A Sneak Peak Into Arto Lindsay's Secret Show

Text: Diego Cortez / Videography: Hiroshi Sunairi / Photography: Ports Bishop

I don't remember where I met Arto Lindsay as I almost never remember where I met friends for the first time, but it could have been working in a chain-gang in a former life, as I refuse to wait in line in this one.

My friendship with Arto goes back to the mid to late 70s, perhaps meeting at an early DNA gig at CBGB's. I was a friend, fan and co-conspirator of the emerging no-wave groups. In 1977-78, I worked on my film Grûtzi Elvis with Anya Phillips and Steve Mass. A trip to Memphis generated not only Graceland scenes of Anya with Vernon Presley, shot by Steve, but the initial discussions for the creation of the Mudd Club. Back in New York, a dear friend, Judy Nylon, introduced me to her ex, Brian Eno, who generously agreed to give me soundtrack musics for my Elvis film. An hour after screening rushes to Brian at Steve's apartment, Steve offered Brian a free apartment above his place on West 8th Street. Brian helped Steve choose the sound system for the Mudd Club. Anya and I would later introduce Brian to the radical new bands which ended up on his 1978 "No New York" compilation.

Arto and I have kept in touch with Brian over the years and I treasure these friendships. I've always found the art world a bit stiff, boring and pretentious, though I relish works of art which evolve its history and loathe those which do not. At first, I thought the music scene seemed more collaborative than the visual arts, less ego-driven. After further observation, I witnessed some harsh competitiveness between players found in the midst of various musical improvisations.

My friendship with Arto Lindsay is beyond deep at this point. Our interests have intersected in corresponding arcs – Arto becoming more entrenched in the art world, and me somewhat in the music world. I joke with him about his ability to remain close to the art stars of our time. While I love much of their art, I cannot relate to some of the vibe – egos inflated by an inner circle of sycophants. Musical stars are peculiarly much easier to deal with as they try to avoid a bubble life in need of some criticality.

Arto has been a pivotal player in the music of the last 35 years. Like his colleague, David Byrne, he has had parallel careers first to create his own music, then to produce and promote Brazilian Tropicália and Afropop music.

Arto's production work and collaborations with major Brazilian musicians – Caetano Veloso, Carlinhos Brown, Marisa Monte, Vinicius Cantuária, Chico Science, Gal Costa, Tom Zé, etc. introduced to an already radical music his infamous noise component, still evident in many contemporary Brazilian releases today. Brazil's geopolitical position in the world has been a perfect vantage point from which to satirize American and British pop of the 60s and 70s and synthesize African musical histories with analogous European musics.

In recent years, Arto has, for the most part, given up his ensemble music format, to focus on solo performances with guitar and voice, or performance works utilizing the parade as an artistic entity. Both of these developments have led him away from the music scene, per se, into the art context, where he has mostly taken refuge.

I have warned him about the dangers of this, but he has mostly proven me wrong.

In Spring, 2012, Arto visited NYC, staying at my place in Williamsburg. Ryu Takahashi and I quickly arranged a small secret concert by Arto at Pete's Candy Store. I asked Hiroshi Sunairi, an old friend of Arto's, to video document the performance. A couple days before the show we all assembled at the venue to work out any technical difficulties, as Pete's, though beautiful, is a very tiny place. Hiroshi and I quickly came to blows over the documentation of the show, which ended up being the largest technical difficulty of all. Hiroshi refused my original request for a fixed camera on a tripod, saying I was too controlling of his artistic approach. I pleaded, telling him I needed a neutral recording of Arto's gig. We didn't speak much after that, but gradually did again when he crashed my annual birthday dinner thrown by our Japanese friends. I was happy to see him.

Here is Sunairi-san's video document coupled with Ports Bishop's saturated color stills of Arto Lindsay's unadvertised show at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn on May 8, 2012.


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