The Wire magazine’s Adventures in Modern Music festival, held each year at Chicago’s Empty Bottle, is always a good opportunity to experience some of the most adventurous music out there. The festival started Wednesday and continues through Sunday; I caught most of the first two nights. The headliner on Wednesday (Sept. 10), Kenji Haino, cancelled his appearance, which was probably a great disappointment to those fans looking forward to one of his rare appearances. I’m not familiar with his music, but the advance blurbs I read were enough to interest me. As it worked out, it was a pretty good evening of music.
The highlight for me was Paul Metzger, who plays a banjo with (I think) 24 strings – 12 main strings and a bunch of resonating drone strings. Metzger really attacks his instrument, plucking, strumming and bowing as he drags every imaginable note and noise out of that banjo, and his performance was pretty amazing to behold. It was followed by the band These Are Powers, who played some fairly intense rock with a slight electronica flavor, and the percussion-heavy rock of Tussle.
On the second night of the festival (Sept. 11), I did not make it all the way to the end of the night, missing the headlining set by Black Moth Super Rainbow. All I can say is it was very late and I was tired. But I was very glad to see a galvanizing performance by Evangelista, the latest band led by Carla Bozulich. It was a stronger set than the one I saw this spring at SXSW, though perhaps not all that radically different. Bozulich has a singular strange presence, walking around in an almost skipping gait at times, even when she’s intoning ominous sounds with her voice. She occasionally comes out to the edge of the stage with an aggressive posture, and she seemed to be directing some ire toward the people talking over at the bar. (Or maybe I was just reading that into her expression, since I was feeling ire toward them.) Bozulich looks like she could erupt into a violent act at any moment, but then she goes over to exchange words with one of her musicians and she flashes an easygoing smile. The violinist in her band, Agathe Max, played the first set of the night, doing a lot of tape looping with her violin – essentially the same thing that Andrew Bird does, but to much different ends, more avant-garde orchestral. The other band on Thursday was Colourmusic, who played some fairly catchy-sounding indie pop… I enjoyed their set, though I did wonder if it was a good fit for the experimental theme of the Wire festival.