Sunday, 7 June 2009

a little chimp and goo

The first time I saw Celebrity Chimp was when we performed the same night at Folkadot.  Funny, smart, energetic – they make you dance and laugh.  I fell in love.  I became their stalker.  I think they should have their own show.  Like Flight of the Conchords.  I think I should play their stalker.
I finally made it out to a Chimp Night at the Hobgoblin last Saturday.  I found friends there, which is always good when you show up alone.  I’d been having kind of a tough week and needed things to turn around.  I had kind of a meltdown on one of my friends, but she picked me back up.  Yay, friends! 
Ran into David Goo who I met in Edinburgh at the Fringe almost two years ago and we’ve kept up on myspace and stuff.  I seem to see him in person at random venues about every 3 months, and it’s always nice to see him.  I’ve seen him play solo, but never with his band.  He said he had a night coming up this Thursday and the Chimps were playing, too; I knew I wanted to be there.
Much happened between Saturday and Thursday – 5 short days.  Random meetings, passings, probably not enough writing.  Kal Lavelle’s fantastic birthday night – if you don’t know her, then you should! 
Then Thursday night came. I made it out to Dingwalls to see The David Goo Variety Night, courtesy of David Goo’s guest list.  Thank you very much.  Yay, guest lists!
The night was pretty packed.  Dingwalls is one of those places, large venue, beer in plastic cups, sticky floors.  No amenities, just music and beer and sweaty people.  On a good night – fantastic.  On a bad night – ick.  I needed this to be a good night.
They showed a funny short film I caught the last half of and there were a few musical acts.  Then Celebrity Chimp!  They started with my fave “ Porn Star ”.  There was dancing and fun.  I’d run into Olly the Octopus, who I also met in Edinburgh, also occasionally run into, and also sometimes share stages with.  He wasn’t dancing, but some of his friends were.  Well, all the girls were dancing, really.  The guys were…watching the girls dance.
Chimp did an amazing set.  What I love about them, besides that they write great songs that are funny and play them well, is that while they don’t seem to care (a strangely popular performance technique over here), they do care.  Really a lot.  I danced a little less last night (my bag seemed really heavy and I didn’t want to put it down in there – long digression into bag etiquette here:  so if you’re at a gig, with a bunch of your friends, girls, you can put your bags in a little pile, sort of a bag pyramid and know that someone of you will always have one eye on it, and that if anyone tries to grab one of the bags, they might all tangle and fall over and generally cause a scene, thus alerting you to the theft.  If you’re alone at a gig, or with your guy friends, you’re kinda stuck with your bag.  If you put it on the floor, someone might just trip on it, or get tangled in it or you might or in a moment of whirling dervishness you might take your eye off it and it’d be gone.  Back to our main story…) and watched Andy during the songs.  He would want me to say that I watched him because he’s so incredibly HOT.  But there was something else going on there, too.  His focus was incredible.  Truly.  All the energy surging up in service of one thing – that moment that song. 
“Leave everything on the stage.”
That’s a reminder we use for ourselves to not stint the audience, to not fear nakedness, and to not shortchange the art.  There should be nothing left of you when you walk off.  And that’s what I was watching.
When David Goo’s band took the stage, I had no idea what to expect.  I looked up and the stage was entirely filled with people.  Violinists, cellists, percussionist, drummer, singers…on and on.  The songs are like little carnivals.  They each have a funny, strange or silly story or premise with a quirky lyricism, yet they are orchestrated not to please or lull, but to romp.  The arrangements of the instruments and backing vocals made each song seem like a whole show of its own.  I was pretty sure I’d never seen anything like it.  Olly said Zappa, and I hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense.  There is a Zappa influence, but there’s the influence of everything that’s come since then from Blues Brothers to Hip Hop to Cinematic Orchestra.  It’s smart music designed to play at fun and light.  It’s crazy entertaining, too.  The band is filled with great individuals who all bring their own personal style with them.  They are fun to watch and 100% into the music.  They are not side musicians – they are the music and the show – visual and aural.
Seeing so many people on one stage, carefully arranged and well-rehearsed, who were still having a good time and giving a great time was refreshing.  I’ve seen too many artists who act like they don’t care, who slide on talent and a few good lyrical lines, who don’t seem to care about the audience.  These people were at work.  Hallelujah and praise be.
Watching David Goo on stage, bandleader to chaos, I saw again what I’d seen earlier.  If you look into the eyes when they’re playing, you can see it.  No matter how much silly fun they seem to be having, these guys are deadly serious and all focus.  Every ounce of energy is called upon to filter into the song and directed outward from there.  Even moreso because they inject humour into their work – and humour is serious business. 
"Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard."  - G. B. Shaw
I couldn’t help but reflect on the life changes between the two gigs.  It was a quantum kind of time, when francEyE’s chronic illness slip, slip, slipped and then jumped to another level.  David Carradine passed as well, someone I’d gotten to work with briefly and whose work I always respected and enjoyed.  I had the realization that I’ve shared stages and sets with some truly amazing artists and people.  The list is long, ever-growing and all said and done, I’d like to calculate it that the good far outweigh the bad. 
The ups and downs of a little book-ended time frame seemed radically huge, and yet, nothing really changes.  It’s all alright and it all passes, as Stosh recently reminded.  I will miss francEyE; I do miss her.  I’m saddened that she will write no more poems, as David Carradine will leave us no more performances.  But we are a funny tribe, we artists, whatever our art.  Mourning does not mean sitting home wearing black, does it?  It means hair of the dog, baby.  Live by your art, die by it.  David Carradine died about to do another movie; francEyE was no doubt writing a poem in her head with her last breath. 
Work is not 9-5 at a desk – it is a 24/7 endless cycle.  Get inspired, give inspiration, get re-inspired.  In between those is the stuff nobody sees, the writing, practicing, the rehearsals, the booking gigs, putting on the make-up (I’m really getting to hate this part), finding the right clothes for the gig, the self-promotion you hate but who else is going to do it, the doubt, the falter, then the incessant urgency and constancy of the call.  It just doesn’t stop.  So I carry my sadness with me, or my fear, and I bring it out, and hope that some other member of the tribe will teach me what to do with it, or cleanse it for me, or be the catalyst to some new mini-metamorphosis.  Then maybe I will get the opportunity to do the same for someone else.
I so appreciate these guys and think they deserve huge audiences.  But I’m a sucker for passionate artistry.  Really, nothing beats it.  Except that they’re also really nice people.

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