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November 03, 1984 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-11-03

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Saturday, November 3, 1984 Page 5
Bruford and Moraz hold office hours

By Paul Helgren
The music was...well...different.
A tiny grand piano, a rather modest
drum kit. No synthesizers or electric
rums. Music in its purest form,
without the toys. Extraordinary sound.
Not like Yes, or The Moody Blues, or
even King Crimson. Jazz. wasn't it?
Music For Piano and Druns, like their
album says. Patrick Moraz, former
Ves and current Moody Blues on piano.
Bill Bruford, former Yes and current
King Crimson, on drums. Nothing
more, nothing less.
"The musicians will see you now.''
We walked into an unpretentious
Michigan Union dressing room. There
they were, sipping wine and chatting.
Bruford and Moraz. Nice guys. Very
polite.
What on earth do I ask then? I
thought. I can't possibly ask them a
question they haven't heard. I'll be
cool, though. Watch. They'll never
know I don't know jack about what they
were doing out there tonight.

"As I was watching tonight, I was
wondering, how much of the show is
strictly rehearsed and how much
is.. .spontaneous?"
Good question. Yes, I can see it in
their eyes. Yes, good lead-off question.
Not too heavy. Very musical and all
that.
"Well," Bruford returned, 'I'll ask
you: How much do you think was
rehearsed and how much spon-
taneous?"
Uh oh. He's asking me. Didn't expect
that. I don't know. It all looks rehear-
sed to me. I better not say that. Oh
damn.
I stumbled and bumbled and hemmed
and hawed.
"I'll put you out of your agony,"
Bruford said, finally, not annoyed but
amused. "It's about 60-40. About 60
spontaneous."
The conversation moved along
smoothly after that. No more questions
from Bruford for the uncritical critic.
But what he said about the music
was...well...fascinating.

DAILY: It seemed like an en-
thusiastic audience tonight...
Bruford: American audiences are
like that. They're the best. European
audiences are much more picky. They
sit back and say, 'Impress me.'
D: Are they more educated
musically?
B: Perhaps. They're more blase. In
the States, if you give an honest per-
formance without a safety net - which
is what this was tonight. I mean, a
piano and drums; we're very naked up
there. I think a musician should put
himself in a position of danger, though.
This hall (the Union ballroom) was bit-
ch to play. Very echoey.
D: Do you consider yourself for-
tunate that you're able to do something
like this and also play with popular
bands like King Crimson and The Moody
Blues?
(Patrcik Moraz, who has been
listening, interjects for a moment)
Moraz: Absolutely. We're very,
very privileged.
D: How do you like doing this versus

a tour with all the trappings?
B: It's black and white really. It's
nice to strip yourself bare of all the
electrical equipment once in a while.
King Crimson is such a heavily electric
group. I think they're both great,
though.
D: Is Crimson going to be playing
again soon?
B: King Crimson is the kind of band
you put on a shelf for a while and then
pick it up when you're ready. But yes,
certainly we shall be playing again in
the near future.
D: Will Crimson be working on an
album soom?
B; Yes, actually we'll be putting
together a live album in the winter.
D: What is your reaction to labels
like "Rock drummer" or "Jazz drum-
mer"?
B: Well, I'm a Western musician
working in a world where the music
must be sold. It's a reality. The
salesmen, you people, must put a label
on it so that it can be marketed. I ac-
cept that. I don't pay much attention to
it, really.

D: Would you mind if I asked you
why you left a commercially successful
bLad like Yes (in 1973) to play with King
Crimson?
B: I always wanted to be in King
Crimson. It was totally opposite from
Yes. They were two big bands of Lon-
don at the time. King Crimson was
very much more instrumental and Yes
was a bunch of guys singing who also
played instruments. It's all good.
D: Did you want to play with Robert
Fripp?
B: Yeah, that was part of it.
D: Are you always searching for
something new because you're
dissatisfied with your music?
B: One is condemned to that for life.
It's the implicit assumption of music,
and all performing arts, I imagine. The
unlappy musician is one that can't live
with tha. It's sort of like being tounge-
tied. Sort of like public speakers.
Politicians are very good, but most of
the rest of them will get up there in
front of an audience and forget all the
clever things they said in the bathroom.

It's the same with music. How often
do you hear a musician say, 'I was
great at the sound check today.' I'm
great at sound checks. I do my best
work at sound checks (laughs). You
should have heard me at the sound
check today. It's...do you know Dizzy
Gillespie, the great jazz musician?
D: Of course.
B: Dizzy Gillespie once said a
musician can play all his life and the
majority of the time he'll be dissatisfied
with his music. He said once in a while
the flood gates will open and the music
will be, ahh, brilliant. They asked him
how often that happens. Do you know what
he said? 'About once a year' (laughs).
So some nights are extraordinary, but
most nights you play the University of
Michigan and the music is, eh, okay.
The music is good but that little
magical thing didn't happen. It's kind
of like a six-cylinder engine that's not
hitting on all six. It sputters a bit, then
pick up, then sputters a bit more, and
then maybe it dies a bit, then it sounds
fine. But it keeps moving.

Romeo

Void heads double bill

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By Dennis Harvey
Usually, wildly eclectic concert
double bills end in a dead loss for one
band or the other - most typically the
opening one. Thursday at Detroit's St.
Andrews Hall, though, a perverse com-
bination really worked - one of this
year's Next Big Things, the L.A. punk-
Junk clowns The Red Hot Chili Peppers
,had so much goodwill and sheer nerve
*going for them that they held their own
easily as a prelude for established San
Francisco space-jazz dance wavers
-Romeo Void.
I The Chili Peppers have no real rivals
right now as the best joke band in
,existence. And what a joke! The idea'
of an all-white rap band is silly enough,
but it gets perilously amusing when the
band in question is a group of four
,mock-snotty hardcore boys with a pen-
:chant for spitting into the audience,
having spastic thrash fits, and tearing
off their shirts to reveal high school-
jock muscley ehests-for sour obvious
edification. You know - the sort of
band that already has mike stands
filling over in the first 30 seconds of the
set.

All that plus pretty decent funk tunes
with BIG bass lines and colorful lyrical
content just hinted at by title like
"Baby Appeal" and "True Men Don't
Kill Coyotes." And amphetamine-
paced covers of such things as Hank
Williams' "Why Don't You Love Me
Like You Used to Do?" and Jimi Hen-
drix' "Fire." Plus the shortest thrash
song this side of Civilian Fun Group.
Entering in a sort of Halloween gas-
mask, rapper Anthony Kiedis sums up
the band's extremes of appeal, with his
combo of disciplinary vocals and a
visual impact that's part circa Raw
Power Iggy, part David Lee Roth
(without the chest hair), part
Christopher Lambert as Tarzan, and
the rest Bozo the Clown. "We know you
don't know what to think!" he gloated
early on. This band is as hysterical as
Spinal Tap, and just as gleefully aware
of it.
Romeo Void, on the other hand, is not
the most dynamic band you'll ever see
in terms of stage presence. Deborah
Iyall, described with delicated con-
"descension recently in one of our
(cough) leading rack rags as "the
rather large but pleasingly bohemian"
lead singer, has moments when she
resembles nothing so much as a family-

sized Stevie Nicks, with her jangling
bracelets and occasional bursts of mild
Are of Aquarius-type theatrics (black
wedding veil, holding a candle on a
darkened stage, etc.). Her energy
level always hovers comfortably
somewhere north of indifference and
south of excitement. What with the
sedateness of the other three members,
sax player Benjamin Bossi basically
carries the show - which is OK, since
he seems to be having enough fun for
everybody. He does some agreeably
rubber-faced double takes at nothing in
particular between the Void's
trademark say squeal-outs. Nice splat-
ter-painted two-piece suit, too.
Despite the relative lack of visual ex-
citement, Romeo Void's extremely
well-paced set gradually gained a sense
of involvement. Musically, things were
ace from the start, a funky "Billy's Bir-
thday" from the excellent new Instincts
LP. Slowly building in danceability and
stage interest, the show really started
happening midway with the album's
first single, "A Girl in Trouble (is a
Temporary Thing)," which came off
much harder-edged than it does on the
disc. Then the band went 'way back to
their 1981 indie debut It's a Condition
for the better-that-phone-sex "Talk Dir-

ty to Me", on which Iyall - emitting a
variety of erotic squeals (which prac-
tically became a duet with the sax) to
beat even Lydia Lunch's legendary, er,
performance on James White's art-
jazz-porn piece "Stained Sheets" -
shed any lingering impressions of
Stevie Nicks spaceiness.
The immediately following Big Band
Hit "Never Say Never" (still one of the
best dance songs, and most disturbing
pieces of lyric writing, ever) lost some
impact by having a less heavy beat
than on the record. Things got back to
and stayed at a peak level, though, for
the rest of the set, with a healthy selec-
tion of songs from both Instincts and its
predecessor Benefactor.
Romeo Void is -a complete band, not
exactly difficult in any particular way
(though it's a positive change that In-
stincts' material places more emphasis
on creating songs rather that an overall
sound), but noit an immediate-love
sort of thing either. They excite in-
terest gradually, rather than at first
exposure. Just as their records tend to
improve with each listening, their set at
St. Andrews steadily built from solid,
acceptable professionalism to a really
compelling evening of music.

m I

Wild Style explores New York hiphop

By Dennis Harvey
Tonight marks the Ann Arbor
premiere of Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style,
the independent 1982 film that explored
the then just-emerging NYC hiphop
scene long before this year's slicher
west-coast commercial efforts Body
Rock, Breakin' and Beat Street.
Rough on some levels but invaluable
as a ready-made time capsule view of
an underground scene when it was still
really underground, Wild Style's few
consessions to dramatic contrivance
are so threadbare that they can easily
be ignored. It's basically the same old
thing you got in the Hollywood films-
Boy (this time a graffitti artist rather
that dancer or rapper( wants Girl and
Respect For His Art, without having to
sell out for either.
There are near-memorably clumsy
monosyllabic ruminations on Art and
stuff, and the hero endures the
predictable sources of conflict. (His
r brother, surveying his spray-painted
romm, succinctly says, "Stop fuckin'
around and be a MAN."( One hopes
that the dialogue was mostly im-
provized; it sure sounds like it. The
hero and heroine have the combined a
charisma of a ten-watt bulb, and there
are technical flaws to overlook if you
can. Particularly annoying is' the
sound, which often seems awkwardly

post-dubbed (a real pain during some of
the rapping sequences). The editing,
though often very creative, frequently
tosses in superfluous shorts that seem
completely unrelated to any surroun-
ding narrative action - which is OK if
you go and do a straightforward visual
college (which the film sometimes
does, quite well), but director-producer
Ahearn can't always make up his mind
just what he's trying to do. The plot,
such as it is, is interrupted whenever
Ahearn feels like it by various local
color - happily, since it's the et alia we
want, not the peon dramatics. But this
results in virtually no sense of pace.
The film doesn't so much climax and
end as simply run out.
Still, these reservations are fairly
irrelevant - what Wild Style really is,
is a thinly disguised documentary about
the whole hiphop thing, and it has the
fascination that comes with seeing the
genuine article after so many glossy
approximations in Hollywood films.
Seeing artists at work is always some
sort of revelation, and the low-or-no-
budget fell here makes seeing these
rappers, breakers and graffitte aftists
exciting in a way that the slicker
presentations in Beat Street, etc. can't
quite equal.
The improvizational air - when
there's a party scene, you know it
wasn't exactly staged - gives perfor-
mances by such now-well-known folk as

Grandmaster Flash and the Rock
Steady Crew an already-historical
quality, and there are great moments
also from the lesser knowns Double
Trouble, Fanstastic Freaks, Pop-0-
Matics, the Cold Crush Gang, et al.
Visually the movie, with its rapid-fire
montages of wall and subway graffitti,
is about as alive as a moving Peter Max
poster; and that's just about literally
what you get during the delightful
animated opening credits. There are a
couple of sequences so bizarrely in-
congrous that they Thave a quirky
charm - the most extreme is a rapping
basketball game, complete with a
Greek chorus of rapping cheerleaders.
The only ugly thing about the film is
its attitude toward whites, who are
made tolook about as lacking in cool as
possible - they are treated ap-
proximately like the
devouring/decaying artic aristocrats in
foreign peasant-suffering films. A

woman reporter who wants to do a
story on the scene is made to look a fool
rather too easily. (Though she prompts
one of the few genuinely witty moments
when, panic-stricken in a ghetto area,
she tells a large group of black kids
who've surrounded her stalled car, I'm
looking for the graffitti artists!" and
they answer, "We're ALL graffitti ar-
tists! ") And there's a pretty sour scene
in which the hero is taken uptown to a
penthouse art-gallery party where the
bloodless, condescending hors d'ouvres
crowd is reduced to a.) Bwana-no-like-
Sambo fear or b.) rape-me-you-
primitive-thing-you arousal, by his
ethnicality.
But oh well. Wild Style, being shown
tonight by Ann Arbor Film Co-Op at
MLB Auditoriun 3 at 7:00 and 9:00, of-
fers a rare glimpse at the roots of a
scene that'ssince become 1984's
cultural Flavor of the Month.

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