TONIGHT WE PARTIED LIKE IT'S 1998
Three years ago, Carmina Piranha called it a day, playing their last ever show at Berbati's Pan. The line-up had changed some. Two of the five original girls had moved on, and the core that had produced their one full album, 1998's Revenge Poems, the soundtrack to a ballet performed by the Oregon Ballet Theatre, was no more. The second line-up produced an excellent mini album, Lucid, before they hung it up. Singers Lisa Stringfield and Lara Michell recruited a couple of other musicians and put together Carmina Luna, a more ethereal version of the original. Carmina Piranha had a harder edge than Luna, like if PJ Harvey took flamenco lessons.
Carmina Piranha circa 1995
Last night, Carmina Piranha came back together, nearly ten years to the day from their first gig. Lisa, Lara, guitarist Coley Smith, and drummer Kirsten Swanson from Mark I, and bassist Nancy Hess from Mark II, plus producer Jeff Saltzman and Jonathan Drews on added guitars. They returned to Berbati's, the same place they exited, and the band performed a set that covered a lot of Revenge Poems while also reaching back to unreleased gems like "Johnny Cash" and other live favorites (sadly, not their excellent cover of "I Walk The Line"). When it was all said and done, it was good to have them back, and I wish they'd stick around.
Perhaps it was just the buzz of this special gig, but everyone played with an energy that surpassed even their classic live shows--which were always relatively raucous. Lisa was in rare form, her voice strong and clear. She danced and gestured like she was conjuring the music out of thin air. Nancy and Lara were constantly in sync, bopping up and down the stage, and Kirsten is still one of the most inventive drummers in town, leading the charge with her propulsive rhythms. Coley only played on a couple of songs, and when the two boys joined the others, it brought added depth to the music, piling on more layers and guaranteeing that this was no mere exercise in nostalgia. Many of the songs sounded brand new, like the spaghetti western version of "You Didn't See Me Here." When Saltzman, Drews, and Michell were all going at once, I daresay I heard shades of Pink Floyd at their bombastic best. And the three-woman screams on "Better Look Away" were more chilling than ever before, their fury shaking the room.
It was also pretty cool seeing Lara Michell pick up an electric guitar for several numbers. Her role has often been like the latter-day Pete Townshend's, providing acoustic guitar flourishes and vocals as a base for the rest of the band to build on. The way she plugged in and gave it some gas, it's obvious she'd been waiting to go full-tilt electric for a while (something she started to do on her last solo effort, Ruby Red).
To hear the girls tell it, there's probably not going to be another show like this until the twentieth-year reunion, so the folks who nearly packed the house should consider themselves lucky.
iTunes has both Carmina Piranha albums. Do yourself a favor and sample a couple of songs. I recommend "You Didn't See Me Here," "Two-Bit," and "Slip."
My quick surface explication of Godard's latest film, Notre Musique:
* Hell is the violence we inflict on each other
* Purgatory is our everyday existence where we struggle to make sense of the horrible actions of man and our personal roles in it
* Paradise is the natural world as it was created, that we seem to be stamping out, though judging by the soldiers and the fences on the outskirts of it, even Heaven is not safe from humanity and our path to it can be barred. There, our idealist heroine shares an apple with a new-fangled Adam, but the knowledge she gains is not enough to blot out the memory of our tragic history. Paradise is just a respite, not a reprieve.
Of course there is much more to it, such as Godard's view of the intellectual's role in society and the way images can alter our perceptons, but I told you up front I was just giving you the surface.
Current Soundtrack: Carmina Piranha, Revenge Poems
Current Mood: sleepy