Monday, May 6, 2013

Arrington de Dionyso Narrative Draft (Incomplete)

It’s 8:24 p.m. at Louie’s Trophy House on North Street and the north side of Kalamazoo, and I’m waiting for Arrington De Dionyso, and his band Malaikat dan Singa, amidst the stuffed Bison battling plasticized wolves that give the bar its name. Taxidermied animals roam in wild, immobile packs amidst local art on sale that have quasi-philosophical titles like “Letting Go” ($100) and “Where or When” ($100) which vary from blue black plaid paint blocks to chicken-scratch on a barely brushed with pink canvas.

The playbill and the Facebook event advertised the show starting at 8:30 p.m., but the factory-style and studio strip lighting illuminates an empty laminate dance floor and opening band still in the process of warming up.

Generals gathered in their masses!” Ike Turner spits out from behind his trap kit. Turner is getting to become a fogey in the music scene; his bandmates are also Kalamazoo forevers. He’s a drummer that’s been around for almost two decades in the Kalamazoo area, playing for local punk-legends Minutes. He has a wee, golden haired daughter who usually accompanies him to shows but she isn’t here tonight.

“But in live versions he changes it,” he announces to his the rest of his current band, Brown Company, who are warming up their noise jams by tweaking with theremins and their guitars’ distortion pedals.

“Like, he says, witches and their asses or something like that,” he continues.

Bo Tyler boogies the sound-board operator dance back and forth from the stage and his booth, gliding across the stage and spinning around drum kits or keyboards to lay XLR cables or microphones. His real name is Daniel, but everyone calls him Bo because phone calls coming for his father got confusing. His new-haircut that looks like curly bird wings extending from his horned rimmed, tortoise shell glasses bounces along as he zooms about.

“I’m so fucking excited,” a tall black guy says as he emerges from the kitchen.

“I’m trying to get whatever energy I have left and I am putting it into this,” Bo responds, pausing one moment from his dervish.

While Bo is ecstatic, I’m worried he isn’t going to show. I was supposed to meet De Dionyso for an hour before the gig, something we had set-up almost on the first fever night of spring, May 30th, though that was difficult on its own. It was late, 11 p.m. and he was in Kansas City.

Getting ahold of Arrington is difficult. We had to prepare everything via email beforehand because he was halfway through his tour from Olympia, Washington which had started April 4th, and his phone didn’t have any minutes, so I had to text him he could call me through a Google number which he eventually emailed me the info for anyway.

“I’m not sure I understand the question,” was repeated a few times in response to yawns. I had no questions prepared and this was their only break before heading to their next show early in the morning, so I recycled the typical musician type things to say.

“Um, what’s it like being on tour?”

“It feels great, I love making music, love being on tour, love making art, with anyone interested.”

And stuff like that.

He tells me about the unusual places he’s played either with his old band on K Records that brought him to notoriety, Old Time Relijun, or his current project Malaikat dan Singa. Arrington has played anywhere from concert halls, to living rooms, to castles, to boxing rings. One time he played an 11 minute song in a train tunnel for French independent filmmaker Vincent Moon’s series Take Away Sessions.

I was dozing off. Arrington’s voice is passive, calm, and pensive--Egyptian cotton soaked in warm water, from all the matte tea he drinks. When not on stage or in the recording booth, Arrington has a black, palm sized earthenware bowl with a flat, metal straw that he carries around with him so he can rest his voice. Indonesian throat singing requires a singer to oil up their throat whenever it isn’t in use. He was wide awake, and his voice was putting me to sleep.

I asked him about why he is so serious about his recording process and the upcoming show in Kalamazoo.

“Well, in recording you are capturing a single moment in time. You are also creating something that can be listened to over and over again--recording is an art form, performing is an art form, they are similar in many regards, you know.”

I perked up, adjusted the cell-phone and peeled it from my hairy cheek, sweaty from the late night humidity and overused LCD screen. He goes on and on, digressing about the nature, the philosophy of his performance.

“Performance is about channeling spirit that is going into filling up the space in the moment, hoping to reach the people in the audience: dancing, moving, what have you. With the recording you want to create something you are going to listen to over and over again.

“I hear these things in my head, and maybe different things I have heard over the year, reformulated in a different context. There is an underlying communication that goes behind that sound.

“It’s this sort of like, this, uncontrollable joy of being alive, being a spirit that lives inside a body and celebrating that, that...immense joy and terror that is all wrapped up into that thing we call life. And singing about that can be fun.

“I like it to be as fun to watch as it is to listen to, but if it is too bright people feel too self-conscious.

“Anytime is a good time to dance.

“I dunno.”

Our conversation fizzles out as it approaches midnight and we make plans to go out for beers and a tour of Kalamazoo's food stuffs before his show next Sunday, May 5th.

Five days later, back at the show, I understand Bo's enthusiasm, but it only causes me to twitch as the clock keeps ticking away and the floor remains empty save for two middle aged flies who buzzed in from the bar with their drinks to walk out to the smoking porch beyond the stage.

*Note* The second half of this piece is not yet complete, as most everything happened last night. No spoilers allowed, but there will be more--I promise. My intended place of publication is This is a sandpaper low grain draft. Please forgive me.


  1. Hey there,

    Wow, I love this piece so far, it totally caught my attention. I am finished reading it and don't really feel like I know who this guys is or what's going on or what he is talking about, but i don't really care because everything that you wrote here is so vivid and detailed. Plus I think the take-away is that your conversations with him were pretty uncohesive and all over the place, and I love that that comes through in the piece.

    I love how you set up the show, and write in the first person... even though the piece is primarily about your experience interviewing him, the focus on him is perfectly apparent. I don't really have any feedback for betterment of this piece until finished.. I really thoroughly enjoyed it.

    See you tomorrow!

  2. also, just realized I'm not in your workshop group... free comment for you! but I'm really glad I stumbled upon this

  3. I love this so far! I think the details are really rich, and I definitely find myself wanting to read more about this guy. I think this has to be one of my favorite things I've read of yours (and it's not even done yet - so no pressure!) I wish I had more things to say, but I like where you're going and look forward to talking more about it in class.

  4. I absolutely love your descriptions of the band-mates, especially as that was an issue that I had in mine. Each introduction and bit of dialogue was accompanied by colorful descriptions of actions and mannerisms, which kept me riveted to read more. These guys sound really quite fun to hang around. That said, There were a couple instances in which you tended to run on with your sentences. It's an infrequent occurrence, but something that should be noted nonetheless.

  5. Per usual, I love the descriptions you use. You capture the whole scene very well and allow your readers to see the story as you tell it. I liked the description of his voice: "Egyptian cotton soaked in warm water, from all the matte tea he drinks." I like that this captures multiple parts of him. At times though, I got a little confused following the piece. Mostly, the dates kind of threw me for a loop, but I think you could look to improve the transition to really focusing on Arrington in the middle. A fantastic start.

  6. The descriptions of all the people in the band are really interesting. From the start about the stuffed animals and artwork, you create a attracting scene to the reader. The little details that you catch add up to be very cool. I thought you're description of Arrington was interesting, but once you started quoting him, I began to lose interest as there was just a long list of quotations without any interruption. I was also confused by the sense of time in this story; things seemed to jump around. I'm interested to see the next draft!

  7. Zac,

    I was drawn to your piece because of the unique spin you put on it. You’re clearly very knowledgable of the music scene and I enjoyed reading your description of the bar and about people like Bo Tyler that you know. I think it makes you a trustworthy writer. Just in general, I like your writing style. Your use of diction and description is impressive, and makes for an interesting read. I thought that your description of Arrington’s voice was wonderful. I think it speaks a lot about him as an artist and person.

    I’m a little confused by the dialogue at the end because you stop providing the questions that you asked. It became a little difficult to follow.Overall I think you set up the profile very well. I like that it starts off with you waiting at the bar, then turns to your phone conversation and comes back to the bar scene. I’m excited to read the second half!

  8. Zac,
    Liking this funky band and this vivd piece. I think you really set up the scene and placed yourself in the piece effortlessly.
    You have a way of writing with sound that drives your pieces, but also makes sentences difficult to understand at times. I think if I were to hear you read them aloud, I'd get it [excited to hear that at workshop,] it sounds like your real, person-to-person voice, but when reading it on the page, I think sometimes breaking down sentences or reducing the number of adjectives will make the work stronger. Overall very rich like Darrin said. Excited to hear how the next show went.

  9. Zac,

    I dig your voice. Somehow I imagine you telling me this story while you’re sitting in a shadowy area of a smoky coffeehouse (we somehow transported ourselves to a time when people could still smoke indoors).

    Your voice, however, portrays a bit too much boredom for me to hold onto the story. I got lost at a few points. As a reader, I felt like I was in a haze, which may be what you’re going for, but the haze should be more confined. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but I can explain it more in workshop when I have the added bonus of hand gestures to get my point across.

    Overall, I feel like your writing transports me to a world that you don’t normally share with people. It’s a chill and inclusive insight to a world that seems exclusive to most.