Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kenny Larkin @ Barzilay; Contempo Festival Part I @ Levontin 7

This post is to document the most eclectic night out, music-wise, that I've had in quite a long time. It's an evening that began with avant garde solo violin played to a hushed seated crowd and ended with L'il Louis' "French Kiss" played at 6AM to a beer and adrenaline fueled dancefloor and a thunderstorm raging outdoors.

Nils Auckland squeezed a dazzling array of multitonal sounds from his violins, wrenching layers of drone from his instrument that would normally have no business leaping out of its strings. At times he played the violin almost as a percussion instrument, slapping his bow hard enough to knock both the frame and the strings of his violin, producing a half-wood block, half-staccato tone. At other times he played so quietly that the gentle hum of the air vents was threatening to drown out his playing. The venue staff turned the vents off. You'll never hear a crowded room get so quiet.

I wasn't really feeling Yoni Silver's solo bass clarinet performance, but the lo-tech light and shadow show helped to make up for it. Standing with his back to a white wall, illuminated by nothing but a hanging bulb to his right and a simple desk lamp on the floor in front of him, the gradual dimming and illuminating of these lights cast a playful array of shadows on the wall behind him. Just a man swaying with with his horn, both projected comically large on the surrounding walls.

Things got even better. Hilde Sophie Tapioord (sp?) took the night's prize for the most unexpected use of her instrument. She makes noise music that is partly constructed in real time from the processed sounds of her voice and her ... French horn! During her 30-minute onslaught, I had time to think about a lot of things, and one of them was the sadly underrated Ben Neill, who made some pretty cool ambient and downtempo music in the 90's with the help of his processed, specially prepared trumpet.

And then there was ZU, possibly the world's only sludge metal band that features baritone sax in place of guitar. Even though the band passed off their short set as a simple soundcheck for their proper gig the following night, you wouldn't believe the amount of Stooge-y primal sludge rock that can be constructed out of drums-bass-sax.

One hour and one venue change later, the scene for Kenny Larkin's highly anticipated set looked nothing like I expected. It turned out that there was some spillover from the concert that took place earlier in the evening, for the crowd was a mix of club kids and glammed up guys and gals who were dressed for a somewhat fancier evening. These strange juxtapositions resulted in a fairly subdued and confused mood on the dancefloor, almost right up until the moment that Larkin started to play. But finally, the riff raff was cleared out and techno mayhem began in earnest, as Larkin worked a masterful three hour set that was classic Detroit, a set that kept the entire club nearly full right up until the day's first light.

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