Friends, tonight was a wonderful night of music. A little less ambitious than saturday's show(P7, I think?) but much more cohesive and just as much fun.
Once again we were back at the Knitting Factory a smaller, cozier better sounding venue that seats/stands about 800 people.
The first act I saw when I arrived (a little later than I had planned) was a guy or girl in a giant bunny suit (tighter fitted torso and limbs and a giant bunny head) playing some sort of midi drum trigger device in a very Squarepusher/Autechre type of way. It went on for about half an hour and was pretty funny and mildly interesting musically. It was certainly the finest music I have ever heard played by a guy in a bunny suit so far!
The next act on the bill was a straight ahead jazz trio, piano, drums and upright bass. They were quite good, if you like traditional straight ahead jazz. Which, I do. I must share a few observations on this, firstly it is extremely difficult, perhaps insurmountably so to entertain an audience that has just witnessed a giant bunny playing avante-guard techno music for half and hour. Secondly traditional modal jazz (however amazing and groundbreaking it was in 1965) is just one of those things that takes incredible amounts of talent, time and dedication to sound merely mediocre. A very sobering wakeup call to anyone out there aspiring to play like McCoy Tyner. It is 2004! Please put that energy into inventing something new.
Finally after what felt like 5 hours after the jazz band finished, there was a fake out where the curtain opened half way (everyone cheers) and then closed (everyone booed) and then the movie screen came down and played some garbage techno video and unsuprisingly everyone became calm as sacrificial lambs. It was a little more than disturbing, to watch a borderline ugly mob, turn into pacified little sheep as the TV came on. George Orwell please help us! After 15 more minutes of generic dated lame techno audio sewage, the curtain finally opened to reveal... John's newly shaven head!
He said hi to everyone and then picked up his black Les Paul custom (Robert Fripp style, only with two exposed humbuckers) which was plugged into his massive synth array (Doefper A100). He knelt in front of it and started producing unearthly wonderous sonorities, using the guitar more as a sound source rather than fretting notes and playing it in any sort of traditional method. He may have had a slide in his right hand, and he was holding the guitar in his lap like a lap steel guitar. Running it's output through the filters and LFOs of that massive synth rig. Over to the left of the stage was a black grand piano. It had been 'prepared' by putting metal clips on the strings or cramming stuff under them, there was a crash cymbal and tambourines jammed in there as well, and for good measure a Heineken bottle too. Some guy I didn't recognize was 'playing' it both by the keys and by hitting the strings directly with mallets, brushes and his hands. This 15 minute piece was the highlight of the show for me. They allowed each other plenty of room, and got into some pretty amazing places. At times it was almost evocative of King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues in Aspic Part 1" as John played long sustaining notes low on the guitar and the piano played complex rhythms like a gang of icicles wrestling with spinning bicycle spokes, it was pretty exciting. Then, suddenly they would take off into a completely different direction. Sometimes John's guitar would turn into a big, fat, funky beetle and then dance with the random splintering spectrum of vibrations eminating from the crushed piano morphing into a pulsing metallic drum set. It was a truly wonderful thing to hear.
Somehow, they decided that the piece of was over and JF layed his axe down and sat on the floor in front of one of those new Moog synths with the LCD display on it (the Voyager I think). He played for a while on that, sounding a little like Jan Hammer on some live Jeff Beck record. Kind of Euro, kind of pretty and kind of like godzilla stomping through some unfortunate model city. He then sustained a low note for a while and walked off the stage.
A female drummer that I didn't recognize from anywhere jumped onto a relatively large drum kit. She started laying down a very funky groove, it brought to mind the old prime Funkadelic stuff. Real smokey. John left the stage and she played on for some time. Josh came out and played another smaller drum set that was in front of the first one. Then, Flea came out and started tearing it up! He was clutching the beatle bass from the other night. The crowd went nuts! Another bass player followed, a man who I did not recognize playing a white fender bass. They then proceeded to get into some very cool shit. They were playing off each other and snaking and turning, the two drummers were hitting those amazing pockets that you can only get with two drummers, things were open and massive. A throbbing colossus of groove. I must mention that Flea was wearing a suit jacket and a buttoned up polo shirt and shiny leather loafers. He almost looked like he got kicked out of the Beatles for smoking PCP. His musical presence was enormous, the whole room exploded when he took the stage. After about 5 minutes John came back out and everybody topped themselves with even more applause then Flea got.
John didn't have a guitar and stepped up to the mic. He tried singing but the levels were not good. Apparently his microphone was going directly into a rack mounted delay that was taped to a keyboard stand in front of him. It was in his hands to set the input and output levels. Unfortunately he didn't catch on to this situation for a few minutes. He would tweak the settings and then try to sing (he was clutching his lyric sheet in his hands, fresh off the presses I'll bet) and he was getting increasingly frustrated with the low level of his voice. The band began to lose steam. They took it down, way down. John was then able to hear how his adjustments were affecting the sound. Then things began anew. He sang very well and he always seems to outdo himself at each one of these concerts. As he sang he would do simular effects on his voice like those on 'Running Away into You'. Later on he did the thing were he sang and then cut the input level and then brought it right back up so that it would make those blocks of repeating sound echoing away... and then he sang harmonies to the repeating blocks in the same way, kind of just like on Niandra. This was pretty incredible to watch live. Discipline kids, discipline. All the while two basses and two drummers were raging out of control behind him. The piano player had come out during the singing and was playing a small handheld yamaha keyboard that I have seen Josh use and various percussion and acoustic instruments. At one point he was playing a larger keyboard with his feet. All of this was going into a mic that was not very loud so he had pretty minimal effect on the overall sound. But he looked cool and he was certainly having a good time.
When John was finished singing, he went back and got his Les Paul back from Dave and joined the groove that was still cooking. The crowd went nuts when they saw him with the guitar again. They then got into some serious jamming. He was playing some very Fugazi sounding riffs on the upper stings, repeating notes, skipping along on the same note. He didn't solo over them he just added texture to the moody muscular brew. Things pretty much hung out on one chord and didn't move around that much harmonically.
Flea was playing something that was a distant more agressive cousin of his "Give It Away" bassline, while the drummers got locked into something that sounded like "Bullet the Blue Sky' by U2, but somehow filtered through the cosmic effects of the year 1972.
Eventually things settled down and everyone decided that enough was enough, after maybe 20-25 minutes.
Everyone but Josh and John left the stage. John ditched the LP for his battered rosewood fingerboard Strat that seemed to be plugged into a smaller tan colored Vox combo that can be seen in some of those pictures of P5. JF then declared that he wanted to play a few songs off the new record he and Josh has just finished in January! They played two new songs that I promptly forgot the name of (one of them may have had death in the title) and that was it. End of show. Josh played the drums on both songs and John sang and played guitar standing. They were both distant cousins of 'Under the Bridge'. Mellower ballads with introspective lyrics and a slight soul/gospel influence to a greater extent than most of his solo work. I thought they were both very good and showed yet another major shift in direction since the recording of SCWP (I am referring to the songs from P3 and P4).
Vincent Gallo (and an incredibly attractive female friend) made the show. Actress Juliet Lewis was also in attendance as well as John's mother and Josh's girlfriend (sister?). Possibly it was also Josh's mother's birthday! He held up a sign that said 'happy birthday' as he left the stage and I was sitting right behind a woman who was apparently his mother and people kept wishing a happy birthday. Josh actually is quite tall.
Joe Lally and Guy Picciotto of Fugazi were also there. I was surprised to see that Joe did not play tonight at all, but, you know how these things go, perhaps thier period of creation has come to pass and it is now time for John to get back to work with his day job with the other band.
They played the new Blonde Redhead album and Captain Beefheart's "Lick My Decals Off Baby" between sets.