The 13th Night of Christmas: O.P.H.E.L.I.A / Infinite Third / Mountain Holler / Kersey Williams

Surrounding this review is a barrage of scattered attempts at writing other ones.  Originally planning to work on my Archaic Interest piece from the previous week, my roommate invited me out and I decided that amassing more notes was more appealing than trying to spread out existing ones (I come from the “sit at the typewriter and open a vein” school of reviewing).  I also saw the headliners Ophelia (as they were then styled) back in June and despite my determination at the time, never typed up those notes either.  My usual pack-rat tendencies failed, so they’ve since been lost, which is a shame as I was hoping to steal some wise words from my past self.

Fubar Downtown also appears to be in a scattered state, with the two-foot stage that previously occupied the spot next to the door replaced with some scaffolding. But the events that would go on to take place here showed that beautiful things can come out of messy environments. You could hardly ask for a more smoothing audio antidote to the harsh visual of indoor construction than Kersey Williams.  I only catch ten minutes, but she and her baritone ukulele don’t take a long time to get your attention, with a visit to her SoundCloud page reaffirming.  The final song of her set, described as “super sappy,” is “Fern,” and it compares people to plants and is very pleasant.  Among other things, Williams apparently wants to make you feel, create and fart.  Which I did.

The nature-within-concrete theme continues as Mountain Holler (Mark Etherington of Set and Setting/RedFeather) helps to raise up a white screen in front of the former stage space.  Upon it quickly begins a DVD of the BBC/Discovery program Planet Earth.  If that isn’t enough animal for you, how about a comparison to the band Gorillaz?  Aside from being in as many acts as Damon Albarn, Etherington removes himself from the performance by playing behind this screen.  It’s the first time he’s tried it and he says we should only expect a little cohesiveness with the video.  That said, Planet Earth has been going for a while before he begins his set, but they immediately compliment each other, and you can see why Mountain Holler is described as music from the city about the country.  The sheet ripples like water through the long and flowing songs, reminiscent of Etherington’s post-rock ties.  The last three are run together as a compilation called “Prometheus,” a reference fitting the singers’ point of intersection between art and the natural world.  That tension between anthropogenic activities — as most creative ventures are — and nature is present when you see a silhouetted arm and remote moving around trying to get the DVD to restart.  The set could maybe have been shorter, as when Mountain Holler suggested we close our eyes prior to the final lengthy piece I almost fell asleep standing up.  Then again it could have because I got up at 5am the day after a major holiday.  (This seems to be coming up in every recent review.  Evidently I need to spend less time at work and more time camping.)

On third is Infinite Third AKA Billy Mays III.  I have never been good at math, but does an infinite third get smaller forever without ever disappearing or get exponentially larger?  The performance by this man seems to attempt to do both, building to huge heights then winding back down like a collapsing universe, as if to tell Mountain Holler that his “entire globe” message was tiny potatoes.  With the screen taken away and the reminder that the stage is gone, it’s returned to being less claustrophobic, even if the area is filled with a Homer Simpson cubicle-sized array of dials and peddles.  Infinite Third couldn’t be accused of slacking during the nuclear power plant collapse, though — his mix of big beat, haunting guitars, post-rock and eccentric spoken samples makes as much commotion as a whole ensemble.  It’s interesting but somewhat overwhelming, both musically and philosophically.  Let’s not get too existential here now, lest we disappear up our own arses; is that a painting of comedy punks Wolf-Face on the Fubar wall?  Proof if needed that humanity is still part of nature and nature part of us.  By the end of the set I am sitting on the floor in what appears to be a journo playpen of photographers and scribblers.  We may just be babies when it comes to understanding the universe, but we’ll learn by observing.  (There is footage of this performance, recorded by fellow playpen occupant Jim Grinaker, here.)

Well where do you go from there?  Physically, it’s pretty much over. So it’s into the subconscious: this gig was put on by Remember You are Dreaming, an artist collective that includes Infinite Third, Williams and the next act, O.P.H.E.L.I.A.  Originally the brainchild of singer-songwriter Roger Lanfranchi, O.P.H.E.L.I.A is now a full on five-piece.  This does not include the man I saw Lanfranchi playing with during the summer (he had a flute and did fine work), nor does it mean there are just five instruments.  One guy, Brad Myers, is on the xylophone, violin and ukulele, and at one point there are at least three people sharing the drum kit.  All this should give you an idea of not just breadth of this project but how many different kinds of elements can be fused with and into Lanfranchi’s music.  His uniquely high singing voice combined with neatly honed folk guitar strumming (amongst much else) is relatively joyous, and you can see that it emanates from him in the way that he smiles a lot while playing.  Mr. Music Man Myers later pulls out a flute as well.  The xylophone and bass come together to form a Christmassy funk, but, sadly, there is no take on Winter Wonderland, as described in a recent Florida Folk Scene show.  On the bright side, even though today is Boxing Day, I feel very peaceful watching this act and all the ones that preceded it.  Not like an insignificant speck floating through space.

The evening title “The 13th Night of Christmas” refers to how long I get to write this thing, yeah?

Photos By Jim Grinaker