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Offstage, Music-Makers Do More Than Just Melt Into the Scenery

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Here’s a hypothetical for you: Where do musicians go when you’re not listening? In between the tours and studio sentences, there must be places for musicians. After all, they are not simply willed into being by hungry ears. Growing up where I did, when I did, as I did, I liked to imagine that there was a dedicated beach community somewhere with an icehouse atmosphere, a Kokomo for the fretted soul, simply crawling with musicians who had been put out to pasture. Fully catered, of course, with leftover pita chips and hummus, one case of beer, a mealy apple on a paper plate, a few warm bottles of water, and two hand towels. I say hypothetical, because, you weren’t ever really listening, but at least you were there. We won’t quibble; attendance counts for something.

While your condition is terminal, it’s not necessarily chronic. But music, poor thing, it just goes on and on, as do the wretches who make it. And you know the rap. That guy in the back office of the bank, crushing numbers and warming up a chair — frustrated bass player. The dishwasher at your favorite bar & grill? Blastbeat drummer, a pretty good one too. Didn’t the woman who sold you that SUV seem really familiar? She once fronted the Cardigans.


Calibans, Quasimodos and Town Musicians of Bremen, all! We know well enough where they come from. They come from underfunded primary schools, bad babysitters, the Disney network, little league soccer B-teams and also sports movies with exciting training-montage music, liberal-arts colleges, temp agencies, latchkey parents. But where do they go?

While thoughtful promoters seek to remedy the infestation of musicians by stitching so many festivals so close together so that no lap-steel player should ever have to go back to IT (or Geek Squad or hotel management or making copies or substitute teaching or bar-backing or dog-walking or hanging pictures or hanging drywall or fulfilling orders in the warehouse or volunteering as a paid research subject), it’s not enough. There will be leftovers. You may not recognize the pinch of oblivion until it’s too late, but musicians learn to live with it in much the same way that you live with the kinks and pinholes in your wheezy, unheeded conscience.

Richard Pinhas, with Illicit Relationship
14 Pews, October 21
No need to pussyfoot around this one, this is for fans of deep space, head space, and the intersection of sci-fi and modern music, for the kind of dogs who feel the need to run the length of their ear-to-mind chain. Openers Illicit Relationship are no pslouches on psychedelia; they huff it like plasma. They ruminate out-sounds in the quadripartite stomach of their collective mind. Furthermore, they’ve custom-modded their sweat glands so that, once plugged in and warmed up, they may emit strange green pearls of glowing ear glimmer all over the place. It’s barely hygienic, but that’s the music business for you.

Briefly, let us venture to the history of the guitar, from a strictly musicological viewpoint. There are two schools of guitar. One involves the rapid and precise manumission of various chromatic scales. At one time, expositions of such acted as a metaphysical placebo for many humans, who transferred their native desire for religious wonder and worshipfulness to bar bands, bluegrass prodigies, and their high-riding, hard-rocking heros, until the advent of video games. Where religion stumbled, guitars were en pointe. All the things art couldn’t do, guitar players could and did. Again, this was until the heyday of video games, which have completely transformed the landscape of human interaction, and rendered music, for all intents and purposes, moot.

But there’s another school of guitar, and while I don’t know how precisely to translate the original Finnish term, it involves really getting into it, hacking at the atom, sopping up the juice. Sometimes a guitar doesn't need a guitar; the thought will suffice. Richard Pinhas is an innovator of the second school. His chops are on the up-and-up, but since the early 1970s, his work as Heldon, as a solo artist, and as a collaborator with artists and misanthropes as diverse as Merzbow and Michel Houellebecq has all pointed to the hair at the edges of an expanding universe. His guitar and synthesizer explorations stretch and sizzle, vast and detailed like a biomorphic, interplanetary Alhambra of sound. And he’s French, so show some respect. Arrive early if you must beg your tickets off the scalpers, as 14 Pews is small, and there are so many of you, jostling for a place.

Robert Turman, with Breathing Problem, Kai:Ros, Gerritt Wittmer, Mephedrone

Notsuoh, October 23

Before hitting the road in pursuit of total freedom, Robert Turman was an early member of the controversial noise group Non. Art and shock can hang out together for a while, whispering ‘Good Times, Great Oldies’ in one another’s ear in a close moment, but sooner or later one’s going out the door or out the window. Robert Turman has been chasing strange tones and hollering at wider lateral lines for decades now. His path is somewhat quieter than his erstwhile bandmate, but more more diverse and rewarding, full of close observations, endless turns, and wordless energy. At Notsuoh this Sunday, he’ll be joined by a press gang of feel-good and feel-bad experimentalists, noise crews, and performance artists including Austin’s snuff-noise group Breathing Problem, Houston’s delta wave-riders Kai:Ros, pale-horse whisperer Gerritt Wittmer, and the harsh detoxers in Mephedrone.

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