On Sacred Ground : The Rites Of Spring

Herbst Theatre, SF
October 12, 2012

This was part of SF Performances. A special event that I randomly came across. The Bad Plus  performing Igor Stravinsky’s Rites Of Spring. Yeah-hah. I was waffling right up until 5 of 6 and leaving work (it’s a week of 6 concerts), and I called Gage and he was up for going. Turned out to be fantastic. The Bad Plus are sort of hit or miss – always decent, but sometimes tiring – and sometimes really great (at Herbst with Wendy Lewis, amazing – at Amoeba, short but excellent), and this was definitely one of their great ones. Two sets – 1st set Stravinsky; 2nd set originals. THE RITES OF SPRING: There was a video display at first in front of the the whole stage with a recording of what sounded like spliced edits of the original that drew up when they started playing. The rest of the piece, there was some standardvideos behind them – but it was indifferent. The music though was anything but. They played the whole thing – a 40 minute, continuous slab of constantly shifting and extremely varied music. And they did a fantastic job at capturing the spirit of the piece and updating it, with all its difficulties and abstractions and abrasiveness – and this was very abrasive music. Loud, aggressive, chaotic and wonderful. Amazingly, although the drums were very integrated, and the music never repeated but quite specific, King had no sheet music and played the entire 40 mins from memory and feel (??? – bewildering) – and perfectly too. It ended and Gage said ‘that was for Jeff – dark and difficult’ – which it was to the max. He also described it as “definitely overwhelmingly bombastic” which pretty much sums it up.

2nd set was a wonderful set of originals – one of the best sets I’ve seen of them – tight but energetic, the songs good and worked out, all playing really well – Iverson even ripping off some very busy, very full almost concerto piano clusters. Reid introed the 2nd set with ‘we opened with a Stravinsky piece that we like to use as a little warm up’. A great original Reelect That with King on the brushes in a very impressive way – and how often do I say that – even a fantastic brush solo. Great tunes Seven Minute Mind and In Stitches (both Anderson) and an encore of Never Stop – which I love.  Great show.

1st set

1. Rites Of Spring 

2nd set

1. Pound For Pound

2. Wolf Out

3. Reelect That

4. Seven Minute Mind

5. In Stitches

6. Never Stop        (encore)



DAVID KING – drums