5/06/14: The new Made To Break lineup made its debut at The Sugar Maple in Milwaukee, playing two sets and receiving a standing ovation at the conclusion of the concert. There was a nice symmetry to having the gig take place at this venue- this is where the band had its very first show, back in June of 2011 for the third Okka Festival. Nick Macri did a great job, though the first set had better focus by the band as a whole. The second set was too mono-dynamic (loud) and uniformly dense, with too many shifting parts for the music to get a chance to develop internally. I saw Adrienne Pierluissi’s conception for her upcoming “winter poppy series” of paintings, which looked beautiful- pale whites and greens- and a new figurative work of a woman looking out a window, the first straight “portrait” I’ve seen by her in years.
05/07/14: After breakfast with Bruno Johnson and Adrienne, Christof, Tim, and I headed back to Chicago. I felt pretty burned out and tried to sleep twice during the day but my mind kept spinning with ideas regarding the music and Made To Break because the final show with the band until November was going to take place that night at The Hideout in Chicago. I tried my best to get the word out about the concert via posters and social media, and Peter Margasak gave the group a good write up in his Reader blog; the turnout was good but I was hoping for higher numbers for Christof’s last show before heading home to Vienna. After the soundcheck (Ryan Hembrey did a great job working on the sound for both of Christof’s gigs in Chicago), I talked through some details regarding what I wanted to improve upon over the second set performance in Milwaukee, particularly in regards to dynamics and letting musical territories develop organically rather than relying on constant section changes to maintain interest. Unfortunately, everything seemed loud in the first set, with musicians not dropping out or leaving room unless it was scripted into the set list. In retrospect, I realized that I should have gone forward with four rehearsals as originally planned- there was simply too much for Nick (or anyone else, for that matter) to remember after just three meetings with the complete ensemble- it’s not just the written material, it’s the band’s methodology towards improvising, with the pieces and structurally. Between sets I reiterated the points about the utilization of dynamics and space, and those elements were definitely improved during the second half of the concert, but I left stage after the show feeling frustrated at having taken a step backwards in the creative momentum of the group after such a strong and focused opening set in Milwaukee. In many ways MTB’s concert at The Hideout reminded me of the band’s show in New York- all the factors were present to make it a strong concert, and though many of the essential aspects of the music were communicated to the audience (the feedback from listeners between sets and after the show was extremely positive and enthusiastic), it felt like the ensemble was at cross purposes with itself again. The way I’ve chosen to design and organize the structural elements of the music for Made To Break really prevents me from “taking over” once a performance starts. When it works, the aesthetics and architecture create electrifying music to play and listen to, full of surprise and edge, but when it fails its feels like a ship with four rudders, spinning around itself. Luckily, with three quarters of the band located in Chicago, I can rehearse material, write additional compositions, and develop the music with Tim, Nick, and I while we’re in town. Then we can add Christof to the process when the ensemble gets together in Europe this autumn. I know in advance that we’ll definitely be much further prepared for the tour and recording that we have in front of us this November.
Ken Vandermark solo
Artdepot, Innsbruck, Austria, March 7, 2014, set 1:
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