Lab reunion

I’m not really one for reunions. I’ve skipped every opportunity for high school, college, camp reunions, you name it. I feel like I keep in touch with the people I clicked with, and I don’t want to be thrust into a room with people who look vaguely familiar but whose names I cannot remember.

But this weekend we had the Lab reunion. I couldn’t have been happier to be stuck in a room with all these young and rising artists whom I spent a very intense two weeks with last June. And I remembered all their names.

We kicked it off with a party in our studio, full of hugs and excited voices, a disco ball, and middle eastern food from the tried and true Taste of Lebanon. The fellows have stayed in touch through a Facebook group; a couple of them have started an ensemble together; a couple others are planning projects together. Even though every fellow wasn’t able to be there, we heard news about all of them.

The next morning, we invaded Third Coast Percussion’s studio space for a presentation. They performed for us and gave us a sober and candid account of their journey to becoming one of the nation’s premier percussion quartet. Eighth Blackbird has known them forever, but I’ve never heard them talk about their history in such detail. It’s amazing to hear how similar our stories are, and yet in what ways they differ. TCP is a super hardworking group – 8 hrs a day together – and they fully accept that this leaves no room for extra-TCP activities. I was shocked at this fact, because I can’t imagine our group spending that much time together – we do all of our administrative work on our own time. But they all speak with such conviction about their commitment to their shared mission that I don’t doubt it will work for them long term – it certainly has paid off thus far.

That night we put on our first Lab Showcase concert at Constellation. It was 90 minutes of performances that were every bit as riveting and astonishing as they were at the Lab. It was after 11pm when we finished (I’m usually in bed by 9:30) but I was so wired I couldn’t fall asleep for hours. It was so satisfying to be able to present this showcase to finally answer the question of “what are you doing out there in California?”

Today we have a roundtable discussion about curation and leadership with a group of leaders in the Chicago arts scene, followed by an improvisation workshop led by Ned McGowan, and a reprise of last night’s performance at a much more appropriate time for my circadian clock (7:30pm). Those of you who can’t make it to the live performances can tune into WFMT tomorrow (Monday, January 22nd) at 8pm for a live show with Kerry Frumkin where we’ll play and do some interviews with fellows.

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