Thursday night’s performance of “Double Happiness” by the Living Earth Show at the Woolfe Street Playhouse came with two disclaimers.
First, this was going to be the polar opposite of the previous night’s “Quarter-Tone Shredding,” during which guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson used custom instruments to play notes not often heard in Western music.
Second, the audience was strongly encouraged to use provided earplugs during “Family Man,” the final piece of the night.
The first warning proved true: this was not like the previous night’s show. There were no dissonant quarter tones. There was very little raucous guitar shredding. Instead, Andrews mostly struck chords that thrummed like quick-moving metal under Meyerson’s explosive percussion, or he gently finger picked his strings behind prerecorded ambient tracks.
Meyerson spent most of his time on his vibraphone, reaching across and behind him for auxiliary percussion instruments like bowls and cymbals and bells from time to time. He emerged from his pitched percussion prison, however, for “Tension Study 1.” It was clear that Meyerson was less comfortable with tradidional rock drumming, but his beats were solid and exciting against Andrews’ guitar.
The five pieces in the program were all related, the Living Earth Show duo explained. All were written by a group of composers in their late 20s or early 30s who are friends. The pieces were written in sequence, each borrowing instrumentation and motifs from one another — something that Andrews noted could be seen in Meyerson’s percussion rig.
For the first half of the show, the relationship between the tunes was evident. The songs fit with one another. It was the last piece, “Family Man,” that upset the cohesion of the evening.
“Family Man,” about which the audience was warned, was definitely louder than the previous four, but not so much that forgoing earplugs would result in imminent tinnitus. It didn’t have the same ethereal flow as the other pieces on the program and its five movements built to a conclusion that sounded like an eruption of fire.
Andrews and Meyerson are extremely talented and the care with which they choose their programs is apparent, but there’s just something about those wailing microtones that proves especially exciting.
Kate Drozynski is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.