Marilyn’s on K, Sacramento – Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013
No two shows are ever the same, and the band has been around the Sacramento and Southern California areas as long as Lob’s ponytail. Lob being the only consistent bass player and founding member of the amoeba that is the band Instagon.
Instagon is a free-form, experimental jam band that has performed more than 600 shows to date and has logged an equal amount of intentionally rotating band members. So, how does that work, exactly? Lob extends invitations to a wide variety of local talents, like guitarist Ross Hammond or Leticia Garcia of Ghostplay to join in; he’s even included Greg Ginn of Black Flag and Rikk Agnew from The Adolescents and D.I. during past performances. However, this past weekend at Marilyn’s on K, Instagon celebrated its 20th anniversary with a one-of-a-kind live show including more than a dozen musicians featuring eight guitarists, a drum circle at the foot of the stage, two drums sets, lots of brass and the list continues.
“When [Instagon] first started it was kind of like, let’s invite everybody out to make noise at once. Then, it kind of evolved into more of a band like it is now and it’s gone through many phases,” explains Lob. “In the early days, I would show up with a hand drill. We even did a show once where it was the Instagon Tool and Appliance Orchestra where there was even a blender section.”
Lob describes Instagon in many words, but two will do just fine—noise art. And it was certainly noisy at Marilyn’s this past weekend with audience members staring at the cluster of musicians before them.
Just before Instagon’s performance, Lob calls all participants outside for a few quick pointers, and there are only two guidelines to his improv orchestra, if he brings the tone low, go ahead and feel free to introduce a solo or take the music in a different direction. But, if the tone of his bass is louder or higher, then that’s the signal to just jam along with the rest of the band. After a bit of reefer is passed around and all was said and done, the 20-year rendition of Instagon shuffles one-by-one back inside the venue, some extinguishing their last cigarette before finding a spot on stage.
“It’s really an escape for me. I’m going to invoke this demon and ride it. It’s really like a voodoo ritual,” says Lob. “I’m going to feel the energy and the power from it. I really enjoy the energy of what Instagon brings to the stage and anybody that’s played will attest to that. To be a part of that is amazing and fun.”
Wails and screams emit from Instagon’s unique, 20-year anniversary performance courtesy of one short-haired woman. A masked man very reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter sits at the foot of the stage aggressively slapping his conga-looking drum, another woman fiddles with her Theremin radiating off-kilter, sci-fi notes while another man dressed in a black top hat and long fancy coat (like something Luciano Pavarotti might wear) gets weird on another Theremin. Then, there’s the saxophonist, who continually wails into a microphone. And then, there are the two drummers, jamming alongside one another toward the back. Plus, the single trumpet player from the band Egg of Winters is dancing about. Oh, and the eight guitarists. Not to mention countless extra musicians hidden behind one another on the crowded stage. In the end, the list of musical instruments goes on longer than “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song and all band members are contributing just about every note scaling the entire alphabet. It’s chaotic. It’s a bit Sun Ra. It’s a bit tribal. And at the center of it all is Lob, a conductor of noise art and his baton, a bass guitar.
Former guitarist of indie rock band Der Spazm and founding member of her newest project Ghostplay, Leticia Garcia, has performed in a couple versions of Instagon and says the music helped her the most at a time when she stepped away from music. She says the improvisational style kept her on her toes and often introduced her to new musicians.
“I really had no idea what to expect,” admits Garcia. “It was challenging and forced me to play a different style of guitar than I was used to. I was also surrounded by other very talented musicians including members of Musical Charis, ZuhG and the Trees. It ended up being a real rush because it was all improv. There was no way to tell what bass riff Lob was going to throw down and how the other musicians would react.”
And it was just that, which kept Garcia accepting Lob’s invites when Instagon scheduled another performance around town.
“You just never know what is going to happen. Sometimes, the music will be so-so, but then all of a sudden you have a moment of ‘Whoa! That was amazing!’” says Garcia. “That’s what [it’s] about, those little moments of amazing, those musical moments that will never ever happen again. It becomes something special for everyone there watching the show and the musicians playing.”
With more than 600 different combinations of musicians and more than 600 shows logged on Instagon’s website, which is like an intricately kept Internet database, one can read all the names Lob’s invited to play alongside him. He’s even attached dates to each name and whether or not the musician performed a second or third time. Yeah, it’s all there.
“I’ll see a player who’s really fluid and I’ll go, ‘Oh, I gotta invite him to [Instagon]’ because he’s gonna get it,” says Lob. “Sometimes, people are standoff-ish because they don’t want to join [another band]. I don’t want you to join my band. I just want you to come experience this on stage jam thing. Instagon’s the mistress band.”
Finally, a band you can cheat on your band with.