Vincent Gallo and RRIICCEE stay mellow and mysterious at Jammin' Java

By Aaron Leitko
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vincent Gallo has a knack for roiling up controversy. He's a celebrity dilettante of the first order -- a filmmaker, visual artist, actor, model and motorcyclist -- whose work is often entertaining, if only because it irritates so many people. When his 2003 film, "The Brown Bunny," debuted at Cannes, critic Roger Ebert named it the worst film in the festival's history. Gallo sparked additional controversy by promoting the picture with a Sunset Boulevard billboard depicting the film's concluding (totally NSFW) love scene with actress Chloe Sevigny. James Franco, eat your heart out.

Gallo's music, on the other hand, is surprisingly smooth sailing. Monday night at Jammin' Java, the multifaceted artist performed a mellow one-hour set with RRIICCEE -- a kind of high-concept jam band that he formed and has toured irregularly since 2007.

It was hard to know what to expect. RRIICCEE's lineup and instrumentation changes frequently. The group apparently has no recorded work -- no albums, singles, MP3s or even a bootleg YouTube clip to hint at its sound. No pictures, either. Signs posted outside the venue announced that, per the band's request, photographs were strictly verboten.

Which is too bad, really. It looked cool. The stage was bathed in soft red light and lined with a carefully curated array of vintage amplifiers, keyboards, bizarro electronic effects. The group -- a trio including Gallo, Woody Jackson and Nico Turner -- emerged one at a time to patter on drums, strum guitars and noodle with various doodads. Gallo, wearing a fringe-heavy motorcycle jacket, stationed himself off to the side and rarely looked directly at the audience.

The music, well, it wasn't terrible. The set was largely composed of super-subdued melodic improvisations -- a kind of free-form, art-school elevator music with a mild debt to composer Ennio Morricone. No peaks, no valleys, no guitar solos, just ambiance. Gallo dropped in one pre-composed song, "Yes, I'm Lonely," from his 2001 solo album "When." After 45 minutes, Gallo seemed to sense the audience teetering on the edge of boredom and called it a night. No encore.

Gallo's talents don't come cheap. On his Web site, he sells his solo CDs for up to $150. His original artworks, in the thousands. For $50K per night, he even claims to be available as an escort. By that standard, RRIICCEE's Jammin' Java gig at $17 was, if nothing else, an awesome bargain.

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