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Tortoise (playing as Wd Clt)
OCayz Corral, Madison, Wisconsin
July 7, 2000

These photos aren't actually from the show -- (taken by Jon Whitney in 1998 at Chicago's Metro -- but should lend suitable atmosphere to the proceedings.

OCayz Corral is a bit of a legend, at least around here. The dive-y punk rock club has been around, on and off, since the early eighties. Over the years, its been the victim of a number of tragedies, like the time a semi driver fell asleep at the wheel and plowed his truck through their plate glass window, or the night that the dance floor collapsed beneath a sweaty and overenthusiastic crowd of Royal Crescent Mob fans. My first memories of the club were visiting it from out of town in the late eighties, when my boyfriends band came to town to open up for local faves Killdozer. Now I live here and I dont get out as much as I probably should, but when I got word that Tortoise would be playing under an assumed name, I moved heaven and earth, found a babysitter on short notice and made it down to the club.

Billing themselves as Wd Clt, Tortoise played a fleeting set of brand new material. As a casual fan of their work, I heard the new stuff as moving toward more complex formulas, perhaps leaving rock still farther behind. More dedicated listeners may have heard something different. Despite its having been labeled as "post-rock", when I hear Tortoises newer work, I hear jazz. Certainly a number of Tortoise side projects, such as Chicago Underground Duo/Trio and Isotope 217, are quite deliberately and clearly jazz. But Tortoise seem headed in that direction as well -- vibes take the lead in their melodies more often. And while song structures seem pre-determined, they also sound more and more rooted in initial improvisation.

More than listening to Tortoise, I spent the time during their set marveling at what the world has come to. Standing smack in the middle of OCayz's beer-soaked floor, surrounded by many of the same folks Ive been bumping into at OCayz for the last nine years, I was listening not to primitive, loud rawk, but rather sophisticated, experimentally inclined jazz. And the same folks who were there for the Melvins back in 92 were here for Tortoise now, and they were diggin it. Of course, these days Id rather listen to Tortoise than the Melvins, too -- perhaps its a sign of getting older, and maybe more tired. But in addition to the old-timers, there were lots of kids, glammy looking girls in gold lam and emo boys with bowl haircuts and funny brown pants. I realized that, though the guys in Tortoise are at least my age, this is the kids music more than it is mine. But thats okay. The worlds changing, and Im more than content to change along with it.

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Article by Beth Lucht. Photos borrowed from the Tortoise page at Brainwashed.

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