I was feeling a little weird about hauling my reel to reel into the 7th Street Entry, as it’s not exactly a portable recording rig. The door man gave me some weird looks but ultimately let me in. Once inside, I saw that Minneapolis taper extraordinaire and all around mensch Tom Michaels was already set up and ready to capture some serious tones and zones. I was immediately jealous of the tiny footprint of his double mic stand and portable pro digital rig as I carried in a box full of antiquity. But like any taper who’s been doing this for 30-plus years like he has, he was eager to share his knowledge, and to gawk and my reels a bit.
Quick aside about Tom Michaels: the guy is seemingly at every single show in Minneapolis with his recording rig. He has permanent recording rigs set up at several locations in Minneapolis ready to record at a moments notice. He gets out to more shows far more than anyone I know. He’s solely responsible for more recordings of fledgling Minneapolis bands than the entirety of the recorded live Grateful Dead.
Outside of his work with Bitchin Bajas, synth lord Cooper Crain is also responsible for producing some wonderfully dreamy-sounding records from his Chicago buds Circuit Des Yeux and Ryley Walker, and he and the rest of Bitchin Bajas are just as skilled at creating lush soundscapes live. Everything feels a bit more spontaneous and liable to run off the rails than on record, but they still keep you in a deep trance the whole time.
Bitchin Bajas mostly played their fantastic 2017 release Baja Fresh at this show (plus one track I couldn’t place—let me know if you now it), turning their ambient cloudburst of an album into a driving gut-rumbling live experience. Their first song Jammu got cooking to a nice boil when technical difficulties stopped it short, but everything from there was a thick and heady trip, best taken in lying on the floor of the Entry.
Marshall Allen’s flute and sax playing are spry and fluid in a live setting, and draws a line to avant jazz—particularly in the Sun Ra cover Angels and Demons at Play and the final track Be Going. The latter the two is definitely my favorite of the set. The sax and organ combination is bursting with white-hot overtones, and sounds simultaneously mournful and hopeful.