On Friday night, we had a Happening at Branch Outpost. That’s Happening with a capital H, as in a performative event that was more than a performance – indeed, there was a whiff of art about it. In an empty storefront on Orange Street in downtown Durham, local artists Harrison Haynes (also the drummer of post-punk indy group Les Savy Fav) and Casey Cook (whose show, Boom Bomb Crash was just up at Branch) proved that there is indeed something beautiful and wonderful, almost transcendent, about playing the same drum beat continuously for an hour. It was a perfect way to spend an eerily balmy winter night, sitting outside with the Christmas lights casting a glow on empty storefront windows, and the streets activated by the uncertain energy that comes with unseasonably warm weather. The performance, titled LRLL RLRR, was an endurance event that bordered on the hallucinogenic at times, both for the performers and the audience. When he approached us (meaning Chloe and I, who run Branch and Branch Outpost) with the proposal, Harrison suggested a performance as based on 13 ideas, with the basic tenant as follows:
Two drummers (Cook and Haynes), each seemingly unaware of the other and of whoever might be watching, each behind a drum set, each located in one of the two window bays of the Branch Outpost space, will play the same drum beat continuously for 2 hours.
Both Harrison and Casey are drummers in working bands, so to watch them sink into the rhythm of the same drumbeat over the course of two hours (with a 10 minute break halfway through) was remarkable. Each drummers style became apparent the longer they played, even as they were perfectly synchronized. And as the pain and monotony of playing the same drum sequence over and over again began to mount, both drummers seemd to find ways of coping, whether closing their eyes, nodding to the beat, focusing on sharpening the sound (as in Harrison’s case) or smoothing it out (as in Casey’s). The Duke Chronicle just covered the event in their Playground blog, and so I’ll just link to Andrew Hibbard’s awesome post here, which includes some photos.
And for those who missed it, here’s a video clip.