Hume - There was an afternoon session of local bands prior to the big Magma show in the evening and I just caught the last half of Hume's set. They had a couple of guitars, drums and two guests playing cello and xylophone. The guests were a nice touch and gave some extra interest to Hume's songs, particularly the cello. The band's style is sort of light shoegaze pop music with a soft high-pitched voice over shimmering guitars. This is a tricky little band and worth a look.
The Muffins - This band has an interesting history which can be read in this nice article in the City Paper. They are a veteran band born out of progressive music of the seventies. And like those bands, all these guys can play. They line up with drums, bass (and some guitar), keyboards/sax, and a winds/brass player who handles saxophones, flute and clarinet (with a brief use of voice synthesizer). If that line-up sounds a bit jazzed, it is. But there is some creative noise created and there are no really entirely safe patterns here. What I enjoy is that they succeed with the tricky balancing act of experimenting in a reasonably original manner while maintaining accessibility for fence walking listeners who live most of their life in the mainstream. No stage patter, just some interesting mime work and odd dance moves, but plenty of excellent music that went over well. Well enough to have the crowd wanting more, but due to time constraints, it had to end after their 55 minute set.
Magma - This veteran French progressive collective plays tonight in the auditorium at the French embassy which turns out to be a nice venue that also is the right size for this moderate size crowd (Hard to estimate, but it would fill the Black Cat well enough I think). They have drums, guitar and bass upstage with a xylophone/keyboards player on one side up front with a keyboardist on the other. The one male and two female singers would come to the front of the stage singing leads while going off to the side for background vocals and percussion. That was subtle, but it was a nice piece of stagecraft giving emphasis to the intriguing and powerful vocals. The first song a 14 minute workout that pretty much blew the doors down right from the start. I would liken it to some prog musicians adding a couple of prog-metal guys covering a Spiritualized song pretending they were Dead Can Dance. What a powerful beginning. That was enough for me right there. The second song was more of a dreamy progressive number with even some folk touches deeply buried within. The next bit was an extended keyboard solo. He mostly had an electric piano sound, but he had some organ sounds in there, too. They went into the next number with tons of vocal leads traded off among the three which was quite powerful and creative--kind of in the neighborhood of Renaissance's "Prologue" although musically they were closer to the Keith Relf Renaissance. They announced they would be playing their last number which surprised me since they only had been on 50 minutes. Well, maybe it could be a long song. 55 minutes later, I had my answer. Yes, long and encompassing all the creative moves from earlier in the night. My mind wandered a few times, but in a song that is longer than eight of Beethoven's nine symphonies, I can forgive myself. They came back with a much shorter encore by ended everything with a very heavy prog-rock song giving the crowd over two hours of exciting music. About as impressive a beginning to the 2010 Sonic Circuits Festival as one could hope for.
Quote of the Night: From Hume... "That song was about Death Valley. Kind of feels like that in here, huh." Yes, it did, although I did enjoy the facilities at the embassy. The afternoon sessions were in a large room that unfortunately was all glass facing to the west. So I eventually found a marble pillar along the glassed wall to lean against which helped. Some chairs may have helped as most people were sitting on the floor. Magma played in the auditorium which was nice and there was room to set up a bar and a merch table. The closing night with Univers Zero will also be here next Saturday.