by carl wilson

Small Craft Warnings

Having hyped it up so much, I'd be remiss if I didn't offer some post-game notes for my boys Drumheller after last night's cd launch at the Tranzac:

1. No matter how you mix up the repertoire, it's always a bad idea to open for yourself. Josh Thorpe's material came across nicely - quite a trick to orchestrate the indescribable "off" rhythms of the Shaggs, and I especially loved the reinterpretation of the Runaways' Cherry Bomb - but it meant that we got the same ensemble for Set 2. Change refreshes the ears. Also, for newcomers you got a little case of identity confusion - what kind of band is Drumheller, they wonder? Maybe it would have worked a little better if Drumheller had broken its own material up with a middle section of Thorpe instead.

2. I wish all improv/jazz bands could have a private room somewhere to play the first 15 minutes of their sets so that they could hit the ground running. At first Drumheller didn't so much sound like a band that plays "out-of-jazz" but just a band that plays jazz. Sometimes the avant-garde could stand to pay attention to the tenets of showbiz - good rock bands blast off with a hot number, bringing the audience into their own aesthetic zone dramatically and decisively. Unless there's a sound conceptual reason not to do that, why not establish your voice as distinctively as possible right away? I think of this band as being bound to jazz with a gaudily coloured elastic that they constantly threaten to snap, but never quite do - but last night it took too long for the elastic even to get taut.

3. The next point is related: Nick Fraser, the drummer who also spoke for the band throughout the show, noted that "a gig is like hosting a party." That's true. And the best parties have a real shape, quiet parts, the boisterous dancing parts, perhaps a surprise (ice cream!) at midnight, and are brought to a gentle denouement rather than collapsing in a heap. But a concert (as opposed to a club gig, which has looser rules) is also a piece of theatre, a narrative that you want to shape. So to say, as Nick did at about one in the morning, that the band is just going to keep playing indefinitely because they have a lot of material, and they "won't be offended if people have to go home," is to abdicate from half the task - and worse, to say you don't really care if people go makes it feel as though you don't really care that they came or whether they ever come back. Half the audience left after the piece Nick introduced with that line - including me, and I'm a pretty huge D'heller fan. Two-and-a-half hours is a long time to listen to instrumental music, and one's ears get tired - unless you have some sense how much more there is to come, you bail. I know it was well-meant, just underconsidered, and it's the kind of error anyone could make, but I hope it won't be made again - unless, again, you introduce the open-endedness as a more structural, conceptual component, it comes across as an indifference to your listeners. And indifference is not one of the seven heavenly virtues of experimental music.

4. All complaints aside, much of the show was terrific, especially the second half of the second set, pre-"class dismissed" moment. Rob Clutton's pieces were especially strong. My favourite (whose name now escapes me, sorry) was one that opened with the horns, Doug and Brodie, in duet and then broke into a middle section with the strings playing a lovely drone-fiddle (bowed-guitar) trio with Fraser, and then returned to the horns - it was a piece in which each note just burrowed into the ears, undulating through the mind and down the spine.

5. On non-musical notes - I was happy to hear that Drumheller won the hearts of the Godspeed-lovin' throngs when they opened for the Silver Mt. Zion at the Tranz. earlier in the week. Speaking of hearts, I also found out that Brodie West's upcoming decampment for Amsterdam will be preceded by his marriage to a lovely young woman named Heather, whom I met last night because we happened to sit at the same table. Congratulations and best of luck to you both.

Live Notes | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, July 31 at 5:14 PM | Linking Posts

 

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Zoilus by Carl Wilson