I don’t think anyone knew exactly what to expect from Beaver Nelson’s Macro/Micro show, but I think it is safe to say that everyone left with their minds at least a little bit blown. It’s a record, but it’s also a movie. It’s a movie, but it’s also a show. The songs of Macro/Micro have a vision, and that vision is expressed in the movie that accompanies it. Each song has its own dream, sometimes a literal translation as in the party scenes that accompany “They’re Really Doing Funerals Right These Days,” sometimes much more figurative. After completing both these projects Nelson decided the way to tour this record was to present the whole work, so he re-recorded the soundtrack with the vocals and his guitar taken out. To each gig he brings a projector, a screen and a couple guitars. He sits in front of the screen and presses play on his computer, at which point there is no choice but to go forward.
It works for two reasons. One, because the songs on Macro/Micro are really good- catchy, instantly familiar chunks of pure pop-folk. By the end of the aforementioned “Funerals” I was singing along, even though I hadn’t heard it before. “Natural Man Does Not Exist” and “Your Subconscious Does the Dirty Work for Free” are others that stuck in my head after the show, reinforced by the video images that accompanied them, often featuring Nelson himself in starring or supporting roles. In addition to the gleeful black-clad party goers in “Funerals” (as in "they're really doing funerals right these days") Nelson appears in the background, a dirt-covered grave digger. In “Natural Man” he dons a pair of bug-eyed goggles for the expedition. Which points out the second reason why it worked, the movie is genius. The most memorable scene was an entire song’s worth of people walking. What made it remarkable is that it was their shadows that were being filmed to look as though they were the ones walking, seldom is an actual person seen. Absolutely visually stunning. It was what everyone was asking about after the show.
I always video my house concerts, I like having a record of all the amazing artists who have come through the basement, but I wasn’t sure how this one would turn out. Nelson supported the idea; he said he would love to have a way to show venues exactly what they were getting when they booked his show. What I didn’t realize was that he had never actually seen the show. It usually takes a few weeks (or months) for me to convert the tapes to DVD. This one I did that night after deciding it would be better to have it right then than to send him a copy. We ended up watching half of the show over again, and I was impressed at how good it sounded. And he was delighted to finally see what we were seeing.
It seems I have a way of bringing local musicians out of self-imposed retirement. Sleeping in the Aviary’s Michael Sienkowski hadn’t played a solo show in over two years before playing a truly excellent opening set for Walter Salas Humara earlier this summer, and the Blueheels’ Robby Schiller had been pretty quiet before debuting a whole batch of new songs at the house. Tonight it was Marty Finkel (who Nelson kept calling “young master Finkel” to my amusement) who hadn’t played a show in I don’t even know how long. The set was a mix of old songs and ones I hadn’t heard, and he sounded great. Those who hadn’t seen him before raved about him later. I can’t think him enough for playing, and for getting his whole family out for the show. Also big thanks to Trevor Hopkins for being my last minute sound guy, Nelson said it was the best sound he’d had all tour.
Hopefully if Nelson decides to bring his show back to the basement enthusiastic word-of-mouth will get more people out for it.