Giant Sand Rhythm Room Thursday, July 26
By Mike Cryer
"And here I am, the center of all beauty!" -- Frank O'Hara
This is how emotion and melancholy gets played out as tone: emotion sounds/looks like something sad (emoticon) but means something more complex (Bill Murray).
That's the trick of musical composition -- or any composition, really -- matching the tone to the wishful, concrete meaning. As abstract as music is, it's easier to pretend a sound than actually mean it. This happens a lot. Just think of how many ways you've said, "I love you."
Last night's incestuous lead-up to Giant Sand featured some pretending, mostly in the guise of real emotion, but Giant Sand's closing set was less affected and more imaginative than you might think.
After Dead Voices begged the audience to care for their pathos, Gelb stepped in on the piano for a moment, tinkling over their sadness, and for that moment the audience did care. If Dead Voices ever do achieve "negative capability," then all audiences will be safe from "needing" to care, lest all audiences die and have to hear "Amazing Grace."
Make My Baby is the best imperative band name of all time. Just ask the next woman you see to recite the name. If you don't get slapped, then ask her to say it again: Make my baby! Goodness gracious. Even though Make My Baby didn't play last night, one of the band's singers, Lonna Kelley, was ubiquitous -- she sat in with all bands and performed her own set. Kelley's innocent delivery betrays what's at stake in some of her songs, asking, again, what is it that keeps her so silent? Oh, Lonna, we love you, please speak up!
Giant Sand is uninhibited, which means Gelb is very generous. He's so generous he lends his style to most of the band -- the only dude without a fedora was the drummer, and you can't make a drummer do anything, really, right?
What's fun about Gelb and Giant Sand is just that -- they're fun. There's a trust among the musicians that allows for playfulness. And it's serious play. There's no script that says: "We all need to be lonely here..." Imagination is celebrated and chances are taken.
Critic's Notebook: Overheard: "Code 9" Most of All: Gelb is funny. Best Instrument: Double-stuffed trumpet. Most Derelict: Guess.