Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Surfer Sounds

Before I begin to describe my experience with Dzian! at The Bridge PAI (Progressive Arts Initiative), I must present to you a description of the Dzian band from a music blog dedicated to Asian American Music. According to this blog the band is a “surf and garage rock music and dance evoking Taiwanese burlesque circa 1960s-1980s.” I could only imagine the kind of music that I was in for. Also, the show was benefitting the Children Welfare League Foundation, so now I found myself with the workings of a benevolent burlesque surfer rock band working for the betterment of mankind. I really could not picture what this was going to be like, but I was certainly excited to find out.

I entered the venue a few minutes late because of its obscure location downtown, but was promptly greeted with the sounds of Dzian and a large crowd of women dancing in a distinctly “go-go” style, fist pumping and hip twisting. The only image I have is that from any scene in Austin Powers (an unfortunate reference, indeed) but think of women dancing in that 60s/70s Go-Go mod style. This was a delightful sight because one does not encounter this style of music or dance in modern culture. That truly mod-funk sound is hard to find, and I was surprised to discover it at such a venue. At first it was only a large crowd of women boogying on the dance floor directly in front of the performers, but eventually a few slick guys snuck into crowd and began to shake it about. The atmosphere was very free and fun, there was no air of superiority or Yuppie attitude that can be often overwhelming at other downtown venues. The men were dressed pretty casually in slacks and a few occasional cool-guys wearing their shades indoors. Most of the women were highly adorned in expressive garments, ranging from platform boots, to a white feather boa that sometimes made it way through the crowd.

The band was oddly un-gendered. As someone who has been focusing on gender studies for 4 years now, I often pick up on gender expression pretty immediately. All of the band members were wearing slim black/navy suits with white oxfords and simple ties. A few had accessorized with a hat or sunglasses, but none exhibited any gendered clothing or activities. What I appreciated so much was that they were completely dedicated to the music. Their images were streamlined in order to appear as a unified front, simply to provide the best sound they could.

Speaking of the sound, it was oddly varying throughout the 5 or 6 songs that I heard that evening. I was initially met with this very Go-Go surfer tune that was very true to the description I read prior to attending. The music would persist until a few breaks within the song where the lead Wendy would take to the mic while the music would cease. This was a trend that I noticed in a few of the songs. There was an interesting inclusion of spoken word in many of the subsequent songs performed that night. There was also this amazing use of a simple electronic sound, through a number of devices: guitar, piano, and even a violin! The sounds produced ranged from the initial surfer rock, all the way to this intricately jazzy electric violin piece that even could be described as somewhat folksy. Overall I would say that this was a most enjoyable experience for a number of reasons. The crowd was quite instrumental in the performance (as dancing was highly encouraged) and the song style and range was always there to keep things new and interesting.

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