Review: ‘Mark Eitzel; Tuatara; Minus 5’

Mark Eitzel; Tuatara; Minus 5 (Ash Grove; 325 capacity; $ 15.50) Presented by Goldenvoice. Band: Peter Buck, Mark Eitzel, Barrett Martin, Justin Harwood, Scott McCaughey, Skerik, Mike Stone. Reviewed May 17, 1997. Abusman's holiday unit out of Seattle --- R.E.M.'s Peter Buck being the best known of the lot, and hub of this affair --- turns in its most arresting work treading territory far from the rock world, specifically a synthesis of tribal beats and free jazz. San Franciscan Mark Eitzel, former leader of American Music Club, gives the evening its greatest depth by effectively using this accomplished big band to reproduce the varying textures of his two solo Warners discs. Eitzel's "West," which features Tuatara members, is being supported on this tour, along with Tuatara's "Breaking the Ethers" on Epic and the Minus 5's "Lonesome Death of Bock McCoy." The musicians, essentially assembled as their specific units for 45 minutes at a time, move with ease between vibraphones, bass guitar, steel drums, acoustic bass, percussion instruments, piano, organ and a stream of guitars --- it's a wonder they know where they belong when, let alone what song to play. (Luna bassist Justin Harwood seems to be making the most of this opportunity to play well anything that's placed in his hands). Tuatara opened the evening with an all-instrumental program focused on the saxophonist Skerik, an able musician capable of evoking virtually every nuance of the freer players of the 1960s such as John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. The band's percussion-heavy music, however, provides him with a base that has grown out of film scores, Pakistani and surf music, and the compost-jazz of the acoustic fusionoids Oregon; it's a rich and edgy sound owing much to the mallet instruments and a keen sense of exploration among the musicians. Eitzel, playing up his Bohemian-belter persona in dress and schtick, has cornered the market on pain as subject matter. The expandable band behind him was able to bring a lighter edge before he went into two solo tunes, and then able to twist his heavy-duty lyrics with winding bass lines and a rush of '60s-inspired pop. For brief flashes Eitzel's set shifted into the late '60s folk-jazz realm of Tim Hardin and vibist Mike Manieri --- certainly an undermined yet worthy concept --- but the singer-guitarist consistently sprang onto more solid ground. Wrapping up the evening, Minus 5 and frontman Scott McCaughey are by far the most raucous of the bunch, breaking into standard pop forms such as '60s punk, country-rock and a free-form art-rock that betrays the tightness of the rest of the affair. In this context it comes off as too ordinary and, when keys of songs are being shouted out, unrehearsed. Buck's role throughout was little different from his R.E.M. duties,specificaly play rhythm guitar well without drawing attention to yourself --- his contributions appear to be more conceptual than ornate. A tune written by Buck and Eitzel during a radio show sound check tweaked some of the notions about both these artists, a sign this tour is expanding more than the audience's world.

Mark Eitzel; Tuatara; Minus 5 (Ash Grove; 325 capacity; $ 15.50) Presented by Goldenvoice. Band: Peter Buck, Mark Eitzel, Barrett Martin, Justin Harwood, Scott McCaughey, Skerik, Mike Stone. Reviewed May 17, 1997. Abusman’s holiday unit out of Seattle — R.E.M.’s Peter Buck being the best known of the lot, and hub of this affair — turns in its most arresting work treading territory far from the rock world, specifically a synthesis of tribal beats and free jazz. San Franciscan Mark Eitzel, former leader of American Music Club, gives the evening its greatest depth by effectively using this accomplished big band to reproduce the varying textures of his two solo Warners discs. Eitzel’s “West,” which features Tuatara members, is being supported on this tour, along with Tuatara’s “Breaking the Ethers” on Epic and the Minus 5’s “Lonesome Death of Bock McCoy.” The musicians, essentially assembled as their specific units for 45 minutes at a time, move with ease between vibraphones, bass guitar, steel drums, acoustic bass, percussion instruments, piano, organ and a stream of guitars — it’s a wonder they know where they belong when, let alone what song to play. (Luna bassist Justin Harwood seems to be making the most of this opportunity to play well anything that’s placed in his hands). Tuatara opened the evening with an all-instrumental program focused on the saxophonist Skerik, an able musician capable of evoking virtually every nuance of the freer players of the 1960s such as John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. The band’s percussion-heavy music, however, provides him with a base that has grown out of film scores, Pakistani and surf music, and the compost-jazz of the acoustic fusionoids Oregon; it’s a rich and edgy sound owing much to the mallet instruments and a keen sense of exploration among the musicians. Eitzel, playing up his Bohemian-belter persona in dress and schtick, has cornered the market on pain as subject matter. The expandable band behind him was able to bring a lighter edge before he went into two solo tunes, and then able to twist his heavy-duty lyrics with winding bass lines and a rush of ’60s-inspired pop. For brief flashes Eitzel’s set shifted into the late ’60s folk-jazz realm of Tim Hardin and vibist Mike Manieri — certainly an undermined yet worthy concept — but the singer-guitarist consistently sprang onto more solid ground. Wrapping up the evening, Minus 5 and frontman Scott McCaughey are by far the most raucous of the bunch, breaking into standard pop forms such as ’60s punk, country-rock and a free-form art-rock that betrays the tightness of the rest of the affair. In this context it comes off as too ordinary and, when keys of songs are being shouted out, unrehearsed. Buck’s role throughout was little different from his R.E.M. duties,specificaly play rhythm guitar well without drawing attention to yourself — his contributions appear to be more conceptual than ornate. A tune written by Buck and Eitzel during a radio show sound check tweaked some of the notions about both these artists, a sign this tour is expanding more than the audience’s world.

Mark Eitzel; Tuatara; Minus 5

Ash Grove; 325 capacity; $15.50

Production

Presented by Goldenvoice. Band: Peter Buck, Mark Eitzel, Barrett Martin, Justin Harwood, Scott McCaughey, Skerik, Mike Stone.

Crew

Reviewed May 17, 1997
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