Written by Paul
Pics and vids by BAL
Audio recorded by Rego, BAL, and Paul
Audio mixed by Silvadough
Saturday rolled around and you know BAL was on the case as it provided yet another kickass evening of free music. However, unlike previous free shows, Saturday’s event featured a bit more than SubPop’s latest signing and hipster cleavage (although this too made an appearance). Saturday’s show featured the hotly anticipated New York City premiere of Rhys Chatham’s A Crimson Grail, which as the BAL crew recalls was scrapped last minute a summer ago, due to a torrential rain. Fortunately, at least last year’s rain didn’t stop Manuel Gottsching from catching mad wreck and flipping his out-of-print classic E2-E4.
Whereas last year’s scrapped version was modestly packed, this year’s concert was stuffed to the brim with avant-music dorks, foreign tourists, and “adventurous” hipsters whose ingestion of all things sophisticated (read: they heard Animal Collective this year) prompted them to pack the avenues surrounding Damrosch Park clamoring for a seat. It’s pretty remarkable how a bit more publicity (generally focusing on the massiveness of the 216 piece ensemble), and some unexplained sudden rise of interest in avant-garde ambient pieces can compel the casual concertgoer. Interweb estimates say more than 10,000 people showed up, and it’s pretty certain the vast majority of the audience had never heard of Rhys Chatham or the other delight of the evening, New York’s rarely seen but often heard icons, Liquid Liquid. Big ups to Wordless Music who continue to tear shit up with thoughtful, adventurous and delightful programming.
And what a spectacle Rhys’ piece was! Unfolding over three parts the emotionally draining guitar epic hit its stride in the second movement, when an onstage drummer set the time on a hi-hat while the slinky, push-pull of hundreds of instruments worked their way into a brittle, droned out Krautrock groove. This give-and-take continued throughout the painstakingly built final movement where sonority shifted from quadrant to quadrant of the squared park as each section took part in an urgently dynamic buildup that went on for a good 20 minutes. And the release? A churning, thick wave of pulsing guitars and bass that brought the viscerally and visually rapt audience to their feet – and seemed to truly move the quiet and graceful Rhys Chatham.
Download MP3 of first part - Rhys Chatham -"A Crimson Grail, For 200 Electric Guitars (Outdoor Version)
How to follow Rhys? Funk/No Wave/Breakbeat kings Liquid Liquid – of course! Of all the bands to bring out of the woodwork this one generated palpable excitement within the BAL Crew as these cats are not only generally acclaimed, but hold a special place in the hearts of all hip hop nerds. “Optimo” and “Cavern” provided the foundational samples for some of rap’s greatest cuts and as the videos and snaps will confirm these guys still hold it down! Overall, they played a great set and really hammered home what DFA and most new dance labels/artists know – if you reconstitute the rawness of groups like Liquid Liquid you’re guaranteed to get the hipster set in a tizzy on a nightly basis. Oh, also props to the contingent of late 70’s/80s downtown scene survivors who peppered the Liq Liq set with awesome shouts to the stage like “Let’s take it back to the Roxy!”, or, “They won’t let us dance!” after cops cracked down on one funked out top rocker. Fittingly, singer Salvatore Principato had one response: “It’s still their world baby, we’re just guests.”
Peep the crushingly gorgeous video of the final coda of Rhys Chatham’s performance below along with some sweet snaps as only BAL can deliver. As if Rhys’ massiveness wasn’t enough, we got that other goodness – NYC legends Liquid Liquid tearing through their vintage cuts - tighter and harder than ever (pause). On some ODB shit – BAL is takin’ it back to ‘79!