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Music Production: The Stem Cell Liberation Front
03/06/2004 The Stem Cell Liberation Front: Live at the Schoolhouse Yoga

Announcement
The SCLF rides again! While we took 2003 off, we weren't idle--I did a lot of performing; Ryan did a lot of video work, we've done a lot of rehearsing, and we're adding avant-gardist-about-town Steve Pellegrino on keyboards! So we're tanned, rested, and ready to rock, so to speak.

Not only that, we're kicking off a new performance series, Live@ (http://www.pghevents.com/), this one at The Schoolhouse Yoga (http://www.schoolhouseyoga.com/) in Lawrenceville, the beginning of a number of performances in nontraditional spaces. (A map can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2wduf)

We'll be the only act, but there will be a full array of entertainment--recent rehearsals have seen us getting into Godspeed/Mogwai mode, so once we're there we can keep going until we've drained the last drop of norepinephrine from your entertainted brain. We're pretty excited about doing the first one, so there will be a few surprises--including a Certain Cover Tune in honor of a Certain Current Event in the music world.

That's Saturday, March 6. 7PM. All ages. And the promoter wants...$10. Yikes! But wait--for you, we've attached a coupon good for $5 off admission! Just print it out and bring it to the gig, so they'll know you're a fellow Stem Cell Liberator. (If you don't see the attachment, get it from http://mauricerickard.com/sclf_coupon.pdf)

See you there!

141 Foster Way (41st and Foster, next to the 40th St. Bridge!), Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, PA 15201. (412) 401-4444.


Report
Well, this had some great aspects, and some that were a bit sucktacular. Some of this is traceable back to the cold (lack of energy for promo, insufficient rehearsal), but there are some other factors at work--lack of overall promo, no foot traffic, bad weather, no regular audience infrastructure, a one-act show concept, and a high ticket price.

Ryan and I had been digging having a keyboardist in the house, and my co-conspirator Steve Pellegrino was willing to do it, which was good. We'd done some rehearsals together and worked on some pieces, including a Mogwai-like piece I'd written which we'd rejected for having a weird missing eighth note or something. Ryan and I thought we'd do some extra rehearsal before the show, which usually isn't a good idea for me, but this one felt right. Having a bit of time, we caught some dinner at Whole Foods first, when Steve called me on cell--the Mapquest directions to the venue were deeply wrong, and we ourselves were running late. We headed back down, and got it together. Steve had to run an errand, and was a little later coming into the space, while Ryan ran back and forth from his apartment to take the drum kit over in easily-assembled stages, rather than breaking the whole thing down for longer assembly.

The space itself, the entire third floor gymnasium of a former elementary school, is stunning--visually beautiful, with a long, long reverb tail. I can sit next to the drums in a room like this and have little to no ear fatigue. We set up, and as we got closer to 8, began to wonder if, in fact, we'd be doing anything more than rehearsing. There was no audience--no one had yet showed up for this. The venue's well off a main drag, for one thing. This is a new performance series, for another. We haven't played out in a year. And the promoter was charging $10 for one act. ($5 with the coupon.) Not a promising combination at all, I'd say. And this proved to be the case.

Getting closer to 8, we saw Ryan's friend Amadeo and a friend of his, but they left again to get something to eat, and we figured we'd see them again soon. I hit the restroom, and when I emerged, Steve and Ryan were jamming, so I turned on the MD recorder (with binaurals) and joined in. By this time, someone unknown to us had shown up--it turned out to be a fellow member of the Microsound list, Spider Baby. (Thanks, guy!) So we began, pretty much at 8.

Steve had been working on variations on Howlin' Wolf's "Sittin' on Top of the World," which is what I'd come in on. We hadn't rehearsed it, but I threw on some of my VST tape-delay with simulated flutter as a kind of Frisell-like atmosphere, and the interaction seemed to work well. We went atmospheric with the next piece, as Steve used the pipe organ setting on Ryan's keyboard, doing a long introduction to a tense, loping reflective piece with some fine brush work from Ryan. (The snare really sounded fantastic in this room!) Steve's playing laid out emotionally resonant chords, and I kept up a shimmering atmosphere. It worked pretty well.

Our next tune was one Steve had blocked out in 7, which was an interesting challenge for me--where's one? Ryan picked it up right away, and I stuck to long drones, occasionally messing up my playing with ring modulation and buffer override. It actually had a lot going for it. Our next piece began (again) atmospherically, as we played with the long room decay, and drifted into a dark, Asian-flavored piece. We were in a film soundtracky mood with this one. The next was an electric-piano piece in Steve's complex-harmony mode, which was difficult to get a handle on, but gradually unfolded for us. I think Steve's keyboard expertise leads him to work in dense chords that are difficult for me to unravel and find space in for contribution, but this did grow in an interesting way for me.

Our last piece was a cover I'd wanted to do, as an homage to Brian Wilson's recent performances of Smile. "Fire" is a pretty groovy tune, and we worked on it a bit separately, and thought what the hell, we'd give it a shot. My playing didn't quite hold together, and it would have been much better with some stronger rehearsal, but it was still fun to do.

So in an hour, we were done. Our audient bought a couple CDRs from me, which meant that, with the door, I could pay each of us $5. Not bad for having just one person! We talked a bit, broke down the gear, and headed out. Later we learned that Amadeo, his friend, and some other people came later--they'd thought it was like a club show, and would run late. Another hurdle for this series. Still, the room was gorgeous, and (except for an evil bass hump around 150 Hz and some mic pre overload), the recording has some compelling stretches. Not a bad night, even with the sparse attendance.

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