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Journeys through Glass Ceilings

Musical adventures...Tonight, because the Te Café decided to hold a poetry reading (events which I have been very wary of in the past because only really good poetry is good, and bad poetry is both terrible and has a horrible tendency to cause people to play one of the worst of all songs, 「Knockin' on Heaven's Door」), I decided to go to a CD release musical event by Nathan Hall and David Bernabo, opened by another group called Wungsten. I actually went because I heard good things about Wungsten, but Hall/Bernabo were the stars of the night. I am dimly reminded how many years ago I went with a small group (I think including carmiendo) to see the Dresden Dolls, and was surprised to hear DeVotchKa for the first time - the Dresden Dolls are very good, but I think DeVotchKa is better by a few notches. It's strange when the opener for a band is better than the "main" band, but I was expecting it this time, and was surprised that that was not the case.

Wungsten was cute in many parts, but their songs were a bit too musically thick - with all the chords happening on different voices, it felt like they didn't have distinct notes nor the capability for the music to go anywhere for many of their songs. The lyrics were written with a good sense of humour, and their good songs had a sound that gave me an impression of a diluted blend of Toad the Wet Sprocket and TMBG. The more jumbled songs had me struggling to stay awake (although I've had problems sleeping recently and I've always had trouble staying awake if I sit passively for too long). I don't think I'd make a trip to see Wungsten, but I overall wasn't very disappointed in them.

Hall/Bernabo were very different - Hall (on Piano, occasionally also keyboard and voice) and Bernabo (on Guitar) play largely in the genre of Jazz (I'd probably say on the edges between Acid Jazz and classical music). It was very good - probably the best music I've heard live since the last Pitt Jazz concert I've attended. Unfortunately, Hall and Bernabo don't play together very often (Hall is surprisingly part of Wungsten), although it's possible that this music is too complex to get enough of a fanbase to support them. I was happy to buy one of their CDs (and chat with them a bit on musical influences) on the way out. The only paltry criticism I can offer of the performance was that two or three times in the evening, during what I think were improv parts of their performance, they didn't quite sync up right and took a measure or so to have a workable consensus on where to go next. The music really was great - Jazz, like most types of classical music, has a greater potential to either be unlistenably awful or terrific, and this was very close to the latter.

One of the songs Wungsten played, the Beatles' 「Her Majesty」, reminded me of the Chumbawamba cover, unusual in that it takes the 20 second song and extrapolates a 2 minute song from it. The question of "what could be extrapolated" is probably a domain-shifted version of the "find all the reasonable patterns that this set of numbers fits" problem, where reasonable has a pretty complex meaning in both domains.

I think if Hall/Bernabo play together again I'll have to arrange to be there.

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