Wednesday, May 31, 2006

gig 013 – 2 Million Years of Technology @ SAT/Nettime

Tuesday May 30, 2006
@ SAT (Société des Arts Technologiques) in Montréal
Part of CPR (Critical Practice Resuscitation)
an Nettime North America gathering
hosted by The Upgrade and MUTEK
7pm - 7:45pm

A solo performance by me
a stripped down version of my one-man show
2 Million Years of Technology
done for an audience of about 40 or so

i think it's fair to say it was a smash
as Tobias c. Van Veen
who booked the event
said to me afterwards:
"There wasn't one person in the place that wasn't totally locked in to what you were saying"


Some good friends showed up – Hans, John and Christine
nice to see you guys
i had fun
it may have been the best version of that piece that I've ever done

it's usually longer
the full version is 75 minutes
but it worked well streamlined too
the audience was a bit uncertain at first
as they usually are when someone stands up and seizes the floor purposefully
but i won them over

the strangest part was that just before i went on there was a webcast performance from some freaks in Belgium
who were webcasting brutal static and feedback and white noise
which was being blasted through the house PA
and along with this music were giant projections of what appeared to be a woman gratuitously smearing herself with and eating what she kept telling us – via the layer of typed poetic rambling text over the video stream – was her shit
so that was pretty damn disgusting
shades of gg allin
and in this case i was saying thank god for mediated experience
but it was a long and somewhat arduous half-hour that was one hell of an unusual opening act
be that as it may we all survived

later in the evening i was in the mood to play some more
there was an electro groove maker and VJ making some cool sounds
i still had my mic set up and horn out so i suggested i might jam
but to no avail
as the digerati were not down with the living interaction
not to read too much into this one response
nor to blame the dude especially
but it has been my experience
based on my having bum-rushed-the-show countless times over the past 30 years
in venues all over the world
that white guys almost always say no to jamming with strangers onstage
whereas black musicians almost always say yes
in fact
here is an amazing story

it was 1983 and I was 20 and living in an apartment on Ontario street east in Montreal
i passed an outdoor stage being set up on St.Denis street a few blocks from my house one afternoon on my way home
a band that i had seen around, and that played some of the same bars I did with my band at that time, was setting up
they were a reggae band called JabJab
i spoke briefly to the drummer
chatting about the gig that was being planned
i asked too whether i could come play with them
he looked at me for a moment and asked my name
"john" i said
he nodded and mumbled something
i went home
later that night i returned with my horn
to my amazement the crowd was vast
there were easily 5000 people crowding the surrounding blocks
the band was kicking and i had a great time dancing in the crowd with a couple friends
by the time the show was finishing i had long since given up on jamming with them and i was entirely ok with that too
as obviously this was a much bigger event than I had anticipated
but then
to my everlasting gratitude and amazement
the lead singer said
"Now, for this last song, we'd like to invite a sax player, John, up to the stage."
I was stunned.
I was also about 500 people away from the stage and found myself pushing through the crowd
sax case over my head
shouting "here, ici, here I am" until i finally made it
hauled myself up
took out and assembled my horn
and turned to the band and the crowd ready to play –
now, this had obviously taken some time
and people had been really patient
and you have to realize that this band didn't know me from adam
and here they were at the climax of what was probably their biggest ever show
and what do they do?
they invite a complete stranger
a guy who might completely and totally suck and ruin their night
up to play with them
it was beautiful.
Needless to say I didn't suck and we had a blast
playing (of course) Bob Marley's Jammin' first and then for an encore Third World (or was it Black Uhuru's) "Rally Round the Black, Gold and Green"
it was sublime
an extraordinary act of generosity and faith
i'll owe those guys my respect til the day I die
and I try to live by that example

SAT is located almost at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Ste Catherine in Montreal
an area i have so many memories of
it's the raunchiest part of town
the red light district
and as a teenager i played in bands endlessly all around there
going back to 1979 actually
in fact here's a link to another memoir of mine about that time and place:
the area's changed somewhat but not that much
right next door is Club Soda where I played justa couple years back
and then because we were on tour we slept in our tour bus in the greasy parking lot next to it

an enjoyable night
proving once again that i have to get this poem out into wider circulation because fully two thirds of the audience congratulated me personally after the show
saying how much they liked it
and that means my message is hitting home
and needs to be heard


Risk Factor: 8
Riff Factor: 4
Success Factor: not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
Wild Card: scat art warmup act
Cash Factor: 0 :(
Parking Lot: skid row memory lane
Joy: 6
Obliteration: 3
Poetic power: 10


Blogger saibotuk said...

hey J, it was a pleasure having you play & I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm not sure the black/white race comment makes much sense in this context however. Jan & JoCool have a predetermined set-list-- they aren't "playing" or jamming to begin with, so stepping in with a saxophone to such a software / laptop performance probably won't work irregardless of the performer's skin colour. Do you think Jeff Mills or Derrick May or DJ Spooky would have said yes? Probably not. I don't think skin colour has much to do with it as context. Digital performance is a very different beast than a saxophone, and they can't react to you as you can react to them. Now, if it had been an improvised laptop jam (see SHARE for example at Videographe here in MTL) or whatever, it might have been a very different context and you would have been welcome... but to racialize the the situation I find essentializing and incorrect. Again, I think any black musician in a similar situation performing a crafted set -- was is in a way a composition, like a symphony -- would probably have politely declined your request as well. And I say that from long experience in this technoscene... ;-) best, tobias

8:36 AM  

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