2001-10-12 / The Tape-beatles are pleased to take advantage of a brief pause in their tour of the upper Midwest to jot down a few notes and toss a few pictures into the air for your browsers to pull in from the great electronic beyond. So far, it is fair to say, that this jag in our jaunt has led us to both pinnacles of joy and pits of dismality. Let us tell you all about it.
At the Library. A poorly publicized (we blame only ourselves) open rehearsal at ‘Meeting Room A’ of the Iowa City Public Library on 25 September was attended by some six people. Mitigating these circumstances, those who stayed to the end expressed enthusiasm for the program. Not any the less buoyed by this meager response, we set out for Minneapolis and the Sound Unseen film and music festival with high hopes (tempered by reason).
At the Cinema. Our presentation at the Oak Street Cinema, 30 September, in addition to its being the world premiere of our film Good Times, marked at least two interesting technical firsts for the Tape-beatles. In the first instance, some of the sound used on the soundtrack to our film was taken from surround-encoded audio sources. This encoding endured throughout our convoluted processes of editing and remixing, and we were delighted to find that on the theatre’s excellent sound system, our mix preserved many delightful surround effects present in the source audio, but long thought lost. Secondly, this presentation marked the first time we had ever presented our work in an actual movie theatre, complete with popcorn sales in the lobby, a fact that we as staunch cinephiles appreciated muchly.
After a blistering opening set by Minneapolis’s Escape Mechanism, The Tape-beatles launched into their show, which came off nearly perfectly from a technical standpoint. Fifty-three minutes later, after a round of applause, our two protagonists (The Tape-beatles) found themselves at the front of the room for some heady Q and A. Our repartée crackled with the verve drawn from an appreciative audience, and we later agreed in private that the show had gone well.
Most of the remaining evenings of the festival found us attending riveting gigs by Wet Gate, Steev Hise, Jon ‘Wobbly’ Leidecker, John Oswald, and many excellent films with music as a main theme. Sound Unseen organizer Nate Johnson deserves our applause and appreciation for the fine job he did putting it all together.
At the Museum. On the final evening of our Minneapolis visit, we participated in a panel discussion, “I Love Trash”, at the Walker Art Center. Moderating the discussion was Kembrew McLeod, and present on stage were members of Wet Gate and The Tape-beatles, as well as Steev Hise (who, we might point out, in addition to being a musician and performer, is also the sysadmin for Detritus.net). We each presented samples of our work and briefly introduced ourselves, and then let the audience and moderator pick us apart with questions concerning our views on intellectual property. The only failing of the proceedings was that it was too short by half: by the time our hour was up, we were really just getting wound up.
After a nice meal and the Sound Unseen closing night party, we dragged our weary bones back to the hotel in anticipation of the next jag of shows in what is generally understood to be ‘the windy city.’
To Chicago. We loaded our rental car early in the morning and drove off with Steev Hise as a passenger to Chicago, for our 5 October performance with Steev and Wet Gate at a space called 6 Odum. For arranging this space and promoting the show, we owe our undying gratitude to Tom Comerford. After wrestling with rush hour traffic, we arrived in time to find Wet Gate already setting up their gear. So we set to the task of putting ours up, and in a little while the show began. The audience continued to trickle in as Hise began his set, improvising with a database of sound, The Syntagm Engine, on his Linux-based laptop to a pre-edited video tape. Next we did our “Good Times”, which of course its being new is the object of our tour. Capping off the evening was Wet Gate’s signature three-projector improvisation using sound from their sizable collection of 16mm film loops, manipulated live, creating a panoply of shimmering effects with the picture track, too.
While pleased with the show itself, which came off without hitch nor gaffe, the audience turnout was low. The people who did attend, however, seemed pleased that they had made the effort. And, of course, we were pleased to have them.
We continued our jaunt two nights later with our 7 October show at the Empty Bottle. We had high hopes of success here, as we remembered our last engagement at this club in April 1999 turned out to be a highly successful and satisfying endeavor. Alas, it was not to be so on this night. Turnout, again, was sparse (some blamed it on the start of US retaliatory bombing on Afghanistan) and, for whatever reason, the audience seemed distracted and more interested in their conversations at the bar than in our set. To be fair, a bar is not a cinema, and to present works such as our own in such a space leverages neither the facility nor the interests of its usual clientele. On the other had, about half of the patrons did sit and watch show, and responded enthusiastically at presentation’s end. A disappointing gig, but that’s how it goes some times.
The next afternoon, we made the trip downtown to do a workshop presentation in Lou Malozzi’s sound production class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The bemused students seemed varyingly interested in our work, and it was certainly interesting for us to add their impressions to our collection of public reactions to our work.
We finished our Chicago sojourn with John Heck’s appearance (Lloyd had acquired a cold and stayed in) at a live improvisation as part of an event called Driftworks 4, organized by Milan Bobysud, a friend of ours and Prague-to-Chicago transplant.
What’s Next? You may well ask that question, and believe you me, we are willing to tell you. Just keep an eye on the upper right hand extreme of this page. Whenever shows are pending, a box marked Upcoming Shows will appear just below ‘Site Directory’ with the basic details. And keep those cards, letters, and emails coming.
Sites referred to in article
• Sound Unseen
• Some Assembly Required
• Oak Street Cinema
• Escape Mechanism
• Wet Gate
• Walker Arts Center
• Kembrew McLeod
• Empty Bottle
The Tape-beatles would like to thank the following groups and individuals whose hard work and generosity helped make this series of presentations possible.
Nate Johnson, Jon Nelson and all at Sound Unseen
Pamela Johnson and all at the Walker
Tom Comerford, Kent Lambert, Kim Faux and all in Chicago
Rachel Reynolds and Steve McCall