On June 4th, 2007 I drove to Montreal to see Marc Ribot. Though I was pretty familiar with his work with the likes of Tom Waits and John Zorn, his solo stuff was wholly new to me.
As was the venue; I’ve not been to the Sala Rossa before or since. It was a small room with perhaps seventy-five folding chairs set up facing a tiny, improvised stage which held a pair of acoustic guitars, one electric guitar, a chair, and nothing else.
As Ribot took the “stage” I was immediately struck by how young he looked. His playing is much more wizened that his features would suggest; he looks like Frodo and plays like Gandalf.
His two sets were almost entirely acoustic and all solo. It was very avant-garde and yet rootsy at the very same time, sort of like a musical zebra. Was it bluesy with stripes of thwack, thunk, and strange or was it angular and weird tinted with lines of Americana? Either way Marc’s music was odd and beautiful and generally quite accessible throughout. His atonal extra-instrumental techniques melted invisibly into some very sublime music. The quiet dissonance was an undercurrent to an otherwise completely placid, meandering soliloquy, so much that I kept falling into that warm place that lies just before sleep. The entire second set sounded like a long post-modern lullaby, and it almost worked on me.
I was actually happy for the show to end; it felt good to stand up and stretch some blood back into my bones. After all, I had a two-hour drive back to Ottawa to wake up for.
(As a former part-time small-potatoes concert promoter I fully appreciate the ultra lo-fi zero-cost ticket to this show. Not having professional tickets printed up likely put another $75 or so into Ribot’s pocket, with the added bonus of not unnecessarily supporting professional ticketing agencies. Kudos.)