Mutaytor: raw tribal energy meets
Troupe takes Fanny Hill stage in Snowmass
The Mutaytor, a group that combines
music, theater and circus-type acts, makes its local
debut Saturday on Fanny Hill in Snowmass Village. (Pixie
Get Arts and Entertainment
July 7, 2006
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The Mutaytor began on a perfectly
spontaneous note. Matty Nash, a heavy-metal drummer disillusioned
with Los Angeles' metal scene in the '90s, headed for the Nevada
desert - specifically, the 1998 Burning Man Festival, a wild
celebration of creativity outside of Reno. There, amidst an orgy of
electronic music, fire dancers, aerial artists, the drum circle Nash
started turned into something bigger and more
"I brought out my drums, started a
performance," said Nash, a 36-year-old Chicagoan who had moved to
L.A. in 1990, just in time to watch the metal scene there peter out.
"And organically, a bunch of people came up to collaborate - a belly
dancer, a DJ, a juggler. It was unplanned. The audience
participation triggered this magic."
Out of that experience,
Nash formed the Mutaytor, a multimedia spectacle of music, theater,
fire and acrobatics. Drawing from L.A's performance-art community,
the group did underground events like raves, house parties and art
openings. It also returned to the place of its birth each year and,
at the 2001 Burning Man, Nash decided to put some more premeditation
into the presentation. The Mutaytor morphed into a large-format
spectacle, far more arranged than the original, catch-as-catch-can
version. Nash found the transformation, from spontaneity to nearly
scripted, much to his liking.
"We really found our voice," he
said of the 2001 Burning Man appearance, "found who we were and what
content we wanted."
The Mutaytor is
now a show that requires a staggering amount of planning. For
several years, the show was confined mostly to the West Coast, with
a large part of the itinerary focused on corporate events. This
year, Nash has brought the conglomerate on tour; the Mutaytor
appeared earlier this year at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium
and last month at the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival in Kansas.
Later this summer, it lands in Minnesota for the 10,000 Lakes Music
Festival and San Diego for the San Diego Street Scene. A current
swing through Colorado includes stops at clubs in Denver and Boulder
and, this Saturday at 7 p.m., on Snowmass Village's Fanny Hill, as
part of the free Massive Music & Movies series.
that, onstage, the Mutaytor unfolds like a concert. "It's built as a
concert, not as a Broadway show, or Vegas, like Cirque de Soleil,"
he said. "There is no overall theme, but songs that have their own
vibe and messages."
Getting to the stage, however, is not as
simple as driving the bus up and having the band members stumble out
and into the venue. The Mutaytor is a modular show that adapts, in
size and content, according to the venue and the audience. It ranges
in size from a few handfuls of performers to the 35 who assemble for
the annual Halloween parade in West Hollywood, to play in front of
nearly half a million people.
The Snowmass date will feature
a fairly large cast of 24: 10 musicians, 10 dancers and visual
performers, plus tech and support crew. "We try to make it look
effortless," said Nash. But at the moment, Nash was having trouble
pulling off that illusion. Several members missed the plane that was
taking them to Milwaukee for an appearance at Summerfest, and Nash
and his wife, who handles logistics, were a bit stressed trying to
get them to Wisconsin.
Though the Mutaytor has a high degree
of structure, and Nash came from the metal scene, which has its own
choreographed tendencies, the group tries to connect, as it can, to
its improvised beginnings.
a jam band and jazz esthetic we ascribe to, so the person who's seen
us a million times will keep seeing something new," said Nash, who
divided the show as 80 percent choreographed, 20 percent improvised.
"And it lets us flex our creative muscles. It's not the same cues,
the same lights, the same thing every night. It's a lot of push and
The various aspects of the Mutaytor can be seen in how
wide the span of references is. Nash, at one point in our phone
conversation, calls it "a Vegas-style show," a nod to the dancers,
costumed parade animals and fire jugglers. The band's website
includes a reference to the ultimate in unchoreographed
entertainment, the Grateful Dead.
"There's still a tribal
element," said Nash. "But now it's this raw tribal energy, but also
a polished Vegas approach."
Somehow, that polish appears
without the help of a ringmaster. Asked if he acts as director, Nash
demurred. "I don't direct the show," he said. "It happens by
collaboration and committee. Each act is built by one or two people,
and they fit it into the show.
"There's a very mysterious
element because there's no dominant personality or leader. Every
band member or visual personality has their time to stand
Nash preferred to call his
role, "air traffic controller," which seems an apt description. The
Snowmass show, tailored somewhat for a family audience, will feature
fire dancing and fire effects; 3D video projections featuring live
cameras and canned video; martial arts; anime characters; belly
dancers; and comedy sequences. The music - played by a team of
drummers, a bassist and two DJs using laptop computers, but no
singers - is all original, electronica-oriented sounds.
said forming the Mutaytor was his way out of metal music. What he
stumbled on, he thinks, is a different brand of entertainment
"I've never seen anything like this," he said.
"There are things that are in the ballpark. The closest merge I
could do is the Flaming Lips meets the Blue Man Group.
rock, but very visual. And very much like a circus, where you don't
know where to look at any one time. I liked the Ringling Bros. when
I was growing up, where there was an acrobat and some animals, and
there was a battle between your eyes to know where to
Stewart Oksenhorn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org