Steve Roach & Vidna ObmanaLive at
The Gatherings Concert Series
Sunday 26 May 2002St. Mary's Hamilton Village
Review: Steve Roach & Vidna Obmana
Gathering on Sunday with Steve Roach & Vidna Obmana performing together was really cool. We decided to go with the second of the two performances at St. Mary's, thinking that it might not be quite as crowded. While enjoying a great dinner at the Philly Diner, I could see quite a line for the first performance. After making our way over to the church to get in line for the second show, a nice crowd of folks also lined up, but it was a laid-back group. I enjoyed talking with a couple that hadn't been to a Gathering before, but had been into the STAR'S END radio show for years. The ProjektFest attendees were out in force, and I thought it was really great to have so many new faces at a Gathering.
After the ticketholders & folks for the ProjektFest got in, we eventually worked our way to the pews and settled in. We especially had fun going over the complete list of Gatherings on the back of the Signal flyer. Which was your first show? I pointed proudly to my Steve Roach '97 performance at the REALLY small place before St. Mary's Church (Houston Hall?) as my initial Gathering; I'll never forget Steve coming in from behind the crowd with his wireless digeridoo! And the guy with the flashing red sword up front! Such great memories...
Back to tonight, after the introductory words by Chuck, the lights dimmed completely. First up was Steve, who I didn't recognize at first with the longer hair! I hadn't seen him in a while. He seemed to pop up out of nowhere, and began the subtle sounds beginning the sonic journey.
It wasn't long before Dirk/Vidna appeared, to Steve's right (our left), also behind an array of electronics. It was interesting to see the interaction between the two. They didn't really look at each other much during the beginning phase, except for an occasional look and smile. As the show went on, they began whispering a few words occasionally to each other, as if they were plotting strategy. I'd love to know what they said.
The performance seemed to be along the lines of the InnerZone CD. The rehearsals we heard the night before on STAR'S END gave some idea of where they were heading, but the performance seemed to have much more of an edge. The soundscape gradually moved into a very upbeat, driving peak of sorts twice during the show, with the second one being particularly nice & loud -- I could really feel the low end shaking my bones. One of the monitors on stage actually shifted from the volume! I couldn't help but bop around a bit in the pew myself. This was in marked contrast to the very contemplative, but mysterious earlier section, where I found myself so relaxed I almost drifted off into semi-consciousness. The fellow next to me looked liked he had dozed off completely for a long time. What a mellow scene.
The section during the second half was notable for the amazing textures that Vidna created with his signature flute-like instruments. There was a lot of breathy sounds coming at one point, with no discernable actual tone itself. It blended perfectly with Steve's trademark digeridoo & loops, as well all of the other layers of sound going on. They both seemed to be really playing off of each other, which I was hoping to see. At various times, Vidna & then Steve would mike subtle vocal sounds that also worked very well.
And how about those amazing textures created by those sweeping (analog?) synth sounds, which might have been Steve's? I'm not sure who actually triggered it. I've always felt that there is a certain tonal quality to some synth sounds that recordings never do justice to. Hearing it live through a PA in a good acoustic space, there is a timbre that you can almost touch or taste that I've never really heard on a CD. One more aspect that a live performance brings, I guess, in addition to the unique interaction between the audience and the artists performing.
Fortunately, the infamous sound of pews cracking was held to a minimum for this show (even during the quiet sections)! The sound was clean but powerful, and I particularly thought the lights were very well done for this Gathering. There was a really cool effect created for a lot of the show, with these laser-light rays of white light coming from behind the performers & up into the space overhead, with lots of fog coming through. Between that and the red/blue lights from the side, the performers more than once appeared to be just floating in space above us. Very appropriate, especially for the music.
What really struck me about this particular Gathering was how smoothly everything went. They walked off the stage into darkness together as the sounds continued to fade for some time into the background. Very dramtic. The show itself ended I thought rather early, but a check of the watch during the massive applause shocked me when I saw it was almost 11:30! I guess not having a break with such mesmerizing performers compressed perceived time quite a bit. I've been to a lot of Gatherings, but never really experienced anything quite like this! Each one has a unique quality, which keeps the series a little unpredictable and exciting to me.
I was also surprised at the end to look back and see that the church was nearly filled up. Good thing there were two shows!
Getting back home, I of course broke out the CD's and relaxed, drifting off with great memories of a truly memorable Gathering. I'm very grateful to Chuck, Jeff, the performers, and everybody behind the scenes who makes this series possible. I go to a lot of concerts of all types, but the Gatherings are very special to me (and apparently to quite a few other folks)! See you there in the Fall....
by Joe Olnick
Review: Steve Roach & Vidna Obmana
Instead of my usual post concert bolt over the Delaware, I hung around St. Mary's Sunday night. Always understanding that there were behind the scenes heroics that go on in producing these events, I figured I'd stick around and peek in on some of the action.
It didn't take long to notice that all hands seemed somewhat spent. To be honest, I wasn't running on all cylinders either (heck, when have I?), as I had coffeed myself sleepless the night before in a successful effort to make it through a STAR'S END broadcast. Not having been able to gain much in the way of shuteye all day Sunday either, I fit in just fine with all the weary looking post-Gathering crew. When the crowd finally dispersed and the post concert reception ended, I spent some quality time pewed next to Gathering sound man/Ministry of Inside Things guitarist Art Cohen, reminiscing with Art about the history of the Gathering series. How far it had come, from the tiniest venue to the most lovely church this heart will ever see; chatting about all the artists that have passed through; of all the adventures and misadventures; and all the hard work and dedication involved. There simply cannot be enough praise heaped upon the people who have created this concert series; a series I should be safe to pinpoint as representing a hub/core for our wondrous genre.
Never having lifted a finger for the cause (except to pen here the occasion horrible concert review), I decided to offer my services and chip in with the equipment breakdown. Jeff Towne, shop foreman and fine articulator, perkily suggested (Jeff appeared least spent of the spentees) I roll up any loose cords I might find. "Ha! Cake!" Little did I know that I would soon be revealed to the fact of there being exactly 266,000 miles of various cords utilized in your typical electronic music concert (exactly enough, if you were aspired to extend all of these wires together in one long interconnected thread, to fire up a light bulb on the moon). But, you know what? I'd roll up wiring stretching from here to some faint galaxy, all in a human heart beat, to help out this crew of people.
What dedication and hard work, making it fly.
The series has become a dream-like revolving door spinning through one diverse and talented electronic musicians after another.
This night, we experienced a Steve Roach and vidnaObmana vision into the InnerZone. Dirk flew all the way from Belgium for the gig. He's already home. Such a happy go lucky a person, he is. After seeing Steve Roach perform Iive in the past, I then described him as the ultimate tightrope walker. Both artists have provided live performance diversity offering myriads of sound layers, mixes of the ancient and the new, and somehow structuring chaos into discipline. Although these same moments of brillance were at hand Sunday night as well, the artists seemed, instead, to walk a different kind of tightrope. They dared us to see, challenging us to understand, a new vision. Steve's guitar and Dirk's fujara cloud spaced us for nearly a half hour at the outset. This seemingly endless movement finally evolved to moments of laser lit, smoke stretching pulsations and rhythms, clearly this attendees high point of the concert. Also most worth noting were the moments when Dirk, armed with a Super Sized-version of the fujara, performed a duet with Steve, who was armed with a huge didgeridoo that threatened the privacy of anyone sitting near the front of the church. But, ultimately, the music would return to those isolative modes of dissonant expression. I'll confess by saying that this isn't my favorite form of Steve Roach/vidnaObmana expression, but it still ain't a bad place to be.
For more about Steve Roach, please access the:|
For More About Vidna Obmana, Please Access the:
For More About ProjektFest, Access the Official Website at: http://www.projektfest.com
For More About The Gatherings at ProjektFest, Access: http://www.projektfest.com/gathering.asp
Access Helen H. Thompson's insightful ProjektFest Concert Preview from the 23 May 2002 issue of The Philadelphia City Paper (off-site)
Access J. Edward Keys' insightful ProjektFest Concert Preview from the 22 May 2002 issue of The Philadelphia Weekly (off-site)
Concert Photos by Bill Forcier