Trap, which features ex-Cartoon/PFS drummer Gary Parra, has evolved from essentially a studio project on the first disc 'Beyond The Status Quo into a full working and performing band; other members of the trio are Warren Dale (saxes, clarinet, bass clarinet, wind controller, keyboards, pedal bass) and Chris Smith (guitars and mandolin). The band worked through a dizzying array of tightly composed material mostly from their upcoming 'Trap 2K' album. The audience was treated to a Cartoon suite (excerpts from 'Anemic Bolero,' 'Apathy in America,' 'Shark' and 'Shredded Wheat'); quirky, odd metered stop-and-go pieces featuring toy horns, slide whistles and other unconventional instrumentation.
A couple of pieces were seemingly influenced by Indonesian Gamelan scales and structures. The band would move effortlessly from tight intricate chamber ensemble playing into full blown chaotic madness, while having a lot of fun doing it. At one point Parra donned the accordion while Smith and Dale joined in on mandolin and clarinet for a traditional Macedonian folk piece which eventually evolved into a full-throttle rock version of the same. Finally the band played a lengthy medley of material from the first Trap album, which included 'Lost in Morocco,' 'Blue October Haze,' 'Storm Over Coyote Canyon,' 'Traps,' and 'Crimson Moon.' Their set ended with an amazing rendition of Zappa's 'Peaches En Regalia,' which drew a lengthy applause from the small but appreciative crowd.
Next up was Absolute Zero, a band whose only release to date is the very obscure two song EP 'Alive in the Basement' recorded in 1990. The only thing that most people knew of the band was the pedigree of their drummer, Pip Pyle, whose long list of achievements include stints with Gong, Hatfield and The North, National Health, Equip'Out, and numerous other Canterbury one-off projects including his recently released 'Seven Year Itch' solo album. The band came out on stage, keyboardist/flautist Aislinn Quinn hobbling on crutches from a recently sprained ankle, also sharing stories about how Pip narrowly escaped a visit to the Tijuana jail. But their playing is what mattered most, and it was nothing short of stellar.
The band opened their set with two lengthy composed numbers, very intense and chaotic, sounding like a mix of Hatfield, Zappa, early Henry Cow and Magmathe latter due to bassist Enrique Jardines' very Paganotti/Top-like bass attack on most of the numbers. It was one of those performances where you swear it's improvised, but it's too tight and structured to be anything but composed and well rehearsed. Quinn provides the band's vocals, mostly heavily filtered, effected and treated to beyond the point of recognition. They performed a variation on 'Etats de Choses,' one of the instrumental tracks on Pyle's solo album, and two more dense and complex composed numbers, much coming from their upcoming full-length release. At one point some technical problems briefly knocked the keyboards out, during which time Jardines and Pyle performed an impromptu bass-drum duo of almost 'De Futura'-like proportions.
If that wasn't enough, Absolute Zero invited all of Trap back onstage for a jam, led by Pyle's tom-heavy drum attack. The result was surprisingly good, and closed the show nicely. These are two bands you definitely don't want to miss.