Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sour with the Sweet

You would figure with all this hero worshipping here that I wouldn't have anything negative to say about our old pal RF.

But it ain't so.

December 5, 1986 is the date of this Fripp and the Crafties concert in D.C.

I can't imagine why she agreed to go, but my girlfriend Susan and me headed down to Georgetown to see RF and company in concert. My head was full of the Bruford-Levin-Belew lineup and was really excited to see this man live.

The room had no chairs, but only scattered cushions on the floor. This set the stage for the weirdness that was to follow.

When the ensemble filed out, we graced them with applause. They bowed, but instead of taking a seat, they stood there. Now in silence, each member of the ensemble took the time to make eye contact with each one of us. The silence was full, swollen and awkward. Then, after that they took a seat. What was the purpose of the stare-a-thon? It was weird and stupid.

Fripp then became MC and started with a light and humorous introduction to the concert. The music which followed was very much of a Frippian imagination: mathematical, odd time signatures, repetitive figures, and melodies that never quite reach a grace, but remain a rhythmic counterpoint to the shifting cycles around them. While I was impressed with the creativity and the flawless execution, it bordered on stiff, too considered and lacked warmth. This was not music making of joy, but like the title, one of craft.

At one point, the Bespeckled One stood and turned as if to play directly to each section of the room. I remember him dropping a note or two. No cause for alarm and certainly no stones cast from me, but it told me that Robert's true instrument is the electric guitar not the Ovation acoustic he held like a troubadour. It looked like one of these philosophy based gestures of musician communicating with the audience and oh what common humanity we share stuff. In short, it was awkward. You don't need to overdo it. Just play.

Then it happened. The event that made me quit listening to Crimson for years.

A young man was discreetly positioning himself to take pictures of the group. Fripp spotted him. He stopped and the group followed. Fripp stared, shook his head slowly and silently burned a hole in the man. The man's face went three shades of red.

"That was a violation." were the only words of admontion from the Great One. This head shaking and staring went on for what seemed an eternity. I was sickened. And although the concert went on with some very interesting musical ideas, the spirit of the concert was gone as far as I was concerned.

I felt that the punishment was too harsh and too prolonged. How can this man be so harsh on this poor kid? It was just a picture. That kid felt like shit. That soured me.

For many years, I didn't touch any Fripp solo album nor Crimson. Couldn't go near it.

Even to this day, when someone says "Let's go backstage and meet so-and-so," I cringe just a little. Like a small shiver. "No," I want to say, "I want to enjoy the music and not have the artist spoil it."

Separate the artist from the art. It's better that way, kids.

There is a Guitar Craft aphorism:

Act with courtesy. Otherwise, be polite.


primalscreamx said...

It's the same basic thing for me. I'll base an interview, often, on what I think of the music, not the musician. I never go backstage intent on meeting anyone and have never, ever introduced myself as "the guy who did the article on you." I never introduce myself, tend to stick to the local people I know when I do the whole hanging out in the green room bit.

eclectic guy said...

This shoulds be a cardinal rule for all media types and punters.

There are some suggested "rules" for not getting squashed by the talent. Interesting stuff.

Let's do an EclecTopia episode on it man.