Sebastian Robin Craig & the Manifold Acid Symphony
Hetero, Christian, pimp, fag. Nigger, heathen, cracker, whore. Classical, soul, pop, jazz .... Composer/vocalist/producer Sebastian Robin Craig confronts these and other identity-related topics on his self-produced debut CD, Other (as in "Who Are You? Please choose one or more of the following ..."). An evolution of his genre-blasting cabaret act Endangered Species and dozens of performance-art productions sponsored in recent years at La Pena Cultural Center and the Upper Room, Craig's obsessive/visionary stage show now includes a new sextet called the Manifold Acid Symphony. This group blurs the lines between this and that by combining strings, drums, and vocals in a wide-ranging, though seamless, cross-cultural hybrid. The music and lyrics derive their power from the composer's panoramic embrace -- as a young, educated, arty black male -- of America the Irrefutably Conflicted. Craig's method (through-composed string sections, well-rehearsed spoken-word recitals, impeccable conducting) yields an authoritative polish that belies his knowing, yet unknowing, message on tunes like "Can't Sleep": "Do you know where you are? What stillness is? What comes that you cannot overcome? What comes that you cannot stop? ... Born into each day as if you lived 10 lives."
Sometimes the tree of knowledge bears fruit that is hard to swallow. All Sebastian Craig asks is that you taste it with an open palate.
-- Sam Prestianni
Sebastian Robin Craig & the Manifold Acid Symphony perform on Sunday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m. at Pro Arts, 461 Ninth St. (off Broadway), Oakland. Tickets are $8; call (510) 763-0682.