Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Rock Shows of Note LXIII

This past season of the Boston Chamber Music Society, I only made it to about half of the performances. Sunday night, I made a point of stopping by Sanders Theatre for the season's final concert, a celebration of the BCMS' 20th year. I wasn't really into the idea of sitting inside in the dark on such a nice spring evening, but I figured I'd give it a go and leave when I lost interest.

The first piece did me in. Despite the enthusiastic audience response at the end of Johannes Brahms' Quintet in F minor for Piano and Strings, I found the almost 45-minute selection relatively uniteresting. The cyclical nature of the first movement was wearing, and while I can appreciate false endings, the almost stops in this piece only made the final conclusion of the piece even more satisfying. That said, I did enjoy artistic director Ronald Thomas' cello work in the third movement, the Scherzo. And violist Marcus Thompson secured himself as my favorite musician of the evening. With his sprawling slouch and slightly ill-fitting tuxedo, Thompson is a study in apparent relaxation blended with intense playing. He was a standout for the evening.

But when the intermission hit, the urge to leave also hit. Which was a shame. Had Bela Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion not followed before Camille Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals, I would have stuck around. Saint-Saens' piece is a fascinating example of John Oswald-like musical appropriation or mash up from within the classical music world. Only performed live twice during Saint-Saens' lifetime, the piece wasn't even fully published until after his death. The piece quotes a can-can melody from Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld. Saint-Saens parodies Berlioz's Valse des Sylphe. And he samples two French nursery rhymes, the aria "Una voce poco fa" from Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville, and his own Danse Macabre. I wonder if he kept the piece private because of his heavy usage of other composers' themes and work. And I wish I'd had the stamina to stick it out until the end, even if I wouldn't have recognized many of the appropriated selections.

I left Sanders Theatre to head home to Central Square, stopping off at the Field for a quick pint. There, I ran into two regulars of Paddy Burke's, a bar some colleagues frequent after work. I hung out a little longer than I'd intended initially, and when I finally left the bar, I left my shoulder bag behind. That was the cause of no little distress yesterday. Nevertheless, I called the Field yesterday morning, and they had the bag on hand, having stored it in the kitchen over night. When I stopped by after work yesterday, they'd hung it on a coat hook. Had I left my bag another place, it might have not been there the next day, and it speaks well of the staff and patrons of the Field that my bag remained intact, with nothing taken from it. Phew!

Last night, then, after a quick Indian dinner at home, I walked to the Kendall Cafe for the Sinkcharmer show. I arrived in time to catch Jef, Jen, Paul, and Kathleen finishing their dinner -- and just before So & So took the stage. I've been meaning to see So & So for a long time, but this is the first chance I've had. Comprising my friends Erin and Dan, the band is a fun three-piece that is almost two bands. The first "band" took up the first half of the set, featuring what seemed to be the songs of a woman I haven't met yet. They were well-written and slightly dour in their poppiness, but despite the apparent thematic sadness, I enjoyed them a lot. Sometimes, So & So reminded me of the Indigo Girls, but not overly so. The second "band" took the stage for the second half of the set, adding Dave on guitar and swapping Dan for Erin on the stand-up drums. These songs seemed to be Erin's songs, and they were quite a bit different. Much more energetic and bouncy, even bordering on punkish in a Go-Go's kind of way, this was a little more enjoyable. Kudos to all involved. Now, if you can figure out how to share songwriting duties or perhaps mix up your set list so it's not so schizophrenic! Just kidding, although I did suggest to Erin that they keep the split sets but play under two band names in the same show, kind of like the Hi-Fives and Thee Shatners did in days gone by.

The next act was a two-piece from Albany, Gay Tastee. Reminding me of Neil Young by way of Mecca Normal -- and Suzanne of Vic Chestnut -- the singer had quite a distinctive voice that took awhile to grow on me. When it did, I could appreciate the lyrical content of his songs much more. For the most part, the band has a MDC-like political twist, combining caustic cultural commentary with self-effacing personal narrative. It's not totally my cup of tea, but I reallly appreciated what they were trying to do. At the end, the drummer sang along during one song, making me think that he should sing more often. The harmony added a lot, as did his sitting on the floor to play glockenspiel for one song. But the best part of their show came afterwards, when I approached the singer and guitarist to buy a CD. The CD cost $5, giving no indication how many songs were on it, and when I opened it, I discovered that it's a two-CD, 15-song collection. Best CD snag I've made at a show in ages (if you don't count Tim from Verona Downs giving me their record for free). Thanks, Gay Tastee!

Last up, Sinkcharmer. As always, they were excellent. Paul had been up since 5:30, so he was a little tired, but Jen and Jef carried the energy for him until he caught his stride, punctuating "Half Life" with a gleeful "Woohoo!" I still don't know all of Paul's song catalog by title, but I love his work and recognized a lot of the pieces they played. I also think that Jen and Jef bring a lot to his stage show. Good, good stuff.

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