Review: Erik Wollo at The Gatherings
TRICK AND TREAT
Meandering through the University of Pennsylvania campus the night of Erik Wollo's second appearance at The Gatherings concert series took a little longer than usual. Being the weekend before Halloween, it was hard to find a student who wasn't dressed in costume; some interesting, some not. But the night's treat to the campus' trick was inside St. Mary's Hamilton Village. Upon arriving inside the church, I noticed that there were not the usual assortment of artist CDs. Spotted Peccary, Wollo's label, had to evacuate it's warehouse due to the wildfires in California and as a result he had no wares to offer. That is a shame since show artists, particularly international acts such as Erik Wollo, use CD sales to help defray costs of making the trip to The Gatherings. So if you can, grab a copy or two of Wollo's work online. You won't be disappointed.
Wollo's show was broken into two portions. The first was based on his performance at E-Live in Holland earlier in the month. If you weren't sitting in front of him watching him play the guitar, you wouldn't think that most of the sounds were generated with one. Through the magic of MIDI, Wollo could express just about any tone and texture from a single Fender. To be sure, the electric guitar would occasionally make itself known betwixt and between beautiful segments with full-on distortion and rock-style play. The music was accompanied by a video projection put together by Wollo and a friend. Moving between real and virtual landscapes in lockstep with the music, it was hard to tell if the video had been produced for the music or the other way around. This is what I remember most about the show; that even though the first set consisted of multiple pieces, they fit together as though they had always been that way. The second part of the show centered around live improvisation. Each number was pretty much new to both crowd and performer - so it was very much different than the previous set, but interesting in it's own way. Each piece featured a tighter focus both in length and content. Where the first set was positively lyrical and expansive, the pieces of the second set struck a more reflective tone. Again, an interesting shift, but Wollo managed it well. And at the end a much deserved standing "O" ensued. Tis a pity the show couldn't go longer. With another fine performance in the docket, it's off to brave the faux ghouls of the night. The only thing scarier was the size the franken-pizzas at the WXPN studios before Wollo's on-air concert. But that is a story for another time..............
by Chuck Nixon - 12 November 2007
Review: Erik Wollo at The Gatherings
The tail end of a rainstorm was breezing through University City as evening fell, just in time for the show to begin on a dry note. The rain seems to have flushed out all types of strange creatures, I thought, as I darted out of Lee's Hoagie House and nearly ran into a caveman. He blinked at me and hoisted his papier-mache club before moving along. Across the street, a miniscule woman in a green leotard shouted at a bunch of frat boys, "I'm a sexy turtle for Halloween this year!" No time to go people-watching though - instead it was back into the dark and warm confines of Saint Mary's and backstage to deliver a quick sandwich to Erik Wollo. The pre-show warm-up went off without a hitch, as Erik sat amidst a couple keyboards and a silver laptop, tweaking and tuning a black guitar on this lap. Having only given a handful of spins to my copy of Traces, I was utterly clueless as to what the intervening 22 years had done to this man's musical visions, but the sound check revealed a soft, buoyant sound, relatively free of beats and bolstered by shimmering arcs of sound from the man's guitar. Further hopes of investigating his discography were dashed for the moment, when I was informed that the Southern California wildfires had kept Spotted Peccary from sending along any product in the days leading up to the show. Before long, a cold wind puffed through the open church door as jacketed-and-scarved attendees walked through, and I chatted backstage with Erik about life among the fjords (which I've seen once, and look forward to seeing again).
The music that began to softly emerge from the speakers seemed to mimic the pre-show lack of hubbub - a quiet audience and a soft-spoken artist took up their places as the furnaces along the walls softly burped out warm air into the sanctuary. The music built and faded so gracefully that it seemed blissfully without identifiable beginning or end. Mild tones and mechanical contrails intertwined with slight ticking rhythms while Erik strummed out plaintive leads on his guitar. The artist had brought his own custom-made DVD, which took us though an hour-long journey over verdant hills and plains, and yes, through those massive tumbling fjords. True to what I had heard, the electronic backdrops seemed to take a back seat to Erik's intimate handling of his guitar. Strumming, tapping, scraping, and picking at the strings, he showed a wide range of sounds off even within the first piece. Wild applause greeted him after the opening section, and he rose up briefly before reseating himself and slipping into a longer-form piece accompanied by swirling, ever-changing natural imagery from his DVD player. Soft, chiming melodies intertwined with soft clacking rhythms as squeaks and scrapes from the guitar added a bit of dissonant detail. The audience's appreciation deepened - one patron was heard snoring mightily in the back row - throughout the rest of the first piece and into the second half, which was slightly darker and more organic to my ears. All throughout the church show, which seemed to speed by in just a few fuzzed-out minutes, the music was uncluttered and airy, and the performance simple and unadorned, making us want to believe we were communing with Erik in his own living room - windows wide open, breezes passing through, a den-like comfort settling in around us. All the more reason that the standing ovation at the end of the show seemed frighteningly loud, as Erik grinned and jumped off the stage to shake hands with the people standing up front.
With tiredness already biting at the corners of my eyes, I took a quick equipment run to Upper Darby and then slipped through the back doors of WXPN. Mr. Wollo seemed to have temporarily lost his place as the center of attention, as the radio crew guffawed at the super-sized pizzas that Gatherings attendee and scribe Bill Beck had retrieved - an unearthly, off-the-menu monstrosity obtained by way of some frantic ambiguity in the ordering process. The gigantic pizza box, three feet across and emblazoned with the cryptic words "XL 28 TELE PIZZA SYSTEM", hunkered on the counter like the Hummer H3 of food containers. With slices in hand, guests young and old sipped on Hawaiian Punch and prepared for one more encore hour before night's end. With Erik manning the same sparse set-up, he conjured up another hour's worth of freewheeling open-air soundscapes, opening with a barrage of ticking and scratching on the guitar that made me think a coffee percolator was in the room, and moving into deep and placid repose, quiet guitar reflections enhanced by gurgling water, hissing air, and other sly environmental sounds creeping into the mix. At the end of it all, I slipped some leftover pizza into my car trunk (just barely fit!), and drove down Chestnut Street past the last of the Halloween stragglers, feeling curiously awake and refreshed. As compared to other, more bombastic nights at the Gatherings, it seemed that Number 70 slipped by like the smallest of summer afterthoughts, due in no small part to the rich and verdant musical spaces painted by the artist - the sound of coaxing the rain away from the skies and blowing away the Halloween cobwebs.
by Scott Kelly - 12 November 2007
Review: Erik Wollo and the World's Largest Pizza
Hang around the parking lot for an hour or so after any CIMA-concert
performance and one can witness a semi-organized war-roomish huddle, actually a
gathering of Gatherings' volunteers haphazardly determining a plan of action.
"Lucky" volunteers among the mass are dismissed to partake in the parade of
vehicles destined for WXPN, where artists are regularly shoveled into the
studios in a rapid attempt to complete audio-equipment setups while facing another
rapidly approaching STAR'S END live concert deadline. This squadron consists of
volunteers who, technically speaking, know what they're doing; I've yet to
have been placed on this "A" team, and deservedly so. Team two is then directed
to vehicle-march many-a-city-block west, to Upper Darby, where concert
lighting and sound equipment is carefully carried into storage at a facility
securely enforced by one Nick the Cat. These volunteers must be quick and brawny,
as much work needs to be accomplished in rapid-fire fashion in order to make
it back to the WXPN studio in time to "chow" and then doze through the
above-mentioned STAR'S END radio concert. I rarely qualify for this "B" team, as well.
At the breakup of last Saturday night's huddle, after tactical-team
decisions had been made, one person remained -- "me" -- and this fellow was again
sent blindly out into the Penn Campus on a midnight-hour forage for food to feed
Ten minutes later, sweating profusely, I pointed to the guy about to lock
the door at the one still-open pizzeria and shouted, "Don't you dare!"
Slithering up to the counter I mentioned to the restless pizza clerk that I had one
hungry Norwegian and a horde of starving American concert hosts & volunteers.
"Give me two of the biggest pies your oven can handle." Twenty minutes
later I noticed an employee open a wall-sized window (which advertised "world's
largest pizza" followed by three exclamation points) via a sophisticated set
of hinges. I inquired of the white-capped fellow, "Why, pray tell, are you
opening that huuuuuuuuuuuuge window?"
I saw. The pizzas I was about to log several city blocks were too big to
fit thru the front door.
"Nice job!" said the gang of hungry volunteers after I drove the pies into
the back door of the XPN studio (the Caterpillar forklift was hijacked from a
construction site on 35th and Chestnut; since returned). Erik Wollo (who
offered us an early evening and late night of the most unpretentious, lovely
music we've heard in these parts in a very long time) presented the best
technique in downing the yard-long slices. He lifted an entire sliver of pie over
his head and drooped it toward his throat much in the manner one might expect
to witness while examining an expert ingest a still-flapping herring.
Soon after, the pies miraculously consumed, the 2am radio performance
ensued, and, as if the performance Mr. Wollo graced us with a few hours previous at
St. Mary's wasn't beautiful enough, the artist laid down a perfect nightcap
to a wonderful day. Saturday gave us a night filled with finesse-filled sonic imagination. Those who attended the St. Mary's Gatherings' concert were
brought to their feet at the end of a trio of Wollo's musical journeys. We stood and applauded, not as a result of the typical adrenaline rush one often
obtains during an uplifting concert experience, but for reasons totally the
opposite. I have tried to compare this rising to the four days of rain which had
just dampened the East Coast, and the breath of freshness that encompassed
the air thereafter. Wollo's music was refreshing -- the listener simply
drifted along with his meandering pieces. At the conclusion of the evening's
first set, the quietest of sounds and simplest of visions reveaked emotions
within this listener as powerful as any the concert series has produced. The
electric guitar weighs both heavily and lightly in Wollo's compositions,
producing myriad ranges of tone and effect. Visuals shared onscreen behind Wollo
throughout surely mirrored his inspirations; actual and animated sequences of
Norwegian landscapes -- ice, mountain, fjords -- enhanced the artist's spell.
Sadly, the fires in southern California prevented Spotted Peccary from
shipping a supply of CDs to Philadelphia for us Gatherers to purchase. Also,
fewer than one would hope were able to attend the Wollo show.
How personal perspectives change -- a "supergroup" recently appeared in
Philadelphia, a band I used to love, and the concerts sold-out three shows, with
tickets at a near-$100 price tag. I opted not to attend, and have since
heard a recording of this concert. What was I hearing? Meanwhile, an obscure
artist crosses the pond to perform magically in front an ever-appreciative
number merely in the dozens; the ticket price will go umentioned here, but, rest
assured, nobody gets rich -- only enriched, one can hope. One can also only
wish Erik Wollo returned home feeling nearly as enchanted as did those with
whom he shared his wonderful music.
by soma611 as posted to the
Spacemusic List (#11973) 30 October 2007
Concert Photos by Jeff Towne
CIMA of PA - The Corporation for Innovative Music and Arts of Pennsylvania
Erik Wollo live at The Gatherings Concert Series on 27 October 2007 is funded by CIMA of PA (The Corporation for Innovative Music and Arts of Pennsylvania), the all-volunteer, non-profit organization responsible for organizing and producing The Gatherings Concert Series. The basic mission of CIMA of PA is to bring innovative music concerts to the public and further the advancement of this artform.
For more about CIMA of PA, please access the Mission Statement
For more about Erik Wollo, please access the:
The Gatherings Concert Series is presented by the all-volunteer staff of The Corporation for Innovative Music and Arts of Pennsylvania