Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Or, The Whale

A fact that is not very well known about the novel Moby-Dick is that it has two titles: Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale. It is with this classic novel that a band from San Francisco, California, Or, The Whale, shares its name. The Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar located in downtown Charlottesville at which Or, The Whale performed allowed for a prime setting in order to intimately view and interact with the band. The Bazaar is not a venue that can be categorized as serving one specific crowd of people or looking one particular way; this idea is directly linked to Or, The Whale, in that identical to the Tea Bazaar, they are a band that cannot be tied down and linked to one specific musical genre or viewed as catering to one specific group of people.

Or, The Whale consists of five males and two females; this combination includes more members than the typical band. Along with the higher than average number of members in the band is a higher than average number of instruments utilized by the band: bass, drums, acoustic guitar, banjo, keyboard, electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, and jingle bells. The wide variety of instrumentation within Or, The Whale’s music creates a sound that is extremely high in texture. This wide variety also allows the band to create many different sounds seemingly belonging to several different genres. A tone that is easily heard throughout several of their songs is a twang created by the banjo; the twang and the banjo are usually associated with a “country/folk” vibe and genre. However, Or, The Whale interestingly uses the banjo to also create sounds that are more associated with current rock ‘n’ roll such as rougher, faster, rawer riffs and chords which were heard within the chorus of some of their songs. The voices of the artists of rhythm and blues often have a timbre that can be described as strong and full, yet controlled; one of the lead female vocalists of Or, The Whale’s voice can be described in the exact same manner. She showcased these very qualities of her voice through her frequent use of heavy, forceful notes that in turn reflected a soulful vibe. This vibe allowed the music as a whole to emit a blues flavor. The jumpy, sometimes syncopated rhythmic chords and melodies played by the female keyboardist in the band is reminiscent of some forms of jazz (such as ragtime), adding yet another distinctive dynamic to the music of the band. Or, The Whale’s utilization of several different instruments to play in seemingly contradictory and juxtaposed methods deems their music unclassifiable and unable to fit into a single genre or group of music.

The Charlottesville downtown mall Tea Bazaar is celebrated for several things including its boastful mass of tea options ranging from Indian black teas to aged Asian teas, its wide array of hookah selections that fill the small space with countless aromas, its eclectic, overwhelming décor, and its extremely intimate and cozy set-up. The decorations are the first noticeable aspect about the Tea Bazaar that cannot be placed into a single category. The decorative choice can be described as “worldly.” There are several mirrors along the walls, teapots and rugs from different countries, sculpted figurines of animals typically native to different parts of the world, and a surplus of other decorative items of which their origins are undetermined. A variety of people from different cultures/races, ages, and social groups were present at the Tea Bazaar. The attendees ranged from college-aged students to middle-aged adults. The crowd held Caucasians, African-Americans, Asians, and more; people from different social groups such as alternative or preppy, and more; and almost an equal number of females and males. The Bazaar’s seemingly contradictory atmosphere and contrasting group of attendees marks the venue as unclassifiable in that it is not possible to pin stereotypical molds of people such as “rich, Caucasian punk kids” or “middle-aged, African-American intellectuals” as regulars of The Bazaar. The Tea Bazaar’s unclassifiable nature offers the appeal of a fulfilling experience to people from all different cultures, sectors, ages, and races; this in turn relates to the bands that perform at the Tea Bazaar in that they too, are often unclassifiable in their own respect, such as Or, The Whale.

The unclassifiable genre and listener of Or, The Whale’s music is directly linked to the unclassifiable attendee and appearance of The Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. Through The Bazaar’s worldly, eclectic décor and design, and its wide variety of offerings, The Bazaar is a venue that almost anyone can enjoy; this is because it is not catered toward one group of people making its classification undeterminable. Through Or, The Whale’s varied use of instrumentation to create textures, riffs, chords, harmonies, and more that are heard within several different forms of music, Or, The Whale, like The Tea Bazaar, is a band that almost anyone can enjoy; because of their relation to several different sectors, their genre is unclassifiable, in turn producing unclassifiable consumers. The pairing of Or, The Whale and the Tea Bazaar is ideal in that the unclassifiable nature and ambiguity of the categorization of both display a symbiotic relationship in which the two feed off each other, reinforcing the idea that there is no single genre or group for either of them to fit in to cleanly.

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