Post written by Richard Webner.
The small concert room at Café Berlin had the air of an eccentric scholar. The stage was decorated with antique furniture and a portrait of Oscar Wilde, and many audience members wore old-fashioned hats and facial hair. It was the perfect atmosphere for the four offbeat musical acts that played there on the first night of the True/False Film Fest.
The show began with a performance by Flux Bikes, a duo of twin brothers Marty and Rob Frye. Biking is central to the brothers’ music and lifestyle. They like to cycle between gigs, even when the distances measure hundreds of miles. Their plan to ride from St. Louis to Columbia on the Katy Trail was halted by the snowstorm.
The brothers began their show hunched over, tapping the spokes and wheels of their bike with drumsticks. With the help of a looping machine, they created an intricate, exotic beat. Marty Frye then stood up to play an ethereal melody on his flute, which the looping machine gradually turned into a chorus.
Flux Bikes was followed by Paul Rucker, a masterful cellist and audience-banterer.
“Any requests?” Rucker began.
“Free Bird!” an audience member yelled.
Rucker played the riff from “Smoke on the Water,” provoking great laughter.
Then Rucker got serious, closing his eyes and playing Bach. But he quickly transformed the melody. Rucker uses his cello to make sounds you’ve probably never heard from a cello before. He alternated between playing traditionally, plucking the strings furiously, tapping it, stroking the wood, scraping the strings with his fingers generating a rubbery resonance and putting his bow between the fingerboard and the body creating a crinkly sound. He even grabbed a drumstick and stuck it between the strings for a quick vibration. A looping machine merged these textures into a contemplative soundscape.
Rucker is passionate about social justice, and he took time between songs to discuss the equality of women. One of his songs was about a lynching, in which he rubbed the strings to produce a slithery beat.
Most of the audience sauntered out of the small concert room between sets to refresh their beers or smoke cigarettes on the patio. They returned when they heard the next act, Syna So Pro, doing her sound check. A St. Louis-based one-woman band with an Afro the size of a beach ball, Syna So Pro played a funkier, more upbeat set. The audience, which had been sitting in chairs or Indian-style on the floor, stood up at the beginning of her first song.
After laying a beat on her keyboard, Syna So Pro grabbed an electric guitar to play a riff, which a looping machine repeated. She swung the guitar to her side and used her right hand to play the keyboard, then grabbed a bass guitar. When she put down the bass to sing at the mic, it sounded like a band was behind her.
While adjusting equipment between songs, Syna So Pro had humorous conversations with recordings of herself, a technique that she confessed afterwards was a method to keep the attention of the audience.
“We can do this, we can do this,” the recording said, while Syna So Pro jumped up and down in what she calls her “nervous dance.”
The show ended with local band Dark Blue Dark Green, who seemed thrilled to play True/False for the first time. Lead singer Ben Falby often turned perpendicular to the audience and rocked back and forth on his toes like a boxer. Between songs, he sipped beer from a plastic cup.
Jack Falby, Ben’s brother, played an acoustic guitar, and their cousin later joined them on violin. They usually use a looping machine, Ben Falby said, but decided to leave it behind for the performance and play acoustic versions of their songs.
Before beginning the first song, Ben Falby explained that in addition to playing before two movies, the band would set up on street corners and play for quarters.
A rowdy member of the crowd got impatient and cut him off.
“Play your guitar!” he yelled.
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