I must agree with the old fogeys that tweeting during performances is completely unacceptable. However, I thought I'd try tweeting in between performances during my recent trip to the 63rd Ojai Music Festival, a West Coast new music mainstay. Herewith, an annotated compilation of tweets from the weekend, or, if you prefer, a Twit's View of Ojai.
I picked up my car from Enterprise Friday morning. @linernotesdanny later said, "you DROVE, are you INSANE?", but really, I'm not sure there was any better option. I explored taking the train, but this NY Times article, coincidentally published on the same weekend, explains why that would have been folly. And Ojai is an inland community, nestled among mountains, an hour up a winding road from Santa Barbara. So I loaded up the iPod with plenty of driving music, geared up for the long ride and set out on my solo road trip down 101.
Twenty minutes out of SF, the stereo stopped working.
I pulled into this small town, full of horses and spas, and walked over to the Libbey Bowl, an outdoor shell where most of the concerts were to take place. For various reasons I've never been free on this weekend in June, so this was my first experience in Ojai. And my initial, honest, immediate reaction was, well, that the Ojai Music Festival might well deserve slot #127 on the list of Stuff White People Like. Now, this is not meant to trigger a round of hand-wringing about diversity or a bout of white guilt or anything; I'm merely observing that normally the only other times I'm so aware of my own non-whiteness, living in California, is when I get hired to sing in churches where people say things like, "It is meet and right so to do." (It didn't help matters when I was the only person in my vicinity asked, by an usher, to confirm that I wasn't a plebeian interloper from the lawn, trying to snag an unclaimed seat.)
Official Ojai Festival photo
So with that I settled into 48 hours of concert-going, during which I heard seven and a half exceptional concerts. There's an unmistakeable romantic charm about hearing music outdoors in the dark, amid the sounds of nighttime insects and wind blowing through leaves, and Tin Hat, the 4-member composer/improvisor collective, were well suited to the environment with their quiet, Satie-inspired music, created from an assemblage of instruments ranging from violin and guitar to harmonium and the dark-hued contra alto clarinet.
Official Ojai Festival photo
The concert closed with eighth blackbird (the music directors of this year's festival), Rinde Eckert, and Steven Mackey performing the world premiere of Slide, a multimedia staged work structured around a narrative about a psychologist doing a test about human perception: if we look at an image out of focus and are asked to make a decision about what it is, how long after it comes into focus does it take us to recognize the truth, if we were wrong? And since, as it turns out, those who make an early guess take longer to see reality after it emerges than those who have not made a premature decision, what does this reveal about our preconceptions and prejudices generally?
I had somehow confused my two contacts when I put them in before the concert, so appropriately enough the whole thing was a little fuzzy throughout. But I could see enough to know (or did I make guesses based on preconceptions? hmmm...) that Rinde sang, acted, and danced his dance; Steve played electric guitar and narrated the tale; a projected slide, slide of, slide of a dog, slide of a dog running, dog running, running (with Steve's slide guitar underlay) was impossible to ignore; and eighth blackbird acted, moved props, gave a serious go at rocking out while singing and playing an electric bass, turned lights on and off... oh, and played their instruments like fiends, as they always do. But the most memorable part of the piece was not when the extroverted theatrical machine was in motion; rather, it was at the end, when it moved into the quiet, introspective place where Tin Hat had started, with Rinde softly intoning in his falsetto "and I sleep here like a baby...", permuting the phrase over and over, lulling us into the night.
P.S. I do not recommend staying in downtown Ventura.