It was a pivotal night for San Antonio. While not the beginning, last night articulated the present Renaissance in a way no other moment has achieved up to this point. It was a culmination of a number of moving parts that was nothing short of extraordinary. The interpretation and performance of Radiohead's iconic album was powerful and at times touching. The Youth Orchestra, sharp. Troy Peters, genius. Last night was less about Radiohead and more of a celebration and acknowledgement of San Antonio talent.
Pivotal, because it happened within the context of recent investments in the local music scene made by area heavy hitters. Pivotal because it could have been a moment of arrival for Alyson Alonzo. Pivotal because San Antonio is cultivating an environment that brews greatness.
While the OK Computer performance was the crown jewel, other events around town contributed to the night's significance. K23 Gallery's 1st bday party was a happening place and SA's newest location on the scene, Nite Lite, hosted Houston band Say Girl Say among others. I felt like I was in the middle of a Rolling Stone magazine story from 1968 with the vibe provided by the galleries. The rain even stopped in time to let Dream City Beneath 9 happen, which finally took place after being postponed more than once due to all the unusual weather we've had lately. The atmosphere last night was electric.
The interpretation and adaptation of Ok Computer was done in such an intimate way, the seemingly inconsequential details of the record: the fills, the samples, the extra bits of distortion, were brought to life through assigning the sounds to instruments in a thoughtful and creative manner. The attention to detail was mind blowing. Something as simple as a drum fill or synthetic screech at the right time can mean so much and speak so loudly.
The main riff from the album's opening track, Airbag, was not altered but played by the string section at a higher tempo. The speed of the song was set against the smooth Americana-style of The Lavens, yet their gentle, fluid voices only eased the tension in the auditorium slightly. The knowledge of the album's most intricate and elaborate song approaching loomed ominously as nerves ran high after the first song.
Paranoid Android, started a little rough and a couple of times felt cluttered, yet as a whole: reached moments of brilliance. Nicholas Long's voice drifts toward higher octaves making Thom Yorke's intricate vocal arrangements seem natural and at times effortless. The audience was at the edge of our seats as we watched Nick hit all the right notes. Once we arrived at the guitar hook and "kicking squealing Gucci little piggy", there was a collective exhale like: "Alright.. we can do this. This is happening."
Jaime Ramirez, Elena Lopez of Octahedron & Daniela Riojas of Femina-X made one thing clear: this was not Radiohead karaoke but philharmonic adaptations of a complex body of work. Troy Peters' composition and the bands' ability to own their part, combined to create this perfect balance that truly captured the spirit of OK Computer. The Youth Orchestra's capability to perform songs with time signatures changing half way through the song and keep up when the guitar is in 5/4 but everything else is in 4/4 demonstrated their level of musical achievement. The details like the delayed finger picking of "Let Down" were performed with flutes, vibraphones and stringed instruments in a way that popped like a strobe light. The accompanying ethereal white noises from the record were recreated by YOSA during "Fitter Happier" including the haunting piano part in the background. The mechanical and ironic life instructions were read by Diego Bernal through a robot vocoder, the whole thing was completely surreal.
The night's zenith was, hands down, Alyson Alonzo's historic performance of "Lucky". The uniqueness of her voice and commanding stage presence is only comparable to greats like Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday or Janis Joplin."The Head of State has called for me by name, but I don't have time for him- It's gonna be a GLORIOUS DAY" - "We are standing on the edge" those lyrics, sung by Alonzo last night at The Tobin, a venue suited for her voice, was magic.
There was an Encore performance off of 1995's The Bends. The instantly recognizable classic "High and Dry" began as one by one the featured performers came back out on stage as they took turns singing various parts of the song. Once again, Alyson stole our hearts with "ITS THE BEST THING THAT YOU EVER HAD" and while in the context of the song, the line has a rather sad connotation - but for a second, last night, everyone in attendance allowed it to mean something else, because we all knew we witnessed an incredibly special moment in time.