By Donatella Connolly
VANCOUVER — In the electronic music scene there is a small subsection within the community admittedly admired by both dancer and DJ alike. Live Performance Art (or Live PA) takes production and brings it to a new level of skill and expertise. It requires the same dedication that anyone would require to master their instrument of choice: endless hours of practice and investment in the newest gear.
Started in 2007, Sequential Circus is an multimedia event that has become a platform for artists to showcase their live performance in a bi-annual showcase featuring the evolution of live PA through a rotation of various performers both local and international.
The facebook event page for the Sequential Circus event, which takes place January 24, states “Do not confuse this with a DJ event – the dancefloor will be jumping, but all the music at Sequential Circus is composed and performed live by the original artists; it’s more of an electronic music concert series than a club night.” Organizer Michael Schmidt further explains although there are musical hardware staples for most of the live performances there are very rarely any turntables.
“I think that it creates a larger experience for the viewer,” Schmidt explains over the phone. “You can listen to someone play records and dance and it is fun, and if the DJ is really talented you can appreciate what they are doing onstage. But when you step it up to a live performance and you have people playing instruments live onstage it kind of draws the audience more because you are watching a performance instead of just listening. So the process of watching the performance and listening to the audio it engages the crowd a little more – it makes it more of an event to go to.”
This lack of a conventional DJ format however hasn’t deterred interest, in fact audience interest has only been increasing in live music set ups and what performers can do with all the newest gear. Schmidt admits that over the years, it is not only the gear that has been evolving for the event, but the event itself has been evolving, adding new components to their stage show by introducing multimedia performance art.
“In terms of our stage show we have gotten a lot more visual by dabbling a little bit into projection mapping and audio reactive programming. We have also done some multi media sculpture work on some occasion,” Schmidt relays. The last shows have included live performance by dance troupe Subscura, who Schmidt adds really creates great crowd interaction and brings the circus vibe.
“We are always trying to at a very multimedia approach as well as visuals to really engage the crowd as much with the visuals as we can with the music.”
Recently, as an added layer for crowd participation, Sequential Circus has paired up with the Producers Forum, who do a monthly meet-up, where producers can talk about production techniques. Producers forum now run the daytime event where live performers share their techniques and educate from beginner to advanced levels, about hardware and how to make music on certain pieces of equipment.
“It was a small crowd at first, but interest is growing,” Schmidt says. Sequential Circus also tries to promote the use of live equipment by making the first slot out of their six during the evenings performance, available to a performer who has never really been showcased at a performance previously.
“That is one of the ways that we try to encourage people to get into this,” Schmidt explains. Other ways that people can get involved is through volunteering, helping with event event organization or assisting with visuals.
When asked the final question about how important live performance is to a scene where many can press start or stop on an iPod and claim that they are DJs, you can almost hear Schmidt shrug over the phone. “I think it is debatable how important [live PA is to Electronic music] per se, but it is not so much about it’s importance; I find it interesting, and that is what I like. If that is the case [then] you should promote it.”
Check out Sequential Circus at Open Studios, January 24. It’s a multimedia expose for those interested in or even curious about live performance art.BC< British Columbia, Open Studios, Sequential Circus