That Time I saw....

 Naked City

  9/18/93 Knitting Factory Manhattan NYC

In 1993, I was a resident of Pittsburgh, PA’s north side. My apartment was in an area filled with art and medical school students, most of them, nice people who quickly became my friends. The ‘burgh had a decent music scene and you could see bands like Eviction and Hippy Steamroller in a basement during giant house parties. Through word of mouth, I acquired a drum tryout with Shroud, a death metal outfit transplanted from Buffalo, NY. I jammed with the guys, but I was too much grind and not enough death for Shroud. It all turned out well. Later, they picked up a really great drummer and I gained a couple of new friends, Matt Craig and Mike Kalmbach. That summer, I would road trip to see The Grateful Dead, Phish and on September, 18th 1993, Naked City. Matt was big into death metal, and through Earache records, he procured tickets to the second –to-last performance of John Zorn’s schizophrenic, genre-hopping, Naked City. The drive from Pittsburgh was long, but I slept in the back of Mike’s Toyota pickup.

The Knitting Factory is a famed New York City club that caters to eclectic forms of music and performance. It opened in 1987 in Manhattan and is the Mecca of jazz, hosting numerous festivals every year. In 2000 the building was closed and a new Knitting Factory opened in Brooklyn, as well as Los Angeles, Spokane, Washington, and Boise, Idaho

After a short wait in line and we were inside the smoky, dark room with only instruments illuminated. The band walked out to subdued applause, the kind reserved for this kind of cultural event. John Zorn walks out, bows and says “Good Evening”. The chaos that followed was unlike anything I’ve every witnessed before. Zorn conducted this insanity, pointing to drummer Joey Barron, who immediately responds with a blast beat. The group madly running the gamut of musical styles, stopping and starting on a dime under the direction of Zorn’s flailing arms. The music all sounded like the recorded versions, which is amazing considering the content of just one song. With one finger pointed at him, vocalist Yamatsuka Eye leaps in the air. He battles Zorn’s saxophone, bending and contorting in a seizure-like delivery. His garbled shrieks and screams are legendary, and seeing him perform is something I’ll always remember. They end a song, bow, turn the page in their music book and then again, commence their musical insanity-sanity-insanity. Naked City defines organized chaos and I’m honored to have witnessed them live.


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