Facsimile Magazine, published by Haoyan of America. Volume One, Number Nine, 2007. ISSN 1937-2116.
By Andrew Choate [firstname.lastname@example.org]
My heart lives in the Jazzgalerie in Nickelsdorf, so whenever I want to go visit it I have to go to the Konfrontationen music festival in mid July. 2007 was the tenth anniversary of the first time I came to the festival, and my fourth time overall (my previous visits were in 1997, 2001 and 2005.) This time I brought along a couple of friends who had never been, one who went last year without me and – startle, shock, wow – one of my greatest pals pulled a whopping surprise out of his hat and showed up at the festival 30 minutes before the first concert without telling me or anyone else he was coming. It always turns out that whoever shows up creates a great little group.
After a perfect schnitzel and the big bowl of delicious vinegary salad veggies that come with it, we sat down in the sunny evening and waited for the first set of this year’s fest: Misha Mengelberg and Frank Gratkowski. Hats off to Gratkowski for devising and continuing this duo – it can’t always be easy to play with one of the great legends of improvised music, especially when any audience is going to focus so much of their attention on Misha. But the two really sounded great together, and better than on their recent Leo CD, which is a surprisingly subdued, almost clandestine affair. Onstage at the Jazzgalerie, however, these two were magical partners: Gratkowski’s clarinets and alto sax rang clear with sharp corners and playfully gilded edges while Mengelberg’s technical nonchalance filled the stage with grace. He has such seemingly simple demand over the piano’s keys, and yet builds such headscratchingly twisted and overwhelmingly heartwrenching music, that to see him play live multiplies the confounding nature of how he does what he does. I sank ever deeper into an impenetrable bliss as this duo played. It was just so nice to be back in Nickelsdorf with a deep blue sky, a fish hanging in a birdcage and Mengelberg playing the high end of the piano while the other rested over the top of the instrument.
A delayed encore, fifteen minutes after the set ended (and decided upon only after the musicians chatted with fans and festival organizers,) was an ideal cap to the festival’s start and a fitting illustration of the relaxed manner and unadministerably perfect timing that are so much a part of the Konfrontationen: Misha finished the set by twinkling imaginary airborn piano keys.
The second set on Friday was a quartet that released a CD a couple of years ago, and have been playing together off and on (and whenever schedules allow) for a few years: Franz Hautzinger and Mazen Kerbaj on trumpets, Sharif Sehnaoui on guitar and Helge Hinteregger on sampler. They played a couple of stretched out improvs with their sonics held closely together. Hinteregger, in red pants and dyed red hair, had a microphone type thing attached to his throat, but usually you couldn’t quite hear his direct voice at all: it was like he would open his mouth and twist the sounds from his throat out through his skin, like he was using his mouth as a resonating chamber and amplifying the more deeply internal sounds. And then of course coagulating and timeburning those sounds with effects as he shot them into audibility.
Hautzinger did a lot of long breath-chamber wind-motion stuff with his trumpet, while Kerbaj deconstructed his using a bunch of implements like balloons and a long tube attached to an alto sax mouthpiece, holding the trumpet with his knees. His sounds were more immediately noticeable and connectable to his gestures, which gave his playing a more active feel since the three others worked in a more opaque realm. One great thing about Mazen’s improvising is how he’s always detectable in a group, but he never plays over anyone – he makes sounds that fit, illuminate and spur. Sehnaoui’s guitar was especially subtle, and almost acted as a background foundation that the others worked from, but I do wish he could have been a little louder in the mix since all the stuff he was doing seemed so integral to the direction of the music. And there was also one gorgeous moment at the end of an improv when he played several brief harmonic chords that produced a whoosh of wonderment in me as they became the coda to the preceding sounds. A tightly knit combo.
I ate a couple of ham and cheese saltbread sandwichs and shortly thereafter Barry Guy’s 10-piece New Orchestra took the stage. The BGNO is stocked with musicians of such an ultra-high caliber that it’s almost impossible to believe that they all take the stage at the same time. Agustí Fernández is the piano. Paul Lytton and Raymond Strid are the drums. Hans Koch, Evan Parker and Mats Gustafsson are the reeds. Herb Robertson, Johannes Bauer and Per-Åke Holmlander are the brass. And Barry Guy is the bass and conduction. I saw this band in 2001 at the Konfrontationen (the only difference was Marilyn Crispell on piano) and the set was deeply moving for me and the people around me: I saw more than a couple streams of tears as they wove from one chilling passage to another verdant improv. So I had very high expectations for this ensemble, especially given the fact that they’ve had that much more time to play together as a band. Unfortunately, I was a little dissapointed. Not because anyone played badly, but just because this composition didn’t come together and flow. Alternations between soloist and full ensemble or from one small group to another seemed either rushed or overextended. Also, Barry Guy was positioned on the stage such that his back was to me, and to the 100 people behind me, for most of the concert, which added an unsettling feeling of distance between the rhythmic lynchpin of his bass and my hearing.
In contrast to other times when I’ve seen this band perform, and to their extraordinary CDs, the musicians didn’t have enough chance to do small group improvs; instead, it was mostly soloist against ensemble. One of my favorite moments during the 2001 festival was when Gustafsson stood up and pointed to improvisers to begin playing and then he slowly added people in and conducted an improv. Guy then directed the other members of the ensemble, playing some composed things, and the combination of sublime spontaneity and controlled virtuosity was stunning. However, this performance fell short of the brilliance typical of one of the finest improvising orchestra composers and conductors around. The movement of the composition this year seemed too herky-jerky, and the structure seemed too concerned with who was playing when and not concerned enough with what they were playing.
I do have to say, however, that Herb Roberston’s trumpet and flugelhorn playing really impressed me; I only wished some of the other musicians had gotten a chance to interact with him more directly. And I also loved Per-Åke Holmlander’s tuba getting down with Hans Koch’s long bass-clarinet and Guy’s bass: this was a very highly enriched low end.
While I was left wanting more from this set – and it’s very possible that I just wasn’t able to tune in to what they were up to – one of my pals next to me thought that the BGNO was the best set of the fest. Here’s what he has to say:
By the time Barry Guy's New Orchestra took the stage, I had already been double-primed by back to back sets that acutely revived my cobwebbed memories of how improvised music should be made and how it should be listened to.
Imagine the emotional effect of this set as the first coat of paint applied inside a heretofore abandoned old Victorian house somewhere just outside of downtown LA. The trace smell of intoxicating thinner and acrylic on dust caused fits of involuntary twitching and spasmoid tremors; high on these fumes, the shimmer of something phantasmic stirred in this ghostly wooden bugshell.
Living in an emotionally ravished landscape, such as I had been in the time leading up to my voyage to Nickelsdorf, commands some attendance to decorum, and what better way to celebrate etiquette than high tea with an Englishman. I give special thanks to the fine Phil Minton for providing the pleasant watercress sandwich, and I thank the fine young Nickelsdorf bartenders for the generous cups of tea that preceded this ten-piece outfit.
Any fan of brass bands will sigh in relief when a tuba shows up on stage, and I was immediately enthralled by the bursts and burbles of the entire brass section. And on bass clarinet, Hans Koch made an openly accepted defection into the brass camp using round, lopsided sounds that demanded attention. Meanwhile, Herb Robertson lurked alongside a pair of dagger-clutching horns, biding time for the ides. Evan Parker and Mats Gustafsson stalked patiently and let off stacatto stabs, but initially their ferocity seemed to be caged in restraint, a dynamic I had never seen from either player. My attention shifted to the back of the stage, where a furtive Paul Lytton, hidden behind Agustí Fernández's grand piano, was gathering speed with precise clangs and quick-sticked clatter.
A Lytton-Fernández-Guy rhythm formed into a rapidly spinning nucleus for a coordinated horn section to lob electrons into. These collisions must have shattered the percussion in two, because only after an explosive swell did I recognize Lytton and Raymond Strid playing in tandem. I remember a blistering percussion duet.
So many virtuosos onstage entailed the division of my attentions, and one thing that impressed me was how no matter who I focused on, I liked the sounds that they were making within the group. I could navigate freely through the denser passages and then redirect myself in a series of short solos. Mats traded his dagger in for an antique musket and string of oddly-crafted firecrackers, and Evan swapped for a dragon-shaped kite; Johannes Bauer did a nice snake and snake charmer impression that gave Herb Robertson ants in his pants.
Somewhere here, I really noticed how tightly controlled the playing was. Page turning, attention to Barry's conducting, increasingly scored passages. Barry would move on and off his bass with yearned intention, like he was crushing a stone in his hand. The intensity with which he was conducting seemed to elicit a focused reverence from his band, and the tension between composition and improvisation became a channeled component in the sound.
The piece became in turns more manic: an ascending joy collapsing into profound sadness and relapsing in winding mountain drives. Agustí dropped into a melancholy solo that lacked the twilight sophistication of Misha and his Ellingtonian lineage, but felt fitting and actually sent me into a remebrance of Misha's earlier set. By the time I came out, Barry was tearing Achilles' tendons out of his bass.
I felt myself moving involuntarily to the swings of the orchestra, and the sound really began to move inside me. Descriptions of emotions, as yet inarticulated within, began to rattle my insides. So I stopped scrutinizing the stage. I let the Tentet step into my dusty wooden frame and call out to the memories inside, leaving intimate and lingering whispers as the last sounds faded.
Evoking a fragile language for hidden feelings, the Barry Guy New Orchestra still holds onto a thread in my memory, like a spider in an old Victorian house.
One thing I love about music-making of this quality and honesty is how it triggers the most deeply hidden emotions we have within us.
Next, Han Bennink and Terrie Ex took the stage for a good drum and guitar scrape ’n’ bop. With two duo CDs under their belts and a myriad of shared gigs and tours all over the world, these two clearly have a deep musical affinity. I haven’t heard their second duo recording, but I know the first one that came out in 2000. That disc had an agreeably ferocious edge to it – like they were each trying to jostle each other off a thin plank –, but the music tended to get cornered pretty quickly, and the results were improvs that to my ears were over almost right after they started. Studio work aside, onstage in 2007 their whole approach seemed to have undergone both an amping up and a stretching out. There was a great section where Bennink was sitting on the stage playing the threshold between the carpet under the drums and the raw floor while Terrie pushed his guitar into the stage, tuning keys down, and dragged it in a penguin-shimmy for a couple of feet, striking the strings in rhythmic tango to the percussion emulsifying in every direction.
The immense fun they have playing together was visually and musically obvious. And, to my ears, this set solidified Terrie as one of Han’s greatest sonic stage-foils. They’ve certainly collaborated a lot over the last seven years or so, and have you heard the great stuff from that Ex + Guests double CD that came out in 1995? Find it!
Mengelberg and Brötzmann are clearly Han’s other preeminent collaborators, but this set prompted me to imagine Bennink playing in a small group with Mats Gustafsson: they both have unboundable vigor and both of them swing equally hard across the spectrum from insect to energy music. Yeah, I saw them play together during the Music Unlimited XVII festival in Wels, but that was with five other folks. They need to tear it up and smooth it out mano-a-mano. There are things they need to say to each other and to nobody else.
Terrie and Han played an entire set of music with a deep smile molded into their faces and bodies – so nice to witness. And so easy to tell that playing with each other is a fierce thrill for each of them. By the time I wandered back to my sleeping bag to nab some Zs, I was completely exhausted and totally enlivened.
I didn’t end up a with a bounty of sleep that night since the sun was already up when my head went down, and by the time it crawled into my tent its heat was relentless. I battled back with the infamous, breath-haltingly cold shower at the campground. Had a delicious omelette for breakfast and put my voice back together with some tea, then headed downstairs at the Jazzgalerie for rehearsal with Phil Minton’s Feral Choir. I can’t give you the details of this rehearsal (you know, because of trade secrets, matters of international intelligence transmission embargoes, ensemble breaching waivers, keys to social barrier dissolution, etc.) but I was buoyantly rejuvenated in that primal way that only the act of collaborative art-making awakens.
The afternoon concerts take place 6 kilometers away at the Kleylehof, a small artist commune in the middle of farming fields – see the rows of grain? see the deer? see the piles of corn? – populated by a couple of large converted barns and storehouses.
The exciting thing about the ride over was that I found myself sitting in the backseat of a car with the artist who made the poster for the festival: this was the woman who put the fishbone in the birdcage! Not only that, she ate the fish! Later, my friends insisted that we had to get the recipe for the fish, and of course we did. So here’s how you make Konfrontationen fish, 2007 style, courtesy of Elvira Faltermeier:
Stuff dorade with thyme
Brush with olive oil
Grill till done
Sprinkle a little salt, squeeze a little lemon juice
Eat, leaving all bones intact
Photograph carcass against superb purpley, reddish and brown wood
Hang in birdcage
Swivel in wind against deep blue sky as music plays
Once we arrived at the Kleylehof I got a white wine spritzer and headed into the dark warehouse – it had a nice cooling effect since it was so sizzling hot outside (rumors of the hottest recorded temps in Austrian history floated about.) The first band was Ensemble Sonderfall: Burkhard Stangl on guitars, Hautzinger on trumpets, noid on cello, Cordula Boesze on flutes and Susanna Gartmayer on alto sax and bass clarinet. They were all arranged around a center table with small desk lamps pointed at the floor in front of each musician. They played two compositions.
I may be wrong, but here’s how I thought the first one was created: each musician turned on the mic and amp in front of their instrument, and listened to the feedback and overtones created, making small adjustments as necessary. However it was crafted, there is one thing I’m sure of: it was insanely beautiful. The overtones bled into the air. Feedback layers melted each other. Feedback is such a cheap, shallow word that it barely denotes the depth of these sounds, so full of physically waving modulations and tonalities. The vital non-human juice that feeds every instrument leaked out and commingled.
It wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t particularly soft, but the tones’ gorgeousness grew and grew until it was so inescapably beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.
And then that composition was over and I had to shake myself and move to another part of the room. From this view I could see what the musicians were doing better, and they changed their approach on the next number and picked up their instruments to improvise in more traditional, but still extended, ways. Using foot pedals, every instrumentalist could also control the lamp in front of anyone else. I have no idea what the lamp turning on or off in front of someone else signified or directed that person to do, but the improvisation they produced was enthralling, and in a completely different way than the preceding piece. They used lots of small gestural and textural sounds, somehow creating even layers made out of scatter. I loved it. And it may just have been the morning dew of my consciousness fully waking up, but a trickle of bodysaltwater formed on the corner of my eyes during this composition as well. Probably because I was so damn happy to be in Nickelsdorf at the Kleylehof listening to such well-conceived and expertly-executed music.
Before the next set I went and got another white wine spritzer and loped around in the shade of the Kleylohof gardens. When I left the boiling shine outside and moseyed my way back into the cool warehouse, it was so dark inside that I completely lost my sense of perspective and could move forward only by following the barest outline of the person walking in front of me. I ended up all the way at the front of the stage where Pendler was starting up, and took a place over to the right where I could see all the video projection they had going behind and over them. Pendler is a trio: Markus Marte, Sabine Marte and Oliver Stotz; they were the only ensemble playing at the festival that I didn’t know anything about. Typical for the Konfrontationen, they blew my fucking mind.
I felt awe, peace, jealousy, gratitude and zest while watching their show. I nodded my head so much that the pumping of my blood felt like a bassline. They played covers like “Proud Mary” (which they call “Good Job”) and “When the Saints Come Marching In” (Pendlerdubbed as “The Saints”) as well as a bunch of originals, each tune with different video accompaniment. Singing only a couple of key lines from the Fogerty original – “Left a good job in the city/ working for a man all night and day” – but singing and playing them so super-slowly was totally captivating. When I say slow though, you have to slow your conception of slow down by at least half; I’m talking on-the-verge-of-somnambulance-slow. “Rollin’……….………….Rollin’………………………Rollin’”
These were standards and rock songs thinned down to their most crucial elements, and then repeated with unbreakable solemnity. Using a computer and keyboards in addition to the vocals, bass and guitar, they also added small but rich samples into the crevices of the measures: sometimes squeaky and tweaky, sometimes rumbling and muffly – but always short, exact and perfectly dropped. They expressed a deep love of pop music through an entrancing debasement of it.
A lot of the videos they use involve found footage that they edit, and a couple of them were edited so that a specific sequence of 1 or 2 seconds would repeat over and over again, with the images moving forward or backward in time in tiny increments. The way I’m describing these may be incomprehensible, so just go to pendler.klingt.org and check out some of the videos up there, keeping in mind that these are edited and nowhere like a live performance with the band in front and moving all about.
One of my favorite songs they did was an original titled “Cathy Anger.” Imagine the space where the videos were projected as a black square. Divide the square evenly into a grid of 9 blocks (no lines demarcating the grid.) Sabine stood on a milkcrate and placed herself so that her face was in the middle block of this grid. The song started with a very rhythmic keyboard plop
type ditty and a white light flashed and moved from one block of this grid to another. It was always flashing fast, but would stay in the same place for different lengths of time, and move in random patterns around the grid. When it was on the middle block, Sabine’s face was lit up. She didn’t change her posture or expression at all when the light was on her. It was kind of scary. She was speak-singing about cars and death. “You can kill someone with a car.” Her tone varied from flat monologue to singing monologue. “A car is a weapon and you are inside it.”
It was an intense number, but it wasn’t only strong and dark: there was some deep humor and absurdity involved with the lyrics and the chosen style of delivery. “My lawyer told me you can kill somebody with a car.” I’d call it deadpan comedy condemnation.
These folks in Pendler didn’t make a sound that wasn’t well-placed. Which is kind of amazing for a rock outfit, but made perfect sense in the context of the Konfrontationen, with its focus on top-notch improvisation. Part of what makes Pendler great is that they take rock seriously. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, but it’s also serious, and not dismissible as just fun. Their seriousness was very European: not ironic or self-indulgent, unlike so many contemporary American musicians who think of themselves as Artists. Pendler’s attitude was “we perform, we have fun doing it, we take it seriously, and it’s art, fine fucking art.” Also strikingly un-American: there was nothing personal about who played what in this band: instruments didn’t belong to individual people, and any instrument could be played by anyone else. I loved that.
Their one release so far was recorded back in 2004 for Karate Joe, and they’ve slowed things down even more since that recording. It’s inevitable that musicians and artists who have crafted such a unique aesthetic sensibility would continue to develop after playing for three more years together, so when you get the record, which is great, keep that in mind.
I’d love to describe every moment of audio and video togetherness that emblazoned itself on my brain during this set, but that would take 70,000 more words; however, I do have to mention a certain video loop they used. A swiveling camera circled around a lush evergreen tree, matrix-style, on the side of a mountain, like it was being filmed from a hyperspeed ski-lift. This loop recurred a couple of times, and mesmerized me each time. Here’s the thing: the video editing techniques they used and the audio structures they used weren’t original – I’ve seen plenty of slowed-down film in my time and there are a bunch of bands that redo classic songs –, but the way Pendler have refined these techniques and put them altogether into one complete show is immaculate.
After a hearty, tasty peppersteak back at the Jazzgalerie restaurant for dinner, it was time for Saturday’s lineup. The first set featured German trombonist Johannes Bauer with the expatriate Australian rhythm section of Clayton Thomas on doublebass and Tony Buck on drums, both of whom now live in Berlin. I was only familiar with one recording of Thomas’ work before this show, his stellar duo with Robin Fox, so I was keen to hear him live, while I had seen both Buck and Bauer in several different combinations, though never together. Buck and Thomas went right at each other for the duration of this set, and proved to be one of those great rhythm section combos that get so inextricably intertwined with each other that there is no official distinction between where one ends and the other begins.
But this was a trio. So how did Bauer react? He used the strong, crisp tone he has on trombone to push inside the rhythm section and sputter and bellow and maw. Bauer has such a large sound on trombone that sometimes he overpowers folks he’s playing with, sucking the air right out of other musicians’ sounds and blowing back his signature bursts instead, but there was no way he was going to flatten Thomas and Buck, so the combination of the three proved to be both hyperactive and dense. Stop on a dime, hand over fist improv.
While watching this trio I was looking at all the accoutrements Thomas brought with him to play his bass – all the sticks and strings and pipes and rods and goofy stuff that improvisers collect to bounce off their instruments and produce novel, beautiful combinations of sounds – and I thought about the explanations he would have to give carrying such a mixed bag of seemingly random junk at the airport, and also how difficult it can be to explain to people (including loved ones, family, etc) what kind of music is made at Nickelsdorf. It’s just so nice to finally be at a place where you don’t have to explain or qualify what it is you do or what it is you love about the kind of music that happens here – everyone knows.
The next ensemble was eagerly anticipated by me and my cohorts, as it featured a sextet of great improvisers ostensibly playing “Appalachian music.” Clearly a Eugene Chadbourne brainchild, the group was filled out by master drummer and percussionist Paul Lovens, adept doublebassist Joe Williamson, vocalist extraordinaire Phil Minton, violin wizard Cedric Privé (he’s got some great recordings on Leo with the Doc) and captivating lapsteel guitarist Mike Cooper. DocChad played banjo for the duration of the set, and was kind enough to supply me with a setlist of the idiosyncratic classics and traditionals from the public domain that the band ran through in Appalachian/improviser style:
As just the second time this ensemble had played together doing these kinds of tunes (the first was over a year before in France, and with a different bassist,) they sounded astonishingly tight to my ears. The set was basically a continuous medley spurred on by moments of total improvisation within, around and underlying each proper tune. A song would end, improvising would get going, Chadbourne would gradually improvise into the beginning melody of a tune, Lovens would pick up on it and CRACK! – suddenly the whole ensemble would be swinging a mad jamboree. Chadbourne sang most of the vocal leads, but the two tunes Cooper sang – Steve Earle’s “The Mountain” and Bobby Edward’s “You’re the Reason” – expressed a plaintive gravity that alluded to other depths that this standard material uncovered within the band. At opportune, interstitial moments Cooper also slipped little electronic whips and whirrs into the fold. Minton, rather than perform as some sort of background chorus, used his voice like any of the other instrumentalists, blending in to accent the overall sound of the music. He developed a kind of free yodeling that somehow blended Alpine and Appalachian forms into one fantastic blizzard of international mouth music.
Privé’s violin sound bobbed fluidly between traditional bluegrass and textural screech – both of which were necessary components of the complete sound of this group. Williamson did a superb job of keeping all the musicians together, which is no small feat for a bassist dealing with the craziness of the key and time changes that improvising through this music imposes. Lovens always swings, but this kind of repertoire lit up his dexterity under a bright spotlight: he can play anything, and it’s clear that he has a blast, often literally, playing old songs. Working in the vernacular of iconographic imagery allows a painter’s style and substance to stand out from the past row of familiar renditions, just as hearing Lovens play classic country tunes opened up a widely illuminating perspective on how he approaches music and rhythm in general. The implied and understated downbeats that are all over his improvised work were put in relief by these standards. Other drummers playing steady beats sound stiff in comparison, while he makes every repetition of a rhythm sound fresh. So soft, so exact. From a drifting cymbal shake to a rolling mallet slap, this context underscored how his timing and tone just can’t be beat.
This was my favorite set of the festival, and Chadbourne deserves a wave of credit for envisioning not only the potential rewards of revisiting and rearranging this musical material, but for knowing what musicians to invite to make it come alive the way it did. Not only that, his arrangement of Beefheart’s “Orange Claw Hammer,” which holds a dear place in my heart as an a cappella van Vliet masterpiece, was breathtaking. The line “A jackrabbit raised its folded ears” has always touched a deep-rooted nerve that runs through my particular senses of humor and appreciation; hearing it from the stage at the Jazzgalerie with such rich accompaniment, bravado and respect struck a bottomless chord of contentment and elation inside me. Later in the set, they broke into Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind,” a song I didn’t know but which immediately found a home in me since the first line mentions South Carolina – the place where I was born – and then goes on to tell a story about being in a faraway place, in a faraway field, far from home and thinking of S.C. The funny thing of course is that South Carolina may be my birth home, but Nickelsdorf is my spiritual home, and the song tangled all my feelings about each place together, just the way they reside in me.
The Pendler set earlier in the afternoon and the New Directions in Appalachian Music set later that night might not seem to have much in common, but they both embraced a serious love for the well-crafted song and the pleasure of transforming that love and the song form into musical territory that is natural to neither.
I had a beer between sets and then the Norwegian trio Huntsville took the stage. I first saw Huntsville’s drummer Ingar Zach in 2001, and have been trying to keep up with his music ever since. It hasn’t been a steady, predictable path. His first recordings on the Sofa label and with TriDim presented him as a bit of a jittery-skittery, stop-and-start-real-fast, kind of drummer. A twitchy spark. I loved that music. Then, in 2004, Sofa released solo and duo records by him that introduced a radical change of methodology, as his percussion focus narrowed to long form improvs and drones. A similar development occurred with guitarist, labelmate and fellow Huntsvillian Ivar Grydeland, who recorded duo records with Zach in both 2001 and 2004. I find both these kinds of music-making alluring, but they almost seemed to be by different musicians. I hadn’t had an opportunity to see these guys play live in quite some time, so I was keen to hear what they’d be up to in 2007. Rewardingly, it appeared that Zach and Grydeland have learned how to blend the slow development of layers with their earlier focus on the importance of every sound’s physical properties.
Joined by doublebassist Tonny Kluften, Huntsville crafted an impeccably paced long improv that slowly got more amped up and twisted and then just as slowly ebbed back down. Grydeland stuck to banjo for the beginning of the set, then later switched to a futuristic-looking pedal steel guitar, and finally finished with a ‘regular’ electric guitar. It couldn’t have been easy following a set where both banjo and steel guitar had just been prominently featured, but Grydeland held his own by psychedelicizing both banjo and pedal steel. This set reminded me more of a psychedelic jam than anything else in fact, and at the peak of the set they got into some seriously groovy regions. The only snag was that they were taking the music so close to such wild and funky places that they seemed poised on the verge of really laying into the groove that they created, but never pushed themselves far enough into it to reach the ecstatic heights that the music suggested. And while the groove was dense and weird and very pleasant to listen to, their stage presence was so minimal that they seemed aloof even to each other: I don’t think Zach or Kluften looked up from what they were doing once, while Grydeland had his eyes open and was actively following both of their actions for practically the entire set. It was a little strange and I wasn’t sure what to make of it since the music, when I closed my eyes, was totally eerie and swinging, with that pedal steel bending chords so hard they ended up practically backwards.
It’s probably more my own misconception about what kind of stage presence musicians should have when rocking this damn hard. Huntsville’s music is so singular that it’s tricky to define: improv, rock, electronica, folk? I also think their sound is so unique that they need to spend a little time questioning how to present it in live performance: where should they play? How should the audience view them? What scenarios work best for long-duration improv? Etc. With just one recording released so far, I’ll be playing close attention to where they go next.
I think it was a tiny blunder on the part of the festival organizers to have Hunstville follow the Appalachian guys, not only because of the instrumental similarities, but also because Huntsville makes a very night-oriented music, and their music sounds better the deeper into the night that it gets played: they could have gone on one set later and colored the whole night with a long freaky jam. The only reason this kind of slip is even noticeable, however, is because the rest of the festival is so well-curated and ordered. Most other festivals that feature this kind of music don’t have enough variety from one set to another to have it matter what order things appear in, so it’s only the Konfrontationen’s strength in this regard that makes this misstep apparent.
While I think the free improv of the Townsville Quartet would have sounded excellent after the structured mayhem of the Appalachian action, the Townsville Quartet would sound fantastic anytime, anywhere. It’s Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on doublebass, Paal Nilssen-Love on drums, Evan Parker on tenor and soprano saxophones and Sten Sandell on piano. I think Sten Sandell is the most inventive improvising pianist alive today. I’ve been lucky enough to see him play live on a semi-regular basis ever since the first time Gush came to Chicago in 1996, and my fondness for his playing springs from both the proximity and regularity within which I’ve been able to experience his music. And then there’s the sheer viscerality, intelligence and originality he brings to his approach of the instrument. The word that best describes him is RESPONSIVE. He’s like a raw nerve on stage: ultra-sensitive to the sonic activities of his collaborators, the demands of the moment and the overall structure of an improv. He quivers with inciteful ideas and is agile enough to respond with any combination of his voice, the piano or the percussion within and around a piano. The sporadic use of his voice, in particular, can rapidly change the direction of the music or provide instant intensity to an exchange.
I don’t take any notes while any of the bands at the Konfrontationen are playing, and after talking to Randono a month after this set, we both realized that we didn’t remember any particular moment within this quartet. Not because we were distracted or tired, but because we were both listening so hard. Free improvisation can be so completely engrossing that after it’s over the only thing you’re aware of is the scent of it on your flesh. It passes right over and through you, and you’re so concentrated and aware of what’s going on onstage that once the stage is empty, that was it. It’s in the hair that grew while you were listening. It’s now inside you.
I don’t recollect any individual sound from these guys; the only event I remember from this set is a moment when the music was going very fast but petering out just as quickly, and Håker Flaten, Nilssen-Love and Sandell all made the decision to break for a moment just as Parker got ignited and took a solo. The trio listened intently to Parker’s eloquently mercurial lines and, as the solo waned, the trio came in and Parker took a rest. The distinct juxtaposition of the venerable English saxophonist’s sound with this other generation of tightly connected Scandinavian improvisers impressed me with how so much individuality and uniqueness can sometimes be the ideal recipe for a seamless musical blend. This band sounded damn fine together, and it wasn’t until the parts separated themselves a little bit for me that I realized just how exceptional each of the components were.
Absorbing so much outstanding music in such a short amount of time requires a lot of stamina. I fortified myself with the delicious food from the restaurant, a couple of campari sodas and lots of beer. When I finally put my head down to go to sleep, all I could see were Sandell’s fingers coming down like spiders on the piano: hands perfectly parallel to the keys, fingers moving frenetically underneath, like so many legs spinning so many webs.
My breakfast on Sunday consisted of noodlesoup and a spinach strudel. The savory tomato sauce floating around the encrusted green leaves and little white cheese blocks produced a gorgeous and scrumptious color palette to start the day. Back at the Kleylehof, the day’s first set was Ronnie Rocket’s Barkestra, a sextet featuring Ronnie on drums and vocals, DD Kern on drums, Philip Quehenberger on keyboards, Mike Willow on guitar, Marco Eneidi on alto sax and Thomas Berghammer on trumpet. The set started with an immediate detonation of free jazz which completely ruptured my morning daze. It felt good to get blasted awake.
Monsieur Rocket was also an entrancing presence when using the mic at the front of the stage; he sang and chanted about space like some truly otherwordly combination of Peter Murphy and Sun Ra. His sleazy hip-swirls and shiny skintight euroshirt just added to the bizarre strength of his stage persona. However, after 30 minutes of pounding, my morning self just couldn’t take any more and I went outside for fresh air and lung exercises in preparation for my part in Phil Minton’s Feral Choir.
I was glad that I had seen all the guys in the Barkestra the previous Monday night at the jam session in the basement of Vienna’s Celeste (great food too.) They mixed themselves up that night and played in all sorts of smaller combinations of the sextet, and I was able to give them more focused attention than I could that morning at the Kleylehof (15:30 is morning time during the Konfrontationen, OK.) Berghammer’s trumpet tone at both gigs was especially clear, and several of my pals commented admiringly on it. Kern’s drumming was infectiously chaotic and bruising and I appreciated that he was keen enough to bounce from pummeling stick flights to steady four beat time signatures with enough strong aplomb to keep a flock of migratory whooping cranes airborne. And Quehenberger’s keyboard. Damn that cheap rack of plastic has a killer sound – it’s got a superfuzz rumble that, in combination with his hand-over-hand, prowling-and-pushing style of attacking the keys, actually comes pretty close to Sun Ra’s sound and demeanor on video recordings like “Space is the Place” and “A Joyful Noise.”
Since I was one of the 30 vocalists in Phil Minton’s Feral Choir, I think it’s my duty to say that our performance was the most joyful and rewarding set for every single attendee at the festival. I love objectivity. It really was an insane amount of fun to be a part of: surrounded onstage by not only great musicians like Frank Gratkowski, DD Kern and Paul Lovens, but also by a bunch of the wonderful, marvelous folks who volunteer at the festival, who put so much time, effort and love into keeping everyone fed and making it all happen. And then there are those who love the Konfrontationen and try to attend every year. All of us joining in and giving our voices to the choir.
Minton must have a ball aiming all the voices – he taught us enough signals and directions during the rehearsals that he could rapidly control the movement and texture of the mass of vibrating vocal chords. During the performance I could hear the 5 or 6 voices in my immediate vicinity very well, while the total group sound was on a second tier of awareness in the background. Situated directly behind the cavorting Konfrontationen mastermind Hans Falb, I was delirious with delight and vocal articulation. I loved that Minton turned around and directed the audience at the end of the performance, and that the audience responded so enthusiastically (I saw a Feral Choir in Baltimore in 2005 and nothing like this was happenable.) This set was a personal highlight for me, and I’m glad that my friends in the audience said it also reached profound heights for them.
For dinner before the Sunday concerts, I knew I needed a schnitzel – it was going to be my last meal at the Jazzgalerie restaurant, and that vinegar veggie salad had been temptingly dancing in my mind all afternoon. We shared a table with a guy from a nearby village who has been coming to the festival since the late 80s. His initial impetus to attend came from the intrigue he felt listening to everything he heard people saying about the music that happens at the Jazzgalerie; that intrigue, over time, became passion. So much for the supposed ‘inaccessibility’ of this music: when it’s there, people find it and love it.
The first set of Sunday evening, while the sunlight was still out, was a quartet of Italians: Antonio Borghini on doublebass, Alberto Braida on piano, Edoardo Maraffa on tenor and alto sax and Fabrizio Spera on percussion. I’ve admired Spera’s free-floating and fierce-firework percussion on a couple of discs – the trio with Wolfgang Fuchs and Thomas Lehn especially – but I kept those memories somewhere deep in the back of my mind and hoped sincerely that this band was actually going to play some composed tunes. Closely following so much improvised music over the three days had taken a toll on my senses, so I needed a little respite from the freeform, as welcome and wonderful as all the sounds had been. So when these guys started out with total improv, I sagged a little, knowing that it was going to be a bit of an endurance test for me to stay attentive. Luckily, they didn’t get into any squallfests or attempt to shadowpunch one another with slambringers. They played solid, pleasant stuff and I had moments where each musician attracted my concentration. But only rarely could I digest the full ensemble’s sound. My lack of engagement with this set should be chalked up to my own body’s deluded desire to hear some jazz numbers at that moment, rather than a lack of intensity on the part of the musicians.
A couple of wine spritzers later and I had gladly perked up for Tony Buck’s reappearance on the stage, this time in a duo with pianist and fellow Berlin resident Magda Mayas. Improvised duos have lots of pitfalls to avoid: levels of alertness and/or talent can be too disparate, the speed of interaction may never sync, one person can try too hard to push the music in a certain direction, etc. But from the very first sounds they made and all the way to the final tones of the encore, these two were in perfect balance throughout. Tightly intertwined at the level of both the sonic material they pursued and the rhythmic pointillism with which they went about their journey, they stunned me into wide-eyed, open-mouthed attention.
Even their minuscule pauses overlapped. And when they didn’t, it was as if they were just making room to highlight and frame what the other was doing. Mayas spent more than half the set standing up and playing the inside of the piano - striking it with her fingers and nails, and little objects like credit cards, chopsticks, string, tape, balls, etc. By the time she laid a couple digits on the keys, she seemed a touch surprised by how good the piano sounded from their vantage as she gradually, almost reluctantly, came to a seat in front of them. Once she did, however, she only occasionally leapt back up from the bench to thump some interior strings.
Pianos are naturally percussive instruments, and especially so when attacked from the inside, and this piano/drum duo exploited that overlap of sonority with exquisite concentration. Buck and Mayas were completely wrapped up inside each other’s sonics. There was no mimicry from one sound to the next, but everything they did was complementary. The spectrum of sounds used wasn’t especially large, but the context within which they played the sounds made the narrative difference between delicate and violent absolutely apparent and meaningful. A taut, highly successful combo.
It was nice to see musician Christof Kurzmann, who wasn’t playing at this year’s fest, attending and seemingly enjoying all the shows. It reminded me how much I enjoyed the improv scene in London, since musicians would always be out at gigs following what their fellow improvisers were up to. Artists interested and engaged in the work their colleagues do seems to be a highly potent portent of a city and community’s cultural vitality: Vienna and London being two fantastic hubs of improvisation.
The next set was chaotic and disorderly and maybe even a defeat. Hey, that’s an omnipresent risk of improvisation. Dubbed “Oslo-Beirut” in the program, it was scheduled to include Kerbaj and Sehnaoui from Beirut; Grydeland, Zach and Nilssen-Love from Oslo; Nickelsdorf’s own Hans Falb (turntables), Georg Gräwe (piano) and Marco Eneidi (alto sax,) plus Susanna Gartmeyer, who I’m guessing is from Vienna. That’s nine folks. Before they took the stage, three more folks had been invited to join the conglomeration : Kluften and Håker Flaten on doublebasses and Cooper on lap steel and electronics. That’s twelve people total scheduled to perform.
It had been a long time since I’d seen a group this size attempt a freely improvised set, and the clichéd conceit that large group improv is often a recipe for disaster – and rarely transcendence – was everywhere in evidence. It started off slowly and sensitively enough, with small brushes and scrapes from the drummers and Falb getting some intriguing warbles out of his decks as little balls spun around in the grooves on his records.
Breathy stuff from Kerbaj and Gartmayer followed. By the time everyone entered the soundmaking arena, it was difficult to distinguish who was doing what as almost all the sounds were so timid and investigative, everyone waiting to see what would stick. Without warning, I realized I wasn’t following anything. Not the movement of the total group or any one musician. I tried to get a grasp of the music and I couldn’t. Gartmayer was bubbling away on bass clarinet and Eneidi was running up and down the alto, but I couldn’t hear how anything fit together. I decided to change seats and found myself on the side of the stage, with Kluften, Grydeland and Cooper in front of me. Kluften had a set of organ-like pedals in front of him and I realized I hadn’t heard a thing he was doing from my previous vantage: he was playing the pedals and getting gorgeous, thick ringing tones that dissolved completely once they hit the mush of the group sound. It seemed like nothing was holding together.
And then two musicians, a female alto saxophonist and a male trumpet player, walked on stage and crowded around Eneidi’s microphone. So now we had 14 people on stage. To make matters worse, we had another doubling up of instruments that were already there, bringing us up to 2 alto saxes, 2 trumpets, 2 doublebasses, 2 drummers, 3 guitarists, a piano player, a turntablist and a bass-clarinetist. The sounds seemed to be competing rather than the musicians collaborating.
But while I was over on the side of the stage enjoying Kluften’s rich chords, one of my pals noticed this interaction onstage:
After a rough and incongrous passage of playing, “Oslo-Beirut” seemed to be collapsing into a needed silence - the frustration was visible on the faces of half the players...Hans Falb, the Konfrontationen's own visionary festival director, had made a nice showing up to this point - playing light crackles and textured vinyl warbles. But he jumped on this quiet moment with an intensely focused enthusiasm. Before a hand could clap away the last passage, Falb let the soft, enchanting piano lines of “Fleurette Africaine” draw us out of the morass.
Though I've heard several versions of this song, I am most familiar with Ellington's treatment on Money Jungle, which, if I’m not mistaken, was the one that he dropped. The willowy line sang and quieted, and then again from the beginning of the phrase, delicately layered by Falb. That Roach, Mingus, and Ellington had such a notoriously conflicted session during the making of this record made its inclusion here ever more poignant, as though Falb was saying, “You see, we all have trouble playing together sometimes.”
And, like Ellington, Hans seemed to be the broker of peace, inviting his band back to try once again. The reference was not lost on Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, who waited a few moments for Falb's reworking of the phrase to build before he added the Mingus part from the beginning of the song. That haunting bass line, half a note and half a ricocheting arch of texture, sent shivers through me.
Much thanks for these observations, Mr. Randono. So many things happen between musicians and within each audience member during an improvisation that hearing a bunch of perspectives afterwards can sometimes be as fascinating as the music itself. Not often – we’re all here for the music – but sometimes.
“Oslo – Beirut” had a lot of problems; the biggest was too many people onstage. While I love all the musicians who were asked to join in on this set at the last minute, it could have been better if it stuck with its original lineup: 10 or more improvisers can quickly get into unwieldy territory that is overly strenuous to salvage. If even one person struggles to pick up on the zeitgeist of a particular improv, it is often enough to derail the entire ensemble. Or this set could have followed its title, “Oslo–Beirut”, and just featured folks from those two cities. Or call it “Oslo-Beirut-Nickelsdorf,” invite Lovens up there and experiment with permutations of trios before opening the gates for the full ensemble. And while I loved how Eneidi sounded with Ronnie Rocket, his alto tone didn’t seem to fit with this kind of improvising. It was like Frank Wright blowing with AMM: the aesthetics didn’t gel. It’s too bad because there are so many smaller groupings within this large ensemble that I would love to hear – Kerbaj and Gräwe and Cooper, Sehnaoui and Falb and Nilssen-Love both spring to mind. Smaller groups just have more leeway to incorporate disparate styles, as the musicians have more room to listen to each other and focus in on what’s needed, but this band never found their place.
There was one more set before the festival was finished, and it was a monster: Terrie Ex back for more, Nilssen-Love back for his third dose of stage action (and second set in a row!) and electric bassist Massimo Pupillo – TRIO OFFONOFF. Pupillo’s bass ripped me to shreds at the fest two years before when Zu lit it up, and when Zu came to LA a couple months later, I could still feel my spine trembling as their amps came on.
Before Ex, Nilssen-Love and Pupillo threw the chains off, I heard someone from the audience shout “Turn it up!” – hilarious. These guys shredded all the wattage flowing their instruments and bodies, playing one long, jagged improv. Nilssen-Love appeared to be the one doing the steering, as they got into at least 15 different punk riff jams where they were all playing on or around a regular beat, and then Nilssen-Love would disembowel it and throw out a flurry of polyrhythms for the string guys to tangle with. That was pretty cool because it kept them on their toes for the whole set, and even sometimes spiralling wildly away from each other for short bursts, but I kind of wished Nilssen-Love had been a bit more willing to let the squalid rock and roll noise take over. Instead of falling back on a net of multiplying rhythms, I would have loved to have heard him push the music where it seemed to want to be going – a land of throbbing anarchy.
Regardless of that quibble, it was incredible how many 30-60 second punk hooks these guys developed on the spot, and then discarded on the hunt for ever fresher fish. That really is pretty awesome – it was like finding all sorts of badass colorful jewels by sticking your fist in the dirt and then dropping them all and sticking your whole arm back in to see what else is down there, pulling up even fatter and glitzier gems. And then after a bunch of successful grabs, just leaving the pile of shining stones there amidst the rest of all the soil and walking away.
After their set, the crowd went bonkers trying to egg an encore on, and eventually they got it, which was outrageous since the trio had so clearly left everything on stage beforehand. But Trio Offonoff delivered another carton of smoldering rock improv, straight from the lava flow. I was covered in grit when they were done.
It’d be disingenuous if I didn’t mention that me and one of my Blue Guerillas got invited to spin some records downstairs for a dance party after all the sets were finished on Sunday night. We played a bunch of old funk and soul records and a lot of groovy international stuff – damn it was nice to see people shaking their booty to Sami Rageb and Mulato Astatke!
After hearing so much great improvised music over the weekend, it felt great to make the body dance and get into the funk of it. And just to be given the opportunity to spin records way past sunrise for all the musicians hanging out and the amazing staff at the Jazzgalerie was a real honor. I’ll never be able to give back to the Konfrontationen everything that the music and people there have given to me, but giving back just this little something sure meant a lot to me.
That was the 2007 Konfrontationen. 16 sets in 3 days. I hope it's enough of a spiritual injection to get me through another year in Los Angeles. The quality of live music performed during this festival is so humbling and elevating.
Thanks to Dmitri Krasnov, Toby Kulcsar, Marc Minsker, John Randono, Catalin Teodoru, Leo Zhao and all the musicians, volunteers and attendees for everything offered.
By Chris Anderko [email@example.com]
In 1901 the Pan-American Exposition, a World's Fair, was held in Buffalo. It was awarded the Exposition over Niagara Falls in part because of Tesla's recent invention of AC power transmission, ensuring Buffalo could use the Falls' electricity from a distance. The event is mostly remembered for President McKinley's assassination by self-proclaimed anarchist Leon Czolgosz, son of a Polish immigrant. Buffalo still has a large Polish population, second only to Chicago in America. But, Chicago is the only city that celebrates Casimir Pulaski day by giving state workers and students the day off. In 1985 Illinois declared Pulaski Day a state holiday in response to the federal mandate that Martin Luther King Day be observed the following year. A Black man wouldn't be honored unless a Pole got equal treatment. One state that refused the federal holiday was Arizona, where Super Bowl XXVII was scheduled to be played in Tempe. The NFL gave the state an ultimatum: observe the holiday or the game would be moved. Voters complied in 1992, overturning their 1990 rejection of the holiday based on it being "created illegally" [it had been passed through the House and Senate with a veto-proof majority]. The situation inspired Public Enemy's "By the Time I Get to Arizona" featuring threats on the governor's life [Call me the trigger man / Looki lookin' for the governor] & [I'm on the one mission / To get a politician / To honor or he's a gonner]. The Bills lost Super Bowl XXVII 52-17 to the Dallas Cowboys, becoming the first team to lose 3 consecutive Super Bowls.
UNDER at 6.5 wins.
Despite a 2 year absence from the NFL, Rickey Williams is still technically suspended by the Dolphins. Ricky Williams was picked by The Saints 5th overall in the '99 draft after Mike Ditka traded away all of his draft picks plus a portion of next years' to get him. No team has given up more potential than the Saints did to acquire Ricky. Ricky responded by signing Master P as his agent and doing interviews exclusively with his helmet on. Ricky was a disappointment in New Orleans and landed in Miami, where he eventually retired because he likes to smoke pot more than play football. Reasonable enough. But he had to pay some of his contract back. So Ricky came back from teaching yoga in India and tested positive, again, for grass. Now Ricky is in the CFL playing for Toronto [where they don't drug test]. Dipshit Joe Thiesman criticized the signing of an "addict." Let me sum up Joe Theisman: he went to Notre Dame; he changed the pronunciation of his name from THEES-MAN to THIGHS-MAN to rhyme with the most prestigious award in college football, the Heisman. The fucker didn't even win it after that. Meanwhile, Ricky was considered for PETAs 2006 "hottest vegetarian." We have a winner.
7 win line seems pretty fair. PUSH.
When Tom Brady retires, and Michael Vick is out of prison, he'll sign with Patriots and lead them to another Super Bowl. But like Randy Moss this year, Belicheck will have to keep him on a short leash.
They'll get OVER 11.5 wins.
Joe Namath guaranteed a Super Bowl victory as an 18 point underdog and won. He may have coined the term "Super Bowl." He wore a fur coat on the sidelines and had a late night talk show in the sixties for some reason. Jake Gyllenhal has signed on to portray him in a movie. He is most recently remembered for attempting to inebriatedly kiss sideline reporter Suzy Kolber. Jets fans will feel more comfortable watching that replay than this season unfold.
Disappointing UNDER at 8.5 wins. Tough division. Regression to the mean.
The litany of crimes surrounding the NFL [none more serious than the Ravens unis] as a growing phenomenon stemmed in many ways from Ray Lewis. Lewis' 2000 murder trial was perhaps the NFL's most extreme and visible case at that point, and the ramifications for Lewis were... Defensive Player of the Year awards! Being called a "killer" in a positive sense. Likewise, steroid users in football face none of the moral outrage offenders see in other sports [see Merriman, Shawn]. Lewis set this precedent for the modern player as he was branded an icon by the NFL and HBO mic-ed him up every game. Are NFL fans more forgiving? indifferent? spiteful? No. They have fantasy football teams and office pools which are greater than... well... would you draft Rae Carruth if he was the Colt's starting slot receiver? Of course.
Take the OVER on 9 wins.
Coach Martin Lewis, who gained credibility coaching Ray Lewis' defenses, claimed that the police are profiling Bengal players after WR Chris Henry was pulled over for not signaling a right turn. Henry has been arrested four five times in the last 6 months [including a probation violation for testing positive for opiates] outside of the 'Nati. However, he did avoid arrest while being pulled over with 3 teammates after a game, as he merely vomited out the passenger side window. They were collectively fined less by the league than Chad Johnson for having a tearaway "OCHO CINCO" nameplate before a game.
OVER 9 wins.
Locker room symbolically flooded with sewage during training camp.
6 wins? Take the UNDER.
The Steelers' logo is based on the "Steelmark," an industry insignia of three astroids that initially were said to signify that "Steel lightens your work, brightens your leisure, and widens your world." Later, the colors came to represent the ingredients of steel: yellow representing coal; orange, ore; and blue, the steel scrap. This season the Steelers will introduce a clever new mascot, Steely McBeam.
OVER 9 wins.
When deciding the team name in 2000, the organization chose between Apollos, Bobcats, Stallions, Texans and Wildcatters. Sorry fuckers.
UNDER at 6.5 wins.
The Colts won their first Super Bowl since 1970, but this will be their first Lombardi Trophy. When Carroll Rosenbloom, the owner of the [then Baltimore] Colts, sold the team in 1972 he "borrowed" the trophy to display it for the commissioner. It never showed up. A replacement was made but was sent to Baltimore in 1986 as part of a settlement for the team's shady move out of the city [the team packed everything up in Mayflower trucks and left at 3AM to go to Indy]. In 2005, Patriots' owner Robert Kraft had his Super Bowl ring "borrowed" by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kraft later claimed he meant to give it to him for keeps and the league reluctantly replaced the ring.
OVER 10.5 wins.
The city of Jacksonville is the largest [area-wise] in the lower 48. It still has no business having a football team and insists on ugly uniforms. Other Jacksonville exports [descending order]: Limp Bizkit, Ma$e, Unitarians, Pat Boone. Boone, who shittily covered black musicians' songs and sold them to white people without paying royalties, is somewhere between the drunk in the park who complains about the color'ds moving in and Zach de la Rocha. Irony has been too kind to Boone, who reinvented himself by covering metal songs in the 90's. More recently, Boone has moved on from professional bigotry to condemn the ACLU, claiming rights are a cancer.
A heavy OVER at 9 wins. Oh wait, they cut their best QB? I mean UNDER.
Quote obtained from a local Nashville TV station's wiretap of a convicted drug dealer regarding CB Pacman Jones:
We gotta slow down, man. We gotta get him focused on football, man. He's focused on too much other s****,"…."You know, I was talkin' to him the other day about smokin', and he was like 'man, if I didn't smoke I couldn't take all the stress that I'm dealing with right now,'"…"[Coach] Fisher's being as patient as a m*****f***** as he can. Fisher gotta win. Fisher trying to win…He ain't putting up with that s***,"…"He gotta concentrate on season…that ******* drug test coming up," he said. "We telling him he needed 33 days before he took his ******* test; dry-out, and he didn't…that's let me know right there that he ain't taking his ****** job serious.
OVER 7 wins.
Bad offseason for the Broncos started the day after they were ousted from the playoffs when their cornerback, Derrant Williams, was shot and killed, bloodying WR Javon Walker. After claiming to "find God" and leave past crip associations behind, Williams, well, found God.
Weakening division, take the OVER at 9.5 wins.
After an insane workload last year, there are many jokes made about Larry Johnson's legs falling off this season, but what if they grow back? I say a win for each leg: 4-12 record.
Take the UNDER at 8 wins.
In the offseason they hired a 31 year old to coach who has never been a head coach at any level, and fired their offensive coordinator who had spent the previous 10 seasons out of football, running a bed and breakfast. By the time the Mayan-predicted apocalypse manifests itself, JaMarcus Russell will be playing in Canada. The ensuing mass exodus from America insists future stardom is still a possibility there.
UNDER a rock. Hiding from common sense.
Wanting to give the most talented team in football more of a challenge, management handed the players the worst coach in the league, Norv Turner. Turner was recently fired by the aforementioned Raiders, which is on par with Pat O'Brien telling you he won't snort coke off your ass.
UNDER at 10.5 wins.
QB Tony Romo [Eastern Illinois Alum] is currently seeing Carrie Underwood. Before that, he was set up by his friend, Jessica Simpson's father, on dates with Jessica. Recently it was reported that sister Ashlee is making a pass at the now attached star Homo Romo. I bring this up so you can taunt Cowboy fans who will be disappointed this season because they suffer from the delusion Romo is going to lead them to the Super Bowl.
UNDER on 9 wins.
Like your friends who say they're from the city but are really from the suburbs, the Giants have never really smoked a joint, gotten a blow job or talked their way out of a ticket. But, like Jeremy Shockey, they do have American Flag tattoos.
A lock for UNDER 8 wins.
According to some postcards I have, Will Smith, born in West Philly, turned down a full scholarship to MIT's engineering program to continue his acting career. Now that he's butchered an Isaac Asimov story, he's moving on to Richard Matheson's seminal I Am Legend. Smith is filling the role that Arnold Scwarzenegger would have taken had he failed to win the California Gubernatorial elections. Matheson's novel has been adapted before; kitchily as The Omega Man in 1972 [Heston] and more faithfully in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth [Vincent Price]. Connection? Only one of those people will be asked to run after Obama is assassinated [Hint: it's the one that thinks scientology is "brilliant"].
The original Redskins fight song:
- Hail to the Redskins
- Hail Vic-tor-y
- Braves on the Warpath
- Fight for old Dixie
- Scalp 'em, swamp 'em -- We will take 'em big score
- Read 'em, weep 'em, touchdown - we want heaps more
- Fight on, Fight on -- 'Till you have won
- Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!
- Hail to the Redskins
- Hail Vic-tor-y
- Braves on the Warpath
- Fight for old Dixie
These lyrics remained until 1962 when pressure from politicians and the league forced owner George Preston Marshall to integrate his team. When the Redskins came to Washington in the 30's, they were the southernmost team in the league and remained so for 30 years. Marshall was openly racist, and [successfully] encouraged a de facto color barrier in football, once saying "We'll start signing negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites." In 2002, Sports Illustrated conducted a survey to determine if the name Redskins was offensive to Native Americans. 75% of Native American respondents said they had no problem with the name. 62% of Native Americans who lived on reservations said they weren't offended. A year later The Annenberg Public Policy Center National Annenberg conducted a similar study. 90% of Native American's were not bothered by the name. The president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, Vernon Bellecourt, said he believes both the Anneberg and Sports Illustrated polls were flawed, claiming "about half" of those claiming Native American heritage think they are Native because "they were born in America." In the Annenburg study, 768 out of 65,000 surveyed identified themselves as Native American, close to the current national estimate of 1.0%. The Washington Redskins' brand is considered to be worth over 200 million dollars, one of the top 5 in all American sports.
OVER at 7.5.
As a Bears fan, I go clubbing down Rush and Lake street on the weekends, with 100% certainty that I could break Rex Grossman's face and piss in his mouth quicker than he could read a defense. But then I remember he knows how to party, so I let him buy me drink.
Bet your child's college money on the bears going UNDER 10.5 wins.
There have been numerous public statements from Detroit's ownership saying GM Matt Millen isn't going to be fired, despite fan walkouts during games and ongoing public outcries for sanity. Fans holding "Fire Millen" signs at Lions' games have been forcibly removed. There was a deafening "Fire Millen" chant at a Pistons' game...in Los Angeles. 'Sheed Wallace joined in a reprise at a later Pistons' game. Disgruntled fans organized "orange out" day, where fans wore the colors of the Lions' opponent at a home game. After the last draft, Millen told reporters that "You guys are probably more familiar with him than I am," with regards to the 2nd round quarterback he had just chosen. The Lion's stadium, Ford Field, was constructed at the beginning of Millen's tenure in 2002. It came in over budget at 500 million dollars, 51% of which was public money.
A soon to be concussed Kitna says the team will win 10 games. Take the UNDER at 6.
When Packer fans aren't giving their abandoned children buckets to shit in while going to Lambeau, they're most likely being accused of racism. Until Reggie White signed with the franchise in 1993, there was a perception of Green Bay that black free-agents wouldn't sign with the team. White, an ordained minister, set those myths to rest with this statement before Wisconsin state legislature:
Asians can 'turn a television into a watch.' Hispanics are 'gifted in family structure ... they can put 20 or 30 people in one home.' Whites 'know how to tap into money.' Blacks are 'very gifted in what we call worship and celebration.'
After legislature was informed as to what worship was, an agreement was come to that everyone is "offended that homosexuals will say that homosexuals deserve rights." 8-8.
A reluctant OVER at 7.5 wins. Somebody's gotta beat the other shitty Central teams.
Fran Tarkenton is my favorite Viking. After quarterbacking three Super Bowl loses, he lost a playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys with what was considered the best Vikings team of the "Purple People Eater" era. The Cowboys won on the NFL's original Hail Mary pass. Tarkenton's father died at the end of the game. His name was Dallas. In interviews Tarkenton went from remorsefully apologizing to simply being pleased to have had such a fulfilling career. Eventually. Since his retirement he's done well in computer software and advertising, including a low-budget commercial in Chicago where he's chroma-keyed in an office environment and comfortably rests his elbow on top of a 7 foot tall cubical.
UNDER at 7 wins.
After banning MV7 jerseys that featured "Mexico" and "Ookie" on the back, the NFL has decided to just stop selling Vick's merchandise all together. On the NBA front, you can't order a Memphis jersey for former first-round pick Rudy Gay. The NFL had a similar ban on jerseys with the word GAY on the back, but quickly changed their policy when Patriots' cornerback Randall Gay came into the league. A sample of names still banned on personalized jerseys by the NFL: 3RD LEG, BI, BM, CARRUTH, DAHMER, DRE, FAIRY, FLOGGIN THE DOLPHIN, GOT JESUS, JAP, NEON DEON, POT, PUNTANG, SLAVE, TAMPON, TONGUE and WIGGER. Former Chiefs' safety Reggie Tongue has gotta be pissed.
UNDER the number of months Vick serves in prison.
When the Panthers were inaugurated into the NFL I was in junior high. I really wanted some Panther's merch. That silver/black and neon blue was hott. I wasn't sure exactly where the team was, but "Carolina in My Mind" was, and remains, my favorite James Taylor song. In retrospect, the Panthers don't get enough props for avoiding the pitfalls [teal and purple] that plagued every other nineties franchise. The Raiders unsuccessfully attempted to sue the Panthers in 2003 [and the Bucs in 97] for trademark infringement, claiming they owned silver and black. In case you're confused during the season, the Raiders are the ones sucking more.
Definite UNDER at 9 wins.
There were 3 reported deaths at the Superdome as a result of hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, after announcing "I am an American" at the Saints' first game back home, Bono wasn't one of them.
UNDER 9.5 wins.
Last season Chris Simms did his part to dissuade the myth that homosexuals aren't tough, playing nearly a full game with a ruptured spleen. The eventual organ removal ended Simms' season and leaves him questionable. In the offseason, accused fag Jeff Garcia was brought in to compete for the starting job. Garcia responded to the claims of nancery by marrying a Playmate, but it may be harder for Simms to remove his tattoo of former lovers teammates' names from his ankle.
Way UNDER 7.
Last season the Cards changed their logo, making the bird's beak more "predatory", but were met with disappointing results on the field. QB Matt Leinart has responded to recent accusations of being a deadbeat dad and not committed to his team by signing on to the newest Adam Sandler project. There were also reports that after Peyton Manning hosted saturday night live that Leinart threw a hissy fit and fired his agent for not being offered hosting duties first. He won't be available for the Super Bowl as he has already booked a space for a party with John Travolta. Cardinal fans' best hopes are it's a funny Adam Sandler movie.
Cards UNDER the 7.5 win line.
When Mike Nolan was hired to coach the Niners in 2005 he told the league he wanted to wear a suit on the sidelines, like his father. The league said no: You have to wear official Reebok attire on the sidelines no matter how shitty you look. Eventually Reebok designed a suit for Nolan, which he has been allowed to wear at all home games this year, after only being allowed to look dignified twice last season. Reebok's opinion that people see Romeo Crommel in their attire and decide to buy their brand may be fucking stupid.
In 2005 Jerry Rice was paid to play WR for the Seahawks. He asked Steve Largent to let him wear his retired #80 jersey. He did. When Joe Montana went to the Chiefs after being pushed out by Steve Young, he declined Len Dawson's offer to unretire #16, and chose #19, his little league number instead. Classy. I hope Rice's disrespect has a proper ending, such as the fate of Laura Dern's husband in the made for HBO movie "Afterburn": As a gov't test pilot he gets blown up in some job-related accident and THEY ONLY BURY HIS HANDS [Hands being all that was left after the explosion, you see].
NE, PIT, IND, DEN
PHI, GB, NO, SF
Chicken Wings over SOBRIETY.
Three trolling boats, each about 40 feet long and with two persons aborard, were anchored in the outer part of Lituya Bay at the time of the wave on July 9. The Edrie rode out the wave inside Pit and wreched on the outside; the Sunmore, under way near the entrance, was swamped by the wave and went down with her occupants. The wave repordely was the first sighted withing 3 minutes after the earthquake was first felt, or, using the insturmenally deermined origin time for the earthquate 0h15mGc.t., July 10 between 10:16 and 10:19 P.M. July 9, local time. This is about sunset at this latitude at that time of year; the weather was clear, with high scattered clouds, and the level at the outher part of the bay. The tide wa ebbing and at abouth plus 5 feet or less tha tan foot about mean tides stage in the bay. The following eyewitness accounts are abstracted from articles published in newspapers and a magazine from a personal interview with W.A. Swanson and correspondene with H.G. Ulrich.
Mr. Ulrich and his 7-year-old son, on the Edrie, entered Lituya Bay about 8:00 p.m. and anchored in about 5 fathoms of water in a small cove on the south shore. Ulrich was awakened by the violent rocking of the boat, noted the time, and went on deck to watch the effects of the earthquake-described as violent shaking and heaving, followed by avalanching-in the mountains at the head of the bay. An estimated 2.5 minutes after the earthquake was first felt a deafening crash was heard at the head of the bay. According to Ulrich,
The wave definitely started in Gilbert Inlet, just before the end of the quake. It was not a wave at first. It was like an explosion, or glacier sluff. The wave came out of the lower part, and looked like the smallest part of the whole thing. The wave did not go up 1,800 feet, the water splashed there.
Ulrich continued to watch the progress of the wave until it reached his boat about 2.5 to 3 minutes after it was first sighted. Being unable to get the anchor loose, he let out all of the chain (about 40 fanthoms) and started the engine. Midway between the head of the bay and Cenotaph Island the wave appeared to be a straight wall of water possibly 100 feet high, extending from shore to shore. The wave as breaking as it came around the north side of the island, but on the south side it had a smooth, even crest. As it approached the Edrie the wave front appeared very steep, and 50 to 75 feet high. No lowering or other distrubance of the water around the boat, other than vibration due to the earthquake, was noticed before the wave arrived. The anchor chain snapped as the boat rose with the wave. The boat was carried toward and probably over the south shore, and then, in the backwash, toward the center of the bay. The wave crest seemed to be only 25 to 50 feet wide, and the back slope less sreep than the front.
After the gaint wave passed the water surface returned to about normal level, but was very turbulent,with much sloshing back and forth from shore to shore and with steep, sharp waves up to 20 feet high. These waves, however, did not show any definite movement either toard the head or the mouth of the bay. After 25 to 30 minutes the bay became calm, although floating logs covered the water near the shores and were moving out toward the center and the entrance. After the first gaint wave passed Ulrich managed to keep the boat under control, and went out the entrance at 11:00 p.m. on what seemed to be a normal ebb flow.
By Haoyan of America
Lunar eclipse caught on the morning of August 28, 2007 at 2:50 am near Lucking Manor. Vocal appearances by Tim Ivison, Nick Lucking, and Heather Rasmussen.
By Todd Harry Rundgren
By Frisbee Jackson [frisbeejackson.com]
Photograph by Paphio