On August 28, CJ Boyd played a house show in downtown Indianapolis that could only be described as a presentation of experimental music at its best. The show, booked by promoter Sia Hanna, included circuit bender Meltface and ambient noise artists Clouds As Oceans from Bloomington. The setup didn't look like the punk basements to which I'm accustomed—each band had played in a living room area that was filled with chairs and stools. I unfortunately missed most of the show while attending my great uncle’s 80th birthday, and by the time I had arrived the crowd was already in full force.
CJ Boyd, joined by a young lady playing the violin, called his group the Kirtan Choir. A Kirtan is a call-and-response chant used as part of devotional practice in India. Vaisnava devotionalism, Sikhism, the Sant traditions and in some Buddhist groups employ the Kirtan for worship.
The two set up in front of the small living room crowd and promptly removed all of their clothing before they began their set. Boyd has been touring nonstop for the past two years and each of his performances are improvised and often feature guest artists. In reference to their song titles they warned, “These are inside jokes—you won’t understand them,” and smiled brightly as they began an epic set of experimental joy.
“A Cut Inside” was a somber, minimalist piece that consisted solely of a violin and Boyd’s bass guitar. The crowd was quiet and intent on hearing every pop of the electric bass. Their eyes followed each glide of the bow as it began to screech and waver. The bass melded perfectly with the fluid violin—imagine what the Titanic really sounded like while sinking.
“Chapter Twelve” began with the physical rocking of an upright bass. The endpin was pressed against the floor to create a unique, creaky rhythm. The violin was softly plucked and sounded like soft chirping. Both songs told stories with notes instead of words. Gradually Boyd began to play the bass strings and progressed into frenzy. Their voices started to become part of the music, and alternated between a sweet birdsong and a coo like a mourning dove. Once the violin joined in they both exploded and then reformed into an evocative dirge.
At the end of the show the crowd clapped and cheered, as the Kirtan Choir had conjured up a deep energy that rang throughout the house. Their mantra was bold, and they seemed to weave in and out of each other’s auras as they played. One thing is for certain—Boyd is devoted to the bass and the natural rhythm of the universe.
In 2009 Boyd signed with Joyful Noise Recordings and has released an album entitled “Aerial Roots”. “Alternate Roots”,a live perspective of the album from a performance in North Carolina, has also been released. He will be returning solo to Indianapolis on September 3rd at Big Car Gallery.