Is there anything better in life than unexpected mind explosion? Seriously‚ it's one thing to be prepared for something to melt your face off‚ it's another thing when you round a corner and suddenly your eyelids are on your shoes. For quite some time‚ I've been aware of the sonic power beheld by Steven Bernstein and Sexmob‚ but this Fellini performance felt like watching a talking Dalmatian give a Ted Talk on the benefits of socialism -- total awestruck wonder. I've never seen a Fellini movie before‚ but I'm quite familiar with his absurd undertones. Basically anytime an intelligent Hollywood socialite enters into a world of fucked up psychedelia‚ they utter something along the lines of "I feel like I'm in a Fellini movie." That's all I know about him -- Fellini = Crazy shit. It would turn out that Bernstein himself wasn't familiar with most of the movies these songs were from either. Rather he was just enamored with the Nino Rota soundtracks he had stumbled upon‚ and thus had little other preconceptions to distract from his Sexmob attack of the cuts.
The intimate Winningstad Theatre is primarily used for the dramatic arts‚ and the room is crafted so that any seat in the house can clearly hear the most delicate whisper arise from the stage. While probably not the greatest place for a bustling rock crowd‚ the attentive Jazz Fest audience was able to mesh seamlessly with the band. At times‚ things would get so quiet that it was like the ultimate realization of John Cage's "4'33"." A clearing of the throat in the balcony was the perfect accent to mallets on a cymbal. The simple brushing of fabric as someone crossed their legs would perfectly syncopate with the pick's texture on the threading of a bass string. Literally‚ at one point Tony Scherr played a bass solo that broke down to nothing more than the sound of his pick on un-amplified strings. Throw in the fact that he looks like your Italian brother-in-law on the way to his bowling league‚ and it was an intensely surreal moment. And then‚ just as it would get quiet enough that the elderly folks in the room were sure this was an event to their liking‚ the music would explode into fusional madness as Bernstein would play his slide-trumpet through a distortion pedal that made it sound like the middle of Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" solo. Exit old folks -- stage right. Enter my jaw -- into my shoes.
You want to talk about getting taken for a ride? This was easily one of the most intense 75 minutes of my music listening history. Be it Kenny Wollesen's sexual escapade with his drum kit‚ or Briggan Krauss' harmonic exploration of his muted saxophone‚ this was four unstoppable talents breathing as one. But not only pulsing with one another‚ but with the room and the crowd. Every murmured grunt from the room was taken in by the band and reverted into acknowledged echoes -- pure mutual absorption and true artistic foreplay at the peak of fruition. I entered that room thinking of Sexmob as the guys that do cool novelty covers. I left knowing them as a unified link to the divine.