RRIICCEE featuring Vincent Gallo
Nov. 21, 2010
There was drama at the Detroit last night. It was the kind of hissy fit you'd expect from iconoclast Vincent Gallo--indie filmmaker, actor, artist, musician. The man famous for both including his six-minute blow job from Chloe Sevigny and casting a hex on film critic Robert Ebert's prostrate for his 2003 film the Brown Bunny apparently has something against recording images for posterity: He told our photographer that he would stop playing if she took his photo. (Apparently, there was a strict no photos rule implemented even though the venue gave us a photo pass.)
Not that it would've made a difference. Gallo, in his bushy beard and red jacket, performed his meandering, never-to-be-witnessed again schtick with RRIICCEE with his back to the audience. That photo we got up there? That was our view for all of his 45-minute set.
According to a RRIICCEE fan I spoke to, no RRIICCEE set is like a previous one. Everything is created on the spot; the band has no recorded music (rumor has it that he met his band members two days before embarking on tour), he doesn't sell any RRIICCEE merchandise, and hence--there are no recordings and photos allowed. He says its because he wants to avoid the repetition of emulating recorded sound onstage.
Gallo once said of his music: "Improvisation is not a good word for what we're doing. It's more a gesture of composing and performing at the same time, always hoping to avoid musical cliché or jamming...when we play live, the music is often created during the performance. If we choose to record a performance, the recording itself is only evidence of that creative moment. The purpose of recording then, is to listen back for enjoyment."
And celebrity aside, Gallo does have some music cred; he played in a band with artist Jean Michel Basquiat when he was 16, he releases solo albums (which sell for up to $150 on his site!). His father was a musician, so interviews have cited him saying that he grew up modding musical instruments--everything from Rhodes pianos to Telecasters. RRIICCEE, his on-and-off experimental musical project formed in 2007, has counted Hole's Eric Erlandson as a member. For this tour, bassist Woody Jackson, and percussionist Nico Turner (of Voices Voices) join him.
So yeah, he's supposed to know his stuff. But what of his sound? For someone who's made a name for himself creating controversy, there was nothing that was even remotely piquant about his set. It was like elevator music in the form of art rock: meandering guitar riffs, a few melodies on the piano, a few drum machine beats, ambient sound. The one recognizable tune? A cover of "Moonriver."
For most of the audience who seemed to be there only to say they saw Vincent Gallo perform, it was perfect. They could talk over the music and hang out by the bar without having to watch the man in the red coat. (They didn't have to--onstage was just a man with his back turned.) When it was over, Gallo just stood up and turned off his gear, never once addressing--or acknowledging--the audience, which had by this point dwindled to a few stragglers, with most everyone else at the bar.
It was very non-involved, both on the side of the audience and onstage--which may have been the point of the whole show.
Personal Bias: I didn't think the Brown Bunny was that bad. But then again, I watch a ton of bad movies (a lot of my friends are indie filmmakers).
The crowd: Mostly indie film fan boys and girls who didn't care what RRIICCEE played, or if they were even any good. They just wanted to see Gallo.
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Overheard in the crowd: From angry man at the bar--"That guy's just dicking us around."
Random notebook dump: Gallo didn't want any photos of his performance, but he did take photos with fans. Or at least this fan.