By Alexandra Wells
ArtsPost Staff Writer
More than 10 instruments for only three musicians might seem like overkill, but the band members from The Opposite of a Train know how to handle their equipment. The trio played an hour-long performance on the Millennium Stage of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts a free performance every evening at 6 p.m. The three musicians’ instruments created many different textures for the hundred or so audience members. At various times the band reminded me of a film soundtrack, Middle Eastern dancing, jazz and even an Italian serenade at one point.
The trio write on their album cover that they first came together as “an intimate collaborative dynamic while composing and performing” for a theatre project in early 2008. However, the men say they’ve played “in diverse settings,” including jazz clubs, music venues and Cuban restaurants, and often accompany other bands.
Bill Carson played the electric and acoustic guitars, tenor banjo and bicycle while front man Nathan Koci rocked on the accordion, brass instruments, keyboards and metronome. Ron Wiltrout played the band’s percussion instruments, including the marimba (an African piano-like instrument), the glockenspiel (a metal xylophone), the drums and crash cymbals.
As for the visual aspect of the show, Koci could be seen swaying to the music, as could many audience members who were tapping their feet and bobbing their heads in rhythm. The band members were older than is expected to have just come together as a musical group, and admitted, “shoot, we’re just geeky.” They were sporting bowties, a pageboy cap, thick-rimmed glasses and messy, uncombed hair.
Carson, Koci and Wiltrout all hail from Charleston, S.C., yet have little Southern influence in their music. The band writes of their album, saying it “represents a diversity of compositional styles and arrangements, touching on classic Italian film scores, melodic post-rock, and slightly experimental chamber folk.” One song the band played was titled “Eurydice’s Waltz”, which sounded like it fit in equally well on a carousel or as polka dancing music. Another song, “The Typewriter” reminds me both of a circus act and dinner at an Italian restaurant.
Their self-titled debut album is categorized in the jazz section on the iTunes online store, but I could argue their music falling into almost any category, depending on the particular song. Once I gave up trying to classify their unique type of music, I sat back and simply enjoyed their distinctive and pleasing instrumentals.
Each time they began to play a new song, every band member would switch which instrument he was playing, sometimes even doing so midway through the song again. The constant changing of instruments was a bit overwhelming visually, but sounded seamless to the ear. The threesome managed to pull off swapping musical instruments without a hitch and not one beat was missed during the plethora of swaps.