A 21st Century Music Experience
The last column here about 20th versus 21st century generated not only on-line comments but many more offline conversations with people. It does seem to be a way for non-futurists to separate what is steeped in legacy and what is new and forward facing.
It was with this mind set that I went to a concert last Saturday night. The performer I saw could not have existed in the 20th century. He was the first truly 21st century musician and entertainer I have ever seen.
My son Christopher has been raving about That1Guy for three years, ever since he saw him for the first of three times in Lawrence Kansas. ( For those of you unfamiliar with Lawrence, it is the place between Madison WI and Austin TX that is a hot bed of new and alternative music and has been so since the 1960s, so cutting edge or wannabe cutting edge musicians have often played there early in their careers.) I asked Christopher to let me know if That1Guy ever came to Chicago so that we could go see him together.
Well, last Friday, as I was heading to an airport from yet another speech, I got a text from my son saying That1Guy was playing at a local Chicago club. I texted back that I wanted to go and then on Saturday night my 23 year old son, his best friend, my 16 year old step son, his best friend, my wife and I got to the small club early and stood up right at the front of the stage. The musical experience that occurred over the next two hours was not only one of the most enjoyable I can remember, it was, for a small club experience, completely of this century. All of us, across the obvious demographics absolutely loved the experience. That in itself is rare.
I must state right away that the YouTube videos you might have already clicked on do not do justice to That1Guy’s performance. It was fun, exciting, astounding, funny and completely unique. He has created a “magic pipe” that he plays as an upright base, a guitar, a cello and a drum set. Utilizing computer technology he creates sounds that at times sounded like a complete band, utilizing three different foot pedals to provide beautiful melodies, funkadelic dance music, heavy metal riffs and hilarious sound affects.
The “magic pipe” , and That1Guy’s playing of it was completely futuristic and danceable at the same time. If Stanley Kubrick gave us a glimpse of the future in the late 1960s and early 1970s with “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Clockwork Orange”, then That1Guy provided all in the room with a look ahead at the future of music performance. I kept thinking “Why is this guy not a huge star?” He has so much more talent and originality than many groups today.
Think about it. The music most of us listen to – aside from classical music – is from the 20th century. Be it the rock model of guitars, a keyboard and drums, a more stripped down version of that which is blues, or the jazz model of drums, bass, horns and guitar. Rock, Jazz and Blues are all 20th century music forms. [For those of you steeped into the rock idiom, I would describe That1Guy as the Millennial generation’s Frank Zappa ] I have hundreds and hundreds of “albums” from these three music forms on my iPod and listen to them a lot. So if all of these beloved music categories are from the 20th century, what will be created in this new 21st century?
That1Guy perhaps is an early century signpost as to what lies ahead.
Oh, by the way, in a sequence that was mind altering, he played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on an electrified saw with a cello bow, segued into a percussive, dance club piece using an electrified cowboy boot as a congo/bongo drum and then let rip a unique version of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” using the “magic pipe”. To say the crowd went wild is an understatement. He also used hand held lasers, optical card tricks and created many humorous moments with sound effects.
Forty years ago, when walking out of Stones, Doors, Hendrix, Zeppelin and Dead concerts, I felt charged up and living in a new landscape that was exciting and full of potential. I felt that same way for the first time in a long time when walking out of this, my first 21st century concert experience.