Friday, November 25, 2011

Concert Review: Tune-Yards @ Wonder Ballroom; Portland, OR. 11.21.11

In all my years as a makeshift journalist, this was the first time i ever actually got into a show for free. I had been e-mailing with Arrington de Dionysio, who was opening for TuNe-YaRds and Pat Jordache, at the Wonder Ballroom. Ended up getting on the guest list, at the last moment, under the false moniker J Andrews.

Didn't make it in time to see Malikat Dan Singa, which i really regret, but my buddy and i were holed up in the belly of Goat's Head Manor, summoning EVP noise collage; sometimes, you can't stop the flow. Better late than never, i got to see Arrington before the show, apologize for my tardiness, thank him for the admission, bullshit about Indonesia and trance music. He told me enjoyed the article i'd written, and that i was a talented writer. Between the guest spot, the noise music, the compliment, and the hilarity with my friend on the way over, i was sittin' on top of the world!

TuNe-YaRdS managed to pack the Wonder Ballroom; which is a large, antiquated ballroom with swank lighting and decor, nice wooden floors. Sounds excellent. Classy. Pretty good for a rainy Portland Mon. evening. I was somewhat familiar with their work, with their reputation, but i had no idea they were such a big deal, had such a large following. They sold out the show, and totally rocked the joint.

Pat Jordache was the first band that i saw. They had two drummers, and stage names. They reminded me of when i used to see Death Cab for Cutie, back in the day, playing small clubs. Both young indie bands, hungry, focused, ready to bring it to the next level. These guys are going places!

TuNe-YaRdS brought the Kenyan by way of Merriweather Post Pavilion sun worship. Front-woman Merrill Garbus began the ritual with an accapella chant, recalling everything from Billie Holiday to Bjork to Beth Gibbons, before segueing into a chorale of disembodies vocal loops. She is one of the smoothest, most talented live loopers i've seen thus far, singing and playing drums, looping and accompanying herself, with a tight rock band behind her, and a pair of Ethiopiques saxophonists behind her, providing tasty, crunchy horn stabs in the cracks, even harmonizing with each other! The whole band was incredibly tight, well rehearsed; it was one of those magickal nights, with a band on the verge of global conquest, but still playing to the devotees. The cramped quarters, the hot hot heat, the sweat, the uplifting trance music... all congealed to create a shimmery technicolor invocation, and had me calling out to my ancestors in gratitude. I belong to the coolest church in the galaxy.

Over burritos, i had an interesting conversation with my friend, who was not quite as ecstatic as i was, although he appreciated aspects of the performance. I was drunk on possibilities; he was looking for connection. At this phase of technology and culture, so much is possible, and the humans are getting more adept and virtuosic with the technology; a mechanical ballet. Its saliva inducing, what is possible, and it is so thrilling to watch people explore, master, genuflect. It shall be interesting, the alchemical marriage of plastic shimmer meeting the intimacy of a string quartet, or an electroacoustic improv set. Bombast vs. subtlety? Alien vs. human? As we gain mastery over the tools at our disposal, super-human feats of seeming magick are becoming possible. It shall be interesting, to see where we go from here.

TuNe-YaRdS, Pat Jordache, and Malikat dan Singa will be playing some shows in France, in January. Anyone from France? Check it out!

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