Friday, April 23, 2004

Drift, Saturday, April 17 at the Ridge
The theatre was about 2/3 full, and the atmosphere was strange. Were we here for a concert? Were we here for a film? Two 16-mm projectors and a sound board were set up in the middle of the theatre. A chair, a guitar and an amplifier sat on stage left. Lee Ranaldo came up, sat down, and shuffled papers around for a minute or two. He fiddled with a box to his right and got some ambient sounds going. Two images appeared side by side on the screen behind him—leaves in sunlight. The pictures changed like slides at various rates on each side. I could hear the projectors go tick…tick…tick, tick-tick-tick, tickticktick as their speed altered. They provided the beat, audibly and visually.

Lee picked up his guitar (Fender Mustang or equivalent) and added to the soundscape. It had a very Sonic tuning, and little fragments of SY songs came into my head at times (isn’t that “Teenage Riot”?). He leaned it into the amp, scraped the headstock along the floor, tapped it with a drumstick, and (this was cool) spun the tremolo arm around so that it sounded like a single empty train car going past. On the screen, an antique doll came apart and reassembled itself, while a firework pinwheel spun forwards and backwards sending out, then sucking in, smoke and sparks. At various points, Lee put down his guitar and read some poetry or what sounded like diary entries. The centrepiece of the show was a section about Lee’s impressions of the days after 9/11 as a citizen of NYC. It went from worrying about the air quality, to a bike ride through surreal Manhattan streets, and finally to finding, near the WTC site, several piles of office workers’ shoes on the sidewalk. It was one of those rare 9/11 pieces that did not suck.

“Drift” was a suitable name for this show. All the elements flowed without interruption for 70 minutes or so. I’m sure the show changes a lot from night to night, with different “happy accidents” that only the performers would be aware of during each performance. I think describing it like I’ve tried to here doesn’t really capture Drift’s more ephemeral qualities. Maybe if I got to see it again…

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