I don 't consider myself a prejudiced person- I can take music from most sources (disco in any form and opera being the exceptions) and find something valuable about it. First glances do not always let one appreciate what a band can truly do. There are exceptions to that too though.....
A friend in Austin talked to me very enthusiastically about a band called Estradasphere, said I should come up to see them. I listened to some of their stuff on myspace, and was impressed enough to make the trip. The club they were in has several sections to it and they were obviously not the big draw of the night ( I don't know what band was, but it obviously appealed to the pre-university crowd.)
Now, when someone gushes about a band, it tends to make me a bit suspious. Were it not that my friend Alex and I have a lot in common musically speaking, I might have sat back and done the Austin "prove it to me" bit, but I managed to hear these fellows during sound check and figured I needed the best possible vantage point...not an easy thing to find in this particular club. This is one of those places in Austin that has tried to jump on the live music wagon by throwing up a stage wherever it will fit, rather than building the room around the stage for a proper presentation of the music. During the opening act, the Invincible Czars, I spent a lot of time testing listening areas around the room.
Oh yeah- the Czars: Austin based band that could scare Mr Bungle! Seriously, some tremendous musicians on that stage, with the funky John Zorn edge- they fly between overt classical that has been sped up so much many wouldn't recognise it to jolts of metal and smoothed over jazz lines. It is definitely not for the average listener. It requires a certain ability to seperate the various instruments into their corners, then blend them back together for come up with the final formula these guys are aimming at. I was tickled to hear from one member that they are thinking of doing Stravinsky's The Rites of Spring, possibly, or maybe the Firebird. I heard destinct Stravinsky influence in a couple of the pieces, and considering that he's one of my biggest musical influences, i was drawn in. (Yes, I am not kidding about that. I could conduct the Firebird from memory. I have heard that piece of music since quite probably before I was born. Blame - or thank- my dad.)
And to prove to me all that I had heard was true, the czars go and finish the set with Mr Bungle's "Love Is A Fist!" Should've known.
They have been given so many labels, I hesitate to add to that list! Imagine a metal band, a classical quartet, and a variety of musicians from different cultures all slammed together in the same room, given way too much espresso, and a shot of whatever drug could speed one up but still leave one completely clear-headed. (Contrary to popular mis-understanding, it is NOT possible to be high on anything save adrenalin and give a GOOD musical performance.)
To play the way these fellows do, with such precision and yet such speed, is unto itself reason to give the accolades! That they can sustain this through more than two hours, night after night, well , defies the imagination, frankly. From what I experienced in that club, I would say this much- the CDs may be good, but to see it done LIVE makes a lot of difference. The right set of synthesizers and a good producer could make the albums sound like that- it's been done for years. YET- these fellows can do it live, and in perfect time. Even when it isn't perfection, they have such a great time playing off one another that it is downright infectious.
There is not a member among these bandmates I could not call a consumate musician. And their interaction is obviously the result of intense practice that has left them so in tune with one another that the music just flows. Why the hell someone hasn't picked them up to do a soundtrack for a movie, I dunno! (Yo- Rodriguez! You listening?)
I spent most of the gig being further and further awed by what was going on in front of me, and details started to blur. I just know that when they get back this way, I will be working to get them a gig in San Antonio. I have got to believe that at least as many as came out in Austin will find out here. I find myself in a limited amount of company when it comes to listening to music, but I think there are enough flexible ears out there that SA would prove a worthwhile gig. Quiet? Relaxing? Something you can CHAT over? Hell no! Something you will never forget, that will haunt your bones for days? Very much.