With a film by Robert Longo: Pictures for Music (1979)
3 February 2007
Electric guitars:
Rhys Chatham
David Daniell (San Agustin, Essentialist)
Bill Brovold (Larval)
Thor Brovold (Larval)
Nick Schillace (In Door Park, Big Lake Trawler )
Matthew Smith (THTX, Outrageous Cherry, Volebeats)
Electric bass: Joel Peterson (Kindred, Immigrant Suns)
Drums: Mark Sawasky (Immigrant Suns, Odu Afrobeat Orchestra)
Tour recording engineer: Eric Block (Semaphore Recording Studio)
Tour manager: Regina Greene of Front Porch Productions
It was just a couple of hours drive from Cleveland to Detroit in sub-freezing weather. It was SERIOUSLY cold outside, to such an extent that David's mustache was beginning to freeze after the short time it took to get out of the car and load into The Bohemian National Home in Detroit.
The Bohemian National Home is a former Czech social club, housed in a large, two-storey square building. The building was bought at a highly competitive price by Joel Peterson, who purchased the building so that there would be a performance place for experimental music in Detroit. Joel does all the booking there and programs free jazz, improvised and world music, electronic noise stuff, as well as other musical craziness.
There are three performance spaces at The Bohemian National Home. Upstairs there is a big space with a large proscenium stage that can hold 300 or more people. To the side is an indoor basketball court, a holdover from when The Bohemian National Home was a social club. The Czechs in Detroit were heavily into sport, evidently. Downstairs, there is a large room with a pool table (the Czechs also liked to play pool...) and a small bar. It has a homey feeling to it, like being in a large living room. Another space is under construction, in fact there is a lot of construction going on in the building. Joel bought the building just a year and a half ago, so the construction and improvements on the building are an ongoing project.
We had played upstairs at The Bohemian National Home last summer on the Essentialist tour, so it was fun to play in a different space. The environment was more intimate. Also, it was easier to heat, not an unimportant consideration when the temperature is 5 degrees above zero.
When I arrived, guitarist Matthew Smith was already there. I knew Matthew already from having heard the improvisatory duo THTX, who opened for Essentialist the last time we played in Detroit. Mark Sawasky, the drummer, was also there. We were introduced and got to talking. Mark had brought a big drum kit with lots of rack and floor toms, which pleased me no end because I knew that meant we would be hearing a LOT of drum fills in the Detroit edition of G3. In addition to drums, Mark also plays hand percussion of all kinds and is heavily into world music.
Bill Brovold was late because the locks on his studio were frozen and it took some time to blowtorch 'em open! In the meantime, we realized we only had five guitarists for the concert, so Joel called up Nick Schillace to round out the ensemble since Nick was going to be doing the opening act in any case.
For such a cold night, we had a great crowd. Everybody knew each other it seemed and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. It occurred to me at this point that what we were going to hear during the course of the evening, was, in fact, chamber music! I mean, we were playing in a living room, right? A large living room, true, but a living room nonetheless. This is what chamber music is. So the evening could accurately be billed a kind of chamber music for the 21st century. This marked the first time I have ever played G3 in someone's living room!
Once everyone was inside and warm, the evening started with Nick Schillace on 6 and 12 string acoustic guitars. Nick had recently completed his Master's thesis on the music of John Fahey, and the influence showed in his playing. Nick talked to the audience and mentioned that the Brazilian guitarist Bolta Sete was an influence on Fahey, with Fahey saying that Sete was the greatest guitarist who ever lived. We heard both influences in Nick's playing, who has arrived at a unique style that is truly his own voice. In many fingerpicking styles, the emphasis is on rhythm with fairly simple melodies. In Nick's music, there are many instances of difficult chords that incorporate a clever use of harmonic movement that we don't often hear in this style of music. All in all, a fabulous performance, which was well appreciated by the audience.
Then it was our turn to play. During rehearsal we had our amps up too loud, but everyone had turned down to a more comfortable volume, the sound was brilliant in the room, particularly during the 6-string section of G3. The social element of this group was pleasant, too, I must say. Bill Brovold had played in the original version of my Die Donnergötter (Thundergods) group. This was the first time we played together in 20 years, so it was quite a reunion, particularly when we consider that I was also sharing the stage with Bill's 19 year old son Thor, who has evolved into a excellent guitarist in his own right. And of course it was great to finally be playing with Matthew Smith, whose group THTX I had heard the last time I was in Detroit and whose work I have continued to follow on MySpace.
Mark Sawasky was a monster on drums, as I expected him to be. After one of his amazing drum solos in the six string section of G3, I realized that my volume wasn't up enough, so I went to turn it up, much to the dismay of Eric Block, our recordist. I went back to playing and thought it sounded better, but I still thought I could come up a bit more in volume, so I turned my amp up another notch. It was at that precise moment that I realized I wasn't going through the amp at all! My sound had dropped out due to a technical problem with my guitar jack. The reason I thought I was continuing to play was because the guitarists in this band had the rhythms of G3 down so well, to such a degree that I thought it was my guitar that was playing those rhythms! It was a marvelous experience. Eric came out on stage at that point and quickly and professionally resolved the problem, and we continued to the next cue without further mishap.
We ended the 40 minutes of G3 with an inspired drum solo from Mark and a rousing 6-string tremolo from the rest of the band. After we took our bows, the audience wouldn't let us leave and demanded an encore, which to tell you the truth did not take all that much arm twisting to convince us to do - because, in fact, we had a piece up our sleeves all ready to play.
For the encore, everyone put their guitar in a special tuning, possibly related to mean tone intonation, with lots of "wolf" tones thrown in for good measure.
After we had completed the tuning process, Mark played an extremely fast Detroit style classic Stooges/MC5 punk rock type beat. All the rest of us tremoloed our asses off, creating a wall of viscous, gelatinous, shimmering overtones, which we held until we were ready to drop, ending after a time with a final chord, which we let ring into silence.
After the performance, we all sat around Joel's place and talked until 3 in the morning. We spent the night there, leaving at 12 noon for Cincinnati.
Standing from left to right: David Daniell, Bill Brovold, Matthew Smith. Kneeling from left to right: Nick Schillace, Mark Sawasky, Joel Peterson. Sitting from left to right: Rhys, Regina Greene, Eric Block © Rhys Chatham
G3 performance at The Bohemian National Home