September 25, 2006

Live Review: Glenn Kotche & Nels Cline

The thing that surprised me most when we walked into the Wexner Center's Black Box was how close we were going to be to the performers. When I saw a Fiery Furnaces Black Box show, the stage was high enough that you could rest your arms on it. But for the Glenn Kotche and Nels Cline solo performances the stage was not more than 2-3 feet high. I was standing within inches of Kotche's drum kit, I could have reached out and touched the guy while he was playing. I'm pretty sure this is perhaps the most intimate show I've ever had the pleasure of attending. It felt like I was in a basement with these two, just watching them mess around on their respective instruments.
Nels 2
The night started out with Nels Cline's solo set. He played one long 30-minute improvised piece, aided by a sampler and a myriad of effect pedals and several unconventional noisemakers. The piece drifted from straight ahead rock, to staccato bursts of noise which bled into Pink Floyd-esque guitar balladry. I can't even begin to describe some of the insane things this guy did with his guitar, you and have to see/hear it to understand. His set was far from cohesive or easy to understand, but he still managed to keep the audiences' rapt attention simply because how fun it is to watch him coaxing these abnormal sounds out of his guitar.
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Kotche's set was much like his performance when he opened for Jeff Tweedy last year, however it's intensity was magnified by the fact that I was within inches of his set. The whole place was as silent as a tomb throughout the entirety of Kotche's show, a fact which he commented on as being both "weird, but very much appreciated". His set was mainly culled from his solo album Mobile, including renditions of all three parts of the titles track, "Projections of (What) Might..." and a full length "Monkey Chant" that left Glenn's hands bleeding. Also included was a Steve Reich cover, in honor of his 70th birthday.

It was hard to know what to expect when Kotche and Cline took the stage together. Much like Cline's set, it was largely improvised, but there seemed to be some structure to it. The first piece they played was a 'cover' of Sonic Youth's "Karen Coltrane", an improv-jam that deviated back to a familiar riff every few minutes or so. The next piece was drawn out and freeform, sounding almost like one of the more experimental Nels Cline Singers songs, and featured a return of many of the gadgets from Cline's solo set. It was not at all straight forward, but still enjoyable just because you could tell that the two were having fun. Like I said earlier, I felt like I'd snuck into one of their basements and witnessed an afternoon of musical messing around. A great night and a reminder of the fact that even outside of Wilco, these two are solid and successful musicians in their own right.

My Glenn Kotche & Nels Cline Concert Pictures
Video Montage of Kotche & Cline Performance

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