Sapphire Supper Club, Orlando • 4.14.98
Eileen M. Cannaday
Everyone but myself seems to have their knickers in a massive twist over Tortoise. Yes, it’s good stuff, it also fails to blow me away. The recent live show at the Sapphire was indeed impressive, save for the utter lack of oxygen in the room. Oval (I’ve heard no less than three different opinions on the proper pronunciation of this name) opened: a young man in lots of baggy clothes (it must have been at least 80 degrees in there, and certainly 2X capacity), with his left hand in his pocket and his right hand on his mouse (is this a bellwether for the youth of the near-future? — well, except for the fact he was using a Mac). He was running the live show off a PowerBook and some sort of external drive. A number of people seemed enthralled with the vaguely interesting aural textures created by this “Oval,” but it was nothing worth remarking on too much.
I believe the Indie Hype Machine itself, and not necessarily Tortoise’s music, generates many of these rabid fans. Perhaps this is best evidenced by the excessive amount of loud talking going on during the show. At one point, some of my companions were reproved, “Shut up!!” by the sound guy. That sort of sums it up. Ironic: music only properly enjoyed with full concentration failing to hold attention and resulting in profuse chatter. People enjoying the scene more than the show. The sound was terrific, earth-shaking bass domination as a prologue to the tinkling sonorities ahead. Dueling marimbas (vibes? xylophones?), revolving drummers, and dubby moments were the highlights of this (spare me the meaningless “post-rock” nomenclature) wide-breadthedly-jazz performance. Perhaps the ideal compliment to Tortoise’s fluid music is the absence of distracting vocals, leaving the listener’s mind unclouded with someone else’s personal issues and ideologies.