22 January 2006

Maximal, vegetable, or mineral?

And so it was, that THEE MAXIMALISTS did gather at yonder Orion Studios in Baltimore. And lo, they did raise a most unholy racket. As is their way. Aaahhh...

It was only the fourth public performance of Thee Maximalists, and this one happened to be the tenth anniversary of Orion's first Progressive Rock Showcase. The atmosphere was festive and wacky. And pregnant with sound.

For the uninitiated: THEE MAXIMALISTS consists of a rotating cast of characters, most commonly anchored by Paul Sears (of The Muffins fame), Keith Macksound (from Present), and Yanni (from Stinking Lizaveta). Recent inductees include Werbinox (vocals) and Jim Rezek (mellotron). Beyond that, anything goes. Last minute additions are to be expected. The music is entirely improvised, and tends to be joyfully crazed, taking the "free jazz" concept into "free rock" territory.

This time, Yanni couldn't make it (the Stinkies are on tour), and Werbinox wasn't present either, but the supplementary cast was fabulous. Dave Newhouse (also from The Muffins) provided keyboards & saxophones, Cyndee Lee Rule was there with electric violin, Adrian Sears provided cello, and Rezek was there with a moog and TWO mellotrons, for cryin' out loud...

It was the fullest-sounding Maximalist show yet. Dave Newhouse was a perfect addition, with his penchant for looping keyboard passages that gave the improvised madness a trance-inducing, swaying backbone. Paul Sears' drumming was powerful as usual (worthy of his brief association with Magma), and Keith's bass echoed Present's darker, growling moments but with a playful spirit that suited the evening perfectly.

At one point, Newhouse emerged with a harmonica and forced the Maximalists, perhaps kicking and screaming, into a deranged prog bluegrass stomp that sounded exquisitely well-practiced, though of course, it wasn't. It was Thee Maximalists.

Nearly two hours later, Orion lay in ruins. I staggered back to the car with the camera in hand, wondering how the hell they'd ever top this one.

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