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Published: 2004/08/03
by Eric Leventhal

Particle / Ming & FS, Pier 54, Hudson River Rocks Concert Series, 7/23

In the recently released Kill Bill films, director Quentin Tarantino
stylistically pays tribute to his favorite childhood genres by completely
reinventing and destroying their previously-held conventions. Much along the
same lines, Particle is a band whose very musical nature simply implies
reinvention in its blatant defiance of conventions. The destruction of said
norms can be seen whether one views the band as jam, electronica, or
Particle's own genre-defying description, "space-porn." On a recent
Thursday night at a free outdoor concert on Manhattan's Pier 54, Particle
once again showed why a definition simply needn't apply to their performances.

For starters, this wasn't just any Particle show. The band,
ordinarily no strangers to the twilight hours (as evidenced by its 2003
Bonnaroo set which lasted from roughly 2:30 AM to 8:00 AM with few
interruptions), took the stage promptly at 8:00 PM after openers Ming & FS.
Surrounded on three sides by the Hudson River, and facing a New York City
skyline that included the red, white and blue nighttime illumination of the
Empire State Building, this was the kind of show that could define a band's
career. The band was performing as part of the Hudson River Rocks" concert
series, an annual summer tradition of musical acts performing for free for
whomever wishes to attend. From the moment they took the stage, Particle
appeared hellbent on proving their relevance not only to those that had hired
them, but to virtually anyone within earshot of the stage willing to listen.

Highlights of the show included a stirring "Triple Threat," a half-
hour long "Elevator" that just kept ascending for what seemed like forever,
and "Launchpad," the title track from the band's recently released studio LP.
Prior to "Launchpad," keyboardist Steve Molitz gave a shout out to the city
which stood before him, "You New Yorkers are so lucky. You got the best jazz
till whatever hour I'm in the mood to see it." After what apparently seemed
like a dimmer response from the crowd than was expected, Molitz apologized
(unnecessarily) for his digression and the band launched feverishly into the
song. Molitz gyrated and pulsated in time and in trance with the song,
carefully weaving an eerie organ-synth melody in and out of bassist Eric Gould
and drummer Darren Pujalet's steadily building crescendo of rhythm. Almost
in unison, just as Molitz slowly seemed to calm to the song's pace, guitarist
Charlie Hitchcock began a searing, blissfully supplemental jam that lengthened
and stretched as it modified and fused the rest of the band's playing.
Suddenly, twenty-five minutes had passed and Particle had finished yet another
song, or more accurately, an opus. Songs are trivial compared to what
Particle is able to accomplish in a live setting.

Quentin Tarantino would presumably have been impressed with the
night's second song, a take on "The Battle Without Honor or Humanity,"
Japanese artist Tomoyasu Hotei's funk-laden jam session tapped by RZA for use
in Kill Bill, Volume 1 as a thematic motif. ("So that's where you were
going with that?") The two and a half minute song was of course transformed
into a 15 minute juggernaut, made all the more complete by the frenetic
existence of techno-jive keyboard fills. Molitz frolicked up and down behind
his keyboards, inciting the crowd into a frenzy that benefitted from the
breeze coming off the river. By the end of the tune, the melody was virtually
unrecognizable, the drum and bass had completely detached itself from guitar
and keys, and perhaps most importantly, Pier 54 had been transformed into a
quasi-rave. It was 8:30 PM.

This is not to even mention the band's penchant for successfully crossing genres and earning fans from all designations of music, a trait which was best evidenced by the band's encore cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2." I observed a middle aged man that had been out for a bicycle ride, standing with bike helmet, bicycle and headphones in hand, literally transfixed by the recognizable yet somehow so new and unique music blaring from the neon-lit stage 40 feet ahead. Likely, this man hadn't known a concert was even taking place, but had quickly abandoned whatever it was he had been listening to in favor of the harmonious tone of Charlie Hitchcock's semi-hollow guitar as it plucked out the song's familiar vocal melody. A crowd of onlookers steadily began to gather at the pier entrance, perhaps intrigued by the audience sing-along. Those that went to the show may not have needed "no education," but they certainly received one, in the form of a performance art lesson delivered by the jam scene's latest export to widespread popularity.

Ming & FS turned in a curious, yet well-received 45-minute opening
set. Each displayed a clear skill level on the turntables, while also adding
individual contributions in style. They surprised many in the audience by
pulling out an electric guitar and bass and playing over top a dirty beat and
rhyme. To cap off their set, one began to beatbox while the other played the
infamous riff to AC/DC's "Back In Black" over top and a guest rapper, MC
Napoleon Solo, freestyled a not too complimentary verse about the current U.S.
President. All in all, certainly an interesting set worthy of a mention, and
decidedly an additional bonus to a night of free music that proved why a
certain city simply never sleeps.

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