last night we drove down to genoa. after a frantic search for parking and for our destination and a drive up one of the many, many steep hills in the city with one of the funniest cabbies ever (“yes, everybody says they are poor. and look how poor they are! golf. mercedes. smart. golf. smart. smart. porsche. golf. golf. ” — he nodded towards the cars we were passing on either side — “yeah, so poor.” [really loud, really aggrieved SIGH.]). we bolted down some tasty crêpes at a friendly eatery next to the
‘cough theatre’. we asked the crêpe man what was up with the name of this place, and he told us that back when they were building the place, it was right next to a little street called ‘cough alley’. (i prefer my explanation that they were pre-empting the theatre-goers’ tendency to cough.)
andate a un concerto stasera? (going to a show tonight?) he asked.
sì, sì, ma siamo un po’ in ritardo (yes, yes, but we’re a little late (we had just started eating at 9pm, when the show was supposed to start)).
the guy seated next to us chimed in, vedete quei tipi che suonano le carotte?
(you going to see those guys who play the carrots?)
why yes, indeed we are.
the vegetable orchestra is a viennese ensemble that plays carrots. and celeriac, pumpkin, onions, radishes and parsley. and whatever else they can find at the market that day in whatever city they’re in (their favorite market is the vienna one, but they might have some slight bias there). their music is particularly percussive (lots of beating on pumpkins with extra-large daikon radishes), with an avant-garde, sort of minimalist lean. most of their sound owes to some pretty serious mixing and expensive mics, but it’s amazing how they can make eggplant and celery sound like children squealing happily. scary, almost. theirs songs have such titles as ‘asp’ and ‘ambiente industrialis’ (which i quite liked) and about a third of their program consists of covers of such fun, melody-driven groups as kraftwerk.
the whole concept is entertaining at first but then quickly becomes sort of tiresome — luckily these guys have a good sense of timing. as in, they know when to change it up and innovate a little with the instruments. most of the root veg had holes drilled into them, and the players would blow across the apertures as if they were blowing on bottles. in my favorite piece (simulating a crackling, skipping record, most of the tune consisted of breaking up a lot of celery.
perhaps the high point of the program was a piece that one of the players introduced as ‘our version of igor stravinsky’s ‘le sacre du printemps,’ except it sounds quite different on wegetables. and in fact, it is very difficult to transpose notes for wegetables.’ few things are funnier to hear than a german speaker and his w’s. especially for an, ahem, vord like wegetable. their stravinsky rendition sounded nothing like ‘sacre du printemps’, but they did have this fun bit where this dude dropped onions down a slide. it might have been this one as well that started off with the whole group crumpling up the papery skins of some allium (onions? garlic?). but the encore was great: they returned to the stage. one of them explained that this song, ‘automat’, was a play on words, a reference to ‘tomato’. and sure enough, they all stood and held up a tomato in each hand and beated out the song, producing a stage full of pulp in the process.
it’s kind of a messy show.
but kids, that’s what i call playing with your food.