Home > Jazz & Avant, Metal > REVIEW: John Zorn’s Moonchild @ The Moore Theatre / Earshot Jazz (Seattle, WA – – 11/4/07)

REVIEW: John Zorn’s Moonchild @ The Moore Theatre / Earshot Jazz (Seattle, WA – – 11/4/07)

6th Nov 07 (Tue) Leave a comment Go to comments

Two statements needed to be made prior to really starting this review… 1) caveat for the non-Moonchild enthusiast: “They’re like an audible Jackson Pollock,” and 2) I feel sorry for the ushers who obviously didn’t know what they were getting into when they signed up for this.

A little background / sidenote… I came into being a John Zorn fan through first being a Mike Patton fan. One of Mike Patton’s (and Trevor Dunn’s) early bands, Mr. Bungle, had a Zorn link early on (JZ produced their Warner debut in 1991). However, I didn’t really start getting into Zorn until about 2-3 years ago when I stumbled on his jazz-klez band Masada. I didn’t know that John Zorn did such melodic work; so Masada totally caught me off guard. Anyway, by that time in my musical meanderings, my interests had started getting into more experimental bands anyway. When I dug deeper into John Zorn’s back catalog I really dug most of his work – whether it be the melodic Masada incarnations, Bar Kohkba, FilmWorks, et cetera or the experimental, harder-edged Naked City, Painkiller, et cetera.

By the time the first mention of the upcoming album Moonchild: Songs Without Words (on his label Tzadik or an email from Downtown Music Gallery), I about flipped… as an experimental/avant-garde trio with Mike Patton (the aforementioned Mr Bungle, Fantômas, Tomahawk, Peeping Tom, Faith No More, many many more), Trevor Dunn (the aforementioned Mr Bungle, Fantômas, Trio Convulsant, many more), and Joey Baron (Masada, Barondown, many more) was right up my alley. After that initial album in early 2006, Moonchild: Songs Without Words, the trio has put out two more albums of John Zorn’s compositions… Astronome (late 2006) and Six Litanies for Heliogabalus (early 2007) which also includes a chorus and other players (Ikue Mori, Jamie Saft, and Zorn himself).

All beautifully packaged and musically brutal, I don’t know where composition from Zorn stops and improvising by the Trio begins, but it can be as breath-taking as it is ear-hurting (remember my line above about it being an “audible Jackson Pollock“…?).

OK, now on to the concert review… note: 6 video snippets and 14 pictures are linked at the bottom of this review.

I took this concert trip alone… While I ease my lovely wife into listening to some of Zorn’s music (like Masada), I know when to not even bother (like Moonchild). I’m sure she’ll check out the video below and think I’m even more crazy than she already thinks I am for all of the cross-country concerting. But I think she’ll at least be thankful that I didn’t try to drag her to it, too… :)

I really had no idea or expectations for this show. I mean, I knew what to expect musically, but I didn’t know what to expect of the venue or the crowd. The venue, the Moore Theatre in downtown Seattle, was um… OK. I’ve been in better places, but I’ve been in worse. I was surprised at how big it was (capacity of 1419) compared to what I was thinking (a small venue, maybe not as small as The Stone, but not much bigger than 100 people). By the time the start time rolled around, the theatre was fairly full (the main floor was sold out, and I know the balcony was also open, too). Great turnout maybe due to the Earshot Jazz Festival or maybe due to the potentially “handful of shows only” nature of this band.

The band came on around 8:15pm… and blistered through around a solid hour of compositions. All three of them had sheet music on stands; so I’m fully aware that it’s somewhat composed music. Again, where the composition stops and the improvisation begins… your guess is as good as mine. Due to the lack of other players (like Saft, Mori, Zorn), and my lack of identifying the Moonchild trio’s “song” names… let’s just say that they stuck to a good mix of Moonchild and Astronome tracks.

Mike Patton was fairly wild for most of the set: jumping, squat-walking, tying himself up in the mic cord, swallowing the mic while screaming into it, spitting and belting out noises that made my throat sore just listening. He left the stage maybe 30-40 minutes in to let Joey Baron and Trevor Dunn have their way with our ears. I’d only previously seen Dunn in Mr. Bungle and Baron in Masada. In this entirely different setting with Moonchild, they really put out a veritable wall of sound. Even without Mike Patton’s screeching and guttural belts, Dunn and Baron were menacing in their own right.

The sound in the room was brutal. Loud, loud, loud. I thank my local music store for Hearos(tm). And, again, bless those poor ushers who didn’t know what they were getting into. I bet they were equally stunned with this “music” and the overwhelming positive crowd response. I wonder what they told their loved ones after going home from this ushering gig. hmmm…

The capper for the show proper was when Joey and Trevor left the stage. Mike Patton ripped into a 12-minute vocal solo which to me had many elements of “Litany IV”… probably the only Six Litanies piece in the set.

After a short break, they all came back for an encore… with the man himself, John Zorn. I had hoped that he was there, but after the main set was half over, I had written that off. He came out and directed them through a rippin’ tune… it could’a been 10 minutes, it could be 20 minutes, it could’a been 2 minutes. All I know was that it was intense, and Mike/Joey/Trevor definitely fed off of his energy on stage with them. My only desire on this one would have been for John Zorn to come out with his alto sax and do some of the call-and-repeat sax vs. voice that he did with Patton on Six Litanies… alas, I’ll have to wait another lifetime, perhaps.

All in all… great show – probably an hour twenty or just shy of an hour thirty of Zorn/Patton/Dunn/Baron. Worth the 8 hour roundtrip from Eugene, Oregon. Worth losing a little bit of sleep and homework time reading accounting valuation doctoral papers (blah blah blah). The Earshot Jazz Festival, or at least the only piece I could attend, was fantastic!! Being one of a potential handful of Moonchild appearances ever, I was happy to be in attendance and happy to document some of it in words above and in {cheap/low quality} video/pictures below.

Enjoy! :)

VIDEO SNIPPETS (6 totaltoggle amongst them in lower section of YouTube screen)

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B84E0210411747E9

These are digital camera “movie file” snippets. Low quality? Sure. Posted mainly for “(blurry) fly on the (noisy) wall” add-on to this review. MOONCHILD is Mike Patton (voice), Trevor Dunn (bass), Joey Baron (drums), and John Zorn (director/composer). All music copyright John Zorn, 2006-2007.

PICTURES
(14 totalclick thumbnail for larger)

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~Dan – np: Hiromi’s SonicbloomTime Control

PS– to the guy who was handing out free CDs after the show… I got one… maybe you were trying to give them to Earshot Jazz “bigwigs,” but somehow I got one. I love it!!! Anyone interested in some great instrumental music, The Coma LiliesMemento Mori -EP- is GREAT!! The Coma Lilies‘ MySpace page is HERE. Listen to their stuff, it’s goooood.

PPS– other related MySpace & other Links (some fan sites, some official):

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  1. 10th May 08 (Sat) at 3:41 pm

    This from Trevor Dunn (bassist in Moonchild) regarding the setlist and the composition vs. improv mix:
    fyi, the set we did was the entire Moonchild record top to bottom. The solo vocal piece was from Litanies, and the final encore was an improv with specific cues from Zorn.

    There is a lot of freedom in the Moonchild set but all the events are pre-determined. The vocal piece is 100% written (if you can believe that!).

    cheers
    Trevor

    ~Dan

  2. 10th May 08 (Sat) at 3:42 pm

    FYI… there is a pretty good sounding audio torrent of this show located here:

    http://www.dimeadozen.org/torrents-details.php?id=182356

    you have to be a Dime member, which takes some patience (they have a user cap), but it’s not impossible (they drop 200+ users a day).

    ~Dan

  3. 14th Oct 12 (Sun) at 9:49 pm

    I love your write-up on this show. I was there front row and center. What a strange and awesome experience. Mike Patton is a force… so nice he paired up with John Zorn. Wackos. :)

  1. 2nd Feb 12 (Thu) at 6:35 am
  2. 17th Feb 13 (Sun) at 1:00 pm
  3. 12th Apr 13 (Fri) at 12:06 pm

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