Saturday, January 07, 2006

Evolution Control Committee: 2003

January 6, 2006

okay, back to my recollections of live performances in Minneapolis...

After the People Like Us show in 2002, I decided to invite Mark Gunderson, of the Evolution Control Committee, to come and perform two shows in Minneapolis, in 2003.

(Photo of the ECC's Mark Gunderson, at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, by Stefan Hertel - lifted from the Minnesota Daily's coverage of the show...)

The first show was at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, a beautiful theatrical space (which houses the well known theatre company), in Minneapolis. This was the first show I had organized without any major funding, so when Mark arrived, we had to spend the night before the day of the show, on cots in my studio in Northeast Minneapolis. I felt bad not being able to offer him the luxury of hotel suites which previous artists had been treated to, but then again - I got to know Mark a lot better than the other artists I'd had out, as a result of much more time spent together. So that was a bonus. My studio at the time was actually just a storefront on Hennepin Avenue, in Northeast Minneapolis.

We practically filled the 300 seats at Theatre de la Jeune Lune the next night - it was probably the most exciting show I've organized to date. In addition to being the first one I'd done on my own, it was probably the best attended. The theatre was beautiful, the performances were amazing, and the audience was extremely appreciative.
I had asked some local circuit benders to assemble as a "Circuit Benders Orchestra," and do a live set, opening for The ECC. I was the first opening act - DJing from my, at the time, fairly limited library of mashups. This was in homage to the ECC's status as "Godfather of Bastard Pop." Their 1991 Eerie Material's release, mixing Public Enemy's "Rebel Without a Pause" and Herb Alpert's "Bittersweet Samba," is generally referred to as the first recorded example of an A+B mashup. So I had a little fun spinning some bastard pop, to get the audience in the mood. After my DJ set, the lights went down and Matt Cisler (Datura 1.0), Logan Erickson, Tim Kaiser and Jacob Roske (JAR) took the stage with their assemblage of electronic toys, gadgets and boxes full of circuits, bent to produce sounds only they could have imagined. These artists came together on this occasion for the first time, and improvised for over twenty electrified minutes. They sounded like they'd been practicing together for weeks, though many of them had literally just met eachother that night. A very cool introduction to the show.

Finally, Mark Gunderson took the stage, as the Evolution Control Committee, performing his often interactive, multi-media extravaganza, which included video, karaoke and something he invented and performs, called the Thimbletron (pictured above). It was a truly spectacular show, and it was very gratifying to feel the audience responding so positively. The Thimbletron is a performance device which utilizes ten thimbles attached to two gloves which the performer wears. Samples are triggered when wired thimbles complete and break circuits created by touching other thimbles, along with other metal receptors on the gloves (and perhaps elsewhere, as well?). He performed a few ECC standard's, among other songs, in the herky-jerky method which has become the Thimbletron's trademark.

Nathan Hall wrote about the show in a review for the Minnesota Daily, the next week, saying that The ECC "single-handedly saved Friday night for downtown Minneapolis." The article concludes with "Regardless of your feelings regarding the contentious intellectual property debates, you at least have to hand it to the guy for distinguishing his gigs from yawn-inducing Microsoft training sessions." Well put! Its been very interesting for me to see all the different approaches to live performance by sound collage artists. I'd say my favorites so far are either the largely hands-off (and multi-media) approach, as practiced by artists like The Tape-beatles and People Like Us, or the aggressively involved performances by artists like Mark Gunderson, or Wobbly. If you're going to get up on stage, you might as well throw yourself into it.

Anyway, the audience screamed and laughed along with The ECC that night, and participated in a couple of karaoke versions of some classic ECC tracks. I was really proud to have been a part of it. The next day Mark and I drove around Minneapolis and took these ridiculous photos of ourselves at an even more ridiculous "theme park" at the Mall of America - designed around various brands of breakfast cereal (after hearing about my trip there with Vicki Bennet, Mark insisted on seeing the inside). The next day, he loaded up his gear and headed off to yet another show.

He came back in November to perform at the art opening for the Fifth Annual Festival of Appropriation. The show at Jeune Lune had been a "preview party" for this event at the Rogue Buddha Art Gallery, a few months later. Artists in that year's Festival of Appropriation included Loretta Bebeau, Beth Brownfield, Kyle Fokken, Lisa Jurgens, Holly Streekstra and Anastasia Ward. Some of these artists also showed in the lobby of the Jeune Lune at the preview party. Since it was also a five year anniversary, several artists from previous years were invited to participate in a retrospective show (Cathy Camper, Allen Christian, Mark Gunderson, Jeffrey Isham, Andrea Jayne, Jonathan Nelson, Michael Pilmer, Mike Splatt, The Tape-beatles and Michelle Winowiak).

The ECC managed to do mostly new material at the second show, which was a surprise. Both shows were great, but it would have been nearly impossible to beat the energy at that first show in August at Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Probably my favorite memory associated with Some Assembly Required, to date.
Okay - more blogging later. Thanks for checking out the new podcast, which was successfully launched on Monday, January 2nd, 2006! Stay tuned for Episode 103, which will be podcast this monday (1/9). It features an interview with DJ Nikoless of the Rhymesayer's Collective, recorded on the occasion of his 2CD release, "This is where you got it from (Theories of origin, volume three)." I'll write more about that next week. Until then...

Thanks for listening!
Jon Nelson


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