The Canary #2: Sabertooth Cavity, Black Guys, and Ajilvsga
One of the best things about the Monolith is its proximity to the best Mexican food in town. Since everyone knows the best preparation for an awesome show is a belly full of Tex Mex, Brad Rose and Nathan Young (Ajilvsga), Danford Mitchell (Ajilvsga's unofficial projectionist), Raven Chacon and Alan Ledergerber (Black Guys) arrived ready to go.
The six of us arrived at a rearranged Monolith. The library and couches that had been in the back of the room were now in the front, a much more cozy arrangement thanks to the black drapes across the windows. The "stage" area had been moved to the center of the right wall, marked off by a white tiger-print rug that smelled like dirty feet and two stacks of amps on either side of where the band was meant to play. After reuniting with the members of Sabertooth Cavity and dragging in all of the equipment, I set up our merch on a table in the back.
Like the Peaking Lights show
, it was decided that each band would set up at the same time and play in succession. That's not really how it worked out - ultimately Black Guys played in front of the "stage" so as not to be wedged in between amp stacks, book shelves, and couches - but it did reduce the amount of time spent waiting for the next group to play.
The bands wanted to wait as long as possible for some people to show up, but Jay, one of the volunteers who runs the venue, advised them to start close to eight. After a lengthy Sabertooth Cavity soundcheck, I believe that time was closer to nine. Either way, a surprising number of people showed up. Most were Nathan's friends that he had invited, but reaching almost 15 audience members is still no small feat in a town like Tulsa ("If you don't know most of the songs [a musician is playing]," I read in my university's newspaper today
, "the concert isn't nearly as pleasing, and you might as well stay home and listen to your iPod.").
I can't honestly say that I was all that impressed with Sabertooth Cavity. Two people I talked to thought they were very interesting but their peculiar interspersing of random noise with highly structured '70s-jam-band music weren't my thing. I almost felt embarassed for them - especially the skinny kid with the saxophone in front who didn't really have much to do musically but was dancing so hard, his pants were threatening to retreat to his ankles. Another member looked like he was having muscle spasms, as hard as he was trying to make his voice come out of a microphone that had apparently been missed somehow in the soundcheck. The combination of drums, bass, guitar, trumpet, and occasional saxophone and flute could have been very interesting - and it edged more in that direction when they weren't trying to actually "make music" - but the more noise-like sounds lacked the cohesion of the melodic parts. In other words, in those moments they seemed to not even be listening to each other; the few times that the trumpeter turned his horn on the drummer made me wonder if this was just my perception, though it also meant that I couldn't hear the trumpet anymore.
Black Guys came next, fascinating and amusing all present with the dildo shoved under the strings of Raven's guitar. (Raven would later tell Brad about the time he played with a similar setup at a casino while an S & M convention was going on. Apparently there was a great deal of fascination with his setup there, too.) Raven had a bass and Alan had a guitar, plus they both had what looked like boxes filled with wires which were actually, I discovered after they played, suitcases full of pedals. Their set began with a droning wall of sound which was eventually joined by various other, quicker sounds to vary the landscape. Both used drumsticks on their guitars. Raven sometimes shook something in his hand (Alan later told me it was a microchip that Raven had made, which is just genius) or placed a cord in his mouth; Alan changed positions repeatedly, even holding his guitar upside down and shaking it at one point. There wasn't as much motion as there had been with Sabertooth Cavity, yet it was hard to look away. You would never turn your back on your dominatrix, after all.
Last was Ajilvsga. I have to admit, though it may hurt Brad and Nathan, that I didn't think this was their best performance. They started their set with something pretty, which I have to admit was shocking to me to the point of being confusing. Eventually this moved into more familiar, darker territory, but it seemed to lack landmarks. The audience, which chose to sit in scattered places on the floor for this set, seemed hypnotized; I certainly felt like I was at one point. Near the end, Ajilvsga added a sound like an alarm which helped to break the spell. But the music matched Mitchell's projections of naked nurses, atomic explosions, static, protest footage, and B movie scenes almost perfectly - quite a hard thing to do when you are improvising and have never seen what's on the screen. As the tones of the band rose and fell, so Mitchell's work seemed to weave in and out of its twinned aspects of frivolity and apprehension.
Maybe Mexican food isn't the perfect preparation after all, but it's still damn good.
-- Eden Hemming Rose (4 March, 2009)