Last summer at the Pasture Music Fest and Jubilee--a gathering of the drone-loving, freak-folk-fumbling renaissance men and women of the day on a hillside farm about an hour west of Madison, Wis. --a blossoming occurred. In an awakening, a few wildflowers cracked the underground cement. The Skaters, an ultra-obscure Los Angeles ecstatic feedback duo, and hosts Davenport, a shifting eight-member bearded posse, stomped the stage from dusk until the crickets ceased. Together, they gave nod to the sound of things to come.
Since their farm appearance, The Skaters and Davenport have continued in the cloudy zone of subterranean music with worldly ga-ga praise and over a dozen recordings released or reissued by a heft of oversea and stateside imprints. In an attempt to coalesce other like-minded tokers, the two have combined for a massive U.S. tour that, at points, combines forces with parallel Finnish practitioners Islaja, Lau Nau and Kuupuu.
The Skaters' method of in-the-red, crackly drone is a fresh-meat version of Metal Machine Music. With a trunk full of miniature amps, broken consumer goods and microphones, the duo--James Ferraro and Spencer Clark--seem to collapse into the mind's eye of interstellar wandering. Jamming is what The Skaters do, though instead of The Dead's bluegrass/Tex-Mex mix, they swim between the pulsing tones of Steve Reich and the clangy, lustrous overtones of Harry Partch.
But Davenport edge closer to acoustic caterwaul. They refer to this strong, string-band stomp as "free country."While lacking the heft grooves of contemporaries Sunburned Hand of the Man or No Neck Blues Band, Davenport's Clay Ruby steers the reins into uplifting spirals of blues holler and muted electronic undertows. At the right moment, Phish-heads could possibly log into Davenport's worldview--even if they wouldn't last the entire show.
Now is customarily the time to combine quotes from the artists to peer into their naturalistic vision and the reasoning behind their ritualistic approach. But The Skaters and Davenport don't bother themselves with the technology to facilitate such interactions with others. They're actually too busy maneuvering a canoe, fitted with redwood bark, as transportation out to Nightlight.
Davenport and The Skaters play at Nightlight in Chapel Hill on Monday, Sept. 5. Cover is $5, and music begins at 10 p.m. Finnish bands may be in tow.