Antifahorn and Elder Ones put on a unique show at Trumpet Blossom Cafe
As part of the Feed Me Weird Things Iowa City listening series, Elder Ones and Antifahorn performed at Trumpet Blossom Cafe, intersecting politics, music, poetry and sound.
Through the windows of the Trumpet Blossom Cafe, the sun was beginning to descend in the sky, darkening the establishment. The silent chatter died down inside the cafe as the intimate crowd prepared for the music that was about to fill the room.
Feed me weird things Iowa City, an Iowa City listening series focused on creating unique musical experiences, hosted performances by Antifahorn and Elder Ones at Trumpet Blossom Cafe. The work presented by both groups was a series of intersections – politics, music, poetry and sound all involved in the mix.
The evening opened with Antifahorn, a three-person band with guitars, drum, tambourine and soundboard making up the instrumental elements. Antifahorn has already collaborated with public space one, a community arts center in Iowa City. As soon as the band started, the audience fell silent as one member in a flannel shirt, another seated at a small table, and the third in a vest and patchwork hat, played their respective instruments moving from erratic rhythms to softer melodies.
Antifahorn’s unique sounds and easy going instruments kept the audience engaged. One of their sounds, a clanking sound similar to the noise of a gas stove just before it ignites, added an edge to the softer part of the performance.
A combination of poetry in tandem with music brought Antifahorn’s conceptual ideas to life in their performance. With one member performing spoken word poetry over the music played by the other two, it felt like a cohesive struggle to get the voice heard that had a purpose.
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Elder Ones then took the stage, with the singer Amirtha Kidambi lead the group. By the time the five members took the stage, the sun had completely set, and the soft yellow lights in the cafe created an aura of comfort in the space.
Consisting of soprano saxophone, bass, drums, cello, soundboard and harmonium, Elder Ones also offered a unique variety of sounds. Kidambi herself has stated that she started her musical journey in the classical realm, but sought out more creative musical forums as her talents progressed.
“After finding it stiff with not enough room for individual expression, I started to get more interested in jazz and improvised music, and eventually started creating my own original work rather than always perform the work of other composers,” Kidambi wrote in an email to The Iowan Daily.
Before each of the four pieces presented by Elder Ones, Kidambi explained the inspiration behind each piece. All based on events over the past few years regarding social justice, reform and unrest, Kidambi said she thought it was important to share this rationale.
The four pieces featured focused on xenophobia in the United States after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement that was sparked after the 2020 murder of George Floyd, the labor revolution that happened in India after years of exploited work in 2021, and the nuances of the January 6 uprising at the White House.
Kidambi said music has become a way for her and many others to cope with these intense circumstances that have unfolded over the past few years. Drawing inspiration from these events, Kidambi said she finds a kind of catharsis in writing and performing on these issues.
“[I’m] impacted by the circumstances we face in America and around the world and use music as a way to deal with catastrophic and cataclysmic events such as the pandemic, war, the rise of fascism, systemic racism and other issues” , wrote Kidambi. “I’m definitely influenced by the political protest music that came before me, in 60s-70s free jazz, hip-hop and punk.”
Kidambi’s voice and musical ability, as well as the talent of his bandmates Matt Nelson, Eva Lawitts, Lester St. Louis, and Max Jaffethere is not just an intention behind the works of Elder Ones, but a set of skills to execute them musically.
Through the variety of songs, each performer had the opportunity to excel on stage. Each instrument has had times in the songs where their track is the focal point of attention, with the other instruments and vocals taking on supporting roles or going completely silent.
Whether it’s solo moments or cohesive elements, Elder Ones understands balance in terms of musicality. Thanks to the talent of the performers and the clear intentions, the performance of Elder Ones was able to captivate the public of the Trumpet Blossom Cafe and transport them to the time from which each song was inspired.
“Everyone has space to either improvise freely or take solos, which I think takes the audience on a journey. Our way of improvising is very energetic and ecstatic, so I think it gives the listener a catharsis or release,” Kidambi wrote. “We’re all living with so much anxiety right now, that seeing loud, intense, energetic and visceral music can be a really important vicarious experience.”