The title might evoke an image of clammy-fingered men in ill-fitting clothes bent over synthesizers with penlights attached to their heads, but the Switchboard Music Festival is actually a bold eight-hour expedition through convention-crushing terrain led by musical fire-eaters. Certainly, the dazzling Zoë Keating fits the bill. While with the critically acclaimed Rasputina, she helped expose the indie-rock world to the power of four women cellists and a distortion box. On her own, her music is even more peculiar and haunting. Using numerous pickups and a foot-controlled laptop, she transforms her instrument into an orchestra capable of hypnotic percussion, unearthly harmonies, and gripping drama. Since Rasputina, Keating has not avoided nightclub audiences shes worked with DJ Shadow, Amanda Palmer, Imogen Heap, and Curt Smith (yes, of Tears for Fears) but there is no doubt she seeks some deeper resonance with an invisible world. In that search she finds unlikely companions at Switchboard, including Thorny Brocky, which combines Indian and Balkan music with jazz, rock, and klezmer to make imaginary cartoon soundtracks; Sqwonk, a bass-clarinet duo with a penchant for heavy metal and pterodactyls; and Oaklands miRthkon, a jazzy chamber-prog conflagration that uses video and text to add flesh to its own mythology.
Sun., March 28, 2 p.m., 2010