doktorjohn.com

VAST at Highline Ballroom

Filed under: Live Music — doktorjohn June 2, 2009 @ 2:42 am


May 9, 2009
by Doktor John
New York

Californian musical prodigy Jon Crosby a.k.a. VAST (or “Visual Auditory Sensory Theater”), accompanied by some really fine musicians appeared in New York in the Meat-packing District’s relatively new venue, the Highline Ballroom. This is a very comfortable venue, small enough to let all spectators feel like they are up-close-and-personal with the band. Unfortunately, this also attests to VAST’s declining popularity.

Once a big draw but dropped by Elektra Records in 2002, Crosby has had to resort to supporting VAST on his own independent label, 2blossoms. Crosby is a gifted but underappreciated composer and performer of great music. Creator of a bombastic style somewhere in between Nine Inch Nails and U2, his compositions are more coherent than the former and vocals more exhilarating than the latter. Crosby brings industrial music to a level that is genuinely symphonic.

The opening band, Into The Present was a real gem to come upon. And, man, do I regret not having bought their CD or having found a way to trace their link on the Internet. Fronted by a very intense, blues-tinted male tenor (a handsome, skinny youth with long, black hair), driven by a fanatical drummer and accompanied by two dark-haired beauties on bass guitar and cello, Into The Present’s looks, their style, their musical talents were excellent, reminiscent of Mars Volta, if only the latter practiced more or gave a shit about the audience.

Into The Present was a hard act to follow, but nothing could match the welcome Jon Crosby received from the ardent fans, many but not all of whom sported heavy-duty punk outfits and Goth attire. VAST opened with a wall of sound, guitar-driven, with all the auditory spaces filled in by loud-and-clear vocals, electronic effects and exotic samples over irresistible, mechanical rhythms. The effect was a true tsunami of sound— luscious sensory overload— but magnificent to experience

Crosby’s physical appearance has changed. Although he’s still only in his twenties, he is now sporting a double chin and stocky build, causing audible groans of disappointment from some female fans that remembered him as a slender, California pretty-boy. But so, too, has his musical style grown. He sang the hard-edged “You Should Have Known I’d Leave” from his most recent work “Generica” —a down-loadable collection that’s not on CD— and from all his prior albums, including “Music for People,” “V.A.S.T.” and “Nude.” A few slower ballads and one song with saxophone accompaniment added variety to the event. The best-received songs were those from the early albums, featuring eerie samples of chant, such as “Here” and “Free.” The beauty of Vast is that you don’t have to have any prior knowledge of the material to be totally caught up in their mesmerizing, saturated blizzard of sound.

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