Prog rock icons Magma perform at GAMH in SF on 3/18/2016

Magma at The Great American Music Hall on 3/18/2016

Magma at The Great American Music Hall on 3/18/2016

Last year Magma ended their concert with vocalist Stella Vander stating “See you next time”. Fans at the sold out concert at Slim’s in April of 2015 left thrilled at not just what they witnessed but also the idea that the band would return again to perform in city by the bay.

 

Christian Vander and Magma are on their second US tour in as many years

Christian Vander and Magma are on their second US tour in as many years

This year the band lived up to their promise with the Endless Tour returning to SF, this time at the Great American Music Hall in the Tenderloin. Magma returned this time performing a different set from last year’s show. The group started out with Theusz Hamtaak, a song originally written in 1972 is from the Theusz Hamtaak trilogy of albums  which includes the 1973 release Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh , a song they also performed at last Friday’s concert. Vocalist Stella Vander said regarding Theusz Hamtaak that the crowd liked seventies music and this was good, because they had 70’s songs to perform to us. 

Christian Vander's Magma in the 70's

Christian Vander’s Magma in the 70’s

The band also performed two other amazing extended jams to conclude the performance with Koïaba from their first album in 1970 s/t release and Zombies, a song from the 1976 record Üdü Ẁüdü. The intensity of being at a Magma concert is like no other show you’ll see. This is perhaps one reason the band sounds live now like they’re as much ahead of their time as they were when they recorded the songs from the set list.

Magma are the greatest band on earth.

Magma are the greatest band on earth.

The band has a new face in the band with guitarist James Mac Gaw sadly facing a health concern that prevented his touring with the band. The newest guitarist is working out for the band as yet another alumni to Magma is bringing the group closer their 5th decade as a band, something most artists might dream about. The music of the band reaches audiences of all generations. In fact the younger audience members seemed to know all of the songs and were into it and not missing a beat.

Magma have existed 47 years in music and are as ahead of their time today as they were then

Magma have existed 47 years in music and are as ahead of their time today as they were then

Cellist Helen Money was the opening act on Friday. Jello Biafra, a San Francisco resident and original singer for the Dead Kennedys (as well as a solo artist) introduced the band. He spoke about the recording of the new film To Life, Death and Beyond that is being recorded in part during this tour by Laurent Goldstein. The band once again said they will see us next time and once again the audience I’m sure can’t wait.

Jello Biafra introduced Magma at Friday's concert

Jello Biafra introduced Magma at Friday’s concert

Mills Faculty and Rova Perform the music of Lindsay Cooper

Zeena Parkins with the Mills Performing group

Zeena Parkins with the Mills Performing group

Lindsay Cooper, a modern composer and bassoonist for the 70s Rock in Opposition band Henry Cow left a legacy of amazing music before leaving this planet in 2013 after a long fight with MS. Two of her former band members joined a group of local musicians to perform a concert of some of her work at Mills College’s Littlefield Concert Hall. Fred Frith and Cooper were both members of the band Henry Cow, a band who invented new ways to combine rock and experimental music in the 70’s heyday of progressive rock.

Fred Frith with Kate McLoghlin and Jordan Glenn

Fred Frith with Kate McLoghlin and Jordan Glenn

Zena Parkins worked together with Cooper in the band News from Babel along with Dagmar Krause and Chris Cutler from Henry Cow. Parkins and Frith were also members of the groups Skeleton Crew with the amazing and unfortunately also departed Tom Cora. Perhaps to bring the unique collaboration together, Cora and Cooper collaborated as well, in a group called the Hat Shoes with Cora’s wife, Catherine Jauniaux, along with This Heat drummer Charles Hayward, Henry Cow saxophonist Tim Hodgkinson, Pere Ubu vocalist David Thomas and Chris Cochrane, a member of Parkins former band No Safety. The list of musicians above include some of the prolific musicians and composers of the past 40 plus years.

Rova Saxophone Quartet performing  'Faces In A Crowd'

Rova Saxophone Quartet performing ‘Faces In A Crowd’

Another heavyweight band performing the music of Cooper tonight was Rova Saxophone Quartet. Rova Saxophone Quartet have long revolutionized the abstract jazz field with their ability to invent textures of rhythm combined with circular breathing style saxophone reminiscent of jazz greats like Steve Lacy and John Coltrane.

Zeena Parkins and Fred Frith with McLoughlin and Jason Hoopes

Zeena Parkins and Fred Frith with McLoughlin, Evelyn Davis and Jason Hoopes

I first had the chance to see Frith and Parkins performing together at the Festival International Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Quebec in 1992. They performed in Frith’s piece Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire. At the same festival, I also saw Frith perform an improvised duet with Han Bennink, who was a member of Albert Ayler’s Dutch band. I took away some memories from Victo in 92. One was hanging in front of the old Grand Cafe without money for to buy a ticket to see Lars Holmer when two guys came out about 20 minutes into the set. One of them gave me their ticket and I went inside only to see Frith joining the Looping Home Orchestra as an unlisted guest. At the same festival Zeena Parkins also performed two great sets with Elliott Sharp’s Carbon and Orchestra Carbon.

McLoughlin and violnist Emily Packard

McLoughlin and violnist Emily Packard

Both Frith and Parkins continue to inspire by writing and recording great music when they aren’t doing their day jobs as professors in the music department for Mills College.

I also first saw Rova at FIMAV in 1997 with a larger Rova X8 band. This band is really always hard hitting improv that stands the test of time and has done so with their many hatArt/HatHut releases and the recently released title ZORN where the group plays the music of another improviser and collaborator with Frith and Parkins. Zorn and Frith were together in the band Naked City while Parkins and Zorn were together in the two releases Cobra and The Bribe.

Songlist from Lindsay Cooper tribute at Mills 12/5/2015

Songlist from Lindsay Cooper tribute at Mills 12/5/2015

More recently, Frith and Parkins have performed together in the band Cosa Brava, a band that also includes Carla Kihlstedt and Matthias Bossi from Sleepytime Gorrilla Museum.

Lineup of Lindsay Cooper tribute at Mills College

Lineup of Lindsay Cooper tribute at Mills College

I was fortunate to witness many great performances at VICTO with many collaborators Ms. Cooper. Towards the end of her career as a musician she wrote the piece Oh Moscow, which was released on Les Disques Victo in 1991 and was a member of the Feminist improvising group with film director and screenwriter Sally Potter.

It’s great to live close enough to Mills in order witness such a great tribute to Lindsay Cooper.
I never had the opportunity to see any Ms. Cooper performances in my life, but tonight, for a moment it made me feel as if I had.

They even had Rova tshirts

They even had Rova tshirts

 

 

 

The Endless Tour featuring Magma @ Slim’s 4/8/15

Magma Slim's SF

Magma Slim’s SF

Fans of the 70’s period of music referred to as Zeuhl, Progressive Rock and Rock in Opposition had a rare opportunity to see Magma in San Francisco, Ca last Wednesday. Fans hold the band at a ranking atop of their field and many might proclaim them the best rock band in the world if not the longest lasting one. At the moment the tour was announced posts started appearing on the internet and the band certainly lived up to, if not exceeded their reputation as the founders of Zeuhl.
Magma emerged as one of the strongest bands during what Chris Cutler refers to as Rock in Opposition in his book “File Under Popular” on November and Autonomedia books. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the remaining contemporaries of this field including individual and session performances by Chris Cutler (Henry Cow, Art Bears, Cassiber), Fred Frith (Henry Cow, Art Bears, Skeleton Crew, Cosa Brava), Zeena Parkins (Skeleton Crew, News from Babel, Elliot Sharp’s Carbon, No Safety, Cosa Brava) and Dagmar Krause (Henry Cow, News from Babel Art Bears), Univers Zero, Plastic People of the Universe, Albert Marcoeur, Guigou Chenevier (Etron Fou Leloublan), Lars Holmer (Samlas Mammas Manna), Richard Teitelbaum (Musica Elettronica Viva) Pere Ubu, Bratko Bibič (Begnagrad/Nimal), Tom Cora (Nimal/Skeleton Crew) Heiner Goebbels (Cassiber) and other remarkable bands from this era.

Magma at Slim's 4/8/15

Magma at Slim’s 4/8/15

According to Cutler, Magma are highly influenced by Classical Composers such as Stravinsky and Orf. Other bands such as Cutler’s Henry Cow as well as Art Zoyd and Univers Zero were also heavily influenced 20th Century Classical composers. Perhaps in a much greater perspective, Magma are positioned alongside other progressive rock enigmas such as Can, Faust, Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart, Present, Heldon, Gong, Stormy Six, Keith Rowe/AMM, Henry Cow and  Quiet Sun/This Heat.

The Endless Tour featuring Magma performing at Slim's on 4/8/15

The Endless Tour featuring Magma performing at Slim’s on 4/8/15

Imagine my surprise to find they were to do a rare US tour that included the bay area! I bought tickets immediately because although I wasn’t sure if it would/could sell out or not, I knew I didn’t want to risk missing a show with this much promise and anticipation. During my formative years it wasn’t easy to find Magma recordings but Attahk will always remain atop my list of favorite recordings from my formative years. They always had such a deep catalog and every song title and description seemed to take us to an alternate universe filled with spacey and celestial themes. The term Zeuhl is from Vander’s visionary language he invented to express musical ideas. This language is called Kobaian.

Magma performed songs from Slag Tanz and songs from their catalog

Magma performed songs from Slag Tanz and songs from their catalog

Magma were formed in 1969 in Paris, France. Over the decades they’ve released over 30 recordings both studio and live and are touring to support their latest recording Šlaǧ Tanƶ (on 7th Records). Šlaǧ Tanƶ was released in January of 2015 and is an EP.

Magma aux Etats-Unis!

Magma aux Etats-Unis!

Christian Vander is a classically trained drummer who founded the band in 1969. There were many musicians who’ve been members of Magma over the years one of the higher profile profile alumni of the band is composer Yannik Top who started with the band in 1973 and played bass on a number of their recordings during the early to mid seventies. They’re recordings are influenced by Classical vocals featuring several several vocalists during their performances including Vander and his wife Stella Vander who first appeared with the band on the 1973 recording Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh.

Magma performent leur disque nouvelle Slag-Tanz

Magma performent la disque nouvelle Slag-Tanz

 

 

On Wednesday April 8th, 2015, when the Endless Tour featuring Magma earthed at Slim’s in San Francisco, Ca., the band was introduced by local Punk icon Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys. Jello recounted being on the east coast one day and learning they were going to be performing in Pennsylvania. He said ‘he took every back road he knew and broke every traffic violation in the book to get there. On the way when he noticed he was still running late he had told himself if he were able to arrive and see 1 minute of music by Magma it would be a success. He finished by saying when he finally did arrive an hour late he rushed in and witnessed what was the best hour and a half of music he’s ever seen… And now (he went on to add) they’re in our town!’

Magma performed a  rare US tour in the Spring of 2015

Magma performed a rare US tour in the Spring of 2015