On Saturday, I found myself searching for local sounds along Berry Street. Even though The Moon is gone, Berry has always been my first choice for something musically different. I'm glad my instincts led me to the Cellar.
First up was Uboat, which consists of singer/guitarist Joel Murray wrapped in Christmas lights playing simple guitar chords and shouting melodramatic lyrics into a microphone in punk-rock style. It was very entertaining at times.
Murray also covered the Moody Blues, Billy Joel and even Neil Diamond. Occasionally, he even let it slip that he really could play, and the stage banter wandered nicely toward vulgarity without crossing the line (except for some of the borderline homophobic stuff). Good fun, if you're not expecting a traditional singer/songwriter (and really fun if you bring someone who is).
Second on the bill was the Mora Collective, featuring Zach Puchkors (saxophone), Eric Yacula (drums and Theremin) and Christopher Isaacs (bass). To put it in broad terms, this is an experimental fusion-jazz trio -- but that's understating things. The sax leads have a tasteful level of electronic effects, and the bass is precise and melodic. Yacula manages to play driving, substantial percussion while simultaneously playing a Theremin, an electronic instrument that generates eerie, almost haunting sounds when you wave your hands near it.
Apparently Isaacs is responsible for suggesting the Theremin and occasionally hides it away when it grows too familiar.
"He has to take it away," Yacula said, "and then I'll forget it, and it will be brand new again."
So even jazz drummers are drummers at heart.
Bad jazz often consists of musicians bashing their way through complicated scales with no real substance behind it. That simply wasn't the case here. Even without vocals, each song had structure, character and a point. There was a message there, but without lyrics, it's a bit more open to interpretation (even to the performers).
"That's the drive of the artist anyway," Yacula said. "You're always digging deep trying to figure out what the f--- you're trying to say. Hopefully through time you sort of refine that message. And sometimes people receive something else than what you intended. If we believe in what we're doing, it will resonate with people."
I see probably 150 bands a year, and there is an ocean of talent in this area. Still, only a dozen or so each year stick in my head enough that I'm compelled to play their music in my car. Mora Collective is one of those acts, and if you get a chance to see them July 22 at Lola's Saloon, do so.