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Clip: Pere Ubu scoring in Pittsburgh

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  • Carl Z.
    Pere Ubu First Band Ever to Repay Debts Writer: AARON JENTZEN Thirty years
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2005

      Pere Ubu
      First Band Ever to Repay Debts

      Writer: AARON JENTZEN

      Thirty years after forming the group in Cleveland, Pere Ubu front man
      and director David Thomas can still muster up "an utter disdain for
      the Steelers and much mirth over the Pirates' perennial condition."
      Even though he has allegedly lived in England since 1984, somehow his
      taste for the rivalry between our Mid-Whatever cities remains fairly
      intact. Fortunately, he says Ubu will perform "wherever the promoter
      pays us to do it," even -- Pittsburgh.

      So, thank the coffers of Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Dollar Bank for
      treating us to the incongruous spectacle of these underground music
      icons sauntering into the old-timey Regent Square Theater on Sat.,
      Nov. 5, when Pere Ubu performs its live underscore to Roger Corman's
      classic sci-fi B-movie X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, as part of the
      Three Rivers Film Festival.

      Pere Ubu's avant-rock assault began in 1975, when seminal Cleveland
      group Rocket From the Tombs split its personnel and song catalog
      between Ubu and the more straightforward Dead Boys. Over the years,
      Ubu's eccentricities, rotating cast of musicians and
      on-again-off-again nature have become legendary: Suffice it to say,
      weird people are involved, with weird goals and operating systems.
      Clevelanders, in other words. The lineup for the Pittsburgh date
      includes Keith Moline, Robert Wheeler, Michele Temple and Steve
      Mehlman; most joined Ubu in the mid-'90s with already impressive
      resumes, and appeared on 1998's Pennsylvania, while Moline co-founded
      the group David Thomas and the Two Pale Boys in England in 1995.

      When a group earns comparisons to Captain Beefheart, Zappa, The Fall,
      even Tom Waits, all you really know is, expect the unexpected. "I sing
      in a couple places, otherwise I have some samples I use and I
      conduct," Thomas says. "The underscore is fairly tightly organized."
      Sounds fairly straightforward, right?

      "But I will often depart or extend what's going on musically,
      depending on circumstances. In other words, if someone has got an
      interesting idea going I will direct the band to follow that person
      and see where it takes us. Sometimes I will arbitrarily send the band
      off on an unplanned tangent, again, to see what happens, what new
      avenues open up." After the film, the group plays classic Ubu songs as

      Ubu's goals with the film underscore seem oddly humble, in that any
      city's resident music dorks would likely still line around the block
      to see it play along to Bambi or Sleepless in Seattle. Despite the
      band's grail-like quality, "we're not there to show off," says Thomas.
      "But we try to bring out different angles, intensify the film's
      dynamics or re-contextualize it. It's interesting taking a third
      party's agenda as a structure and then synthesizing something that is
      cooperative. It becomes something like a folk, communal experience."

      X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes and Ubu have already "cooperated" in
      several U.S. cities; the group also toured Great Britain last November
      accompanying the last 3-D print of It Came From Outer Space, based on
      a Ray Bradbury story. These presentations allow Ubu to repay a debt of
      influence to the Friday-night sci-fi film genre, for which its dark,
      paranoid theatricality seems particularly suited.

      "The B-movie in its day was an inviting canvas for kids growing up in
      strange times," Thomas explains. "The lack of a budget resulted in a
      minimal degree of scrutiny and a lax attitude to things like
      continuity, cohesion, logic, back story, or even the need for
      believable female characters who, generally, as every sci-fi fan
      knows, just slow things down anyway. The benefit to the young artist
      comes from odd narrative shapes and the discipline to find meaning in
      the incomprehensible."

      Even if attending Ubu's show simply for the film's sake is a bit like
      buying Playboy for the articles, there is a bonus for lovers of
      Corman's 1960s sci-fi vision: a restoration of the film's already
      surprising ending. "The end is a nice twist and we 're-store' the
      supposedly 'lost' ending that Steve Spielberg (and myself) believe was
      cut," says Thomas. "Roger Corman denies it, but if you know the film
      you know it has a very abrupt end that definitely suggests something …
      which I won't give away right now."

      But it's not difficult to talk him into it. "Oh phooey, as long as you
      don't mention it in the article … "

      Pere Ubu performs during a screening of X: The Man With the X-Ray
      Eyes. 11 p.m. Sat., Nov. 5. Regent Square Theater, 1035 S. Braddock
      Ave., Edgewood. $15. 412-682-4111
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