We have this Margaret Explosion setlist called “Margo2Weed,” a working list that we add a few songs to each time we have a gig, the ones we thought were the best of the night. And then songs on that list get dumped if they don’t hold up. The ones that we still like after repeated listening get put on the website. I trim up the beginning and end, sometimes take a whole two minute section out of the middle and we call it a song. A few of our cds are songs that were pulled from this list.
Of course they aren’t really songs. There’s no verse/chorus/bridge, chord change pattern. But there is something to hang onto and I thought it would be fun to try to describe what that is.
We improvise but we’re not a jam band. There is no wanking and there are no solos. Not because we have rules but because we have found a way to construct a fabric, a weave that we can lost in. Jack Garner, writing in the D&C said, “The Explosion plays with a single-minded purpose and organic oneness that’s most impressive.” That line really nails it for me. A solo, with the others playing support, only puts all the focus on the solo and wrecks the fabric.
We stumbled on a method that works for us. The drums start with the simplest pulse and before a measure has been played, the bass has rescued the drums, established a key and offered phrasing for the sax or guitar to establish a melody. This is where the real magic happens. Spotting the beauty of the melody and giving it room to grow by playing something that compliments it, strengthens it or does it one better is all that matters, the “single-minded purpose .” The song is so fragile at this point. All energy must be focused on respecting that melody and nourishing it. This only works if the whole group does more listening than playing.
Lead lines carry us through the tune but they aren’t solos. It is an “organic oneness” with rhythms shifting and poking in and out. There are just enough focal points to get lost in. And if all goes well we back out of the song as quickly as we got into it, like we know what we’re doing, and then we start all over again.
I wish our batting average was higher but there are always a few pieces of magic in each performance. This song is from a gig a few weeks back and there are plenty more on the Margaret Explosion site. We’ll try to make it happen Wednesday night at the Little. Hope you can stop out.