Ryan McLaughlin Säntis Bindle
It all started with a drum. Junior congas, flipped over 5-gallon buckets, and the occasional bass drum together creating a bombastic marathon of syncopated percussion, raucous and visceral. The sound is sonorous, full, menacing, as it thunders and rumbles down your spine. Legend has it that bandleader Chuck Brown had long been envious of the cities’ celebrity disco DJs, who never allowed the audience a breather as one song flowed into the next. One fateful night as a song was coming to its conclusion Brown spotted the dance floor fleeing towards the bar and out for a smoke. He turned to the decelerating drummer and roared, “go, go”. The crowd stayed on the dance floor. And then America was never the same.
The sticks kept moving to the groove of Chocolate City’s heart. It’s party music, meant to be played loud and live. As the beat thumps and bumps, the MC shouts out call-and-response party chants. Audacious women dancing hypnotically dropping it lower and lower, while men in the back would chant: “R-A-R double-E S-S-E-N-CE!”. “Wind me up, Chuck!” ”Let’s get small.” Howard Theatre, at Kilimanjaro, the Ebony Inn, at Pitts Red Carpet Lounge… audiences would implore the bands to go and go. Tougher together, the audience and the performers thrived off each other, needed each other to get to the edge. Despite the spontaneous nature of the concerts the fans are right there with them, be it the bug boys with true instruments or the sidewalk kids banging pots and pans, tin cans, and empty milk bottles, the songs are the same: reconfigured versions of pop hits. These songs cut out the boring verses and jump to the chorus. At once familiar and foreign.
The surprisable, semi-recognizable is where we find Ryan McLaughlin’s paintings. His subjects are frequently hazy logos and texts floating in shallow, milky pools. We know that we once knew these places and products. It’s all there on the tips of our tongues, our ensemble hypnotically waiting for new instructions to be hollered out. We the audience and the band are one, we live to lost in the repetition. Ryan compulsive mark-making emerges from a concrete wall of abstract percussion, awaken anew with the audience filling in the blanks. They derive much of their power via collaboration, the call-and-response, wayward sons coming together to riff on extraordinary lives shared separately. Each painting is personal and universal. Like Junkyard Band’s 40-minute version of Adele’s “Hello” reimagined by Junkyard Band, these paintings lull us in with their elongated melodic sections before cranking up the dial and jamming for hours a zingy bowtie wearing duck or a caveman-like apple. We know it even if we don’t.