Thursday, May 9, 2013

Music Tapes at the Vera Project

I was excited to see that Music Tapes was playing the Vera Project. I saw them put on a beautifully strange show at the Vera a couple years ago with Olivia Tremor Control and the stories told on stage about Hungarian Gypsy circus performers really stuck with me, and so did the world's largest metronome.

Julian Koster has a different vision of what live performances are, using narratives and props to a much greater degree than any other small venue touring band I've ever seen. If I thought the last show was more narrative and prop driven than most, I had no idea what I was in store for this time - it was the traveling imaginary tour!
Music Tapes at the Vera Project
The band put up a circus tent inside of the Vera Project, and the audience was full of parents with little children. The show takes place in and around the tent, with Julian leading the children and the adults in organized play and contests before the music started.

They brought back the world's tallest metronome and added the drowning sailor and games of skill involving balls and giant snowmen, there were Hungarian Gypsy circus stories - mostly different stories, Julian appears to have quite a few. It was another fun yet totally unexpected and imaginative show.

The first couple of songs were Julian on the musical saw, then on a banjo played with a bow while he sang: Different sounding song, odd and a little small, but it has an undeniable emotional impact as the descending banjo sounding a little like a violin winds through the song.

There was plenty of music on a combination of normal instruments, some used differently (bow on banjo in the above video) and some less usual instruments like musical saws (a saw played with a bow) and the worlds largest metronome and the odd percussion thing to the back a little on the right, I have no idea what they call that. Here's the bit where they introduce the metronome then the giant (drowning?) sailor assembles for an almost indescribable number with the music starting around 2:00 in.
Between the odd rhythms and the horn driven sounds I can sense the circus roots, but the horn break around 2:30 or just after defies easy classification - this stuff is the Music Tapes, and not much else is like it.

I was happy to see that they had several new tricks up their sleeves like the game of skill involving the snowman and throwing balls at the moon until you break it.
Music Tapes at the Vera Project They play more conventionally on some songs like this one, but it still has a musical saw and that odd percussion thing going, so it's only more conventional than the other even odder Music Tapes songs, it's still way out there in unconventional music territory. As a long term novelty seeker, this makes me very happy. They are dedicated to a unique artistic vision, and they pull you into that vision through their artistry and commitment. The odd atmosphere with the occasional barker leading the audience into participating in games (the ladies got be firefly fairies with lights before the show) and play, the high proportion of kids, all of us seated in the circus tent watching the show, it felt like something out of a Ray Bradbury short story - and that's a pretty big compliment, coming from me. Definitely an all out experience, not bombastic or sensory assaulting, just different, like we were slipping into an alternate universe where the old school European Circuses never faded away into something different and they still circle the globe , bringing an evening of alternative reality to those of us lucky enough to find it.

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