UCI's Open Melody Fest Has Friends in High Places

Categories: interview

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When the Open Melody festival concludes this Saturday night at UC Irvine, it won't just be the attendees who will file the memories away alongside those of other festivals large and small from the past. A large number of the bands have long since played similar shows as part of a thriving underground network of such concerts--and in the case of New York to LA transplants High Places, those memories from when they first began remain vivid.

High Places - The Longest Shadows from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

"We kind of cut our teeth on these makeshift outdoor festivals in Brooklyn during the summer of 2006," remembered High Places member Mary Pearson via an e-mail interview earlier this week. "They were all-day shows in various alleyways and abandoned lots around Brooklyn with just a ton of bands and only minimal organization. I have really fond memories of that summer because of those shows. One stand out memory from those summer festivals was seeing Comets on Fire followed by Matt and Kim who were followed by Excepter. I can't think of another setting where you could see that lineup at one show."

This kind of musical mix and match can be heard in the work of High Places itself, with Pearson and her partner Rob Barber almost using the idea of rock music as a launching pad for rhythmic exploration of all kinds, with percussive ideas and instruments ranging from electronic collages both live and in studio to the pounding of wood blocks. It's a sharp, spiky approach that embraces the playful without coming across as randomly goofy, something Pearson also describes as being both liberating and potentially challenging:

"[We] like to experiment with our sound and process, and there can be some hemming and hawing about how to accomplish that, but it generally feels like there's a natural evolution occurring with our music. We would never in a million years want to repeat ourselves, but we also know that there's always going to be a "Mary+Rob" sound to High Places that we can't completely escape. We can really psych ourselves out by talking about music that is still in the works. But yes, there's always something on the horizon for us, and we're pretty methodical about our process."

That process also includes the visual, with the duo's self-created album art supplemented further by their main blog at http://hellohighplaces.blogspot.com almost solely consisting of photographs from their travels and experiences. "We like to think of High Places as the all-encompassing name for the collaborative creative projects the two of us embark upon," notes Pearson. "I feel that our blog deals with a lot of the same ideas found in our music: man's place in the natural world, nature as muse, the spiritual attributes of light."


Full information about the Open Melody festival this Friday and Saturday at UC Irvine can be found at http://acrobaticseveryday.com

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