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Michael Flower, MV + EE, Sunburned Hand of the Man @ Sala Rossa

Posted by Scott / June 3, 2007

sunburned-shaman.jpgThe second night of Suoni Per Il Popolo brought us a triple bill of weird, shamanistic outsider-folk music at the Sala Rossa. With gear spread all over the stage and floor of the venue, the audience members were positioned at tables that basically blended into the performance area, making for more than one near mishap as the night went by. Watch out for the guy dressed as a wizard waving voodoo scarecrows at you, or the guitarist swinging a skull-topped-staff at high speeds above his head, or the drummer tripping over the audience members’ feet and crashing headfirst into his drum kit – twice - as the show goes gets going.

Now that’s my kind of folk music…

First up on the evening was Michael Flower, playing compositions through some vintage echo pedals and what looked like a Marshall stack. Flower played two pieces – one solo on the Japanese banjo, the other on guitar with accompaniment from the Sunburned drummer – that built on chaotic, freeform melodies at high volume. For all intents and purposes his pieces sounded like the last half of the Velvet Underground’s White Light White Heat – frantic, seemingly random, charged with ghost-notes, and emotionally explosive. It was a great beginning to the night.

After more than a 40 minute wait, MV + EE took to the stage. Their set up was an electric guitar and pedal steel book-ending MV and EE, who sang and played acoustic guitar and a super-rad electric ukulele in the shape of a tiny Gibson Explorer. Their set began with great promise, remaining liberal with key and timing, and sounding like the dreams Freakwater would have if they were high on dentistry medication. However, as the set went on (and on, and on), their meandering began to lose its charm. By the end of MV + EE’s set, the pieces sounded like four different Neil Young songs being played at the same time, and not in a good way. Experimental music is hit and miss, obviously, but MV + EE didn’t do themselves or the audience any favours by taking so long to get started, and playing so long a set. They were unable to sustain audience engagement, I thought, and between smoke breaks it seemed people were waiting for the night’s headliners.

That’s when Sunburned Hand of the Man exploded into action. Amid stomping, yelling about rats, and clanging percussion, the Sunburned members came out dressed in costumes and shaking effigies at the audience. Their set veered widely between organized, off-kilter grooves (but grooves nonetheless) and dissonant, ramshackle chaos. Employing samplers and digital effects over loosely traditional instruments, the Man pulled the audience through some sort of free-folk looking glass, hybridizing the hillbilly and hipster into a soulful, ridiculous Weirdstock. By the end of the set, the audience was surrounded in cables and skulls, scraps of costumes and pedals, unsure of whether the band had finished playing or not. If experimental music is aimed at subverting our usual expectations, then Sunburned Hand of the Man delivered, offering a musical experience that was unclassifiable - sometimes even as music. By this year, Sunburned Hand of the Man are Suoni veterans, and it makes sense why: their music is both fearless and engaging, hilarious and high-art, and represents the best of what outsider music can offer. If you missed them last night, be sure to catch them next time.



rrrobyn / June 3, 2007 at 01:32 pm
this show = aw yeah awesome - thanks for the details re: sound&instruments, and that photo omg

i didn't mind or even notice the wait btwn sets really, i think b/c michael flower zoned me into exactly the zone i needed? i found the space btwn sets somehow reflective & restorative.

true mv & ee & the bummer road played a longer than expected set, but i think if thought of in terms of being part of a festival rather than simply part of a show, this makes sense. but yeah, perhaps a strange pairing with sunburned being so anticipated though. the last song mv & ee played is awesome though ("and i'm free, f-r-double-e" aw yeah) and i dig their avant-folk twanging wall of sound and sense of humour.

sunburned hand of the man = total dudes in the best way possible. i don't know how i'm gonna handle shows now if they don't begin with drumset diving.
scott / June 3, 2007 at 01:42 pm
i know what yr saying. i have to acknowledge that i just didn't dig what MV & EE were doing, but i went in completely open to them and tend to like weird country. maybe on a different night they'd destroy me? last night they just didn't keep my interest. however, i agree on the "zone" that michael flowers created and the awesome dude-rock of The Man. they should start a sunburned Church of the man. i can think of a couple of converts.
evan / June 4, 2007 at 01:20 pm
coupla quick gear corrections since it's all being annotated...Michael Flower was playing through a Randall amp & a Tubeworks amp, both borrowed from Sunburned since he flew in from England. Erika's got a rad electric mandolin, not a ukulele.

one of the themes running through is that they're all collaborators...with John Maloney (drummer) pulling triple duty playing with all bands, but also making records with 'em all...
scott / June 4, 2007 at 04:19 pm
right on. thanks for the correction - it explains why i wasn't able to find an image of an explorer-style ukulele! didn't realize flower was running thru double amps. thanks again.
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