Sonic primacy

I have to admit that I find the Sky Bar Cafe just a little bit confusing. My confusion stems, at least in part, from not quite knowing what the bar management expects me to do. On the one hand, the band up on the stage—a guitar, keyboard and sax trio under the name the Sky Bar All-Stars—is playing innocuous smooth-jazz standards. It’s the kind of music one expects to be able to ignore: unobtrusive background music. On the other hand, it’s a bit loud to be truly ignored. After all, if you need to lean over the table and shout to have a conversation, the band is certainly taking sonic primacy over idle chitchat.

One of those shouted statements was my companion’s: “This is really boring!” That might have been true, but that also might have been the point. After all, “uninteresting” is a negative adjective in most music reviews, but what if the band’s task is to provide friendly white noise for an audience of drinkers? If so, then the Sky Bar All-Stars could be uninteresting in a good way. If, that is, they weren’t so loud.

The band’s star member was clearly pianist and vocalist Adrian Ruby, whose papery voice was unobtrusive enough to make sense in the evening’s context but also full and emotive, and whose piano playing was, on the whole, top-notch. Guitarist Tony Andriati and saxophonist Eric Price were both able if uninteresting (there it is again), seeming most at home on jazz standards and less comfortable playing other songs.

If a band’s going to play relatively loudly, I need it to demand my attention through sonic and technical brilliance (or I need it to make me want to dance). Otherwise, I’d like to be able to comfortably ignore it. Turning the All-Stars down just a little, and hence allowing the audience to choose to ignore them, might make all the difference.

Meanwhile, two new local arts spaces are making significant headway in giving Sacramento something more than the same “three-band bill plus beer” night out. Kabinet is a local arts space put together by (among others) local filmmaker and musician J. Greenberg. Kabinet’s most interesting monthly project is Silent Night, an evening in which local musicians play live soundtracks to classic silent films. April witnessed Ruebi Freyja playing to D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms; May saw local composer Mars’ score for F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. Silent Night returns on June 19 as Bob Barango puts together music for The Penalty, starring none other than Lon Chaney.

Also presenting interesting art and live music is Fools Foundation (1025 19th Street, Suite O). Fools Foundation presents cutting-edge work from area artists and puts on the kinds of shows the Capitol Garage might have hosted back when it was in its heyday. Case in point: The “secret” LCD Soundsystem show that was held there a few weeks ago, subsequently causing much grumbling from folks who couldn’t get through the door. Note: LCD Soundsystem’s lineup includes local hero Tyler Pope on bass. How many locals have played on the Late Show with David Letterman? Not many, but Pope’s one of them.