It's a testament to Austin's eclectic enthusiasm that a night of interpretive jazz and poetry could pack a room at the Salvage Vanguard. On Sunday evening, the sixth anniversary party for San Antonio's premier small-press poetry 'zine & record label Kendra Steiner Editions did just that.
Bill Shute, impresario of the KSE imprint, emceed the event and performed in a trio piece of underscored poetry on a stage decorated with clean, black-spattered sheets, nailed up in a sprawl like the trophy gallery of a ghost hunter.
Called Fascination, the piece featured Austin soundscapers Eva Kelly, of Sprills of Ore and Unmoor, and Daniel Hipolito, who built the ghost-skin stage dressing and synthesizes local sounds as Smokey Emery and one-third of Lumens.
Hipolito twisted dials to marshal electricity into the auditory shapes of waves crashing, horns blaring, ships leaving harbor and massive grinding machinery, a sonic portrait of the unified might of nature and industry. Kelly's guitar chords drizzled and dripped over the thundering foundation.
Horne played the strings of his guitar with a plastic pick, with a cello bow, with a trumpet bell.
Shute's voice was patient and generous in the space it gave his words, which included images of handgun classes, horse racing, giant potato bugs, the sense of smell, faceless names and nameless faces, dogs that don't bark, birds that don't fly, next year's harvest, senior discounts, nursing mojitos and a train to El Paso.
Matt Armistead and Jonathan Horne, erstwhile free jazz partners billed that night as Southwestern Free, took the space next and immediately demolished the room. Armistead's drums and Horne's guitar rattled up against each other like loud voices at a party, independently audible and sensible but inseparably part of the same susurrus.
Horne played the strings of his guitar with a plastic pick, with a cello bow, with a trumpet bell. He tootled the trumpet into the guitar pickups while Armistead rode cymbals and mediated the pace and energy. They provided a crash course in free improv, even if the cymbals were at times overpowering in the small room.
Kendra Steiner Editions was founded to promote this kind of experimental music. Shute, the founder, began his publishing career with poetry chapbooks, but, after a show by Chicago auteur Steve Kraków's Plastic Crimewave, he decided to use his imprint as an avenue to bring exposure to musicians he loved.
A Colorado native who makes his home in San Antonio, Shute travels to Austin several times a year to attend and organize shows. The printing equipment he uses to produce his chapbooks allows him to bring his own flavor to packaged music.
"I like the physical objects of art, the artifacts," he says. "I can switch out the types of paper and ink very five or eight printings and give the objects some variety."
Shute also shared the motivation behind KSE's line of records and his involvement in the underground and avant-garde side of music and literature, and it rang as true to life as anything from the evening’s fiesta of extemporaneous sounds.
"I was surrounded by all this good music, and I realized that I could help get it out there," Shute said. "There are people here who are equal in talent to anyone in Berlin, New York or any place."
"There are people here who are equal in talent to anyone in Berlin, New York or any place."
The night's final act featured Ernesto Diaz-Infante, an unorthodox San Francisco virtuoso of the 12-string acoustic tejano axe in all-fourths tuning called the bajo sexto. He plays with raked fingers, rubber cylinders, polished stones, twine mallets, metal rods and the heel of his hand.
After a trancelike solo performance, Diaz-Infante was joined for an improvised trio set by pedalboard double-bassist Lee Dockery and longtime Austin drummer and electro-percussionist Lisa Cameron. Highlights included Cameron's playing carefully modulated feedback out of the lid of a cookie tin and Dockery tone-vaulting his bass into the soprano register.
The night closed with cheerful handshakes and invitations to future shows curated by the Church of the Friendly Ghost, including several more at Fusebox and a visit by mystery man Jandek to the Salvage Vanguard in June. Find out more about Kendra Steiner Editions records and chapbooks at the imprint's website.