El Chico Blanco, the band of Long Island City improvisational stalwarts Steve Blanco, Anthony Riscica, and Geoff Gersh, played an inspired set last Saturday night at LIC’s The Creek & The Cave. After a full set earlier in the evening, the group was joined at midnight by LPS on turntables to improvise a full score to the 1982 movie Tron. It was an appropriate choice: the film’s long awaited sequel is being released this year, and more to the point, the band’s gamut of sounds is perfectly suited to the movie’s iconography.
The neighborhood was out in full force for the show. The band passed around glow sticks for audience members to wear as their own facsimiles of the suits worn by the program avatars in the electronic world of the movie. When the lights went out for the performance, the space was lit up with neon halos, like a vision of the future from the 1980s. The range of sounds the group worked with was less ambiguously contemporary, tending towards precise layering of grooves and spectral lines instead of hazy synthesizer nostalgia.
The group was wise in choosing not to reference the iconic themes of the original score by Wendy Carlos. In their place, the group improvised an original score in their familiar style. LPS added scratching effects and looped vocal samples of the film’s dialogue on top of the band’s heavily effect-laden guitar riffs, keyboard sounds, and drum rhythms. The band shifted fluidly from groove to groove, responding to the film’s plot and visual themes with new motives and shifts in timbre.
The set was split in half by a brief intermission. The break came at a seemingly arbitrary point in the movie, and it highlighted the show’s one flaw. Even though the band continually engaged with the film on the level of its images and editing, the story of this very diagetic feature was pretty much left aside. The dialogue of the film was muted along with the rest of the film’s original soundtrack, and this made the progression of the narrative difficult to follow for spectators not already familiar with the film. It was a necessary omission, perhaps, but one that made this more of a multimedia music event than a film screening with music.
The evening was an impressive showing by a band that’s already become a fixture of the scene. The band has been exploring a sound world beyond the scope of all but the most cutting-edge musicians, and the Tron event saw them in appropriately idiomatic form. It was an ambitious, engaging night of music and film, and hopefully a sign of what’s to come. El Chico Blanco plays at Domaine Wine Bar every Tuesday evening at 9:30, and you can also stay updated with the band on Facebook.
Drew Jaegle is an LIC resident and musician. He is currently working on a new rock-oriented project with his band, The Icons, and on material with a hip-hop group that is still to be named.