Sat August 10 Blackbird
Sun August 11 Disjecta
Picture yourself on an asteroid. On the asteroid is a glass dome. In this dome is a circus tent. Beneath this tent is a carnival with tiny monkeys in tiny astronaut suits. Conducting the rhythm of the animals, dancers, and rapt audience, is the Experimental Dental School. Jesse Hall strums his guitar-o-bass with the guile of a ringmaster, complete with fez, chair, and bullwhip. His wife, Shoko, stands behind the organ, pulling creepy sonic rabbits from the top hat by her sampler. And in the back, the drum-hitter/contraption-ator, Ryan, plays waltz after waltz to keep the circus running the circumference of the crater ad infinitum.
Sure, this is just the fantasy that ran through my mind the first time I saw EDS, but it's not so far from the truth. At times, the real show is stranger than the dreams that they weave. Take, for example, the skill with which Mr. Hall wields a small silver dildo against his six-string, only to drop it to the floor a moment later. It vibrates all the way across the room into a neglected corner, while he turns to sing into a bullhorn aimed at the guitar's pick-ups. Shoko stares ahead like a marionette, striking organ keys with Houdini-precision and ritualistic cadence. Behind her, Ryan grins wickedly and tweaks his moustache.
The lunacy began three years ago with Jesse and Shoko's previous band, Meyow, which prowled around Chico, CA and the Bay Area until its first life expired. Shoko decided to move from drums and metal back to the organ; henceforth, the group began a second life (that's seven more to go for those who are counting) as the Experimental Dental School. A dozen drummer tryouts later, and EDS began to play, record, and most recently, tour.
With their self-released debut CD, Hideous Dance Attack, in hand, EDS will be rocking the Blackbird and Disjecta Bakesale (snake oil brownies?) this very weekend. Prepare to move and shudder, because a good three-quarters of their tunes are waltzes. Jesse defends: "Though I love to rock the waltz, about half the stuff we have has other beats...we are working on a Hawaiian version of 'Push It,' and I look forward to doing more sci-fi and burlesque-type stuff, and some horror stylings."
In these post-OOPS! Tour times, it's refreshing to see a band that can offer up so much intrigue and intensity in performance, while still retaining that oft-forgotten commodity--songs. Jesse obviously agrees. "I like when bands do something more--put something out there that stimulates several senses--anyone who breaks out of a set convention and does something inventive... be it a performer or a chef or a purse maker. I like this. But in the end, I am most stimulated by sound and vibration. When I was a baby, my dad would put me between two bass speakers and play. It must have felt so good. Now when I play, sometimes I go so far away--maybe back there. I don't know."
When Jesse's head isn't between the speakers, it's often in front of the computer screen. Online communities provide bands like EDS with tips and tricks on where to find those house parties and artist lofts to rock when the club scene feels tired. Regarding one of the more elite online cliques, Hall quips "Spockmorgue is silly. Sometimes it reminds me of Jerry Springer. Especially when there is talk of skin heads." Silly or not, it's a resource that's come in handy.
Where else will the Dental School be setting up new clinics? "Japan or Europe next summer. Japan is easy. Shoko has a van waiting for us there. Her dad owns a sports shop and will print t-shirts. But we really want to go to Europe. My best friend is in Poland right now and says it is amazing. Just to keep playing music for people I guess. This is the best." So step right down to one of these events and place your head in the lion's mouth. You'll have the chance to laugh and dance, and of course Henry the Horse, well, you know.