Lucky Dragons’ latest LP, Open Melody, is a humming garden of burbling percussion, darting insectine melody, and swaying synth flora. They describe the album as trance-like, which seems an apt distillation of its sense of ceremony or ritual, and tendency to repeat themes with subtle variation that extrapolate into abstracted long-form pieces.
What sets Lucky Dragons apart from scores of other bands conjuring similar sounds from tatterdemalion folk, ambient, and psych references is how they frame their music in a live show in a way that actually bolsters the music’s inherent sense. By pulling the audience into the process, gently but insistently, they embody pastoral 60s ideals that inform much of their oeuvre. I’ll be the first to admit that this sort of thing can be done very badly, but if Friday’s set at the sculpture center is any indication, the Dragons have worked out ways to pull it off quite elegantly.
Abandoning the Center’s shadowed stage, separated from the mostly seated audience by a wide, empty gulf during the previous set, the Dragons chose to lay out their gear on the floor amidst their viewers and just before the piles of packing materials that installation artists had formed into a kind of bleacher system (part for the current University of Trash exhibit, celebrating squat living among other socio-political spheres). Setting up in the audience is also hardly unusual these days, but few bands then proceed to hand out their instruments to that same crowd. Starting with a set of simple bean-filled shakers internally mic’ed for volume and application of reverb and and delay, Luke Fischbeck distributed a wide range of homemade devices, eventually culminating in a set of theramin-like handles, their notes fitted into conscientiously pre-defined scales so as never to fall out tune with each other. Fishbeck’s innovation is that their operation requires at least two sets of hands, so that whole sections of the audience found themselves joining their hands together, and crafting discernible contributions to the mix in the process. Like a Dan Deacon audience participation sequence, but one in which the audience was mostly left to their own devices, even as they shaped the sounds heard by all.