Monday, October 5, 2009

Woodland Acoustic Orchestra Presents: "System of a Clown"!

Set 1 71 megs
Set 2 23 megs

Here's a fresh and ultimately very satisfying WAO performance. The Orchestra for September included TQ Berg (v-bass and voice), Dennis Jolin (percussion, electro-uke, and voice), Ian McKagen (6-string and voice), Jesse Silvertrees (djembe, other percussion, and voice) Adrian Woods (percussion at the very end of set 2) and Me Woods (charango, trumpet, percussion, and voice). The Chai House had provided the theme "System of a Clown" for the evening and it was a great springboard -- both lyrically and, eventually, energetically.

By browsing the parentheticals in the list above, you can see there was quite a bit of instrumental diversity this month! It was also fantastic to have so many players adding their voices throughout the evening. Jesse (in his first -- and hopefully *not* last! -- NBP appearance ever) not only brought a new depth and solidity to the groove with his tasteful Djembe playing, but adeptly jumped right into the mix with great signals and vocals both. TQ, in the absense of "Filthy" on bass, gradually brought in more low end and contrapuntal rhythm as the evening progressed, building up the mass and momentum of the sound in a smooth trajectory aimed squarely at 10:00.

The first set featured a few bumpy patches, interspersed with sporadic brilliance. I perhaps took a little of the creative wind out of our sails by encouraging signalers to focus on structural -- as opposed to thematic/story -- signals. Usually we get our legs under us by charging off on a collective realization of something like "Bamboo-Lord Deals Robotussen". ...which is also fun! :) I was interested in bringing out more of the hard-shifting, challenging odd-time grooves that the WAO format is capable of. (I think my revised approach would be to encourage people to simply supplement any conceptual signals with a structural one.)

Granted, the structure of this show strayed a little further than I would generally like from the core strengths of the 'Acoustic Orchestra' format (mostly around the two goals of intentional-ambiguity/overlapping-threads and playing *through* the signaled-changes). But I realize now that this is mostly due to the gradual influx of so many great new players, and I think I should be able to easily bring some of those elements back with a simple review of the tools before the next show.

So, all that being said, many of the signaled changes still pack a nice wallop here, and many of the "songs" from this particular evening are unmatched in recent WAO history. Truly spontaneous, sprawling, and vibrant...ecstatic collective tributes to the concept of the moment! My personal favorite is probably the first set's "It Aint Easy" (starting at around 29 minutes in). The whole celebratory movement builds gradually against Ian's and my traded verses, with some spot-on clown-FX from Dennis gleefully slapping us in the face like a pair of size-22 shoes. And the brief second set is nearly all gold!

What was your experience of the flower-spray?


a woods said...

Here's something I thought of after I'd finished posting this: I always think it'll be fun to bring the charango and then mostly end up hating playing it (after a couple of minutes it just seems to lack versatility somehow). And I did it again this night!! :) And at the end of the evening I was like "I'm never bringing that thing again!". But now, listening to the recording, it sounds fantastic! At the very least, the tone plays really well against the other instruments in the mix (functions somewhere between a banjo and a mandolin maybe). So... my new theory is that if I can figure out a way to attach a strap to it -- which is probably blasphemy for any actual charango player -- that it will be more enjoyable to play in the way that I play it. maybe...?

robert said...

Man, that picture is soul crushingly disturbing. Can't wait for the next post! :) Great name for this NBP though, one of the best of the modern era!

F R E E L A B said...

Finally! (...both to you joining the comments here and to somebody finally responding to my clearly-unsavory photoshopping...I really freaked myself out with that one! I'm always psyched when some legitimate photos are taken of the show, but ever since the Fraggle-Rock episode, I also relish the opportunity to fill in the gap if there aren't any :))

robert said...

Yes it is a masterpiece of nightmarish proportions. I can only imagine what that picture has done to your poor brother!