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Monthly Archives: October 2009

chorus line

leslie is soon moving to laos, so before she goes we have been on an unspoken mission to see as much theater as we can. that brought us to stumptown stages production of a chorus line at jefferson high school. this was regional theater at it’s finest,  awkward acting, misstepped choreography, and some out of tune singing. what saved this production was their heart, they all really loved doing it, and were having a ball. there were a couple of stars, but what we’ll remember the most is the camel toe. we had a blast at this show.

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Ragtime

a musical always opens the portland center stage’s season, this year it’s ragtime. set in 1906 ragtime tells the story of three families in new york; one waspy from new rochelle, one black from harlem, and the last are immigrants from poland. their lives intertwine in abstract ways which profoundly effect them.

the cast was perfect, they’ve got some great voices. the musical numbers are obviously scaled back, but still have ton of life. of course there is ragtime, but jazz and marches also influence the score. and what a score it is, rooted in classic musical (think carousel or showboat) it has elements of steven soundheim and philip glass, just enough to give it a modern sound. the staging, using only three sets of iron gates and a couple of chairs, was inventive. the huge presence of the gates helps with serious overtones of the story. it was a fantastic night at the theater.

i have to thank portland center stage for having those last-minute rush tickets. my theater going friend leslie and i have seen the majority of the productions at pcs over the last two years, not once have we been let down.

still playing catch up, i can’t believe it’s been three weeks since i went to see erase errata and the again reformed team dresch. i was really excited for this show i just knew it was going to a lot of fun. erase errata i’ve seen four or five times and always had a great time. years ago i saw team dresch and remember them being awesome. i had faith that even though neither of them have been particularly active for the last couple of years, they would be in solid form.

i like rotture as a venue. it’s a good size and has a good outside balcony (usually full of smokers). i was glad to see that they raised the stage, seeing was a problem sometimes. the crowd was elated and possibly one of the friendliest crowds i’ve experienced since moving to portland. the first two bands were good and well received, but i can’t remember a thing about them.

when erase errata came on it was just like old times again. the reason i love erase errata is because they have a sound and spirit that is akin to the great post punk/no wave bands; the pop group, the slits, the index (who are really proto and way ahead of their time), come on, devo, the raincoats. it’s a sound i’ve always connected to. erase errata played kind of a greatest hits show, energy was high, and they sounded as tight as ever. it was one their best shows i’ve seen. i really got my twitch on, and so did beth ditto, who was standing next to me. sadly there were no new songs or promise of a new album.

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team dresch had been in the crowd all night so it wasn’t a big deal when they took the stage no one paid attention until they started playing. they also stuck to the greatest hits format, and the crowd knew every word.  my favorite songs were alway the kaia ones, so i was glad that i was standing next to her. they rocked it like it was still 1997. some of the women in the crowd were so excited they took there shirts off and i got to see boobies for the first time in a while. including those of jenny hoyston, the lead singer of erase errrata, she had replaced beth ditto next to me.

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when the show ended, sometime after one a.m., i was in such a great mood that i had a very enjoyable bike ride home.

imago

i wish all series could end as well as the xenogenesis trilogy does with imago. octavia butler ended the series with it’s strongest book. the human/oankali symbiotic relationship comes to an apex with the creation of jodah, a perfect ooloi/human hybrid. no one is sure what to think of it, some are happy, most are threatened. the majority wants it to leave earth, so it’s family go into hiding, letting jodah mature and prove it’s no threat. i can’t get over octavia’s imagination and ability to layer complex issues into a story line. i’m enamoured by her style.

i had some apprehension about going to cocorosie, the last time i saw them i was not very happy about the show. they had a full band and a beatboxer with them. the beatboxer was distracting, and too loud in the mix. the band was sloppy, they never seemed to get it together and the show was a mess. in the end i decided to go, it helped that i like the aladdin theater. i was also lucky enough to have don accompany me.

when don and i got to the aladdin  we were struck by the dress of the crowd, there were a lot of creative outfits. cocorosie seems to have accumulated and interesting collection of fans. we settled into some seats mid way through the opening act, katie stelmanis. they had an electro riot grrl sound, think sleater-kinney working with neu!. i enjoyed them. no need to own the records, but i would see them again.

as the time for cocorosie to come out came near, the sold out crowd headed toward the stage. don and i abandoned our seats and moved several rows up and had and excellent view. i could already feel that it was going to be a good show. the crowd seemed to be in a great mood, no matter what everyone was going to leave happy. the venue darkened and cocorosie walked on stage. at first it was just bianca and sierra, playing on a near black stage. they played two songs,  i couldn’t tell you the names. they were operatic and reminded me of the first time i saw them. piano, modified toy samples and vocals. it was fantastic, and a great way to start the show.

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the band, piano, bass and beatboxer, have a name but i don’t remember it. i’m pretty sure the beatboxer’s name is spleen. sierra was on the piano or harp, bianca manned a station of modified toys and samplers. they both contributed their own style of vocals, sierra’s operatic vocal skills sounded fantastic and filled the hall, bianca’s squeaky childlike hip-hop influenced cadence was just creepy enough. the acoustics of the aladdin really worked for them,  to me the aladdin always contributes a “church hall” effect.

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i couldn’t even come close to a set list. i recognised quite a few of the songs, i’ve never memorized coocrosie’s song titles. the new songs are stunning, and a great new direction for them. they’re getting a lot clearer in their vision of hip hop/opera/minimalist avant-garde. the current band set up is the best i’ve seen of them. the beatboxer was remarkable, he added such texture and rhythm, without ever being obtrusive. he performed a solo in one song that floored the crowd, it took about thirty seconds for the applause to start. the other members of the band were always on point with the rest, talented guys. they just didn’t stand out. for a group as creative as coocrosie, i was let down by the visuals. the lighting was competent, but the video was a collection of short clips only lasting 15-20 minutes total, projected on a screen most of the time. we probably watched the loop 5 or six times.

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we left that night totally in love with cocorosie. and like i thought everyone left happy.

the t:ba festival has come and gone. and as in the past i didn’t go to anywhere near as many events as i wanted, in fact i only made it to three. one of these years i’m gonna have to invest in an all access pass.

i started with opening night at the works. this year the works was held at washington high school, which has been empty since the eighties.
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two floors of classrooms were used as galleries, each focusing on one artist’s installations. for the most part, the installations seemed a little slipshod to me. even after i read the descriptions, i still felt like they were just not refined enough. a couple of the rooms had some good imagery (stephen slappe and johanna ketola), but didn’t have any direction or cohesiveness. the only one i really liked was ethan rose’s sound piece made up a modified music boxes. it was the only one that felt like it fully realised.
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gang gang dance capped off the night fantastically. their brand of tribal noise dance jams was well suited for the high school auditorium. if only the shirtless hippy behind me didn’t reek of hippie sweat. also i must be getting old because i just don’t find moshing and crowd surfing appropriate at anytime. it’s not fun getting kicked in the head.

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i went to see a hitoshi toyoda silent slide show titled spoonful river. the presentation took place on the lawn of washington high school. it was a collection of images taking place over a year, which hitoshi spent half in new york and the other half traveling japan. there was plenty of beautiful imagery; insects, plants, city scapes, small villages, etc. i couldn’t help looking for a narrative or a connective thread, but i couldn’t find one. what i didn’t understand was the inclusion of pictures of family and friends. i understand that they were part of the year, but it took the presentation into a vacation slide show direction. either it needs time to be refined, or i need some one to explain it to me.

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on a grey sunday afternoon i went to sound artist ethan rose’s live installation with local folkie laura gibson and video artist ryan jeffery. they performed in the windows of the pdx contemporary gallery, with the manipulated sounds broadcast on the sidewalk where the crowd watched, listened and stopped traffic. I stayed for three of the four hours, during that time it rained a bit and we experienced a beautiful sunset. ethan rose sat behind a mixing board and a couple of laptops most of the time. laura gibson switched between sitting in front of ethan and standing in the window. every time she moved a different string instrument was used. ethan manipulated the sound creating a soundtrack for urban nature. tba 2009 011

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i wasn’t too impressed with the video work. mainly composed of nature collage, it worked well with the sound, just not too original. it was also unfortunate that it was barely visible until it got dark.

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i don’t know if i’ll still be in portland for next year’s t:ba festival. i’m sure it would be worth traveling back here for.