Wednesday, December 21, 2005

CLIP IT! the story of grandbrother live

The Café Dog, every Friday night, around 8 PM.. .it's Grandbrother's live show. The crowd in this tiny coffee shop/art gallery can range from three people to maybe 25 bewildered souls. Very few people are ready for what they hear, except the regulars and the Grandbrother groupies.

The Grandbrother live show is a funneling of energy and emotion through purely acoustic means. The acoustics of the Dog, with its high ceilings, lends itself perfectly to the Grandbrother phenomenon. CBC III's ringing 12 string acoustic (or 8 strings, or however many have remained unbroken) thrashing fills the room with its presence. Even during the quieter lounge versions the room is full of sound... no need for amplification... it only stands in the way between the message and the audience. In fact, even acoustically Grandbrother can be too loud for this small location.

The acoustic Grandbrother set is a statement about the superfluousness of amplification. None of the alternative outlets at which Grandbrother occasionally will do a hit-and-run show (play one or two songs, then leave) are so large that there is a need to plug in. In addition, this provides freedom of maneuvering & set-up placement. Why play on a stage when there is nobody near it? If all the patrons are at the bar, play at the bar: it's disarmingly simple.

Zandbrother's booming voice fills the entire place, requiring the patrons that choose to carry on conversations to speak loudly to each other. The reason for this ferociousness is because there is an insistence of the Grandbrother songs which is often mercilessly delivered to unsuspecting audiences.

The repertoire of Grandbrother consists of a perplexing amalgamation of styles. This is because the songs performed are not Grandbrother originals, but they are amazing songs written by home-tapers... pieces so hopelessly obscure to the public, they might as well be originals! This includes brutal songs about animal suffering and human cruelty by Man's Hate, songs of light emotional searching by Don Campau, the delightfully surreal show-tunes of Lawrence Salvitore, and a handful of songs by other home-tapers.

This is not the land of jealously guarded copyrights by the artist who wrote the songs. There are to be no lawsuits over infringement. This is a situation where the composer is delighted and amazed to have their work reinterpreted, reconstructed and remolded to fit into Grandbrother's reductive and enhancing styles. Entire pieces originally orchestrated to include drum machines, keyboards, guitars, bass & studio trickery are stripped down, reduced to their bare elements, then reinvented in the pure Grandbrother mode. They become simultaneously true to the originals and true to the Grandbrother musical concept.

Songs can be interpreted differently at any given Grandbrother show. The nature of the audience can cause drastic variations of existing material, as can the level of intoxication which Grandbrother has reached. As one of them grabs for the next exotic imported beer, he consults the other in the decision of which to choose. "Should I have a 'dog beer', an Orval or the Samichlaus, Grandbrother?" is a typical question raised at this crucial moment. Once this decision has been reached Zandbrother pops off the cap and they choose which song to play next.

There is never a predetermined set list. The order of the songs is never planned out in advance. It all depends on how the audience is that night, how Zandbrother's voice is behaving, how many strings CBC III has broken, and other factors. Zandbrother flips through the many tattered pages of lyrics to decide which song comes next, as CBC III looks through his special Letramax notepad with the cheat-sheet chords written down. The difference in the performance is once CBC III remembers which chords are used in the song, his notepad is ignored, but Zandbrother sometimes clings tenaciously to the lyric sheets for support and assistance on some of the more difficult, or temporarily forgotten songs.

Grandbrother section )

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