Saturday, March 15, 2008

less fortunate

its half hour to eight. i know this because i can see the fast ferry has just pulled in. its already dark and closing time is near. in a couple of minutes people will start getting off that ferry and ill watch them walk down the pier towards town. out of the dark and into the bright, warm lights. i dont know if ill get to town tonight. in less than thirty minutes this last boat is leaving and with it leaves my last chance to get to boston tonight.

with this in mind i am still at work welcoming customers into the shop. i work in the pirate museum at the end of the pier, right next to the ferry dock. i am here but my mind is halfway to boston. time is short. im undecided. should i take it? should i get on?

i check my watch. twenty minutes. they are done unloading and people start getting on. this is going to be close. every night i hate people that walk in the shop just before closing time. tonight, i hate them with passion. ten minutes. ready? this is it. tonight we close early! thank you! bye!

i shut everything down like a storm blowing out candles. in two blinks of an eye and three of another i set the alarm and lock the door. i pay the man forty-five bucks for the ferry ticket and step on the boat at the last minute.

the horn blows loud and we are off. i am in deep with a serious adrenalin rush. way deep. i keep calm but i am building up inside. i have a sick buzz in my ears. heart is pounding hard. i am ready for anything. the ship is backing up, turning, then slowly exiting provincetown harbor.

i walk up to the huge front of the ship and step close to the front railing. the bright town is on my right. i stare at the dark water down under, then far out the sea. i start reckoning. its pretty obvious from the start that i am way over my head in this.

why i got on this trip is because, a couple of days ago, i read a paper add announcing a concert: godsmack and rob zombie ...together for the first time. i thought: i have to see this. it is my first time in the US and it is going to be a relatively short stay. since i got here i didn't leave town. this is the only concert in the boston area during my stay. its not that i care that much for these bands but i somehow need to see them live. if this is the only chance to see a big concert in the states ill take it. its true i dont have a ticket. and its true i have no idea how large the boston area really is. i know i need to get to the tweeter center in mansfield. i heard something about a train that can take me there from boston south station. i have no estimate of how long it takes to get there. i dont really know how to get to this station. i don't even know what time the gig starts; the add didn't say. i am well underprepared.

i dont realize that the directions i ask from a indian fellow working at seven-eleven are of no good for me, because i cannot understand what he is talkning about, beacuse of his thick accent. i dont take into consideration the state i sink into when i arrive in boston harbor, witnesing that amazing typical american coast, lined up with tall, luxurious hotels, full of lights, just as ive seen before... only in movies. i dont count on that tom&jerry effect when walking among the skyscrapers of south boston and turning my head, feeling my neck is about to screw off my shoulders. i dont plan for that energy rush when i run, without a clear reason, towards south station, but when i get there i catch the train seconds before it leaves.

there is a lot i dont know and a lot i havent thought of. i am way over my head in this. i have this gut feeling that i felt before. probably it works this time too. its good enough for now. the wind is picking up. the ship is out of the harbour and is taking up speed. let this thing take me to boston.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

portico quartet - street performance

In a time when music concerts become, for any reason, inaccessible, then time comes for me to take a little walk. A lonely, casual stroll is not what satisfies my lust for an excessively loud, mass musical experience, but rather the musical opportunities that it can offer. Especially when in London, because here one can find a generous offer of street performers. And with the right kind of ear you can spot that one artist, or group that can provide that much needed dose of live musical vibration.

portico quartet on south bank photo by miljasson

This is how I first found out about PORTICO QUARTET.

I was walking along the South Bank, just passing under Waterloo Bridge. I was on my way, caught in a location scouting exercise; post production. Just like that practice in the movie industry, when they go looking for a location that suits the director's requirements for shooting a specific scene. I was doing the same thing, only long after the movie was shot, cut and released. It's a weird experience, something like going to see the empty frame that belonged to a famous painting.

Although still in February, it was an unexpectedly warm afternoon. In front of the National Theatre I pulled out my blasting headphones, as I noticed these four laid back, young lads playing their instruments for the passerby, catching his fancy. The crowd was thin, the sound was soft, and the music was inviting. I stepped forward and sat on the pavement very close to them. I wanted to get a good sense of what they were doing. Right away I was intrigued by their experimental, adventurous jazzy sound that was also surprisingly accessible. They used drums, double bass, saxophone and a central instrument for their music, a newly introduced percussion instrument, which I didn't know what to call at that time, but later found out it was called the hang - their piece de résistance.

The hang was developed at the beginning of the 21st century by two instrument-designers from Switzerland, working under the name PANart. It’s based on the principles of tuned metal, and it’s a combination between gongs, steel drums and bells. The hang is generally played with hands and fingers but also with mallets for a sharper sound. It looks like a metal turtle shell and produces a warm, melodic sound.

I could say their music had a strong luring feature, because not long had passed and the four musicians were surrounded from all sides. It is not that they put up an electrifying and energetic show; in fact it was a calm, tame performance. However, it was undoubtedly catchy as their music switched from ambiental, soothing moments to straight forward danceble passages. Even though they were performing in an open space, the richness and clearness of the sounds was impressive. The group used this environment as an aid to their music, which covered other apparently louder sounds, giving it a cool feeling.

The atmosphere persisted during the brakes when one of the members introduced the group to the audience and gave the title for the next song. Soon enough I made out that they were actually promoting a concert that was to take place in two weeks time. I was already thinking I was to see them again shortly. The flyer said this concert would take place in a chapel, and I thought of the difference in the acoustic. As my mind rambled on, a new song was just about to start. The two hangs were carefully passed between percussionists like two holy objects, and placed back on their laps, ready for another cluster of sound bubbles. This indeed is the instrument that gives Portico Quartet that specific, organic sound.

The light rhythm section sustains the double bass harmonic line, on which dense patterns of hang sounds are applied, completed by the spontaneous saxophone solos. Together they put out an inspirational combination of tunes for our time. It sounded like something you would hear on an electronic ambiental album. Only they played it live on acoustic instruments, which made the tunes sound fresh and vital.

Eventually , after I enjoyed a good chunk of their repertoire, they took a break to get verbal with some from the mass of people that gathered. And I took a break from them, returning to my initial plan to scout out the remains of an ex-movie-location. I was considering going to that chapel gig that was two weeks away. When time came I didn't go. Actually I didn't get to hear them play live since. About six months later I passed by on the street two of the guys from the group. I turned my head thinking "I know that guy, and his friend too. They make half of Portico Quartet." I didn't talk to them though.

portico quartet - a short film [shot and cut by Sian Lattimer]

More info on PQ

Portico Quartet came together as a busking group, usually performing just outside the National Theatre in London. Nick Mulvey plays the hang, Duncan Bellamy plays drums and hang, Milo Fitzpatrick plays double bass and Jack Wyllie plays saxophone. The four musicians were still in college when they first met and started this project. None of them went to a music school. In the present they all live together in a shared Clapham house.

They repeatedly played their usual spot on the South Bank and also toured Europe as a busking group. This seems to be a good model to gain attention, gather fans, and even impress the right people. They have also attended a number of jazz festivals. So, nearly two years after their first gig they eventually signed to Babel Label and released their first album – Knee Deep In The North Sea. This CD brought praise to the group from many London publications and also many specialized web sites. It was named “jazz world and folk album of the year” by TIMEOUT magazine. In 2008 their debut album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

There is a slight debate over their affiliation to JAZZ and critics chose to call them post-jazz. But this kind of labeling might lead the casual listener too far beside the point because what this group is all about is delivering contemporary, sincere and catchy tunes.

note: edited ten times, easily.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

rage against the machine

rock the bells. 7/29/2007. randal's island, new york city.

one year ago, around this time in january, i found out about the possible reunion of rage against the machine. by the end of april the four members performed their first concert in seven years. and by the end of july i got to see them on stage, in new york city, playing in front of a crowd of over thirty-five thousand. this was for me one of the most important concerts i have ever attended. i say this for two reasons: first, i’ve been listening to this band’s records for a considerable number of years regretting i didn’t get a chance to see them live while they were still together; second, this reunion reinforced one of my oldest believes, that as long as all members are still alive, sooner or later, a broken-up band is likely to get back together and perform again.

that weekend in july, soggy and muddy made the theme of the day. clouded sky and constant rain fashioned the perfect setting for an open-air, day-long, jam-packed, hip-hop/ rock festival. all day long i felt my clothes getting heavier from the pouring rain. i dragged my shoes through thick mud, going from one stage to another across the almost impracticable terrain of the festival ground. i sipped very expensive water-like heineken from plastic coups with my friend josh, while watching some of the most renowned hip-hop artists of the moment. all the artists that performed made us immune to the rough conditions and kept us spirits high and relaxed. we witnessed hip-hop at its best all day long.

right after nightfall time came for the rock section of the festival to begin. this was covered by only one band. “rage…” was bout to come on, so we took our place in the mob. they haven’t played in a long time and had scheduled less than ten shows for their reunion tour. this was one of them and i was right there. i was in new york city, at a major music festival, and about to see one of the most powerful rock bands take the stage right in front of me. the sky was dark, the stage was dark, and i was no longer relaxed. i was very anxious, very excited. all attendants were gathered in front of the main stage, forming an immense crowd, the biggest i’ve ever been part of. everyone was restless, waiting for the big moment. the energy was building up; i could feel it in the air. i was overwhelmed by the abundance of feelings. the tension was at its peak. i was breathing heavily and i couldn’t talk. my eyes were pointed at the great stage.

zack emerged in the spotlight and grabbed the mic: “good evening! we are rage against the machine from los angeles, california.” shredding sounds came from tom’s guitar, tim’s bass, brad’s drums, all building into a crescendo. and then the song kicked in. thousands of people broke contact with the ground, fists high up in the air, thus huge amounts of energy being released. this went on for the whole duration of the concert. the band was delivering lots of energy and the crowd was returning it, and so on back and forth in greater amounts. everyone knew the lyrics to the songs, everyone was chanting the chorus. every right element was there, making it the best example for a perfect concert.

rage against the machine - guerilla radio [live @ rock the bells 2007]