Ray Bong

The Mermaid Lounge

November 05, 2004

As Ray Bong scattered anxiously around his keyboards looking for a solution, bassist/knob twiddler Mad Mike took the silence as an opportunity to spread love. He took the mic and said, "I'm attracted to everyone in this room...y'all are a good looking bunch." Mike said this disarming sentence with the same shit-eating "I could give a fuck" expression he played the whole set with. I have one or two friends that act like Mike--perpetually laid-back and above all the rushing clutter. People who have possibly taken their drug intake over the top. People who place their cigarette on the ashtray like fragile porcelain but will also stare into the bigger guy's face and tell him he's gay just to get a rise because he hates him.

Anyway, Mike was the sideman to Bong's crazy improvisatory experimentalism. Bong was that bearded, open-minded, middle-aged man you'll see at Bonnaroo. While everyone his age is working on 10% of the musical curiosity they had as a younger person, Bong has the same amount or has improbably procured more(maybe not so improbably if you consider mind expansion). Bong tried to make linear songs out of all the electronic toys he had at his disposal--synthesizers that laid down beats or voices, real and electronic bongos, guitar pedals that produced blips and bleeps, and his Superstar 1000 rainbow-fretted guitar. Many times it looked like he wasn't sure which instrument he would turn to next, and this was the best part of the concert--the energy and passion which Bong attacked his instruments with. There were no repeated choruses. There was no way to tell what was coming next.

Bong's speedy, ADD-addled approach was also his downfall. Two times there were five minute breaks in between songs because Bong had unwittingly turned off an instrument or disconnected a cord. He ran and tripped on a deadline around the stage looking for an answer. One audience member situated at the bar close to the band whispered advice--"You need to play a song"--knowing the crowd was probably getting fed up. But, there wasn't much of a crowd, anyway--maybe 10 people--so, no big deal. It was very disarming to see such a small number of people at The Mermaid on a Friday night. Still, Bong got applause after he signaled the end of a song with a raise of his arm and a whoop.

Most of Bong's songs turned out to be less than efficently gelled, but the sounds he made with Mike were worth the frustration. When things did gel, it was great. Bong let it all hang out when he got up on a chair and took a solo on his Superstar guitar. He gyrated on the chair and was dangerously close to falling off a few times. There didn't seem to be any method to his madness on the guitar, just like with some other things. This was the concert to show anyone that they can make music if they have the drive.

Another great moment was when Mike played a wonderful progression on his banjo. His note selection was very enjoyable. I was really impressed by the journey he took with it while Bong's beats fit well in between.

For a childlike local freakout.


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