Rad Bank Performs on Pelee (Aug 5, 2017)

Rad Band Performs on Pelee

Sounds travel with swift intensity over water. Factor in a stone quarry on an island and a frenetic “noise band,” and you have one wild and resonating performance. Last night on Pelee the ancestral and atavistic sounds of The Nihilist Spasm Band hit the rocks.

Founded in 1965 in London, Ontario, and led by a keening Bill Exley, the band plays homemade instruments ranging from kazoos to a Bradivarius with Exley “cooking the pot.” With sauce pan in one hand and the lid in the other, the musician slapped his pan as the band started to simmer, gradually increasing the tempo to a boiling fever pitch. Smokin’ hot! Zappa soup!

The concept behind “spasm” is that of improvised and often discordant sounds, each “avowed non-musician” swaying to his or her own beat (er, racket) with little intent to coordinate. Paradoxically, the group tosses out serious humor, non rhythmic polyrhythms, and drug-free psychedelia. A testimonial to the fun of noise, the group sizzled and cooked, giving a performance as orgasmic as Yoko Ono and as fiery as Jimi Hendrix. The Quarry did indeed “kiss the sky” last night.

Each Saturday performance begins with Spoken Word. Last night Kenyan-Canadian artist Sheniz Janmohamed opened the show. She began by assembling a large mandala on the floor of the quarry with objects found in nature–rocks, sticks, feathers, etc. Sanskrit for “circle,” the mandala symbolizes for Janmohamed the letting go of perfection and embracing impermanence.

Her poetry consisted of themes about race and identity, aging, and “unburdening one’s self from the weight of the world.” Inviting us to break bread with her, Janmohamed implored the audience to “let go and hand over the past.”

Plein air artists John Stuart Pryce and Andrew Cheddie Sookrah joined in the fray and painted live scintillating, rich, and delicious works embracing the lusciousness of the evening

A night of thoughtful poetry coupled with riotous music and passionate art created yet another paradox of amusement under the stars.

Betsy Miller
The Island Spectator