Friday, May 25, 2007

CHAISTOCK in review

Technically it started on Wednesday night, the 25th of April, 2007, with a performance from Neon Brown Presents - The Woodsland Acoustic Orchestra, led and presented by Andrew Woods and featuring in this case Evan Strauss, 5 Philpin, David Smith and Bill Wolford on acoustic guitars, and Andrew Woods on a home-made but highly superior thing called a BassBox.

There was a touring folksinger-type-artist beforehand, but he wasn't technically a part of Chaistock. You could tell, if you hang around the Chai House a lot, in two different ways. 1) You hadn't seen this guy hanging around the Chai House a lot. 2) Foss wasn't working the door yet.

Part of the theme of Chaistock, to Foss' chagrin, involves him (in his capacity as M.C. Snoose Junction) standing at the front door all night trying to get a $5 donation out of everyone. This might be a Chai House first, to ask for even a donation at entry. Many musicians could talk their way past him, most regulars couldn't ("It's going toward a new P.A. This is for you, 'cos you're here every night!") and everyone else either coughed it up or ignored him completely.

The Woodsland Acoustic Orchestra is something that has been evolving slowly over the course of about 5 years of Neon Brown Presents. Andrew has wanted for some time to create something like it, and has gone so far as to assemble acoustic musicians for spontaneous improvised performances and module-based rehearsals, but only lately has he begun to organize it as an autonomous entity - with a name, even! The membership is loose but always of high quality, and the ideas being dealt with so far include an amorphous fractal improvised and "acoustic" response to electronic dance music, and a body of mutually understood spontaneous and unplanned verbal signals from various members of the group which lead us in an array of directions at the whim of the signaller.

In this specific case we threw down key-related changes, time-related changes, cohesiveness-related changes and we attempted to channel the energy of a guy in a baseball-type cap who was sitting at the big table with some friends. He had no idea, but he seemed to enjoy what we played.

Dancing to us on this particular night would have to have been for joy and not for much in the way of innate dancability to a lot of what we were playing. If you don't believe me or think that sounds like it might be amusing, check out and visit the Jam Of The Week page.

Chaistock continued on Thursday night with the Scratching Post Open Mic All-Stars. I wasn't there, but I can attest that the amazing Operadisiac performed at some point.

Friday night began with Bob & Sheldon, followed by Local Comedy Night (it has a name, can't recall what it is) which had to contend with two Chai Protesters who arrived during their set. The protesters shouted things like: "T(ea) is for terrorists!" and waved signs and marched around.

After that was all over with, Glass Goblins played a set. Glass Goblins in this case was 5-Track (guitar and sing), Patrick Lenon (drums) and Evan Strauss (bass guitar). We played 3 long songs with few changes and lots of group-mind activity, plus a Guitoracle wherein we answered a psychic-type question for an audience member in the language of improvised earth music - can't remember the question or who asked it, does anyone else remember? Also we played "Season Of The Witch," and Foss sat in.

After Glass Goblins came JAPANDA consisting in this case of James (guitar), Donovan (bass guitar), Rob (bass guitar), N8 (drums) and Chris St Peters (sing). They blew everybody's mind, that's all. It was some LOUD, and it was some CHAOTIC, and it was totally unpredictable, and it even had dramatic coherency. (Did you read Rob's t-shirt?)

A band called The Scene played after that, who were probably not tehcnically part of Chaistock as measured by either factor, but they came all the way from California for reasons best known to them to play on this night and that has to stand for something, maybe a clue to the secret dark matter which describes physically the order of the universe... Or maybe not. Thanks, The Scene, for passing through our strange attractor.

The next day was the epicenter of Chaistock, the nexus or maybe even the crux, at least from my position as the center of my own universe. I showed up with gear around noon-thirty, went to breakfast and when I got back Foss was on the drums (!) and Donovan was playing bass. They'd been going for a while, so I spelled Foss on the kit and played for 45 minutes with Donovan. Shades of OM - great way to get in a zone, start the day with some primal rhythm section activity.

Evan showed up next. I switched to guitar and we made some of what Denali has called "guitar goo" until Chris Hogan showed up with... Who started us off on drums? Paul Turner, I think... Cos I think I remember him setting up his kit while Evan, Chris and I were still playing... But I'm not sure, it starts to get hazy there.

Most of the usual Snoose configurations (the what?) played for the next 3 or 4 hours without a pause, including stints by John Beezer (guitar), 5-Track (guitar), Evan (bass guitar), Donovan (guitar, bass guitar), Chris Hogan (guitar), various players of the electronic drum thingy, Chavon (sing) and, um, some other people. Special random guest for the afternoon was Jeremy Lightfoot (drums) who has played awesome bass with Danny Barnes, Siamese and Jive Turkey and sings with The Droneys.

Outside, and at the same time, rotating lineups of N8 (drums) were playing on the sidewalk. Allison (bass) played for a while, but I'm not sure who else exactly because I was inside playing for most of it.

Later on we had a visit from Noah (drums) of the groups Xenghaia and Falcon Engineers. He played with N8 (bass) and 5-Track (guitar) until Funklove materialized on the outdoor drumkit, then found his way to the indoor mic. He did his thing, wherein he sang us some grooves to chew on, then hit the mic with the right thing to sing, direct from the cosmic channel. A few minutes in, N8 swapped out for Donovan and swapped out for Paul T. This was nice, because Donovan, Paul, Funk and myself have a natural chemistry from having been vaguely around each other and sporadically sitting in with one another's muses for about 5 years now. We hit a flow that lasted for a while.

I took a break after that. I think I played the drums when I got back, and I think I remember ending the evening with a big goofy 2-chord jam. But that could have been last Monday... Which was also fun, by the way... The tape will surface when it needs air. Yeah, maybe I wasn't in the last jam on Saturday... We'll find out when I play it back!

Thus endeth the nexus of Chaistock... But Sunday was alright, too. The first band was, I am told, unexpected... But it worked out OK since Variety Pack was supposed to open and only 1/4 of the band was there. Evan, Ian, and N8 set up camp on the sidewalk and played to the traffic. They were louder than the outside jams had been on Saturday, mainly 'cos the amps were bigger and better on Sunday.

Did I mention that Sunday was under-21-musicians-only day? Part of Foss' gig was to kick anyone over 21 off the stage. Since that meant no jams for 5, I left after an hour or so... But I want to tell you that the outdoor jams on Sunday made me really happy, good-sounding amps ricocheting tone off the walls of downtown Ballard on a Sunday afternoon on a sunny sidewalk, a heavy electric improvising trio that understood how to use that space and work with its other occupants: busses, passersby, self phones, car horns, sirens and etc.

I didn't catch the end but I understand N8 moved his drums into Bergen Park after a while and played there until the "condo people" made him cool it.

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