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Sunday, 24 June 2012 13:07

Concert review: Lux Ascension's 'Songs from the Crossroads' at the St. Lou Fringe Festival Thursday through Sunday, June 21 through 24

Concert review: Lux Ascension's 'Songs from the Crossroads' at the St. Lou Fringe Festival Thursday through Sunday, June 21 through 24
Written by Chuck Lavazzi
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The description in the festival program looks intriguing: “Starting from an underground tavern in Athens, 1923, the band embarks on a journey across Time and Culture, riding the waves of music. Boundaries dissolve as Eastern melodies weave in and out of Western harmonies.”

It suggests a musical mix along the lines of the Silk Road Project’s East/West fusion, possibly with a little history thrown in. Right up my alley.

What’s on stage, though, is something else again. “Songs of the Crossroads” turns out to be a series of extended jams for highly amplified bouzouki (Bryson Gerard), fiddle (Zac Milner), and bass guitar (Jacob Riley) that reminded me of both Philip Glass and some of the John Cale/Lou Reed collaborations for The Velvet Underground as well. (“The Black Angel’s Death Song” comes immediately to mind.) They carry titles like “Makam of Echos”, “Salamander’s Fire”, and “Dance of the Living”, but to my ears they were largely indistinguishable and repetitive. It sounded like Mr. Milner’s fiddle was out of tune with the rest of the band, but in all fairness that might have been a deliberate exercise in bitonality.

A brief number by Mr. Gerard on hammered dulcimer in the middle of the program was a welcome change of pace but, once again, the material felt like rather thin stuff. These guys are all solid musicians but I think they might have been better off with their own arrangements of traditional songs.

Sabina England provided some visual interest, performing a mix of dance and ASL (American Sign Language) in colorful Indian costume. Like the band, though, she limited herself to a small set of riffs that were repeated until they ceased to be interesting.

“Songs at the Crossroads” was developed specifically for the Fringe, so it’s presumably still a work in progress. And, of course, a main purpose of the Fringe is to give performers opportunities to take chances with new material and push the proverbial envelope. Lux Ascension deserves applause for their obvious talent and willingness to try something new and risky.

For more information on the St. Lou Fringe Festival, including the performance schedule, you may visit stlfringe.com

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