The Performant: Fresh Starts

Pub date January 5, 2011
SectionPixel Vision

Renewing ourselves with Right Brian Performancelab and Ween cover band Golden Eel
I spent my New Year’s Eve basically riding around in circles from shut-down party to shut-down party. (Let’s hear it for that War on Fun!) But I’m a big believer in the symbolic do-over that the first week of the year offers up as a recompense for the things left undone over the last one. Looking back and yet forward, Right Brian Performancelab’s one night reprise of September’s “The Elephant in the Room” served as a good example of how to straddle the line between past accomplishments and future ambitions. After a four-year parenting hiatus, Performancelab’s John Baumann and Jennifer Gwirtz’ reentry into the hybrid arts scene combined movement, text, shadow, and song into a piece both playful and poignant.

An invisible elephant, “ignored by the crowned heads of Europe,” graced the center of a low-rent circus ring. An elephant of course is a convenient metaphor for an unwieldy truth, hinted at obliquely throughout the piece. At times very large, at times very small, and at times created by the very bodies of the performers attempting to come up with its ultimate definition, the elephant inhabited its mutable space with the silent aplomb of a consummate pro. Meanwhile, the Performancelab cast — Baumann, Gwirtz, Laura Marsh, and Lisa Claybaugh — pinwheeled around it dressed like ragamuffin circus clowns, exploring the forces of gravity, fear, and dream. From a study in the anarchy of goofing off to a lone woman’s struggle against a headwind of unseen adversity, a comical interlude with Dr Suess’s legal team to a slow-motio Alice in Wonderland eat me/drink me sequence, a faceoff at the water cooler between “the counter-culture” and “ the establishment” to an ode to willful obliviousness, each small piece sparkled with sly intelligence, humor, and heart. It could have been just a tentative toe dip into the performance pool, but it felt more like an attempt to test the high dive.
It also seemed appropriate to the spirit of New Year’s to welcome the appearance of a new band to the barroom circuit on January 1st. Admittedly, it was a cover band. But sometimes all you want on a Saturday night is to drop five bucks at Benders and bliss out to a few favorite tunes, and for that, Ween cover band Golden Eel totally fit the bill. Playing a mix mainly from Chocolate and Cheese and The Mollusk, Cree Rider, Misisipi Mike, John Diaz, and Tony Sales demonstrated the enviable musical flexibility of their heroes while avoiding the temptation to attempt emulating studio recordings note for note. Their interpretations of “Baby Bitch,” “Push th’ Little Daisies,” “Piss up a Rope,” and “Buenas Tardes Amigo,” were particularly tight and full of fun. True they kept their instrumental jamming time way below the Ween standard, but 30-minute versions of “Poop Ship Destroyer” are probably best left to the pros anyhow.