Innovative Cellist Brings a New Side of Bach to Underground DTSA

When Ashley Bathgate began training as a cellist, she had no idea it would lead to performing in nightclubs. The native New Yorker was raised on classical music, learning from masters of the craft through prestigious music programs at Bard and Yale. However, she took a stylistic turn when one of her professors suggested she audition for a contemporary ensemble. Now considered one the most cutting-edge cellists in her field, she’s bringing Bach Unwound to Underground DTSA in Santa Ana on Saturday, March 12. The show comes courtesy of Santa Ana Sites, a traveling music forum that brings contemporary artists to downtown Santa Ana.

Bach Unwound is a new piece that Bathgate commissioned nearly four years ago, inspired by J.S. Bach’s original cello suites. The show debuted in January at New York City’s famed nightclub, Le Poisson Rouge, and will make it’s west Coast premiere at Underground. The cellist commissioned the piece herself, calling on Brooklyn-based composer collective Sleeping Giant to create six new innovative works that still pay homage to Bach’s original music. Using non-traditional techniques like looping, sampling, and performing with two bows, Bathgate feels nightclubs are an ideal setting for Bach Unwound.

“I think Le Poisson Rouge and Santa Ana Underground are more fitting for this type of project,” Bathgate says. “I typically like to have my audiences really close to me and generate an energy, a palpable exchange happening back and forth in that close surrounding. I also like venues where you can have a drink and you’re not expected to sit in your seat and be quiet.”

The show is coming on the heels of a tragic incident at Underground DTSA, where a man was fatally stabbed during a performance by LA psych punk outfit The Feels. Santa Ana Sites founder Allen Moon states that the news came as a shock, and in light of the tragedy considered moving the show. After speaking with the club owner and the show’s affiliates, the decision was made to keep Bach Unwound at Underground in hopes of casting a small of ray of light onto a dark situation. 

“For us, the answer to this tragedy is to keep doing what’ve we been doing – playing music. That’s always been our mindset, only now it’s in the context of something tragically sad,” Moon says. ““We’re going to keep it [at Underground] in support of the community, but we want to be sensitive to what happened there and we want to help contribute. There’s a GoFundMe account for his family and we will be contributing a portion of the sales and bar to the fund.”

Moon is the catalyst behind all of the Santa Ana Sites shows, which over the last two years have brought of a variety of contemporary performers to edgy venues in Santa Ana. He brought Ate9 Dance Company to the Santora building, where the lauded dance company did away with a stage and performed freely throughout the building. He also brought the ensemble Bang On A Can All-Stars (BOCA) to the eSports Arena in downtown, which led him to Bathgate who was touring with the group. The pair struck up a conversation about working together on a new Sites endeavor, which ultimately led to Bach Unwound at Underground.

“I had never experienced playing with amplification, pedals, electronics or computer software before joining Bang On A Can,” Bathgate says. “It opened so many doors and led me to something I didn’t even know I was passionate about yet. Now I can’t imagine having it any other way.”

Bathgate is bringing a new breed of Bach into Underground DTSA, offering a new experience in sound to the venue’s first show since closing its doors last week.

Ashley Bathgate will perform Santa Ana Sites: Bach Unwound at Underground DTSA, 221 E 3rd Street, Santa Ana; Sat. March 12, 7 p.m. Tickets $12, 21+; (888) 862-9573. For more information visit

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