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Part-time music promoter and full-time NASA scientist Vince Kargatis thought experimental sounds would thrive in the bohemian den of Soho Tea and Coffee at 2150 P St. NW, alongside the tobacco, caffeine, op-art, and laptops.
Kargatis called Soho owner Helene Bloom, and after describing the style of music he was promoting and offering to handle logistics, he got Bloom to book an April 7 show featuring Baltimore improvisational trio Music in the Key of Zero and Boston microtonal saxophonist Bhob Rainey.
About 25 people showed up that evening to watch Zero play its difficult music. Soon after, Rainey took the stage solo and began his microtonal investigations. But during Rainey’s second vamp, Kargatis was forced to ask the saxophonist to stop playing. Some of Soho’s regulars had complained about the music, so shift manager Jason Zeak had called Bloom and held the phone toward the stage. Bloom immediately told Kargatis to end the concert.
“This was as if a 3- or 4-year-old was talking a music lesson for the first time,” claims Bloom. She asserts that Kargatis was “very rude to my customers.” Some patrons allegedly asked for their money back. But she says the main reason she canceled the gig was because “the music was terrible.”
Pamela Chen, who was at Soho to see the show, says, “One employee called it ‘Martian music’ with a definite tone of disgust.”
But several members of Kargatis’ audience say the promoter handled the situation calmly. “Vince was being unfailingly polite,” says Larry Appelbaum.
Kargatis apologized to the audience, announcing that “the owner hated the music and demanded that we stop the show.” Bloom was soon on the phone again. “Her staff told her what I told the audience. [She] was very angry and said that I shouldn’t have done that,” Kargatis says. “She threatened that I would ‘never work in this town again.’”
Bloom says she made no such threat.
About half the audience followed the expelled musicians outdoors, to the nearby monument of Taras Schevchenko, the Bard of Ukraine. “The concert outdoors in the park was great,” says Lou Bograd. “If the cops hadn’t canceled that second concert, I suspect we would have been there for a while.”—Christopher Porter