That’s me and Vincent Gallo.
Apparently, when you look Vincent Gallo directly in the eye, you turn into something resembling a dead bloated frog that’s been stewing in warm dishwater for a week — with a crazed look in its eye. Laugh if you like, but consider yourselves warned. As a result of the above photo, I’ve been using all these strange new machines at the gym.
Anyway, what the hell was I doing with Vincent Gallo? The answer, dear readers, is that I’m simply that hip. No, truth be told, a cool night for me is if TBS airs a good re-run of "Friends." Like the one where Phoebe tries to teach Joey to speak French for a role he’s auditioning for. God, I love that one.
But Friday, I decided to break my usual evening routine and go down to boho NYC central — also known as Bleeker Street — to catch Gallo’s current touring band, RRIICCEE. RRIICCEE is Gallo on mellotron, melodica, guitar and bass; Eric Erlandson (Hole) on guitar and a million gadgets; Rebecca Casabian (who looked like a small Dutch boy) on keyboards; and Nikolas Haas (who was nearly naked) on drums.
Here’s Gallo’s take on the project:
"Improvisation is not a good word for what we’re doing. It’s more a gesture of composing and performing at the same time, always hoping to avoid musical cliché or jamming…Improvisation means committing to a musical form or vocabulary. We’re creating composition, which means we need to be conscious and reflective. We are spontaneous and we are inventing, but we’re not wallowing in scales. We’re trying to organize structures that we recognize in the moment, that make compositional sense and build upon those. Conscious is the best word for what we’re doing."
Gobledeegook? Perhaps. I like better his observation that, "If I’m not making music that is better than me or beyond me being the asshole that I am, then. . . eventually I will create my own cliché. And I’m hoping to avoid that as much as possible."
My own profound assessment of the performance was that it was good. I tell you from the bottom of my dead, bloated frog-heart that it was good. If you liked Gallo’s 2001 record When, there’s a high chance you would dig a RRIICCEE show. You definitely wouldn’t walk out, as about a half dozen of the 200-plus people on Friday did.
RRIICCEE has been billed primarily as a collaboration between Gallo and Erlandson, but it’s clearly Gallo’s band. A good deal of the sonic landscape he developed on When comes through here in various forms — the jazzy chords, intermittent drums, syncopated bass lines, etc. (Some of the vintage equipment he used Friday had to be on that record.) If you consider Gallo to have a sound of his own, it’s that sound which drives RRIICCEE.
In my unprofessional and illegitimate view, a lot of "improv" bands seem to follow some unwritten code by which they must, at all costs, break into self-indulgent, endless meanderings until you want to blow your head clean off your shoulders. Conversely, RRIICCEE instinctively knew when a piece should wrap up (few songs were longer than 7 or 8 minutes). But with the show just shy of an hour and-a-half, there was room for plenty of exploration. They kept it interesting. When you found yourself wanting a new musical landscape, RRIICCEE served your ass like John McEnroe.
Probably the best thing I can say about the show is that you could catch the compositional drift. A sort of, "OK, that made sense to me" type of feeling, as opposed to a "Can I have my $25 back?" deal. Some tunes resolved into pretty, crashing chord repetitions a la Mogwai or even Godspeed! You Black Emperor. Others lilted away. Gallo only sang a couple of times, but his voice was great. I like his vocals. He sounds like a chick. He knelt or sat on the floor in his white boots for pretty much the whole show.
Overall grade: B+. And I would especially recommend seeing RRIICCEE because they have no plans to ever record anything. So there.
Oh, one more thing: the height of the evening was after the show when Gallo was having his photo taken with a couple of young Japanese girls who spoke marginal English. He was trying to explain to them that his music and films were best enjoyed with bukkake.
Gallo: "Bukkake – you know bukkake? Yes? Yes?"
Japanese Girls: "Bukkake? No, what is this ‘bukkake’?"
Gallo: "It’s sort of like a noodle soup. A very tasty noodle soup."
P.S. Here’s a link to a short but awesome video where Gallo touts his conservative credentials and professes his desire to look more like George Will. How seriously you want to take that is your business.
P.P.S. I have instructed my assistant Juan to inform Casey that he is now contractually bound to post an embarassing photo of himself that is relevent to either music, media or metaphysics. If he’s a real man, it’ll be metaphysics.