The grief-mad heiress Sarah Winchester believed in the Boston medium who told her that the deaths of her infant daughter and her husband were spirit-realm vengeance for all the hell wrought by Winchester’s rifles upon Native Americans and Civil War soldiers. The occultist offered an obvious solution: Move west and dedicate your fortune to the construction of a giant house to appease and harbor the legion of angry spirits that now haunt you. And it is very important that you never stop building so long as you draw breath.
These days, a sensible spiritual counselor out of, say, Northampton might have proposed more socially responsible reparations; but spiritualism was a parlor game in the Victorian/Industrial Age. Sarah did as instructed, building and building and building the famous Winchester mansion in San José over the course of the next 30 years, and providing a material Mecca for those of us who often dream of familiar houses taking on new halls and chambers: a common motif that Jung interpreted as a symbol of the unexplored regions of the unconscious and as a structural invitation to explore the same.
Sarah Winchester pursued the expiation of an inherited spiritual guilt with an inherited fortune. Her wealth-fired madness produced an actual dream mansion in which to negotiate peace with her demons, but most of us have to make do with symbols and metaphors.
The proprietors of Backstage Studio Productions (BSP) in Kingston seem possessed by a kindred “If you build it, they will come” spirit. The structural space, the décor, the sound system, the booking patterns and the beer list at this wonderful uptown Kingston music club all seem subject to a constant, borderline-obsessive tweaking and refinement, if not downright overhaul. It’s all the more impressive because a handful of young guys – Trevor, Dan, Daniel, Mike – seem to do it all themselves, from the carpentry to the manic, round-the-clock Information Age crisis that is booking a happening music club.
It’s always a different kind of fickle spirit that they are courting at BSP; these days, it’s the NPR/Pitchfork zeitgeist. On Thursday, February 21, the buzz will be Code Red. Two hard-buzzing New York City bands, Lucius and Ava Luna, are joined by Shana Falana, a Hudson Valley dream-pop staple who always manages to slip a few local shows into the gaps of her incessant touring. All three bands on the bill are big on fusing modern electronics with the traditional technologies of pop. I foresee a lot of gear on Thursday.
Lucius, a veteran of the 2012 O+ Festival in Kingston, returns to BSP hot on the heels of a coveted NPR Tiny Desk performance and a triumphant show at NYC’s Mercury Lounge. The stunning four-song Lucius EP blends alien, cheeky girl pop with strains of arch, half-ironic country and western and the obligatory sonic tapestry weaves of the Grizzly Bear age. The melodies handle corners like some Euro sports car I’ve never heard of. The EP is a no-filler treat from beginning to end.
Coming off a prestigious Daytrotter Session and some kind words from Pitchfork, Ava Luna too paints densely, but with fine pop brushes. The ratio of R& B and soul gesture to high experimental artiness in their songs reminds me of one of my current favorite big stage bands, Brooklyn’s Dirty Projectors – though Ava Luna is far more committed to rock values, on the whole.
Shana Falana’s euphonious shoegaze guitar pop is full of musical ambiguities and dwelling Zen pattern studies. The simple motion visuals that accompany her shows are such an organic extension of the music, you’d probably see them in the mind’s eye even if they weren’t projected behind her.
Well, BSP keeps building, and the spirits keep coming. Don’t miss this show.
Lucius, Ava Luna & Shana Falana, Thursday, February 21, 9 p.m., $6 advance/$8 door, 18+, BSP, 323 Wall Street Kingston; (845) 481-5158, https://bsplounge.com.