PORTLAND, OREGON _ And now for something completely different ...
No, there wasn't a guitar in sight. But this was rock 'n' roll.
Negativland, a sonic-collage, multi-media, socio-political art collective from San Francisco that's well into their fourth decade as an entertainment unit, headlined a show at Portland's Crystal Ballroom Friday night.
Negativland is an unlikely crew of revolutionaries, all four members wearing gray plaid shirts that might have come off the rack at K-Mart. But don't be fooled. They are subversive.
Employing sound and video from TV news, radio talk shows, government training movies, commercials, old educational films, all chopped up, manipulated and distorted on top of electronic noises and sound effects, this show the group has named "Content" was thought-provoking, hilarious, incomprehensible, annoying and almost mystical -- sometimes all at once.
They take all these messages -- political, commercial, religious education -- that we're bombarded with constantly, throw it into an electronic blender and create new, frequently hilarious art.
More than once an old Frank Zappa lyric popped into my overwhelmed mind: "American way, try to explain / Scab of a nation, driven insane."
Here are a few notes I pecked out on my iPhone during the show. If any of this makes some se to you, please report to the Department of Homeland Security:
"Leave the premises"
"Never forget the fact that we are all just content..."
(Footage of mashing potatoes with M.A.S.H. logo occasionally flashing. Chopping vegetables with an LP)
A bearded guy, could pass for a scientist in a 1950s B movie, talking about Congress considering a plan that involves melting the North Pole.
Report on a county fair. Guy starts talking about oil wells.
Gun toting granny on wheel chair.
An angry woman, looks kind of like a Fox News blonde, angrily ranting that she spends all day on Facebook but NOBODY SHARES MY POSTS! At one point she yells, "Get the fuck off the Internet!"
"Guns and the bible carved this nation out of the wilderness."
"It's easy to imagine the end of the world but you cannot imagine the end of capitalism."
The word "Cadillac" is put on a loop, sped up. Becomes a bizarre chant.
A distorted ad for the Playboy Channel. Train going in and out of tunnel A Guy talks about some kind of. interference wrecking his orgasm on the Playboy Channel.
"This statement is false. This statement is true ...."
And now the voices of Negativland are stuck in my head.