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One-Man Band: Turkey's Erdem Helvacioglu makes the cut for Anno Domini's 'Best of Y2K7' show.

Loop Dreams

Musicians play it again at the Best of the Y2K7 International Live Looping Festival

By Paul Wagner

FORTY-EIGHT performers from 12 different nations. Musicians schlepping guitars, horns, cellos, high-hats, pedals and racks of electronics from Turkey, Singapore, Norway, Italy, Germany and Brazil, all to converge in one place. Music equipment companies bringing their latest products. Sound like a subsidized multimillion-dollar L.A. event?

It's not—it's the Y2K7 International Live Looping Festival, taking place in downtown Santa Cruz this Friday through Sunday, but it all kicks off with a "Best of" show at Anno Domini in downtown San Jose on Oct. 17.

This mammoth festival is organized by a single person: drummer, percussionist, producer and musicians'-rights organizer Rick Walker, who's been using looping technology from the get-go.

Around 1995, two companies—the old maker of those machines, the Echoplex, and Lexicon Jam/man—released digital versions that repeated infinitely with no degradation in sound. All a musician had to do was play a pattern in perfect rhythm, kick the machine on and off in exact time, tweak the controls to bring it up at the right volume, and add a few more patterns—in short, be a relative rhythmic and melodic virtuoso—and voilą: a musical composition.

The possibility of making solo orchestra music right on the spot attracted perhaps a wider group of musicians than any high-tech musical invention since the grand piano. The prime loopers' website, Loopers' Delight (, gets a million hits a month. And it attracts performers—everything from musical composers to solo tuba players, according to Walker.

Watching live musicians loop—the foot-banging to establish rhythms, repeated attempts to play the one perfect loop, feet flying on and off pedals, sprinting for new instruments to loop, and desperate lunging for controls just in time to change musical sections, is fascinating for audiences, who often break into applause simply at the gymnastic efforts involved.

Instrument makers now attend and unveil their newest loop devices at the Santa Cruz festival, and 50 other loop festivals in 15 nations have broken out as a result.

This is, perhaps, why the festival has steadily grown in size since British bassist Steve Lawson phoned Walker in 2000, asking where in America he might play.

"I suggested we find a place we could do a small gig" with other bassists, including himself and brother Bill, Walker says. Putting the word out on Loopers' Delight, the threesome got sufficient responses to book the Rio Theatre, where 500 looping fans showed up. After several other bass-pounding Bay Area gigs, Rick Walker conceived a regular yearly festival, and the Y2K2 Festival launched the series. He's done it again every autumn since.

Walker attributes part of the festivals success to the fact that live looping "has no style and has no genre." Whatever a performer sets off, the instruments will loop. Cello and kick drum. Silver flute and female voice. Bird whistles and cheek-slaps. There's only one limit the festival imposes: "pre-made loops are not allowed," says Walker. "We're really interested in people playing instruments live; something that has live energy to it."

And because encouraging musical and sonic creativity is the point of the loopfests, Walker welcomes any artist who wishes to perform. "It's a paradigm unlike any other—a festival for everybody, from extremely accomplished musicians to complete newcomers," he says. "No other festivals have that paradigm, anywhere else, and I'm proud of that."

This Wednesday, looping fans will find multi-instrumentalist Erdem Helvacioglu of Turkey, who's composed for the World Soccer Championship; and Italian classical pianist Fabio Anile, who's constructed numerous museum sound installations. German guitarist Leander Reininghaus will also perform.

Observes Walker: "It's the highlight of the year for the looping community."

BEST OF Y2K7 happens Wednesday (Oct. 17) at 8pm at Anno Domini, 366 S. First St., downtown San Jose. Tickets are $10 (no one turned away for lack of funds). For more info visit (408.271.5155)

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