I don’t really know where to begin with this one, which is really the best thing I can say about anything I write about these days. So often I’m able to easily slice apart the surface level elements of a piece of art I present on this site, but every now and again I’m left gobsmacked. Last Saturday at Aviv was one of those times.
SIMGE has long enjoyed the works of Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen, and there plenty of people in the crowd on Saturday that have a familial stake in their collective that I have gotten to know individually, often by coincidence, over the years. When this invite popped into my inbox from Mama Coco figurehead Oliver Ignatius, I knew I had to make the trek out from South Slope.
One part concert, one part performance art, and one part narrative theatre, leaving an extra .1% leftover to account for the endless multitudes of improvisations, Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen staged The Harmonies, an ambitious project that reminded me why I went to SVA or Bonnaroo every year or even Disney World. It was an immersive, transportive experience with an underlying, fun, sense of danger so thoroughly stripped from the humorless Rock ‘N Roll retreads of so many performances I attend.
Essentially, The Harmonies is staged in a dystopian future type setting, where peace was achieved to the nth degree only to unravel back out onto itself into war-torn chaos. Kind of like that Hunter S. Thompson quote about the high water mark of the 60’s, but I could be wrong. That, seemingly, was the message being relayed as sirens and spotlights alarmingly kicked off the show as everyone hit the ground on a knee.
Ignatius served as master of ceremonies, as he is credited as writer and director of the production, calming the crowd with a meditative chant that was met in kind by Mama Coco players holding microphones moving throughout the crowd. Did I mention there were to drum kits on the sides of the crowd that people jumped on in-between song changes, not keeping in time with each other? That happened, not chronologically, but as the night continued that all started to fall away progressively.
The performances themselves were ecstatic, with the talented cast of the Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen family running the gamut through a multitude of sounds and, yes, harmonies a highlight of which was probably the best damn cover of Bowie’s “Young Americans” I’ve ever heard which, naturally, didn’t so much end as devolve into screaming, feedback laden madness. I know I had a smile on my face.
Much of what else took place that night you would just have had to have seen for yourself to appreciate. At some point the whole story started to blur into wild experimentation fueled by, what I can only assume, by a hearty interest in sonic exploration and that alone.
The only thing I can think to say at the end is, thank you. Thank you to all the boundary pushing and welcoming artists in the Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen family for welcoming me to and staging a performance that I found to be truly invigorating. Please, please do something like that again.
Oh yeah, Mike Petzinger came with, and he’ll pretty much tell you the same in regards to his enjoyment of the show. His photos are below.