MOUNTAIN EAGLE (What’s Up)  July 2000 by Alvis Brigis

  Imagine the combination of a brilliantly grooving funk/blues band, 1200 watts of black light, and piece upon piece of fascinating fluorescent artwork.  Got it?  Then, once you’ve formulated a solid mental picture of the mix, absolutely make sure you swing by the Woodstock Night Gallery one weekend evening to see whether or not you put it together correctly, but more importantly, to partake in a terrific audio-visual experience.

   The Woodstock Night Gallery, which opened its doors to the public just this year, is doubtlessly one of the most original places in the region.   Consisting of several windy, intertwined rooms, a black and white checkered floor, and a unique series of mathematically conjured visual mazes that glow brightly in th black light, it easily captivates the mind and demands hours upon hours of viewing and attempted maze-cracking.

   The artwork, which is comprised of hundreds of short twisted lines of solid colors, jumps out at you from the black walls it hangs upon, in mosaic fashion, and easily captures complete attention. The larger forms in the art generally consist of “spiral galaxies”, human traces, and other abstract shapes.  However, once you step closer to the $5,ooo pieces, it is possible to discern some of the most difficult mazes out there.

   The artist behind it all, not to mention the proprietor of the Gallery, Alan Lasser, says his work “was inspired by the aborigines who drew upon the rocks”.   About the emotions that come along with being an artist working within the fluorescent/black light medium, he passionately affirms, “When you create something you get a rush.  the best I’ve ever had is making my spiral galaxies.”

   Formerly the New Haven chess champion and a publishing executive, Lasser says his work is all based on the mathematical “four-color map conjecture theory”, originally developed to make certain that colors used for different countries on maps would never touch areas of like color.  In fact, part of why he enjoys his new profession as an artist so much is that there is a distinct logical formula at the heart of it, much like chess.

   When it comes to the difficulty of the maze aspect of his works, Lasser chuckles and states, “I know a few of the maze makers tricks.”  And indeed he does, as the path to the end of his creations is more windy than any I’ve ever seen.  (Maze-lovers beware!  You may lose days visiting the place)

   In addition to the stunning visual setting he has created, Lasser also occasionally pumps up the music when he invites area bands to come play the Gallery.  In fact, one such band, AS-AM-I, looks to become a regular at the place, which is something Lasser is excited about because they are not only a high quality ensemble, but because they currently don’t have a lead singer and that allows a better atmosphere in which to get a feel for the artwork.

   Sunday evening, June 18, when I went out to visit the Night Gallery I was pleasantly surprised to find out that AS-AM-I , out of Phoenica, was playing there.  Better still was the emotion that came over me as I listened to them begin their set, because this was a band that could most certainly locate and develop the subtle collection of well-fitting noises that most of us recently refer to as “the groove”.

   Interestingly, most of AS-AM-Is songs had no definite titles.  Instead they were referred to as certain ideas, or begun as certain riffs, and then built upon.  But despite this seeming lack of structure, the organization of the music was well thought out and very interesting to listen to.  Certainly, the interplay between the rhythm and lead guitars was exceptional.

   Some particular riffs made for great melody, especially while the bass and drum kit energetically swelled in the background, and the solo lines played were nothing short of infectious as they faded in and out of more meandering and exploratory sounds.

   Overall, it was captivating.

   While they played, AS-AM-I showed glimpses of their influences(Phish, Primus, The Deftones, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Doors, etc.),  but in the end were possessed by a style all their own.  On the whole, I was absolutely amazed by the way AS-AM-I gelled with the surroundings to put on two terrific sets packed with blues, funk, and straight up rock:  in short, these boys could jam!

   When asked what it was like to play the Night Gallery, N.I., one of the guitarists, who refused to divulge his non-stage-name, replied, dead on the mark, “It’s a more relaxed atmosphere than other gigs because you are part of the exhibit and people interact more with you as they view the artwork.”

   In this case, AS-AM-I certainly seemed to fit right in with the fluorescence of their surroundings.