Date: 13-11-2007 Support: Carla Bozulich; Venue: P60 Amstelveen (NL)
By: Wouter van de Kamp
Again a Sleepytime Gorilla Museum review? Isn’t that band boring the hell out of you by now? No, not at all. This is one of this bands that you either like or not as you might have gathered from the previous reviews. And they took their own support act with them: Carla Bozulich.
Now this was going to be a surprise-act for me with a lot of potential since she’s also in the band called The Book of Knots featuring two members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi). The only expectation that one can have is that it would be weird, odd, unusual and so forth.
So there she was with her band. She herself as a vocalist and guitarist supported by a drummer, a bassist, a cellist and a violinist. And I got exactly what I
expected. A slow, (almost) boring intro followed by a sudden burst of screams
and metal-like riffing and heaviness to wake you up. Unfortunately it drifted
off into relatively slow freejazz-like improvisation. Swaying from one emotion
to the other Carla’s compositions (if you can even speak of compositions, because
many seems to be just plain improvisation) never seem to be predictable. Just
when I started to doze off there was this postrock/metal riff again. But that
did not last very long. Interesting music for sure, but not something I appreciate
seeing live. Especially not as a warm up for Sleepytime. But the somewhat small
audience seemed to be fine with it.
Many people though seemed to be interested in Sleepytime only since the venue was filled much more when they started. Starting off with Ambugaton they got
full attention of all attendants. For those who already read the other reviews it might be (more) interesting to tell somewhat (more) about their instruments and compositions.
The biggest eye-catcher is what they call the “sledgehammer dulcimer”: a three meter long wooden plank mounted with piano strings, that they usually play with drumsticks, but in one song it is played by just dropping a hand sized piece of metal on it. Carla Kihlstedt plays a smaller version of this instrument, but most of all plays the violin and does a lot of vocals of all sorts (both
backing and lead). Usually the violin is played with the bow, but for example
in their new song The Grey Old Heron she fingerpicks it like a guitar on her
lap. Furthermore she plays the bass mouth organ which has this very eerie sound.
Then we have Dan Rathbun. Besides playing the mentioned sledgehammer dulcimer
in several ways he also is the bassist and besides hitting the dulcimer he also
hits some other, mostly metal, objects and in their new song he plays the recorder.
The singer is actually the most boring person, intrument-wise. He only has two
different electric guitars (12-string and six-string) and he plays the recorder
as well. But he is not boring at all. Actually he is the main attraction of
the band. He has such a diverse voice which he perfectly accompanies with diverse
moves and facial expressions. Then there is the drummer playing of course…
the drums. But also the xylophone. The xylophone (a second one) is also played
by the percussionist. He has an enormous amount of pots and pans so to say,
that he uses as percussion instruments. Ranging from a bike wheel to a china-like
metal plate. Furthermore he plays some sort of mini piano and the trumpet.
Composition-wise this band cannot just be put into one category. On first hearing
one might think this is just (although brilliant) improvisation, but after observing
properly this is not just some artists playing whatever they like and trying
to make it sound like a composition. This band explores the boundaries of songwriting
as a whole. Not limiting themselves to one or two genre’s. Not afraid of doing
what has never been done before, resulting in many surprises upon first listening.
Some songs only dawn upon you after you have listened them over and over again,
because of their complexity (Babydoctor, Phthisis, The Widening Eye), while
others are immediate hits (Sleep Is Wrong, 1997, The Grey Old Heron).
So on to the show for a bit. Clearly they were in a good mood and felt like entertaining the P60. Finally a non-seated concert of this band (contrary to their previous to shows I saw in Bimhuis, Amsterdam). This of course enables the visitors some (more) physical action. As Sleepytime was gratifying the audience on great improvisations or maybe upgrades on their old songs the crowd was enjoying more every minute. The interaction with them was brilliant. The very humoristic singer got the crowd laughing many times, either by cool jokes or by his odd gibberish that still seemed to have some sort of meaning. And when they left at the end of the show the crowd screamed and whistled begging them for an encore.
And of course we got what we wanted. Sleep Is Wrong had not been played yet and they cannot leave without playing that one. And now the crowd gave everything they had, head banging (think you are a headbanger or you are head banging and chanting along and raising fists on the “Sleep Is Wrong”-part. What an experience once again. Halfway this song the band pretends to be sleeping making funny sleep sounds and snoring and consequently building up tension for those who know what is to come. To make it even worse Nils breaks up the song by thanking the crowd, introducing the band members and announcing there return
for next summer, to the crowd. Everyone was enchanted by now and then there
was this final severe convulsion of Sleepytime which was replied upon bu the
audience giving their last piece of energy they had in them followed by an enormous
applause and lots of whistling and screaming after the song had ended. Sleepytime
themselves seemed to be liking this very much as well. Everyone went home with a great feeling of satisfaction.
Carla Bozulich Myspace
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Official