Aug 17, 2011


The bald sax player of Gutbucket has a rope-thick vein popping out on his forehead as he convulses and whirls and launches his torso across the stage in a fiery fit of jazz eloquence. There is a man playing some skeletal thing that used to be an upright bass, with wonderful soulful agony. The guitarist blisters static, the drummer pounds away, and this wonderful anarchy rings crazily in your head like a jungle ska party.

It's sunset, and on the lawn outside the Berkshire Fringe festival there are rows of benches lined up to watch this band explode over and over again onstage. Gutbucket could be described as an art-punk-jazz band from Brooklyn, only the Brooklyn part being indisputably true. The driving force behind this morass of sound is the sax player, giddy with pure invention as he plays. There are squeaks and squeals and yelps from protesting instruments, most of them coming from that single saxophone. During rockabilly-esque, dark, walking-beat sections, he has this wonderful creeping, menacing, predatory stance... a thug with his melodies. Then the music opens back up into absolute frenzy, straddling the line between jazz precision and punk passion. Gutbucket is punk jazz -- the "art-rock" tag really just means that they try to push the boundaries of what their instruments can do, and expect a certain level of patience from their audience when the things really start to hiss and squeal and sing.

There is that awkward, uncertain moment in jazz and rock concerts where one musician is taking a solo, their face contorted with passion and the collective gaze of the audience positively glowing off of them... and the other musicians have to find something to do with themselves while they wait for their turn to play again. While some look at the floor, some dance around a little bit, some nod along with the music & wrinkle their forehead, this particular guitarist whips out his iPhone, crouches on the side of the stage, and starts taking a video. It was so blatantly 21st-century, I couldn't believe it... and I was honestly a little horrified to think that this was considered okay. However, Gutbucket redeemed themselves in the end. During the last song, while the saxophonist was gasping and squealing and lurching around the stage (I think it was meant to be funny -- if not, I am very sorry for cracking up in the thick, stunned silence between notes), in the spasm of a solo, and the guitarist was taking another video, the bald vein-popping sax player stood over him guitarist and lunged at him repeatedly as if the bell of his instrument were a viper-head. It was weird, twisted slapstick brilliance; the guitarist's terrified expression and all.

All songs played during this show were from Gutbucket's newest album, Flock (2011)... available everywhere, including iTunes.

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