Drone Not Drones' 28-hour drone
|Photo by Mark N. Kartarik|
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
Friday, February 7 and Saturday February 8, 2014
The local activist organization Drone Not Drones set up one of the most ambitious concerts in Twin Cities history with a 28-hour long rotating cast of drone musicians. It blended individual sets and played off the sounds of their predecessors to create essentially one sprawling song. The show was very tight and well-curated, with music running smoothly and maintaining the vibe no matter the time of the day or night.See Also: Slideshow: Drone Not Drones at the Cedar, 2/7/14
Some of the biggest local names in the scene came together for an unprecedented and extraordinary night of music, all to raise awareness about drone warfare and military spending. A benefit for Doctors Without Borders and sponsored by Veterans For Peace, the night was a politically-charged artistic expression of resistance.
Note: This was unlike anything I'd ever been to, and I did my best to cover as much as I could. This piece is over-long and under-edited intentionally, and echoes the sprawling vibe of the music. I was able to get what I could considering my own human limitations, but click here for the full line-up
|Photo by Mark N. Kartarik|
The Prairie Fire Lady Choir opened the night with a haunting vocal performance from 19 women, one of whom conducted the piece, which gradually progressed from sustained choral harmonies to include a section singing lyrics. "Mother Earth will smother her" seemed to be the refrain, a chilling evocation of the night's anti-war theme. A powerful beginning to a long night of combined performances, the choir continued as Erik Winivus set-up behind and slowly integrated the guitars, electronic drums, and effects that made up his time slot.
As Prairie Fire Lady Choir exited the stage to the night's singular bout of applause, the steadily building guitars and feedback matched the vibe of the voices that preceded it. As the percussionist controlled heavily-reverberated drum hits gesturally over electronic pads, the guitar players fluidly moved from pure feedback to light strums using some interesting fingering techniques. Immediately the show presented the range of local acts creating variants of drone, as well as the time span, thanks to Winivus' longstanding presence in the scene as former member of pioneering group Salamander.
It was inspiring to see the first wave of fans, some of whom brought their kids, finding seats in chairs or on the floor, mesmerized. There was little talking and zero dancing. As BNLX took stage and moved the feeling in a new direction using largely the same instrumentation, the sound shifted bigger and riffier, incorporating a standard drum to move into moments that echoed the post-rock stylings of bands like Explosions In the Sky. The vibe never stayed stationary for long, and just as quickly as they burst into the night's first true gigantic moments, they'd shift gears and bottom out with ringing feedback.
|Photos by Mark N. Kartarik|
Peace Drone, a duo made up of members of Flavor Crystals and Magic Castles, took stage behind BNLX and started to add elongated guitar squeals and what sounded like tweaked vocal samples, and the show's curatorial strength really became apparent. This was a well-oiled machine of a concert, broken up into fifteen minutes sections that barely revealed their starting points but managed to keep things moving. To mark the show as a singular song was a stroke of genius, invoking meditative listening that truly lost the use for time.
Jesse Petersen's bowed guitar added some background flourish as he melded into Peace Drone's set, but soon was the focal point as the distortion grew and everyone else packed up. Noise Quean Ant eventually began their highly percussive set underneath in what was one of the most varied performances of the night. With an array of instruments at their fingertips, the trio used mallets on toms, cymbals, and xylophones to create tight rhythmic sections as the guitarist brought a slight twang with an eerie slide style. They had a tight grasp on loud-to-quiet dynamics, switching up drum patterning and feedback elements to subtly redefine the mood.
Drone as a form really only works when the inherent self-indulgence is masked by a convincing sense of drama, which was sustained throughout the set up until John Zuma St. Plevyn's set. It started as promising as the rest, blending warm-toned feedback and intricate finger-picking techniques with very light keys, but the manic vocal portion felt very overdone and distracting. The style was intriguing when John's light falsetto rang through the guitar's f-holes, but it quickly devolved into squeals and yelps that elicited laughter rather awe. Stage antics which purportedly changed the dynamics of the amp noise seemed more for the purpose of grabbing attention.