Monthly Archives: August 2009

Liquid Liquid makes time melt away

liquid 1

Liquid Liquid drummer Scott Hartley and vocalist Salvatore Principato have energy to spare at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. (Photos copyright 2009, Christine Maurus)

If you think you don’t know the band Liquid Liquid, you’re probably wrong. If you know Grandmaster Melle Mel‘s White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It), you know Liquid Liquid. The hip-hop track’s bass line was lifted straight out of the track Cavern, by the Eighties NYC-based post-punk band.

Liquid Liquid lasted bare three years — from 1980 to 1983 — but the band’s high energy and rat-a-tat percussion sound made a lasting impression on music lovers and the music. The quartet — drummer Scott Hartley, bassist Richard McGuire, vocalist Salvatore Principato and percussionist/marimba player Dennis Young — made a triumphant return to New York City last night at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, taking the stage after the conclusion of Rhys Chatham‘s A Crimson Grail for 200 Electric Guitars (Outdoor Version).

Scott and Salvatore.

Scott and Salvatore.

The membes of Liquid Liquid haven’t been playing together regularly for more than 25 years. They reunited at NYC’s Knitting Factory in 2003 and got together again last October at the Barbican Centre in London. But they sounded amazingly tight and the crowd responded enthusiastically. ‘

All four band members seemed energized and totally engaged — thrilled to be performing before an appreciative hometown crowd. The sound was crisp and the beats were just as hypnotic as the day they were created. People in the audience who saw Liquid Liquid in the Eighties were amazed that the players had barely aged and hadn’t lost a bit of their drive.

Click through for more fantastic photos! Continue reading

Aural bliss = 200 electric guitars, 16 electric basses and one hi-hat

Rhys Chatham, with Hi-Hat player Ryan Sawyer at his side, conducting A Crimson Grail in Damrosch Park. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Rhys Chatham, with Hi-Hat player Ryan Sawyer at his side, conducting "A Crimson Grail" in Damrosch Park. (All photos copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh, except where noted otherwise.)

It started as a low rumble and over the course of about an hour got increasingly loud. It  was the sound of 200 electric guitars, 16 electric basses and one hi-hat cymbal playing the world premiere of Rhys Chatham‘s  A Crimson Grail for 200 Electric Guitars (Outdoor Version). (No, I wasn’t metering it, but one of the guitarists reported it reached 116 dB’s during rehearsals at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Great Hall. It was probably a bit quieter in performance.)

Section leader Seth Olinsky, guitarist in the indie rock band Akron/Family.

Section leader Seth Olinsky, guitarist in the indie rock band Akron/Family.

The project was 18 months in the making. It was supposed to happen last August at Lincoln Center Out of Doors, but a downpour that passed before the performance could start left pooled water on the ground at Damrosch Park, making it way too dangerous to proceed, given all the electricity involved. Last night, the volunteer players — about two-thirds of whom returned from last year — were protected from any threat of rain by canopies. But Mother Nature was kind, gracing showtime with cool temperatures and clear skies, followed by a bit of rain well after the performance ended.

Chatham used a playful asterisk to mark certain changes in the piece for the players.

Chatham used a playful asterisk to mark certain changes in the piece for the players.

Last night’s premiere was a reworking of the original A Crimson Grail, which was written for 400 guitars and performed indoors in Paris’ landmark Sacré-Coeur Basilica in 2005,  before an audience of 10,000 — while some 100,000 more watched on national TV.

The three-part work created a wall of sound with guitar tremolos, laced with distinct melodies that floated over and wove into the drone. Chatham conducted from a podium raised above the front row of players, assisted by four section leaders — David Daniell (improvisational guitarist and composer), John King (guitarist and composer who’s worked with Kronos Quartet and the Bang on a Can All-Stars, among others), Seth Olinsky (Akron/Family) and Ned Sublette (The Ned Sublette Band) — who passed on his instructions to the players and kept them together. (Among the players was a neighbor of mine, digital artisan Richard Lainhart, playing a white Steinberger guitar.)

The sound mix was handled beautifully, balancing the nearly ear-splitting drone sections well with the melodic lines. Some people in the crowd put fingers in their ears or inserted ear plugs during the performance. Sure, it was LOUD, but the sound was manageable and arced from soft to loud and back again smoothly.

The changing textures of the piece, coupled with the onset of nightfall created a magical effect that kept the majority of the audience deeply engaged with the piece. The overall effect was blissful, hypnotic and spiritual.

The park was absolutely packed with curious listeners. It was the first show in this still-young Out of Doors season where I’ve seen long lines of people waiting to get in an hour before the show started. Many people were turned away from the seating area and had to listen from South Plaza or from the street.

Asphalt Orchestra marched to the front of Damrosch Park last night to entertain the crowd assembled for Rhys Chatham's "A Crimson Veil." (Copyright 2009, Christine Maurus)

Asphalt Orchestra marched to the front of Damrosch Park last night to entertain the crowd assembled for Rhys Chatham's "A Crimson Veil." (Copyright 2009, Christine Maurus)

The lucky people who got in early and got seats were doubly lucky because they also got a taste of Bang on a Can‘s Asphalt Orchestra, the avant-garde marching band that made its debut on Wednesday. Asphalt, which has been, well, marching around Lincoln Center campus for a half hour before each night’s mainstage show, last night took its show right into Damrosh Park, give the captive audience a taste of its energetic sound. (Your last chance to see Asphalt Orchestra, for now at least, is at 7 tonight, starting at Broadway Plaza in front of Alice Tully Hall at Broadway and West 65th Street.)

Crimson lineup

The guitarists were lined up two deep under canopies in front of the stage and the north and south sides of Damrosch Park.

You never know who’s reading Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?

The audience for Asphalt Orchestra's debut and world premiere of Stew and Heidi's "Carlton" was so thick the marching band could barely move at times. (Copyright 2009 Steven P. Marsh)

The audience for Asphalt Orchestra's debut and world premiere of Stew and Heidi's "Carlton" was so thick the marching band could barely move at times. (Copyright 2009 Steven P. Marsh)

It’s nice to know that people are reading Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? This blog is a labor of love and a tool for sharing at least a little of that love with the world. I can see the page hits on my counter, but rarely know if those hits wind up connecting with readers. Most days I can only hope.

But this morning, I got proof that people are paying attention. When I logged on to my email, I saw a note that Stew posted on the negroproblem mesage board, for fans of Stew, Heidi Rodewald, The Negro Problem and Passing Strange. Because he was out of the country, Stew couldn’t make it to Wednesday’s premiere performance of “Carlton,” their commission for the marching band Asphalt Orchestra at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. WYMMWIG? posted a clip of that performance as part of Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and it looks like that rough clip gave Stew his first look at the premiere.

So glad he's not on Broadway: Stew and his adoring fans after the final Broadway performance of <i>Passing Strange</i>. (Photo by SPM, all rights reserved.)

So glad he's not on Broadway: Stew and his adoring fans after the final Broadway performance of Passing Strange. (Photo by SPM, all rights reserved.)

Read on:

Messages
1a.
after this i may never need to write another lyric…

Posted by: “stew” xxxxxxxxxxx@yahoo .com

Thu Aug 6, 2009 3:12 pm (PDT)

this is the best thing ever.
honestly.
/s

https://willyoumissme.wordpress.com/

I’m glad that WYMMWIG? could help!

In case you missed it, here’s the clip:

Or click here to read the full post.

And check out this link to New York Times critic Tony Tommasini’s review of the premiere.

Susan Marshall saves the day!

Three little girls sitting on Josie Robertson Plaza, mesmerized by Asphalt Orchestra.

Three little girls sitting on Josie Robertson Plaza, mesmerized by Asphalt Orchestra.

Asphalt Orchestra, the avant-garde marching band created by Bang on a Can, has been incredibly popular so far. Audiences seem to grow as the group moves around the Lincoln Center campus.

But children have been particularly entranced by the band’s performances. But that pied piper quality could have come to grief for three little girls on Wednesday night when a saxophone came thisclose to marching right into the girls.

It could have been a disaster if not for the quick action by Susan Marshall, who choreographed Asphalt’s movements and was there to take a look at how it was working.

Once she noticed the three identically dressed girls were so mesmerized by the band that they didn’t realize they were about to be run over on Josie Robertson Plaza, Susan sprang into action, saving the girls from the boots of saxophonist Peter Hess.

All’s well that ends well, of course.

Here’s the action sequence:

LCOOD Trample 2

Choreographer Susan Marshall comes out of nowhere.

LCOOD Trample 3LCOOD Trample 4LCOOD Trample 5LCOOD Trample 6

LCOOD Trample 7

Saxophonist Peter Hooks on a collision course with the girls.

Asphalt Orchestra’s amazing debut — and more to come!

It came from underground: Asphalt Orchestra made its debut appearance yesterday by emerging from the subway station in front of Alice Tully Hall.

It came from underground: Asphalt Orchestra made its debut appearance yesterday by emerging from the subway station in front of Alice Tully Hall.

Asphalt Orchestra made its world debut at Lincoln Center last night to the thrill of a large crowd gathered in front of Alice Tully Hall. It was quite a sight to see people gathered at the amphitheater at the northeast corner of Broadway and West 65th Street, wondering exactly where the avant-garde marching band would make its entrance.

It was quite a pleasant shock to realize that Asphalt would be emerging from the depths of the NYC subway system, marching up the stairs of the 66th Street station on the No. 1 line.

The band kicked off the performance with the world premiere of “Carlton,” a snappy number Stew and Heidi Rodewald of Passing Strange fame. The title, Heidi said at last night’s show, is the name of a cab driver in Jamaica. Here’s a video excerpt of their piece:

The Asphalt fun continues every night at 7 o’clock through Sunday, starting at a different location on the Lincoln Center campus. See the schedule and more photos after the jump.

And oh, yeah, the Dave Brubeck Quartet (with special guest Simon Shaheen) and Amir ElSaffar‘s Two Rivers Large Ensemble really kicked out the jams later last night. But more about that later!

Continue reading

Asphalt Orchestra today: On the radio at 2, in person at Lincoln Center at 7

Ken Thomson plays saxophone in Asphalt Orchestra.

Ken Thomson, who's making his debut tonight with Asphalt Orchestra.

Asphalt Orchestra, the avant-garde marching band organized by Bang on a Can, makes its debut performance at Lincoln Center Out of Doors tonight at 7 o’clock. But if you can’t wait to hear this amazing new band, you can get an advance taste by tuning in to John Schaefer’s Soundcheck show on WNYC-FM (93.9 on the air, or on the web here).

Ken Thomson, a longtime Bang on a Can collaborator and one of Asphalt’s saxophone players, has been rehearsing 8-10 hours a day for tonight’s premiere. Ken, who’s also a driving force behind the band Gutbucket, gave Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? his take on the Asphalt project:

“I’m enjoying this process so much with the band.  Great musicians and cool people; working with [choreographer] Susan Marshall is amazing… we’re  really psyched to give this a whirl tonight.  I really feel like every night will be an adventure.  Oh, and for a preview, check us  out on Soundcheck!”asphalt_orchestra_logo-2

Asphalt Orchestra performs from 7-7:30 p.m. nightly through Sunday at various locations around the Lincoln Center campus. Tonight’s show is at Broadway Plaza, the new amphitheater in front of Alice Tully Hall at Broadway and West 65th Street. For locations of all Asphalt Orchestra’s Lincoln Center performances, click here.

Be seeing you!

Asphalt paves the way tomorrow night

The co-conspirators in Asphalt Orchestra, which makes its world premiere at Lincoln Center Out of Doors tomorrow.

The co-conspirators in Asphalt Orchestra.

As Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? has been telling you, Asphalt Orchestra is makes its world premiere performance tomorrow night, the opening night of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors free music festival.

The off-kilter marching band has lots of interesting music on the program, but I’m particularly excited about the world premiere of a piece composed for the group by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, bandmates in The Negro Problem and the creative team behind the musical Passing Strange.

The New York Times did a piece on Stew and Heidi the other day that touched on their work for Asphalt Orchestra:

“These are not musicians who follow the rules,” said Bill Bragin, director of public programming at Lincoln Center, explaining their approach to music and hence their appeal.

The work that they created for the opening of the festival, “Carlton,” is an instrumental piece that Ms. Rodewald described recently in a phone interview from her home in Brooklyn as “pretty marching band-ish.” The work is part of the debut performance by the Asphalt Orchestra, an avant-garde marching band that is an outgrowth of the Bang on a Can music collective. The show, which will be performed on Wednesday and on Aug. 9, will be something of a spectacle, with contemporary dance choreography by Susan Marshall and costumes designed by Elizabeth Hope Clancy.

The iconoclastic Bang on a Can ensemble will perform other new works by Tyondai Braxton (of Battles) and Balkan legend Goran Bregovic, plus explosive arrangements of songs by Bjork, Meshuggah, Charles Mingus, Conlon Nancarrow, and Frank Zappa. The group comprises some amazing players around,  featuring Jessica Schmitz (piccolo), Ken Thomson, Peter Hess, Alex Hamlin (saxophones), Steph Richards, Shane Endsley (trumpets), Alan Ferber, Jen Baker (trombones), Ken Bentley (sousaphone), Yuri Yamashita, Sunny Jain, Nick Jenkins (percussion).

Click here for my previous post about Asphalt Orchestra, which includes a rehearsal video.

Of course the Asphalt Orchestra presentation is just one of dozens of amazing performances that will be taking place in the outdoor spaces of Lincoln Center through Aug. 23. Everything is free and no tickets are required. Click here for the full schedule.