More Fire Less Smoke Jan 27, 2012
Thanks OTB pals for asking me to check in…
I only know Erin just a little bit, but I was really excited to come to this show after catching her short in the last 12 Minutes Max. Her piece—I’ll call it a “Craigslist Catechism”, though it was all questions no answers—was a tommy gun spray of qualifiers for a hookup… (Or a partner—she didn’t know and did it matter?) It was at once kinda droll and completely intense—pitch perfect—and utterly authoritative, urged on by the leanest, rangiest, most sinister organ God or Steve Fisk has ever committed to disc. Erin’s hardly imposing, physically, but in those 12 minutes a woman not to be f*cked with. Even the slightly despairing punch line came from a performer—if not a character—completely in command… She strode offstage and slammed the door behind her…
I missed that badass in “Redemption.”
A big part of it is the very first beat: “I wrote my own church service, to make me feel better.” That’s badass, and funny, and an awesome opening line—‘cept I learned it later because I couldn’t hear it from my place in the house. And I couldn’t see it, through the haze, her head down…
Tonight Erin celebrates that service and charts her path to redemption, drifting in and out of various “churches” on the way to her self-salvation through the Church of Erin. But—and not to harp—by losing that opening line, and without any spoken elements for what felt like another 20 minutes, I was trapped in an oddly static concert, and wondering why I wasn’t catching this in a club where I could feel closer to her playing… For those first (seemed like 20) minutes, it was cool to hear but if I’m honest, also a bit boring.
The stage is dominated by Erin’s giant marimba and Steve’s giant Fender cabinet, symbols/tools of a pretty awesome musical marriage: her cool, muscular confidence on the odd band-room staple and his incredible treatments/textures/firings. If you’re a fan of His Name Is Alive, Blonde Redhead, Laurie Anderson, Lisa Germano (minus the head voice), Dead Can Dance (minus the primal scream), Cynthia Hopkins (minus the shaggy dog story), or even the Angelo Badalamenti/Julee Cruise/David Lynch thing (including the velvety curtains)—there’re probably a dozen things in Redemption’s soulscape to make you swoon.
One more word about Steve Fisk on this. Whether it was lush or mechanical ambient beds, clickety crisp click tracks, bombastic rock drums, dismembering and rebuilding the word “Sa-nct-us” in his processor, or the above-mentioned organ, which oscillated between creepy/woozy with vibrato to super-creepy/knifey without—Steve’s work formed alternately an inner monologue and outer landscape. It seemed to move in and out of Erin. It was great.
In the end, I don't think the larger size or the expanded palette of the OTB mainstage really served the piece. Erin has the gifts for everything this piece demands—musician, singer, composer, lyricist, cool… But either her confidence faltered, or she chose understatement and got dwarfed by a big, underdeveloped space. Redemption wanted be more dramatically designed/staged, OR scaled back into a concert; the big room was right on for Steve’s exquisite 4D mix, but I lost Erin in her own damn church.
Or in all that smoke.