The Fertile Crescent, Hot White and Yoda’s House Saturday, August 2, 2008 Rhinoceropolis Better Than: Having to spend the money to go to the actual Middle East to hear music like this.
It was still a sweltering 90 some-odd degrees by the time I got to the Rhino late after seeing Fiddler on the Roof, but no one had started yet, so I hung out with the regulars some. Fortunately, it was not to be a show to test out my burnout level for this whole series.
Yoda’s House, from Albuquerque, a three piece outfit who all sat on the floor or chairs, opened the show, with one guy playing acoustic guitar and offering backing vocals of the non-verbal variety. Joining him was the main vocalist, a woman who played a series of bottles that looked like they used to bear labels for Olde English 800 40s, each filled with water at different levels, and another guy played melodica, as well as some sort of wooden box. The last guy also provided backing vocals and he triggered samples.
Combined, their sound reminded me of some Vietnamese classical music I’ve heard mixed with some traditional Indian music. This version of the band included two ukeleles, an accordion, a Ravi Shankar style sitar and a tota sarangi. If there was music created immediately in the wake of that single note that started the Hindu universe, these guys were playing it because it had that tranquil, primeval quality before kicking off into deceptively simple ambiance. After the act’s first two songs, it was joined by the three members of the Fertile Crescent who added some nice percussive flourishes courtesy of a masterful hand drummer.
One of the great things about getting to see bands in an environment where they don’t have to compete or prove themselves is getting to see them grow. Hot White played a very different set from every other time I’ve seen the band. The group’s short set was more of a piece without distinct beginnings or endings, and it certainly didn’t include any of the previous material. The bassist experimented with drones and layering of his bass in a way that allowed him to create incredible textures and rhythms that snaked along and burst into unexpected directions when he felt the need to up the energy a little. The drummer, meanwhile, started out the show looking like the musical terrorist he is, wearing a black hood made out of some old shirt with eyeholes cut for him to see through. The guys ran the gamut of sounds and moods with this show, which fit in with everything else as the members dared to go beyond their own boundaries as a band and explore new directions instead of playing the same material.
The Fertile Crescent used a tape recorder with a sample of a Farfisa or some other type of droning organ as the backdrop to the rest of its set. This outfit also seemed to be working through one free-flowing piece with one song evolving into another. Visions of what it must have been like to wake up in Tenth Century Moorish Spain in late summer before the Muezzins called were conjured by the sounds Crescent created. The dynamic undulations of their voices was mesmerizing and their ability to sing both deeply as a group and in harmonic falsetto was impressive. Toward the end, the band struck a melancholic mood with the sheer staggering range of tones and emotions that can be evoked with this type of music. It may rely on repetition and simplicity, but that’s what gives it the ability to shift powerfully before you’re even consciously aware of the change. The group faded away on the bowed tota sarangi and ended the night on a spiritual high note.
-- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: Big fan of Hot White and that Middle Eastern-inspired music really hits the spot. Random Detail: Brittany Gould was nice enough to give a girl a ride home who had come to the show thinking it would start earlier but wouldn’t have been able to stay due to the bus schedule. By the Way: We’ve broken the state record for consecutive days over 90 degrees and it feels it.
This is the twenty-ninth in a series of thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)