It's been a tough slog for Issue Project Room over the past few years. In 2008, they were forced to abandon their space in an old Gowanus silo, thanks to a greedy landlord. (The space continues to remain empty.) After several years at the Old Can Factory on 3rd Avenue, things were finally looking up when Issue won a 20-year rent-free lease on an elegant 4,800-square-foot space in downtown Brooklyn. But, once curators investigated the space, they found that it needed a lot of work—cosmetic, electrical, acoustic—to the tune of $4 million.
Not to be cowed, Issue gamely started booking shows in the space while raising the necessary funds to renovate. But then, last August, a 50-pound wrought-iron lantern attached to the ceiling broke loose, crashing to the floor. Fortunately, no one was in the space at the time, but the incident prompted its immediate shuttering while a full engineering review was conducted.
After seven months of work, Issue was finally able to reopen earlier this month with a marathon performance of Dennis Johnson's recently rediscovered minimalist opus, November, played by pianist Andrew Lee. I missed that show, but did make it last Saturday for a double bill by free jazz/rock outfit Zs and Mivos Quartet—an odd pairing, if there ever was one.
Mivos (Olivia De Prato and Joshua Modney, violins; Victor Lowrie, viola; Mariel Roberts, cello) opened things with music by Mario Diaz de Leon, Tristan Perich, Patrick Higgins, and Bach (his Contrapunctus XIX from The Art of Fugue, arranged by Higgins). Sitting off to the side of the stage, they looked a bit uncomfortable under the too-bright lights, but what they lacked in stage presence (see Planetarium), they more than made up for in musicianship.
Zs, on the other hand, had no trouble making their presence felt—unleashing a maelstrom of deafening sound that bounced around the cold stone space, with nowhere to escape. Playing selections from their forthcoming album, XE, Sam Hillmer (sax), Greg Fox (drums), and Higgins (electric guitar) exchanged ideas like hand grenades, driving each other to a mad frenzy. At times, it sounded as intricate as math rock; at others, sheer ecstatic noise.
Mivos joined Zs for their final jam, improvising scratches and repeating figures, with both bands looking tickled to be on stage with one another.
Issue's not out of the woods yet: after the summer, they'll close for another 18 months while the space undergoes the necessary renovations. But, for now at least, it's good to have them back.
Short video on the reopening of Issue below. More pics on the photo page.