Saturday night the Seward Café was abuzz with locally blended experimental and improvisational music. Earlier last month I saw another show of the same genre at the Seward and my only complaint was a small audience. I think word is getting out. There were more people last night, who braved record cold temperatures to see these guys.
To set the stage, music at the Seward has a beatnik coffeehouse feel – although they do serve beer and wine. Each artist performed for about 15-30 minutes and played one song. And I use the word song loosely; really each performance one piece but that once piece can wander around the room or stay close to or repeat a theme. It’s fun to follow the piece as it moves with the performer. As an audience member you have to pay a lot more attention to the music than with other genres because as is the case with improv, you can’t be sure of how the song will end. It’s more like musical storytelling.
Freddy Votel and Davu Seru performed a drum duet. I had known Votel’s work in TVBC and Cows; I hadn’t seen Seru before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a drum duet solo before. Each drummer had a full drum set up, side by side. I don’t think they looked at each other once. Seru looks quite intense as he plays, Votel is much more laid back and economic in movement. Seru plays the highs and lows from the tinny tap of traditional drum stick, to a padded mallet to a brush. Votel’s appears to play so easily and the sound is so focused.
Their playing isn’t in synch or if played by one person, it’s two performers who play off each other. The easiest connection between the two is the volume. It wasn’t loud, but the volume shifts. A drum duet is perfect music for the multitasker or anyone whose thoughts tend to wander because there are really three sounds to hear- each drum played separately and the combined music of both playing. It’s a little amazing to me to consider that their work is not rehearsed so much as improvised. It must take a high level of trust or respect to play such concentrated music with someone else, especially when you consider that is their first time playing together!
Paul Metzger plays a modified banjo; sometimes with a bow, sometimes strumming, sometimes picking. Metzger is an outstanding musician. I wrote about his work earlier so I won’t go into great detail again here but, he plays in town pretty often and worth checking out. He makes the banjo sound like a violin and sitar at the same time. There was an Eastern European passion to the performance last night.
Transitional Species (Kevin Cosgrove) plays a modified bicycle wheel with a bow; last night he included a few other objects. Cosgrove is loud. It’s fun to see someone play instruments that are so untraditional. I’ve heard him play a few times before and the more I hear it the more I realize that despite the loudness and the novelty of the new instruments that it’s a music of small movements. It sounds like amplified metal but if you listen closely it’s a little bit like being in an extended bang of a gong. It becomes very nuanced.
It took brief videos of the performers last night with the intention of sharing a hint of the sound. I suspected even at the time that the visual would not be representative of what it’s like to be there live, but still fun to hear…