With a film by Robert Longo: Pictures for Music (1979)
2 February 2007
Electric guitars:
Rhys Chatham
David Daniell (San Agustin, Essentialist)
David Cintron (Terminal Lovers)
Jeff Host (Clvlnd Gtr)
Michael Pultz (Blk Tygr)
Chris Smith (Keelhaul)
Electric bass: Sam Goldberg (Clvlnd Gtr)
Drums: Ben Billington (Clvlnd Gtr)
House engineer: Johnny
Tour recording engineer: Eric Block (Semaphore Recording Studio)
Tour manager: Regina Greene of Front Porch Productions
We all woke up in the morning at Leah's in Buffalo and madly hit our computers to get our email, which had backed up while we were in Canada. I said goodbye to Tom, with whom I slept that night. Tom is Leah's cat, it was a sad parting.
Six hours on the road to Cleveland, we ran into a heavy snow storm, so it was a white knuckle trip for David, who was driving, but he made excellent time and got us to Cleveland safely just in time for the 6 pm rehearsal.
We had played at the Beachland Ballroom with Essentialist, so I already knew the space and some of the people. The Beachland Ballroom is a former Croatian social home that was converted into a bar/performance space 6 years ago by co-owners Mark Leddy and Cindy Barker. There are two performance spaces, one is a large square ballroom, the other is a smaller space that has a bar to the side of the performance area. Johnny, the soundman, also doubled as the bartender. The Tavern space is where Cleveland's experimental noise/rock people play in a convivial and supportive environment.
Michael Pultz of Blak Tygr, who also works at the Beachland Ballroom, was the person who organized the musicians and he also played guitar in the ensemble. He invited David Cintron and Chris Smith to play as well as the musicians from Clvlnd Gtr. I was particularly happy to see Ben, Sam and Jeff again, as they had opened for Essentialist when we played there last time, and we liked what they did.
We were originally going to play in another venue, but when Michael realized that Land of Buried Treasure was going to be playing at Beachland Ballroom, he decided to book us there as well. There was a reason for that...
Land of Buried Treasure is an experimental noise-rock band consisting of a trio of musicians, Jae Kristoff, Nate Scheible, and Mike Wilkenson. They had invited 40 interesting musicians from the area of Cleveland to play with them, both individually and in larger formations, and recorded 70 hours of music with these musicians. Then they proceeded to mix and splice and cut and edit and made a brilliant hour-long piece out of it, and the record release party was the same day as the night we were playing.
So Michael decided to combine the two events, with Land of Buried Treasure playing in the ballroom space and us playing in the tavern. He staggered the performances so everyone could see everything. Michael's idea was a smart one. Instead of people having to choose which group to see, they could have both of us, so we had a nice crowd in the Tavern that evening.
I must say that David and I had a lot of fun rockin' out with this group. Ben is from Cleveland, but he lives in Chicago now and had driven down from there to do the performance. He got there a few days early to see another band, so the guys decided to get together and they did a rehearsal of G3 in advance of my the arrival of David and me. It really showed in the performance, they all seemed so comfortable with the music, so everyone had a good time on the stage, which translated into an exciting performance on both a musical as well as visual level.
We projected the Robert Longo slides to the left of the musicians, which worked out well in that everyone could see it because of the way the bar was set up (the audience surrounds the stage) and also, there were no silhouettes of musicians on the screen.
The audience was a warm and knowledgeable one. We had people screaming out, "Drastic Classicism!" during the break, they really knew the music. Also, there was a wide generational spread, with kids around 6 years old to grandmothers in the audience, with all of them jumping around and grooving to the music. And we had Andrew Planck in the audience! Andrew was the person who famously screamed "Guitar Trio is my life!!!" at our last gig at the Beachland Ballroom. It was a pleasure to have him with us again, he came down from Columbus, Ohio, to see us.
The sound was good in the space, the stage low and the audience right in our faces, which is the way we like it! From time to time I would go out into the audience with my guitar and play. This was both fun to do and allowed me to check out what the house PA system sounded like. It sounded good!
The energy of this performance was quite high due to the close proximity of the audience. Another distinctive feature was one of the guitarists was playing an interesting minor Second riff in the 3 and 6-string sections. No one had every done that before. A minor second would be a half-step up, or one semi-tone from the tonic of the piece, an F in relation to the tonic E. By the first 6-string section in the second half of the performance, Ben Billington on drums and Sam Goldberg on bass were really kicking and the guitarists generating beautiful, overtones during the six string sections. We were particularly energetic during the final 6-string tremolo section, the audience went wild and erupted into concentrated applause when the closing chord was played.
After the show, we went downstairs to hang out in the Beachland Ballroom's large and comfortable musicians area, where we hung out and talked, took a band photo, and generally partied. I got to talking to a visual artist about the "when, why and where" of the Robert Longo slides. He asked whether they were something that was added to the performances recently, or if they were associated somehow with the original performances.
Guitar Trio started out as a duo for Nina Canal of Ut and me, soon adding Glenn Branca to make a third guitar. Nina and I played in normally tuned guitars and I gave Glenn a specially tuned guitar consisting of all E strings. After explaining to Glenn and Nina what overtones were and that we were going to be working exclusively with overtones for the melodic content of the piece, we decided to add a rhythmic element and thought it would be really cool if we had drummer Wharton Tiers just play high hat rather than the whole kit. This version of G3 lasted about a half hour.
I had been working with Robert Longo during this period at The Kitchen, a center for video, music and dance in Soho in Manhhattan. I was the music director and produced concerts of other people's music there, Robert was the visual art curator. We became close friends, having many dinner table conversations about art and music.
After one of these dinners, I asked Robert to make a series of slides to go with G3, thinking that it would be nice to add a visual element. It made sense for me to work with Robert as I felt close to both him as well as his work. So Robert made a series of 6 slides with long, long, beautiful fades in between each one, giving the effect not of a slide show, but rather a minimalist movie. The images Robert used are all found images, but were chosen because they all resembled Roberts's pictures of the early 80s. Indeed, when I showed the slides in Europe a few years later, everyone instantly identified them as Robert's, even without looking at the program notes.
Eventually, G3 evolved into a much shorter piece of only 8 minutes, so we stopped using Robert's slides. The performance in Cleveland and the other cities of this tour are a recreation concert of the original show we did with Robert, hence the incorporation of the slides into these shows.
Another thing that was discussed downstairs at the Beachland Ballroom was the interesting scene in Cleveland at the moment. Living here is MUCH less expensive than living in New York or Chicago, so it is easier to work as an artist here. One can work as a bartender or waitress a few nights a week and spend the rest of the time on one's work. In NY, everyone has to have a full time job just to pay the rent, it's ridiculous!
I found this interesting because I had been thinking about it. NY is finished as a place where people can make art easily because it is too expensive to live in. To do art one needs cheap rent in an urban context. Cleveland seems like a good example of this, so who knows; maybe I'll be coming back!
Standing from left to right: Chris Smith, David Daniell, Michael Pultz, David Cintron. Kneeling from left to right: Jeff Host, Sam Goldberg, Ben Billington. Lying down: Rhys © Rhys Chatham
Photos legends:
Rhys Chatham and Michael Pultz © Lou Muenz
We were delighted to see Andrew Plank, the "Guitar Trio is my life!" kid! © Rhys Chatham
Rhys with the people in the audience at the Tavern. Sam Goldberg is on bass to the left © Lou Muenz
G3 performance at The Beachland Ballroom