Guardian Alien and Starring at The Firebird, 8/17/12: Review and "Setlist"

Aug 17, 2012 at 11:29 am

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Turner Williams was the most intriguing performer. His unique instrument, an electric Indian zither-like device called the shahi baaja, added shimmering depth to the band's one-song set. He was convulsing in his chair while playing, but since he faced Fox, his communication with the audience was nonexistent. Fox was similarly closed off to the crowd, his head down in concentration. Given the insane physical demands of his playing, this is completely forgivable.

When Guardian Alien's members locked in, some moments were stunning. The sound of Fox's initial entrance of blast beats - or "burst beats," long story - caused a physical reaction in my body, as if I was temporarily numbed by the high volume. One of the few composed sections of the band's See The World Given To A One Love Entity, where Alex Drewchin and Greg Fox line up on a treacherous pattern of rhythmic accents, was a highlight. It was one of few moments where Drewchin appeared comfortable, even breaking into some David Byrne dance moves. As the song came down, Bernard Gann's spurts of shredding were a beautiful counterpoint to the glitches from a small synthesizer box managed by Drewchin.

These high fives were memorable, inspiring even, but one could argue that they were too few sparks in Guardian Alien's forty minute performance. Such is the risk of improvised music (or, as the young ones say "jamming"). It's not all hits all the time. When the stars did align in Guardian Alien's favor, it was phenomenal. With only a few years of spontaneous composition under each member's belt, these folks are still newbies compared to the improvisational lifers. Even so, the group's ability to fashion gold, however small the quantity, out of the ether is remarkable and certainly not easy.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: Every band was very close to being something I could fall in love with, and the discrepancy between where the bands were and where I wanted them to be may not have worked in their favor.

Overheard: "Did you see that? Did you see that?" by the overexcited dude next to me air keyboarding along with Starring.

By The Way: When did it become okay to wear shorts on stage? I always thought that was a forbidden practice.

Guardian Alien set list:

See The World Given To A One Love Entity (extended version)