through Girl, with which I'm finally getting comfortable. The general operating parameter of these pieces is that there are four delays, each of a different length and related in some way to a bpm count (which could be very slow--80 bpm in the first piece, 60 in some later ones), and three of which are ring modulated with a control frequency in just intonation to the key in which I'm playing.
In the case of the first piece, I decided to work with A440 and related frequencies. This one was rather ambient, and I spent a lot of my time just building the frequency cloud. Shortly after I'd started, Janice came over to take a look at what I was doing and ask about the software. I was going direct, and was able to sit back at times to let the cloud change, so I was able to talk a bit to her and everyone else in the room. Manny missed this one, preferring to walk around and check out the neighborhood.
She asked if I'd been a music major (of course the answer was no, although I realize now that I had a music minor), which struck me as an interesting thing to ask. Curiously, none of us playing were music majors. I think she may have been trying to contextualize what it is I do, and to work out how a person would have arrived at the point of doing this kind of abstract music. The answer is difficult to pin down, but I think one must have always felt a drive toward cultural extremes. There's some internal guiding principle one consults when determining whether one's working on something worthwhile, what the goals are, what the next step might be, and for me that sense of rightness has taken me here. (Doubtless that principle's been informed by what other people have worked on, if I've liked the execution or the conception of what they've done.) This question's on my mind anyway, as I'm rereading Harry Partch's Genesis of a Music, the early parts of which are concerned with these things in particular. While there's much to disagree with in places, it's still worth reading (particularly in my case for the tuning information).
I kept building up the textures, decreasing the note duration and increasing the number of notes per unit time, until at one point I decided to shift the ring modulation frequencies to one of La Monte Young's "Dream Chords" (as described in his liner notes to The Second Dream of the High-Tension Step-Down Transformer (Gramavision). I really need to work with these some more, as well as intervals based on higher-limit ratios--I'm not familiar enough with their effects (particularly in ring modulation) to be able to make intelligent decisions about when to use which chords or intervals. It'll come in time, I'm sure (and that's why I'm reading the Partch). It worked in a way, but I ended up switching back to other frequencies I'd used before which served as an element of resolution, anyway.
I followed this up with a shorter piece based on E330, into which I'd dropped some samples (thonks and radio) and beats (beat-matched to the delays). I haven't listened back to it, but I think it might have had some success. I'd noticed Rob nodding in time, and he said that if he was the dancing type, he'd have gotten up for that one. I did make an effort at changing them up a little, and the slow tempo helped me avoid unnecessary glitches.
For the last piece, I decided to haul out "Tone Beating," which I don't think I've done in a year or more. (I might have done it at Backward on Forward (R.I.P.) last September, though. I'll have to check.) This decision came out of my realization that I could run BackToBasics and Girl at the same time, as well as Ben Cox telling me that "Tone Beating" and "The Apparition" were favorite pieces of his. So I opted to do this one, even though Ben wasn't at the show. It was probably for the best, actually, as I wasn't overly thrilled with the version I did. I knew there'd be glitches, as OS 9 Classic Mode audio will throw them whenever there's a window redraw in OS X, and while I expected them, they didn't belong in this piece. Fortunately, this is one I can easily do in Girl, since it doesn't require quick sample changes. I was also sloppy with the slide and Ebow, so there were incidental noises I didn't want, and I wasn't particularly smooth with the delay modulation, either. Now that I'm thinking about it, of course, I really want to get this piece working well in Girl. Even with those snags, I had some nice beating going on in the room, and Rob later told me that it was his favorite piece of mine that evening.
By this time, we'd had a few arrivals, including (briefly) cartoonist Rob Rogers, who came in with his dog. (I'd figured that "Tone Beating" might scare the poor thing, though.) Ultimately, I was reasonably happy with the set. I settled back and checked out Rob's set, during which Greg's neighbors dropped by (more paying customers!). In my excitement, however, I'd asked a few other people if they were here for the show; it turned out that in one case they were picking up Janice's assistant, and in the other it was another employee coming on shift. Oops. Manny checkied himself out of Rob's set, too, deciding to investigate some potential performance spaces in the neighborhood.
Rob's set was a good one. Unusually (or so it seemed to me), he concentrated on more thoughtful, pensive songs at the beginning of the set, and generally kept the tempo slower. He mixed up the vocal and instrumental selections (notably his "Summertime" composition), and that turned out to give him a nice showcase for the cafe. Janice quite dug his playing and his singing as well. Rob also incorporated a mini microphone blast into one of the tunes, which he drew out with some manually modulated delayed vocals--very cool. During his set, I also got a chance to talk to Rob Rogers (who'd come back without his dog) and also try some gourmet pizza from the pizza place a couple doors down. Very good lunch pizza--thin crust, not greasy, fresh ingredients. I recommend it.
At the end of his set, since we had a few more people in the house, Rob suggested that I do a short piece so that our later arrivals could hear what I was doing. I did about an eight-minute piece (based on C, as I recall), and concentrated on the guitar techniques--volume swells, Ebow, building up the cloud by tremolo picking, that sort of thing. The results felt pretty good to me, and I managed to sell Rob Rogers a CD (the Unindicted Co-Conspirators) on the strength of it.
Greg was up next, and did another classy, well timed and textured set. His sets were good to begin with, but they're getting even better. While he'd debated using the keyboard on the small stage, I was glad he did. He has a very nice reverberant piano tone on the keyboard which works very, very well with the reverbed vinyl, and it adds up to groovy hangout music of a worldly (and slightly romantically melancholy) swankerie. I hung out on one of the comfortable chairs, read more of Genesis of a Music, talked with Rob Rogers, Robert Press, and Manny, who'd come back from his peregrinations appropriately wined (an opening) and dined (the same opening, plus somehow having received a box of Krispy Kremes) for free. He offered me a Krispy Kreme, which was very generous of him, but I declined--I'd already eaten dinner, had a couple slices of pizza, a small mocha...somehow a Krispy Kreme on top of that seemed like the kind of excess best avoided.
Greg's set ended around 9:30, and we hung out a bit with Janice, her employee (whose name I've shamefully had drop out of my head), and the audience. Janice bought the last of this batch of plunderphonic poem singles (which proved to be touchy in the CD changer) and the Unindicted Co-Conspirators disc. We also discussed the possiblity of having Rob and me back to play one or more of the Sunday brunches this summer. Particularly nice from her point of view was that we're capable of controlling our volume, and it was a good night for me that way as well, since there was no need to put in the hearing protectors.
So we ended the evening with some money in our pockets (from CD sales and from the door), the promise of further shows, some additional meetings and connections between people...pretty good. We helped Greg load up the truck, and later met him at his place (only a few blocks away) to help unload, see his fly setup, and have a beer. Afterwards, we repaired to Kelly's for further conversation, another advantage of an early show. Here's to more of these.
I'll be providing sound effects and ambient intermission music for Mr. & Mr$ Funky's rock opera The Transmogrification of the Working Poor, which will be performed for one night only at this venerable venue. There will be performances by the aforementioned Funkies, the titular Working Poor themselves, The White Stripes of Joy (a Funky take on kitschy Christian rock), and the infamous musical brutality of Soiler. And they'll all be acting, too. (There's an actual script for this!)
Given the sound guy's proclivity for rolling in at about 10:15, I'd say that showtime's probably 10:30. The show will run...for at least a couple of hours, I'd think, since all those above bands are playing several songs.
So come on out! You have nothing to lose but the obscure in-group references!
31st & Penn, the Strip District, Pittsburgh
For something new, since there's a lot of downtime for me in this show, I'm blogging it live. At the moment, we're heading into the Working Poor's second song. So far, so good from my point of view--the first transmogrification (Tommy Amoeba's appearance, transformed as he is from a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon) went well despite my coming in a little late. (I'd expected Mr$ Funky to throw the can before I came in, but she was waiting for me.) Still, it worked out. I'd used Thonk on several environmental sound sources for the appropriate otherworldly vibe, concluding with a great cheesy orchestra sting from a '50s film.
The evening began late, as it always does at the 31st St. Pub, so my wife (who was on spotlight for the dramatic sections) and I arrived at the bar at about 9:30. I set up in a corner of the soon-to-be crowded stage, by the door to the backstage room (the private dance room for the bar's pre-8pm activities). I managed to commandeer one of the high bar tables for the laptop, so I could play standing up. After a quick setup, it was just hang-out time until soundcheck, then hang-out time after my quick check. I had a chance to hand out some flyers for Friday's show, talk to Manny and a few others, and just get in the right frame of mind.
Happily, the overture Rob wrote for the opera is a powerful one--you could feel the energy in the room. The energy, sadly, was quickly dissipated when Alan and Lee from the Working Poor started speaking their lines. The problem was, they weren't delivering their actual lines, even though they had scripts in front of them, and the scenario the script was designed to set up was never made clear. But after a delay and some chaos, they got through their first shambling, folky, low-rent poetic song, and things started coming back together--particularly with the first appearance onstage of Dave Mansueto as Scratch. Every time I've seen Dave, at the one Roboto show doing a reverse-drama, at the Monday Talk-Talk, at Mr & Mr$ Funky's Big Show, at all of these he's been brilliant.
I'd noticed through some of the dialogue that sometimes Patricia was able to make the lighting cues, but other times not. It turned out that she was struggling against a really faulty battery-powered spot, which worked for about two seconds and then cut out. Bummer. But we were all doing our best.
We went through several more transitions between dialogue and the Working Poor doing their songs, until the end of act 1, at which point there was another transmogrification I had to provide sound for--when the Working Poor become the White Stripes of Joy (with Rob and Marty in red t-shirts, and Rob in a black moptop wig). This transition sounded pretty good, but the sound guy took the lights down and left them off a bit longer than ideal, leaving us with some dead air in the darkness after the orchestra sample. Ah well.
Then we were at intermission, which was my time to do an ambient guitar thing. I opted to do multiple ring-modulated delay volume swells, much like what I'd been doing with the Unindicted Co-Conspirators. I'd set this up well in advance to avoid the long tweaking session, and was able to get to it quickly. What also helped was having all my transmogrification samples in BackToBasics. Since I'd found that I was also able to have Girl open at the same time, the changeover worked exactly as I'd hoped. It's also promising for the future--I don't have to kill my old set completely. I'd also prepared some drum loops slowed down to 80 bpm to match the ambience, but the intermission was short--"one beer length" as the script puts it--and after three and a half minutes, it was time to end it, and I couldn't drop 'em in. For something else new, I was recording stereo to disk, which worked out well, apart from my forgetting to start recording when I started playing and so cutting off the first thirty seconds or so.
So the White Stripes of Joy came back to do their energetic set of parodies. Rob really has a gift for this, and the set was brilliant. Then we were to do a more complex transition--the transmogrification would go halfway, with Soiler on stage with Rob as Jack Joy, and Chip (Soiler's vocalist) saying "Hey--" and then the transition to go the rest of the way. Sadly, the sound guy wasn't briefed, or didn't anticipate it, or something, and Chip didn't do the line, so I just hit the orchestra sting. Soiler were also supposed to do an innocuous song before the next dialogue section, but they just sort of did the tuning up rumbling before Dave stepped in with the next scene, which came together well enough to get us to the first actual Soiler tune, "Two-Headed Girl."
In the dialogue after the tune, one of Scratch's line was "That girl with two heads--what choice does she have?" I'd wanted to say, "a two-headed girl has four choices," but I didn't want to derail the scene. Next up was a death-metal interpretation of a Ramones tune, "I'm Not Jesus." While I couldn't see the crowd well from where I was, Soiler definitely seemed to clear the place out. The band's really tight, over which Chip does his sort of GG Allin-lite act of dissolution. At one point during the set, Soiler's drummer said, "Hey computer dude, what are we playing next."
A few tunes later (another Tommy Amoeba tune and another couple Soiler tunes), Soiler finally managed to offend God, and so Mr$ Funky had them stop. At this point the script had her zapping Chip, so I got to supply further zapping sound effects. There was a final transformation of Tommy back into a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, and then the Working Poor were to come back on for another tune...but we couldn't wake up the bassist, who was out cold on the floor of the room backstage. With this final obstacle, we called it a night. Patricia and I had fun, but I think Mr. Funky was a bit disappointed at the underperformance of the script. Still, we all got paid and had a reasonably good time. And then there's another show tomorrow.
Monday June 16 at Club Cafe, a special Bloomsday edition of Wired Mondays, featuring Life In Balance!
They'll be doing a new pennywhistle piece in addition to their textured and meditative shakuhachi/singing bowls/electronics. Following that, an improv with Stoic Sex Pro!
Note the new time: we're starting at 10 PM sharp, following the Bloomsday readings. (If you don't know what that is, you now have about two days to read Ulysses.) It's over at 11. Due to the abbreviated evening, we're charging a mere $2! Who else would work for $2 an hour? It's 21+, as if you didn't know by now.
A weird night, but nonetheless with some positive points. As of late morning, I learned that Life in Balance wouldn't be playing--based on the few details we knew about how long the readings would take, they didn't think they'd have enough time to load in and do the appropriate soundcheck. A quick check of these things suggested that yep, there wouldn't be the kind of time they'd like. So I decided to do a solo set and see how that would work out.
I'd wanted to snag some environmental sounds, which meant repairing the binaurals--the left channel had stopped working, a problem traceable to the cable for the left mic element. I took it apart, and found that...the problem wasn't just a bad wire, but rather the whole contact having broken off the element. Great. I was, however, able to solder it, although there's no telling how long it'll hold.
I headed down to the club early, as I didn't want to load in while people were reading (a process that started at 7:30, according to the flyer I'd picked up the previous night.) I loaded in, explained to the bartender that yep, we were doing an event after the readings, and got set up. Soon enough, people began to filter in, so I got the requisite Guinness and an appetizer which would serve as dinner, and then armed the MiniDisc to record some bar sounds. Enough people had gathered, and it was time to read, so I parked myself behind the soundboard to snag parts of the reading as they happened.
There were two readings, one from the Gertie MacDowell section, and one from Molly Bloom's soliloquy--both quite nice, and I did get some good sounding samples, apart from some weird loose ground phenomenon going on with the PowerBook and the board. It was interesting to listen to them over and over again to edit them while the rest of the reading was still going on. The readings wrapped up at around 9, an hour earlier than I expected. So it looked like Life in Balance could have played, but then...pretty much all the Joyceans filed out, and only a few people were left by 10. Arguably I could have started at 9, but I'd told people that I'd start at 10, so I hung out for an hour. (None of the people who'd heard the 10 figure actually showed up, so I lost that wager.)
All the emptiness notwithstanding, I went on when I'd said I would. There were some people in the house who had come in after the readings, so I explained what I was going to do. I had to turn way, way down, though--the level I got during soundcheck was much hotter than the room required. Very soon after I'd started, one of the women from the audience got up on stage and asked if I minded her looking over my shoulder at what I was doing. I didn't mind, but I was a bit too preoccupied to explain it all, so I suspect it was rather boring for her to watch someone mousing around a strange interface. The next time I looked up, she was gone.
I was bringing in some room ambience I'd picked up earlier in the evening, some samples of Joyce reading from Finnegans Wake, and some of the evening's readings, but I was having trouble tying it all together. In part, I'd retuned the guitar before going on, and while it was in tune with itself, I think it deviated from A440 just enough that all the ring modulated frequencies just didn't sound right. i also neglected to leave one unmodulated channel for the fundamental, and all of these things kept me from getting the satisfying sound I'd had on the 2nd with Steve. I let this problem absorb a fair amount of my attention, which left not quite enough for putting together a viable piece.
Even with all this dissipation, I could feel it all coming together during the end, as I brought in the final parts of Molly's soliloquy, introduced some actual harmonic motion, and could feel an emotional resonance of a sort. This section lasted about 8 minutes, and then it was over.
One older gentleman I'd seen at the bar came up to me to ask questions about the voices in the piece. He'd arrived too late for the readings, but I was able to lay the five minutes of Joyce's FW reading on him, as well as chat a bit about what I was doing. That was a fairly pleasant coda to a set that just wasn't cutting it most of the time. Having lit-geeked out for a while, though, it was time to head home, where I discovered that for some reason, only one channel of my set ended up on the MiniDisc. I'm going to have to work over my adapters or something.
In any event, it's on to the next one.
It appears that I'm back at the Rex, this time opening up for the sardonic laptop trio DAT Politics (all the way from France), Cleveland arena PC rocker Girl Talk, and local audience charmer Lord Grunge. MSKW will also be doing the THROB thing in the lounge. So come on out!
I'll be doing a relatively short set of denser stuff than the last few shows; we'll see how it all goes once I get there. I'll be going on early, so get there at 7 if you can. 21+; $2.
This was an interesting one psychologically. While my set was going on, I came to the conclusion that it was sucking mightily, but after checking the recording, I learned that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was. In fact, there are some pretty good moments in it, even with the flaws elsewhere.
I managed to spend some prep time in advance, which was good, but showtime rolled around rather quickly. I headed down to the venue at 6, and found...that I was the only one in the house. None of the other acts had shown up yet, but there was plenty of time. I got set up with the help of Automatic Matty P, who was doing sound, and learned that I'd forgotten my guitar strap. Fortunately there was one in the back. We also had to swap out a direct box, and I had to switch some cables around so that I could record off the board, but even so, we were ready fairly quickly.
So then it was time to just hang out for a while, waiting for the audience to show up, and...also waiting for the headliners. The headliners arrived soon enough, as did Girl Talk and Lord Grunge, but that pesky audience just wasn't happening yet. I chatted with a few people and finally decided to go on. I decided to start with the Madonna piece (in Girl), which went a lot better than the Club Cafe set when I first tried it out--much tighter, more rhythmic (especially since I slowed the "de de de" sample down so it would match the tempo of the other stuff). So it went well.
I followed this up with a piece based largely on real-world rhythms I've recorded, and in Girl I was able to make them adhere to the same BPM for greater emphasis. It went fairly well, but I reached a point where I felt I wasn't quite justifying the guitar around my neck, as I was concentrating mostly on the PowerBook.
The next piece was based on breakbeats and samples, but beginning it was a bit of a problem--the software I'm using lets one save configurations of inputs and samples, but...its memory isn't all that great. I can save out a configuration, but usually not all of the parameters are recalled when I open the saved file, so I have to work at resetting them. Or the freshly opened file ends up crashing the software, or some other complication, so the time between pieces can stretch a bit long using this software. Alas, but that's the current price for the flexibility this offers me. Unfortunately, this extended time between pieces also enabled me to hear the audience quite clearly, which included the gentleman in the side section who was laughing. In all fairness, he may have been laughing at something someone else said to him, but at the time, I was under the impression that he was laughing at the extended pause. Ah, well.
This piece was...a little less effective. I spent a lot of time on the sound environment samples, and not as much time on speech samples. Most of the way through, I decided to bring the speech in, which could have been a good decision, but considering how much I concentrated on the speech, I think it unbalanced the piece. It certainly unbalanced the program, though, as I'd overcompensated for the low level of one sample, and when I brought the next in at the same gain level, the resulting mixing issues crashed the program and ended the piece. Well, all righty, then.
The last piece I did once again involved four separate delays on the guitar, and it...kind of worked. It was more focused than the Club Cafe version, but still didn't contain enough variation tonally or developmentally. (I'd even brought the Graphic Fuzz, but only used it once or twice.) But I got through the piece and ended it. At that point, I'd thought that my set had been pretty sucktacular, but I heard some nice comments from people, and I did manage to sell a CD.
Up next was Girl Talk, who did his intense showmanship, over-the-top thing that he does so well. I managed to get him for a future Club Cafe show, which was a good thing--hey, come on down on June 30th! Following him was Lord Grunge, who laid down a mighty beat and hit us with some intense raps, including some freestyle and a tasty homage to the various girl group pop tunes he encountered on a recent European tour. Also nice was the mad props he gave me from the stage ("Let's hear it for Stoic Sex Pro...that shit is off the hook!") I also managed to book him for the 30th, so it's going to be a rocking evening.
DAT Politics were enjoyable, although I was a bit fatigued by the end of their set, in part from my own dissatisfaction with my performance, but also from the verbal hook one of the few tunes with lyrics had. I'll spare you the details, but it will probably be tatooed in my brain when I die.
After the show, it turned out that I got paid, in addition to the CD sale, which was quite nice. I headed home, only to discover that I'd left my mic stand, so I came back to find it just where I left it. And the evening was finally over. On listening back to the set later, it wasn't as bad as I'd thought, just somewhat chaotic with loooong gaps between pieces, although there were some redeeming features in there...and I've since added the Madonna piece to the Madonna Remix Project site. Check it out, yo.
Somewhat by surprise, I'm doing a show on Monday April 21 at Club Cafe. We're starting up another showcase of electronic music there, this time Monday nights. (Not every Monday, but so far April 21, May 5, May 12, May 26, June 2, and June 9.) All shows run from 7:30 to 10:30 PM.
This first one will boast the following high quality musical products, in reverse chronological order:
* Vampire Nation, Pittsburgh's own dark electronic superstar, just back from a bloody conquest of Europe;
* Manherringbone, serving up slabs of dark noise so thick you could build a monument with them, and he will;
* jasusmister!, supplying some widescreen ambience with guitars, delays, and samplers (CD coming out on Hexagon this summer);
* Stoic Sex Pro, doing around a half hour of new improvs--many of which may contain some actual *beats*--taking advantage of Girl (the new software I've just picked up--whaddya think I meant?);
* and if there's time, we'll be doing a group improv.
So c'mon out! Bring a friend! Bring an enemy! Bring random strangers! The show's free, but to facilitate the spreading of the love, we'll be passing around a container of some kind. The show starts promptly at 7:30, and there's the usual bar restriction of customers to the ages of 21 and over.
Ultimately not a bad show, although the day was not without its share of headachy goodness. I'd had a lot of errands and a meeting earlier in the day, and got home at about 3:00. After taking care of various returning-home stuff and taking a phone call, I checked on the PowerBook, which I'd plugged in to recharge. For some reason, it wasn't recharging. The plug was in the wall, and the end was in the PowerBook, but no indicators of charging. By some reflex, I picked up the transformer and found it to be quite hot. It usually does get hot, but this was different--as was the little spitting sounds of electrical arcs, and the smell of burning transformer. This was not good. The battery was getting lower, and I had a show in a few hours.
Calling Apple...did little for me. My ideal scenario would have had them directing me to a local authorized service center, who could just give me a new adapter, but instead their solution involved shipping one out in 3-5 days. Uh, not optimal. I asked about local service centers, but they told me that they'd have to place the same order. If I wanted one now, of course, I could go buy one.... Let's see--their four-month-old product comes close to burning down the house, and the service rep couldn't be bothered to find out if there's anywhere nearby who could help me. So I called CompUSA, who seemed to be suffering from a lack of oxygen in the building. They came to the same conclusion as Apple, but took twice as long to do it. Eventually I gave up on them when their sales person failed to pick up the phone when I was transferred to see if they had any power supplies in stock.
I then tried MacOutfitters, significantly north of the city in Cranberry...and they had it! And they'd just give me a replacement. But I'd have to book--it was 4:00, rush hour was getting underway, and I still had a show to get to. It worked out, however, and I was back in the city proper by 5:00, although not back home until 45 minutes later.
So on to the gig. Good parking karma, easy setup, and Mr. Funky in the house. We waited until 8 to get started, however, as there was very little in the way of audience. But I finally did get going, and...while I'd had some very successful rehearsals with the new software, I didn't quite have the level of concentration I'd like to make this one as good as it could be. In listening back to the MD, I can tell that in the first piece, I got into the beat too quickly--I could have been much slower and more effective--and once I had beats going, I left them going too long. Kinda monotonous. At the time, i had plenty on my mind, but I could have spent more energy varying the beats. And more energy varying content in general. Perhaps part of the problem is having my attention split between the guitar/amp chain and the PowerBook. (In fact, one of my very successful rehearsals involved just the guitar into the PowerBook, and the new software, but given the kind of day I'd been having, I didn't want to take the risk of depending on the laptop.) Well, there's next time, and it's coming as quickly as Saturday. I do love the sound of my amp, though...
Next up was Karl Mullen's jasusmister! project, in which he did live mixes of previously recorded material. In some spots it was very Stoic Sex Pro-like. Quite nice. Manherringbone turned in a very listener-friendly set (Manny had said that he could have opened the Windy & Carl show), which got quite aggressive toward the end. He's doing live guitar stuff as well--looks like a trend! In between sets, I wandered around, shoving the tip box at people and soliciting donations. In retrospect, a proper door charge would have been better. But...we tried this out.
Vampire Nation...was a whole band this time, with Fredrik on drums. For some reason, I'd expected it to be his solo stuff. In any event, it was quite nice and rich, although I was thrust into the role of soundman, for which I was not prepared. I didn't know the board setup, and Karl and I tried to figure it out with some level of success, but not quite enough. Thankfully, an insider was available, and he got us under control for the rest of their set. Next time, i'm going to have to pay much closer attention to the monitor sends on the board.
The pass-the-hat concept didn't work as well as a door charge, but then Manny was surprised at the level that I did collect, most of which went to Vampire Nation. But this very hastily-thrown-together show actually worked, after a fashion (certainly worked by the time VN were playing, as I think the band concept worked best for this audience).
So now I'll be spending a lot more quality time with the Girl software, getting more familiar with the setups and sounds I have. And maybe by Saturday I'll have something listenable. Who knows?
And another performance that's coming up: I'll be playing the opening night of PULSE, the new performance series at the Kiva Han coffee shop at Forbes and Craig (note the new location). Joining me will be DJ Cutups, spinning his wide-ranging take on the electronic realm, Impercept's crunchy synth beats, and Xanopticon's chaotic electrons for the appropriately caffeinated.
I'm going to shake up my set somewhat, (hopefully) having a new piece ready, possibly some new software, and I'll haul out some older pieces I haven't played in a while. Should be fun.
This event will be FREE, and this will also be the night before my birthday. So come on out and celebrate as I roll over to the next incremental upgrade. (The next version upgrade's still a few years away, thankfully.) And it's a Saturday--you can't even use work as an excuse not to come.
Kiva Han, Forbes and Craig, Oakland. 8PM, all ages, FREE.
This has been a fun evening. One point of interest was that the CityPaper story got a detail wrong about my set, mentioning an all-GWB piece that I didn't have, so I went ahead with a State of the Union address-based piece that I'd been thinking of anyway...but opted to make it all-GWB, in keeping with the article. (There were a few Thonk-altered bits in it and some looped hall ambience for texture, but all the speech was George.) As if that wasn't ambitious enough, I also decided to go ahead and incorporate some live samples I'd grab using Pure Data and my new DMP3 going into the PowerBook, even though I've never used either of them live before. So no matter how much I'd like to bury my head in Space Shuttle minutae, I had to get my mind off it and work on the show. Kind of stressful, yet a welcome distraction.
So we loaded up the car with the newly expanded rig, and headed on down. I was tense in the adrenaline-peaking way which usually suggests that I'll have a good show, so I was trying to stay in that frame of mind. Good parking karma this time--half a block up, another good sign. And there were friends in the house. In addition to my wife, we were met by our friend Mary Ellen, my old co-worker Mike and his wife Elly, and I knew that some other friends had said they'd make it down. After a bit of jockeying for space in the somewhat crowded room, I set up behind some tables at the near wall, by the PA.
DJ Cutups was supposed to start at 8, but wasn't around to start. So while I was setting up, all the crowd watched me do it, expecting me to start (and maybe thinking I was late). While I was soundchecking, my friend Steve and his family came in, which was another pleasant factor. The soundcheck also probably seemed like the beginning of my set, so at about 8:15, Manny asked me when I could start, and I introduced myself shortly after. While I was going to shake up the set, I figured I'd still start with the poem, which got some good response and gave me a chance to make sure all my gear was in the right place. There was quite a bit of applause, which was a nice way to begin.
I followed it up with the SOTU-based piece, which generally went over well. I felt bad, though, as in the front row was a man and his young daughter, and the piece seemed likely to freak her out. She was also right in front of the guitar amp, so I could see it getting kind of loud for her, and I wasn't surprised (nor did I feel criticized) when they left. Arguably I could have done another piece, but I knew that this one would go over well. And it did--in fact, listening back to the MiniDisc recording, I rather like it. I definitely built a creepy atmosphere, and the slightly doctored SOTU samples certainly speak to one's general sense of dread. (Mine, at least.) I did manage to get some laughs out of the crowd, as well, and there was some sustained applause.
Next up I hauled out "The Good Life" as my ambient piece for this set. This particular performance of it wasn't as graceful as the one on the S2P CD; this one was much more dense, and I wondered from time to time if I was punishing the audience. No one left during this one, and in listening back to the MD, it does have some nice--if thick--textures. There were some key points I like to hit in this piece that I didn't, but I did hit some of them.
I went out on a short improv using Pure Data exclusively, and it seemed to go well. I'm not doing quite what I want to do with it, but it's promising. For one thing, the samples I'm grabbing aren't as long as I'd like, and I'd like to perform transformations to the audio stream in real time without having to write to the sample table. At a few points I was worried that I was blowing out people's eardrums, but I didn't get any complaints later. So it's quite a promising experiment, and the textures are actually rather nice. I'll have to spend some quality time with PD before the next electronic show, whenever it is.
Late in the set, I saw that my friend Joe had dropped in, and once I was done, I saw that Sugapablo, Oscillator Project, Mr. Funky, Ryan from the SCLF, Ben Cox, Manherringbone, and 8Cylinder had shown up as well. My wife had bought a burnt almond torte from Prantl's bakery, amd (after an announcement from Manny) our collected friends graciously took a few minutes to sing "Happy Birthday" before we passed out the cake. It was quite nice to have so many friends in the house, and I kind of regret not getting the moment on MiniDisc.
After some schmoozing and CD sales, Cutups spun a fascinating and engaging interlude of electronica, and then Impercept laid down his Autechre-like tweaked-up beats. He was also using some GWB samples, although they were pretty much straight out of the SOTU and not edited the way mine were. Another Cutups interlude later, Xanopticon came on and served up some dense and twitchy beats; by this time only the hardest of the hard were left...but a good time was had by all.
I played a decent set, hung out with friends, sold a few CDs, and had Prantl's burnt almond torte. A fine evening indeed. And even though the new car's tire pressure warning light came on, it seems to have turned out to be merely my having all the gear on the same side of the car. So all right then. On to the next performance, whenever that might be.
This just in, I've been tapped to curate two evenings of electronic music at Club Cafe! We'll be doing Wednesday January 8 and Wednesday January 22, as part of the Club Cafe After Dark adjunct to the upcoming 100 Bands in 31 Nights festival in January. (The Oscillator Project suggests that the title should be "The Million Band March.")
This will be a late-night thing, starting at 11:00 PM. There's also no cover and there's a half-price menu after 11. Sheesh, what more could you want? How about sets by the following:
All this in one of Pittsburgh's hipper night spots, where the elite come to eat half-price and hear music for free.
56-58 South 12th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. 412-431-4950.
Not a bad night at all, if a little unfocused on my part. The evening started with my catching a ride down to the club with Sugapablo. Alas, the parking Karma wasn't so good this time, and we ended up parking several blocks away. (Maybe I should have taken the MINI.) But it wasn't a bad walk, and Sugapablo helped with the load--he smartly had only a MIDI box to deal with, and took up some of my gear. Good man.
Good omens abounded--just inside the club, I ran into Eric Fox, who had played earlier, "Mama Spell", and our friend Beth. Quite nice to be met with a bunch of handshakes, hug, and familiar faces. Russ and I caught a good set by a singer/songwriter whose name escapes me at this remove. My overwhelming impression, however, was of being concerned that I didn't see any of our other acts. I was getting a bit edgy about it, although I knew that Russ could certainly stretch his set out as long as necessary, and I could go fairly long as well, if we needed me to. But I'd prefer a more varied set of performances.
Fortunately, eventually we had some familiar faces showing up--first Oscillator (in his first-ever public performance!) and his wife, then Jeremy Boyle, and finally Impercept. So we were good. Russ was up first, which ultimately turned out to be a good decision. While the singer/songwriter audience wasn't necessarily our audience, Russ's stuff was very beat-oriented and engaging, very much a crowd-pleasing introduction to what we were doing. He admitted to some discomfort with the lot of the electronic artist--that is, not being much to look at during the set--but soldiered on admirably, and was met with audience appreciation. At some point Mr. Funky showed up, and eventually Manny came by, although Manny unfortunately missed Russ's set. Russ is scheduled for an upcoming THROB, so Manny will check him out then, I suppose.
To facilitate a quick changeover, I asked people to set up during the previous act's set, so Jeremy was ready to go very soon after Russ's set. Jeremy's set was a bit different from the one I saw in December, as this time he was also playing guitar over his minimal clicky (and quite beautiful) background. Denny the soundguy pointed out that Jeremy's homemade boxes were putting out a particularly hot signal, and the house compressor was earning its keep.
Next up was Oscillator's debut, which went quite swimmingly--an Ableton Live amalgamation of beats, washes of noise, and Ken Nordine and Grace Kelly speech samples. Very evocative and inviting, yet soothing. And the audience was quite appreciative.
We'd planned to have Impercept up next, but it turned out that he'd been lacking a crucial MIDI cable, and couldn't do the set right away. We quickly decided to have me play the next set while he went home to get the cable. While I wasn't expecting to be up so soon, I got my things together and started my now-standard set--the poem, followed by "Drudgery and Delight," "It Is Highly Concentrated; It Is Pure," "The Fscking Fury," and ending with "The Apparition." I'd opted not to use hearing protection for my set, and ended up having a difficult time hearing myself without blasting myself. It turns out that I'd rolled off a lot of bass on the amp; having corrected that would have smoothed things out considerably. This was also the first outing for the new TiBook, which performed well, but the ground loop onstage made for a touchy experience--if I wasn't careful when I touched the strings or when I touched the PowerBook, I'd send a blast of 60Hz through both the PA and the amp.
More troubling was what I perceived as a lack of engagement on my part. I've been doing this set for a while, and even with the addition of "The Fscking Fury," it's starting to get a bit old for me. Mr. Funky later told me he enjoyed it quite a bit, and the sound guy dug "The Apparition," putting autopan on the guitar, and asking me to let the guitar ring for a looooong time after I walked off. One other nice thing was that the sound guy had various DVDs being projected next to the stage to provide visuals for us, probably the least visually stimulating of all musical genres. As I was walking off after "The Apparition," Manny and Mr. Funky called out "Spores!" in response to a particularly biologcal-looking visual. And indeed, it was somehow spore-appropriate: after all, I started performing that piece back when I was still using the Toxic Spores name. (We were all younger and more innocent then....) These are good comments, but I must confess that the set's gotten stale for me, and I'll make some changes soon. Perhaps my state of being still in the grips of this nasty cold that's going around didn't help, either. But I need some new challenges, certainly.
Impercept came back with his cable, and turned in a short but aggressively rhythmic set good enough that Mr. Funky asked him to play the next Funky extravaganza. There ended up being some time left, so Oscillator and I quickly plugged in the laptops for a laptop duet--he held down the rhythms, and I put dissonance, various samples, and other noise over the top. One of the audience members turned out to be a numbers station enthusiast, and shouted out some commentary and encouragement. I really enjoyed the improv, and I think Oscillator did as well. But don't take my word for it--check out this recording of the set that you can download to the privacy of your very own .ogg-playing box.
But then...things were over and I hitched a ride back with Mr. Funky and Manny. Overall, a successful night, if a bit lackluster on my own part. But that improv with Oscillator ("Stoic Sex Oscillator," as we called it) had some life and promise to it. A fun evening, indeed.
The core Elastic Concept people--Unfinished Symphonies, Clutter, and your humble correspondent--will be playing one last 2002 gig at The Roboto Project on December 17th. That's a Tuesday. You weren't doing anything on a Tuesday evening, were you? Of course not. So now's your chance. I'm not sure what Clutter's up to, but Unfinished Symphonies is planning on a set of fine guitar tunes, including a conceptual work in which I'll join him.
I'll be refining some of the successes from my recent sets, and quite possibly introducing a new piece for Yngwie Malmsteen, based on a surreptitious recording that was made of him during a recent freak-out on an international flight. I may also introduce a new piece of software I'm playing with, and it's entirely possible that this show will be the last show ever for my venerable G3 PowerBook with bronze keyboard and Firewire--its titanium-clad replacement is on its way, and it's time to retire it with dignity. So come on out for a bit of history in the making.
Tuesday, December 17, 7:30PM, all ages, $3. The Roboto Project, 722 Wood St. in Wilkinsburg. Need directions? Click here.
Not at all a bad night, although I felt at the time that my performance was off a bit. As our old car had pretty much gone beyond (both the brake and exhaust systems needing to be replaced) and our new car hadn't yet arrived, I hitched a ride with Rob (Unfinished Symphonies). We got to the venue to discover Clutter waiting outside--Eric wasn't there yet. We didn't have much time to get nervous, however, and Eric appeared a few minutes later.
I hadn't seen Clutter for a while, so we got caught up a bit socially before setting up. Clutter took the main performance space (four of them this time!), Rob took the wall next to them, and I opted for the space up the steps, by Eric at the soundboard. Rob got going first, and while he'd talked about doing a guitar-based set, it was instead a set of his keyboard pieces. He was wearing his Composer's Hat, and all was right with the world--there were some old classics, some new classics (amusingly, his feelgood blues epic "Summertime" was on the bill for this cold night), and an overall good time. At the end of his set, he tried to decide on an encore, and I suggested that I join him by contributing telephone samples to his Bacharach-style pop hit "Answer the Phone." We were a bit rusty on this one, but it went well.
At this remove, it's difficult to remember exactly who went next, although I suspect that Clutter did--I remember being somewhat concerned that they might run long and leave me with a short set, but that worry was unfounded. For this show, the Clutter core of Nick (bass this time) and Ty (drums, as ever) were joined by the fine jazz and ambient looper Mike Klobuchar on guitar, along with a second guitarist, formerly of Nick's old band Cattywumpus. It was something of a dense mix, but there was quite a bit of life to it. They did two long pieces that had much more of a rock vibe than the Clutter I'd played with earlier that year. Mike was very impressive, playing inside jazz stuff and outside atmospherics. I thought he mixed quite well with the other guitarist who was more rock/countryish (even bringing an electrified banjo), but Rob was of the opinion that the presence of the other guitarist was constraining Mike--and I can see how that would be the case, with two instruments having the same frequency range. Still, quite an enjoyable set by the Clutter crew.
My own set was all right, although I never quite felt focused enough, possibly because I've fallen into a pattern with my sets--starting with the poem, doing "Drudgery and Delight," "It Is Highly Concentrated; It Is Pure," and ending on "The Apparition." To that mix, I added (after "Pure") "The Fscking Fury," my new piece based on a surreptitious recording of Yngwie Malmsteen freaking out on an international flight. (You can read more about it and hear the original recording here, if you're interested.) It went a lot better than I expected, and I spur of the moment opted to add distorted, ring-modulated guitar to the climax. At the time, though, I think I hit the percussion samples a bit too early. Still, people seemed to like it.
As for the other pieces, I recall spending a fair amount of time trying to make things happen, which is really a sign of my not having the correct attention. The monitoring situation was a bit weird, as I was sitting next to the guitar amp, and the PowerBook samples were coming back from the PA, after being sent out to the room. (This made for a spectacularly unbalanced recording of the set, in which the samples are muffled and obscured by the guitar. I'll have to shoot for better mic placement next time.) "The Apparition" was fun, but again I didn't feel the structure the way I'd usually like to. I also tried something new, sampling the guitar's last drone with the Line6 delay in an attempt to bolster the feedback, and instead of cutting it out at the end, turning on the loop recorder for the gradual decay. Not a bad idea in theory, but in practice it didn't work--the decay was too slow at the loop length I'd set, and I ended up walking back up to turn the mix down.
One bright spot was the poem at the beginning: one of the members of the Bull Seal Collective was in the audience (one of two members of the audience), and I could tell that he was quite digging the poem. (He did buy a copy later.) Eric told me that he enjoyed my set, and Rob thought my set was really tight. It's interesting how different people perceive the event, as I thought I was rather disengaged and sloppy, but Rob--who's seen enough of my shows to form a valid opinion--thought the opposite. Who knows?
The evening over, I kicked in my share of the room buyout, and Rob and I headed over to Kelly's for a bit of hanging out and a late bite. Since it was Tuesday, the place was suffering a bit from the guy who likes to play slide trumpet along with the DJ. Sometimes his lines are a decent addition to the tune, but sometimes his intonation's way off--and he can get loud. I was at a bit of a loss there, because on the way over I'd tried to get my hearing protectors out of my bag, but couldn't (they were wedged in the back seat), and ended up slicing my finger on the sharp edge of the ring modulator. Well, it's not rock'n'roll until you draw a little blood. Regrettably, that didn't happen during my set, but there you have it. Still, not a bad evening.
Continuing my saturation of the city's alternative music spaces, I'll be playing the December manifestation of the Electric Cafe, at the hip and good-sounding Shadow Lounge in East Liberty. I'll be opening the show with another set of modulated loops and treated samples, assuming that I can trace the source of the crackle that popped up during my 11/25 set at the Dark Night Cabaret. Also on the bill are decadent synth-rock sideshow orchestra Zombi, robo-IDM electrofunker Impercept, and garage experimenter Jeremy Boyle will tote his collection of odd, self-made devices.
All this will set you back all of $5, and things get rolling at 8PM. It's all ages, and you can find it at the very end of Baum Boulevard, where Baum intersects with Highland. Swing by after shopping at the new Whole Foods, just down the block. Or, after the show, head on over to the machine-age swankerie of Kelly's bar and grill, right around the corner on Penn Circle South. But do come on out--I'll have Stoic Sex Pro CDs, Stem Cell Liberation Front CDs, and the business-card format CD of my crowd-pleasing "Tell Ya One Thing," all of them perfect items for holiday gift-giving.
Tuesday, December 3, 8PM, all ages, $5.
Baum Boulevard at Highland Avenue, East Liberty
Tonight felt really right to me. I've been really busy with work-related stuff, preoccupied, tired, and all, but this was still a good night.
I'd been contracted again to give Manny a ride down to the venue, so after loading up the car I headed on over. Curiously, there was no answer to my knock at first, but eventually Manny came down toting a box and a bag of gear--the headliners (Zombi) cancelled, so he was going to fill in with a set. Unfortunately, the box collapsed on his porch when I started carrying it out to the car, but I was able to collect it all again. After a brief stop around the corner (so that Manny could pick up his dinner at the Chinese take-out place), I drove on down to the Shadow Lounge, scoring a parking spot right outside the venue--good parking Karma.
The venue's an actual coffeehouse in an in-transition neighborhood (East Liberty). It's in a classic old Pittsburgh storefront, with large windows and a high tin ceiling--it's a pretty good room, and feels right to me. The PA there's quite nice as well, as is the lighting, the couches, and the art on the walls. Overall, a really good room.
We loaded in, where I ran into a couple of friends of Ryan's, who sadly weren't feeling well enough to stay for the show. There was a brief disturbance while we were setting up, when Manny thought I'd somehow dropped his phonograph needles on the street (a misguided assumption, as the box had collapsed on his porch, although I couldn't verify that I'd picked them up as I had no idea what kind of packaging his stylii were in), but in the next minute he discovered them in the box, and the episode was over, kind of. (I hadn't appreciated getting bitched out, and said as much. He apologized.)
I set up right near the turntables and mixing board, as there were no direct boxes and my six-foot cables from the PowerBook juuuuust made it. As I've been doing lately, I had the PowerBook to the side instead of being right in front of me, as a way of having fewer obstacles between me and the audience.
Other players started showing up, as did some audience members. I'd been expecting some old friends who said they'd try to make it, but no luck--ah, well, it was quite a cold night, and I wasn't too surprised. What was surprising was the sheer number of audience members who were there. I was up first, which was fine by me. I started with the poem, as usual. Oddly, there wasn't much audience response, perhaps because they didn't know quite what was going on. One nice thing was seeing Manherringbone respond to it; he obviously got it. After that, I did a version of what I'm now calling "Drudgery and Delight," which contains a lot of environmental percussion sounds and some tasty Christian radio samples. For whatever reason--possibly because I was playing fairly loud--I approached this piece somewhat more aggressively than I approached it the last couple of times I did it, at Platters and the Dark Night Cabaret. I don't think it was quite as thematically of a piece as the Platters performance was, but it had its moments nonetheless. (Both this show and the Platters show are on the Punk Rock Ambient CDR I'm now selling. It'll go up on the site shortly.) The audience applauded.
Next up I did a short version of "It Is Highly Concentrated; It Is Pure," and it was. At about this point, I noticed that Ryan and a friend were in the house, which was another good boost at this point. This one was significantly different from the Dark Night version--much more tremelo, in that sense similar to the version on the S2P CDR. Again, a much louder, more focused version of this one, which was again well received.
I closed with my now-standard set closer, "The Apparition." This version was again much louder than the version on the original CDR, and more aggressive, if one can say that about a drone piece. At one point on stage I couldn't tell where a certain frequency was actually coming from--it sounded like it was coming from behind me, which was not the case--it was either from the monitors (in front) or from the amp (to the side). I found this interesting and rather cool, actually. I got the guitar to feed back and triggered an array of samples that would then decay, punched out the fuzz on the guitar, and walked off with the drones still ringing. It took them about a minute to die away, and from the back of the room I noticed that everyone in the audience was still looking at the stage. When the last sound stopped, I thought I'd helpfully tell them that it was over. People seemed to dig it.
I packed up my gear (and put in hearing protectors) while Manny did his set, an amalgam of messed-up CD error correction, miked cymbals beat against the floor, and a couple electronic toys. He also had the lights brought down, and the lighting came from a helmet lamp he wore. He too opted to end his set by walking off, but I'm not sure how this went over coming immediately after my set.
Jeremy Boyle was next up, providing to my ear a gorgeous minimal set that was almost lowercase. It turned out that his (OS 9) PowerBook crashed almost immediately at the beginning of his set, and he did his set entirely with his homemade triggers, sequencers, and other little boxes. Very, very impressive, and a heroic effort to bring art out of what could have been disaster.
Manherringbone's set was quite enjoyable as well, which at this remove I recall as thick slabs of sampled and tone-generated sound. Kind of hard to describe now, as was Impercept's set, which was more beat-oriented, as I recall. In both cases they were thoroughly enjoyable.
Ryan had to split, but I offered to meet up with him at Kelly's around the corner after we left. It took a while to leave, as I chatted a bit with Jeremy, Manherringbone, and Impercept, but failed to sell a single CD. On the plus side, we each got $20 from the door--it was a well-attended show. Manny and I loaded out, and I thought that the bitter cold earlier in the evening had subsided a bit. We didn't find Ryan at the hopping Kelly's although it was a bit later than I'd thought it would be. So I dropped Manny off (and for my troubles was given an excellent Thomas Koner CD--very subtle dark ambient), and headed home. Not a bad night at all, and (it so turns out) the last show for the venerable 1986 Buick Century, which developed its fatal ailment three days later. Let's have a moment of silence for it.
E-mayhem-er Dave Mansueto has invited me to contribute a short 15 or 20-minute set to the upcoming Dark Night Cabaret. (I'm getting to be quite the guy for 15-minute sets lately.) And straight from a successful (and similarly short) set at Platters seen by only the most exclusive of audiences, no less.
The evening starts with a happy hour at 7:00 in the lobby, during which you'll be seranaded by the witty, urbane jazz of Hill Jordan. The main stage comes to life at 8:00, with your host and master of ceremonies, the City Paper's own Ted Hoover. He'll be introducing and contextualizing the work of poet Jerome Crooks, acoustic singer/songwriter Abby Ahmad, the dark ambient stylings of your humble correspondent, fine artist Jody diPerna (and what artist, when you come right down to it, isn't fine in some way?), and featured act of the night, rock band Alexi and the Justins. Looks like I'm the oddball wild-card act on the bill.
The evening's sponsored by the Big Burrito Restaurant Group, possibly the largest-profile entity ever to admit to inviting one of my performances! So come on out for a night of high drama--let's see if they let me do my whole 15 or 20 minutes, or if I'm hustled off the stage and airbrushed out of all the press materials.
Monday, November 25, at the University of Pittsburgh's Henry Heymann Theatre, (downstairs at The Stephen Foster Memorial, next to the Cathedral of Learning), Forbes Avenue, Oakland. $6, all ages, 7PM.
Despite the over month-long delay since I played this show, I hadn't listened to my MD recording of it until today. At the time, this show seemed a good experience, but not the best performance from me. Listening to it now, I can see that it wasn't the most engaging thing I could have done for this audience--it's quite difficult, in fact--but then...what I do can be difficult.
While I was loading the car, Manny called seeking a ride down to the show, which I was glad to provide. He ended up helping me load in to the theater--quite helpful, as the closest parking I could get was pretty close, but was across the heavily-traveled Forbes Avenue. The theater itself is quite the swanky venue, although we were in the basement, itself quite swanked up since the last time I was in there some years back. It was very '70s-fire-hall at the time, but it's now quite the lushly appointed basement theater, with tiers of velour seats on three sides, an actual lighting rig, a tastefully lit lobby, and a green room, even.
I was first in, which let me liberate an old metal table that was at the perfect height for me to put the PowerBook if I was seated. After I got set up, there was nothing to do but hang out for a while and wait for the audience. I did get a chance to meet Mark Whitehead, who was doing sound--it turns out we'd been introduced by a mutual friend the year before. Nice guy, with good taste in pre-show soundtracks. I also hung out in the green room area with Manny and Ted Hoover, a luminary of Pittsburgh's theater scene who was to be the MC for the evening.
I didn't get a chance to hear Hill Jordan's work during the reception (which was in the upstairs lobby, but the evening began on a strong note with the beat poetry of Jerome Crooks. He turned in some fine, engaging, and personable work with the aid of a hand drummer. Abby Ahmad turned in a short and powerful set of aggressive acoustic singer-songwriter pieces. Well played and sung, although I must say that the shadows of Ani DiFranco and Fiona Apple loomed rather large in places. She'll get on firmer footing eventually, I'm sure.
I started with the plunderphonic poem, which went over well, although I didn't see the kind of feedback from the audience that really makes this piece worthwhile. It may go by a little too quickly for some to grasp what's really going on with it. I decided then to go with two of the more speech-oriented pieces, as that's pretty much what they asked for when they offered me the gig.
"It Is Highly Concentrated; It Is Pure" started roughly, with my abruptly stopping a beat I'd triggered, following this with...silence. Then I got underway, and it was a more pensive, dark version of this piece than the one on the CDR. It did meander a bit and had some weak moments, but then there are some moments I now quite like, particularly the way the ending simultaneously lulls and builds to a climax, only to be dropped abruptly for the final speech sample. The audio quality of the recording's quite good, too.
"Drudgery and Delight" began with my tapping the guitar with the slide for a rough percussion track, and then following it up with one of the stronger percussion loops from that sample set. This one meanders a bit more than my favorite versions of this, and at the time I could hear some spiking from the amp, but couldn't figure out where in the signal chain the problem actually was. I let this throw my concentration, which contributed to the unfocused quality of this particular performance--including my triggering the final speech sample twice. Oops, bummer.
Alexi and the Justins were quite good, managing to rock out at a low volume (minimal kit, both guitars into the same low-volume amp, unamplified vocals) and display some fine, funny, and biting songs. It was also nice to hear Evan Knauer on guitar, as apparently he's usually on bass with this band. Well done.
Afterwards, Evan and I talked briefly (my vast array of pedals was quite a contrast to his elegant equipment minimalism), and I managed to sell to Mark a complete set of what was available in the ouvre. I hung out a bit, packing up, and Dave Mansueto came by, proffering Burrito Bucks. While we hadn't brought in enough people to clear the room buyout, our sponsor was supplying people with said coupons, good at any of the fine Big Burrito restaurants. Dave was a bit apologetic, but I say hey--I'm taking my wife out for a free dinner. Dave then invited me over to a new-ish Oakland bar for a post-show reception.
Manny and I loaded out to the car, which somehow managed to get me out of the parking lot without paying--the attendant asked me if I changed my own oil (my first thought was, "Great--we're leaking or burning oil now..."), and asked a few technical questions about the venerable Buick. I honestly didn't know any answers, although I was able to assure him that they were weird cars, so it's possible that the one he's working on has a nonstandard oil pump. And he waved me on through gratis. Cool.
Over at the bar, I managed to schmooze with a number of e-Mayhem-connected artists and others. After about an hour of making connections, I opted to leave, and went looking for Manny, who'd been hanging out alone in the unused third-floor room, reading. "What took you so long? I got halfway through Bonfire of the Vanities!" Even so, I gave him a lift back and then continued on home myself, a few connections, a free dinner, and free parking on the asset side of the evening's ledger.
Stoic Sex Pro is back in action at the happening kosher restaurant Platters, lately the home of many avant garde performances. I'll be opening the bill with a very short set--15 minutes--but it may just be the longest 15 minutes of your life, if I have anything to say about it. (And I do.)
The headliners are We Ragazzi, who'll be kicking the rock action from Chicago. They're rumored to be quite evocative of the no-wave movement, and the .mp3s on their site suggest a high entertainment quotient for their portion of the evening. Also on the bill will be Boston free improvisers Greg Kelley & Mike Bullock and Pittsburgh's mad film scientist Michael Johnsen. First you get abstract, then you get weird, then you get free, and then you rock--what more could you want? (Maybe I have the order of the first two wrong.)
In any event, come on out, and you can dig some fine kosher food AND pick up the S2P CDR, or the new Tell Ya One Thing mini-single or the new SCLF EP--perfect gifts for the upcoming holiday season!
Sunday 11/17/2002, 8:30 pm, $7, all ages. Platters Restaurant, 2020 Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. (412) 422-3370.
This was a successful show for me, but not necessarily for others. The room is certainly a good one to play, and I'd be happy to play there again. The restaurant's banquet room is a bit long and narrow, but the sound system's pretty good, and the room feels quite comfortable. The PA's not set up for massive volume, but there are speakers distributed throughout the room, above the drop ceiling, and as a result there's pretty good sonic coverage even at low volumes. And actually I usually prefer to play at lower volumes.
I was dealing with a couple disadvantages this evening that I was concerned about. For one, I was working on a programming deadline, so I planned to spend part of my time in the audience working on the laptop. More troubling was that a few days prior, I'd opened the laptop (PowerBook G3 Firewire Bronze Keyboard 2000--the last black plastic model one before the Titanium ones) and heard snap. After that, if I opened the screen wide enough, it flopped down. This turns out to be a problem with one of the clutches that holds the screen in position--there's one on each side, and it seems to be a known flaw with this model that eventually one will give out, followed eventually by the other. Turns out that this is quite an expensive repair from Apple (some service places do it for much less, but I'd have to give up the machine for a while--not going to happen). But...I commit to shows, and I intend to do them.
While I was setting up, so was Michael Johnson, who was piecing together his homemade modular synth. It's quite a fascinating piece of work, and manages to get some fascinating sounds out of it. As ever, he was shyly concentrating on the task at hand, so I went about setting up as well. After a little while, Greg Kelley and Mike Bullock showed up, Greg with a trumpet case and Mike with an upright bass; consequently I expected an interesting duo set later on.
This, however, is where we get intimations of the evening's problems, particularly regarding turnout--or, rather, its lack. By the time I was ready to go on, we had...one...paying audience member, later to increase to two (thanks, Tom!). This could be attributed to a cold, rainy Sunday night in Pittsburgh, when most people would choose to stay home and vegetate before beginning the work week, as opposed to going out to a show of challenging music.
While I've played to fewer people and perceive this to be no problem, We Ragazzi felt differently and opted not to play at all. In fact, they opted not to unload. But as of my set time, I was unaware of this, and just got started with "Tell Ya One Thing." It went over well, as it tends to, and then I did a version of the piece I did in September at Backward on Forward--I finally had a version I'm happy with. It's ambient, but there is a drive to it, and the samples contribute to a kind of thematic integrity. So it was cool. I finished up with "The Apparition," which might be the first time I've played this live in quite a while. It was fun--I got a nice resonance going, let samples peak, punched out the fuzz on the guitar, and walked off. Sadly, I had the Line6 in a setting that didn't decay fast enough, so I had to go back up and fade down the loop. Bummer, but a good-sounding set.
The MiniDisc of the set sounded pretty good, so I'm selling this show (and the Shadow Lounge show) as part of my Scratch 'n' Dent series.
Michael Johnson's set was quite interesting, with the analog blips and bleeps emerging from near silence, spiking, and disappearing again. I made an effort to be quiet as I packed up my gear, so as not to detract from it.
Next up was Greg Kelley playing trumpet, and while we'd sort of wondered about his need for a mic (for trumpet! In a small room!), it turns out that he did need it. He turned in a fascinating set of sound effects and non-standard playing that ultimately sounded a lot more like electronic click and cut stuff, but it was all trumpet into microphone (with intervening mutes or scrapers, or various other things). Generally there were few "notes" as such, a lot of white-noise breathing, and an amusing lawnmower interlude. Also pleasing was his title for this piece: "My Mind's Such a Sweet Thing." Check him out if you get a chance.
Bassist Mike Bullock, instead of playing with Greg, did a solo set of his own that had a similar sensibility of playing the instrument in every way conceivable except the standard way. The effects were quite stunning, with an overall glitch aesthetic coming from an acoustic (though amplified) instrument. Mike's another one worth checking out, and they're both great guys.
As We Ragazzi opted not to play, that was the evening right there, and I managed to get home early enough to get some work in. And it was a successful night from an artistic point of view.
Here's a late addition: I'm going to be an interviewee on Dave's talk and variety show that goes down at the Lava Lounge on Monday nights (now that Phat Man Dee has moved on to greener pastures). The subject will be (so I'm told) the plunderphonic poetry I've been producing of late.
Plus there will other people doing things! And other stuff. And Unfinished Symphonies commands the essential Paul Schaffer/Doc Severinson chair.
This scene is a late one, so be there sometime around 9:30 or after. We're lobbying heavily for the standard performance/chat thing, as opposed to grouping all the performances at the end. (I don't think the conversation with me would make much sense without people seeing an example of what we're conversing about.)
Damn, I'm going to have to come up with something interesting to say other than "one minute takes a day." So I hope that you'll all come by and cause some kind of disturbance. Hey, ask me absurd questions or something. You guys are creative; you know what to do.
9:30 at the Lava Lounge on the South Side. Be there, or hope to catch it on Public Access cable, which you probably never watch. Or it might be available on the Web someday--but if you come down on the 14th, you'll SEE the event in all its analog glory! No dropped frames, no bad data compression, no broken connections, just nasty cigarette smoke seeping slowly into your clothes, and the warm feeling of being surrounded by fellow Monday-night boozers. As Harry, the Man with the Snake on his Face says, "How can you lose?"
Wow. Having little to know idea what actually to expect, this turned out to be a very successful evening. In preparation for the focus on plunderphonic poetry, I wanted to burn some "singles" of the poem and the remix. It turns out that the business card CDR format (rectangular) holds about five and a half minutes--ideal for both of these, which weigh in at 5:21 together. There was just one problem, however: my burner was made just at around the same time these first started coming out (or at least I saw my first ones about two or three months after I first ordered the burner), so its idiot-proofing is designed to keep people from putting non-round things into the burner. Fair enough...but these are valid CDs, even though they're not round.
Luckily, there's a newer burner hooked up to an iMac on the house network, and I had success burning from that machine (thanks, Marge and Scott!) although curiously iTunes would throw an error when it finished up each one. Still, I tested them all and found that they worked just fine in the PowerBook's tray. A random sample worked just fine in the tray-loading CD player, too. I then printed out a bunch of inserts for them, including a disclaimer about not using them in slot-loading players (if you do, they'll get stuck).
Robert "Unfinished Symphonies" Press showed up at about 8:00, and off we went. I just opted to lug the PowerBook--not the rest of the rig. Hey, why not? After a one-beer-each tour of Zythos and the relatively new Tiki bar on Carson (ultra-hip! All that's missing is Martin Denny on the jukebox), we headed down to the Lava Lounge and loaded in. The Lava Lounge is laid out in two rooms--the bar up front, and the back room where interesting stuff happens. The decor is a combination of old-school bar in the front, and abstract Flintstones-via-Dali poured concrete structures. (It's owned by the same people who own the Tiki bar, so you can see that distinctive decor is something of a theme.) It's a fun room.
I met Dave, the host, and we chatted for a few minutes, and then the hanging out began--apparently we weren't going to start until 10:30 or 10:45. During the wait, who should appear but Stem Cell Liberation Front drummer par excellence Ryan Sigesmund! It was great to have the support. We talked to Dave during my pre-interview briefing, and agreed that Ryan would join in for the more situationist part of the interview, which seemed promising.
After more hanging out, the evening got underway with the custom-composed Unfinished Symphony theme song over which Dave scatted relentlessly. And the back room of the club had attracted a healthy crowd, largely thanks to Phat Mandee's efforts in building up the expectation of interesting things happening on Monday nights. The first guest was a gentleman whose art involves cutting wood with cross-cut saws...and he did. Quite dramatic. As this was a Halloween-related show, guests were encouraged to relate scary stories during which Tommy Amoeba would run around the room in a mask, wig, and sheet as the Lava Lounge's "ghost," and disappear into the ladies' room. (Guess you had to be there.)
Next up was one of the bassists from Loreli (a trio of two bassists and a drummer, if I recall correctly), doing a scary/amusing tune on bass and vocals, with audience response figuring in. Quite simple and effective for building rapport--a good time. The tone of the evening became quite clearly one of high and low irony, in which things were funny by virtue of their not being funny. And the laughter just multiplies. This reminded me quite a bit of Sharon "Mama" Spell's PTA meetings of a few years ago, which I enjoyed a great deal and attended regularly.
The third guests were two members of a local acting company who were verrry drunk, and went on for quite some time. They offered some mildly amusing moments out of their fog of bewilderment, and they managed to cut some wood as well. Sadly, for such a long segment, it left me with comparatively few memories. In between acts, Unfinished Symphonies contributed a fine performance of his classic "Jump On It," a definite crowd-pleaser.
The next guest was Lord Grunge of local electro-hip-hoppers Grand Buffet, and his segment was a delight of cultural signification, absurdist anecdote, and little mind-bombs dropped into conversation. Hey, I dug it, and his group--like me--has a track on Circuits of Steel (as does the Lava Lounge sound guy, Automatic Matt).
My bit came next, and it was getting quite late. A few people bailed after Lord Grunge's segment was over, but there were still plenty of people still hanging in there. I had to wait a while for the tape to be replenished in the video camera, but after that delay and some theatrical chaos, we were on. We covered the origin of the name, a description of the music, my influences (about which I wasn't nearly as exhaustive as I could have been).... Given the tenor of the evening, I was trying to give my answers the right combination of witty, deadpan, and ironic, and might have gotten the balance right about 30% of the time. The interesting thing about Dave is that--as Rob had told me--he really goes for it in an interview. He takes it very seriously, although tries to keep things entertaining, and he often lets loose with very probing questions. The influences one was a good example: he chose to ask about them from a historical perspective, in different phases of life. So I found myself talking about my habit of recording all kinds of environmental sounds in my adolescence, and throwing them together into collage pieces I thought of as "rock" at the time...but which clearly were much weirder than that.
We also discussed the Stem Cell Liberation Front, and brought Ryan up for some well spoken comments, after which we cut wood with the crosscut saw. Rather difficult, actually, as the log kept sliding across the floor and I kept running out of room to pull the saw. I did knock a ladder down onto myself, but it was easy enough to put back up. The sawing process felt like it went on for a much greater time than it probably did, largely from the number of things going not quite right. We did finish, however, after which I heard a woman call out, "Well that sucked!" And it did.
But in a few moments we were back on track, as I performed "Tell Ya One Thing," the first of the plunderphonic poem series. It was very nice to be able to look around the room and see people's faces as the absurdity of the piece registered. During some of the funnier (or more crowd-pleasingly funny) lines, I watched a few people smile, and it was good. The remix went over well, too, as did an impromptu S2P performance of my sample set that consists largely of voices. (I'd used this set before for Unfinished Symphonies' "Brokenhearted Pete," but it was definitely more abstract here.) And we were done, although I probably could have gone on for a while. It seemed like a better idea to leave people wanting more, though.
To my surprise, I ended up selling a few of the Tell Ya One Thing business card singles, and I got a decent chunk of the door--in total, probably the most I've ever made for a live performance. So things are looking up, here, for sure. Afterwards, I talked to some audience members, the guy from Loreli, Dave himself, Lord Grunge, and Automatic Matt--good people, all. It's possible that we might have some more people in the house for the upcoming Roboto show. As ever, we'll find out.
Ah, late summer. We've been roasting for quite a while and we're almost done. Now's the time to shake off our summer torpor, and get some things happening...and what's happening is another show by Stoic Sex Pro. Topping the bill is another wielder of guitar and laptop, the well-known electro jet-setter Hrvatski, along with Euro-stylers Joseph Suchy and A-Musik Soundsystem, fresh in from Cologne. It's a happening scene, baby, and you're going to be there, right?
I'll be going on at 8 PM, opening with a performance of "Tell Ya One Thing (the Kiss of Sweetness)," the poem that earned me props from the musicians and snubs from the poets at the Heavyweights of Rock 'n' Roll Poetry show back on August 15. What's all the buzz about? The lucky, lucky audience will know. I'm also planning on a new piece, as well as some muscular renditions of older ones. This will also be the public debut of my new looping pedal. And I'll have Stoic Sex Pro CDRs for sale, for the paltry sum of $5 a pop--how can you lose?
So move your carbon on over to Backward on Forward--Wednesday, September 4, 2002 at 8 PM. It's all ages, and a mere $7--literal hours of high-quality electron-enhanced entertainment.
After three months away from performing, I got back into it with, well, some degree of vigor. While I was performing, I felt rusty, not entirely on top of everything, but at the same time, people seemed to respond to it well. Listening back to it now on the (occasionally distorted) MiniDisc recording, I can see that it was (as often happens) better than I thought while I was doing it.
I'd spent much of the day editing down some new samples, and also on organizing them into setups for BackToBasics. I also felt the need to change strings before the show, which also took up some valuable time. I wasn't running late, but I was feeling a certain unpreparedness. Happily, the club was close, and the aging car held up for the brief trip down there. I encountered a patron on the way in--no one I knew, but he was interested in the experimental scene. A promising sign--not just the same few faces at this one.
I loaded in and, being the only musician in the house at the time, started setting up on the table onstage. Turned out that the table was reserved for Hrvatski and Joseph Suchy, so I did the old sitting down and setting the PowerBook up on a chair facing me, over on stage right. Eventually the other guys came in from having picked up dinner, and they set up onstage as well. It was getting to be a bit crowded, but it worked. All we needed to do was wait for the audience to trickle in.
The audience was sparse for my set, but there were friends in the house (my wife and a friend from way back among them), which helped. I started with the plunderphonic poem "Tell Ya One Thing (the Kiss of Sweetness)," which got a good reception from this particular audience. Unfortunately, the way the cables were on stage (somewhat bound together) prevented me from turning the PowerBook around for the poem, but them's the breaks. I followed it up with the new piece. I'd gotten excited while I was putting the sample setup together--I could go from ambient to very beat-oriented. One sample (taken from someone pouring a liquid) had a massive bass sound when slowed down. While it sounded great in the room, it unfortunately caused the MiniDisc's mic pre to clip. The speech samples are a bit existentially depressed, but I'm kind of fond of this one. Next up was a new version of "Weapons of Love," featuring a more aggressive ring modulated guitar intro (which I may use on something else). I was originally going to do "The Good Life," and even announced it, but at the last moment changed my mind and thought I'd go more beat-oriented again. So I made another attempt at the dance-oriented (or at least beat-oriented) thing from March's Zythos show, but I still can't make this piece work the way I'd like it to. Time to change the samples, I suspect.
So I finished, and there was applause. I tried to sell some CDs, and had no luck: the most frequent comment was "Is the poem on there?"--but the poem's too new. So...this tells me that I'm going to have to come up with a few more, and maybe do a 3" CDR for the poetry. Hey, give the people what they want. It couldn't hurt. Much.
The A-Music Sound System kept things rolling throughout the changeover, with some chill-out music, often exhibiting a Turkish exotica flavor. More and more people began to trickle in, and the showing was ultimately quite respectable. (Would have been nice to have them in the house for my set...)
Hrvatski was up next, turning in a set that was at first so contemplative that it made me wish I'd done "The Good Life" (a piece built up from 60-cycle hum) after all instead of the beat thing. He did eventually get noisy and feedbacky, to an impressive (and to some, overwhelming) degree. I actually wasn't sure when or if his set had started, as I was backstage chatting a bit with Joseph. ("And what is your intention with your music?" Very interesting guy, having traveled the world for a number of years, soaking up many different musical cultures before recording and releasing anything. And he's been playing guitar since I was about a year old.) Eventually I figured out that the set was actually happening, and went around front to check it out. At the end of the set, he revealed that he was building his piece up out of samples from a room mic, Kaffe Matthews style, manipulating the mic with a MAX/MSP patch. But here, the feedback was quite real--the room mic was actually a few feet above the PA speakers. Still, very impressive, and the A-Music Sound System provided a loose, swinging contrast.
Joseph's set was an alternating exhibition of swooping, Digitech-Whammy-pedal drones and Dionysian fuzz explosions, and it was all very, very loud. (Wear your hearing protectors, folks--I did, and that's how I was able to enjoy the set.) After the drones would stabilize, he'd straighten up in his chair, raise his right hand, close his eyes, smile, and...just...hold...this position for quite a while before crashing into the guitar for the explosive release. Quite the spectacle, and intriguing.
Afterwards, there was another brief set by the A-Music Sound System, and then...all three of us improvised for about a half hour. I've improvised enough that I believe I left enough space for everyone. I eased into my contributions, starting with hum of different frequencies, and then some ring modulated drones, followed by some percussive sounds and some glitchy samples. Listening back, I can hear that Joseph's playing would rear up and tower over the rest of our sounds for a while, and then recede--very oceanic. A couple times I made the mistake of trying to play without the ringmod, a very bad idea as we hadn't tuned to each other in advance...but I don't think the audience was much put off by this. All three of us were working in different kinds of spaces, which made the improv easier in a way--it was rare that anything would clash. I did feel a bit awkward at the end, as my Clutter experience trained me to expect other improvisers to pick up and keep going once everything had died down, so I kept a few sounds (hum, some slight guitar percussion) going for a while when the others had stopped, and it took me what seemed like a lot of time to realize they were finished. I really hadn't wanted the last word, so to speak, but there I was taking it. Nonetheless, a good time seemed to be had by all.
When I walked back to the soundboard, near where I'd stationed the MiniDisc, Manny shook my hand and said, "Jammin' with the big boys!" and yes, it certainly was. Apparently I'd contributed effectively, although by the time the improv was done, much of the audience had filed out. Perhaps that's a good thing. And there was an actual $20 in cash resulting from this show, which more than made up for my inability to move CDs at this one. A good night indeed, and the car even behaved on that brief ride home. Ah, those electronic guitar improvs of 2002; I'll remember them well.
And now there's a last-minute addition of a Stoic Sex Pro gig, at the small Gems of the World gallery. I've not been there before, but I know that they often have ambient loopers performing for openings...and this time it's me. Expect to hang out, look at cool stuff, have some good hors d'ouvres, and soak in a somewhat more ambient performance than I've done in a while. (I'm planning on doing "The Good Life (for Bruce Naumann and Nam June Paik)" and probably some other stuff that's too contemplative for bar performances.) Apparently the gallery is near Papparazzi's, but it seems to me like it'd be closer to Options and the City Grill.
Gems of the World, 2023 E. Carson St., South Side, starting around 6 PM, over by 9 PM. Free.
I suspect they didn't quite know what they were getting when they booked me. I kept it ambient, and the more consonant stuff was ignored and talked over, which was a measure of success. The boyfriend of one of the artists said, "I was hoping you'd be bringing your keyboard, like last night. That was great. Man, I really liked the keyboard. I wish you'd brought it," several times throughout the evening, referring to the previous evening which was played by Robert Press (keys) and Mike Klobuchar (excellent jazz guitar, loops). The artist herself asked if I was from CMU (nope), but I suppose the dissonance, the PowerBook, and the glasses made that inevitable. I found in general that adhering to any structure I've used for pieces in the past wasn't going to work. Instead, I stuck to consonant stuff, with gentler samples...although whenever anyone asked about what I was doing I'd demonstrate the GWB samples I'm using for the SCLF, and exhort them to check out the next day's show.
At one point the owner asked me to play some rock 'n' roll, so I raised my activity level and played more aggressively...and he very quickly asked me to tone it down again. ("The whale songs are scaring people away!" And indeed it was true, but they came back when I got ambient again. So he actually meant "rock 'n' roll," apparently, which isn't what I'd ordinarily play in front of people.) Overall, I'd say it wasn't an audience that would have requested what I do, but they were tolerant nonetheless--I played for about three hours and they didn't kick me out.
On the plus side, I sold three CDs, and met three people who were very interested in what I was doing. A significant upside was meeting Steve Pellegrino, a local performance/theater/film artist who's been doing large-scale pieces over the last 20 years or so (usually entitled Drywall and a number). Wow. He'd like to involve me in the next one, probably happening in 2003. I also met a local composer and yet another local musician whose band I did manage to catch back in the 80s, opening for the Volcano Suns. So overall the evening was about connections, and very artistically successful from that point of view.
This is an interesting stealth gig for the Elastic Concept. It's so stealth--and so elastic--that most of the other participants don't even know that they're in the Elastic Concept. Now that's stealth. What we do know is that Robert "Unfinished Symphonies" Press and I will take the festival stage at 12:00, and do a joint set of swanky organ tunes and twisted sampling. (I'm not taking the guitar this time--it's PowerBook only!)
The other acts are a drumming ensemble and some kind of performance group. We're definitely the oddballs in this lineup. Oh--the name (Stoic X. Pro) has been temporarily sanitized for an audience of kids and parents. (I would have gone with UnfinishedStoicSymphonyPro or something, but hey, whatever.) So come on out and walk around, see what's happening, eat some mighty barbecue, and experience the most Elastic of Concepts to date, so elastic that it's bordering on Situationist. And it's free, I think.
This actually did turn out to be an interesting gig. The school is nestled between a well-kept community and a rather nasty housing project--Robert led us through the community to the school, avoiding the other route. It's quite a nice school, actually, although the Brutalist architecture might bug some people (but I'm feeling a bit more charitable toward Brutalism these days, for some reason.) The school's steel drum ensemble was performing when we got there, and they were quite good, using several ranges of steel drums to cover the arrangements, while a student kept time on a trap set. (Quite tightly, too.)
While the other acts set up under a tent, we eyed the weather suspiciously--it was cold and potentially rainy, and the PA wasn't itself under the tent. Instead, it was set up on a patio which featured an overhang from the floors above, a perfect location for us if it did begin to rain. So that's where we headed. It was fairly easy going setting up, but there weren't any monitors, so Rob had to go out to help me sound check. Rob got his keyboard and vocal rig together next to me, and I put the PowerBook on top of the powered mixer, so people could see what I was doing. What I was doing was pretty much just pushing keys on the keyboard and moving the mouse, but I think the incongruity of the sounds themselves was somewhat compelling.
Here's the set list. All the songs are by Robert Press:
"Answer the Phone" is a peppy, uptempo tune to which I contributed a whole boatload of telephone-related samples. I let the ringing tone go on for a while before we started, prompting someone in the crowd to yell, "Answer the phone!" Perfect.
"Jump on It" is a rousing yet abstract crowd-pleasing shout-along to which I contributed even more abstract noises.
"Goth" is a super-downtempo tune; I contributed slowed down Morse code and drony sweeps of noise.
"Coma" is a more rock-oriented tune as I remember, from my notes of the samples I was playing at the time. And man--wait 'til you hear those samples.
"Brokenhearted Pete" is a slow amble through brain-damaged brokenheartedness. Rob would play for a bar or so, and rest while I contributed one of a set of several random amusing speech samples. An occasion of great mirth for us; dunno how other people felt.
"Wave Machine" is sometimes a Mr. & Mrs. Funky tune, quite the singalong. I contributed hi-q sheets of white noise.
"Hipster Bebop" is Dave Brubeck on cheap beer and stale cigarettes. More noise from me.
"Summertime" is a classic--classic, I tell you--celebratory blues tune, perfect for end-of-year bacchanalia. Or in this case, a middle school end-of-year festival. I added sounds from last July 4th.
And that was it. We were pretty well received, and we hung out for a while, eating interesting food and browsing cheap goods at the fundraising sale. And that was it. I'm not sure if people knew quite what hit them, but that's just fine.
After a few months layoff, I'm performing again. It's not just me--I'm part of the Elastic Concept, an evening of four interrelated, yet compellingly different bands. Dig the lineup: The City Slickers (super-hot, yet casual R&B), Stoic Sex Pro (your humble correspondent--like having a head full of schizophrenic bees), shiny new popsters the Count-Ups (Dr. Espinoza and tightly-knit bunch of geniuses), and CLUTTER (bipolar explorers of improvised music, including yours truly).
This is similar to the lineup that's played at Duke's in the past, but I guarantee that the performances will exude a compelling newness throughout--and we're at Pittsburgh's hippest bar! Come by, drink real alcohol, pick up mysterious members of your preferred gender role, listen and recline open-mouthed with glassy, hallucinating eyes, and drop a few bucks on the Stoic Sex Pro CDR I'll have for sale. ($5 for 71 minutes and 37 seconds of sonic content. That's less than $0.07 per minute--cheaper than most long-distance carriers!)
Friday, March 8. Zythos, folks! The show starts at 9 PM, and the cover is $2--that's right, Two! Measly! Dollars! Cheaper than anything you'll actually drink there. How can you lose? Zythos, 2108 East Carson St. (that's the South Side, homes) Pittsburgh, PA 15203. Phone: (412) 481-2234.
This gig was...interesting. Perhaps not the best in some ways, but there were some enjoyable aspects. In no particular order: nasty smoky atmosphere in bar. Possibly the worst I've experienced, and this includes Faust setting off road flares in the late, lamented Millvale Industrial Theater. Rest room in the bar was...pretty much on a par with old MIT, except that the lighting fixtures were still attached to the ceiling. Not up to code, I'd have to say. On the other hand, I did have great parking karma: on a very busy warm night along this popular strip of bars, clubs, and restaurants, I managed to park RIGHT in front of the place. Amazing. I had to loop around several times to do it, but it worked out. Sweet. And I sold a CD on the way in.
The plan for the evening was a bunch of really short sets, all interspersed. So everyone would play two sets, but it wouldn't get old for the audience, as the bands would always be changing. The way we did this was have everyone set up at the beginning of the evening, to make changes quicker. Some sharing of drum kits and amps was involved, as well.
Clutter was on first, and after some setting-up difficulties, we seemed good to go. I spotted a friend out at the bar--very nice of her to show up. Nick (the other guitarist, now mostly playing bass) said to me, "You know, I hate playing out. I'd rather be in the basement." All-righty, then--it didn't bode well, but he warmed up to it. For this first set, I had trouble hearing myself, and we figured afterwards that I should turn up the volume. (I was a bit reluctant as I didn't want to blow anyone out of the water--I'd gotten a bit loud with some no-input stuff in the last rehearsal.) Next up, City Slickers laying down the R&B action. And then my solo Stoic Sex Pro set. As I was setting up the MiniDisc (on the floor, at the front of the performing area) I could sense someone leaning over me--another friend showed up, concerned that he'd missed my set, but no--just in time.
I did a new piece that was based on a lot of percussive sounds. The main one was a really nice series of multiple bangs from a coffeehouse, and when I first looped it, I knew I had a winner. Very infectious. Most of the other percussion was looped so that it would lock in place when triggered, and I did the same with some of the vocal samples, particularly a series of "uh" and "um" that has a nice hypnotic quality to it. I did have a good groove going between the PowerBook and triggered sampled guitar at one point. It was well received, but sadly I didn't get much in the way of a good recording of it--the PowerBook was too loud (occasionally overloading the MD) and the guitar too soft. Ah, well. next time.
The next set was by the Count-Ups, Ron "Dr. Espinoza" Strelecki's new band--probably the poppiest I've ever heard him, and definite contenders. Glad he's going in the poppier direction, as it really shows off his songwriting skills in a listener-friendly way. This was a longer set, and it was getting rather late by the end of it. My one friend bailed (understandable), but she did get to see a couple of my sets--one distinct advantage of the short, broken-up set model.
Clutter was up again next, and Rich the keyboardist, now well-lubricated, insisted on playing kazoo for the first part of the set. I was playing somewhat more conventionally for a while, with a lot of speech samples, I think more electronic noises would be better for this context. There were a lot of notes going on between Nick on bass and Rich when he got back to playing keyboards--kind of a struggle to find room for electronics. After a 20-minute improv, we were asked to make the next one 5 minutes. I stopped playing at minute 5, but the Clutter momentum kept the band playing through minutes 6, 7, 8, and 9. It's that Clutter aesthetic in action.
My other friend bailed after this set, as it was now very late and he had to be up early, but he did buy a CD. Very cool of him. Next up were the City Slickers again, doing a very short set, and by this point it was 1:00 in the morning. After a short changeover, I did a very abbreviated version of "It Is Highly Concentrated; It Is Pure" as a couple people who saw me at Duke's the first time were in the audience, and I had picked up their commentary at that show for inclusion as samples for the second Duke's show (which they hadn't attended). They stuck it out, and listened. They didn't pick out their samples, though. I thought it wasn't as focused as the first set, but it was indeed late and I think we all wanted to get going home. While I was playing, there was one guy hanging out, checking out what I was doing and apparently digging it. He didn't buy the CD, but was enthusiastic nonetheless.
We packed up and loaded out, hanging outside and watching the young, beautiful, horny and underclothed walk back and forth along the street. One car full of young men slowed down and shouted at me, "Whereza sexy girlz at?" If only he had known he was asking this question to Stoic Sex Pro...but they drove away before I could answer. (Mr$ Funky suggested that the best answer would be, "They're IN MY MIND!")
Fallout from the evening--apparently, sometime before Monday night, someone walked out of the club with a monitor, and the bar owner was hopping mad, accusing one of us of doing it. Um...let's see. There was all of Saturday and all of Monday for this to happen, and the distinct possibility that it was gone before then, as none of us recall ever seeing the thing. For my own part, I like to carry my rig in and out in one shot, and I'm pretty loaded down. I'm not going to take on the burden of picking up any extra equipment, thankyouverymuch. There was a fairly large crowd there that night as well, so if it had been lifted, it could have been any of the audience--it's not as if there's any actual security at the door of the place. Kind of a drag, as we probably now have a reputation with the owner for something we didn't do.
Ah, well. Some friends showed up, I tried a new piece, got applause, sold a few CDs, and have $5 coming to me from the door. Not too bad. Next venue, please.
Perhaps it's somehow appropriate that I had a show on Binary Day.
Tomorrow night, Saturday November 10! 9 PM! Live! At Duke's! In Oakland! The first official show by Stoic Sex Pro! (That's an anagram of Toxic Spores! There was a sale on exclamation points! I bought too many! I have to get rid of them!)
Marvel at the unusual tonalities coming out of the guitar/ring modulator combo! Ponder the cultural commentary hidden among the samples! Dance mechanically to the relentless pulse! Play a round of pool! Drink cheap beer! Gape in astonishment at the microscopic men's room! (Hint: the sink is outside, at the edge of the pool room.) Or just sit next to my binaural mics, make commentary on my set, and be unwittingly recorded for use the next time. (Hey--it worked for some of you the last time I was at Duke's.)
Also on the bill:
Mr. & Mr$ Funky -- Straight from an engagement at Lake Tahoe! Here to rock your world with songs of love, loss, and what happens when you lose your glasses!
The City Slickers -- They've tapped into our cultural reservoir and extracted the richest, most slippery ooze--now they're slicker than ever! Don't miss this amazing natural/cultural resource.
Clutter -- Blazing a trail through the sonic underbrush, watch these intrepid aural explorers reach Wallace Stevens' Palm at the End of the Mind, and shake loose the coconuts of desire.
There's a possibility that this set will be broadcast at the very bottom of your AM dial (600? 660? I forget; it's somewhere in the 600s), on Duke's microradio station. I'm told it has a 2-mile radius, but in practice it can be as little as two blocks. And if you're that close, why not come on in? See you there, or at the bottom of the AM dial, or not at all--your choice!
I should point out regarding the November 10 9PM show at Duke's that Duke's is in the first block of South Millvale, just off Center Avenue. It's next to the Gulf station, right across South Millvale from the Pep Boys. And it appears that I'll be sitting in with the excellent chaps from Clutter as well.
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See you at Duke's!
In a way, a classically bad scene. CLUTTER didn't actually play this one, because...they were early and the owner told them there wouldn't be any bands that night. Next, Mr. Funky showed up to discover a pool table in the middle of the performance space. The group of young men who were using it were very vocal about their disappointment in having to move to another table. That was about when I showed up, to find Mr. & Mr$ Funky waiting outside the venue for the manager to arrive, so we could find out if we were in fact playing that night. Ultimately, the manager showed, and we did play. The table itself wasn't moved, however, and we had to play around it, as the now-evicted pool players moved to another room and occasionally looked in to glower. Real bad-gig vibes here.
The City Slickers went on first, and were once again the ideal bar band--good song choice, hot playing from lead guitarist Kevin. They did about two thirds of their set, and then the microradio guys showed up. The Slickers took a break to let the radio guys set up, but...the bartender told them they couldn't broadcast. Hmmm. So they opted to record the sets instead, and the Slickers finished their set.
I was up next, with a new piece--topical, yet somehow related to the new performance name, and not without a sense of humor. I kept the energy level high, and listening back to it, it's pretty dense. Mr. & Mr$ Funky quite enjoyed it and expressed their amusement with vigor. With the pool table in the middle of the space, I set up the PowerBook on it and played standing, which meant that every time I went to adjust my pedals, I was bending down and disappearing behind the table. (Pay no attention to the man behind the pool table...) I did my 20 minutes, and brought the piece to an end. There was applause, and some people who wandered in before my set seemed to enjoy it, or at least not be driven off.
Mr. & Mr$ Funky kept their set brief as it was getting near midnight and we all pretty much just wanted out of there. But it was a good set with some enjoyable new (to me, anyway) songs.
Overall, a very weird night, but some good performances and a good story, anyway.