Deep, alluring hues of blue, magenta and purple lights adorn the stage rig. Nestled in between a tall apartment complex on one side and The Broad museum on the other, the small, warm and personal, grass covered public outdoor plaza is cradled, nurturing the happenings in its quarters. Many are dressed to impress in attendance of The Broad’s first summer program titled Nonobject(ive): Summer Happenings at The Broad. The Broad showcases important influences of leading contemporary artists through music and performance with its first performance of the night; Sparkle Division.
Erratic percussive samples, brass loops, smooth Rhodes chords and deep, milky bass are the primary sounds accompanying the duo. The saxophonist plays spastic, seemingly erroneous and random riffs to experimental soundscapes orchestrated by the accompanying DJ. Fog machines act as a third member to the performance, at times attempting to steal the show with its sparse yet opaque, misty clouds. The music, however, is a chilled glass of jazz, house and EDM fusion overdubbed with ice cubes of the underground beat scene and garnished with a sequins jacket and dancing from the sax player.
Other performances occurring in the small, cozy and even more intimate Oculus Hall include Macy Rodman, a transgender woman singing in a manner that seems exclusive only to those: home alone, using a brush as a microphone, screaming lyrics, crouching in fetal and prancing to and fro from one side of the room to the other moments. Random video game graphics play in the background. The room is dark yet small DJ lights provide the dancing and energy that the crowd lacks. Jlin also plays a DJ set that meshes hip hop beats, glitches, and heavy bass; a jambalaya of loops and sound bites drizzled over ‘footwork’ beats, a genre and dance style from Chicago. In the lobby of the Broad plays a video encompassing binaural beats, meditation and imagery slightly off-kilter to the lighthearted festivities just outside the museum walls. Black Lives Matters flashes in bold letters in the video sequence, meditative chants, imagery of police making arrests, marching activists, pharaohs and pyramids drape the smooth concrete walls of the museum. Many stop to listen and stare intently at the wall of which the video is projected.
Following the glitz of Sparkle Division on the Broad Plaza is Rostam; a quartet sits armed with violins and cellos enhancing the heavily electric studio tracks with organic, analog sound. Opening with “Eos”, high reverb, heavy claps and soul energize the large sounding track. Using his voice as an instrument of sorts, Rostam’s lyrics dance along the slow and steady ‘boom-kat’ of the drums and wet, airy synth pads. Simultaneously, he narrates his melody with chants, stressed words and staccato syllables intermittently silencing himself to let the track breathe before decorating the song with more chanting.
Tinkering bells, a simple, raw and unprocessed drum track and an eight bit inspired synth rain on the crowd in the next song titled “Not My Fault”. The bass thumps heavily as Jack, who is also the conga percussionist, dances to the performance. Dry and unprocessed lyrics iterate “You keep saying the same thing over and over…its’n not my fault…” Indeed Rostam seems to be drawing from personal experiences in this piece. But even more personal is “Gravity Don’t Pull Me”; an aggressively dominant arpeggiator layers the hard hitting 808 drums and trap inspired hi-hats. Clarity about this song’s muse is obtained as Rostam reflects on his interactions with a romantic interest “I messed things up and it broke my heart” but even more light is shed on the deeply emotional lyrics with “I messed things up and I broke his heart”. “Gravity Don’t Pull Me” is self-proclaimed, one of Rostam’s “gayest” songs.
The mood shifts, and the crowd cheers for the introduction of “Wood” also self-proclaimed, as his most “Persian” song. Equipped with a guitar, he sings to the strum of the quartet, and the backdrop of traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation. Jack, the dancer mentioned previously, plays along on the congas as Rostam showcases a guitar solo. Roster showcases his dynamic producing capabilities with a stark change of pace and musical style from the other songs performed.
Altogether, Summer Happenings at The Broad keep summer nights anything but usual. One can find a myriad of sources of entertainment here. The museum’s exhibits are open, there is a bar, and two different stages to visit. This is not an event to miss if seeking great production, music, art and food which can be found at the neighboring restaurant, Otium. It looks like a promising lineup of events this summer. There’s something here for everyone.