Last night's Wordless Music show had the bittersweet taste of a farewell. Ronen told the sold-out crowd that this would probably be the last concert held at the Good Shepherd-Faith Church, where Wordless started in 2006 and has experienced some of its most astonishing moments (such as Sigur Ros' surprise acoustic set last season.) But, all good things come to an end, and with the series' meteoric growth over the past year, it's time to find more room for the flocks of indie and new music kids who want to hear come their favorites, and maybe pick up something new along the way.
Violinist Caleb Burhans and guitarist Grey McMurray make up the ambient duo itsnotyouitsme, who say they, "hope to make you cry, in a good way." Caleb, who readers will know from previous posts, played electric but kept it soft, blending with Grey's effects-driven guitar to create a sound that filled the church like the organ you might hear during meditations any given Sunday.
They ended their set with the astonishing, "we are malleable, even though they seem to own us," off their debut album walled gardens. Grey laid down a trance beat that would have fit on any dancefloor while Caleb punctured it with sharp, high attacks. It wasn't loud or fast, but I could feel my heart racing to the steadily building pulse. I was hard in its grip, and it would not let me go. Strong stuff.
Most classical kids have to endure a hard-fought rebellion against their parents and teachers before abandoning a career in the concert hall for the scary underground of new music. But, Face the Music, a group of pre-teens from the Kaufman Center's Special Music School, exclusively performs new music, implicitly teaching these kids that it's OK to be different. Necessary, even.
There's nothing that can quite prepare you for the sight of a pair of 10 year old pianists playing John Adams' Hallelujah Junction, or a mini-orchestra performing Michael Gordon's Yo Shakespeare, doing both more than justice. (They also performed Ira Mowitz’s Kol Aharon for solo violin, digital soundtrack, and ensemble, in a new version written for them.) The only appropriate reaction was to stand and cheer - which we all did, sullen hipsters included.
The night ended with Stars of the Lid, founded in Austin in 1993 by Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride, making their first New York appearance since 2000. They played slow, soft drones on their guitars, accompanied by string players and abstract projections filling the sanctuary.
As I sat there, listening to pieces such as "Ballad of Distances" and "Requiem for Dying Mothers," I felt like there was a cinderblock sitting on my chest. This is music of irrepressible sadness, of deep and abiding loss. It's the soundtrack to a broken heart.
Their last number, "December Hunting for Vegetarian Fuckface," evoked awe and wonder, filling the space with majestic chords like those at the end of a Messiaen organ cycle, held to the brink of unbearableness. I couldn't tell how they were getting all those sounds out with only five instruments, but whatever it is, these guys have figured something out.
This may have been the last show at Good Shepherd, but Wordless has a busy summer ahead of it, with four Friday night shows at the Whitney in June, plus outdoor concerts at Celebrate Brooklyn and Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park, all free. I'll see you there.
(Photos 2-5 by Christopher Owyoung; more by your's truly after the jump.)