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Monday, December 01, 2008

Residency week four in review

It's hard to write this last entry for our Pehrspace residency because I'm pretty sad that it's all over. I can't imagine a better place to do a month-long run and I can't imagine a better host than Sean--we're incredibly grateful for the opportunity, to all the other bands who shared the month with us, and to everyone who came out to see the shows. The last week was fantastic and it was wonderful to see so many friends there--thank you all! I can't really describe the night as well as Sean did, but I will try:

The show opened with...a puppet show! Yes! How many places can boast that? The Greek? The Forum? I think not. It was (mostly) a shadow puppet play, with the hinged/jointed paper puppets brought out in front of the silhouette screen sometimes, and with some interaction between the puppets and human actors as well. The players are called Cristina's Puppet Show--I can't find a myspace or web page for them, but there's some pictures to give you an idea here.

SPEAKING of shadow puppets, this reminds me of a 3D shadow puppet play I was involved in way back in my Cal Arts years--probably my finest moment of those days, in fact. It was part of a stereographic photography class I took (yes, this was in art school) taught by Gary Schwartz, who I need to track down some day. Gary set up a translucent screen with two slide projectors casting red and green lights on the screen, and set up our puppets between the projectors and the screen (got it?). The audience was on the other side of the screen and wore those red and green glasses that one uses to watch Creature From The Black Lagoon in 3D. This actually created a 3D shadow effect: as our puppets moved closer to the projectors and away from the screen, their shadows actually appeared to come closer to the audience. You should try this sometime. The play itself was not much to speak of--it was a series of vignettes based on natural disasters--earthquakes, etc. My job was to sing and play banjo between the vignettes. The only part of the play that I remember at all is the "giant pus-filled boil on my ass" vignette (apparently we decided that those are natural disasters too), in which a puppet had an inflamed abscess on its backside lanced with, I think, a javelin--there was a balloon filled with confetti involved. My clearest memory is of Gary narrating the episode using a voice he described as an "agonized, screeching fop." It went something like: "OOOHHH! OHHHHHHHHH! There's a giant pus-filled boil on my ASS! OHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" And so on and so forth.

Anyway. Also playing with us last week was Ema & The Ghosts, who (as always) charmed everyone, and played the best version of one of our old songs, "Prom Queen," that ever was or ever shall be, including an amazing keyboard solo that fortunately is preserved for posterity via the magic of 4-track tape. Perhaps Ms. Ema will allow us to post it here? We shall see.

Also on the bill were a trio of bands from Denver: Dugout Canoe, Milton Melvin Croissant, and Caldera Lakes. Now, I've seen Caldera Lakes a couple of times before (in fact I believe we played with them at Pehrspace a few months ago) and I did not realize they are not a local band! Their vocalist comes from Denver--so we're very lucky that we got to play with them. They're a "poppy" noise band, with very definite song structures (they start off soft, build, crescendo, and then calm back down again) with echo-y, chanted/sung vocals, and eclectic instrumentation: wind chimes, a little mandolin-y like instrument (a charango? Not sure) and an amplified 16mm film editing block, among others. Their music is moody and beautiful, but they were somewhat nonplussed by PA distortion, which I thought was kinda cool but they clearly weren't expecting. Still, a great set.

And then we played, and again it's all kinda a blur--I do recall that we played "Hot Sleigh" for the first (and, so far, only) time, and that Jake from The Breakups helped us out by playing sleigh bells...the rest was all material from Don't Dance. Our pals Nate and Wendy sang backup on "CA-3A-569," just like on the record--and Ema and Jesse danced/wrestled with us on "Hearts Going Steady," which we played as an encore after we accidentally skipped it in the main set. And then there was the Song Of The Month.

We decided, given that our theme for the night was "prom," that we needed a slow-dance number. This was difficult because we don't have many slow songs, and of the few we do have, we'd played them already in previous weeks' sets. So we decided to do a cover, which quickly became a tossup between "Hello" by Lionel Richie and "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Foreigner. Now--I secretly ADORE and cherish the Foreigner song and would have loved to cover it--it's all the way up there with "Shadows Of The Night" in terms of cover songs in my book. But "Hello" easily won because it has the most amazing/disturbing music video of all time, ever. So "Hello" it was, and I shall post the resulting live recording soon. And, I might add, there apparently is video of our performance out there, too (thanks Elaine!).

And that was the bittersweet end of our Pehrspace run. Fortunately for us, Sean seems to want us back, and in fact we're playing Ema's record release show at Pehrspace this Saturday! So we'll be back soon. Thanks again to Sean, Kyle, and everyone who helped make our residency such a pleasure. We'll see you soon!

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