The New Puritan ReView Mecca Normal

Mecca Normal

live at Eagles Hall Ballroom
Olympia, Washington
3 May 2008

The Discussion
This Comforting Thing
Battle Ground, WA
4 May 2008

I Walk Alone
live at Holocene
Portland, Oregon
9 April 2009

I finally got a couple of chances to see one of my long-time favorites, Mecca Normal, in the same town I had first seen and met them (back in 1991, at the International Pop Underground convention). And this time, I didn't have to drive halfway across the country to see them! They also performed the following afternoon at an outdoor barbecue in Washington, and then again a few days later, in Portland. Here are a few highlights from my own Mecca Normal marathon.

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Mecca Normal:
Jean Smith: vocal
David Lester: guitar

Malachi [live at Eagles Hall Ballroom; Olympia, Washington, 3 May 2008.]
Film by Jean Smith; live sound and audio recorded and mixed by J. Free.

Mecca Normal played second on a bill which also featured L’Orchidée d’Hawaï, Angelo Spencer, and Kimya Dawson. About ten minutes before their set, I found myself recruited to assist with the live mix for the room, which was a big, echo-ey, traditional ballroom, with the acoustics of a gymnasium. I think I got the stage and monitor mixes worked out alright, although the live recording still reflects more of the room's acoustics than I might have liked. Still, Jean liked it enough to put it to her film, and that in itself means a lot to me.

The song Malachi is about Chicago sound archivist, musician, and antiwar activist Malachi Ritscher, who had met Mecca Normal some years earlier, when he recorded one of their live shows in Chicago and presented them with a disc of the recording.

Malachi recorded the jazz scene in Chicago for years and he recorded us and gave us a CD of our performance—so, here's this guy who documented musicians and I wanted to create a document of his final statement—his death—because the document he made, the video, was not shown publicly, that I heard about. - Jean Smith

About Malachi Ritscher

Malachi's mission statement

Recordings which credit Malachi as engineer

The Discussion [live in Battle Ground, Washington, 4 May 2008]
Film by Jean Smith; live Mecca Normal footage in Olympia shot by Elliot Rocket (1996);
live audio recording by J. Free.

Here's another Mecca Normal video put together by Jean Smith. This one combines some footage shot in Olympia in 1996 by Elliot Rocket, with an audio recording I made from an outdoor show in 2008, a couple of days after the Olympia show posted directly above. This live set was performed at a barbecue in the middle of the afternoon, at the home of Slim Moon and Portia Sabin; and which also featured an improv set of music by Parish-Moon, and an unplugged set from Horsefeathers. Dave Allen [former bass player for Gang Of Four] was present, and shot some lovely video footage of the afternoon as well; some of which appears on vimeo [ H E R E and H E R E ].

This Comforting Thing [live in Battle Ground, Washington, 4 May 2008]
Film by Jean Smith; live audio recording by J. Free.

Another film by Jean Smith; which also features an audio track from the previously mentioned set in Battle Ground.

Mecca Normal : I Walk Alone [live at Holocene; Portland, Oregon; 9 April 2009]
Video clip; live audio recording and editing by J. Free.

Yet another Mecca Normal video clip; this one is live, and was done pretty much on the fly. I shot a few songs from their set at Holocene on a hand-held Canon G-9, and the audio was captured using a prototype set of binaural cardioid mics run through a pre-amp (all made by Church Audio), directly into a M-Audio 24/96 Microtrack unit (44.1kHz .wav). I synched the two sources and added title and credit info using iMovie. There is a 20-second still frame at the beginning, as I hadn't started the camera yet, but had the recorder already running. All in all, I think it turned out pretty well.

Mecca Normal also have an official MySpace site, and I'd recommend that folks check it out. These videos and others appear there, along with a handful of their officially released material, and links to plenty of useful information.

all audio tracks © Mecca Normal
all video clips © Mecca Normal;
except I Walk Alone: video clip © J. Free

I should also like to mention that the microphones used to record these live tracks were a prototype set of CA-11 cardioid mics - also made in Canada - by Chris Church, of Church Audio.

A selection of Chris' hand-built mics and pre-amps can be viewed at the Church Audio eBay Canada store.

All of the music on this page was recorded with some of this G E A R.

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