I am not exactly into "art" per se. Oh sure i don't mind looking at paintings, and sometimes i even like them, but it's not something i actively seek out. Which brings me to The Contemporary. They used to do ... well, something at The Nexus Contemporary Art Gallery. I remember commercials on the radio. At some point, they became The Contemporary, losing 3 words (2 of which were kinda redundant -- like calling The Earl "The Earl Concert Hall and Beer Place"). Why they did this, i dunno. I had at least heard of the old name, and now all of that brand consciousness is wasted due to the name change.
Oh well. I am sure there is some rational explanation. The point is that i had heard of this place, but never been there -- until tonight. I had visions of, well i guess some art gallery in a Woody Allen film or something. People in tuxedos and trendy dresses sipping champagne or wine while the bands perform in a corner, just past so-and-so's latest sculpture titled "How much money will some idiot pay me for a hunk of metal?" You know, Art. Champagne. Ugly metal sculptures. Pretentious people -- like buckhead, only snobbier. I wasn't exactly looking forward to it....
But it wasn't like that. First off, the art at The Contemporary wasn't wierd or ugly. There was a "video installation" of some guy drawing cartoons and narrating what was going on. Kinda neat actually. There was a bunch of brightly colored cushions in wierd shapes, some of which were stuck to the wall. And that's all i saw....
The bands played in a courtyard, behind the actual gallery and near some other buildings which, i suppose, are art studios or something. There was a very crappy sound system set up to the side. A few chairs and tables filled the courtyard. Near the art gallery building was a small table selling beer: cheap, crappy beer. A music critic's worst nightmare -- having to face the reality of existence without a firm layer of hoppy goodness under the belt. Sigh. But that was the only real downside. There was plenty of seating, plus it was outside on a beautiful night (some other nights the whole outside thing might be a negative).
I got to the place at about 9:30, which is when things were supposed to start. By the time i got into the courtyard, Crybaby were already playing. I had only seen 5 minutes or so of them the last time i saw them, and i cursed audibly to see that they were already playing. I was loud enough that some woman and her 10 year old son glared at me for my profanity. Oh well.... I had feared that i missed Crybaby again...
But no, i just missed the first song. That's okay. Last time i saw them i was interested to hear more. Well, this time i was glad to hear more.
Crybaby are one of the growing number of Myssouri splinter bands. You can tell too, since the guitarist plays with a western "lost in the desert" sort of twangy tremolo on his guitar. However, if Myssouri are "Love And Death Among The Tumbleweeds", then Crybaby are "A Sultry Night Club Among The Cacti". Their music involves not just the western influence, but also a sort of jazzy influence as well. I hear this in the drums and voice, and in some of the bass riffs.
I had to really strain to hear the drummer because of the poor sound -- a superficial listen gave a clear representation of the kick drum beat and that's it. However, on listening deeper what i could hear reminded me of Stewart Copeland, specifically Walking On The Moon. Slow jazz riffs with lots of rim shots. Quite nice. The bass riffs are slow and ponderous -- they take their own sweet time and are in no hurry. And the vocals -- well, i think it is comparable to night club jazz from the 50's. At least the vocalist's powerful emotive style of singing is what i associate with the type of stuff that St. Jack Kerouac went to see in smoky dives.
Combine that with termoloed guitar, and a subtle occasional use of pedal steel guitar and you get an interesting mix. (On a side note, it was great to a see a band use pedal steel as merely an accompaniment to their overall sound, instead of as the lead instrument. As an accent, it was quite beautiful.) There were a few songs that jelled so well that they shone through the poor sound. One was a long epic with great instrumental interludes between sections of the vocalist really belting out the lyrics.
Crybaby put on a good half hour set, and then were confused when the audience wanted an encore. They were happy to oblige the crowd of (apparently mostly) family and friends, so after one more song, they left the stage and Andy Browne set up.
I had seen Andy Browne once before, and even though i am not into the whole "singer-songwriter" thing i enjoyed his set. Specifically, i enjoyed the cello and the 12-string guitar he had with him last time. I wondered if this set would feature the same interesting instrumentation.
Alas, it did not. In fact, for this set Andy Browne And Friends were a standard 5 piece rock act. Blues rock that is, something which i like even less than singer-songwriter acoustical folk rock. This type of music is, well, it's just so overdone. Mr. Browne and friends were competent at it, but the performance just wasn't edgy enough for me. It seems funny, but what i want to say about Andy Browne is that he is too competent at making mainstream rock. It's like 96 Rock, lite. Indeed, the older members of the crowd seemed to really get into his performance.
The younger people in the crowd, however, were downright rude to Mr. Browne. Basically, the crowd during his set was full of the friends and family of Crybaby (who may not be goth per se, but they sure do wear a lot of black!), a few art gallery types, and the friends of Flash To Bang Time (who are full on goth). These people looked up, saw blues rock, and decided to have social hour. They totally ignored the band. In fact, the tables pretty much cleared up. I felt really sorry for Andy Browne at that moment. I mean, even though this wasn't my thing, i think that they put on a decent enough show. It's not like they were bad or anything! Oh well, i guess i can't really criticize the goth kids for not thinking outside of their box, when i was bascially doing the same thing....
They played for about 30 minutes, and then headed off. And honestly -- if you are into bluesy rock, check him out. I think that the performance was passionate, and the music perfectly competent for what it was.
After a brief interlude, Flash To Bang Time began to set up.
As i said earlier, these people are a full on goth band. I could tell, because there were tall thin women with very pale skin carrying classical instruments. And that's where it got interesting: dueling cellos! And violin. And drums and bass. But 2 cellos -- wow, that is, in fact, slightly innovative in today's cello-laden music world.
Their music reminded me of Miranda Sex Garden -- three women singing in harmony over some classical music. The difference is the rock rhythm section -- with strong bass and drums Flash To Bang Time rock just a bit. The cello and violin work were very nice. I like the two cello effect -- each instrument playing complement to the other. Not something i see often (outside of orchestra performances), but the effect was good. Combined with the bass and drums and the harmony vocals, it was a pleasant effect.
They were interesting enough -- i wouldn't mind checking them out again sometime. They were a little mellow for me being so tired and not having any decent beer though... Maybe The Contemporary ought to invest in an espresso machine!
So there you go, PostLibyan's excursion to the art gallery ends without even a sighting of champagne or ugly metal sculpture. Which is all fine and dandy with me. I consider it a bonus that i got three good bands performing for me!