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A Gray Area

All the Devilís Parties

Last Friday, I headed into the Tenderloin for the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts Symposium and A/V Performances by Ezekiel Honig, Joshue Ott, and David Last.

After paying the relatively cheap admission and grabbing a beer, I snuck in and stumbled into the dark room. It wasnít that crowded but there werenít any free seats. My heels kept clacking against the hardwood floor as I traveled back and across the room to get a folded chair stacked against the wall.

I questioned why I was there in the first place: I am not a DJ, I donít know the meaning of ďAbleton Live,Ē I donít understand the difference between channels and tracks ó and then I heard Ezekiel Honig comment on how he uses found sounds to create his music. He explicitly stated, ďIím recording this right now.Ē

Well, now he has some loud heel clicks, a folding chair falling to the ground, my giggles and obnoxious sneeze to add to his next masterpiece. My presence was validated.

The symposium ended right after I finally sat down, but I still got one more piece of vital information: Sometimes DJs really are just checking their email as you dance wildly to their rhythms.

A reception followed and all the of the sound art installations were turned on. I walked around light orbs and heard changing soundscapes. I played a video game that translated my conception of time and space into melodies. I made dots move on a touch screen that created awesome sounds for no apparent reason. Then I read the brochure and felt smart about what I had done.

The performances began around 9pm, starting with Ezekiel Honig (audio) and Joshue Ott (visual). Honig created impressive soundscapes, improvising as he magically melded together his found sounds and field recordings. Ottís visuals started out with slowly moving patterns of black and white that evolved into color tints, geometric randomness, and fluid movement that replicated a master painter slowly building up an image on canvas. I have to admit, the perfect pairing of dreamlike sounds and smooth visualizer almost put me to sleep. Fortunately, I wasnít lying on the floor like everyone else.

Next up was David Last. This is when the party started. Lastís versatility and obvious commitment to having fun makes you want to move to Brooklyn just to be close to that awesomeness. His set went to outer space and back, from smooth trance with sexy female vocals to steady house rhythms. The girls in fur, men in hoodies, people in glasses were all grooving. He had visuals, too, that recalled old school video games drenched in 80s neon.

The last performance was Santa, a seven piece electro-acoustic ensemble based here in San Francisco. This was a real treat. When else can you boogie to a flute, upright bass, guitar, saxophone and drums along with live electronic music?

There was mad applause after each set and everyone was satisfied. GAFFTA is certainly not a club or a music venue, but instead a meeting of art and entertainment, technology and human nature. Itís the kind of place you can experience skilled artists doing what they do best. Last Friday, those artists created great music that made me dance my heart out with strangers.