Big Ears Roundup [part 7]

The last roundup at Sunday night with Harold Budd + Friends @ The Bijou

[…continued from last post]

Harold Budd + Friends: As Long As I Can Hold My Breath

After we stumbled out of the Tennessee Theatre following the amazing performance by Nik Bartsch’s RONIN, we were dehydrated and hungry. It was time for dinner, so we walked to Bistro at the Bijou, and got a meal there. Afterward, my wife and I were uninspired by the desserts on offer. My wife wanted to go to the chocolate shop, so we walked there. Not liking chocolate, I saw an ice cream shop and got something there. While I was in line, my wife walked to where the car was parked north of downtown, and found a spot close to the Bijou, since rain might be in our future. Then, at about 6:45, we queued up in the line for the final concert.

We were let into the Bijou at 7:30, meaning that this was the first Budd concert that would start on time for this festival. After being held captive in the bar, they finally opened the doors to the theater and we got our seats. Unlike the first two Budd shows, the audience for this one was less than capacity. I guess other Sunday night headliners had more pull with the revelers this time. Unlike every other Budd concert we have seen, there was no gong solo to mark the transition into Budd-space. The musicians got right down to business.

These were the friends of Harold Budd taking the reins for this show

The performance was an expansive 90 minute version of “As Long As I Can Hold My Breath” from Avalon Sutra with ACME strings, Tim Story [keyboard & electronics], Terrence Budd [guitars and keyboards], Sean Connors [percussion], Lisa Raschiatore [clarinet], and Trenton Takaki [piano]. Budd did not play piano this time, only synth as Trenton Takaki did the honors on the 88 keys. As with the earlier performance with ACME, I was astonished at how they managed to play such long, slow drone notes and that capacity was stretched to the limit here as the entrancing beauty unfolded in the vintage theater. This was really the most familiar performance of the festival thus far.

Most of what he had played at Big Ears was new, unreleased material, or music re-arranged for the ACME strings. Anyone with a copy of “Avalon Sutras” would have recognized this as the content of disc two, taken to even further extremes of length. It was notable that after twenty or so minutes of playing, that Mr. Budd took his leave of the stage, leaving his son  Terrence [also playing guitar], as conductor for the performance. And in this act, one got a sense of how Budd has put his artistic legacy into his sons hands. This was music that would outlive Budd and perhaps all of us. And thank goodness as this was the perfect way to finish up a four day music festival with ambient loops of sound [albeit played by hand] circling, and re-circling into a delicate dance of splendor. At the conclusion the composer joined the musicians for their bows and that was that. We had now experienced three Harold Budd concerts in as many days!

After this, my second full festival attended, I have hit upon a proviso or two that I need to live by the next time I find myself attending one. Flitting from portions of a performance to another is not satisfying, and I need to remind myself to avoid this going forward. It’s best to see an entire performance, since festival sets are usually brief in any case. If an artist is not enjoyable, always have a backup you can attend, preferably nearby. And finally, if David Torn is playing, think very hard if you want to attend or not. And then don’t go. No matter how much you may like his playing on other people’s albums.

In common with the Moogfest I attended in 2014, there were two utterly dazzling breakout performances here that astounded me and thrilled to no end: Mimi Goese and Ben Neill and Nik Bärtsch’s RONIN. Those two more than made up for every show we walked out of quickly! I treasure those kind of musical jolts that have always been genuinely rare with me. I tend to intellectualize my response to live music [ya think?] and relish the rare opportunity to be genuinely rocked by a performance that comes out of nowhere to make a very big impression.

Big Ears was a very different festival with most attendees being older in keeping with the relative lack of rock on offer. I saw more people my age than twentysomethings bopping around. The vibe of the festival is more sedate. Now that they have brought Budd there, it may be that we don’t venture to Knoxville any more to see it because outside of Ryuichi Sakamoto, I can’t think of another artist of significance who would be a likely feather in the festival’s cap that we are that enamored of. Well, maybe there’s always John Foxx or Nits [crosses fingers].

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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7 Responses to Big Ears Roundup [part 7]

  1. JT says:

    >Trenton Takaki did the honors on the 88 strings.

    A piano actually has more than 200 strings: three per note, except for the lowest notes which have just one or two (made of thicker material).


  2. Bradley Westervelt says:

    Thanks for the extensive reviews. I had a number of Budd disks on frequent play in the 80’s. I can think of a few artists that would be nearly on par to get me to attend: Roger Eno, Michael Brook, Kate Bush (one can dream…).
    Funny you never had more ECM recordings in the cell. Some of the pressings were the best, so clean and quiet. Others were awful, lumps in the vinyl! Beirach, Rypdal, Jan Gabarek, David Byrne’s Knee Plays, can’t remember what all I used to have on the shelf from that great label.


  3. I agree with your wish list for a return to Knoxville, O Monk, but would second Mr. Westervelt’s nomination of Roger Eno to be added to that list. Eno the Younger has impressed me greatly.

    Thanks also for the vicarious reviews of Budd’s concerts, which I’ll never get to see it appears. I’m happy to hear his music is in the capable hands of his son, however — perhaps someday I’ll be lucky enough to see him.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Yeah, Terrence Budd seems like he’s being groomed to carry the torch. I’m just thrilled that the big events came off. The last time we went to Big Ears to see him he had broken a rib in a fall just days prior. Nothing casual at his age. There have also been recent UK concerts that have not happened for one reason or another. He does seem to play a date or two a year in his Mojave locale. Maybe if such an event lines up with a Who convention you’ll have your chance!


  4. Pingback: Harold Budd: 1936 – 2020 | Post-Punk Monk

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