Wednesday, April 9, 2008

ya ho wa 13 @knitting factory nyc april 8 2008

The Ya Ho Wa 13 show/gathering at the Knitting Factory last night was very awesome. I rolled up to NYC with Prophase Mike behind the wheel, making absolutely incredible time on the NJTP (happy in the knowledge that the Phillies had won against the hated Mets earlier in the day) and hitting Manhattan with plenty of time for a good meal at Darlene, a Mexican/Spanish joint near the Knitting Factory. Cheap, good eats. As we trucked over to the Knitting Factory, we saw Djin Aquarian of Ya Ho Wa 13 and some of the other members heading out. It was great to finally meet Djin face to face after years of emailing with him (and an email interview here). Great vibes right off the bat, his (non ironic) friendly enthusiasm was so great and inspiring. We let him head off to have some dinner while we decided to have more beers. Yay.

The lineup for the show was a bit daunting, as there were 4 bands besides Ya Ho Wa 13 on the bill, but the set up was great, with the lower level bar hosting some of the bands, so there barely a wait between music. That said, I was wondering around and wasn't sure who I was seeing and didn't really see enough to judge any of the opening bands. Plus we met Isis from the Source Family and babbled with her for a bit. We also met Jodi Wille from Process Media, the publishers of the Source Book. It was really fun to meet these folks and gush about how great the book is and the music and on and on.

We did duck in and catch a tiny bit of the No Neck Blues Band. While they do make a mighty racket and such, I can't forget when they played the Balcony Bar like 10 years ago or something and Dan Gill tried to dance with their dancer and then (gently) grabbed the lead dude by that big beard of his and asked "Do you have a beer in there for me??" So yeah, no coming back from that.

A slightly beer buzzed and awes walk to the main room and some weaseling, got us right up front as Ya Ho Wa 13 started tuning up and such. The band for this performance was Djin on guitar and vocals, Sunflower on bass and Octavius on drums. This is the classic lineup that appeared on my fave Higher Key releases like Penetration, Contraction and Expansion. Another person was chalking up the gong on stage and a Father Yod looking fella (rocking a robe and giant leather belt with cel phone) spoke to the audience (quite diverse, hippies, kids, socialites and older folks) and led everyone in the "starman" exercise, one of the rituals of the Source family, detailed in the book. Since I was in the front, I couldn't tell how much of the audience participated, but I did my best keeping up with the band's frenzied breathing and exhaling. Hopefully someone got pics of a Knitting Factory audience so engaged.

The band started a slow spacey jam, smiling and greeting everyone, they seemed excited by the packed house and general anticipation of the room. Djin started out on electric and eventually locked into a groove with Sunflower and Octavius as the unknown fella made a mighty hiss and drone with the gong. He was smashing it over and over as the song peaked. After that he sat by the side of the stage meditating or something and totally grooving on the deal. The improv nature of the set kept things trucking along, not sure how much they rehearse but it seemed very easy for the three of them to lock in with each other.

Djin eventually switched to an acoustic guitar with a ton of effects pedals, a sound that I just love and don't encounter in a live setting enough (Batoh of Ghost on their tour with Magic Hour comes to mind). As far as comparing what Ya Ho Wa 13 from the seventies to 2008, there really wasn't much slickness, it was very easy to imagine these jams issuing forth from the cosmos through the players back in 1974. Not really surprising to anyone who heard Djin's playing on the Happy Hour Band release from a few years ago, his style is still very similar to his seventies sound, a little burnt and a very out there. The ensuing decades have not dampened his intriguing way of playing, thankfully! Drone, noise, metal and regular good old rock were all referenced in his guitar work.

As they band switched from say, first gear to the galactic overdrive, the playing got more frenzied and would rise and fall as they took it where it wanted to go. Some chants were in there as well as a little bit of the riffs from Penetration. I would say they played for around 90 calming-to-intense minutes. All the hype in my brain was sated. After the show we blabbed with Djin and Sunflower and got totally caught up in the good vibes, only to have to climb back in the car and head back to Philly, day jobs and two straight Phillies losses to the Mets. Argh! Still, one night of transcendence (in the Nice Pooper version of such things, anyway) in Manhattan that really recharged the psychic batteries. I wish they had played with the Boredoms, as I think my brain woulda said "see ya" and finally split. And that ain't no shit.

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