David Starfire Live Ensemble
May 21, 2011
@ The Fillmore
Better than: Being cast into the Lake of Fire to fry.
Back where I'm from, the Apocalypse has been going on for quite some time now. In the Virginia hills, matters of fire and brimstone eschatology are as familiar as hangovers from Budweiser and white mule, taken singularly or together. My photographer, reared in the quiet calm of San Jose, was somewhat more startled than I by the affable giant we met on Geary Street Saturday night, his fist crammed with copies of The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal and mind ablaze with poetry. Shy a tooth or two, the fellow had most of the other outer liabilities of Art stamped over him as well. He declaimed a few lines about an airport encounter, concluding where the Satanist says to the Krishna devotee, "Baby, I'm on fire!"
Happily, while the intonations of that literary gentleman were being made, writhing flesh was already in progress at the Wanderlust Festival at the Fillmore. We'd arrived midway through superstar yoga teacher Shiva Rea leading hundreds of prone yoginis through yoga exercises. Quite a sight from the balcony, the blonde dynamo cooed into the mic, leading a room composed almost entirely of attractive women lying on the floor of the noble venue through a directed meditation. Musicians, including Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, crept from the wings, took up positions, and began to loosen a gentle, insistent pulsation. I've seen oldtime gospel preachers do this thing with a great deal less spiritual self-assurance than Rea, who was nine parts Tinkerbell to one part James Brown. She implored us to move beyond temporal connection to things like water bottles and yoga mats in favor of the bedrock verities of Getting Down. Soon, the rafters of the Fillmore rang in a massive joyously exhaled Om. Then came a long percussion-heavy set that had the audience jumping and ecstatic like some chilly late night at Burning Man. After a week's Roundhead howling in the media about holy zombies and the flesh-eating birds of Armageddon, that sound vibrating through my skin felt good indeed.
Shrines were set up on each side of the stage and a statue of Ganesh loomed benignly over the dancefloor. The Fillmore's usual happy rock show vibes were magnified considerably. Most stayed for MC Yogi, whose high-energy tunes like "Elephant Power" and "Peaceful Warrior" kept the transcendental sock-hop going. The David Starfire Ensemble was up next, a rhythm 'n bliss revue of sitar-based funkateers centered around the renowned world music DJ, plus the decorative wriggling of the Aspara Bellydance Troupe and the vocals of iCatching. The audience was by now under two hundred, but sent the troupe off with a joyful noise anyway.
The crowd was a good deal thinner still for Sub Swara, a Brooklyn laptop-and-percussion duo that threw down dub-electronica of the sort I've become used to from many years of hanging out after midnight in all the appropriate places. Nice work if you can get it, and these guys went at it with a will, even after the near-magic vibe of the previous hours had long worn off. There was a general movement towards the exit at about midnight and, fifteen minutes later, the audience was down to about fifty jaded clubkids, some of whom loosed a few scattered discouraging sounds. After a brief nodding consultation, they walked offstage and that was it.