Live At The Gathering Report

September 25, 2000. Thanks to everyone who came out to the Gathering last Saturday. Special thanks to those kind souls who bought some CDs and stopped by to chat. It was gratifying to spend some time talking to folks who are passionate about electronic music. Chuck, Jeff, and Art deserve special mention for putting on such a fine concert series. I'll try to outline a blow-by-blow account of the evening for those who couldn't make it, and as a glimpse into the amount of work the mighty trinity of Chuck, Jeff, and Art put into the Gatherings.

I arrived at St. Mary's church, smack in the middle of the UPenn campus, at about 4:00 pm and was immediately greeted by Chuck, who helped unload what little gear I had. I like to travel light, and on this occasion, my rig consisted of the Roland JX-305, a Korg Electribe R drum machine, and a small Boss mixer. Once inside, I met John Duval of Dweller, who was in the midst of setting up. I took a few minutes to absorb the space. The church had nice high ceilings, and a generous amount of stained glass around. There was a dark medieval quality to the architecture and lighting; I could see why this building hosted space music concerts. During the next hour, the other two Dweller members, Dave and Lon, showed up and we all set about getting our gear in place. Chuck and Jeff were busy setting up the lights, while Art got the sound system ready. It's amazing the amount of wires that were snaking around the stage. John had a Roland Juno, an Oberheim OB12 and an Emu Vintage Keys. There was also an Oberheim Cyclone, as well as some processing gear. John used a Yamaha guitar that was MIDI'd to Casio and Emu UltraProteus synths. He had a bunch of floor pedals, as well as some other synth and processing equipment that I can't recall names for. Dave had a Nord Lead 2, a Microwave II, and a lot of MOTM modular stuff. His gear was mighty impressive.

I set up in front of Dweller, with my gear slightly to stage right. This would allow me to quickly move the keyboard to the side after my set was done. I was initially going to stand, but decided on sitting. We had planned to do a joint encore, and I would have obscured John if I had stood. Anyway, I did my soundcheck at about 5:30 pm. I was pretty much done after five minutes, and tried to get out of the way at that point. Shortly thereafter, Dweller did their soundcheck. My god did they sound good. They had a nice organic analog sound that was very much in the mid-70s TD vein. There was also a nice Pink Floyd vibe to the music.

The lights and fog machine were also tested out during this time, and I was confident that the sound and the lights would be spot on for the show.

After a quick bite to eat, my wife and I headed back to the church around 7:30 pm. There were already some folks who had arrived. I spent this time talking to Chuck and then to Dave. The plan was that after Dweller's main set, I would join them onstage for a short "encore." Dave suggested the key of Dminor, and we left it at that. After hanging out at the back of the hall for a few minutes, Chuck let me know the show would start soon, and I headed for the front. I waited off to the left. Chuck went and turned down the house lights, while Jeff brought up the "mood" lighting. After an undeservedly flattering intro by Chuck, I went up and sat behind the keyboard and started the drum machine. I went on at about 8:20 pm and ended about 9:15. My set was as follows:

Strangely Inward
Silver Sky>
Fusebox>
Four Days On
Organizing the Struggle>
Point of Seeing
India

Silver Sky is from the first CD, while Organizing the Struggle is the title track from a 1995 cassette release. The other pieces were new, while India is a John Coltrane tune.

I had a few clams here and there, but nothing too noticeable. Due to the darkness of the hall and the nature of the lights for the stage, I really couldn't see anything in the audience, and they were not far away or anything. The sound was amazing and full, I could hear it echo off the high ceiling, altho this was not what was heard from the audiences' perspective. After the initial tune, I plowed ahead with the next three tunes, which morphed into one another. During Four Days On, I read some poetry, which seemed to go over well.

It was a blast to play the set, and was pretty relaxed. Again, it was nice to hear my music loud in a live setting. You just don't get the same effect holed up in a studio. At times, I thought the drums got a bit too techno, so I'd quickly move to the next programmed drum line, but other than that, I have no complaints. Judging from the comments, I'm considering putting India on the next CD. I'm also comfortable enough to do some spoken word on the next CD as well.

After a short break, I settled into the front row with my wife and got ready for Dweller. The guys played two pieces, with the first at almost an hour. The first piece started off very atmospheric and ambient. Later, some sequences kicked. It was evident there were some touchpoints built into the piece, but there was a nice improvisational quality to it. The new line-up works well and the guys were enjoying themselves. From the audiences perspective, John was on the left, Lon in the middle, and Dave on the right. Although the sounds melded together into a nice cohesive unit, I could tell who was playing what most of the time. John did a nice share of mellotron and piano sounds, while Dave handled the analog filter sweeps and otherworldy percussion, and some leads. The two of them shared the sequence and arp lines. Lon did a lot of string sounds, sound effects, as well as lead sounds, all on the guitar. I know these descriptions are pretty simplistic, but they had a huge sound. At times I was reminded of TD's Encore album, but the music was distinctly Dweller's.

After a short, more driving piece, that actually sounded like Phaedra in spots, the guys tried to call me up, but Chuck intervened: the hour was late and there wasn't any time. I was a little disappointed, but I'm glad they didn't try to cut their set in order to accommodate this. We'll just do it some other time. After some time talking with the audience, I packed up the gear and headed for the hotel. I caught part of my set on Chuck's radio show. All in all, one of the highlights of my music career.

Again, thanks to all those who came to the show. Thanks to Kim and the gentleman whose name I didn't catch (sorry) for selling CDs and working the door. Special thanks for the last time to Chuck, Jeff, and Art.