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David Thomas' DISASTODROME, Part II

Dateline: 5/5/98

Last week, we left DISASTODROME in medias res, going home after Night Two, “Mirror Man.” To conclude our report:

Dear Reader NB: “Mirror Man,” definite megamoment of DISASTODROME, timewise was but the mid-point of the Festival. So let the Great Wrap-up be stated in the midst of the dust: Not since Jarry

capsized the Paris Opera into Modernism with the first professional production of Ubu Roi have we beheld such an outrageous event in the center of culture (kudos to David Sefton, producer from the South Bank, for his courage and vision!). W.B. Yeats, after seeing the original Ubu, said, “After us, the Savage


Refine
yourself
in the fire
of the
moment. . .

God.” “Mirror Man” is the revenge of Ubu upon an economy that has institutionalized the avant garde, made a commodity of art, put soul on a block. The great mastodon in the iceberg caper is concluded -- slowly thawed, life reorients. “Refine yourself in the fire of the moment,” says Man to Mirror. “Burn baby Burn!” replies Mirror, “You are and always will be the prettiest of them all.”

. . . and
the world
settled
into
itself.

Day Three was three solo performances done in the National Film Theatre, part of The Museum of the Moving Image (think about that one, Ezra Pound!). Jane Bom-Bane opened with her wry soprano, sitting at harmonium with
a cosmos of fishes on a tiny spindle twirling at odd moments. The high point of the set was a beautiful song of a woman she’d met at a swimming pool, a woman with one leg. Quickly and casually they became friends, through stories, including the story of how the woman lost her leg to a bus door, and slowly teased out of the song: how she became a mermaid. . . . Just as gently, Jane’s flat-topped hat sprouted a fishbowl castle and plant motif, then the bowl itself, then Jane herself, behind the magnificent on-stage changing room of David’s outstretched jacket, transformed herself into a mermaid. Finally the bowl on her head twirled as the tiny aquatic sculpture on the keyboard. The audience popped party poppers at the appropriate climax, and the world settled into itself.

I was next up. I read the piece I’d written for “Mirror Man,” dedicated to David and Bob Kidney. I outed “Rock’n’Roll Mythology,” undid the cable clip to get the mike off the stand, realized it was taped in two places, moved on mikeless, at which point David dispatched his main sound


“Performance
Poem”. . .
poet
in flight. . .

man Didds, always there with the right move, to help out, joining me on stage and hacking at the tape with a pocketknife as I took the poem directly to him. Mike freed, I dived into the front row (whoops, David Sefton was there!). Got to the aisle where I switched to bullhorn, and finally negotiated a three point landing back onstage. All these moves were mirrored in the next poem, “Performance Poem,” which describes a poet in flight as viewed by two stagehands having their first poetry appearance.

Keith Moline joined me for a set of improvisational duets primarily using the poems from In With the Out Crowd. This one seems appropriate right here:

Forget Yesterday

What never happens,
Happens. The green bow.
Mercies. A light rain. Mother
And stepfather, the job of it. If I
Could do it all over, the pushing
Briefly set aside, dusty life.

The weary world's born all over;
The jungle rots into sensuous
Lubricity. A clear path is laid out
Behind you, and to go that way
Is to disappear forever. Because

It's the past. It's the past that never
Was. It's the unwilling will be. Come
On baby now, let's go surfing now
Come a surfin safari with me.

I closed with “1990.” Took the audience out for fish and chips.

Somebody
give
this man
a university.

David Thomas’s lecture, “The Geography of Sound in the Magnetic Age,” was a tour de force, as close as he could come to academic, sending up the professorial mode with a rant that made Snow’s bifurcation of Science and Art as Two Cultures
seem boobish. Spinning deliriously out of control, he demanded that EQ’s be deleted from stereo equipment, posited that without a voice music ain’t even music, and sunk his teeth into the burger of culture demanding nutrition. From anecdotes to scientific theorizing, this was an encyclopedia of possibility, a reworking of neurology to the beat of rock’n’roll. Somebody give this man a university.

All DISASTODROMES must end, and South Bank’s was breathtaking. “Custodians of the Avant-Garage” brought together soulman Jackie Leven’s Doll by Doll and the launch of Pere Ubu on their month-long European tour. Doll kicked Celtic R&B, told tales, did an Acapulco version

of “Paper Roses,” and flamed through the strobes of the 70's. Pere Ubu premiered from their new album Pennsylvania. David bounced round, fanning the fire, blowing a Moroccan horn, bashing music into form like a


All
DISASTODROMES
must
end. . . .

ferrier. Tom Herman’s guitar shredded, Robert Wheeler’s homemade theramin orbited, Michele Temple’s bass locked and loaded, and Steve Mehlman mowed down the air from the drum set.

The words pulled and tweezed, as David danced and bellowed. There were those stories again, this time rocked through a jumbo sound system at a screaming crowd, having been chanted, moaned, testified, poeticized, lectured. The old man on his porch watching the traffic lights over the damn ridge, fearing, rightfully, that his wife will leave him. She married an Indian giver. All day at the diner, “Love Will Keep Us Together” five, six times, till you hear the call of the road. Off you go then. Stand by, Earthman. Where?

NB: Next where for DISASTODROME is New York’s Knitting Factory, September 15 - 19. You’ve been warned.

--Bob Holman


DISASTODROME, Part I
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