Concert Review: Women's Looping Festival
The concert started at 7:00, which is a sucky time, because you don't really have time to eat before then on a weekday. So imagine my surprise when, after paying the $7 admission, I saw the buffet. The concert came with food. There was a lot of meat, but also salad and hummus, the vegan standby. It was pretty good. There was alos a bar where one could purchase alchoholic beverages (probably non alchoholic ones too) and bring them into the show.
So I got to the show on time, but got distracted by the food and missed part of the first act. The music was in a long skinny room, with the stage along a long wall. It's an intimate setting, but there was a pretty good group of people there. The first woman was mostly doing stuff with prerecorded tracks and echo/delay fx. She was talking about her cats and then about Saddam Hussein (she was pro-peace). She had some peaking problems with the mic and hasn't quite figured everything out yet. Later I heard her say that it was her first show. So it was great for a first show. I think she was called Audio Goddess.
The second woman did world music stuff. She sang some traditional folk songs, harmonizing with her own voice through looping. She's still learning the technology, and was explaining about how she has slightly changed her vocal technique. She has not yet found her voice for looping, but is very promising. Her music was entertaining and good. She had slight timing problems, but they'll smooth out as she figures out the technology more. And I doubt non-musicican types heard any timing problems or anytthing at all beyond a good set. She was Unity Nguyen.
The next act was into ambient. She had a ton of percussion equipment, but mostly used her voice. Since she was ambient, her work was very static and I foudn my mind wandering, so I don't know if she used any of her equipment or not, except I saw her bowing a cymbal. I think she could have used some more resin on the bow. She was heavy into echo fx and apparently didn't turn down her percussion mic when she was recording vocals, since she ended up with a recording of her voice making a snare drum hum. I was too far away to see, so there may not have been a snare drum, and it certainly could have been on purpose. She did two or three songs. They kind of sounded the same to me. She has a CD out. I was not super-impressed, but my companion thought she was great. Ambient is not my favorite genre to lsiten to, but I can be fun to create. Some of her stuff sounded like it was decaying as it looped (that's a good thing) and making space for her new tracks. That's a cool fx (is it effect or affect?). Her name was Dark Muse.
The next person did some very light elevator techno with electric guitar over it and spoken words, but I think her mic was turned off. This was either her fault or a poor sound check. She used a e-bow thing for the guitar. So did the person previous to her. It seems to be the thing for ambient people. She also did some straight guitar stuff. She was heavy into fx. One of her synths seemed to be a guitar synth, so it made it more difficult to tell exactly what she was playing when, although certainly the sound is the most important thing. She has some wacky controller that worked like a theramin. It was set up to play discreete notes (for instance, through the guuitar synth) instead of continiuosly varying a frequency, like a regular theremin. Her work was also very static, but the songs sounded different. She travelled from someplace far, like Boulder, to play in San Jose. I think she's blind. Her name was CQ.
Finally, Amy X Neuburg, the headliner came on. Amy X is a master of the technology. Her timing is perfect, the knows how to use a microphone and her songs are all different from each other and entertaining. Also, she has a mastery of her voice and has a wide range of pitch and style. She has a lot of experince using her set up and has a lot of practice. Her songs were often funny. They were very multilayerd. They were also multi-parted, so she would start with one theme, leave it and then come back to it. She had one song about her Neuroses that listed things she forgot to do and included "Oh no, I forgot to have children." She laos talked about going to the grocery store at 3:00 AM while stoned and how messy her apartment was. It was the best song of the set, although the others were good. At the end, she received a standing ovation, so she came back to end with a song called Finnish, which was in Finnish.
Amy X is really in a different league than the other artists, but I think it's a good idea to have people of varrying success and ability play the same show. Punk rock shows do this all the time, where they put on inexperienced bands, who may need more practice but show promise, on first and close with a great act who plays with mastery. New music shows (or "festivals") typically instead borrow from the classical tradition where people of equal talent are grouped together. So an artist's first show might have only freinds and family present. With the punk rock/San Jose Museum model, the person playing her fiorst show had a crowd of 40 people or more. Also, people can trickle in through out the evening and know that the best is on last. More new music shows ought to be run this way. Also, maybe because it was in San Jose and culture there is sparse, it was a really well-attnded show. the same show in the City or the East Bay would have had far fewer people in attendance.
Anyway, I was wondering how to send a tape to the organizer when he came on stage and announced the next festival, which he would be performing at, playing day-glo green plastic. Everyone around me (who had been to Woodstockhausen) gasped. Woodstockhausen people are everywhere!
Media reference: http://www.bayarea.com/mld/bayarea/entertainment/music/4198158.htm