Promoter Jeff Bagato recently redesigned the poster for the Electric Possible, the latest splash in D.C.’s free-form-music gene pool. The new bill features the Bride of Frankenstein wailing on a clavitar over the event slogan: “D.C.’s mad monthly laboratory for promethean sound experiments.” It’s an accurate enough advertisement for the Possible, a monthly showcase of a rotating cast of experimental musicians, all improvising sounds that range from laptop electronics to the singular soundprints of homemade acoustic instruments to late-night electronic scuttle.
“I felt like there were a lot of people doing this kind of music in town,” says Bagato, who’s an improv experimentalist himself (and a sometime Washington City Paper contributor). “It would be really great to have a place that brought them all together. What I really hope is to bring some people out of the woodwork.”
Unless you’ve been paying close attention, it might seem the woodwork is the only place D.C.’s experimental/improvisational scene exists. Yet despite the departure of scene-shaker Chuck Bettis last year, there’s still an electrifying range of exploratory musical activity under way here: The electro-freak beats of the Mikronytes (founder Derek Morton’s open-mike-style Techclub nights have drawn plenty of eager laptoppers), the recent Millennium Stage-hosted Sonic Circuits festival, the free-jazz smear of the D.C. Improvisors Collective, and the continuing musical free-flow of longtime avant-improvisers, including John Rickman and Jeff Surak, are just part of the scene.
Toss in such talent as the Hat City Intuitive, an improv-mad foursome that shuttles between free jazz and indie-punk scrape with mesmerizing agility; retro-futurists rdk, which shared the Nov. 2 bill with Hat City; the big-band electronica experiment that is the Mikrobes (featuring Washington City Paper production artist Jason Hutto); and Richmond duo Harm Stryker (Jan. 11), and the Possible seems set to become a improv fixture.
It was back in May that Bagato, with the enthusiastic sponsorship of George Washington University jazz Professor Peter Fraize, began his experiments in the basementspecifically, in Room B120 at GW’s Phillips Hall, where seven of the first eight Possibles have been held and where the next, featuring the Mikrobes, is scheduled for Dec. 7. Bagato, who’s involved with a variety of outsider-music and -art efforts under the umbrella of his Panic Research Agency and who’s brought his vinyl-sawing alter ego DJ Panic to life during several lab events, was inspired by improv shows in Baltimore. “D.C. really needs a space like the Red Room,” he says, calling the creative-incubator-improv environment in that Charm City spot “magical.” It’s an atmosphere he hopes to conjure at GW, where on a good night at the Possible, it’s possible to imagine the sound of the woodwork emptying. Patrick Foster