Monday, May 16, 2005

Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision

Last night I went to the Knitting Factory to see the Ambitious Orchestra (with bassist Rusty Chandler).

Opening the show was Corn Mo, whom I saw 2 years ago opening for They Might Be Giants and never expected to see again. What a delightful surprise! You can never have too much accordion rock. The chord progressions reminded me of the music from a movie that I've seen a million times, and I can't remember the movie and it's going to bug me forever, but it might have been Big (not "Heart and Soul", the other music), and also might have been Avenue Q (which isn't a movie, and which I've only seen once). One song was introduced as being [paraphrased] about the turn of the century, when "Tesla was being cool" (direct quote) and everything was mechanical and robots were made of metal and wood and glue instead of silicon inside (I wish I had written this down).

The Ambitious Orchestra is a 20-piece guitarless rock ensemble, with full classical instrumentation, including harp (not harmonica, harp). I've heard other attempts at this genre, but the difference is that this actually worked. I have a CD of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing the music of R.E.M., which is mostly valuable as a collector's item. Some of the more "rock"-type songs, like "The One I Love", aren't so bad, but they butcher "Nightswimming", which is already doing just fine with the string section in the original album and doesn't need the added percussion. Likewise, the Pink Floyd one just makes me say "I like this song. You know who does a really good version of it? Pink Floyd." But the Ambitious Orchestra was much better; they opened and closed with covers, but otherwise performed their own originals. Their first album is on the way; this gig was a fundraiser for it. Corn Mo joined them for one song; since I have played with Rusty Chandler at KZ, this puts me three degrees of musical separation from TMBG. Likewise, I am three degrees away from Phish, since I jammed with Howard Levy many years ago in the old country, and he used to be in Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, and Bela Fleck played with Phish on the album version of "Lifeboy".

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