Monday, September 08, 2014

Hopscotch 2014 Night 2: Tony Conrad, Purling Hiss/Spacin'

In Vintage 21 (formerly the Longview Center), Tony Conrad performed a fascinating set that could be used as an educational tool for what is good and bad experimental music.

The good was on display in Tony Conrad’s solo performance. The master violin player shook the foundations of the old church with constantly building tones. He played them with direction and enthusiasm. He explored the sound he created, altered it purposefully, and responded based on the results. Through experimentation he revealed deeper qualities of the notes and tones. 

When he finished, Conrad pumped his fist in the air several times in triumph and the audience washed him in applause. At its finest, experimental music can make you fist pump just like rock and roll or hip hop.

For the second half of his set, Conrad invited up Hopscotch improvisor in residence, Thurston Moore, for a duo performance. Moore excited last year with his spontaneous collaborations, but as an official Hopscotch artist this year, his style wore thin. 

Conrad’s violin playing was flexible and begging Moore to use it as a foundation to build something greater. Instead, Moore mashed his frets, squealed, and otherwise obscured what Conrad was trying to set up. There wasn’t any intention to Moore’s noise and it’s a shame the audience wasn’t treated to more of Conrad solo.

Earlier in the night, Mapei cancelled last minute and taking their place would be a collaborative jam between Philadelphia psych punks Purling Hiss and Spacin’. I had originally planned to see Sun Kil Moon, but the lure of a spontaneous jam sessions between two Hopscotch veterans was too much to pass up. Based on the reports of Sun Kil Moon and the audience clashing, it ended up being a wise decision.

The jams were thick and lengthy. Only a handful of songs took up more than an hour. They morphed songs until they were unrecognizable, including a version of MC5’s “American Ruse.” For the final portion of the session, Steve Gunn joined on guitar and Mary Lattimore added her harp to the mix. 

Hopscotch is known for these types of collaborations and musicians jumping on stage together on a whim. In early years, it might have been easier to list the shows that Megafuan didn't have some part in. Last year, Big Daddy Kane was a last minute fill in for Action Bronson.  It was fantastic to see Purling Hiss and Spacin’ keep the tradition alive.

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