Monday, July 9, 2012

The Colorboration Folk Fest (continued)

March 18th was the day, Chicago was the town and 208 S. Wabash Avenue was the address of the first ever Colorboration Folk Fest. In the prior blog post we started to tell, and here we hopefully will finish the deed. To recap, The day started off around noon with guitarist, Neil Dixon Smith, followed by Singer/Songwriter Erin Isaac and then Singer/Songwriter Linda M. Smith and her combo.

Vessy Mink

Next up was the ever delightfully creative and well travelled Vessy Mink playing her folk pop rocky tunes. Staying true to her latest motherly alliteration, Vessy performed the better part of her set with her lastest creation, just barely a few months old, strapped to her breast right above her guitar. Vessy pulled her Black Car out of the garage in the middle of her set to switch the pace up a lot.

And for her last song she mixed it up a little bit more by playing  a Bulgarian dance song and singing it in tongues. Go figure. Everyone smiled and, no surprise, but this resonated immediately with Tali's Bulgarian roots.

Bulgarian Dance by Tali

Music of Vessy Mink by Royce

The circuit bending fools that go by the name of Roth Mobot took the stage next. Tommy Stephenson and Patrick McCarthy make up this duo that quite simply amazed everyone in the place, present company included. As they set up they unloaded untold numbers of altered electronic toys that they have collected over the years and have clipped, snipped, drilled and soldered them into fantastic noisemakers that they can control to make music out of what appears to be chaos. Everyone was enchanted as the two electronic wizards allowed everyone to pick up and see what sort of sounds they might generate.

Roth Mobot

Roth Mobot is improvisation on another level of completely unusual proportions. I say that because they are not playing with any sort of conventional instruments that contain within them any sort of natural progressive set of scales. Unlike a piano that literally anyone can play a scale by walking their fingers up or down the keyboard, some of these altered toys may only make one unusual sound such as particular kind of squawk or static.

The magic occurs when the sounds begin and yeah it does sound a little like an auditory mess. But once they start sampling the sounds and you begin to hear rhythms being created you can't help but be a bit blown away that before long you are hearing music, that almost could be considered traditional. At least when you consider where it came from. 

Music of Roth Mobot by Royce
So, next New Year's Day when you are being driven completely out of your mind because you gave your kid the latest, and coolest toy that has been talking and making siren noises for the last week, and you are ready to throw it out the window. Don't!  Get it over to Roth Mobot, they will add it to their menagerie and make it sing in a way that you never thought possible.

Painting their music, was an experience every bit as unusual as Roth Mobot.

Mike Felton, at this point we can refer to him as a long time collaborator and contributor to the Colorboration project. Mike took the stage with his seasoned presence and filled the room with tales from the city whose L tracks were running right over head adding a percussive beat to Mr. Felton's tunes.

Mike Felton - photo by Rob Gaczol

We met Mike in March 2011 when he showed up to play with in Logan Square at our first Colorboration Project - Chicago. Right away we liked the special place that his music took our paintings. There is a real life urban grittiness to his songs that rough you up while tugging at your your heartstrings.

Ghost in the House by Tali

By this time we have so many favorite tunes from Mike, Ghost in the House, Where'd You Get That Dress, The Buildings They Tore Down, and those were just a few of what he played that night. Mike came back two more times over the course of our stay in Chicago this time. It has gotten to be that it just isn't a visit to Chicago with a little bit of Mike Felton.

This California transplant, Shelley Miller has found her place in Chicago. She fits in nicely with her raw approach to presenting a songwriting style that claws at the underbelly of relationships and pokes our humanity right where we live. The  great set of music that Shelley played in our little venue was a  real treat in that it was an acoustic set version of what she would play at her April 29th CD release party for her latest offering february. 

Shelley Miller - photo by Rob Gaczol

It has been said that Shelley is a singer's singer and a songwriter's songwriter and a guitarist's guitar player. We will add our vote to those accolades as well. Plus as painters we have to say that she is a painter's musician with her songs like Walk Away, and Bigger than Darkness that combine masterful guitar picking and a searingly soulful voice that create a tapestry of textures that are a joy to paint.

Music of Shelly Miller by Tali

Marshall Greenhouse, percussionist, Wilson, guitar and Ryan Behling, bass and vocals make up KAVA that from the first electrically charged note make you wonder how they might have ended up on the bill of a folk festival. (But then we wondered about Roth Mobot too.) 

We have always taken a come one, come all stance on what we do and KAVA was a welcome addition to what was getting to be the end of a long long day. So the energy this, dare I say, power trio injected into our studio was more than palpable even without a drum kit. 

KAVA by Tali

We will both admit that working non-stop all day like we were doing was a bit on the ridiculous side, but we seem to do that a lot. But exhausted as we might have been Marshall, Wilson and Ryan hit the ground running with some hard driving tunes that were executed with surgical precision. They also lightened up and gave us a kinder and gentler KAVA that showed a different side of the band and likewise gave even more complexity to our paintings.

Music of KAVA by Royce

near hemisphere
What better way to end up a folk festival than with the folk stylings of the West African influenced sounds of near hemisphere. Rick Neuhaus and his cast of characters round out this band of six to eight members. This night there only six and proved to be just enough. It really goes to show that more is not always necessarily better.

near hemisphere
By the end of the set and the evening everyone in the house had some sort of instrument and was being included in the impromptu band and improvisational session that is so typical of so many of shows that have anything to do with Rick Neuhaus. As a leader he knows where he wants to go and remains flexible enough to go with the variations that inevitably show in in most live performances.

Music of near hemisphere by Tali

Rick was not only instrumental in getting the Folk Fest musicians lined up through the Old Town School of Folk Music, but he also was a helping hand of untold proportions when it came to setting up our studio here on Wabash Ave. I might add that the painted stage is all his handy work, and I don't think it went unnoticed by anyone for the six weeks we were in that space.

So, Thanks to all the musicians that played and thanks to the Old Town School of Folk Music, thanks to FUZE for keeping us all hydrated and thanks to The Chicago Loop Alliance and The Pop-Up Art Loop and Tristan Hummel for all your support.


  1. Nice pic of Roth Mobot with Mike's head and mine! Great description, although words cannot really express how hypnotizing circuit bending is... like abstract painting with sound...

  2. How right you are Patrick. Hypnotizing is a great way to put it. And no, words can't express nearly well enough; both subjects, circuit bending as well as abstract painting with sound are topics best experienced in person.

    One also might argue that these paintings are as abstract as they appear at first glance. They after all quite literally paintings that have music as their subject, not their inspiration.