Being amongst the first 30 or so people waiting on line for admittance to the performance I had my choice of seating and at first set myself up in the second row of the circle but then spied at the far end of the room a slightly elevated proscenium with around 10 seats and secured myself there for a slight birds eye view of what I knew was going to be 100 guitar players that made up todays lineup of the Orchestra of crafty guitarists (OCG).
100 Guitars, This can be a very impressive thing, to see and hear a Guitar Orchestra but this was Not an orchestra seated and playing arrangements on stage This was an orchestra that played in and amongst the crowd in attendance more akin maybe to Sun-Ra's Arkestra. What struck me immediately was that Fripp and the OCG was using performer placement and the architecture of the room itself to create an ambient "stereo" picture in sound, Who needs Bose speakers, a Joke comparatively.
The performance began promptly at 4 p.m. with 5 persons (2 women, 3 men) entering the circle and asking us not to record or film the show or take any photographs with iPhones or otherwise in 5 languages, they then proceeded to repeat this message in 5 languages but at the same time, Very Crafty indeed. Our emcees exited and everyone in attendance waited in rapt silence, this might have lasted a whole minute or two but there was a feeling of electricity in the air as well as some healthy tension. Then very faintly and almost inaudible at first a sound coming from the left (my vantage point) as 100 guitars began quietly to vibrate sympathetically. One by one the OCG entered the room but from above on the balcony ringing out and making a straight line along the three walls above us and when they reached the end (with more guitars and members still joining) the line double backed on itself returning to the starting point of entry, While the procession continued on the balcony upstairs the first members entered through a door onto the main floor and began to fill the circle in the center of the room while playing all along an Undiscernable Melody, Mapped Out Meandering, Howling in Hades, Pastoral Cacophony of Organized Chaos. Once or twice I thought "Where's Fripp ?" but this did not matter so much as the OCG was of his creation under his direction and I was already sitting with my mouth and mind agape while keeping my lips closed and mind wide open.
During this opening piece I spotted Mr. Fripp (there he is) coming down the aisle to the left (outside of the circle) as he spotted a dissenter amongst the crowd recording the event and gave him what can only be described as a wordless headmaster's point until the disrupter stopped his recording machine, this brought humor and joy to my heart, we were asked nicely weren't we.
After the introductory number Robert came into the empty circle and presented a question to the crowd which many of the uninitiated may have been thinking.
"So, Do You just make it all up as you go along ? Or can you play any real Tunes ?"
After which we were treated to an Octet or Decatet (I was not counting) version of King Crimson's "RED" performed Beautifully and note perfect. Following this were a few numbers only one of which I did not recognize from the Fripp songbook and the League of Crafty guitarists repertoire from a few decades back. Robert did from time to time "tune" the band by way of tuning fork between numbers but was mostly and importantly emcee for the afternoon.
Then came "Whizz" which can only be described as "The Wave" as perpetuated by sports lovers worldwide whereas one follows the other to create a moving wave physically by raising their arms in a community based moving image of sorts, You raise your arms, your neighbor does next and so on. "Whizz" was done musically however as a note is dictated and guitar after guitar neighbor strikes that chord with dexterity and accuracy, furthermore I was ten inches away from one of the starter points (wisely both equidistant female guitarists) and they could send the wave either way, to the left or to the right. It was breathtaking to watch and listen to this as the wave got tighter and tighter as I watched it travel amongst the circle of the OCG surrounding the outside of the inner circle of the audience. You could predict when it was going to hit your point in the circle and hear the wave move amongst the room. As a side note there were points in tonights performance when the OCG turned their backs on the inner circle of audience and played for those sitting on the sidelines, myself included which meant that there were OCG members playing right in my face and I mean 20 inches away, I was smiling, happily intimidated and dumbstruck all at once.
The performance was over (*) accompanied by Thunderous applause as much as can be accomplished by maybe the 300 people in attendance to this sold out performance as the OCG exited via the inside of the circle in an "S" shaped orderly parade like formation (see diagram) which was very dadaesque to watch, disciplined in form and gentlemanly (and womanly) fashioned in balance and equality. Robert Fripp himself was the last one to exit and do you know what happened ?, He winked at me in a knowing thank you gesture of good will.
Afterwards I ran into my friend Bruce outside who was seeking an autograph from Mr. Fripp, I hung around for a few minutes then decided not to cheapen the experience trying to get my ticket signed.
* - Encores were a small ensemble performance of 21st Century Schizoid Man and then the entire OCG being called back again doing more "Whizzing". Fripp once again exited in front of me and gave himself a palm closed three beats on his heart to himself.
Give yourself up in listening to and creating Music, For in Music lies the spirit of God.
The Holy Sandwich board outside the church.
A Simple request.
The church spire and what I can only assume to be the OCG tour bus.
In these Digital Days its nice to have an actual ticket stub.