Empty Bottle, Chicago 2007-09-04
For those who not be knowin‘, this small tour consisted of Kawabata Makato (guitar) and Tsuyama Atsushi (bass) from Acid Mothers Temple with Mani Neumeier from the mighty Guru Guru on drums.
If you’ve never heard Guru Guru before, you might want to drop everything you are doing right now and go find a copy of their incredible debut „UFO“, or watch the 1971 clip below. Like Acid Mothers Temple, Guru Guru was/is capable of some incredibly fluid jams with everyone winding their way around a basic song framework and making up plenty on the spot. Mani has been doing all kinds of other stuff over the years (including collaborating with developmentally challenged monks!) so it wasn’t surprising that he was in incredible form and pretty much the entire 90+ minute set seemed fully improvised.
In the world of Krautrock, which is filled with no shortage of stellar drummers, Mani is right up there among the best of them. He’s not Mr. Motorik but instead maintains a very jazzy, busy and often quite tribal percussion style that nonetheless manages to stay heavy and create a consistent wall of rhythm. The man’s drumming and sense of improvisation was amazing last night. This old dude – who I’m guessing is about 60, played his ass off. If anything it felt like he was the one propelling the band, but ultimately this collaboration was a match made in heaven with everyone contributing fully, equally, and in tune with each other for most of the set. It’s obvious how much Acid Mothers must enjoy the music of Guru Guru – which is so often heavy and loud, but also humorous, spaced out, and sometimes downright stupid. So Kawabata and Atsushi must have been delighted to be working with one of their heroes and Mani was clearly having the time of his life playing with these younger masters of heavy improvisation. The show did not take off right away. I’d say it took about a half hour before everything really fell into place but once it did, holy shit. All three members manged to simultaneously invoke the sounds of both bands throughout most of the set while playing completely in the moment with each other. For much of the show Mani looked like he had his eyes closed, sucking up all the music around him through his body and returning that free-flowing wall of drums in response. The group pretty much played straight through and ended with a well known song from each group: „Pink Lady Lemonade“ by AMT, followed by „Bo Diddley“ from Guru Guru. I nearly cried a couple times I was so taken with the potency of this collaboration. Truly beautiful to see such a mixed generation performance of free music happening in rock (and not in Jazz – where this kind of thing is much more common). A completely triumphant evening. I had a really quick chat with Mani after the show – a very nice guy and he seemed to agree that what has been happening in this merging of bands is something really special. I’m sure Johnny Vomit will post pix but it has to be noted that Atsushi’s modified Steinberger bass was absolutely the most hilariously retarded thing ever. Perhaps in tribute to the Fender used in old Guru Guru clips like the one below, Atsushi mounted the small rectangular black guitar body onto a fake painted black Fender body that looked like it was hastily made in shop class. As if that wasn’t screwy enough, he also attached a fake headstock to the guitar (which are known for not having them) to complete the horrible impression of a Fender body. Bizarre! A really great evening of rock. Good times with Sanford, Johnny Vomit and other diehards. Lots of real old fuckers at the show too who were clearly brought out of the woodwork by Mani’s presence.