The headliners were Moving Pictures (http://www.myspace.com/mopicsnh/), a band I had heard and been impressed by on the internet: they do some intricate meditative blends of feedback in their music, but I didn't expect the high-volume rock sound that came from the keyboards and guitar, which was too much for my 60-something ears. The lead singer wore two twigs in her hair, intended to look like deer antlers. They kept getting in the way of her guitar strap and falling out of her hair, so that at one point she remarked that she had started out as a 5-point buck but ended up as a 2.5 point, but still a buck. The performance was intriguing. At certain points, the musicians seemed to go into trances and look at the floor intently; this was probably partly in order to operate the foot-level electronic devices that allowed the feedback and buildup effects to happen, but partly, it seemed to be a transformation from one state of being to another. At one point the lead singer slumped over her keyboard, seemingly dying, and controlled the sound by sliding her hands heavily over the keys. At the end of the set, she promised that if we returned to see them the following Friday, she would be a completely different animal.
The second band, Maryse (http://www.myspace.com/marysesmith), from Burlington VT, played mostly mellow songs very well. The lyrics and melodies seemed to have been written by the eponymous lead singer, and most were reflective, melancholy songs about breakups of love affairs. I highly recommend this band for its sound and obvious musical talent. This group is the one I would have sought out if I had known more about the bands that were playing, but I'm glad I didn't know in advance.
I didn't think I'd ever heard Miss Olivia Kennett before, and didn't know what to expect, but it turns out I'd seen her last year in a previous "incarnation" as an anti-folk singer with patched jeans and an acoustic guitar. At that show she had said it was her last such performance and that she was doing more electronic experimental music from now on. She certainly lived up to her promise. I recommend seeing her in person if you can, since the songs on her MySpace page and, I think, on her CD, are not like what I heard and saw that night, and the visual aspect of the performance is absolutely central. She has designed and built a sound-controller the likes of which you have never seen before. It is a modified dressmaker's mannequin with electronics in its guts and light-sensitive (and -emitting) diodes mounted at strategic points. An electronic oscillator generates waveforms and she modulates these by shining a flashlight on the light-sensitive diodes. The Mannequin's left breast is covered with dozens of bright-colored sensors. The right breast has a single white sensor as its "nipple", and the belly-button and armholes seem to also contain sensors. The speed of motion of the flashlight, the direction of the beam made for a stockhausen-like concert of jagged sound, which, combined with Miss Kennett's provocative and purposeful embracing and encircling motions, suggested erotic arousal. Denise found the timbre of the sound reminiscent of power tools and therefore annoying, but I felt it as the static of a shortwave radio, which has always had positive associations for me. Listeners will bring different baggage to the performance, and they will take away different memories, but the performance is a tour-de-force. I assume that she improvises differently each time she puts on a show, so what you see and hear may be totally different. The closing number was performed on what appeared to be a variable-speed cassette player, which she manipulated continuously while it played a surrealistic fairy-tale. The voice on the tape may have been her own or someone else's but the variable speed made it sound like it was being recited alternately by a man and a woman. The recitation sort-of told the story of a person (woman) who dived into a frozen river and floated downstream, growing scales and becoming a fish, while another person (her lover, her killer) lamented on the shore and spoke of a life of "raising my axe to the sun" and killing trees, and of the hopeless search for the lost one. This was another unique and impressive performance. Miss Kennett wore dramatic striped stockings and a simple plain cotton dress this time, a fascinating combination of rebellion and demureness that was also reflected in the qualities of the performance.
(cross-posted from my MySpace blog)