Good/Bad, a collective of conceptual artists based in Brooklyn, get bored easily. They’re like Fluxus with ADD, and their big bore numero uno is the standard rock show. You know, any lineup of two or three or six bands, who let rip for up to an hour each, with much loading and unloading in between, and always at the expense of the clock-watching audience.
But Good/Bad’s impatience with such tradition is dangerous; they depend heavily on the generosity of rock bands to play their regular benefit nights so they can go on funding all their bizarro art. After all, it costs quite a bit to stage an Orwellian dinner party (and for dessert, mass vomiting for the cameras), to construct animatronic kangaroos, or to build an apartment complex inside a museum (so that each visitor can come “home” to a surprise birthday party, personalized and attended by your Good/Bad “pals”). Thus, these artists like morphing the long-suffered band bill into something perverse—not art rock, but definitely rock as art. At any given Good/Bad benefit, it’s not enough that a featured band plays a solid set of amazing songs. Good/Bad make the musicians jump on a trampoline while they play, or perform inside a sealed U-Haul truck while the audience watches on outside monitors, or they have bands switch members with the other bands to have them come up with all-new songs. Sometimes the antics challenge the audience nearly as much as they do the musicians. (Say, when eight acts circle up and play against each other. Ah, the ear schizophrenia.)
Before Good/Bad hit Brooklyn a few years ago, they cultivated this rock-and-roll head-screw in their original hometown of Denton, Texas. The Denton benefit nights proved pivotal for that area’s thriving college-music scene, and even today, Texas bands like Centromatic and Stumptone seem better for it, more adventurous and thoughtful, as though Good/Bad forced the players onto a moving train that just kept tracking out toward uncharted terrain. But up here, Good/Bad have gotten off to a slow start, and only now is the collective starting to use their Williamsburg space for the kind of rock shows they became notorious for down south.
The event on September 6 sounds like it sprang full-grown from the heads of Good/Bad’s leaders, though it’s actually the brainchild of several New York and California musicians, and they call the show Phi-Phenomena. Its concept and goal: that 10 bands from all over the States (and even Europe!) will each play a five-minute set, with one-minute intermissions in between. The music covers the intelligent-noise spectrum, including acts U Can Unlearn Guitar, Ortho, Newton, and Pengo. Added up, it’s one hour of Good/Bad fun. Oh, it’ll be punky and smelly and loud and frenetic and all the other things that make multi-band bills so mind-numbing, but it’ll all be squashed into an edited package, as if Reader’s Digest got its hands on a weekend at CBGB. Perfect for those of us with a reason to get up the next morning.