Mastica Empanada Parlour, June 13

Live Shots

Mastica

Empanada Parlour, June 13

Three's a good number for Mastica: The local outfit has three founding members; their set featured three guest musicians, they occupied one of Empanada Parlour's three stages; and during their 12-song, 90-minute set, it seemed like each member played three instruments. "Where are those chewy people?," asked the group's bassist/singer Gum B., while cracking wise about the group's name, which is based on the ancient Greek word for chewing. This, after the former Stickpeople bassist nearly silenced the modest but loquacious crowd with his electro-cello, generating a melancholic phrase, sampling it, looping it, and ultimately adding two and sometimes three lines via more sampling/looping. Nice opener. The rest of the band, MunKey (vox, guitar, alto sax), Branden Harper (drums), Bruce Salmon (samples, keyboards), and Brad Houser (reeds, bass, percussion) took the stage afterwards, kicking off with the swampy bass/ drum intro of "You," from the group's diamond-in-the-rough debut '99. Houser, Salmon, and Harper joined the wife-husband MunKey/Gum B. team in part to substitute for founding Mastica percussionist (and King Crimson skin beater) Pat Mastelotto. The Sixth Street Parlor's two indoor/one outdoor stage setup permits different vibes for different needs. Yet only one door, often left open, separates two simultaneous acts -- as on this night when Mastica's outdoor set was occasionally confused by the able jazz combo playing the cave-like downstairs stage. Mastica didn't mind, launching into a tune from their to-be-released second album, its lurching rhythm splashed with Salmon's sampled and manipulated laughing, MunKey's sax squawks, and Gum B.'s mortality-themed lyrics. Later MunKey took lead vox for '99's "Seven Marys," Houser augmenting the cut by playing large North African iron castanets across drum rhythms provided by Harper, who filled in well for Mastelotto. A few selections later came a syncopated rendition of Daniel Johnston's "Never," then more new and '99 gems, including "7-teen" and closer "Idiot." Mastica's songs are accessible and weird, composed and improved, and in spite of some self-indulgent meandering, the musicianship was first class, even if the set's execution came off a bit disorganized; with members working on other projects (New Bohemians, Alejandro Escovedo, Critters Buggin'), finding rehearsal time must be a bitch. While three has been their magic number, here's hoping locals don't have to wait until LP No. 3 to hear on more Mastica. Chew on, you crazy diamonds.

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