When the musical collective Broken Social Scene went on hiatus in 2011, thousands of its fans did not fret or post disparaging comments on the collective’s website, or worse, drum up a tragedy as horrible as the death of Pantera/Damageplan founding member Dimebag Darrell; they did not rush to the record store to buy up the collective’s discography, for fear there might never be another pressing until a greatest-hits compilation was seized upon by Warp Records. It was obvious that the nineteen-piece musical entity could never go in every direction every one of its members wanted, or could, but that its magic had to rest for a bit, so the collective could figure who and where they were now, as their own persons. The collective had been at it for ten great, long years. Read more
I’m a big fan of following the flow of consciousness, allowing the world to take me where it may. In April, it took me to the Robinwood Concert House, a charming Arts & Crafts bungalow in Toledo’s Old West End. The how of my getting there matters a little (Thank you, Phil Dickinson!), but not so much as the fact that once I arrived, Gabriel Beam’s home felt a bit like my home sweet home too.
Geeks (I use the term with the utmost respect) exist in every part of the world, and I found one of the havens for free and avant garde jazz officianados in Gabe’s living room. My first visit was April 14, 2012 to hear the New York based Michael Musillami Trio, with Anthony Poretti and Josh Beatty opening. I was immediately struck by the similarity of the early-comers to the show (those in the know, know to come fashionably late) to the same kind of people I encountered for years when I ran gaming and science fiction conventions: Intense and passionate men in black tee shirts and jeans, who throw down jazz artist’s names and catalogues like one would expect kids to do with baseball stats, or gamers—MTG stats.
As I said, these were the early-comers. Some drove from Michigan, some from small towns, some from Cleveland. One guy was telling a story about just arriving back from NYC where he’d driven to see a concert. These are the fan-boys of Jazz, and I hadn’t even known they existed.
Gabe Beam and his lovely home provide a venue for both them, and the casual or curious listener. As the clock wound round to 9:40 or so, a flood of others arrived, some in hipster casual, some in ball-caps; young, old, and like me, in between. They found seats in the rows of mismatched chairs which face the “stage” area. It is a living room after all, so the only dividing lines between players and audience are the microphones, instruments, and electronics.
Beam says, “I think the space reflects the kind of music being played here. It’s a kind of corner of the earth kind of music. It’s definitely public, but people don’t always just show up to somebody’s house, for something they may or may not like…. [But] I always dub it ‘The Other Music in Town.’ When I can have someone who’s touring, on tour, and then pepper it with somebody local, that was my whole, and still is my motivation: To be able to get a good creative scene happening here.”
While Gabe meets and greets, he moves through the room, tweaking a mic, adjusting a row of seats, replenishing the cheese selection in the dining room, or helping the musicians sell a cd or two. He is a one-man venue manager; catering, P.R., host, recordist, sound engineer, and more. A musician himself (he plays lap steel guitar and synthesizer in a duo with Mike Kimaid, and the two have also played as part of the KDB Sonic Cooperative), Beam has a foot in either side of the music world; performer and promoter, as well as audience member.
“This is just my version of a house concert. I think I go out of my way a little bit because I’ve been on the other side of booking. I have played, and played house shows. In a way, that’s kind of what I go for, that kind of chance situation, where I don’t even know who I’m playing for, what it’s going to be like, and it’s the challenge of going up here with people who are improvisors. That’s what they’re in the business of doing, without the business part of it; to fit in where they can and will be appreciated. And [as] someone [who] has a bit of a reference point, kind of to organize, who knows what that is, and I set that up before I was even doing shows here at the house.”
And Beam certainly delivers. I couldn’t have asked for a more interesting and diverse evening of jazz. Poretti and Beatty were admittedly not my cup of tea. This Chicago area duo are avant garde in the extreme, with sounds elicited from a gorgeous art deco era sax which I felt didn’t live up to the lively and interesting percussion. That’s what happens here; you never know what you may get, and if you stay long enough, or come back again, you realize there is something for everyone.
“Older folks have come out and caught the show that was not the one for them. And they probably go like, ‘Eh, he always does that weird noise stuff.’” Gabe says of the casual first-timer.
Personally, I would advise checking out the Toledo Bellows website, home of the Robinwood Concert House and watching or listening to the links provided to get an idea of what the artist(s) are about before the concert.
The headliners on April 14 were The Michael Musillami Trio. Prior to the show, Musillami could be found lounging on the back bench, playing a video game on his phone and chatting with audience members. I, myself had an embarrassing moment when an older gentleman in a jaunty velvet hat struck up a conversation about what I was “writing in my little book.” When I asked what his profession was, he said, “Oh, I’m Joe. I play with the band.”
And does he ever! Joe Fonda pulls power, rhythm, and absolute joy from a string bass like no one I’ve ever seen. Nicknamed “Killer Joe,” he and his compatriots (Musillami on guitar and George Schuler on drums) carried the audience away. The moment I began to think something was expected, when I anticipated the next measure, is when they mixed it up. I forgot I was in Toledo, Ohio: Lost in the music, the drums and bass thrumming into my chest.
Musillami at times used a bow, sawing the guitar strings and grimacing in concentration. Some of the numbers that night included “Metaphor 345” which featured Joe’s killer bass and surprising moments of melodic whimsy. “ga-ga-goosebumps” was another audience pleaser. But for me, it was “Keenaloke,” off a 2010 recording, that rocked my world. Schuler’s rolling drums and Fonda’s bass combined for a thick rhythm line—then the guitar ran in hard-edged, sexy riffs over them. I couldn’t have asked for a better entré to the Toledo jazz scene. At the end of the evening, I assured Joe Fonda I would never not know who he was again.
So entranced was I from my initial experience at Robinwood, I was back just two nights later, for the double bill of Mike Khoury and Chris Corsano.
The crowd on this night was more relaxed, except for one man who arrived with his own cache of beers and whooped and hollered his way through Corsano’s performance. In a larger venue, his behavior would have been less noticeable. At Robinwood, it was a bit off-putting.
That said, he was easily dismissed in the face of the gorgeous playing of Mike Khoury. Transcendence is the best descriptor I can find for his violin: Fabulous improvisational work, achieving a melodic dissonance which somehow works and becomes so much more than the sum of its parts.
Then he brought out a viola. The resonance hit my chest, vibrated through my lungs and up into my throat. A sigh seems the only appropriate response to the joyful noise that is Khoury’s music. We spoke after his set and he talked about how much he loves the house concert setting, as it calls to mind the salons of eighteenth century France. It was in those private homes the composers of the day tried out their new works. There are no empire-waisted gowns or breeches at Robinwood Concert House, but I admit I loved the allusion.
Chris Corsano came recommended (Phil Dickinson again!) so I was game for what he might bring to the table. What this intense young man, who’s played with major players, brought was everything but the kitchen sink. I feel certain if he’d figured out how to play one of those, it would have been there. His set was short, one or two pieces really. And it’s to be expected with so much energy going into them.
A standard drum kit was accessorized with bowls, steel-drum heads, a harmonium, and at one point, a triangle suspended from the artist’s mouth. He bowed the drums, the snare in particular, and the bowls, creating a static sound which rolled over the audience in waves, coursing through the eardrums. The dangling triangle set up a rhythm line. The rest was gravity and the almost inhuman hand-speed of his play. His hands became a blur. If distilled to a word, Corsano’s set would be called Fearless.
I again left the Robinwood Concert House sure I’d seen and heard something unique and special. That’s why Gabriel Beam created it. “[I created] the Toledo Bellows to challenge the sometimes stagnant waters of Toledo… If you don’t go and try to jostle things, the institutions that be, you’re probably going to be one of those people saying, ‘There’s nothing to do in Toledo, I’m bored,’ I’ve said that, but now I don’t.”
 Magic The Gathering, card and now electronic game first published by Wizards of the Coast, which is now a subsidiary of Hasbro.
I’m sure Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg knew what they were doing when they commissioned the still-somewhat-creepy Tupac hologram that appeared at Coachella to salute the legions of stoned, white college kids who were expecting maybe a few deep cuts from The Chronic or Doggystyle, but not the full-on head tripping weirdness that was Snoop Dogg having a rehearsed conversation with a friend whose rap game was so strong that, years after his tragic killing, he’d managed to transcend corporeality. If you look at the narrative structure of these things, before Tupac emerged from the ether to perform “Hail Mary” and “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted,” Snoop was ripping hits from the world’s largest blunt and, if you consider the Smoke Monster-like clouds of THC that emerge from the crowds gathered to see Snoop Dogg perform, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that Tupac’s brief resurrection was something of a shared hallucination. To paraphrase Jesus, “Where two or three are gathered for a gangsta party, I am there in their midst.” Read more
Music Like You’ve Never Seen: “Other Musics” Film Series Concludes Season Tuesday at Grounds For Thought
According to Phil Dickinson, one of the two brains behind “Other Musics: Four Free Films on Free Sounds,” it began with an e-mail. Rob Wallace, Dickinson’s partner in the four-part documentary and performance series, dropped him a line and asked what they could do to share their passion for music with the fine folk of Bowling Green, Ohio.
And a one-of-a-kind experience was born. Once a month, from January through April of this year, Wallace and Dickinson set up their projector and screen at Grounds for Thought, Bowling Green’s premiere indie coffee shop, and started showing films about music you’ve likely not seen or heard before. The last film in the series is this Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 7 p.m. Read more
We’re all guilty of it to a certain degree. However, I find it most perplexing when fans become defensive about their favorite medium. One person’s viewpoint will never utterly shatter the window in which said fans view others from. This means, if a Juggalo or any counterpart thereof, reads this, it probably won’t change his mind about I.C.P.
Let me just start by saying that this is not my intention. After Caleb Lalinsky posted the link to American Juggalo, a short film that neither praises nor condemns its players, I began to dig deeper into the mindset of someone who would throw normal social mores in the trash in order to associate with others of the same faith, so to speak. Read more