Thirty years of Big City Orchestra's bent circuits, Beatlerape, and popcorn sounds
But dAS seems averse to discussing the past, or experimental music lineage and theory in general. As befits the restless nature of Big City Orchestra — or Big Seit Ohr_Kastra, or Pig Kitty Porkestra, or an infinity of other names the group has taken — the musical moment is always now, and the sound of now is the one most suitable to the situation at hand. "Look, we're all monkeys with thumbs, " dAS says, "and if I don't keep my thumbs busy, it's trouble. Yes, I've listened to 'serious' experimental composers — I know about that stuff — but I also love pop stuff. Seeing Devo at one of their first performances changed my life, and I think XTC is the best band to have ever existed."
"The Big City Orchestra approach is always project-by-project," dAS continues. "We take each case on its own merits, improvising on whatever materials are appropriate. It's more a matter of pulling a zany, hare-brained scheme out of one of our heads — we're currently doing a pirate record for kids. It's just circumstantial. Hopefully that derails a lot of theoretical questions."
OK, then, what are some of the circumstances? "I just got my hands on three harmoniums. Man, you can do a lot of damage with three harmoniums. Or sometimes we like to just confound expectations. At a recent NorCal Noise Festival, after three days of acts blowing out eardrums, we took everyone outside, sat them in a circle, gave them all teacups, and put the kettle on. Our contribution was the sound of water coming to a boil, and then serving tea."
Or how about this? "We do a TV show in the East Bay where we basically treat the TV as a light source, just playing around with different-colored lights. There's 2.4 million potential viewers, so you figure there must be at least 1,000 stoners who happen upon it and hopefully love it. Maybe it even means something to someone — who knows?
"Frivolity is important," dAS concludes. "Sometimes it's good to have art that just fills a hole in the wall. Or sometimes it's not."
BIG CITY ORCHESTRA 30TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW
8 p.m., $10
Café Du Nord
2170 Market, SF.