phoenix project show postmortem
the phoenix project is an all-ages, no-alcohol, diy venue -- sort of a dallas version of 1919 hemphill -- run by jessica luther, who used to be my middle daughter's roommate right after high school (when aimee decided that she wanted to have the experience of living out, working and paying for stuff before she went to college). it's a work in progress, still under construction, but already it's a cool spot, a good sounding room with a hip young crowd. only non-snazz aspect is finding it; we were fortunate to be able to follow dennis, but the internet directions we had would have had us driving the wrong way up one-way haskell from i-30, and folks we talked to said they circled the block numerous times, because there isn't a building visible from the street. (need a sign, kids!) would like to play there again, though -- with HIO, stoogeaphilia, or any other project the coming years bring. they don't have heat yet, so they built a big wood fire in a 50-gallon drum, hobo style. dennis remarked that he hadn't smelled smoke in a long time -- we live in a smoke-free world now.
for this occasion, HIO included michael chamy from zanzibar snails along with terry, hickey, marcus, and myself. (hembree was playing with pablo & the hemphill 7 at lola's.) sarah alexander was present and terry said he'd invited her to play, but that apparently wasn't the impression she got. we talked with her afterwards and hopefully that misunderstanding was cleared up for next time. i wound up wearing half of the stage on my pants and amp cover (dusty). hickey performed in a folding chair, holding his bass across his lap, then playing his electric gopichand. (had the synth but didn't break it out.) as the sole melodic element, big marcus played mostly to the floor to keep from overpowering the rest of us. as had been the case at lola's in july, i couldn't hear terry because his amp was in front of me facing out, but i could hear chamy alright through his monitors.
none of my shit worked the way i wanted it to. i'd brought the distressed tele, which really is beat to shit -- when i was manipulating the volume knob, i could feel it receding into the body. discovered why teague couldn't hear me at the last stoogeshow: i'd left the amp on the 1/4 power setting after the HIO recording sesh on 10.17.2009. duh. every time i hit the bluesbreaker, i got uncontrollable feedback, so i just used the wah and lot of reverb. the e-bow was also uncooperative, but that just caused me to play more minimally, and we're finding out that in this context, negative space is good. overall, i think everyone was satisfied with the performance, a good thing after the fucking debacle of debacles at the firehouse gallery (r.i.p.).
yells at eels had the best crowd and played their asses off as always. dennis forgot his sheet music, so they just played a couple of tunes, including "document for toshinori kondo," which i think of as their "hit," with its instantly recognizable fanfare of exclamation points and memorable theme. dennis was louder than usual in the mix. he asked if it was cool, and i told him it was. stefan plays drums so aggressively, but with great finesse, and aaron's a loud bass player. ('twas amusing hearing stories of their younger days from their mom over dinner.) i'm usually so transfixed watching what the boys lay down (finally represented well on disc with ayler records' the great bydgoszcz concert) that i forget what an outstanding trumpeter their dad is. i sometimes make the mistake of thinking of dennis as a minimal, miles-or-don-cherry type of player, but in reality he has some flashy and fiery chops and brilliant control over all of his effects, including the electronic ones he employs. always a pleasure to hear those guys.
jacob wick is a chicago-born trumpeter, currently residing in brooklyn, who's taking a trip across the united states, sponsored by the nonprofit arts group fractured atlas, performing with local improvisers wherever he goes. he said he'd lost his graphic scores for his piece THIS IS IT that we were to perform, but his instructions were as follows: "this piece lasts about 30 minutes and is in two parts, one improvised and one spoken. in the first part, we'll improvise collectively. when you feel that your part of the improvisation is over, stop playing and start saying 'this is it.' once you start saying 'this is it,' continue doing so for the remainder of the piece. do not start playing again once you start saying 'this is it.'"
besides jacob on trumpet, the players included sarah alexander and mike maxwell on vocals and chaos pedals (mike also played kalimba), stephen lucas on synth, terry on cigarbox guitar and laptop, and myself. hearing jacob play reminded me of our dinner conversation, where dennis was describing a trumpet festival he'd played in europe with "all these cats that do everything to the instrument but play a melody." it was nice playing with sarah and mike in an environment where i could hear what they were doing (unlike when she and michael briggs played with HIO at the firehouse). terry videotaped the set (and HIO's); i'll be interested to hear the results.
my sweetie was tired and i was hungry (having surreptitiously swigged some alcohol in the parking lot), so we couldn't go the distance to hear mfm. she shot pics, which in the fullness of time will be posted on her photo blog. overall, a satisfying night. terry and i are plotting more HIO recordings and live actions for 2010.