The Art Of Noise

Donna and I went out and saw some live music with friends on Friday night. One of our favorite bands, Zach Petrini, an band that plays largely Americana, was playing at a new venue called the Ivy House in the Third Ward. It was a place we'd never been, so thought we'd check it out.

If you know me, you know I'm a music buff. I love live music because it is such an in-the-moment experience. Like theater, each show is an entirely different experience. If the band is having a good night and the crowd is into it, it can be almost a spiritual experience. (Speaking for myself personally.)

What I enjoy so much is picking out the different instruments as they play. Everyone has a critical role in the creation of it. If the bass player sucks, the whole thing sounds like crap. If the guitarist hits a couple of rough notes in a row, people cringe.

But if every member is in synchronicity, it can be downright stunning. Many of Petrini's songs have a distinct progression to them. They begin, with establishing a tempo, then have a pause in the middle and work into a frenzy near the end.
Photo credit: Jill Kenehan Krey

It is these moments when the band is fully extended, the drummer is hammering away, the bass is thrumming, the guitarist is ringing out, and the vocals are carrying the whole thing that I realize how much music is art. It is layered, textured, spontaneous and interpretive. When the audience is engaged it is a give and take thing. The whole room moves.

Years ago, I was in Milwaukee with a friend at a blues club on a Saturday night and we were listening to a band and the blues harpist (harmonica) player was just killing it. The whole band was smoking it up and it was just phenomenal. I've seen John Lee Hooker and the Coast to Coast Blues Band do the same thing at the Cabooze in St. Paul. They blew the doors off the place.

And all of it means both something and nothing. After all, some would say, it's only music. But I would argue that it fills me up. There's something about being a part of that moment. It's entertainment, sure, but like any art, it is part of the human experience and nourishes the soul. As I work to be more in the moment and deliberate, I appreciate these types of events.

Much of the quality of a show depends however on a good team at the mixing board too. The show on Friday had some serious mixing issues for the first half. At the beginning, you couldn't hear the lyrics. Then, the organ was too loud and in your face. Near the end, the drums were too prominent. It was like the sound guy was tone deaf. It made the first half of the show an exercise in frustration for the audience. Eventually they figured it out, but the issues took away from the overall experience.

Live music continues to be a way for me to appreciate those who have talents that I never profess to have. Like those who deal with graphic forms of art, I just don't get how they do it. It's nothing short of miraculous and beautiful to me.

So I aim to keep following the world of art and music, because it gives me an escape and hope at the same time.

Blogging off...


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