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Freak-jazz power trio The Thing to invade SA with special guest Joe McPhee

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So, what is the Thing? To the uninitiated, the Thing is simply a band with an ungoogleable name, specifically one comprised of two Norwegians and a Swede who play what might be characterized as jazz. But for the faithful, the group of Scandinavians adds up to something considerably more.

“The Thing for me is a collective like no other I’ve ever seen, one that runs the gamut through punk and garage and jazz,” says Kory Cook, music director for KRTU 91.7. “Basically it’s creative improvisational music, its energy music.”

A more expert opinion may come from the Thing’s own Ingebridgt Håker-Flaten, bassist and founding member of the group. “It’s music that is based in jazz and groove, but a lot of people tell us they get references to punk rock and noise music,” Håker-Flaten told the Current from his home in Austin. “And really it’s all of those things; there’s groove and melody and plenty more.”

So be it a freak-jazz juggernaut, or the most musically accomplished punk band this side of the Minutemen, the Thing is coming for what will be their first show in the Alamo City in over five years.

Since their formation in 2000, the band — comprised of Håker-Flaten, Mats Gustafsson on sax and various reeds, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion — has cut nearly a dozen records (including Neneh Cherry’s The Cherry Thing, a covers album), collaborated with fellow freaks Thurston Moore and Jim O’Rourke, and established itself as one of the most curious and inventive forces of the modern avant-garde. But it’s the live show that has gained the Thing a hard-won reputation as one of the world’s most notorious acts, jazz or otherwise. Known for the spontaneity and primal intensity of their performances, the band has been known to careen from Ornette Coleman to the White Stripes all in the span of a single tripped-out tune.

“We don’t make a set-list,” said Håker-Flaten. “Our shows are completely open-ended. “We’re working with material ranging from Don Cherry tunes, to originals, to more rock covers. But it’s all in the improvisational setting, so it’s hard to say what direction any one show will go.”

As an added bonus, the trio will be joined by trumpet legend Joe McPhee, the rarely performing master who has long kept alive the tradition of free jazz pioneers like Albert Ayler and John Coltrane.
“It’s always a huge pleasure to have Joe with us,” says Håker-Flaten. “I mean he’s a bit older than us, but he feels like the youngest. He’s from that heavyweight ’60s generation, and he carries that influence with him.”

So what should one expect from a Thing show?

“A lot of people think when you watch improvised music, you’re supposed to sit still with your legs crossed and think about what you’re hearing,” says Cook. “But this is party music. I’d love to see someone slam dancing to it.”

The Thing

8pm Fri, June 15
The Warehouse
1119 S St. Mary’s
(210) 999-8151

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