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Reviews > Shows

Published: 2003/07/22
by John Zinkand

Everyone Orchestra – The Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR 7/18 & 7/19

The ever-changing Everyone Orchestra took shape in Portland, OR for a
two-night stand over the past weekend. The concept is to have a rotating
cast of band members that is never exactly the same for each gig or set of
gigs. The Everyone Orchestra events are also always benefits for forests,
this one in particular benefiting an organization fighting to save the
wilderness areas of the Cascade Mountain Range called Cascadia Summer.
Founding member Matt Butler, formerly of Jambay, organizes each event and is
a mainstay on the drums. Tye North, former bassist for Leftover Salmon, is
also a regular of the group and takes on the conducting duties during the
group improvisation segments of the shows. Other than that, however, the
line-up is in a constant state of flux. This incantation included Steve
Kimock on guitar, Jessica Lurie on sax, Jamie Janover on percussion and
hammered dulcimer, Scott Law on guitar, Jarod Kaplan on percussion, Asher
Fulero on keys/samples, ALO, and Hamsa Lila.

I walked into the room feeling a bit sluggish from a rigorous hike in the
Columbia River Gorge earlier that day, but I was hoping some smoking jams
would help to wake my sorry ass up. As we secured a good space near the
front and were noticing the colorful paper mache poppy flowers that
decorated the stage, things got underway. The beginning of the show was all
about percussion (as was much of both shows, as one might guess, with so
many percussionists and drummers on the stage). The various rhythm-meisters
worked up a nice groove. It was good to hear such quality drummers really
listening to each other and developing a sound and feel as opposed to the
random banging away I hear at many drum circles. It worked itself into a
nice frenzy, but never went over the top and was not overly drawn out. As
the drum jam faded away, Scott Law played some slow and trippy guitar leads
as the band began to stretch out a bit more with a psychedelic-sounding
instrumental with ALO at the core.

Next the band Hamsa Lila took the stage and control of the show for the
next few tunes. Their eastern, tribal influence is readily apparent both in
their appearance and playing style. The three female singers were all
decked out in multi-colored flowing robes, head turbans, jewelry, and
dresses. A very tall, red-headed man in the band who wore a cloak that
reminded me of the grim reaper played various instruments including a sax, a
flute, and a hand held keyboard. The sounds they made were very organic and
tribal with soaring chants and multiple drummers pounding away in synch.
However, it seemed like there might have been some monitor problems or
something as the harmonizing between the female vocalists was not that
strong. The bassist for Hamsa Lila, wearing a bright vest and a sparkling
tinsel hat, began to dance wildly on stage like a monkey during one
percussive vamp. The female vocalists also danced from time to time,
sometimes with a sword or a large knotty wooden stick in their hands.

Near the end of the first set segment, Steve Kimock, Jessica Lurie, Jamie
Janover and most of the other folks came out on stage. As Kimock ripped off
a solo, the lights kicked in and things got slightly more festive. But as
more and more folks took the stage the musicians delved into a more bluesy
number. When everyone was finally assembled, Tye North began conducting the
large group jam. He held up big signs written in Sharpie that instructed
the band which chords to play, whether to speed up or slow down, when to
become louder, etc. It worked fairly well, too. He had them slamming
triplets together as a band, taking individual solos, or speeding everything
up with just a few flashes of an over-sized instructional card. Tye also
held up signs for the crowd to obey, thus ensuring that everyone was
involved in the whole experience. We screamed, booed, moaned, and even
played air guitar according to what Tye instructed us to do. But at the end
of the set, I was actually not overly impressed. I personally prefer more
guitar jams and less tribal chants and drumming in my music. I had come to
see Steve Kimock and Scott Law trade licks, but had yet to be satiated.
Since I knew I would be returning the following night, we headed home after
the first set that night due to weariness from the hike, but also from
somewhat bruised expectations.

On Saturday we had zero expectations, but the show was so much better. I
learned from friends that we had left too early the previous night – the
entire second set was basically Steve Kimock playing a bunch of his staples
backed by various folks. Oh well, what can you do? We were not tired at
all and were ready to dance on Saturday night, no matter what. But the
entire show was improved from start to finish. There must have been some
sound or monitor problems the first night that got worked out because the
harmonies sung by Hamsa Lila sounded much better. They stepped things up a
notch, too. It was a much more energetic set than on the previous night,
including an appearance by Kimock who came out and really ripped a mean solo
near the end of their set. Then the flow into the group jam was seamless.
The players were much more accustomed to the format the second night, and it
really showed in the big group jam. Tye was pumping his arms while the band
wailed. He didn't direct the crowd as much as on the first night, but that
was fine. His hands were full having individual members take solos,
overlap, slow down, or break down into chaos. He really did a masterful job
of conducting.

And the second set was mostly Kimock tunes. Highlights were Scott Law and
Steve Kimock trading hot licks like I had expected on the first night. The
high energy level during the group jam to end the first set was sustained
for the rest of the show. As many different players took solos and added to
the sound, a feeling of cooperation was being beamed tangibly from the
stage. The members never stepped on each other's toes once in the second
set. And the group jam at the end of the second set was explosive! Tye was
having a ball. He had each member solo for a few measures in rotation for a
few rounds before just switching up the jam willy-nilly. Kimock's young son
was even up on stage adding to the group improvisation on various percussive
instruments. One particularly stand out moment for me was Jessica Lurie and
Steve Kimock doing some sick interplay with one another. Jessica would play
a couple tasteful licks on the sax as Steve finished a few bars of soloing
on the guitar and they worked it into a beautiful little improvisation.
Both players are such incredible musicians and it was a pleasure to watch a
new and creative musical partnership happen between them(although I realize
they've played together before).

Overall, the Everyone Orchestra was an amazing time. The many different
players from different musical backgrounds assure a nice variety of musical
styles in a short time. It was also fun to see some jamband regulars
playing out of their element and engaging in different musical
conversations. They definitely improved on the second night, which was
almost a given. The sound was better dialed, the players were more familiar
with each other, and everyone understood the conducting concept more
clearly. It was a quality show for a great cause with some of the best
players in our scene. And they plan on doing these shows nationally a few
times per year, apparently. So unless you are not part of everyone, go see
the Everyone Orchestra if they come to your town.

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