Thursday, January 19, 2012

Photos/Review: The New York Guitar Festival @ Merkin Concert Hall(Feat. Lee Renaldo, Buke & Gass, Kaki King & Twi The Humble Feather)

The New York Guitar Festival @ Merkin Concert Hall - January 12, 2012
Photos & Review: James M. Graham

The program featured NYC guitarists scoring live the silent films of Buster Keaton. Who in my estimation is right up there with Chaplin and eclipses Laurel and Hardy, god bless them.

First up was Twi The Humble Feather, playing accompaniment to The Garage (1920), which co-stared Fatty Arbuckle. I had never seen this film before so that and their take on it was a pleasure for me. Then came Buke and Gass scoring excerpts from Keaton’s The General (1926), arguably his masterpiece. The train, the buke, the train, the gass, the train – until they almost crashed.

Kaki King was next, scoring Keaton’s The Scarecrow (1920). I had seen this one, and again, her take on it was delightful.

Lights out.

Enter Lee Ranaldo, scoring Cops (1922). He introduced the concept of “suspended guitar” which, quite literally, had his guitar suspended on a rope. During the entirety of Cops Lee never once looked at the screen. He swung his suspended guitar over the first three rows of the audience and it swung back. Then he hit it with his hand, or a violin bow or whatever he had at his disposal. The noise was obliterating, sonic, if you will, and perfect. For over 20 minutes.

To watch a person not watch a film, but knowing exactly what was going on in the film while that person made perfect noise, was special.

I wept. It was that beautiful.

There really is no point in writing this if you weren’t there. It was one of those shows.


The New York Guitar Festival continues at Merkin Concert Hall tonight, with a lineup that includes Califone scoring Buster Keaton's Go West (1925) and Howard Fishman scoring Keaton's The Frozen North (1922). The festival will conclude on January 29 at 92nd Street Y, with a day-long celebration of Italian guitar music, from the renaissance to music of today. 

Check out some photos of Lee Renaldo's suspended guitar below, and also be sure to preorder a copy of Lee's upcoming solo album, Between The Times & The Tides, out March 20 on Matador Records...

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