California Comes Knocking

by Mark Greenberg
June 2004

Well, the haimish crowd at the Y has spoken: the LAGQ are gonseh knockers (lit. complete bangers). You may have heard of the Bang on a Can All-Stars? These guys are the Bang on a Guitar All-Stars. Hey, it’s a living, don’t knock it. The audience loved it. It woke them up, got them on their feet. A standing ovation all around.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the LAGQ too. I stood, I clapped, I yelled until we got a couple of encores. And nothing could top their new version of Lizst’s Hungarian Rhapsody. This certainly was not the version my mamma was taught 80 years ago by Professor Franck. Still, is Lizst in a position to complain? The music was super-virtuosic and spectacularly showy. Tennant pitzed an arpeggio faster than most of us can play free strokes. Kanengiser appeared to be doing trills with his 2nd and 3rd fingers all over the guitar at high speeds. York did supersonic runs in the upper positions. John Dearman changed his 7-string tunings multiple times.

The earlier part of the program was equally satisfying, though less demonic: Beautiful versions of Rodrigo, Romeros, exquisitely pretty Stravinsky Pulcinella, and wonderfully assured Assad. The LAGQ are superb stylists as well as fantastic ensemble players.

As Franz Liszt might have summed it up: “MAN, THESE GUYS CAN PICK.”