Friday night at The Vogue, visual arts and music will join forces. First up, a music-centric
edition of Pecha Kucha, a timed PowerPoint format that challenges presenters to get across their ideas quickly and effectively before a drunken, distracted audience. Then the reunion of The Pieces, an excellent power-pop trio that can now
be called one of the best local bands of the last decade. We'll consider the
two separately, in order of appearance.
It's 2007, and John Beeler,
employed under the official job title of "Resident
Historian/Technician/Stay-at-home Dad" at the independent art music label
Asthmatic Kitty Records, is taking a break from the kids and reading through
the latest issue of Wired. He
comes across a piece in the Tech Biz section: "Pecha Kucha: Get to the PowerPoint
in 20 Slides Then Sit the Hell Down." He is intrigued. He reads on.
"Let us now bullet-point our praise for Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, two Tokyo-based architects who have turned
PowerPoint, that fixture of cubicle life, into both art form and competitive
sport," writes Daniel H. Pink. "Their innovation, dubbed pecha-kucha (Japanese
for "chatter"), applies a simple set of rules to presentations:
exactly 20 slides displayed for 20 seconds each."
And now Beeler wonders aloud
if this phenomenon — later summed up by Beeler as "ideas+beer+powerpoint"
— would work in Indianapolis. So he calls up a local design firm KA+A.
And they are intrigued as well. And thus begins Pecha Kucha's life in
The first iteration was held
at The Harrison Center, then more followed: at Big Car, at a yoga studio and, last
November, at IMA's Toby Theater, which hosted the most well-attended Pecha Kucha
to date. "We've had one
in an unfinished office floor; we had BBQ at that," Beeler recently told NUVO.
"I can't say why those two things are related but it fit."
fondly recalls one presentation by Joe Molinaro, who will present Friday at The
Vogue. "[He] cracked eggs over his head during the presentation while the
PowerPoint flipped through pictures of well endowed women in swimsuits. His
point was that performance art can trump the banality of the internet any day.
Or at least I think that was his point. That volume was at the Harrison Center
and a wedding the next day complained of a rotten egg smell. It was like his
presentation never stopped presenting."
himself is one of those repeat presenters. "It's
easy and hard at the same time. Twenty slides is nothing really. But it's a
challenge to distill an idea so that it fits into 6 minutes and 40 seconds. A
big part of it a good Pecha Kucha presentation is
entertainment, true, and we've heard that criticism before. But no matter what
you do in your career or life, you're going to have to share an idea with
someone that doesn't know what the hell you're talking about. And you're going
to do it while competing against whatever is swirling around in the other
person's head. PK is a microcosm for that. The chitter-chatter, the beer; these
are your competitors."
Beeler essays an explanation
for why Pecha Kucha has taken off. "I think it's become popular because the format is so
beautiful. It's like haiku; when a presentation is solid and the visuals are
striking and the presenter is confident the result can be really quite
remarkable and powerful. So I think PK speaks to the possibility of a universal
language of ideas, a ideal that the most brilliant parts of all our disciplines
and interests can be shared and gleaned from."
Back in 2003, the town was
abuzz about The Pieces. The trio seemed to have breakout potential, behind a
debut full-length produced by Mahan Kalpa (aka Paul Mahern, the Zero Boy turned
Buddist rock band mentor) and released by Benchmark Records, a local label
presided over by Josh Baker and ready to push a band to national prominence.
The band's lead singer and
songwriter Vess Ruhtenberg was proud of the record and ready for mainstream
success after years as an on-call guitarist. Drummer Devon Ashley was working
for the first time in a rock and roll band, bringing his soulful feel to a
power-pop setting after years of playing R&B and gospel. And bassist and
keyboardist Heidi Gluck was living out her choice to become a full-time
musician instead of sticking around rural Manitoba.
And the full-length was
something special, infectiously catchy, moving from power-pop to R&B, with
a substantial, crunchy feel that wasn't accidental — "We kind of used
Queen as the template for the record," Ruhtenberg told NUVO in 2003.
But The Pieces weren't
destined for super-stardom. That's not to say the band was a failure, and all
three musicians eventually found other work — Ruhtenberg and Ashley in
The Lemonheads and other local bands, Gluck with the Juliana Hatfield-fronted
Some Girls. Reflecting on what might have been, Gluck doesn't have any regrets.
"I think that of any band
I've been a part of, this was the closest to one that could've 'made it,'"
Gluck told NUVO from her Kansas City home last week. "But at the end of the day
I am just so grateful that I can put on my Pieces s/t LP and remember how good
we had it and how good we were at that time. Could we repeat that? I
really don't know...It's one of those things that is a moment, just like when the
perfect song gets written. You can't really script out how it happens."
This reunion has been at
least a year in the making. The Pieces were scheduled to perform as part of
last year's Broad Ripple Music Fest opener. But Gluck broke her leg two weeks
before the show. She describes it as about "95 percent" back, 11 months after
Broken limb aside, Gluck is
still making greatest effort to make this show happen, given that Ruhtenberg
and Ashley still live in Indianapolis and still perform on a regular basis.
never play music with other people but I do play in my living room sometimes,"
Gluck explained, adding that she "needed a break from music" when she moved
away from Indianapolis. "I had a baby, he
was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes when he was two, I began a career in the
corporate world which involved travel, and I wasn't playing music hardly at
The self-titled album is