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Local Music

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Niceness n '98, first report. Five things for you to not bitch about: LDancehallisall around. With neariyonce-a-month live shows at the Majestic featuring top Jamaican artists, and the emergence of DJ Billy the Kid (Zuma Hi Fi) with the Black üon Sound System, hosting excellent parties at the Heidelberg and around Detroit, you now have the chance to catch the hottest sounds coming off the planet today. Guaranteed best vibes for your entertainment dollar. 2. Prism Productions has been getting in the business of booking tours for local bands (Morse! currently, more in the future). 3. Aurora. 4. Intelligent satin as entertainment showing signs of life, gaining ground on ironie kitsch. 5. Poignant Plecostom us , a band that's been really getting it together of late, will be the stage band for the Ann Arbor Civic Theater' s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, going up in May. Two reasons why this is good news. First, for the musical itself, having a "band" take thechairoverajazz-schoolsession-player pick-up band will surely add a psychological depth to its personality. Rather than being asked to piay the charts straight, they've been encouraged to leam the music in their own way, maintaining the proper keys and melodies, but wiih their feel, sense of texture, etc. And what a psychology they are getting . . . for the Plecostomus boys are freaks to a religious degree. In long standing (and long suffering) Ann Arbor styie, they live their band. Secondly, we will all have the perhaps historie opportunity to witness how doing this show will affect and transform their own music after it doses. As Plecostomus retreats this month from the local stages to bear down in rehearsal, it will undoubtedly mean the end of a chapter in their story, so I thought this would be a good time to catch up. If you don't know, l'll say it, and without wincing. Poignant Plecostomus is a fusión band. Though I suppose it's inescapable that a five-piece instrumental band featuring an electrie violin with its Rhodes piano, electric guitar, drum and bass, could be called anything but a fusión band (I mean, what else could they be?). But while past press treatments have tended to (not inaccurately) point to nfluences such as the Mahavishnu orchestra and Herbie Hancock to describe their sound, to understand them I think it's more interesting to regard them as local flavor. Poignant Plecostomus formed as a light idea about two and a half years ago. This wasatatimewhenthf oncept of "acid jazz" had s "?d into theimaginatiunst, iusicians and DJs alike . i good thing. Solidly conservati ve funk drum and bass patterns, muted tona) colors, and modal improvisationsthatstressed environmental maintenance over mountain climbing - an integrated space where jazzers, hippies and rock hipsters could live unafraid of the influences of spontaneity, weed and drum machines. So Plecostomus were five friends, four of whom grew up in Ann Arbor, who got togetherto make people dance while they jammed at parties, pretty much for the heil of it. Months pass. Schools end. Crises resolve. The music deepens. Months pass. It becomes evident that playing music is about all that makes sense, so Plecostomus decides to become a band. To take a step f orward with their collective disregard of formalized style and the music industry as stimulus, commit themselves to the lifestyle, gig a lot, rehearse more, and make music to challenge and entertain each other, figuring that someone's gotta love it as long as they do. Here'swhatl'mhearin'rfrom those '70s jazzfunk fusión records, Plecostomus learned that what's interesting is not the long complicated solos, but the atmospheres that the bands wouldcreatebehindthem.With long melodies woven through, that atmosphere, confident, is maintained and given a mood, a point of departure f rom which a story may begin. And from there it may go in any direction, as they have been equaily Informad by old-school Morsel and the late Jaks, who built their reputations on thwarting pop expectations with radical disruptions of mood and meter. Whereas those bands went for violent thunderstorms and violent impulses as reactions to the post-industrial world, Plecostomus's changes are more about the epic adventure of living on the outside of it all, in humor, and in compassion. Which to me makes them the perfect band to rock the disciples. With each new jam they've written since their initial burst, the palette of styles and emotions touched broadens and strengthens, and as recent shows with avantmotherfolker Frank Pahl and Armenian Kanunist Ari Topouzian would attest, the boys are developing into that rare status of band-that-cando-anything. So with all that history, all of thatworkontheir sound, outside, in self-imposed exle from the context of expectations, they must now drop it all for a while to learn "HeavenOnTheir Minds,"costume designers and hair stylists not necessary. How will the show affect them?They'll gettighter. ■


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