As my friends and I sat eating our awesome home-made dinner, we went on talking about our expectations for the night ahead of us. Hours later, we would reconvene within the walls of The Rex Theater; a place that has helped us all find a sense of “home” in the city of Pittsburgh. We cleaned our plates and sat back, stomachs full and ready to kill some time. What should we expect from Phutureprimitive, Kaminanda, and Wink’s performances tonight? To begin, our collective summer festival resumé includes more than a handful of sets from these artists, so we pooled our experiences and decided a few things. Wink would be a great opener for these acts, Kaminanda would deliver us one of the most interesting sets of the night, and there was no way Phutureprimitive would play over an hours worth of music.
As nine o’clock approached, the conversation died down and we separately made our ways to the small South Side venue, just in time to hear the magic in the first moments of Wink‘s opening set. Jason is an artist that can hold his own in any setting. There are three things I see him do consistently each time he performs. First, he knows how to play to a room. This is partly him knowing so much about so many different styles of music, and partly him being able to pick up on the energy of the crowd; knowing when to build up and when to break down. For this reason, he draws a crowd. The fluidity in his music, and the realms he explores within a set piques the interest of his audience, bringing them closer to the stage, waking them up to start doing the exploring themselves, through the movement in their bodies. It is this that brings me to my final point–Wink gets people talking. People are noticing him, they’re aware of his talent, and look forward to seeing him perform again. So, overall, he did an awesome job kicking things off last Sunday night.
In between sets, we meandered to the merch booth where we met Tyler Russell, who explained the “Dance out your Deamons” game. Phutureprimitive has always had this deep connection with expression, not only through music, but also through dance. In a sense, it has been his “campaign” over the last couple years of touring. In the same ways The Polish Ambassador is helping his fan base reach out and get in touch with their surroundings on his Permaculture Action Tour, Phutureprimitive is reaching out to the his fan base to get in touch with themselves. So, there were two purposes to this game: to “dance out” some negative energy or concept, and “dance in” something positive and inspiring over the course of the night. So we wrote down our fears, our doubts, our deamons, on pieces of duct tape, and stuck them under our right shoe. Then we wrote down our dreams, our passions, our desires, on another piece, which we stuck under our left shoes, and we got back on the floor for Kaminanda’s set.
If there’s an artist that can grab ahold of time and space, completely taking control of it through their manipulation, I would say it could be Stephen Kaminanda. His music grabs ahold of you by the wrist and takes you, running fast and wildly through a transcendental dreamscape he’s creating as you go. However, I just couldn’t completely get into it. Gearing up for a Phutureprimitive set, I wanted something a little more engaging–less ethereal and a little more bass-heavy. I do admit, though, I was incredibly excited to be in the presence of some of my best friends that I never get to see, so I wasn’t fully paying attention. It wasn’t that our prediction was incorrect–Kaminanda’s set was the most interesting of the night. His style is unique, it is boundless, and it is experimental. His sound incorporates many different styles of music, it is spacious and it is complex. So, it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the set, it just wasn’t exactly what I wanted at the time.
During Kaminanda’s set, I climbed the stairs to the small balcony that overlooks the crowd. I’ve met an insane amount of artists on that small black platform, and it was there Sunday night that I met Rain and Evan Glantz. Rain gave us permission to film his set, and Evan, the visual artist behind the beautiful madness of Phutureprimitive’s stage set up, agreed to do an interview with me later this week. At this point in the night, I had met all of the artists in the house, aside from Caeli La, who was resting before her performance. I must say, each and every one of them greeted me with a smile and bright, shining eyes that welcomed conversation and interaction of any kind. I spent a good amount of time talking to Tyler Russell about music and what it does, community and its influence, and essentially, the beauty of this culture we are so immersed in. That’s what I’ve come to realize about shows; it’s not only about what you’re seeing, it’s about who you’re there with–and I’m not only talking about the crew of friends you brought along. Shows are fantastic places to meet people because you know you have, at the very least, one thing in common. Start from there. Let the conversations unfold, and let new friendships blossom.
Phutureprimitive took the stage with a smile on his face, looking out into the crowd. By this time, the floor had filled in, but there were surprisingly fewer people there than I had expected. That’s something I am never mad about, from the patron side of things; having enough space to do whatever you want–dance, hoop, you know…breathe. As the pyramid structure surrounding him lit up, I stood still, waiting patiently. A smile of my own crept over me, and I had to laugh, knowing the night was only going to get better. It’s crazy…no matter how many times I see Phutureprimitive, or where I see him perform, I’m always taken back to Rootwire 2012, late night, tent stage, front row, dancing for what seemed like forever. And forever it was–our prediction was wrong! He played well over an hour of beautiful music, grabbing tracks from all different parts of his discography, and even threw down a new one for us. Aside from the new stage set up, one of my favorite parts of the entire production was when Caeli La came out on stage, in beautiful dress, encouraging everyone in the room to let it out, whatever it may be, through her ritual dance. The crowd was small, but the energy was high, and together, we danced out our deamons, and took to laughing and smiling, dancing and stepping, and truly enjoying the moment we were creating together in that room.
Enjoy our little piece of that night. It is one opportunity that we will never have to forget.