We often hear local bands in bad situations. Bars make a bad setting. The stages are small and cluttered and ugly. The audience is noisy: hitting on each other, buying drinks, talking about what they did last night. All this makes it hard to focus on the music.
Derek Larson’s idea of playing live music hidden behind a video projection creates a better setting to hear a band. It’s the reason we still go to movie theaters. Our senses are heightened by the absence of outside distractions. Bars and clubs are kind of like seeing the rest of our living rooms.
That’s why, five minutes into The Middle Temperature — a wild and often indecipherable art-student film only a little more about a man’s struggle with two sides of himself as it was about flaunting countless (usually super cool) camera tricks — I found myself grinning with joy. In the pitch dark of a lecture hall, I was able to feel the music from ESL, Larson’s band — played at exactly the right volume for the space — hit me even more powerfully than the images on the screen.
The marriage of the two media made the show work. Yes, the movie was unfocused and, at times, repetitive. But that was the idea. I would like to see Larson play more with the band hiding behind the video screen. Maybe backlight them on occasion so we could see them silhouetted behind a darkened screen. Also, the quiet, almost ambient, sounds the band made before the movie started were intriguing. I’d like to see more experimentation with that approach while the images are flashing before our eyes.