Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Live: The Music Tapes Present The Traveling Imaginary

I know time machines aren't real, that they are a science that the world has yet to create, as much as we want them to exist. However, as much as I know that to be true, when the doors opened at the Scottish Rite Theater to let the small crowd in, it was like stepping into another time. The band’s massive circus tent For anyone who has qualms with Kickstarter and what it can actually accomplish needed only see pass through the venue’s door to see how incredible the results can be.

A miniature circus tent was there to greet everyone, decorated with the Music Tapes usual sense of forgotten charm and old big band music playing in the back. Frontman Julian Koster was out in about, directing everyone like a ringleader (with megaphone in hand) to the various games in around the tent that would serve as the night’s opening entertainment. Old school bell ringing games and beanbag tossing were recreated for the crowd to play. There was a small amount of awkwardness from everyone adjusting to having to interact with one another in order to play the games, but that was quickly overcome, especially by the time the massive group games took place like “Paris with Bells” with blindfolded people chasing others who were ringing bells. It evoked this sense of childhood joy and fun that had laid dominant in a lot of the crowd for the longest of times.

And, in a larger sense that Koster and The Music Tapes were trying to do with the entire night. They eventually started to usher people into the tent with singing saws, and once everyone was seated started playing an extremely old and lovely black and white cartoon short on a projector. Then you could hear music being played, the projection sheet was pulled down, and there stood the Music Tapes, the night’s main entertainment at center stage. Now I won’t try to capture everything that happened during those 80 minutes, mainly because that would involve spoiling the magic of the event. Suffice to say that it was completely magical; band members came left throughout the night as the necessary banjos, singing saws, , trombones, horns, and 7-foot Tall Metronome were needed (mostly from Robbie Cucchiaro, the second half of the Music Tapes, who provided some the nights best silent entertainment as a human gramophone and massive circus entertainer). In between Koster who relay old stories his grandfather had told him, a skit was performed to explain the 7-foot Tall Metronome, confetti snow was dropped, and a giant snowman was erected and soon melted. At one point a guy in gorilla outfit came out to play the orchestra chimes, and it didn’t seem out of place.

The finale though was something else, as Koster got little kids in the crowd to lower a present that had been hanging over the crowd, all the while speaking this lovely spoken word piece about finding your childhood in the box. He then finished by playing “Takeshi and Elijah”, a beautifully sparse song that is almost only Koster and his banjo strumming out this nearly haunting tune about someone lost returning that builds into an explosive crescendo with all six people of the band performing. It was, along with the night itself, truly something to behold. The tour was dubbed The Traveling Imaginary, and after the show I'm sure,sure, that everyone in the audience understood why. With such irony and self-awareness attached to every action a band does these days, this concert, if it can be reduced to just that, was the furthest thing from those two things. Seeing The Music Tapes perform was one of the most earnest and completely magical things I've seen in my entire life.

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