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Review: Stolen Idols offer surreal soundtrack to the Dali Museum



(This is the 40th entry in Soundcheck's summer concert series,
The 50-50 Club. For previous entries, click here.)

No matter how long you live in a city -- even if you spend your whole life in the same place -- there will always be things there you've never done.

Maybe you've never been to Busch Gardens. Or the Tampa Theater. Or Honeymoon Island.

Me, I'd never set foot inside the Salvador Dali Museum. Don't know why. The perverted old Spaniard's artwork has never really done much for me, I suppose. (His cape and mustache, on the other hand, I totally dig.)

However: The half-price tickets, discount food and live music at the museum's summerlong S'Real Friday Happy Hours definitely caught my eye. And the fact that this Friday's musical guest was Stolen Idols, a jazz combo that blew me away at Tropical Heatwave ... well that was a huge plus.

Besides, what goes better with Dali than exotica?

Exotica is a style of evocative, loungey jazz that sounds like a mix of James Bond music, South Pacific music and smooth grooves of the '50s and '60s. "It conveys an air of mystery and intrigue," pianist and bandleader Drew Farmer said by way of introducing the band's original tune The Kyoto Protocol. It's like elevator music, if elevator music were awesome.

Besides being a wholly unique twist on the traditional jazz combo, it's exceedingly rare: Stolen Idols are one of only a handful of strictly exotica acts still active in the United States.

"We would like to thank Salvador Dali for inviting us here," Farmer deadpanned to the crowd. "We twirled his mustache for him, and that sealed the deal."

As I said: It was a good fit.

The Dali Museum is a tad smaller than I expected, though you could easily spend several hours in there, thanks to the artist's complex paintings and the museum's detailed placards.

You have to feel bad for the Dali Museum in one regard: They don't own what is by far the most famous Dali image, The Persistence of Memory, a.k.a., The One With All Those Melting Clocks. But you wouldn't know it from the gift shop*, which is packed with more melting clocks than a flaming Swatch kiosk: Magnets, Christmas ornaments, neckties, wristwatches and, yes, clocks.

But the rest of the museum's collection is quite nice (I particularly liked Dali's glass sculptures), and there are a few melting clocks sprinkled throughout Dali's other works here, including in Catalan Bread and Surrealist Poster. And they do own a copy of one of the only other Dali works I know: Lobster Telephone**.

(Incidentally, "Lobster Telephone" is one of the many works I saw whose names could double as an excellent band name. So if you're starting a band, and you don't know what to call yourself, here are some other Dali titles/suggestions: "Figure in Flames," "Girls With Curls," Apparatus in Hand," "Seven Flies (and a Model)" "Morphological Echo," "Puzzle of Autumn," "Metamorphose Erotique," and my absolute favorite, "Sugar Sphinx.")

One of the most surreal parts of the museum was a creepy video installation by Mabel Palacin. It featured shots of people doing odd things on a stage, and close-ups of an audience watching them, interspersed with high-speed video shots of wine being spilled and people working on machinery. Scoreless, and punctuated by several random foley-style sound effects, it was very strange, yet oddly transfixing.

Oh, and I saw a couple making out in the video room. That was weird.

So, Stolen Idols. A sizeable crowd was there to see them, including many young dates. I missed parts of their second set while I was roaming around the museum, although I could still hear them in places, which provided an excellent score for my journey through the world of Dali.

The band covered tunes by exotica legend Les Baxter and others, and played some of their own evocative originals. They did a Far East-flavored cover of Moonlight in Vermont.

With his graying beard and ponytail, marimba player Kent Oldfield may be the most eye-catching member of the band. But it was the percussion section, Ivan Ftorek and Jeff Browder, who really impressed me. Their snares and bongos were always dead on, sparse when they needed to be and louder at other times. They also threw in a mix of blocks, maracas, shakers and cymbals that always struck the right tone. Even a triangle on East of the Sun made a world of moody difference.

I stand behind what I wrote about them at Tropical Heatwave: They're surfing at the point where kitsch and cool meet.

There is no reason exotica can't make one of those weird, random comebacks occasionally seen in certain niche genres of music. (I'm looking at you, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.) If it does, bank on the guys from Stolen Idols landing some higher-profile gigs.

Now that would be surreal.

Next up in The 50-50 Club: Coldplay, Aug. 9, Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

* Also for sale in the gift shop: Salvador Dali perfumes and colognes. Apparently, back in the 40s, Dali helped create a line of scents for men and women, such as Salvador, a "spicey woody" scent with hints of black currant, grapefruit, mango, vetiver, musk and amber. Some of them smelled pretty good. I have no idea if Dali was the first celebrity to come out with his own fragrance line, but if so, you could argue that Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears were simply following their own idiosyncratic artistic visions, just like Salvador Dali.

** Actually, the gift shop may be missing the boat here. Sure, melting clocks are cool and all, but give me an actual working lobster telephone any day of the week. Even a Lobster Telephone paperweight would have been cool. Dali folks, get on that!

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 3:12pm]


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