– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#23)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
This week’s FAITU pick is leaning on the first set for why I chose it, although Set 2 has plenty to offer as well – I also wanted a 2010 gig and to pick a show from the West coast since I’ve focused a lot of FAITU picks on the East coast. But Set 1 is just a perfect shape and feel all around. Excellent variety in song choice both in terms of era and composition: we get some oldies, and newer tunes along with the recent Radiolarians influx, all covering a wide range of musical styles while remaining quintessential MMW. Having spent most of 2008-2009 focused on Radiolarians, the guys are now nailing those tunes with master manipulation and infusing the sets with more variety than the previous 2 years. The Fall of 2010 will see some astounding balls-out improvisation, but in the spring that improv is kept within the confines of tunes for the most part, and this show milks that in spades.
– SET I –
The gig begins with a John Zorn composition from MMW’s contribution to the Book Of Angels series, the album Zaebos (#11 in the Zorn BoA series). While the band did play the actual Zaebos album in Europe on tour with Zorn in the summer of ’09, only four tunes from that album have made any usual contribution to a regular MMW setlist, and on this night it’s a tune that they seemed to dig in the opening slot: Agmatia. The composition has Zorn written all over it, but of course, MMW put their own stamp on it. (I only caught one gig in 2010 and this tune opened the show I saw too – it was wicked cool in that slot!) Showcasing some frenetic drumming from Billy, swirling keys from John, and stellar plunking from Chris on the acoustic, this tune’s got it all!
Junkyard is such a raunchy sounding tune, I loved it from the first listen when shows circulated during the Radiolarians 2 tour. I mean, listen to what that guy (Medeski) can do with a frickin’ Melodica! It’s unreal … he has such a personal touch on the various keyboards he’s played over the years, and has said numerous times that he prefers the older tech that requires more of a touch to how the keys sound, not like a synthesizer. The keys are his voice and he wants to be as close to that sound as he can be, and it really pays off EVERY time he touches a set of keys. Chris has some dirty slide playing in here and hefty plucking, and illyB works the tambourine and the kit with such control that you forget how hard the guy is working. Love the moments where John and Chris lock-up in the melody, and then the way it splinters off with each part. Comes to almost a grinding halt …
But Billy kicks a funky beat and HELL YEAH, 3rd Disrobe of the tour (3rd show in a row as well), and I just loved hearing them do this tune at the time with the more mature sound they have at this point – and that’s no knock against the ’97-’98 Disrobes! Just awesome to hear … funky keys, bowed upright bass, and a funky beat – I’m sold. (Side note: When MMW played Disrobe the following spring, March 2011, Billy spoke about the tune and said that the spring ’11 performances were the first since the late ‘90s – apparently he forgot they dug the tune up on the 2010 winter tour the year before … but he’s probably not tracking that as closely as I am.)
The guys slide into Dollar Pants, another odd tune to my ears that seems almost jarring when present in the flow of a set, but in a good way (like when they cover Coltrane’s Syeeda’s Song Flute, as I noted back in FAITU#16). There’s just something about the overall tone of the tune that makes my focus/concentration twist. Chris is loving the bow tonight, and Dollar Pants has him bowing ALL over the tune – it’s a very cool aspect to the song’s composition.
Free Go Lily, a tune from the Radiolarians 1 batch, provides some clear and obvious dancing relief with its New Orleans vibe, just good old fun through some intricate interplay. As it will sometimes more than others, the build in the main jam of the tune takes on some dark overtones, much to my delight. And the tune wraps itself up nicely.
Billy invites up “that really old guy from Seattle”, and Skerik makes his way to the stage after some cheers from the crowd. What ensues is probably the main reason I picked this gig – Flat Tires has such a WILD structure, and Skerik’s presence here only adds fuel to the fire. From the open playfulness of the intro/verse sections, to the maddening cacophony of the full drive in the chorus, this just needs to be heard for you to, well, for you to hear it. You won’t be disappointed …
– SET II –
Not going into grave detail here, but I do dig the flow of this 2nd set as well, just the first is pure fire. Amish Pintxos zaps out a starting – love those “stabs” at the keyboard (temp name for the tune during the R2 tour was “Stabs”). We get some older school MMW with I Wanna Ride You, some further Radiolarian colouring from R2 & R3 tunes – wonderful piano work, as usual, on Riffin’ Ed, the Walk Back move > Broken Mirror is cool, and Amber Gris is a wonderfully anthemic tune, usually found in the last slot of the set – but then the walloping bassline from Uninvisible erupts into our ears and the band slams us home with high energy. Again, their mastery of their tunes is just incredible as they twist, tweak, bend, and break the rules.
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down, an old traditional tune you might know from Bob Dylan’s more rocking cover/arrangement, but MMW’s version of the song is all about sweet peace …even the build is soothing … John has some nice keyboard play in here moving off the piano for a portion of the song, before returning to twinkle the ivories into the night air for us … end of show, and hopefully another welcome Friday Afternoon In The Universe …
enjoy the grooves,
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD w/ Skerik
Showbox At Market, Seattle, WA
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Set 1: Agmatia > Junkyard > Disrobe > Dollar Pants, Free Go Lily, Flat Tires#Set 2: Amish Pintxos, I Wanna Ride You > Drum Solo, Riffin’ Ed, Walk Back > Broken Mirror, Amber Gris, Uninvisible
Encore: Baby, Let Me Follow You Down# w/ Skerik
– SET 1 (tracks 1-7) –
– SET 2 (tracks 8-18) –