The Austin Chronicle

Live Shots

Reviewed by Ken Lieck, February 23, 2001, Music

Second Annual Yoko Ono Birthday Tribute Hoot

Gaby & Mo's, February 17

Yes, you read that right, the show in question was a tribute to the music and art of Yoko Ono, and not only that, it was the second one the club has done in two years. Interpreting Ono can be tricky, since her work is evenly divided between pop material that to the uninitiated seems treacly and obvious, and performance-art-oriented pieces that are the very definition of "inaccessible." Hosts Ky Hote and Owl Morrison didn't offer any lectures on how best to appreciate Onomusic, but started things off nicely with acoustic versions of some of Ono's more wide-eyed, Double Fantasy-era works like "Silver Horse" and "I'm Your Angel," demonstrating how one can put Ono's material in a folksy setting that's not so scary after all. The first performer shall not be mentioned, lest I appear to condone those who use one subject-inspired song as an excuse to play their own stuff for a half hour in mid-tribute. The multiracial, multimedia combo GOOK presented nice takes on "Why" and "Why Not" in succession before switching to the seemingly innocent pop tune "Every Man (Has a Woman Who Loves Him)." Then, inspired by the distinctly similar bass line, they suddenly segued into Michael Jackson's "Beat It." The controversially named group further did the "Yoko thing" by both sporting a vocalist of questionable pitch and accompanying their performance with a video of trees and a film of (apparently) air. Lord Douglas Phillips and a number of guest stars continued the march into the surreal with powerful stabs at "Move on Fast," "We're All Water," "Kiss Kiss Kiss," and the Elastic Oz Band's "Do the Oz," (the last performed as "Do the Owl" in honor of the hostess). Jody Denberg's vocal range could be described charitably as three notes delivered through a tea strainer, but he uses those notes so well, he sounds like some forgotten cult singer-songwriter you should've heard of. On guttural numbers such as "Working Class Hero" and "Walking on Thin Ice," the KGSR music director's limited range sounded appropriately pained, and then he touches on Double Fantasy's "Beautiful Boys." Denberg read a recent spoken word piece he got from Ono, which showed she hasn't lost her ability for wordplay and humor; her written pieces lack the often saccharine nature of her 1970-1980 pop musical output. Hote/Owl's string trio the Spooky Janes closed things out impressively with Kronos Quartet-ish renditions of "Cold Turkey" and "Dogtown," both rendered with a great sense of mystery and junkie-chill, as only a cello-driven group can do. With as much variety as can be given to a single artist's work, the evening was a fine showcase both for Yoko Ono's words and music and for the venue's own delightful eccentricity.

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