There were a couple performance events last Saturday I wanted to attend. I have been experimenting a bit with performance lately so I was interested in seeing what others had put together. Unfortunately there were two events at the exact same time on the same night. One was "Live Sprawl" by Lucky Dragons at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary, the other was "Gutted" at LACE featuring a couple dozen performance artists. Having recently seen a few of their videos I went with Lucky Dragons, little did I know I probably could've seen both.
I'm from the midwest and one of our habits is being on time or early for shows, parties, events, etc. I get burned by it every time in LA and Live Sprawl was no exception as I got there a little before 7. MOCA claimed Live Sprawl would "engage partygoers in a collaborative construction of their environment using sound, video, lighting, physical contact, conversation, and other surprise elements." Well at around 9:30 the only conversation I was hearing was "when the hell is the performance going to start?" The same 20 minute long video of various banal strobed imagery was playing all night long on a large screen in the main performance space. And the only "interactive element" was a few people aimlessly tooting on some recorders (those crappy flues they gave you in elementary school music class) that had been given out during the evening (for no clear reason). I had to entertain myself by going back to the scene of the crime in the main gallery and taking another look at their lackluster 30 years show.
Finally at 9:45 some languid boys and girls started to shuffle onto the stage. What ensued was a mostly improvisational, and somewhat rhythmic electronic sound collage. There was some acoustic drums, moaned vocals, electronics, all loaded with delay and effects and a few obligatory laptops. This sort of musical style has a long history. I was in the "cassette culture" back in the 80s & 90s and the label that I ran had a lot of similar sounding music. This was really a basement version of what was going on back in the 60s and 70s when experimental electronic music was first starting out. But, I have to say that what was going on back then was a little more exciting. Geek infused projects like the No Thing Ensemble, Randy Greif, New Carrollton, Thomas Dimuzio, Throbbing Gristle, Merzbow, Harrison & Chapelle, Smersh, all had charm and power. The Lucky Dragons set just seemed like an echo of an echo of an echo.
The one element that was fantastic and totally fascinating was when LD passed out some sort of electronic instrument to the crowd that was hooked into the sound system. This was the true interactive element I had been waiting for all night. There were half a dozen or so small devices that were on the ends of electric cords. When manipulated by the audience a bright, swirling, tonal, wash would rise and fall. It seemed like the intensity would shift and increase when people would touch each other or bring the cords closer together. This was truly compelling. But after a 3 hour wait and little else to keep my attention I left thinking are they a one trick dragon?