Chadbourne & Paul Lovens
Houston TX, 7 October 2000
Eugene Chadbourne and Paul Lovens included Houston as one of their
stops on a 15-concert fall tour. The duo performed at MECA, an inner-city
educational institution for music and arts that is quickly getting
a reputation for being a prime source for hearing improvised music.
These two artists may seem to make strange bedfellows, and indeed
the type of music that evolved during the two sets reaffirmed that
has had a longstanding love affair with Country & Western music, and
he has been incorporating this style regularly into his recent performances.
On this night, Chadbourne walked the tightrope between the freely
improvised music for which he is more noted and the lyrical popular
song form, which he turned into unique Western-sounding ditties with
his twangy voice. He opened the program playing finely spun improvisations
by exercising the guitar strings in a frenzied display of energy.
His sounds ranged from high-pitched shrieks to basement level thumps,
providing electrified excitement through his exceptional fingering
and visual maneuvering. However, these moments were always abruptly
transformed into vocal sequences where he sang and played in C&W fashion.
Old standards such as "Everything Happens to Me" and "Sometimes I'm
Happy" received the same treatment as the numerous country songs and
novelty verses that rolled off his tongue so effortlessly. Even the
Jobim samba classic "Corcovado" had a country tinge.
Interestingly, Chadbourne also excelled in the freeform arena when
he switched to banjo. This instrument with its long history of identity
with folk music was a stimulating improvising tool in the hands of
Chadbourne, who showed great dexterity and originality in strumming
at breakneck speed. He eked out eerie tones and wild runs from these
unlikely strings. Nevertheless, the vocal segment was always the anticipated
next phase, and he predictably reverted to mountain music and homespun
country tunes that now seemed more appropriate with the banjo.
is an amazing drummer. This automobile tour allowed him his first
exposure to Texas, giving fans in this part of the country a rare
opportunity to see the fine German percussionist. He is a very unassuming
man who calmly sits down at his kit and proceeds to make challenging
arrhythmic music. He concentrated on two small leather-bound snare
drums with unusual tonal qualities, and he massaged and tinkered to
produce all sorts of percussive effects as Chadbourne played and sang.
The most striking observation I made, however, was that he was not
a co-leader with Chadbourne. Throughout the two sets, he allowed Chadbourne
to take the lead. He listened intently to what Chadbourne was doing
and supplied freeform, unstructured rhythm patterns that were at times
at odds with but always complementary to the musical direction Chadbourne
dictated. Lovens is fun to watch. He is all over his drums but in
a very subtle way. He is not demonstrative but instead produces improvised
drumming without appearing flamboyant. He quietly goes about his business,
and the result is percussion with a high level of creativity.
Chadbourne and Lovens put on a show that pleased the crowd, but it
did not provide enough substance for lovers of instrumental improvised
music. The hybrid performance had its moments, but mainly it was a
platform from which Chadbourne could indulge his eclectic spirit.