Another great night of music in the McGuire – and while it was clearly another night of Dave King music, it was quite a different experience from the night before, featuring three completely different groups: Golden Valley Is Now, The Gang Font, and The Dave King Trucking Company, the first and last of which were giving their premier performances. This gave me a different sense of anticipation from the previous night, when I had already seen those groups before.
Again, I was very impressed by the program itself, – the way the evening flowed – starting out with the tight, electronics fueled “instrumental pop” of Golden Valley Is Now, a trio featuring King on acoustic and electronic drums, Reid Anderson (The Bad Plus) on electric bass & laptop, and Craig Taborn on rhodes and synthesizer keyboards and laptop. Further setting apart the GVIN performance was the big screen video projections by Cristina Guadalupe, with specific video pieces set to certain songs, adding to the sense of each song’s personality.
Most striking for me was when King introduced a song by describing how these three childhood friends would get together as teenagers to play music at King’s house in Golden Valley, and now this past december, they did the same thing to prepare for this concert. He then referenced 80s group Mike & The Mechanics (to audience laughter, though it wasn’t a joke) as the song began. Immediately, the big screen was filled with gorgeous, jumpy, black & white film/video footage shot from a car driving through Golden Valley neighborhoods in a snowy winter. (shot by Reid’s wife). The combination of that backstory, with the footage of passing suburban winter scene houses, and the 80’s electro musical vibe, really created a rich sense of the three musicians, connected at such a formative age, coming back together for this joyous occasion to explore new (and old) ground artistically. It hit close to home for me personally, having also grown up in MN and gotten rides from my parents to go play music in my friends basement – friends I still perform with today. There’s something very minnesota about the whole thing, and that moment really resonated for me, personally.
The videos offered lovely scene changes from tune to tune, and the last song, the breathtaking “The End of The World” when king left his drums for the treated grand piano – an eerie, haunting, vast expanse of a song, that like many king compositions, opened up through a hopeful twist, moving up and out to finish the set. really, really beautiful. Another delectable McGuire moment.
The Gang Font then came on to bash in some heads with their heavy, mathy, angular march, featuring Greg Norton, (Husker Du) on bass. The highlight for me was the section led by Erik Fratzke’s repeated circular guitar riff held down by King’s steady beat that kept landing in new places. That was some sick guitar playing. wow. (not that I’m surprised)
The Trucking Company has such a wide palette – both instrumentally and stylistically. And King chose the perfect song to introduce the set – the same song he played on MAKING MUSIC on thursday, though this time it opened up to be joined by his bandmates. Sitting at the grand piano, alternating between the rootsy, bluesy, key- played progressions, and the more ethereal, mysterious, pixie dust string plucks – like a conversation between the two worlds – which was how he described the Trucking Co. project in general. And the Trucking Co felt more like an orchestra than a band – even though it’s just a quartet. The way King has written for this ensemble is much more as an orchestral composer, it seemed to me, giving it its broad sensibilities. At times, the Fratzke/Chris Speed dual lines reminded me of Scofield/ Lovano. Speed’s crazy “warbled” tone tricks were a nice added wrinkle.
My personal favorite moment was bassist Adam Linz’ soulful solo intro on the ballad “Church Clothes with Wallet Chain” – singing along Keith Jarrett style. yum. nice one, adam. He was having a blast.
the night ended with another all-star rousing rendition, joined by James Diers and Reid Anderson on vocals singing a broken down (and lifted up) version of the old country tune “Convoy”, which emily wouldn’t stop singing the rest of the night.
As another musician friend told me the next day, it was one of the most incredible, powerful couple o’ concerts we’d ever seen or heard. dave was exhausted afterwards, and bravo for such a well thought-out weekend of music. He’ll need to rest up, as the Bad PLus heads into the recording studio right away this week….