Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review of the RIO Festval 2009 - Part 2

We caught a bit of rush-hour traffic, but we got to Cap Decouverte in time to catch the first band, Electric Epic. This band is composed of Philippe Bussonnet (Magma) on bass, Yoann Serra (ex-Offering) on drums, Jim Grandcamp (Jannick Top’s Infernal Machina) on guitar, and the leader, Guillaume Perret on sax. The music reminded me a bit of later-day Miles Davis a bit. Take a complicated riff, and jam over it. The sax was piped through an array of electronic devices, so in that respect, the sound of the group differed from the sound of a standard jazz quartet. It was good, solid music; it didn’t make a huge impression on me, but it was a perfect opener to Magma.

In between Electric Epic and Magma, the British group Guapo played a short set. Guapo took home the title of the Hardest Working Band of the Festival. During the festival, Guapo played five or six different sets, each one about a half hour long. Guapo was set up in a much smaller hall that had no seating. The small stage was placed in the middle of the hall, and Guapo set up their instruments “in the round”, so that all of the instrumentalists were facing each other, with the audience in a circle around the stage.

When the bands were not playing, you could hang out at the bar in the lobby, or outside of the Grand Espace de Musqiue. There were two food vendors set up in trailers, one cooking all sort of omelets, and the other serving crepes and various kinds of sandwiches. Since the attendees were basically captives of the festival (due to the location and the weather), these very pleasant vendors did a crisp business providing sustenance to the attendees.

You also got to reunite with old friends and meet new ones. I met up with my old friends Marie-Emmanuelle Bretel (Madi), Gaeten Villard, Aymeric Leroy, Eric DeLachat, and Robert Guillerault. Madi is one of the other official photographers of Magma, and Robert runs the very excellent Magma Web Press Book.

I met up with several people from the Magma chatroom on Soulseek and the Zeuhl and Beyond blog. Un Gran Salut to Epanou, Rodolphe, Mekanik Thing, Hamtai. I caught up with German trader Jurgen and his sister Rita, who I first met in Nancy in 2007.

The main music distributors were at the festival as well. I met Alain Lebon from Soleil Zeuhl Records for the first time. Steve Feigenbaum runs Wayside Music and Cuneiform Records, and I ran into him and his wife Joyce for the first time in 30 years. Steve made the memorable comment that if someone tossed a hand grenade into the festival, it would basically wipe out the entire RIO movement. That’s how many important people from the movement were there.

A few months ago, I joined the large message board on the Progressive Ears website, and there were a number of people that I met at RIO that I only knew by their nicknames on Progressive Ears. A big hello to SpaceWaltzer, KevinInExeter, and Maribor.

There were a large number of musicians at the festival who were not playing. We could have gotten various incarnations of musicians together and very easily extended the festival for another two days. I was happy to meet Trond and Nina from the Norwegian band Panzerpappa, Yehuda Kotten from Ahvak, and William from Neom. The guys from the Italian band Yugen were there too.

The organizers remarked that at least 20 different countries were represented. It was quite remarkable to discover the distances that some of the people traveled in order to get to Carmaux.

Back to the music…..

Magma was the headliner for the first night of the festival. I saw them in February 2009 for a 3-night series of concerts at Le Casino de Paris, and since then, they have been madly touring France. The pieces have evolved a little bit, and the band seemed to be tighter and more energetic at the RIO Festival than they were in Paris. In fact, Magma’s energy level was sky-high that night.

They opened with Slag Tanz, the new piece that they have been playing throughout 2009. The opening section is now played at a greatly increased tempo, and there were some other minor changes in the arrangement. As I have said before, it reminds me of Steve Reich at times, with ascending and descending vocal lines.

The next piece was Felicite Thosz, a 25-minute piece which I am trying to like but ends up putting me to sleep. Since I knew what to expect, I was not too bothered by this elongated Bing Crosby Christmas carol.

Then came Emehntehtt-Re, a 50 minute piece which is going to come out on CD on November 5th. My favorite part of this piece is the Grand Zombies section, and on this night, Magma played Zombies at a super-fast tempo. You could tell that the entire band was really into the performance.

They closed the concert with the first tune off of their first album, Kobaia.

Everyone had such a great time. The crowd spilled out of the festival hall in such a joyous mood. Our friends Maxence and Maahnt took out a cooler with bottles of wine, bread and cheese. We were joined eventually by Paul Sears, the lovable maniac from The Muffins, and Keith Macksoud from Present. People just kept wandering over to partake with us, and at one point, we must have had 50 people sipping wine and noshing on great cheese with us. We finally staggered out of Cap Decouverte at 3:00 in the morning, drunk, sleepy, and enormously satisfied.

(End of Part 2)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marc
    Thanks for a great review - I really enjoyed your travelogue too. Yes Steve Davies is legend here in the UK. I was at Nancy Jazz Pulsations in 2007 too. That was the last time I saw them so I am getting really excited about their visit to London in October - I have my ticket.