There are two big reasons to be excited about Vermont-born, singer-songwriter Sam Amidon’s show at 9 p.m. tomorrow night in downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center (CAC).
First is Amidon himself, whose records combine beautifully rendered, hauntingly sung, traditionalist-minded Folk songs with unusual arrangements. In performance his show can take on a vividly theatrical bent, what with his storytelling and other narrative asides plus the occasional surprise, like an R. Kelly cover. In fact, the show in the building’s lower-level “black box” space has a theatrical title: Home Alone Inside My Head. (Tickets are $12 in advance at www.contemporaryartscenter.com or $15 at the door.)
But the other reason is that the event marks the debut booking of the CAC’s new performance curator, Drew Klein, and shows CAC’s renewed commitment to bringing cutting-edge, progressive arts performers from disciplines other than visual arts to Cincinnati. CAC at one time brought musicians like Velvet Underground, Laurie Anderson and Cecil Taylor here.
In so starting up this program, CAC is attempting to send the city a message: Adventurous arts programming shouldn’t just be confined to low-profile fringe venues, branded forever as mere “alternatives” to that which is well-established, tradition-bound and better funded. The avant-garde should be recognized and supported as the way of the future, not a momentary diversion.
“Having CAC come in provides a certain legitimacy to this type of work,” Klein says. In particular, he thinks CAC can take advantage of the growing interest in New Music (that which combines Pop, Rock, Classical and Jazz) that the annual MusicNow festival has been bringing to Cincinnati.
The CAC received a three-year grant from Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation to start the program, and Klein was hired in mid-summer. “We don’t see it as pilot project; we’re planning to fully implement it for years to come,” says Raphaela Platow, CAC’s director and chief curator. “We’re taking a proactive role in securing funding for the continuation of the program now.”
A native of Findlay, Ohio, the 29-year-old Klein has a degree in electronic media from UC’s College-Conservatory of Music and was in the Cincinnati band Cathedrals from 2004-2006. After that, he moved to Barcelona where he met his future wife Solrun, who was from Iceland. They subsequently moved to New York, where he worked for Cinetic Media, a sales agent for independent films.
“My strengths are in music and film,” Klein says, acknowledging that he’ll also have to learn to keep up with dance, spoken-word, performance art and multimedia. “I like to find new creative outlets, new works that are asking different questions and see what’s being done to push buttons.” To that end, he departed Cincinnati last week to attend Performa in New York, a festival of newly commissioned performance-art pieces.
The plans are for one major performance per month, starting with Amidon, whose cross-pollinating influences are a good example of what Klein is looking for. Amidon’s latest album, I See the Sign, reworks Folk ballads and other Americana material. Yet he partners on the record with composer Nico Muhly, a past MusicNow guest, and Icelandic producer Valgeir Sigurosson.
He’d like to bring here the German composer/performer known as Hauschka, who follows Henry Cowell’s and John Cage’s legacy in “prepared piano” work. Also on his list is Iceland-based Australian composer Ben Frost. For December, he’s looking at Lady Rizo, a New York-based singer whose shows mix elements of comedy, cabaret and burlesque.
The CAC will be looking for all sorts of performance programming from all over. “We want to have a global program touching on all different continents,” Klein says.
CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: [email protected]