Hundreds of People Watch the Beast Pageant at the Dryden

The Beast Pageant screened at the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) tonight. It took me a while to extricate my thoughts from the various sets I helped build and from the scenes I acted in, but I think I finally have a grip on what great all-around acoustic soloist Jon Moses, and Albert Birney were getting at.

On its surface, The Beast Pageant follows Abe from his lifeless industrialized existence on a journey of reconnection with the natural world. It's all told in fantastical dream language, so time, space, and reality really have no grounding. It just is its own special place.

But dig deeper, and there's a layer about the beauty of human beings. Moses even used the phrase "it's an anti-aibrushing movie" in the question-and-answer. And by that, he means that the movie defies the media-generated images of the human form. All of us who acted as part of the natural world were nude (unless fully covered in costume). And the point is we're just regular people. We didn't spend 6 months prior to the film with a personal trainer to ensure our bodies were picture-perfect; rather we were all just people from around town who live normal lives.

This was the most consistently shocking element. You'll note that neither the D&C article nor the one in City Newspaper made mention of the near-constant nudity on screen. And it's because they can't unless they also subtly condemn it. So the authors of those pieces, finding a work they genuinely liked, opted instead to simply omit that fact.

To me this is a terrible precedent. It's not as if anyone in the U.S. does not see themselves naked at least once a day. Yet through the media's constant condemnation of the human body, we are taught to loathe the sight of it. And through that we loathe ourselves. And, oddly enough, we strive to buy products to give us satisfaction — so the media will approve of our appearance.

And so that theme runs through The Beast Pageant as well. The giant machine in Abe's apartment is an entertainment system (in addition to personal companion, and provider of all his physical needs.) The machine resists Abe's attempt to escape — much as the media machine resists the existence of The Beast Pageant.

But somehow, I think The Beast Pageant is going to win, one way or another.

Jon Moses and Les Shelleys at the Bug Jar

Once again I found myself back at The Bug JarMySpace link (219 Monroe Ave.) This time it was an extraordinarily light crowd — even for a Sunday. Shelley ShortMySpace link had apparently canceled most of her tour due to some issues that kept her wanting to stay near home.

Jon Moses started things off. He's clearly more comfortable improvising and being inclusive and seemed a little off being on-stage separated from the sparse audience. Nonetheless, he showed his acoustic soloist skills admirably. Then it was Les ShelleysMySpace link turn which shrank the audience notably further since Jon relinquished the stage to once audience-members Tom BrosseauMySpace link and Angela CorreaMySpace link. They provided an impressive display of their elegant vocal harmonies and evocative lyrics — the only other instrumentation being Tom's guitar and Angie's percussive clapping and stomping which gives exactly the kind of minimal-but-not a capella sound you'd expect.

Jon Moses et al at Boulder

I headed to Boulder Coffee Co.MySpace link (100 Alexander St.) to check out the bands. To be honest, I didn't like any who opened up but the night was redeemed when Jon Moses brought up members of each band and included them in his wild acoustic improvisation.

I got a little melancholic listening to the first bands (and I'm not going to mention them by name because it just isn't worth it; in fact, half the problem was nobody operating the mixing board, and I was too mopey in my melancholy to bother to step up and do it). After having gone out to see bands so often for so long, it all seems to blur together at times. I mean, obviously everyone there had originality to add to the human musical vernacular, but it was all derivative (as it has been in almost every case forever), and all trying to be something — trying to be some direct affectation on sound … scripted … logical.

When Jon Moses played, though, his songs were absurdly simple: repetitions of barely 3 chords on guitar and often with just a single sentence of lyrics. That was just the foundation, though. The real show was in the spontaneous improvisation. It was not scripted, and even though that form of improvisation has been done some uncountable number of times before, it was exciting. Because by not being scripted, no body knew what was going to be the result — very different from even one person knowing. It was dangerous. And it worked.