Mi Ami, Lucky Dragons, and Foot Village @ the Smell, January 23.
The Smell concluded its two-day anniversary celebration with a magic trick. Lucky Dragons made rainbows appear out of a projector, literally playing the light by waving blank CDs in front of the lens. This capped off a night in which rhythm got groped and Swedish-massaged by blood, sweat, and, finally, science.
One drummer can make a lot of noise, but not as much as four feral witch doctors beating their drum kits. If you've ever crawled inside a trash can during a hailstorm, you know how a Foot Village performance feels. The intensity aims to unite rather than destroy, but they scream a lot, occasionally using a megaphone to mark territory and elicit more wailing from the human sweat lodge surrounding the musicians in a corner. The oscillating drum patterns suggest complete chaos -- every man (and woman) for himself! -- but the rhythms unite almost telepathically and improvisation plays little part in the brutal beat barrage. Beauty persists in their post-apocalyptic drum circle.
San Francisco's Mi Ami followed Foot Village's act with bleeding. Singer Daniel Martin-McCormick started leaking blood from his paws early-on, and relentless fast strumming eventually rubbed the tips of his fingers clear off. When he didn't have a microphone wedged inside his mouth, you could sometimes hear his amazing voice shriek through the noise. He sounds like Mickey Mouse imitating a penguin. Meanwhile, the drums split their seams beneath Damon Palermo's one-man marching band, and bassist Jacob Long kept up a breathless dub pace. The audience seemed connected to the music by an invisible rubber-band. When McCormick flung himself into their elastic fold, they stretched and bounced him back like the ropes in a wrestling ring.
How did two such tall people find each other in this vast universe and form Lucky Dragons? These two tallies got down on their knees and fans sat down around them, half expecting transcendental meditation and half eager to grasp and shake a rattler, an electrode, or whatever Luke Fischbeck and Sara Rara have attached to long colorful tubes and put in their hands. Lucky Dragons performed "Wrong Spectrum," a composition that rises with Rara's long echoing vocalizations and ends in a demonstration of Capacitance Sensing, aka rainbows and shimmering, digital wind chimes.
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Fischbeck explained to me that by attaching a sensor to the projector, an electrical field is created in the light coming through. When you wave an object through the field, it takes energy out. "The CDs look cool. They react with the light and they also have metal in them so they react to the electrical field better than, say, a hand," he said. Although making rainbows materialize across sensory realms is an ongoing experiment, Fischbeck imagines taking his communal performance beyond sight and touch. "What if there's a way for it to be invisible. You don't want a mechanism, you just want something to happen. Something totally alive, no apparent machine."
I'd like to see it happen, maybe with Cirque Du Soleil acrobats.