Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wind Ensemble Emotes and Delivers

Tonight's Crane Wind Ensemble concert was nothing short of extraordinary. Although a classically trained clarinetist, I've never found refuge in art music like I have in rock and roll. Tonight has blown that norm out of the water.

The highlight of the night was easily Roshanne Etezady's "Anahita," an explosive, programmatic, three-movement piece. It encapsulated her reactions to a mural that has since been destroyed, but used to adorn the ceiling of a prominent Albany building. Based on mythology, it features vivid images of the "terrifyingly beautiful" goddess Anahita and the horses, or "Night Mares," as they are so aptly titled. The piece was frantic at times, simply explosive at others. The amount of energy in the piece was phenomenal, and it was absolutely humbling to have the composer present. The final movement was so very delicate and serene. It featured four cornet players scattered through Hosmer Hall, representing the last hearkening of angels.

Conductor Brian Doyle was certainly on his toes, especially for his first concert since his emergency room trip. The amount of passion and effort he puts into the ensembles he works with is nothing short of admirable. It is refreshing to see a conductor and teacher who cares so much about the quality of the group's performance as a whole as well as the needs of his students.

The other new piece, "Interior," by Kristin Kuster (also present at the performance), was less accessible as far as expressionist art music of the 21st century is concerned, but when paired with the composer's notes, could begin to paint pictures in one's mind, of the very unique things that happen within the walled confines of where we live and work. The piece tackled human interaction and emotion very well.

The ensemble as a whole had a way of blending--passing solos from one woodwind to another--that is hard to come by. The horn section ripped out some heart wrenching chords. The two tuba players and string bass held the entire ensemble up on their shoulders. The percussion section, as always, held the group together with its intensity and determination.

Everything about tonight's performance--the refreshing 21st century pieces blended with more traditional literature, the intensity and extreme focus of the performers, the conductor's passion, and how it all came together--absolutely blew me away. Bravo.

Monday, April 09, 2007

In case you missed the joy

Or you want to watch it again.

Bruce Springsteen and Friends performing "Rosalita"

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My First Inferno Show

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get to writing about seeing The World/Inferno Friendship Society. They played at Fastlane (next door to Asbury Lanes) in Asbury Park, NJ on March 25. Since then, I’ve just been letting it sink it. Seeing this band live was a long time coming, but absolutely worth it.

Pre-show consisted of waiting outside with a ton of kids and I just stood and absorbed. People from all walks of life: self proclaimed “punks” with piercings and back patches, men in full suits with ladies in dresses, kids wrapped two to a sweatshirt to battle the wicked shore winds, hats and hairstyles.

The venue itself was perfect for this show. It was big. All of the Infernites could mill about and socialize at the back half of the room. Everyone knew each other. I had no idea that the scene was this close-knit until I got to this show. I spent most of the time that the opening bands played meeting people and socializing with people who I’d just met. We went up front to hear The Ergs! The Ergs! are an incredibly tight punk rock trio out of New Brunswick, NJ. The last time I heard them was two summers ago, so it was overdue. The Ratchets and Hunchback also played. Hunchback had an interesting stage show, and I situated myself for Inferno. After a lot of um…drama…played out, the full band finally came out.

From the first bass drum kicks of “Tattoos Fade” I was transported. The band was absolutely enthralling. They have enough stage presence to knock all of Broadway off its feet. Jack sang right to the crowd. The crowd knew every single word. It was amazing to watch Jack, Sandra (their absolutely stunning bassist) and the saxophone section from the very front. It was interesting to see Franz’s intensity playing the accordion and keys; he was so into the show, never missed a beat (does he ever?) and had a whole new level of electricity to him than when I saw him with The Steady (not to downplay what a terrific performance that was as well). “Tattoos” is played at every show, but it felt special to know that it was my first time hearing it live. Semra, Jack, and the drummer (who’s the drummer now?) all playing made it triply intense. The set was a great mix of songs from Just the Best Party (my first Inferno album), Red-Eyed Soul (brilliant), and the Peter Lorre song cycle. I didn’t know the Lorre songs at all and didn’t hear the demos and bootlegs until after the show. “Fiend in Wein” was definitely phenomenal to hear live. “Heart Attack Waltz” was incredible as well. I wish I’d had the guts to dance with someone…well, there’s always next time. “Only Anarchists are Pretty” was a terrific encore. And if there's any song I love that they didn't play that night (mostly "Your Younger Man"), I rest assured in the fact that I'll hear it sooner or later.

After the show my eyes must have been bugging out of my head. The band blew me away. It was great to see all of the ladies and gents of Inferno come out and mingle with the fans. I finally got to meet Franz formally, and we had a chat about his groups, and some upcoming shows, as well as his Moondog piece that has clarinet (that I want to play sometime). Rich and I jetted after that, as he had classes the next day. I did hear that a bunch of kids took a dip in the ocean afterwards.

Possibly the best thing to come out of all of this was the great people I met, and the warm welcome I received from the scene. In hanging out around the Inferno board for the past week or so, it’s been nice to interact with these people who I’ll hopefully be seeing again soon. The Inferno bug did bite for a few days when I lost sleep over researching the Bridgewater Astral League and The Master and Margarita. Thankfully that died down a little, but here’s to more fun in the future.

The World/Inferno Friendship Society's latest full length, Red-Eyed Soul on Chunkasaah Records is available at a record store near you. Don't be a bum, go pick it up and support the cause.

World Inferno's Official Website
Inferno Myspace
Pictures taken by Brainy