Basement Gig For Olivia Tremor Control

Perhaps the recording studio is the best place for these guys.

There are lousy gigs, and then there are really lousy gigs. For The

Olivia Tremor Control, coming off a mini-West Coast tour with Beck where they

played to thousands every night, The Cellar, a dingy room in the basement of

the Student Union at the University of Arizona in Tucson, must have seemed like

the lousiest gig of them all.

The "venue," essentially a poorly-lit lunch

room with a vaguely English Pub decorating scheme (except without the beer or

any beverages, really) was the setting for a Wednesday (February 19) gig by the

psychedelic Georgia band, who were working their way home by playing little

gigs like this one.

How little? Well, counting the sound tech, there were

less than a dozen in the audience, two of whom seemed to be studying for a

mid-term, another of which wandered in and stayed only long enough to find out

the band's name. It was that kind of night.

The sound was terrible, the

lighting was worse and the band had no monitors, which made their usually crisp

four-part harmonies difficult to maintain. But, even though they played less

than a half-hour, the five-piece sound effects laboratory muddled through a set

of Beatles-meets-Mothers-of-Invention-with-a-side-of-Beefheart tunes that were

at times brilliant, at others a jumbled mess, which is about par for the


You could excuse them if they didn't schlep out the

Theremin for this show, but the band did cover the tiny stage with a bevy of

instruments, including a keyboard laden with effects pedals and several

cassette recorders, scores of flutes and toy instruments, a foot-activated tree

of sleigh bells, a clarinet and a box full of shakers, noise-makers and

assorted doo-dads that added some mirth to the somewhat depressing atmosphere.

Even without the monitors, guitarists Will Cullen and Bill Doss weaved

their two-part John and Paul harmonies to great effect on songs like "Memories

of Jacqueline 1906" from their 1996 full-length debut, Music from the

Unrealized Film Script, Dusk at Cubist Castle, while in the background,

cassette recordings of feedback and ambient crackles filled in the spaces

between the flurries of notes.

Several songs degenerated into Mothers-like

barrages of confusing notes, whether from tweaked effects pedals or guitar

feedback or, at one point, everybody picking up a wind instrument (flute,

melodica, clarinet) and just blasting away for two minutes.

Show closer

"Holiday Surprise 1,2,3" could best be described as a psychedelic car crash

between a fluorescent paint truck and an ice cream van, with band members

reaching for whatever odd instrument was close at hand, including an outro

which consisted of a just-recorded tape of the ear-piercing jam at a slower

speed. Needless to say, there was no encore. Some nights are better than