As far as buzzing microtonal avant-garde post-punk goes, Philadelphia’s The Notekillers had it all down cold with the likes of its first recorded music, “The Zipper,” before the dawn of the 80s.
For Philadelphia’s City Paper, the de facto leader of The Notekillers, its dentist, drilling guitarist David First once told me that “A lot of energy in 1976 was about getting rid of rock’s over-inflated ego and pretentiousness,” he said. “But there was still that guy in the middle in all these bands saying ‘Look at me!’ We saw it as the ultimate radical expression of punk sentiment to get rid of that guy altogether.”
For all the notoriety, First gained for his Notekillers, it is as a solo artist where his rubber meets the road, with a hard thud, and not just courtesy his six-strings, but as a Theremin player, harmonicat, and EBO bassist, and as an opera fanatic and composer.
Ever since 1991’s Resolver, First has maintained his rep for multi-genre, operatic solo albums, while continuing an avant-scrawling rock career as a Notekiller and as a Joy Buzzer, and as a leader of the World Casio Quartet. He’s also been a collaborator of pianist Cecil Taylor and TV on The Radio’s Kyp Malone as well as (uh oh) the Mummers’ Trilby String Band.
While most of First’s music can be heard on a steady basis abroad or in the concert halls of New York, this weekend, he’s home in Philly with a “two night portrait” of his career, “Same Animal, Different Cages,” at Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N American Street.
This career overview starts with February 7’s composition, “The Consummation of Right and Wrong” (2017) for mixed ensemble played with The Western Enisphere. The self-portrait concludes on Night 2, February 8, with members of Philly’s avant-classical ensemble Arcana, a reunion of The Notekillers (with bassist Stephen Bilenky and drummer Barry Halkin) and The Western Enisphere performing the crème of First’s most diabolically noisy music.