Concert review: Asthmatic Kitty in Bloomington, March 7 

The last time I saw a PowerPoint presentation at a concert was... well... never. The very idea sounds ridiculous (Ed: although anticipated by Pecha Kucha), and when Future Rapper started off Saturday's Asthmatic Kitty night at the Cinemat by clicking through slides on his laptop, that's exactly what it was. It was bizarre, over the top and frequently baffling, but despite lacking any kind of music, it stood out as one of the most unique and unprecedented performances I've ever seen. It was a peculiar yet wholly entertaining start to an eclectic night, which also featured shows from by other Asthmatic Kitty artists, the experimental jazz duo I Heart Lung and indie folkster DM Stith.

The Future Rapper, dressed in red shorts and orange, knee-length, footless socks, began by telling the audience a bit about himself. He explained that he was of Aztec origins, but not the Aztecs we were familiar with - rather, he came from a different Aztec lineage, presumably in a parallel universe. He also told us about his unique molecular structure, which allowed him to shift into a form that was half octopus.

He explained his mission - preventing total time collapse - and described his allies: The Holy Fool, who he said was part da Vinci's Vitruvian Man and part Vin Diesel; Papa Alabaster, a human sampler (presumably a person who can sample and sequence music without an electronic instrument) from Phoenicia; and Dr. Kipp Morgan, the team's weapons manufacturer. His enemies, proponents of total time collapse and agents of an evil corporation, were numerous as well, including Whiney Snivels (the corporation's animated mascot who was fired for his imaginary drinking problem) to The Wizard (who has three metal penises).

After his presentation, the Future Rapper allowed time for a few questions and gave the audience members tips on how to avoid total time collapse and maximize their quantum potential.

Next was a band that was out-there in a far more conventional sense, I Heart Lung. The L.A.-based guitar and drums duo played songs that ran the gamut from clean, jazzy improv to heavily distorted guitar riffs and drone. Their second song was the most lucid, and found guitarist Chris Schlarb using delay, a loop station, and finger-tapping to build a cerebral, wistful melody atop Tom Steck's splashy and unrestrained drumming.

Their fifth and final song was interesting as well: Schlarb upped the distortion level on his guitar and Steck busted out a volatile, machine gun drumbeat. Never falling into a predictable pattern or pronounced structure, Schlarb even had time to quote a few songs in the midst of his elaborate improvisations, like a single riff from Metallica's "Enter Sandman".

DM Stith started off his set announcing that he was sick (the poor guy had to cancel his Sunday night show in Chicago) and would only be playing a short set. Before Stith took the stage, guitarist Mike Dixon played a few songs of his own on a tiny nylon-stringed Brazilian guitar, walking among the seated audience and singing so quietly that it was barely audible at times. The audience listened closely to Dixon's Beirut-esque guitar waltzes and hushed, dramatic vocals.

When Stith did finally take the stage, his sickness didn't show. He sang with perfect pitch, delivering a performance that was short, at five songs, but sweet. Drummer Ben Fowler (who I saw perform with The Delicious last weekend) joined Stith and Dixon for a few songs like "Around the Lion's Legs," providing a good rhythmic backbone for the stark beauty of Stith's ethereal folk songs. In need of more backup on vocals, Stith enlisted the audience's help when the threesome played Stith's first single "Pity Dance," teaching everyone which notes to sing under a section of his wordless and nearly falsetto vocals.

It was a strange but entertaining night. I hope Stith is feeling better by now, and that the Future Rapper is keeping up the good work, using his octopus tentacles and PowerPoint presentations to prevent total time collapse.


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Greg Winget

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