David Bowie sleepwalking his way through The Man Who Fell to Earth, William S. Burroughs scamming his buckshot-splattered paintings into galleries--plenty of artists skilled in one medium misguidedly think they can step right into another. But Alan Licht--whose first book, An Emotional Memoir of Martha Quinn, was published last year by Drag City--is no dilettante. He's an eloquent champion of New York's underground musicians and filmmakers, whom he's written about in Black to Comm, Forced Exposure, and the Wire. And since the late 80s his guitar playing, which ranges from effortless lyricism to pitiless noisemongering, has put a boot in the butts of indie rockers Love Child, Run On, and the Pacific Ocean. He's supported talents as diverse as Arthur Lee and Loren MazzaCane Connors, and bridged minimalism and pop on solo records like Sink the Aging Process (Siltbreeze), where he stretched a couple notes from the Minutemen's "Polarity" into a side-long drone. Licht's latest disc, Plays Well (Crank Automotive), features a more perverse example of the same strategy. It includes his set from the 2000 Transmissions festival, where his performance consisted of a half hour of feedback drones layered over a relentlessly looped snippet from Donna Summer's "Dim All the Lights." An Emotional Memoir of Martha Quinn is a slender volume that doesn't say a word about the former MTV VJ; instead Licht chronicles the accelerating co-option of underground culture. Tuesday he brings both his book and his guitar to town. At 7:30 he'll read from Emotional Memoir at Quimby's, 1854 W. North; 773-342-0910. Later he'll improvise with Ken Vandermark and Fred Lonberg-Holm at the Empty Bottle. The Vandermark 5 will also play their usual set. Tuesday, January 28, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Joe Tunis.