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November 14, 1996 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-11-14

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12A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 14, 1996

Flecktones put some spunk into



By Sam England
For the Daily
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones thrive
on variety. This mush is evident in their
performance, in which they embrace
elements of folk, jazz, bluegrass and
international traditions, just to name a
few. Even judging
by their instrumen-
tation - banjo, R
bass and Synth- Be
Axe Drumitar, ant
electronic drum the
synthesizer - the Pease A ud
Flecktones aren't
easy to categorize.
They're just easy to enjoy, as evidenced
by their performance Sunday at Eastern
Michigan University's Pease
The trio, consisting of Bela Fleck on
banjo, bassist Victor Wooten and per-
cussionist Future Man, along with guest
stringed instrumentalist Mike Marshall,
astonished the audience with their
unique approach to music.
Fleck himself was enthusiastic in
describing his group's live approach.
As he awaited a sound check last
Friday at an Ashland, Ky. venue he told
The Michigan Daily, "We just try and
put it together in a way that feels good
to everybody. And 'everybody' means
the audience and us. So everybody,
hopefully, walks away feeling like they
got something out of it. Maybe they
hated something, too. Maybe some-

thing we did they didn't like. That's all
If there were listeners who hated
much about the Flecktones' perfor-
mance, they were noticeably silent
Sunday. The group's reception, uncom-
monly boisterous in the somewhat

la Fleck and
Jitorium, EMU
Nov. 10, 1996
conversation with

refined concert
hall, became only
warmer as the show
From the accessi-
ble, melodious
groove of the first
instrumental piece
to Fleck's friendly
the crowd, they set

the welcoming tone of the show early.
With that, they also prepared the audi-
ence for the wide spectrum of sounds
on the way.
In the course of the show, Fleck
would switch repeatedly between elec-
tric and acoustic banjoes. Setting
things off with a trademark bluegrass
jam, he acted as both leader and fol-
lower through various pieces and even
took a solo spot. He sat on the edge of
the stage, inches away from the front
row of listeners. Within his perfor-
mance, he managed to pluck out
"Amazing Grace" without touching the
fretboard, but instead adjusting, his
banjo's tuning knobs to find the notes.
Bela Fleck's musical grace was indeed
Victor Wooten did his share of acro-

batics, as well. His muscular, impossi-
bly quick bass licks on such burners as
"Almost Twelve" and "New South
Africa" could turn suddenly into the
most delicate of tones.
"When you see Victor do what he
does in person, in the same room, sud-
denly it's all the more amazing, 'cause
it wasn't a studio trick, it wasn't a
camera trick," Fleck said. "His
humanity is comparable to your own,
you know?"
This rang true, particularly in
Wooten's improvised bass solo, in
which he managed to tease out tunes
with just the chiming sounds of har-
monics. Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed,"
the keyboard exercise "Chopsticks" and
Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia"
floated from his strings -just a few of
the melodies he incorporated within
one expansive piece.
Future Man, the flamboyant brother
of bassist Wooten, was undoubtedly the
most surprising stage presence, both in
his colorful dress and his use of com-
pletely electronic percussion. With his
Synth-Axe Drumitar (a wildly colored
guitar-sized drum synthesizer), he
flowed easily with the other musicians.
The quickness with which he could
press the Drumitar's pads made for
intricate, textured drumming, but
sounded oddly artificial.
Future Man's solo, for instance,
incorporated such sounds as speech
excerpts, choral humming and church

bells in addition to drum samples. This
variety, though, became somewhat tire-
some in the course of his solo; he often
sounded repetitive. Technology, he
showed, meets with certain limits in
Renowned bluegrass artist Mike
Marshall joined the trio for the entirety
of the show, making a beautiful addition
to the group. During his turn as band-
leader, Marshall strapped on what Fleck
termed "The Mother of All Mandolins"
to perform his lighthearted composi-
tion, "Gator Strut."
By the spirited end of the
Flecktones' show, everyone got in on
the act. Shortly after the shining
melody of "Stomping Grounds," they
got into their Phish- and Bob Marley-
inspired encore. It was then that the
Deadhead contingent of the crowd
rushed to the front to dance freely,
while the rest of the audience watched,
bemused. The encore spoke volumes
of the band's eclectic nature. They
used a huge variety of sounds and dis-
played a variety of influences, attract-
ing a diverse crowd to put on a truly
amazing show.
Fleck, with his absolute modesty,
characterized best the experience of the
Flecktones' performance. "I get to play
with them every night, and I get the
inspiration of playing with people that
are as good - as good as it gets," he
said. "And that's what makes it wonder-
ful for me. It lifts me up."

Bela Fleck (right) with Future Man (center) and Victor Wooten (left).

1 Diverse participants to read at Writers Harvest

By Elizabeth Lucas
Daily Arts Writer
This year's fifth-annual Writers Harvest reading
should stand out from its predecessors, due to the
diversity of its participants.
Like other University readings, it is part of the
Visiting Writers Series sponsored
by the Hopwood Awards Program.
However, this event is sponsored P
by the Share Our Strength organi- Wr
zation and is a benefit for hunger
All proceeds from the reading Suggested
will go to Food Gatherers, a local
hunger relief organization. Similar readings will take
place across the country tonight, but Ann Arbor's ver-
sion should be unique, as it emphasizes writers from
the University and Ann Arbor communities.
"We wanted to showcase some local writers ...
writers we haven't heard from," said Andrea
Beauchamp, associate for the Hopwood Awards
Program. She cited the fact that University professor
and playwright OyamO will be part of the event.
"We've never had a dramatist read (at the Writers
Harvest reading)," Beauchamp said.



Other participants include Debra Allbery, an Ann
Arbor poet; Laura Kasischke, a Chelsea poet and nov-
elist; and Anton Shammas, a poet and novelist who
has taught at the University.
Allbery also said she was pleased with the variety
of writers selected. "I don't know the work of Anton
Shammas and OyamO very well,
so I'm looking forward to
E V I E W becoming acquainted with
Drs Harvest them," she said.
Tonight at 7:30 The writers who will take part
ckham Amphitheater in this event appear to be looking
donation at the door forward to the reading, as well.
"It's a very good cause. I was
pleased to be asked," said Kasischke, a University
alum and instructor at Washtenaw Community
OyamO agreed with this assessment. "I think these
are good ways to make a social contribution to people
who are really needful. It's an honor to help people,
and it's part of your responsibility as a citizen," he
Allbery pointed out another benefit of the event.
"It's a nice opportunity to read, too," she said. "I've
only been in Ann Arbor the past couple of years, and

haven't met a lot of writers. I'm looking forward to
reading in a new town."
Beauchamp expects that audiences will responE
with the same enthusiasm and make this reading a
popular one. With a suggested donation of $5, she prod
jected that the event would raise between $1,000 and
"One year we raised the second-highest amount-in
the U.S.," Beauchamp said. "It's usually pretty well-
Some of the participants even think that the
University should sponsor more readings to benefit
charitable organizations.
"I think if they're really a success and seem to
help, it's not a bad idea to do things like this:' said
Allbery agreed, saying the importance of such
events was in "the awareness that Share Our Strength
and other events like this can raise."
For now, though, audiences can attend the Writers
Harvest reading to help others and also experience an
enjoyable literary evening.
As Beauchamp said, "There are four different
writers - there's always something you're interested

PlaywrIght OyamO will read at tonight's Writers Harvest.

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