888 BoaDrum review
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Here's a review by August Brown in the LA Times:
"Live: Boredoms at the La Brea Tar Pits"
The Japanese art-punk ensemble rolls out the percussion for the L.A.
premiere of the avant-garde '888 BoaDrum.'
By August Brown, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 11, 2008
Boredoms' free Friday night concert at the La Brea Tar Pits was
probably the second-most impressive percussion-centric event in the
world that evening. But it's a testament to the wild ambitions of
Boredoms' founder, Yamatsuka Eye, and the 88 drummers who joined him
for a new avant-garde symphony, "888 BoaDrum," that it took the
opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics to overshadow the Japanese
"888 BoaDrum" arrived on the numerologically auspicious heels of last
year's "77 BoaDrum," held in New York's Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park
on July 7, 2007, where Eye and Boredoms' three full-time drummers
recruited 73 local percussionists, many in popular experimental rock
bands, to accompany a similar, 77-minute new work. This year's version
upped the degree of difficulty and the length of the sprawling new
piece by 11 minutes.
Eye and his band led the Los Angeles debut of "888 BoaDrum," while the
New York-based experimental quartet Gang Gang Dance led the identical
piece in New York on the same night.
L.A. has not been a town for unhinged concert behavior lately, but the
unchecked giddiness of the thousands splayed across the hills of the
lawn outside the Page Museum couldn't have been due only to the
copious joints being passed through the audience.
Boredoms' task of enlisting 85 competent drummers to play a largely
unrehearsed work proved easier than it sounds, involving something
almost akin to a series of sleeper cells for percussionists. A central
group of Boredoms' associates (spearheaded by "BoaDrum" coordinator,
Japanese-speaking liaison drummer Hisham Akira Bharoocha of the band
Soft Circle) each recruited subgroups of drummers who are based in
L.A. or who could travel that day, then arranged them in a spiral
around Boredoms' members on the lawn at the Tar Pits.
Dan Rowan, of the L.A.-based all-drum quartet Foot Village, was one
who made the cut.
"We knew Warren [Huegel] from [the San Francisco band] Tussle, and
he's in the inner circle of this," he said. "I heard stories about
losers with managers calling up Boredoms and saying, 'You have to let
us be in this.' "
Fans of Modest Mouse, Hella, Jawbreaker and Hole would have recognized
those bands' percussionists in the throng, along with at least one
representative from nearly every local indie rock outfit of note. The
lineup was also notably gender-integrated, with drummers from Mika
Miko, Unwound and Erase Errata, plus many other women in prominent
section spots. The sub-group leaders had a few days to practice the
piece, but most drummers had only that day to sharpen their chops for
"It was a little chaotic, but they wanted chaos," said Aaron Sperske,
of the recently reunited L.A. psych-country group Beachwood Sparks.
"It was about one-third drummers and two-thirds people who knew how to
play drums. If this were a summer camp, you could already see who
would hang and who would be left out. It'd be like 'Meatballs.' "
There was something deeply appropriate about hosting the concert at
the Tar Pits, as there's a primeval, almost geologic power to that
much percussion. The show began promptly at 8:08 p.m., with a
minutes-long cymbal swell beginning on Boredoms' central stage and
spilling out into the spiral. The swell soon built into a cacophonous
free-for-all of fills that surely sent the residents of the nearby
Park La Brea Apartments scrambling to their windows to see if J.J.
Abrams was filming a "Cloverfield" sequel nearby.
The rest of the piece moved with surprising synchronicity through
passages reminiscent of everything from Led Zeppelin to Indian ragas,
'90s drum-and-bass and Neu!-esque krautrock. At the center of the
stage, Eye howled and conducted with unhinged vigor, cuing the
"BoaDrum" equivalent of page turns with an enormous wand that doubled
as a drumstick for triggering samples on a giant bank of synthesizers.
Fans were free to wander, as the audience was arranged in the round.
One elderly man led a gaggle of scruffy twentysomethings in a
full-body convulsion dance, while across the field, a lone woman
hula-hooped with singular commitment and a man hawked his silk-screen
art prints. True to the hippie-ish nature of any drum circle, one hot
rumor going around "BoaDrum" suggested that the end of the L.A. spiral
connected in a straight line with the end of the New York spiral to
form -- yes -- the number 8.
"888 BoaDrum" was divided into three movements, and each of the
groups' transitional points was like watching a tank make a U-turn: a
bit cumbersome and unwieldy, but fearsome once it got rolling. Instead
of a bombastic finale, "888 BoaDrum" ended much as it started, with
the ensemble's marital rhythms dissolving inward until the three
Boredoms drummers ceased after a final cymbal trill.
Although the "BoaDrum" arrangement was exhilarating and exhausting
even for the audience, most of the drummers greeted friends on the
lawn with huge smiles, as if the heavens (and numbers) had aligned
just for them on this night.
"I feel totally fine," Bharoocha said immediately after the show, as
he fielded a dozen well-wishing handshakes in both English and
Japanese. "The piece feels smaller than you think after all the planning."