I hate giving my age away, but I spent my childhood in the 1960s and 70s. Since I was fortunate enough to have the fine arts, music, and theater within my public school curricula, on occasion I would attend art performances…often these turned out to be very experimental art performances. As a young, naive, suburban schoolgirl I would find myself in a world that I could not understand, interpret, or master….was this art, was I not educated or mature enough to follow, or was this a joke I just couldn’t understand? Not knowing what to think I’d sit attentive while wrestling with the thought of whether the performance was supposed to be interpreted or emotionally felt. I wondered, did art always have to be so difficult to appreciate?
I hadn’t thought of those types of free form performances in years. However He Loved the Soft Porn of the City evoked those feelings and thoughts again. It is not until after the show’s multimedia extravaganza that the members that comprise the Moderno Trio (Kristen Williams – keyboards & vocals, Allan Von Schenkel – guitar, bass, & vocals, and James Wesley Edwards – percussion) explain that this is a dedication to the artist/musician Morten ‘Skovgaard’ Danielsen, with whom they had a working collaboration with. After finishing his work with the trio, Skovgaard returned to Denmark and promptly committed suicide.[Note to group, perhaps this is helpful to discuss and dedicate at the beginning of the performance.]
The program reflects the unstable and frenzied energy that Skovgaard exuded. The strong instrumentals are punctuated with blurry, surreal video images that provide a dreamlike quality. Adding to the video montage, Renee Brogue Banger – blond, statuesque, and model-like, adds her expressionist dance interpretations. The music is free form, experimental, and mood inducing. Hyperkinetic, beat poetry is added at times, and some discordant /disjointed singing punctuates the program.
The journey is a wild ride – reminiscent of music from the 1960’s (think the Doors) and the 1980’s (think a cross between new age, the Talking Heads, and the B-52s). Beat poetry meets the 21st century. But there is something deeply dissatisfying about the show.The musicians are talented, although the singing was not a high point for me, and the show is emotionally charged. However the ultimate experience is confusing, angst ridden, with no discernible theme. If that is the point, to live vicariously in Skovgaard’s shoes….then perhaps this needs to be more strongly influenced. However the dreamlike quality of the program would benefit from more transitioning between the emotionally disjointed vignettes and a stronger program focus.The program has much potential, but requires some refinement and direction – rather than sheer reaction to an emotionally traumatic event. However the talent is there and I think this group can pull it off!
For more information on the show and to purchase tickets, read our Fringe Preview.