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Review: Celebration, Dustin Wong, Microkingdom and Sri Aurobindo at the G Spot, October 29

Nikc Miller, Midnight Sun contributor and former Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad guitarist, reviews the Halloween show at the G Spot.

Friends Records threw its second Halloween bash Friday night at the G Spot, with a show that included a spooky ambiance and bands signed or at least distributed by the ever-growing record label.

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This time the headliner was local-band-gone-somewhat-big Celebration.

The G-Spot, a weird little enclave in the mill area of Hampden, is a nostalgic venue for me, especially at this time of year. Many a-folk know the obscure "audio-visual playground" as being home-base for MicroCineFest.

In my mind it seems like blasphemy to have any event here that doesn't have a distinct visual aesthetic. So it was a delight to see such effort put toward the ambience of Friday's show, with slide projectors blasting the light of beautiful abstract slides onto every free inch of wall space.

Friends Records ally, Dustin Wong, started the evening early and on a high note. As patrons trickled into the concert space, Wong played what seemed like 15-20 songs using just his guitar, a loop pedal, and at times a simple drum machine.

These songs, starting from simple riffs and building toward complex electronica, tended to stop abruptly before immediately switching to something new.

At one point I heard someone from the crowd say, "Yeah, it's cool but it just sounds like some kid jamming with his gear." Which is true, but also underscores Wong's appeal. Watching someone jam this well, while creating several albums full of blissful song ideas on-the-fly is something to behold.

And at the very least, it's nice to see someone making this kind of music while sitting behind just a guitar instead of the latest piece of synth technology.

By the end of Wong's set, the majority of what would become the crowd for the evening was in place, bouncing between the G-Spot's gallery area and the performance space. A quarter of the people were costumed: an awesome Teen Wolf and a bearded executioner mingled with the crowd, while a slew of scenesters teetered on the line of dumb couture vs. legit Halloween costume.

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Microkingdom took to the stage to perform what seemed to be a mind game with the crowd. Whatever beautiful noise Wong previously released into the atmosphere was quickly deconstructed and thrown back in the face of the audience.

The title of Microkingdom's release, "Three Compositions of No-Jazz," perfectly describes the "Lost Highway"-soundtrack noise coming from this five-piece. It wasn't that much fun to watch, but since my only live music experience of the week was seeing smooth jazz legend Chuck Mangione blow his flugelhorn at a Mercedes dealership in Ellicott City, "No-Jazz" was more than welcome to my ears.

Later Sri Aurobindo performed a set of off-tempo psych rock. The crowd seemed more relieved to hear some music with vocals rather than being genuinely pumped for the band. It's tough to be blazed all the time, but that's what Sri Aurobindo expects from you when they belt out Orange-amplified tunes like, well, "My Love Is Stoned."

But instead of elation, the vibe at was getting more stuffy and uncomfortable. Many people, including myself, had to step out into the gallery just to cool down.

The anticipation built until just after 11pm when Celebration took the stage stage. Not a single straggler remained in the gallery area. And that entire communal feeling you would come to expect from a concert thrown by a group called "Friends" manifested itself, finally.

Celebration is the real deal, spinning their own web of world music into magnificent anthems. That crowded and sweaty feeling I had before vanished in light of what was happening on stage. The projections on the walls came to life as someone from the back of the room turned the light toward the stage, creating a dynamic backdrop to the music.

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If I had to describe Celebration's sound it would be called something like "American Afro-Beat." It's, first, rhythmically present, but also has all the melody and dreaminess that Beach House is praised for. Performing tunes for almost an hour while playfully interacting with the audience in between, Celebration encored with a song called "Battles" from their forthcoming album "Hello Paradise" which, I have to guess, will be an epic Friends Records release.

If there is such a complaint as "too much atmosphere" the Friend's Records gang are totally guilty. Fortunately for them, in this city and at this time of year, the complainers would be few and far between.

Nikc Miller, former guitarist for Dirty Marmaduke Flute Squad, still writes the band's blog, and he has written for Microfilmmaker Magazine. Erik Maza edited this post.

Photo: Chris Day/Bmore Musically Informed 

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