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Music Production: Life Intronics
03/05/2005 Life Intronics: Live at the Starlite Lounge

Announcement
Lately I've been rehearsing with trance music luminaries Life In Balance, and the results have been really, really good. So we're playing out as Life Intronics on Saturday March 5, with the goal of gently massaging eardrums and violently blowing minds, at the Starlite Lounge in Blawnox. Personnel for our set:

Ami Sciulli: Crystal Drones
Steve Sciulli: Enhanced World Flutes, G4 Laptop
Maurice Rickard: Guitar ukulele, G4 Laptop

This will be a short set, from 9 to 9:30, and the rest of the evening (starting around 7:30 or 8:00) will be a variety of folk acts, but also, apparently, a science fiction writer who does a capella stuff. You might want to check that out for the novelty factor.

Our rehearsals have been largely ambient to date, although they're also including process-music patterns, and the way things are going, I might be rocking it up a bit. Steve's been a major figure on the Pittsburgh punk, experimental, ambient, and trance scenes for years, and he's played with people you've read about in The Wire. This is big stuff, homes. But it's fun, too. So come on out.

Starlight Lounge, 364 Freeport Rd, Blawnox, PA 15238-3440, 412-828-9842. Map Cost is on a pass-the-hat basis--perfect for these weird economic times. We're going on at 9, and off at 9:30. See you there.


Report
A mixed evening. Some definite high points, and some not-so-high aspects to this one. Rehearsals have been going great, although the last couple of weeks we've been unable to rehearse due to a variety of factors, including a pretty significant work load for me (not that I'm complaining--it's not a bad problem to have, but it does make finding time for other things a bit difficult). In the morning I had to run a number of errands (during which I thought ahead and bought dinner for later), and then I did Flash work the rest of the day, as well as trying to help Steve out with an Ableton Live crashing problem he's been struggling with (no clear answers yet). My friend Dan from way back called to say that he'd be attending the show this evening, which would be nice...though now I'd have to not suck.

Just as I was about to load out (running a bit late), I got a call from Stem Cell Liberation Front drummer Ryan, telling me where his new place was--he was having a housewarming party, which I'd be able to get to after the show. So I headed over to Blawnox, concerned that I was arriving a bit after 7:00 (7:15, really), but I saw Steve and Ami unloading just as I pulled up. Ami said, "Perfect timing!" which was nice. I had been worried on the way over that I might have forgotten the 1/4"e; cables, which I usually put in the guitar gig bag, but this time put in the gear bag (hence the mental block about whether or not I'd packed them). Happily, they were there, so I was good to patch things together.

The place is pretty much the typical Pittsburgh-area bar up front, with a dining room and kitchen in back. We'd be playing in the dining room, where tables had been pushed aside to make a small area for the performers, the rest of the space being taken up by rows of seats for the audience. We'd need space for the bowls, a table for the laptops and processors, and room for chairs and mics for the other performers, too. It was a bit tight for all that--especially since we didn't want anyone or anything to knock into the bowls--but we managed to put the bowls in a corner and shuffle the table over to one side while the first several acts performed. I'd noticed one of my mailing list people in the audience, which was indeed a pleasant surprise--and he bought the Guitar Clouds and Death Pig CDRs--another good portent for the evening. Thanks!

The event--"A Three Penny Opry" (yes, "Opry")--was organized by Little Wretches mainspring Robert Wagner, and generally geared toward the one-person-with-a-guitar kind of thing. Of the first four acts, they were all acoustic folk, which would fit in just fine on Pittsburgh's "adult alternative" station WYEP, with one exception--Randy Hoffman, whom I knew from his work at a company where I consulted years ago. He was performing a capella filk--science fiction-themed folk music, which was a genre new to me. The a capella performance took on an aspect of sprechstimme and the material had a humor about it that set it apart from the folk of the rest of the evening (which fell into the early-90s acoustic singer/songwriter kind of vibe, and later into the post-Ani DeFranco sort of thing).

I hung out and checked out people's sets, although when Mr. Funky showed up, and a bit later when Dan and Michelle showed up, I took a break for conversation and introductions while we waited for the first round to finish up. At about 9:30 or so, it was time for us to go on, so we quickly got our gear up and working. Our soundcheck elided directly into our set, as Steve started with a monologue about a dream he'd had, and Ami and I put drones underneath. I had a great tone going with the modulator set to A, and there were times when the tonality from the guitar and the tonality from the bowls were indistinguishable. I set up a few loops in the Looplex VST (long delay line), as well as a few on-the-fly loops in Live's session view. Someone dimmed the lights, and the vibe was quite nice, although I was dogged by the feeling that I wasn't doing enough, and by a weird lack of delay tail on what I was playing. I'm going to have to look more closely at the setup I was using, because I usually have no problem with the delay, but this time I just couldn't hear it (and on playback, it's apparent that it wasn't happening live, either). Unfortunately, I was preoccupied with this and with trying to find a way to vary what I was doing and still have it work, so I didn't get around to the uke. I didn't want to step on anything Steve or Ami did, so I held back a bit more than I probably could have. Overall, it was good--and Steve's and Ami's playing was great as usual--but my playing on our rehearsals has been better.

At the end, one of the audients gave us a standing ovation, while Dan, Michelle, and Rob told me that they really dug it. Simultaneously, someone came up to Steve to say that it was the most boring thing he'd ever heard, and it put him to sleep. (I'm told that this may have been meant as a compliment, but if that was the case, you'd think he'd spare a few cycles on expressing it more positively.) I'd have been inclined to move our table over and start breaking stuff down to make room for people, but before we could start the breaking down process, the next set of acoustic acts was up at the mic. I'd made plans with Dan, Michelle, and Rob to get over to Ryan's party, but now it looked as though I was here for a while until we got a clear shot at packing up gear. While other scheduled acts went on, I had some further conversations before people cut out to go home or to the party, and then hung out with Steve, Ami, and their friend (another ambient electronic guitar player) who's performed under the name Unius. Nice guy.

After the scheduled acts, I'd thought we'd then get a chance to break down, but no--now was the open mic time for unscheduled acts to perform. Knowing that Steve and Ami had a lot of packing up to do, at this point I thought I'd be the bad guy and put in a request for a break so we could get our stuff out of the way. Based on some later information, I think this did sort of cast me as the Enemy of the Vibe. But after another half hour or 45 minutes, a second intermission was indeed called, and we broke down and loaded out. By the time I was on the street with my gear, it was 11:30 or so, and I coordinated with Dan to meet up at Ryan's, which was indeed quite the swell party in a good space.

Some days later, I learned that an email went out from Bob Wagner to say that subsequent evenings would be limited only to those performers who could play acoustically and who would require no setup time, so it looks like I was indeed the bad guy to them. Ultimately this wasn't a good fit, but the results weren't bad for a tryout gig.

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