“It’s uncertain what the name of this series is going to be,” joked Conor Perreault as he discussed taking over the second Saturday of the month time slot at Never Ending Books that used to belong to the Uncertainty Music Series — which had come to the end of its run this past August. The Uncertainty Music Series had been devoted to experimental music.
So, it seems, will Perreault’s series. It doesn’t have a name. But it does have a mission.
Perreault, who performs with the band Human Flourishing and solo, has been booking more shows this past year throughout New Haven, even taking over the curating of the Elm City Noise Festivalin 2018. He wanted to provide another regular outlet for the experimental and noise music scene in Never Ending Books. His inaugural second Saturday show was held in December. Bad weather kept one of the acts, The Spookfish, from attending.
On Saturday, the rescheduled Spookfish appeared, along with three New Haven-based acts: Muckers FM, Jack Potes, and Human Flourishing. It was a mixture of old friends and new friends, a small but warm and inviting audience befitting the space that held them.
Muckers FM, a.k.a. Danny Ravizza, was a one-man sound system. After a very brief introduction by Perreault, Ravizza launched right into a 20-minute escapade of electronic and techno sound punctuated occasionally by select bits of recorded dialogue, including fragments of W.B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming” (“things fall apart, the center cannot hold”; “slouches towards Bethlehem waiting to be born”). The beats were highly danceable at times, causing heads to bob throughout the room, including Ravizza’s. They enhanced the lines of poetry as well as the general ambience of the room as a soundtrack enhances a film. Ravizza set the tone for the night as he left the stage smiling. He left the audience smiling as well.
Jack Potes manipulated a viola, a guitar, a harmonica, and his own voice to present a set highlighted by sounds ranging from the sweet to the searing. At one point he brought the viola to his mouth and created a singing, statically charged instrument, as if he was serenading a spring thunderstorm. When using his own voice as a part of the soundscape, it was as if it was its own instrument being discovered and coerced into participating. Potes was greeted as he finished his set with screams of woo and yes, leaving the stage with a huge smile on his face.
The New York-based The Spookfish, a.k.a. Dan Goldberg, alternated between his keyboard and his guitar to perform the evening’s only more straightforward songs in the show, including one that he announced was for “his friend Greg,” from Human Flourishing. He also offered thanks for setting up the show and for Never Ending Books, and then presented a quiet and lovely piece called “Snake Song” that many in the room sang along to:
In my dreams the snakes come for me in the garden
I run away, but some day I’m gonna stay.
Whether at the keyboard or with the guitar, whether adding vocals or keeping it sparse, Goldberg created a dream-like atmosphere for the mind to wander through and search beyond itself. He was also received with much gratitude from the audience and seemed to enjoy himself immensely.
The final act of the night was Human Flourishing, with Perreault on guitar and pedals, Gregory Paul on soundboard, pedals, and mixer, and Mike Larocca on percussion, piano, and pretty much anything else he could get his hands on in the box of goodies he had next to him — including a squeaky toy and not one but two recorders. Each performer added vocals throughout the set that ranged from light and sweet almost-moans to a mantra to a barrage of choking gasps that made the air in the room itself part of the instrumentation. Their cacophony rose and fell but never let up and had one on the edge of their seat waiting to see, hear, and feel where it would take them next, layering and intensifying but remaining immensely playful throughout. Paul added in a few pieces of improvised spoken word at one point, along with a few pieces of prerecorded dialogue ranging from Jack Nicholson to Spongebob Squarepants. Human Flourishing’s set was greeted with resounding joy from the audience.
Perreault was a modest and gracious host throughout the night. He offered a piece of advice from his spot on the floor of the stage before his set began: “It’s Saturday night. Remember to flourish.” That seemed like much less of a task and much more of a way of simply being after a night of unbridled sound.
This still unnamed but lively second Saturday series of experimental and noise music will continue at Never Ending Books in March. More info can and will be found on the Elm City Noise Festival Facebook page.