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The Happiness Project @ Bowery Ballroom 11/29/09
December 24, 2009, 12:16 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Sometimes, the progression of music feels stagnant, not because there isn’t great music being made all the time but because it’s not always available and sometimes we just have to wait til something beautiful hits us in the face to become inspired again.So although this is completely late, it is absolutely necessary for me to write about is the show at Bowery Ballroom with three different acts, one that was and the other two consisting of members from Canadian group Do Make Say Think.

The Happiness Project, Years, and Do Make Say Think @ Bowery Ballroom on Sunday 11/29

The Happiness Project was an idea of Charles Spearin. He chose to interview his neighbors about happiness and take snippets of their interviews where they voices sounded like melodies, and build songs off of them.  If one didn’t know what they were, Spearin gave a really amusing recount of it at the beginning of their set and started off with the song “Mrs. Morris,” where he played the interview and then a woman on the saxophone played along with her voice.  Picking up on the  nuances of the person who was speaking, Spearin and the Happiness Project crew, create beautiful songs, especially live.  In fact, two people passed out during their performance, one guy passed out twice. Granted it’s very possible they were on drugs, but lets just say the music moved them…to the ground. The whole set felt like it was getting down to the roots of music; why we do it, why we like it, which is because of people and emotions.

His neighbor Vanessa tells the story of how she was born deaf and then got cochlear implants and said that, “all of a sudden, I felt my body moving inside.” This was music that an audience can’t make small talk during because it would be like missing a conversation. In the story of “Mr. Gowrie,” there is a part where he talks about his family which was made up of fourteen children, all from his mother and father. The words “my mom” then begin to loop and a high, sad violin comes in with little twinkling guitar that is echoed and slow. It builds this feeling of remorse, spinning a story of an old family – almost setting you up for the death of his mom, before the he even continues speaking. These real people’s stories and exchanges make the project as a whole so fresh and bring hope to those who may have been searching for music with meaning. It’s absolutely refreshing.

The night continued with Years,  the music of Ohad Benchentrit, and involved many aspects of the beautiful sounding, rolling, jazzy guitar that can be heard in Do Make Say Think. Sometimes the trumpet would act as bass or carry the melody. Again, looping played a huge part. At times only Benchentrit was on stage, looping his guitar and singing, at others there were many members from DMST backing him. As a whole, the band felt like a progression of actual years, it melded pieces of the whole band into snippets and cut copies of ideas that perhaps couldn’t be fully formed in someone else’s group, but still needed to be acted out. That over time these extra scraps of sound had been burning to get out and Years was the way too do it; creating an outlet for the sounds that couldn’t find their way into Do Make Say Think. It was nice to see a softer side, to sortof outline and show the importance of each individual member and what part they actual play in this huge creation where all the music is muddled beautifully together. Years picked those pieces out and showed exactly what you knew about those musicians, but in a completely different light.

They took another break and came back on as Do Make Say Think. As this group, there is a jangly-er, more puzzle piece quality. With something like nine people on stage, multiple horns, guitars and drums, there were heavy, dirty, muddy movements followed up or backed by an amalgamation of buzzing instruments. They played out each song, lasting for minutes on end, displaying emotions ranging from triumphant to bittersweet. They plodded, trotted along with their multiple layers and gentle vocals (though not often) planting the seeds of sound for the audience as it then burst into a million pieces of rumbling instrumentals. We watched as each member shared their love of their craft with us, each in their own individual way. Banging, plucking, vibrating, strumming, they exercised all aspects of their instruments as they performed for us, for the third time that evening.

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