Dumping dozens of talented musicians onto a platform doesn't always equate to something beautiful. Going in, I wasn't sure if the musicians would take turns collaborating with each other throughout the night or if it would be a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen situation with minor local music celebs piling together to create a "We Are the World"-style jamboree. To be fair, there were moments when three guitarists and three vocalists and three MCs and a couple drummers were all chugging along together in a sort of directionless meandering, but those less memorable moments were punctuated by points of real clarity as one of the performers would move forward, state a theme, and get the others to follow along.
One of the more chilling moments of the night found rappers Joe Horton (No Bird Sing), Alexei Moon Casselle (Kill the Vultures), and Kristoff Krane on their knees at the center of the stage, riffing on not knowing what to do next and repeating the line "Don't do anything" as a cacophony of clanging cymbals and shuddering guitars roared on behind them. "I don't know what's going on!" Krane roared, looking wild-eyed into the crowd, and it ended up being one of the most poignant things said all night.
The night's only real constant was Krane, who seemed hesitant to leave the stage as others stoically filed on and off and would sometimes continue reciting verses between songs, bridging together two movements with his voice. At times, Coloring Time would pare down to just a few people, at one point leaving JelloSlave cellist Michelle Kenny and Pines guitarist and singer David Huckfelt alone on stage to construct a sparse bluesy melody. That collaboration grew as the pair was joined by Huckfeldt's Pines bandmate Benson Ramsey on slide guitar and Spaghetti Western String Co.'s Michael Rossetto on banjo, and the group wove together an old-timey Americana tune that was one of the most composed and beautiful points of the night.
Another highlight was young Mijah Ylvisaker, who would approach a microphone with her friend Olivia and sing sweetly and softly in the background, picking up on the chord progressions quickly, almost innately, and harmonizing with her friend on the fly. When other members of the group were starting to run out of steam, Mijah and her friend took center stage to sing "This Little Light of Mine" and answer questions from the group, which was heart-tuggingly sweet.
"If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?" Krane asked Mijah. After a dramatic pause, she replied "California."
"If you could go anywhere in the universe, where would you go?" chimed in Casselle, and Olivia replied without hesitation: "My grandma's house in Wisconsin."
By the night's end, Coloring Time had played for a whopping three hours, only taking one short intermission. Looking around the room, the musicians who had performed and the audience members all seemed spent and happy, as if we had just performed mental acrobatics together. And that was sort of the fun of it -- even at its most tedious moments, there was a real reward in sticking it out and seeing where the musicians would lead us, and there's no telling where they might take us next.
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