The Swingin' Sounds of London Town
Hiya, readers! It's been entirely too long, and for that I profusely apologize. I've had a busy, dynamic, stressful and mostly wonderful year so far. I hope that you all can say the same (minus the stress part, of course), and that you're as ready as I am to get back down to this business of music news.
I spent the first part of the year studying abroad in one of the world's most incredible cities: London, United Kingdom. I left reluctantly.
During my time there, I was lucky enough to get to a few concerts. Here are some mini-reviews:
Van der Graaf Generator: We spent an entire three hour and forty-five minute Brit Pop class period talking about PROGRESSIVE ROCK! I don't think I've ever been more prepared for a lecture in my entire academic life. Everyone looked at me like I was some sort of alien when I rattled off the seemingly nonsensical lyrics to the YES song that our professor played in class, "Close to the Edge," when he slipped up and forgot them. I was pretty much the weird girl in class from that day forward, but in all seriousness, talk to the progressively rocking hand.
Needless to say, I was over the moon.
The drummer, Guy Evans, unquestionably rivaled Neil Peart of Rush in technicality and intensity. And Hugh Banton, the fellow rocking the organ (it's progressive rock, there's always a bit of organ going on), created an otherworldly effect that created a lovely balance with Evans' extreme drumming.
The Ether Festival: Each year in early spring, the Southbank Centre hosts The Ether Festival. This exhibition of music and art is, for lack of a better word, totally in the ether. It's a place for some of London's most innovative artists to perform for an open-minded and (sorry, using the word again) ethereal audience. I attended two of the many concerts that made up The Ether Festival...
Micachu and the Shapes: Micachu (it rhymes with Pikachu) is the petite and unassuming, but powerful female leader of The Shapes (two mates of hers) and the London Sinfonietta. Mica, The Shapes and the Sinfonietta played a few bits from her latest project, a "classic crunk" album called Chopped and Screwed. The concert comprised several 20-minute suites played on classical instruments, which were distorted, screwed and chopped by Micachu on two turntables and a PC. The inspiration for Chopped and Screwed is the undoubtedly drug-induced early 90s hip-hop trend of the same name, which took the traditional hip-hop tempo, warped it and slowed it down. The result as a trippy and transformative hour and a half of some of the most original music I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. Everyone walked out of the Southbank Centre in a daze.
Tim Exile: I've never been much for "laptop musicians." I went to see Girl Talk at Cornell as a freshman and wasn't terribly impressed, but thankfully, Tim Exile was able to give me some perspective on the all-electronic genre of music. Exile, who was donning a purple sequined Vegas showroom performer's blazer, played nearly two hours of music with two Macbooks, a synthesizer and a microphone. Several days prior to the concert, Exile sent out an inquiry for fans to send small samples of electronic music. Exile streamed these samples live from the Internet and improvised entire songs around them. The element of democracy in his art form is unprecedented, and simply spectacular.
To make a very long story just a bit shorter, I'll summarize: London made me twice as open-minded, musically speaking and otherwise, than I ever imagined myself becoming. Cheers!