Sunday, December 10, 2006

LIMP BASQUIAT

I went to college at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania. In town, there is a small basement Irish pub called "The Phyrst". It's famous for two things--the Phyrst Family Band (and the resulting drunken shenanigans) and its acoustic open-mike nights.

Every Monday night, the Phyrst would put up a sign-up sheet in the bar at 4:00 PM & the first ten people to sign up on the list had the stage for their 15 minutes of "fame". It was a popular venue for every Stevie Nicks or Dave Matthews wannabee in town, and a good place to have a relax pint & listen to some "nice" music. Or at least it was before "Limp Basquiat" came to town.

A little backstory--my sophmore year I met a young musician and filmmaker named Edward Kurland. We had an experimental film class together & realized that our interests were pretty in tune (Stan Brakhage, John Cage, Zappa, etc.) and we started working together on projects. Ed's lease had run out on his apartment and I had a vacancy in mind, so I asked Ed if he wanted to move in. He did.

Thus began one of the best friendships of my life & a the most unique creative partnership of my life. Ed & I created films together, got high together, stayed up until daybreak playing music & arguing philosophy. It was an amazing time in my life, the most free I've ever felt & as such, I felt particulary daring & adventurous. And every once in a while, I channeled that energy into something productive.

Ed and I had been to the Phyrst Open Mike Nights on a few occasions (mostly as a favor to some girl we knew who thought she was the next Jewel), and had always been disappointed. We talked about how sad it was that any person with a guitar willing to play covers could get a stage no problem but it was damn near impossible to get stage time to do something original. And then it clicked.

We had spent the past few weekends messing around with various chains of effect pedals & warping out my Dr. Sample and we'd come up with some pretty interesting noise compositions. We were getting pretty good (or at least pretty high & thinking we were good) so maybe it was time to play out...

Ed skipped his last class the following Monday & signed us up for a 15-minute set that evening at 9:00. We rushed home, gathered up all of our equipment, split a bottle of Robutussin DM & hopped on the bus downtown. We got to the Phyrst about an hour before we were scheduled to go on, so we had a few pints of Guinness for some liquid courage. It also helped to thin out the blood & thus excellerate the flow of the DXM through our veins. After a while, the girl playing the Paula Cole covers didn't sound that bad.

Finally, they called our names and Ed & I ambled up to the stage. While we had 15 minutes of stage time scheduled, it took us close to 40 minutes just to set up our equipment (and combination of complicated effects pedal chaining & chemical factors). Luckily the folks at the Phyrst were kind & understanding, and gave us plenty of technical help & allowed us to play our set.

The video you are about to see is what happened next. For your sake, I edited the setup down to a minute & just left the performance in all its wonderful, goofy glory. Enjoy!



After this performance, we figured we would never be let in the bar again; forget ever playing there for another set. But amazingly, the organizers loved it (or more appropriately, loved the large crowd of fellow film students/paying customers we brought with us for support, making it the most attended Phyrst open mike night ever) and invited us to come back for another show. We ended up playing several more sets, joined by Rob Cotton, under the name "Limp Basquiat". Future shows included flutophone, James Brown samples & more magic tricks.

Early this year, just days after my birthday, I received an e-mail from a former college film professor. He was writing to break the news to me that Edward had been shot and killed during a break-in at his apartment in the Logan Square district in Chicago. I was shocked--Ed was a zen buddhist, a vegetarian & one of the most gentle, non-violent people I had ever known. It was one of the worst moments of my life.

Since then, I've come to terms with Ed's death by listening to his music (Phyrst stuff aside, he was an amazing musician, creating work in a variety of genres from folk to hip-hop to experimental composition soundtracks) and watching the films we created together. Ed would have loved this blog, and I wish I were writing something that he could read tonight rather than a eulogy and a nostalgic tribute. But in a way, I may never have created this blog if he was still here. I always lived vicariously through his creativity & productive energy. Now that he's gone, it's almost as if there's a void to fill. And I'm glad to do it.

Miss you brother; rest.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

i havn't read your post yet, or watched the vid, i'm saving it for work tommorrow, but might i just say, excellent pun sir, kudos to you.

TJ said...

It was great to see this footage. Really nice post.

Anonymous said...

I dig it jay - Reminded me of Neubauten w/ delay pedals; the straight jacket guy was fun to watch, looks like everyone was really enjoying themselves, that or they looked confused. Both are good responses ;)

I'm sorry to hear about your friend; it does always seem to be the good ones that get get it... while rumsfeld and the like; are gonna die of slow organ failure in a hammock on martha's vinyard.

regardless, it sounds like Ed explored and enjoyed his life :)

casey said...

It's a beautiful thing when two poople share an appreciation for Robitussin, philosophy and Dr. Sample. Sounds like a classic friendship; the kind I have been searching for all my life. I'm sorry for your loss. This is a poignant post.

jay said...

Thanks everyone; Ed was a good friend and a hell of a musician. I'm going to post his soundtrack for the film "Rubicon" on here pretty soon; it's beautiful droney bliss.

Watching this video makes me really want to get on a stage again & make a fool out of myself....

rob said...

wow jay. i had no idea this footage existed. i'll never forget that night the three of us performed there. quite an exciting experience. thanks.

Anne said...

Jay,
I love the posting! I'm glad I was able to hear Ed's full CD because I only got to hear bits at a time when we hung out. He was also a true friend to me and I will miss him dearly! Thank You for his soundtrack.

Anonymous said...

I dated and loved Ed way,way back in high school. He was incredible. Words cannot describe him. I have never met someone like him since. I had been out of touch with him for a few years, and when I heard of his death, I was dumbfounded. Thank you for posting the video. BTW, he and I used to drink Robitussen DM back in the day (like 1995), and smoke...whew~what a buzz! I had a laugh reading that!

Mark Abrams said...

I met Ed in Arizona back in 2002. I had moved from Ohio to go to the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, where we met. Ed helped shape so much of who I am toay in only a short nine months that we went to school together. I remember sitting on a patio with him at some restaurant in AU, and telling him how I was scared about the future... about being able to make a living and succeed in our profession. He looked at me with his ever peaceful eyes and said why? He went on to describe what he saw in my talents, and basically was able to calm me back down into reality. I'll never forget that day, or Ed. Wish the video was still live on youtube! I'd love to see it. Miss you Ed.