Year in Ears 2014 #7 #8

Best Downtown Sounds In One’s Own Backyard

I used to get to New York a lot more often but no longer, or when I’m there, I’m completely self-absorbed and miss huge swaths of culture. In 2014, a bit of the past, present and future of the so-called Downtown, Anti-Downtown came to my town to make me nostalgic, and then mock me for it. What a relief and no TSA.

May 30, 2014
Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog
SFJazz Center, San Francisco

Marc Ribot spent the better part of a week at SFJazz in a residency, which I took to mean SFJazz spent the better part of a week with Marc Ribot attempting to amass cred. I saw as many nights of it as I could (including closing an appalling gap in my cinematic education by seeing my first screening of Chaplin’s The Kid) and observed many highs and lows, as one naturally would. However, the way Ceramic Dog marked its territory in the Miner Auditorium was just so glorious. They smashed through a set with hammers, angles, and loudness, much to the delight of an adoring crowd and the apparent absence of management. The set lasts forever and includes a huge dynamic range, tenderness, and rage. I was dissatisfied at the end because (a) I never spotted anyone leaving, and (b) I kinda wished I was at the Hemlock for this show.

Then I came to my senses.

June 20, 2014
Thumbscrew
Duende, Oakland

I thought the trio of Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek and Tomas Fujiwara was a Mary Halvorson vehicle, but it’s that thin slab floating in space forever without flipping over because of the perfect distribution of the players’ weights. Way better. The evening was filled with compositions from each of them, blurred divisions between soloists and forms, migrations from one compositional voice to the next.

I was stoked to see Tomas’ drums set up front, always a welcome sign of sonic equanimity. Buy the CD already.