Concert Reviews: Hot Club of Somerville (2/28/2013), Victor Gama, EVIYAN (3/2/2013)

Last week, the Boston Circus Guild put on a couple of variety shows at Oberon in Harvard Square – they had live music, comedy acts, burlesque/sirlesque and various circus-type performances like juggling and acrobatics. I won a pair of tickets from a Facebook contest (thank you, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band!), so I convinced my brother to come with me and we made a night of it. We were lucky enough to see the live debut of the Hot Club of Somerville, a jazz/swing offshoot of ENSMB. We both really enjoyed their short set – I was dancing on my sprained ankle! It was particularly fun that they played some Squirrel Nut Zipper tunes, since that was the last concert my brother and I went to together, a few years back. I think my favorite part was when the accordion player sang a tune; I was really impressed by her voice and her singing talent. (I wish I’d caught her name! I will have to ask around, because I can’t find that info online.)

On Saturday I made a last-minute decision to check out the EVIYAN concert at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. I really like the Kresge – it’s big (~1200 capacity), with good sight-lines, good sound, and it has an enormous stage allowing for large, complex performances. They present a lot of new music there (in the sense of contemporary classical / avant garde type stuff, not just “music that is new”). I’ve had a lot of really interesting nights at the Kresge under their strange-looking wavy acoustic ceiling panels.

I didn’t know until I showed up that there was going to be a solo set by Victor Gama, which turned out to be a lovely surprise. He is a composer, performer, and instrument maker, and he brought three of his own instruments to perform on: the acrux, the toha, and the dino. I unfortunately did not catch which instrument had which name, but I thought they were all fascinating. Here are two of them:


The one on the left had a sound somewhere in the harp/guitar/pizzicato-cello neighborhood, and the other sounded very much like a thumb piano. The third instrument he played (not pictured) was a single-stringed instrument played with a bow; that one had a really interesting timbre. I thought there might be some electronics involved in the piece he played on the single-string instrument, but I couldn’t see well enough from where I was sitting to say for sure. I found his performance really interesting and beautiful – I would definitely go see him again.

EVIYAN was, to my ears, a more challenging kind of music. The group consists of vocalist/violinist Iva Bittová; Sandeep Das on tabla; Blake Newman on upright bass; Gyan Riley on guitar; and Evan Ziporyn on clarinet.


(You can’t see Sandeep Das in this photo, he is behind the bassist and guitarist.)

Iva Bittová’s vocals were quite avant garde and often harsh to the ear, and I found it pretty difficult going. It was interesting to be sure, but not necessarily pretty or nice. But other than her more challenging vocal parts I found the band to be pretty solid across the board. For me the standout performer in EVIYAN was Gyan Riley – he did a solo piece in the middle of their set that was just fantastic! I would have happily watched an entire set of just him playing solo. Hopefully someday soon I get to do just that – I’ve put him on my ever-growing list of performers whose concert schedules I keep a close eye on. I actually think I would have gotten more out of EVIYAN’s set if he hadn’t done that solo piece – it was so good that it was kind of distracting. I kept thinking about it during the rest of their set.

Random hilarious audience quote of the night: I overheard someone behind me telling the person next to them that Evan Ziporyn was “incredibly famous.” I like him and all, but… that might be a stretch :)

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