Seeing Dan Deacon and So Percussion play at the Ecstatic Music Festival reminded me of all the times I was young and joined drum circles down by the piers of Southern California. It’s the only real place where business guys on their lunch break can hang out with homeless dudes floating through the afternoon on acid. The drum circle offers equality because there is no real head or tail. It’s an inclusive space for all walks of life to join together to rattle and bang out sounds. The main objective is to share rhythm by tuning into each other and ones self. Drum circles offer space for group consciousness to grow so that a collective voice can emerge from communally shared rhythm. Most of the drum circles that have snared me into a prolonged afternoon lull, coupled with a joint or five, have been full of amateur drummers banging out simple beats that could be easily followed. Usually there’s some cool-experienced-guru type with a few extra drums or rattles willing to share with the estranged passerbyers so that they may partake in “becoming one with the universe” through the experience of banging on shit with a buncha strangers. Unlike drumming groups and troupes, the drum circle is an end in itself rather than the preparation for a performance. The Dan Deacon and So Percussion segment of the Ecstatic Music Festival brought everyone in attendance together similarly to a drum circle in different kind of communal, rhythmic experience.
So Percussion started the night with five songs improvised in conjunction with absurd short videos friends of the band created. For those not familiar with So Percussion, they experiment with drums, percussion instruments and found objects that make interesting noises, using them to explore the realms of improvisational performance. They invited a couple friends to join them for the evening, having them stand in for a missing bandmate at the hospital with his wife and newborn baby. Their set opened with a pretty straightforward drum circle and then then welcomed the audience into more experimental work. Their second song began with the audience helping band members sing “Happy Birthday Elsie” into a cellphone to newborn Elsie. Congrats! And lucky Elsie got the song and video “Toothpaste Bit” dedicated to her. The song “Toothpaste Bit” incorporated such varied instruments as an electric toothbrush, drums, a computer, a metronome, and an electric guitar. In keeping with babies and the starry eyed quality of being young, they next played a video of an infant playing with an orange balloon, about twenty or thirty orange balloons were tossed to the audience and I watched as young and old audience members alike swatted the balloons back into the air. Much of their work is exploratory, and band members explained that they try to use the places they go – airplanes, hotel rooms, cars – as guideposts to make music from. They closed their opening set playing along to a video of one of their inspirations, Martin Schmidt (of Matmos fame), wearing a white shirt and black blow tie, playing with shakers, blowing buzzers, and shaking rattles in unsuspecting intervals.
When Dan Deacon took the stage he returned the audiences attention back to cellphones by holding two cellphones together so they could create feedback, showing us how we were to do this when we reached a certain point of the evenings next activity. He then had score sheets passed out to the audience so everyone in attendance could form an ensemble, encouraging everyone that it was going to be a big show with a large audience and even though we hadn’t practiced we’d do great. Once everyone got their score sheet we began to conduct “Take A Deep Breath.” Dan had everyone present synchronize their cell phone times and then set their alarms to 8:21. At 8:21 as everyone’s phone alarms sounded we all began enacting the 24 step instruction sheet for the new experimental noise band we all formed.
We’re going to be covering the Ecstatic Music Festival!
This winter, more than 150 composers, songwriters and performers re-defining contemporary music come together for collaborations exploring the fertile terrain between classical and popular music. The 15-concert festival kicks off with a FREE 7-hour marathon on Monday, January 17, 2011 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) from 2-9 pm. You can get subscription good for the entire event or purchase single tickets.
Artists like Dan Deacon, Owen Pallet, and Nico Muhly have committed to playing the festival + so many more! We are really honored to get the pleasure of covering the event, and obviously hope those we hold dear are able to join us as we celebrate the diversity of music and the joy of song. JT has been trying to get me to a Dan Deacon show for ages and ages, and I’ve wanted to go, but something has always prevented me from being able to go. Surely this time I will make it to the show! The Ecstatic Music Festival is pushing artists to offer audiences something artists don’t normally get the chance to do, experiment. This isn’t just another night of parroting one-hit-wonders, nope, this will be an experience to remember. Continue reading
For those of you who don’t read Pitchforkmedia religiously and for those of you who don’t go to see bands play in New York City on a regular basis the name Todd P may mean very little to you. Todd P is essentially the premiere DIY music event organizer in New York City and one of the bigger events coordinates of his kind in the country. Though he’s done great things for the music community of New York City and has gone out of his way to get all ages of folks into his shows, some people find it hard to forgive his love/hate taste for bands, a trait that elevates some okay (or not so okay) bands to godly indie heights and neglects other great music artists entirely.
While I am sometimes hit and miss with Todd P’s choices of indie music champions, I can’t get angry at someone for promoting what they like and not promoting what they don’t, even if we differ in opinion. It is hard for me to get my panties in a twist over someone who has put on some of the better music shows I’ve seen since moving to New York and I have more than a handful of memories I’m happy to have that I wouldn’t, were it not for Todd P. His blog is consistently updated and friendly in it’s anonymous layout and he continues to find unique and interesting, if sometimes unnecessarily half hazard spaces to put on live performances, adding a level of uniqueness to what could otherwise be just another indie show. His constant commitment to making live music a special event is perhaps my favorite thing about the way Todd P works and it is also why I look forward to the event he just announced so eagerly.
For the past four years Todd has put on free showcases in Austin during the week of SXSW as a free all ages alternative to the hopelessly expensive and sprawling official festivities, often offering some of the best up and coming bands to be playing the festival officially. This year, he has announced something different, a split from Austin and it’s impersonal feeling festivities and an establishment of a three day festival of his own planning called MtyMx. It’s taking place south of the Texas border in Monterrey Mexico. It’s three days long, at an abandoned drive in movie theater, it only costs 30 dollars, almost 80 bands are playing and most of us will be sleeping in tents and having dirty hipster sex for seventy two hours straight. If this doesn’t sound like a good time to you, you most likely shouldn’t be reading this blog.
The line up so far is reproduced here after the jump
Since the first time I saw Future Islands play nearly two years ago, I wanted to post about them. I have rarely in my life fallen so instantly in love with a band as I have with Future Islands, yet I let their initial performance that I saw pass me by, telling myself I’d get to them as soon as I had another free moment. I tried to start their post many times since then, yet, every time I sat down at my computer thinking I was finally taking care of long overdue business, I found myself lacking an urgent angle to focus on except for my own ever growing love for them as a band. I could have posted a new video of theirs as it appeared, but writing a short essay about a band based solely on that made me feel a bit too eager. Since the initial time I saw them play I’ve caught them at least five times, each time finding myself more and more impressed. Now, after two ridiculously long years of sticking it out in wait for the perfect timely reason to sing my praises, the guys in the band graciously decided do an interview for minorprogression. This is not only a huge honor for our blog, but it is also a rather big deal for me, since Future Islands are one of the most slept on bands making music in this country right now and as you are about to find out, they are also one of the best.
Future Islands are a three piece made up of keyboards, electric bass guitar and vocals. This is a deceptively simple set up. Watching these guys prepare for a set you would never imagine what you are in for. They all appear friendly and mild mannered, down to earth and approachable. You get the feeling they have all been friends for a while. When they start to play however, all bets are off. Their songs are immediate, catchy, and thoughtful. Each one instantly burrowing its way inside your head. Their music alone would be reason enough to check out this band, but their live performance is what sets them over the top. This is especially true in the stage persona of Future Island’s lead singer, Sam Herring. In all the shows that I’ve been to in my life (god I can hear myself as a grandfather already, “In my day Shonny, we lishend to shomethin called indie rock” someone just kill me now) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lead singer as energizing, frightening or unique as Sam. While the band bangs out dancy and catchy synth and base lines, Sam drags you by the ears straight into the middle of their music. You have no choice but to watch him and to hear him out; a sort of emotional, cartoon, train wreck that you never really know whether to laugh at or cry.
This interview has finally given me the opportunity to ask the band members all of my questions concerning their history and performance style. Sam even answers my question about his stage persona which I feared was maybe something he wanted left a mystery. In the end it turns out that Future Islands are exactly the band that they seem to be before they start playing music; friendly, down to earth and it also turns out, extremely generous of their time and energy.
Last Saturday when I got off the train at the FYFFEST I was struck dumb by a line that stretched nearly a mile for will call tickets. Clearly, I thought, I am not alone in my love for music being powerful enough to save the state parks (and the dwindling summer days) so many of us value. Everyone was downing their water bottles quickly, the sun, just as quickly, drying them out, in hopes that they didn’t misplace their metro tickets which meant:
“Take the Metro and bring your ticket to any drink station to receive a free water. Only valid Metro tickets tickets from September 5th will be accepted (http://www.fyffest.com/location.php).”
Or so their website claimed. Continue reading
Greetings oh patient blog subscribers. For the past month or so I have been missing in action, due mostly to squaring away a new home, hooking up the internet and getting two new jobs. At last my bloodshot eyed minions, I return to the interweb to bring you tidbits of knowledge that will hopefully help make your days a bit richer.
Though I know the summer has been going on for a little bit now, it still feels like it arrived about a week and a half ago. To help you make the very most out of your last month (and a bit more) of summer, I have compiled a list of free music and arts happenings that go through the end of August. So, if you are sulking about not getting to take that little vacation you’ve been dreaming about, don’t fret! Buy some better grass than you’ve been smoking, invest in an easily concealable flask and impress all your friends by taking them to see free awesome music! They will love you a lot for it and you don’t even have to tell them I gave you the idea. Just consider it my consolation for disappearing for a while.
FREE SUMMER MUSIC LIST AFTER THE LEAP