A review from the Web site of Beanbenders
September 6, 1995
Bob Ostertag solo and with Members of Mr. Bungle
Ostertag began the concert with a relatively short (perhaps 30 minute) solo set, in which he utilized material from ''queer riots'' in San Francisco. He manipulated samples with two midi-batons, giving the performance more drama than the typical electronics set (which remind me of nothing so much as a day in the office, which is perhaps why so little of this music has appeared at Beanbender's to date). Standing facing the audience, arms raised, expression relatively blank but with wide eyes, I felt as though we were the orchestra. Given the nature of the material - the ebb and flow of a riot - the piece had quite an emotional impact in this presentation. At first many of the sounds were distant and filtered, and it was difficult to be certain that they were even human in origin. Gradually the texture heated up to something close to an inferno, and still a sense of other-worldliness prevailed. Ostertag's interactive manipulations were subtle. He occasionally looped a segment, raised and lowered the pitch, or drew a sound out in length. The music was interesting enough, its progression organic and dramtic, that I didn't find myself wondering much about how it was constructed.
After a break, Ostertag played a beautiful solo improvisation, utilizing samples of the great experimental vocalist Phil Minton. He moved leisurely through a collection of different textures, many of which were barely recognizable as vocal; some sounding like dripping water through a long pipe, others being more percussive.
Finally, Trey Spruance (guitar and weird old synth), Trevor Dunn (bass), and Danny Heifitz (drums) of Mr. Bungle joined Ostertag for a set. Beanbender's has been plagued by a landlord who occasionally books events upstairs, necessitating lower volume levels until 10 PM. Starting around 9:30, the quartet worked in lower levels for a while, and (consequently?) produced some very sensitive interactive music. Heifitz showed an ability to make a lot of music with a very few sparse gestures, working with the individual drums and cymbals with great subtlety, while still (sometimes) maintaining a beat. Each member of the quartet left plenty of space for the other three; no one needed to show off. When the set ended, many of the audience vociferously asked for an encore, but Ostertag was tired. A very successful evening!
Thanks to Star Leigh Wall