In the Crowd: Cotton Casino
In The Crowd #9 – Cotton Casino/Billawatm
Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY
If you are reading this because you know whom Cotton Casino is then I don't have to explain Acid Mothers Temple. Of course for those few curious souls who can't get enough of indieworkshop's bristling live music coverage, who devour every bit of fresh meat (or tofurky, Grant ) dangled out by this fine dot com, here's a brief intro. Acid Mothers Temple is a wild mass of crazed Japanese rock fiends with countless albums and more lunatic offshoots than No Neck Blues Band, Godspeed You Black Emperor and the Catholic Church combined. Cotton Casino is one of the constants in AMT and can be found scattered all over the ever-reaching AMT family tree. Well, now she's doing a solo tour. Hot off the Acid Mothers Soul Collective Tour, which featured a handful of side projects, she has a 7in out and now a full length just out a week or two ago. And a bevy of super limited, professionally pressed cdr's (printed in editions of like 27, seriously)
which she graciously showed me after the show. She also generously cut me a deal (thanks!).
All right, so something brought Cotton and Billawtm (a nice fellow on guitar) to Buffalo from the Knitting Factory and on the way to Philadelphia (I think). I'm not sure what (or who, based on the attendance), but I couldn't have been happier. I showed up just in time to sit around for half an hour and wait for the opening band to start. This is something I tried really hard to avoid, but apparently failed at. The opening band, whose name I'm sparring the world (not ‘cause I don't wanna warn y'all, I do, I really do, but I just feel so sorry for ‘em) were so fucking terrible that I was tempted to go drink in the bathroom. Or even leave. Supposedly they were a psychedelic rock band, a local one. The first bad sign was a projector playing a loop of swirling tie-dye on the wall behind the stage. Ugh. But I figured, hey, maybe it'd be a bunch of old burnouts just riffing on some Gong tracks. I could handle that. Then, it turns out that the three frat-esque guys standing next to me joking about kiddie porn on the internet get up on stage and start playing. Well, shit. And they were all wearing blue blazers and at least of them had on a white turtleneck underneath. Really. They sucked for 45 minutes straight. Had I not been driving I'd have surely polished off half a bottle of Jameson's just fighting my way through that set.
Not long before the openers went on, Cotton and Billawtm arrived and pony-ed up to the bar. Cotton could easily be mistaken for a petite 14 year old. And somehow that tiny frame managed to put away an almost Pollard-amount of Heinekens while they were there. Luckily they took the stage before too long, dispelling the bile in my mouth and avoiding any serious burns. The set up consisted of Cotton on vocals and theremin while Bill manned the guitar and a multitude of pedals.
Oh yeah, besides me, one other guy, a guy from the newspaper and two or three other people, the place was empty. I figured there'd at least be a dozen, or maybe even twenty, people there.
The set began with a beautiful, almost trancelike piece, just plucking on the guitar and a haunting, wordless vocal part. Not quite transcendent but surely striking. Then, things got interesting. Cotton, fitted in an Adiddas jogging suit and practically absorbing beer through osmosis, fired up the theremin, pulling some rather interesting sounds from it. Soon the theremin playing became interspersed with jogging in place and an almost choreographed dance around the instrument, pulling weird sounds out intermittently. The jogging in place then morphed into various stretches and flexing yet still retaining some jogging. These activities were then done all about the stage. At another point, while holding an extended note with one raised arm, she managed to drain nearly an entire beer with the other. This was followed by more beer and more laps around the stage, making sure to climb up on every speaker and monitor cabinet. The few people in attendance just looked on. The guy from the newspaper snapped more and more pictures. The owner of the bar came up and took some pictures as well.
The guitar player at this point was on the ground playing with his pedals and more or less shredding on the guitar. Cotton's laps around the stage grew faster and more erratic. I had no idea what the hell I was seeing. I just kept at my beer and remained locked onto the stage. Everyone (well, all 6 of us) just stared on at this surreal display of drunkenness and, well, jolly old fun. Bill was writhing on the floor barely even playing guitar. Cotton continued running and stretching and jumping. Soon Bill chased her down, picked her up by her legs and began spinning her around. It was like being in some crazed delirium state, not really sure of what is happening. I couldn't quite see but it ended down on the stage, most likely in a Camel Clutch, with feedback spewing from the speakers. After a moment Cotton stood up, walked to the mike and said a demure ‘Thank You'.
I think we all clapped. It was so bizarre. Introductory fluxus? Drunken chaos teamed with exhaustion? Most likely that latter. I sat for a moment, drinking my beer, not quite sure what I'd seen. I don't even think that the set was 45 minutes long. Truly bizarre. Certainly fascinating.
Once I collected myself I went up to the stage to see what they had to say, see if they had anything to sell. I asked Bill if they'd had fun, even with the small audience. "Yeah man, you gotta have fun!" Cotton gave a "yes, yes, fun."
I drove home that night curiously satisfied. Still trying to comprehend what I'd seen, I put on one of Cotton's CD's and lied down in bed. I drifted away, generally exhausted, to the sound of Cotton singing a spacey, syrupy version of Syd Barrett's Baby Lemonade.
- Adam Richards | 2003-10-30
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