You may not know Gunther’s Dik-Dik, but you may recognize one-man band Herbie Kritzer
If the name Herbie Kritzer doesn’t ring any bells, perhaps you remember one of his many musical incarnations.
As one-man band Herbivore, or as half of Wood Is Good, a late-1980s duo with celebrity drummer Mike Urbano, Kritzer was a ubiquitous presence on local music stages. From the mid-1970s until 1998, when Kritzer, now 49, left town for the putatively more artist-friendly environs of Seattle, he plied his muse in a number of local combos, including a stint as drummer for Charlie Peacock’s band in the early 1980s. He recently moved to Petaluma, where he now lives.
For years, Kritzer’s ax of choice has been the Stick, a stringed-instrument fretboard played via a two-handed tapping technique developed by guitarist Emmett Chapman in 1969. (Historically, a guitarist holds down the strings on the fretboard with one hand, while picking or strumming notes or chords with the other. With the Stick, both hands tap the strings, much like a pianist taps a keyboard.) Chapman’s Stick had nine strings; some Sticks have more.
Kritzer will return to Sacramento this weekend for a free, hour-long performance at Gallery Horse Cow, billed as Gunther’s Dik-Dik. “A dik-dik is a small antelope,” Kritzer explained. “I was at the San Francisco Zoo, and one of the breeds there some guy named Gunther discovered. And I thought, ‘I like that.’”
The show also will feature works by three promising young local artists: Jay Howell, Garin Moore and Judd. For his part in the show, Kritzer will contribute his own art-damaged vision. “It’s just gonna be me, doing some interactive stuff with some videos,” he said. “It’s kind of a deconstruction”—his voice trailed off—“I don’t know how to say this without sounding preposterously presumptuous, but I just wanted a different concept if I was going to play live again, that it wasn’t just the typical ‘OK, here’s my songs; here’s some clever lyrics.’”
According to Kritzer, what the audience will see is a picture of a guy with a jackass mask on his head—“I couldn’t find a dik-dik mask,” Kritzer said—wearing a suit backwards and holding a Chapman Stick. Kritzer himself will be viewable behind Mylar, which, as he explained, will appear like antique glass, or water. There will be videos showing, with Kritzer improvising music to accompany the images. “The songs have no names,” he said. “They’re just parameters to play kinda free.
“It’s a nice way not to have to perform for people,” he added. “I just have some stuff going on all at once; you can check out whatever you want to check out—or not.”
The oblique format takes the heat off Kritzer, an admittedly bashful performer onstage, which will free him up to concentrate on playing the Stick, keyboards and a Roland pedal set up to trigger a drum machine. “I also have a pretty nice percussion table set up of found objects and percussion objects,” he said. “Gongs, things like that. Way too much crap.”
Like many avant-garde musicians, Kritzer’s work is a bit hard to find. Searching for evidence of Kritzer’s oeuvre online turned up an MP3 for a track called “Corn Ball.” “That was from a fairly recent CD called Tree Lizard,” Kritzer said. “I was trying to put two people I really like together, or it kinda came out that way—the influence of [Thelonious] Monk and Erik Satie. I always liked the quirkiness of Monk, the strange right angles, and Satie’s stuff is quirky and really beautiful.” For the record, so is “Corn Ball.”
Even if Kritzer the musician is more elusive now than he was back when you could catch his act at Melarkey’s, Harlow’s, Old Ironsides or any of the other venues on any given weekend, this Second Saturday’s art walk offers a chance for his old fans to catch up. “I like the idea of playing in a gallery where maybe people are a little more open to checking it out,” Kritzer said, “as opposed to being in a bar.”