Project Lo with Happy Rhodes
Thursday November 11, 1999
If you have photos and/or more information about this show, including thoughts and posts, please contact me. I'd love to include them.
Third Coast String Quartet
Happy Rhodes - Vocals and Guitar
Paul Ramsey - Drums, percussion
Bon Lozaga - Guitar
Hansford Rowe - Bass and Vocals
Photo is from Happy's site. Click on the picture to see a larger version.
More pictures Here
This appeared in the Chicago Reader.
Chicago Reader, 11/11/99
Spot Check: Happy Rhodes at Martyrs'
Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Happy Rhodes, with her heavily orchestrated blend of electronic New Age, prog, Jungian philosophy, and science fiction, has been a cult phenomenon since the release of her first CD, Warpaint, in 1991. She's a more-than-competent songwriter of the movie-in-your-head-starring-Kate-Bush school, and on Many Worlds Are Born Tonight -- her tenth record, and her first for a real label, the Omaha-based Samson Music -- her rich voice is layered in deep resonant waves and, occasionally, a slightly jarring pop beat. For this rare concert appearance
From: Mike UDate: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 03:47:35 -0600
Subject: review of Project Lo show (or: when worlds collide)
A little over a week ago, I forwarded a list of November tour dates for Bon Lozaga's "Project Lo" tour. I just got back from seeing them at the first date on the tour (at Martyr's, in Chicago). If you'd rather skip the extended half-coherent ramblings of someone who only had 3 hours of sleep last night, has been up for 20+ hours, and consumed too many pints of Goose Island Ale at the show [cool -- a club that actually had some decent, albeit over-priced beer!], here's the Cliff Notes version:
GO SEE THEM IF YOU CAN -- THIS WAS A GREAT SHOW!
OK, now for the unabridged version...
First, a little background:
For those of you who don't know who Bon Lozaga is, back in the '70s, he was one of the guitarists in Pierre Moerlen's Gong, sharing guitar credits with Holdsworth on Expresso II. More recently, he's been the lead guitarist/bandleader of Gongzilla, BON, and Project Lo -- which have featured David Torn, Holdsworth, and others as guest musicians. There are a half dozen CDs out from these various projects, on Lozaga's own LOLO Records label.
The Gongzilla releases, and the BON releases are electric fusion -- consistent with what a lot of people probably think of when they hear the word "fusion". The Project Lo releases are more acoustic/electronic in nature; I guess I'd call them "jazz/ambient fusion", if one was forced to give them a label (but I hate labels).
The second Project Lo CD features vocals on some tracks by Happy Rhodes, who is touring with them this time around. When I first found out that Happy Rhodes was on the Project Lo CD, my first reaction was, "what a bizarre collaboration". Rhodes is a female singer/songwriter, somewhat in the Kate Bush vein, but with a much wider vocal range. (I was probably the only person at this show who was *both* a Bon Lozaga *and* Happy Rhodes fan, from before they collaborated on the last Project Lo album... but I digress.)
On to the show:
The lineup was Bon Lozaga (lead electric and acoustic guitar); Hansford Rowe (another Gong alum, on bass); Happy Rhodes (vocals, acoustic guitar, occasional keyboards); and Paul Ramsey [sp?], who did an admirable job subbing for Vic Stevens on drums.
They performed a mix of material from Project Lo, Hansford's latest solo release, and Happy Rhodes' last few CDs -- an eclectic selection, to say the least. Here's a set list; I managed to copy it down from a piece of paper that was sitting on the stage -- hey, my memory's not *that* good, especially after several pints of Goose Island!
Your Mind [from Project Lo's "Black Canvas"]
Mercy Street [Peter Gabriel cover, also from PL's BC]
Ali [from Hansford Rowe's "No Other"]
Ra [from HR's "Many Worlds are Born Tonight"]
Perfection [from Project Lo's BC]
Feed The Fire [one of HR's songs, I forget which album]
Rajah [from Project Lo's BC]
Hansford's Bass Solo
One Word [?]
The Chariot [from HR's "Many Worlds are Born Tonight"]
Hip Hopgnosis [from PL's "Dabbling In Darkness", and Gongzilla's "Suffer"]
D.I.E. [from Project Lo's BC]
Collective Heart [from HR's "Building The Colossus"]
Station To Station [? someone help me out here] ~ I reminded Mike that this is the old Bowie tune. ~ Mark
I've attempted to annotate with the original album where each tune appeared. "Hip Hopgnosis" appeared on two albums -- both the first Project Lo CD, and the first Gongzilla; the version performed tonight was closer to the Gongzilla version.
Anyhow... some general observations:
This show was generally a bit more "electric" than the Project Lo CDs. Somewhere between Project Lo and BON/Gongzilla, if anyone's keeping score.
Bon Lozaga has got to be one of the most underrated/unrecognized guitarists around. I can hear echoes of past collaborators (Holdsworth-esque legato, and textures/looping in the manner of Torn) in his playing, but the unique blend of elements he uses in his playing is indisputably his own.
Hansford Rowe is a bassist to be reckoned with. (What's that bizarre-looking 5-string bass he played? Is that the "just-intonation" bass I saw mentioned in the Gongzilla CD credits? The frets are actually at different positions for different strings.)
Happy Rhodes' vocals send shivers down my spine. (And hey, as a rule, I prefer instrumental music, to music with vocals!) In addition to singing on the selections with lyrics, she contributed occasional wordless vocalizations to many of the instrumental pieces...
To sum up, IMO, this was *real* fusion, in the purest sense -- diverse influences, all coming together and merging into a (reasonably) coherent whole. Highly recommended.
Oh, yeah... one more thing: Believe it or not, the opening act was a group billing themselves as the "Third Coast String Quartet". Yep, they were indeed a string quartet in the classical sense -- two violins, a viola, and a cello. Totally unexpected, but very enjoyable nonetheless -- a very accomplished group of musiicians. As far as the style of music they played goes... sort of a "classical-jazz fusion" thing going on here (there's one of those dreaded labels again). Cello as a percussion instrument, anyone? (The cellist took his role as the defacto rhythm section quite seriously, and sometimes whacked the strings with his bow, to provide percussive effects.) And what is it about "Norwegian Wood", anyway? (Let's just say that Holdsworth ain't the only one doing a jazzed-up version of this venerable Beatles tune!)
I assume the TCSQ is a local act, and is *not* actually touring with Project Lo... so I guess the rest of y'all get to miss out.
After the show, I had the opportunity to speak with Bon Lozaga. He indicated that his next project is likely to be more in the electric fusion vein (compared to the Project Lo releases), and that he's lining up some "interesting" collaborators (Dave Fiuczynski, among others). There's also a Gongzilla tour in the works. I'll keep y'all posted, if I hear anything more.
Also picked up copies of the new Hansford Rowe CD, and Vic Stevens' "Mistaken Identity" at the show. Haven't had a chance to listen yet...
Oh yeah, one more thing... Bon indicated that the Detroit date (tonight) has been canceled, due to the club changing ownership. Apparently, they *nearly* canceled the Chicago date as a result, as all of their other venues are on the east coast. (I'm *really* glad they decided to come out here anyway.)
Cheers, and good night. (Or is it good morning?)
== Mike U ==