The greatest live music performance I ever saw was King Crimson at The Supper Club in New York on November 13, 2000. It was a combination of virtuosity, power, energy, and inventiveness that I have never seen matched. Tuesday’s show came close.

Renaud Garcia-Fons is one of those musicians that I would never have discovered without the internet. On a bass-related bulletin board, there was a thread that mentioned him with an embedded youtube clip, Berimbass. (Take a minute and check it out.)

I am an electric bass player. I have fiddled with the double bass and have a small working knowledge of how to play the instrument. I am sure you can tell, even if you have no musical knowledge, acoustic bass or otherwise, that what he is doing is something very special. You can see how fluid he is moving from plucking to bow and you can recognize the effortlessness with which he solos. That video, impressive as it may be, only begins to scratch the surface.

Joe’s Pub was the perfect venue for his New York debut. Despite the sound and feel of the subway running underneath, it is the perfect mix of bar and concert hall. Small enough to feel intimate, but large enough to let the sound move about in the air, it was a wonderful place to experience what he and his Arcoluz trio had to present.

Renaud was on the five string upright. Kiko Ruiz was on the acoustic guitar (described by Renaud as “flamenco guitar”), and Pascal Rollando on percussion. The percussion setup was great. Pascal sat on the caj√≥n, alternating playing it with brush and then with his hands. He had two shakers on foot pedals, two bongos, a djembe, an udu, and various other stuff. The sound they created cannot be properly captured on CD. Don’t get me wrong, the CD’s are wonderful, I own a few and listen to them with great enjoyment. Nevertheless, their live performance is another animal entirely. Think of the difference between hearing a symphony on CD and sitting in the pit.

They improvised, combined songs, played medleys, took solos… and it was all astounding. Aside from the technical aspect, the songs are rich with style and variation. They combine sounds of flamenco, rock, African music, and classical.

Thankfully, one of my friends and a parent of one of my students came to the show with other friends. They were all equally amazed.

One of the things I enjoy, though I’m not sure if I enjoy it as a musician or just as a person, is introducing someone to something new. A few people got to experience this incredible performance with me and they can hold onto it as a unique experience. It cannot be replicated. It is the group’s first NY performance. It is the first time we are seeing them live. It is a moment in time that can never happen again. I’m very glad that I was there.

Additional Links:
Renaud Garcia-Fons homepage
Joe’s Pub website

NYT Review of King Crimson at the Supper Club