Djam Karet - Live At NEARFest 2001

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Nearfest Records
Catalog Number: NFR0002
Format: CD
Total Time: 65:25:00

NEARfest 2001's line up had many bands that excited me, but perhaps none so much as Djam Karet. Here was a local band ? based a stones throw from me ? who always seemed to play live locally on days that I could not attend. And yet, here they were playing the weekend of June 23 ? 24 on the other side of the continent ? only their second East Coast performance -- and I could make it! I even said as much ? awkwardly ? to Mike Henderson (guitars) and Aaron Kenyon (bass) who were seated closest to me as I stood in the autograph line. Of course, 3 years later, I was on the verge of fan-girlness (again) at CalProg as I commented to Chuck Oken, Jr. (drums) that I had been a long time fan of the band and of his store in Claremont, the oft mentioned by me Rhino Records. This as I was buying this very CD, Live At NEARfest 2001 - the second release on the newly formed NEARfest Records (number one is Nathan Mahl - Live At NEARfest 1999; though one might think of the joint release Steve Hackett's Live Archive NEARfest as the first one).

Ah, the memories, none of which are captured on this disk, of course; the reason you're reading. Well, simply put, their set was excellent and here's the proof! I am biased, of course, because many of my favourite pieces were included. They kicked things off with "Forbidden By Rule" from The Devouring, and played a selection of tunes from three of their past albums, including the above ? Reflections From The Firepool (1) and Burning The Hard City (2). The band also played what was then new material from New Dark Age and Ascension. Kenyon had just joined the band, filling in for Henry J Osbourne. Though is look was more alternative metal/nu-metal, his playing, as you can hear here, doesn't give DJ that kind of feel. It's Kenyon you hear introducing tracks and talking to the crowd.

As a live document, Live At NEARFest 2001 is excellent ? the guitar solos from Gayle Ellett and Henderson coming through loud and clear, even the more textured rhythmic phrases. In fact, one can also clearly hear the keyboards Ellett plays, too. When the band is in high gear, it's the bass, drums, and percussion that dominate but don't overwhelm the mix (though I don't recall it sounding that way being there?). And they were tight, in tune with each other (that I do recall). "Burning The Hard City" has a warm and sultry feel, the perfect track to end a set on really, as the guitar solo has that "riding off into the sunset" kind of feel. Of course, that's only the beginning, as this piece also rocks, with just a hint of a Hendrixian groove. The day goes from warm to sweltering quickly, with electricity in the air? Well, there's energy from the first notes that doesn't really stop, even during the calmer pieces like "The Hanging Tree," from Ascension, a relaxed mellow guitar (Henderson) plays beneath musing, but contented keyboards (Ellett). Oken and Kenyon play a steady, relaxed beat/throb? There's a bit of melancholy in there, too, and a hint of a southwestern feel? The title will make you think of hanging ? as in noose around neck ? but you know, lets put another context to it, because it's a phrase that has three meanings. The first, we're setting aside; the second, a tree that hangs, like willow (which is often signifying sadness, metaphorically); the third, a less gruesome view of hanging ? as in the tree in your backyard that you might climb, slip your legs over the branch and hang upside down? or maybe there's a rope with an old tire attached to that you swing from into the lake? A summery feeling. The sound is a combination of the latter two, perhaps looking back fondly at the playfulness of youth, where both sadness and contentedness come together. Oh, but you'll hear your own story, I'm sure. Djam Karet's music is that diverse that we could hear the same thing in terms of notes and structure, but interpret the feeling differently.

And really what more can you ask of a live document, that it brings out the life of each piece, making it manifest before an audience? It does very much have a live feel, though the audience is only really heard during the transitions from song to song. Anywhere else, you'd think the audience were mixed out, but as anyone who has been to a NEARfest knows, were a respectful bunch of folks, approaching each band's performance like a stage play; talk, you might miss something. It's an audience that is more likely looking at the guitarist's fingers than his stage presence. So, yes, I think we really were that quiet that afternoon. We left the noise to Djam Karet, and a beautiful noise it was.

Can you tell that I like this CD? Biased or not, I definitely do. Let me tell you, I'm picky about live CDs since they stand on their own for repeated listening potential. One doesn't want a live CD that you listen to once, say yes, they did well, and then never play it again. Nope, as I said, it must stand alone. This one does... Score another point for Djam Karet.

Forbidden By Rule (6:55) / The Red Monk (5:33) / Night Of The Mexican Goat Sucker (6:42) / No Man's Land (5:55) / The Hanging Tree (548) / All Clear (8:55) / Web Of Medea (6:50) / Feast Of Ashes (10:08) / Burning The Hard City (8:59)

Gayle Ellett ? guitars, keyboards
Aaron Kenyon ? bass
Mike Henderson ? guitars
Chuck Oken, Jr. ? drums and percussion

No Commercial Potential (1985) (Out-of-print)
Kafka's Breakfast (1987) (Out-of-print)
The Ritual Continues (1989)
Reflections In The Firepool (1989)
Burning The Hard City (1991/2000)
Suspension and Displacement (1991/2000)
Collaborator (1994)
The Devouring (1997)
Still No Commerical Potential (1998)
Live at Orion (1999)
New Dark Age (2001)
Ascension (2001)
#1 (2001) (via band only)
#2 (2001) (via band only)
Afghan: Live At The Knitting Factory (2001) (via band only)
A Night For Baku (2003)
Live At NEARfest 2001 (2004)
No Commercial Potential (expanded) (2004)
Recollection Harvest (2005)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 22nd 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1600
Language: english


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