In which a computer-driven performance at Santa Cruz's Metamusic prompts our columnist to pronounce piano teaching a dying profession.
By Garrett Wheeler
We all know times change, especially in the world of music. In the Santa Cruz microcosm of global music, the visible trends of cultural change are as visible as anywhere, so when I showed up to watch a few local bands play this past weekend, I really shouldn't have been surprised that one of the acts wasn't a band at all. A single instrument replaced microphones, drumkit, bass and guitar, and that instrument wasn't even a musical one, at least not in the traditional sense. It was a computer. Hello, future.I've never considered myself old-fashioned, but this hit me like a slap in the face. Sure, I'm familiar with drum machines and synthesizers, and yeah, I remember the techno movement of the late '90s, but isn't a musician supposed to play something, even if it's just a cowbell or one of those little plastic shaker things? My point isn't that this guy wasn't a musician, or that it doesn't take creativity and talent to construct digital music; I just wonder if bloops and bleeps will one day replace the chords and vocal methods we've come to know and love. I'm considering cryogenic freezing just to find out.
The futuristic technopop came from Circuit Creature, which was third on the bill at a free show at the Metamusic record shop. No wild stage antics here, just a computer and a guy occasionally clicking a button here and moving the mouse there. The music was wild in a digital kind of way, driven by thumping house beats and quivering synth-leads. The crowd of twentysomethings rhythmically bobbed their heads, watching the laptop and the man standing behind it. I have seen the future, and piano teachers are all out of business.
After the electro show came Birds Fled From Me, a subdued indie trio that couldn't have been more different from the act before it. The band was powered by the creative energy of Rachel Williams, a talented Santa Cruzan with an amazingly delicate yet commanding voice that resembles Björk's or Mirah's. Accompaniment was sparse—an acoustic harp and the soft murmurs of a cello blended with her electric piano to provide a mellow backdrop for her standout vocals. Though her voice was light and subtle, it possessed an unmistakably powerful quality, demonstrated by her first song, which she was forced to sing without a microphone because nobody could seem to find it. Strange, somber and powerful, Birds Fled From Me reveled in haunting ballads filled with unusual notes and minor chords, all wrapped nicely together by Williams' gentle crooning.
Missed the show? Check out Birds Fled From Me, along with fellow indie acts Baby Dee, Matteah Baim and Headdress, Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Brookdale Lodge. If you can't make that, dry your tears because there's plenty of local goodness coming up, like singer/songwriter Amanda West, who will play a CD release party at Cayuga Vault on Friday, Feb. 15, before opening for Nina Storey the following night at Moe's Alley. Also coming up are psychobilly hellions The Chop Tops, who headline at the Blue Lagoon this Sunday, Feb. 17.
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