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[whitespace] Terminally unhip forms of music converge at Terrastock West

By Kara Platoni

When The Ptolemaic Terrascope, an obscure British fanzine devoted to experimental, ambient and other terminally unhip forms of music, found itself in the red last year, it did what seemed obvious--it threw a really, really big party. The resulting concert, dubbed Terrastock, was such a mind-bending success that Terrascope publisher Nick Saloman decided to do it all over again in 1998.

On the weekend of April 17, hundreds of people from around the world made the trip out to the industrial wasteland on the western rim of the Mission district to participate in this year's Terrastock West. Each paid $60 for a pass that allowed them to spend three days deep inside a darkened warehouse-turned-soundstage, where more than 30 Terrascopic bands turned in performances that pushed the boundaries of music.

The crowd sat silently, many curling up as if to sleep, while electric guitarist Loren Mazzacane Connors turned his back to the audience and played a 45-minute set in almost total darkness. New Zealander Alastair Galbraith evoked similar rapt attention with his spellbinding solos on guitar and electrified violin, while bittersweet pop songsters Damon & Naomi (formerly of Galaxie 500 and the Magic Hour) played a positively heartbreaking set with Masaki Batoh and Kurihara of the Japanese psych-folk band Ghost.

But instead of blissing out, a few bands chose to rock on. The groups associated with the Elephant 6 Collective played with a fervor approaching mania on a stage cluttered with ratty amps, a theremin, a singing saw and a giant pot of geraniums. Spaceheads, a British duo, made just as much noise with one-fifth the personnel, while John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats urged the audience to pogo as he thrashed his acoustic guitar.

For those who missed this year's festival, don't despair. With any luck, the zine will be broke and ready to do it all again in 1999.

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From the May 18-31, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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