Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Comedians and Hoofers

Rainy February Monday nights are hard to salvage, but all travel should be as painless as a fast 3 train to Bergen Street and the two block walk to Freddy's Backroom. Freddy's is ordinarily a bastion of bar-band rock, but the creative furnace known as Mother Earth (Kyle Clyde and Dylan Hay) moved their base of operations from Port D'Or (their own living room) for one night only. I arrived a bit late, regrettably missing Ramble Tamble (whose name and MySpace tracks both get lots of points for future exploration).

First up (for me) was a trio called Try Cry Try. The lead singer, intriguingly cross-dressed in black leather pants, stiletto heels, halter top, scarf and hairpiece (the latter more of a prop than transformative wardrobe element), has a kind of psychodramatic vocal style (picture someone screaming "don't tell me to calm down!" repeatedly), while the bassist and guitarist, in black and white doom metal face paint, play black and white doom metal, but with a lo-fi edge accentuated by the "drummer", a hand-held cassette player with a vocal mike taped to it. The show climaxed with some smashing of cement blocks and overturned tables, all strobe-lit by artist Jessie Stead.

Following that was "Charlie the Singing Dog" whose name is accurately descriptive - a couple of humans accompanied on singing and hand drum. Charlie sat on a drum stool with a microphone and at the end of his set, he sort of scurried around to all four corners of the stage, as if securing the perimeter.

The old vaudeville admonition that you never want to follow an animal act was put to rest by Mother Earth, whose own psychodrama (more Maya Deren than Artaud) is extraordinary. The two times I've seen the duo, they start at opposite ends of the performance space, and work their way towards each other (using portable amplification devices to make some sounds on the way), ending in a sort of yin-yang clash/reconciliation - a stylized wrestling match, wrapping one another in plastic and so on. One of the most visually striking moments this time was the plastic wrap being stretched between them as they strained about 8 feet apart, like a visual representation of gravitational bonds. They typically end by hustling "offstage" (out of the room) in a whirl.

My other favorite Kyle Clyde performance that I've seen so far was a piece for electric guitar and fluorescent light tubes in which the latter, besides being visually compelling, are used to induce all kinds of hum and feedback in interaction with the guitar, with results quite different from the many other ways of playing the instrument.

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