In the Crowd: FIMAV - Part 1
Unfortunatly, for this year's FIMAV, one of the premier avant garde festival in North America, I could not spend the weekend, which also meant that I had to drive back to Montreal after the shows in Victoriaville, about an hour and forty five minutes away. The result was that I intended to see shows on Saturday and on Monday of that long weekend for us Canadians. The lineup for this year was intended to display a bit more of what the young trendy people listen to with Sunn O))), Et Sans and My Cat is an Alien and an almost total lack of Jazz, for what seems like the first time. My plan on this day was to catch the KK Null, Marino Pliakas and Michael Wertmueller, Nels Cline, Andrea Parkins and Tom Rainey, Keiji Haino and Sunn O))) and, finally, My Cat is an Alien. Despite my best efforts, the plans did not go on to represent reality.
As I hopped on the motorbike to ride to Victoriaville the skies were dark and a weak rain was coming down. The bike was my only reliable vehicle so my resolve to bike down was more an obligation than a true test of will. Fortunately, the ride was pleasant enough, as very little rain came down as showers intermittently soaked the Quebec farm lands that make most of the scenery by the side of the highway going to Victoriaville. Victoriaville is the biggest town in the area but still is a fairly small town of 40 000 people living off the region's main export: hard wood lumber. Why in hell this fest came about is somewhat of a mystery, except for the main organizer that looks like a passionate and basically willed this fest to come about for 20 some years.
The two swiss, Wertmueller and Pliakas, invited KK Null back in fall 2005 to play with on a tour their partner Peter Broetzmann couldn't play in. Evidently, the trio like it enough to repeat the experience. Pliakas on electric bass, Wertmueller on drums and Null on electronics and vocals took the stage and I honestly had absolutely no idea what to expect. What happened is an all out improv of surprising power that navigated in mostly the very high tempos with Wertmuellet and Pliakas holding the fort, still displaying an inordinate amount of skill, and Null leading the way with noise-like electronics and violent vocals. The trio was amazingly in sync and heavy, with enough subtlety to shine through the wall of sounds coming at us. Pliakas was particularly interesting to watch coming in and out of the rhythms made by Wertmueller and add to Null's textures. Great start to the fest for me.
Next on the list was Nels Cline, Andrea Parkins and Tom Rainey doing their thing. One of the things that impressed me the most with drummers like Tom Rainey, and Rainey is one of the best avant drummers out there, is the sheer speed at which they react and the 'feel' they have for their improv mates. On this day, Rainey would show how special a drummer he is and how he was able to bring forward an improv with two highly creative people like Nels Cline and Andrea Parkins. You have to admit that this trio is a bit peculiar on paper with some very different vocabulary of improvisation going on and just for that, it made it interesting. The fact that they music played was highly energetic, violent even, and contemplative in certain sections, and the whole made any sense is in itself quite the accomplishment. In fact, the whole thing rested solely on the shoulders on Rainey and he supported and carried the whole thing a lot farther than I thought possible. Incredible show.
After a few hours of respite, I was expecting great things out of the double bill of Keiji Haino and Sunn O))). Haino came on stage with a small setup of a Kaos Pad, three theremin, a couple of delays/echo, a distortion, mics and guitar. The set started with a voice improvisation with Haino transiting from effect laden screams to clean ones in one intense performance. While it wasn't technically difficult, it was an impressive display of power and control. He then moved to a short guitar improv that was quite similar to a lot of things I have of him, good but not spectacular. He finished the whole thing with Theremin and voice experimentation that was as impressive as the first part of the set. In a short set, Haino provided the festival-goers with a sample of everything he does and did it impressively.
After what was meant to be a 15 minutes break that ended up being 45, everybody was anxious to see the man in robes. I had seen Sunn O))) a few short months ago and wasn't all that impressed then, I was expecting more on this night. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. I mean, it wasn't that it was bad, just that it wasn't awesome. Sunn O))), on record is crushing, it drones out forever and just plain eats your guts with bass. The fact that they show, just like last time I saw them, wasn't loud enough for the music to become physical is a problem. I usually have problems with shows that are too loud because there is no point but with Sunn O))) it does. Since they really don't have nothing all that visually appealing going on, three guys in hooded robes hitting a note every few minutes isn't exactly the most dynamic live show (and it is not supposed to be), the physicality of the vibrations is important. Second is that when I am at home and listening to Sunn O))) I do other things. In a show, the only other thing to do is watch them hit notes every minute or two and it gets a little boring. When Haino joined them and did vocals, it seemed to make the whole thing a lot more interesting. In fact, I was thinking that live, they always should use vocalist at all times in order to make thing more interesting.
I was meant to see My Cat is an Alien but the delays in the Sunn O))) performance and the fact that they-just-would-not-finish-the-damn-show, it was getting extremely late for me to ride all the way back to Montreal, thus I missed the show and I was quite a bit pissed about it. They don't fly from Italy everyday.
- Simon Thibaudeau | 2006-06-01
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