Saturday, February 10, 2007

SUN CIRCLE (GREG DAVIS)/WIND-UP BIRD @ GREEN DOOR STUDIOS, 2.10.07



I almost didn't make it to the show last night. Once again, I was feeling the onset of a nasty cold, one of many since I've started my new job--lots of air travel + sick people in doctor's offices + stress = bleh. But I took a couple of Sudafed (not the crappy PE ones, the good "have-to-sign-a-document-to-get-them-because-you-could-use-them-to-make-crank-if-so-inclined kind) and had a mug of Throat Tamer tea & braved it out into the cold Vermont night.

I had never been to the Green Door before (besides seeing it from the outside when the doors are open in the summertime) and I was impressed. I opened the door & a light scent of nag champa was in the air, a scent which always calms me and makes me feel nostalgic. A good start to the evening.

Down the stairs, Greg Davis was sitting a small table taking admission and selling CD's, tapes, vinyl & t-shirts. I paid for my girlfriend Jaime-Lynn and myself and we found a spot against the wall. I scoped out the perfomance area. A small space for sure, but cozy and intimate, perfect for the music being performed. At first I wondered why the perfomers had chosen a square room to perform in (which is typically acoustic hell), but when the performance started, I understood completely. Reverberations and trapped soundwaves were just as crucial (if not more so) to this music than direct sound.

When we got there, only about a dozen or so people (including the musicians themselves) were present. However, most of the crowd was fashionably late & by 8:15, there were about 30 attendees. We all found our spots in the room as Wind-Up Bird (aka Joseph Grimm) took his spot in the circle of instruments in the corner. A soft-spoken man with a close-cropped orange beard, he reminded me of a younger, handsomer version of Will Oldham. Grimm started his performance with a meditation/relaxation exercise. Playing a single droning note, he instructed us to sit cross-legged & focus on a single object in the room. I spotted an interesting piece of paper-machier sculpture on the wall & used that as my focal point. After some deep-breathing (difficult with my stuffy nose) I started to relax & focus on the music instead of my health.

Soon after, Grimm added some vocal chants to the single note, which blended together to create a didgeridoo-type of sound. These solo chants, subtly changing in pitch and volume, continued for several minutes accompanied only by the same electronic note. But slowly, after about 15 minutes, other tones & instrumentation (including some refreshingly jarring violin) joined in to create a beautifully chaotic yet gracefully controlled cacophony of sounds. Then he brought it back slowly, returning to just the voice & then the note. A wonderful performance.

After a short break (which included some homemade sugar cookies--yum!) we returned back to the performance area for the Sun Circle performance. It was similar to the Wind-Up Bird piece in that it focused on droning notes and vocals, but its evolution was far more subtle, sounding almost monotone and unchanging if you weren't listening carefully. But the gentle shifts were definitely there, leading your thoughts and emotions through each movement. The Green Door started to make more and more sense as the venue for this performance--a larger space & a more distant seating space probably would have resulted in me missing such minute variations.

After the Sun Circle piece, the three musicians collected everyone into the center of the room for a performance for gong. I was expecting what I normally expect from the gong--loud, brash crashing with little range in volume or expression. What I got was exactly the opposite. The piece started softly, almost inaudibly, and built up to a gentle hum and wash sound, very much like ocean waves slowly crashing. Not a sound I ever would have expected to come from a gong. Over time, the three gongs played off of each other, building in volume and physical intensity (you could literally feel the vibrations) until it reached an ear-shattering peak. The noise was really like nothing I'd ever heard, a tinitus-inducing blare of white noise (it reminded me of falling asleep with the TV on full-blast & waking up when the station has gone off the air to pure static). Then slowly, the musicians brought it back to complete silence. We all stood for about a minute or so, listening to the nothing & letting our eardrums stop pulsating. Then applause. A magnificent performance & my favorite part of the show.

Afterwards, most of the audience left for a late-night sledding excursion a few blocks away. Because of my cold, I unfortunately had to leave my Sno-Tube behind at home. I headed home with some new music (I picked up a Sun Circle CD, a Wind-Up Bird CD & a Greg Daves vinyl album at the merch table during the break), and had a virtual-replay of the night, this time alone, dosed out on NyQuil, with a box of Kleenex by my side.

2 comments:

Tmoore said...

nice review jay - sorry we didnt get a chance to say hey - next time, perhaps. Great review though; glad to hear that you were paying close attention :)

jay said...

Well, it was either "close attention" or dxm induced hallucinations from the DayQuil...either way, it was a good show!

My work travel schedule has been pretty hectic lately, but once it slows down I'd like to finally organize the music blogger F.A.P. i've been blabbering about for so long--first round is on me.