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Monday, September 11, 2006

April's last show, and some balloon bass

I should have posted this a week ago...except that I was busy working on my cupcake baking skills (how could I have gotten so far in life without ever having made cupcakes solo?) and was spending time with this amazing book. I made "The Classic Cupcake," with pink vanilla butter cream frosting. It went well except that the frosting turned out too soupy (too much milk) and so we had to add about two full extra cups of powdered sugar before it would 'set' right. And now they are done...mmmmm...so much sugar that it burns going down!

Anyhow--last Friday, the first, was our monthly Mr. T's show, and it was April's last night with the big band--she's moving to Merced. Thanks April, we're going to miss you and George! Oh and it was also Allie's birthday! No Raymond this time, sadly. Apart from that it wasn't too eventful, except that there was a nice big crowd, bigger than we're used to, for sure.

But what I really wanted to tell you about was the band I saw on Sunday night at Mr. T's, Unpoppable. Now this band is a duo, guitar and bass--except that the bass is made out of a balloon. Really. This is a little hard to describe, so take a look at this picture that I stole off of their website:

The bassist in question is named Addi, and that blue balloon is his bass. See, the inflated balloon is kind of the bass's body, the resonator, and the long skinny string-looking thing is a second (deflated) balloon that is somehow attached to the inflated one. It's not tied on, it actually goes straight into the big balloon's body. How? I don't really know. Divine providence? Anyway, the stringy balloon can be stretched and loosened by pulling on it, and that's what Addi plucks to make the bass notes--kind of the same idea as a washtub bass. And, in fact, here he is explaining how it works:

Addi is pretty much a master at knowing exactly how much to stretch the string balloon to get certain notes, and it's hooked up via contact mic to an amplifier. The thing is that this contraption sounds scarily like an upright bass. If you get a chance to see these guys, you must do it for sure. Unpoppable is a spare, kind of jazzy/bluesy, mostly instrumental kind of band, and is a pleasure to watch. When I saw them they performed with an accordianist/cornetist, which added a lot, and Addi brought out a second balloon instrument: a huge balloon attached somehow to one of those big springs that go on the wheels of a car. This was also contact-mic'd, and when he tapped the spring with a mallet it made incredible booming gong sounds through the amp. This reminds me of when I had a contact microphone back in college and would play things like my floor lamp through my amplifier. Awesome, now I have to do that kind of thing again!

Incidentally, Addi is probably best known as a professional balloon hat artist. He travels the world making hats out of balloons for people. Genius? Why yes, I'm fairly certain that this qualifies!

One thing really became clear to me at the Unpoppable show...which is how unqiue Mr. T's is. There really aren't too many places in Los Angeles that would host an all-experimental-instrumental-band night, and have the place pretty much packed. I'm sure Arlo has a lot to do with this. It's amazing, I walk in and Arlo says hi, I see Elizabeth from Smells Like Flan and Andrew from Cat Hair Ensemble hanging out, everybody's having a good time...it feels like home in a way that I've never felt anywhere else. I heart Mr. T's.


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