Wednesday night, I watched three sets of fully fleshed-out pop music performed solo, augmented by samplers, laptops, and pedals. It was something that probably couldn't have happened a century ago and probably has some implications on technological development contributing to an egalitarian artistic landscape but also having some unintended consequences. But neither Utopia nor Skynet happened Wednesday night, so I'd rather talk about what did happen.
Opening up the night was Glass Popcorn, who has had a pretty good run in the media recently with a piece on this blog, on Vice's Noisey blog, and an essay about art and the institution, so I don't feel compelled to explain what he's all about since he has done a really good job of that himself.
Wednesday night marked his first performance since dropping his recent Tw!nk Privilege mixtape, and the new stuff feels really focused and flows well. There was a confrontational energy to his set, as he was jocularly pushing people around, but I assumed they were all members of the real-life equivalent of his Google+ circle and were okay with it. I am actually really happy that, as someone outside this group of people, none of this hostility was directed toward me, because I really do not want to be put in the bizarre situation of being rough-housed by a 17-year-old. There are boundaries to everyone's circles, and it seems Mr. Popcorn respects that.
Following Glass Popcorn was Straight Straws. This band is the project of a person who is in my circle, Ben Nandin, so I do have some kind of unstated license to push him around in my critique of his performance, but for the most part I thought it was pretty good. He did a short solo set of sort of noodly guitar pop with live sampling and looping.
One of the songs had lyrics about "making it in Cottonwood", which I assume is about that one town to the north of here in the Verde River basin. With folksy geographical references and intricate, but not too baroque of guitar work, I think Straight Straws will probably be an interesting local band to watch develop.
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Shira E., the touring act of the night from Brooklyn, plays what I have referred to previously in discussing the work of Tom Filardo as "Pop Music for the Future." I feel like one of the key aspects of Pop Music for the Future is a distinct awareness of the annals of pop music of the past, a product of the archival tendencies of the information age, and an ability to recall, reshape, and synthesize those styles fluidly and seemingly instantaneously.
This impression was probably solidified by the fact that she performed backed by a sampler with recordings of all kinds of instrumentation and beats that could change with the push of a button. She also came to the realization, mid-set, that her style of movement on stage resembles the back-and-forth motion of an iRobot Roomba vacuum, which may also contribute to my perception of her performance being futuristic.
Still, I am probably making her sound like Daft Punk or something, when really it was more of an R&B, soul, and dance music influenced pop set with free verse digressions kind of similar to something you would find on a Patti Smith or Mecca Normal record.
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Overall, it was good if sparsely attended show. It might be possible that everyone was at home recording and mixing their own music on their laptops, indulging in the privilege access to modern technology and media gives to artists to define themselves on their own terms. Or it was just a week night and people had work and school in the morning. The modern age can be so ambivalent sometimes.