The Dylan Group (Photo By Gary Miller)
The Dylan Group
Broken equipment cannot stop rock & roll. It didn't stop Etienne Charry, who came all the way from Paris (France) with his crates full of robots and electronic gear. Somewhere during the flight something got broken, but the show went on nonetheless. The stage setup was reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" video, with robotic man-heads and stringless guitars set on stands and strummed by gloved machine-hands. Etienne himself was all French charm and experimental pop, and a shortened set with silent gaps where he filled us in on what smartass comments the robot was making -- in French -- and what solos the guitar behind him was playing -- without strings -- was eaten up by a completely engaged audience. Besides, the video-projected puppet drummer was worth the wait. And neither would busted gear stop New York quartet the Dylan Group. Sound problems at the outset were solved quickly -- Adam Pierce asked the soundman if he could "please turn up the vibraphone, it's kind of our thing." Pierce was all over the place -- drums, marimbas, Casio keyboard, guitar, all played hard and reckless against the backdrop of drums, bass, and Dylan's fluid, dancing vibraphone. With so much percussion going on, the bass guitar took on melodic responsibilities that kept the tone low and more than suggested the dub they work out on record. Considering the space the format allowed him, he played it straight for the most part: simple, clear bass lines that looped and dove and avoided any kind of funky fill or slap-noodling. The second drummer played trumpet on one song, definitely an underused component in this show, its stark and muffled high end a subtle blast that changed the whole feel. I don't know how you can break a vibraphone, but Dylan did, so this set too was cut short. Pierce picked up a guitar for one last tune, and rocked it out loud enough to make up for the blasted vibes. The possibilities for instrumental music on the peripheries of rock & roll are limitless, and bands like the Dylan Group and the growing numbers of Tortoise-inspired collectives are scratching and malleting at the surface of great things.