A Celebration of Melancholy

"Andy" and "Nico" in Nico's shadow
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Well, if you're going to turn 50, you might as well do it dressed as one of the biggest underground icons of the 20th centruy, singing her contralto songs, and having the fabulous Eat The Mystery start the night off for you, that's what Marla Rothenberg would have to say.

The Factory Party Saturday night at Bucketworks was fun. Marla has a wide cross-section of friends to celebrate a birthday with, and she put out an impressive spread of food. I'll take fun over dreadfulness any time, and that's part of why this was more of a "celebration" of the art that was made in that old Greenwich Village haunt, rather than a recreation of it. It was too much fun to be accurate.

Eat The Mystery started off the night, and they were terrific as usual. I think with the large stage, they had more room to spread out, both physically and conceptually. Courtney (aka Nutmeg when she's with ETM) seemed to get more of her deserved spotlight. It's hard to be the other chick when you're in a cabaret act with Angie Livermore, who is clearly the star, if not the conceptual locus, but Nutmeg has a quality all her own that really shines when she's given the room to do so -- a clear, almost Doris Day voice, but much more Euro and jaded. For once, I'm seeing this band in a place where they can give her such room. And there's not much more I can say about Angie that I haven't already gushed -- she's outrageous, but one of the sanest outrageous women I've ever seen. But even she wasn't as world weary melancholoy as I've seen her. She even seemed to have fun as she pushed around toy trucks while the band bitched about those condos taking over the artsy neighborhood. And Paul Setser, the gounded root of it all, seemed even more wiser and poetic than before.

Still, maybe it was because they were "only" the opening act, but they didn't seem to own the stage (and thus the entire room) like they usually do, they didn't seem to blur the line between stage and audience like usual. Maybe it was the crowd -- clearly many of them had never seen an act like ETM before -- and didn't know that participation was not only allowed, but encouraged. But i think part of it was the courtesy of being the opener -- and thus left the stage fairly orderly for the VU Project to do their thing. Still, Angie and company did not fail to surprise, and delightfully enrage me with their song and speech. I'd like to see them with their own night, at the new Bucketworks, where they can bring in all their props and own the place, like they usually do.

The VU Project? Dale Kaminski, along with his old Trance and Dance band stagemate Jerry Fortier and Fortier's son's Paka Paka Light Show continued on (they coordinated nicely with ETM as well) and got us all primed for the Project by giving us footage of the real VU, especially moon goddess Nico. As you can see from the picture, there seemed to be a watchful eye over Rothenberg as well as Mark Shurilla, in his best Andy wig. Again, they didn't recreate the VU so much as celebrate them. They also brought Colleen and Alice to be the lovely S&M girls during (and after, what the hell!) "Venus in Furs." (I still remember a great Nico quote from the day -- "Of course we do love songs. 'Venus in Furs' is just a different kind of love song.")

One bummer: The VU Project's regular bass player wasn't available, so Dan "Myles" Mullen played bass. Now he's a good bass player and all, but I get to hear him on the bass all the time in Loblolly, and I rarely, if ever get to hear him play lead guitar and really let loose on it these days. Yeah, sure, he plays lead in the Buddy Holly Review, and the Greatest Hits, but it's sort of like that scene in "Back To The Future" where Michael J Fox starts out Chuck Barry but then flies away aping Hendrix and VanHalen before the crowd freaks out. Mullen can go only so far with guitar hystrionics in the 50s/60s cover band context before he would lose the crowd. ("Calvin," you can hear Lea Thompson saying, "That was, uh, some, interesting guitar playing you did.") No, the VU Project is one of the few places you're going to hear what the big deal of Dan Mullen, Guitarist, is all about, and, well, it wasn't to be. Not that he didn't go off into outer space bass, but still.

But that's not to say they didn't have moments of greatness, between the light show, the expert playing from all the musicians (drummer Andy Pagel and keyboardist Chris Loss, another T&D band alum), and the general art house atmosphere. Brian and I left after a short second set, happy to with Marla a great birthday, and wondering with melancholy when the next inception of this act will be.

Bucketworks' James Carlson was milling about the place, plugging the impending move -- which has been pushed back to July 14. I'm kind of glad. Bucketworks needs more help to pull this off, (that means you, dear Milwaukee-based reader who wants to see a great arts incubator survive), and the couple extra weeks to plan and recruit is a blessing in disguise.


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