Sunday, March 28, 2010

Concert Review: Magik Markers, Tusk Lord, Mike Tamburo

Magik Markers, Tusk Lord, Mike Tamburo
Monday March 22, 2010 at Garfield Artworks
with Paul, Chris. L

I have yet to see a show at Garfield Artworks that I did not thoroughly enjoy, and I'm impressed by the array of local openers that Manny manages to find. This time, I biked over to Garfield from campus after a 3-on-3 IM basketball game that knocked us out of the bracket in the first round (Deepak: “Shortest season ever!”). Paul and Chris were there already, and a handful of other concertgoers, and there was a large bearded guy onstage tuning a dulcimer on his lap with a gong hanging behind him. It turned out to be Mike Tamburo, the opening act. He eventually played two “songs”, one on the gong and one on the dulcimer, after setting up some incense and candles onstage. The gong song (hah), or “ecstatic” as he called it, was interesting to watch; he alternated between pounding the gong with a mallet and then rubbing a smaller mallet on the surface to modulate the sound, sometimes shaking the strings from which the gong hung to scatter the sound waves across the room. At times it was almost quiet, with just the reverberations hanging in the air, at times it was loud, and at times it was deafeningly loud. Towards the end, a particularly loud hit even knocked the gong off its hangers! Mike just laughed and apologized and reattached it before moving on. He introduced the dulcimer solo by mentioning a band that he plays in with his girlfriend and his friend (who was seated next to me and doing meditation/breathing exercises the whole time) and saying that this song is a version of a traditional Bulgarian anthem that is sung/played in certain seasons to chase away the demons and secure a good harvest. He sat cross-legged on a rug at the front of the stage, set the dulcimer on his lap, and played the strings with two wooden spoon-like implements. The song itself featured a lot of rising arpeggios and scales, the “spoons” bouncing around one section of the strings then descending to the lower strings and exploring them for a while. He managed to play quite fast, and I could see the spoons doing that thing you did with a pencil in middle school when you were bored where it looks like its wobbly even though its not. Yeah, that phenomenon. I'd only ever seen the dulcimer played by strumming, so this was really cool to watch. It was a strange opening act given the music that followed it, but I was entranced the whole time.

The next act was Tusk Lord, but I had to check the poster again to catch their name since I had trouble understanding the singer, due to both the lo-fi acoustics and the speed of their set. They played fast and noisy rock with a sloppy (in a good way) guitar heavy sound. There was a keyboard player but I couldn't quite make out what he was contributing, which is too bad. At the end of their second to last song, there was a very quiet moment where the guitars stopped playing and the keyboardist played a few notes solo, and it sounded like a perfect break in the clouds; they really need to do more of that. After each song, they just jumped right into the next one, and the singer even counted down their last 3 songs. Paul likened each song to the whole set, saying that in each case, just when he was getting into it, it abruptly ended. I liked their live sound; it was perfect for the venue.

The Magik Markers played last and absolutely nailed it. Over the course of a 40 minute set, they paused for only 2 applause breaks; the rest was a meandering showcase of reverb-drenched guitar shredding and rhythmic, no-frills drumming. A lot of it seemed improvised, with the female singer/guitarist (playing left-handed, too!) extracting all sorts of sounds from her guitar using pedals and effects and strumming; it was fascinating to watch her create these sounds and wonder whether she has some internal vision of what she wants to play or if she just plucks away and sees what happens. Meanwhile, the drummer was keeping time during these long solo sections and sometimes playing a keyboard line. I noticed the drummer was wearing an orange t-shirt with images of the Velvet Underground members on it, too. They had a bassist, as well, and he really rounded out their sound. Overall, it was a real “show” in the true sense of the word; a veritable spectacle of straight-up rock music. Be sure to watch the live videos I linked to below. Afterwards, I bought their LP “Boss” on vinyl, as did Chris, and Paul bought a different vinyl album. I've been playing it fairly frequently this past week, and don't see myself stopping anytime soon.

Mike Tamburo:
on MySpace
feature article from the Pittsburgh City Paper
Live in State College, PA

Tusk Lord:
on MySpace
Live in Pittsburgh, February 2010
Live in Ithaca, NY

Magik Markers:
on MySpace
music video for "Taste"
Live at SXSW 2007
12 minute long free jam

EDIT: Just found this link for a free download of the Magik Markers live at Brooklyn's Union Pool on March 19, 2010

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