Reflecting upon Saturday and Sunday's shows, the one thing that strikes me is how long I've played within the two groups that I was with. Ear Spray, five and one half years; Crow Crash Radio, seven. It helps that neither of them rehearse too much. They definitely stay interesting that way. I used to love rehearsals, but as I age they get harder and harder to retain any interesting factors. Man, that sounds jaded! Urgh. OK, let's be enthusiastic about said shows, shall we?
Ear Spray-Noisebridge Hackerspace, San Francisco; 12/8/18
I very nearly didn't even make it to this show. Weirdness on BART found me sitting on a stopped train for a long time, several minutes away from 16th/Mission station. Thankfully, I made it to Noisebridge a bit before 12PM, the sharp start time for Godwaffle Noisepancakes events, simultaneously bumping into Carlos, who had also been delayed. Turns out that there were other delays as well (is Mercury still retrograde?), so I was able to hook up my very simple rig of one cymbal, contact mic'd, to Carlos's mixing board in plenty of time to do our set. The set started out with Ann on solo electric cello, an instrument that she's getting quite adept at coaxing Noise out of. Carlos and I joined in after what seemed like a good amount of time. We had planned out a 20 minute set, made up of four movements, each five minutes long, that would arc to a crescendo and then stop, with a small sound leading to the next movement. This plan went pretty well until we we reminded that our set had to be truncated to make up lost time in light of a hard 2PM stop time. Our set came to kind of a stumbling, jumbled halt, which felt kind of lame. The rough recording shows us interacting what seems like an effective way, with plenty of silences along with some nice, jarring noise, especially from the electronics and lone cymbal. Hopefully we'll have this one up at Bandcamp soon, because it seems worth sharing. Sorry that we went a bit long, Grux.
Below: such a simple rig; Carlos setting up in a rush
Below: Ear Spray video, by and courtesy of Ann! Thanks Ann!
Crow Crash Radio-Free Oakland UP!, Oakland; 12/9/18
No delays presented themselves for Crow Crash Radio's Sunday afternoon gig at Free Oakland Utopian Project. Indeed, I got there really early and found some good Samba LP's in the free bin. How does one say "SCORE!" in Portuguese? We set up the afternoon's proceedings so that Angel Archer and Crow Crash would alternate short sets, and this plan worked beautifully. Brian Lucas and Sheila Bosco cooked up some really great Psychedelic Ambient pieces that were quite inspiring to play after. Crow Crash presented one new tune, Uncle Sleep, which seemed to go over well, in a first set of longer, droning numbers. It's got a fun groove to try. Our second set had Brian Strang playing his resonator guitar as we went for a bit more of a Country feel. I enjoyed using brushes throughout both, save for some mallet work to begin the first one. At the end of the afternoon, Angel Archer and Crow Crash Radio combined to play a freaky 20 minute jam that reminded me of early Hawkwind, not a bad result at all. Upon leaving, I asked Free Oakland UP's Jocelyn Maggait how she did with the day's fundraising activities. She replied that did alright, so the day was a double win for me.
Below: my old faithful Ludwigs at Free Oakland UP!
To get back to my initial thoughts, it's tough to believe that I've played with Crow Crash Radio and Ear Spray for so long. Both of these humble projects soldier on, in the face of pretty much blanket indifference and non-recognition. I don't really mind, as they continue to prove themselves to be fun and fulfilling, even on a "weekend warrior" type of schedule. We'll see where they end up playing in 2019 I hope.
Initially, M-KAT Ensemble was supposed to provide music for a Contact Improvisation Jam set up by Kevin Dockery and Rosemary Hannon. We had had a private rehearsal with them, and they graciously asked us if we'd like to participate. Andrew could not join us, so we had to put a new configuration together. Thankfully, John Vaughn made himself available when asked. M-KAT without Andrew would not be M-KAT, hence the new (K)name!
Kersti, Thomas, John, and myself managed to fight our ways through Saturday night Berkeley traffic and score parking spots at and around Finnish Hall. Promptly at 8PM, we started playing. A few dancers joined us in the main hall portion of the building to start. It was amazing to watch new dancers arrive from downstairs or outside and begin their improvisational moves together and solo. About thirty minutes in, the floor was pulsing with energy from the synergy of the music and the dancers. Improvised Music and Contact Improvisation: perfect for one and other! Knames ended up playing for two hours straight, going through many changes of mood and mode; at the end, we all agreed that we were inspired and moved by the dancing people that were in front and around us. At one point, the group reminded me of the motion of flocks of birds with their seemingly random, yet clearly not random at all, patterns.
Another one of those gigs wherein the vibe made me extremely happy and fulfilled.
Many thanks to Rosemary and Kevin for asking us to participate in such a great event.
Below: Knames setting up; Thomas Harrison Jr. with his great new bass
It's always kind of slog to drive into downtown San Francisco for Thursday night Luggage Store Gallery shows, but I am always satisfied with the end result. Inevitably, there are good conversations with valued friends and co-conspirators along with music that I like. Such was the case last Thursday. After a great set by the wonderfully named Runcible Spoon Fight, John Vaughn and I ventured forth for the first time as a duo. Neither of us are really interested in having any project go by our names. We figured that Bamboo Skin Duo would work. It was Brandon Evan's phrase, used in September for a quartet which featured all of us, along with Tim Orr. Thanks, Brandon! Our set, made up of four pieces, paired my drums with John's flute, soprano, and theremin, all mic'c and fed into a looping device. John got some great, thick loops going, over which I had the freedom to pretty much play as freely as I wished. I had fun using brushes, mallets, sticks, and metal rods to coax textures from my kit. It seems as though John's only demand on other players is that they pay attention and play what they truly want to play; what a great paradigm! Over forty or so minutes, the sounds felt very connected and in sync. We got into some pretty interesting spaces, sometimes quite quiet, sometimes a bit more bombastic; everything felt right, either way. One of those sets during which I could close my eyes and feel every striking implement touching drums and cymbals in just the right place and just the right way. Bliss! Hopefully this duo can continue for a while.
Below: duo gear
Above: Bamboo Skin Duo with a few friends (photo by and courtesy of Tom Djill, thanks Tom!)