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An Exposé of Keys: Unleashing DRKWAV

An Exposé of Keys: Unleashing DRKWAV

Scott Rowland • March 13, 2015 • Art • 

“Darkness, darkness and more darkness. Darkness, darkness and more darkness. Like a goblin living in a hallow, shivering, dirty, hairy orifice with no light yet balancing so light can exist. We have to be the dark wave!” chanted Skerik backstage.

The thrill of this particular Friday night was rot by the downcast stigma of an unlucky number and was completely melancholic to fit the mold. On the 13th day of March, I found solace in commemorating its eerie reputation by reveling in the untamed realm of DRKWAV, a supertrio comprised of keyboardist John Medeski, percussionist Adam Dietch and saxophonist Eric “Skerik” Walton.

The night felt like a showcase of exceptional keyboardists. The opening act at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom incorporated two of the best, Joey Porter and Nigel Hall, but Medeski easily takes the reigns as my favorite. And by all means, he did not disappoint.

These powerhouse musicians are usually associated with the top tier of improv/funk performances in the scene, but not DRKWAV, like most of the crowd expected. The opener, Joey Porter and The Shady Horns, was a funky dreamscape doing little to change that misconception.

John Medeski of DRKWAV at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom

John Medeski

Skirting on the far edge of avant-jazz, DRKWAV culminates as a mix of ambient distortions swirling into dark, trance inducing vibrations obscurely anchored by Dietch’s accelerated breakbeats. Between the computer meltdown oozing from Medeski’s fingers and the absurd noises spewing from Skerik’s sax, their arrangements were more reminiscent of decomposition rather than the standard of building momentum used by most musicians.

Only at two points during the set did anyone onstage utter a word. Skerik promoted their vinyl at the onset, and then paid recognition to the performers, including himself, at the end, as there was no need to stop in between. Even when Adam “Shmeens” Smirnoff, a contributor on DRKWAV’s recent album, The Purge, joined them on stage, he picked his way into the madness with a fierce guitar lick as they briefly jumped into the most rhythmic section of the night.

The DRKWAV set filled two hours with perpetual suspense as if you were injected into the cerebral chaos of a Phillip Dick novel.

Skerik of DRKWAV at Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom


Even though my personal fascination lies in Medeski’s prowess, I couldn’t help but remain fixated on Skerik’s stage presence. Most of the noises originating from both his sax and his vocal chords were skewed into unfathomable, pedal-produced waves jumping between squealing sirens and indeterminate textures, but he also incorporated the beautifully placed melodies of a saxophone veteran, my musical guilty pleasure.

If funk and jazz are the light on which DRKWAV balances, their performance has been sucked into a vacuum of darkness with a vague resemblance of such definition. Medeski, Skerik, and Dietch, the dark wave’s goblin persona, are a melancholy delight fit for the obscure music enthusiast.

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to suspend the tone of Friday the 13th.



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