Higher Learning on the Broadway stage

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My first thought at hearing Atlanta-based instrumental outfit Higher Learning was that they reminded me of Moogfest alums Sonmi — melodic, driving and cinematic, but without the snap and menace of Dave Mathes’s drumming. Higher Learning’s beat is more funky, even if just incrementally so.

The first Saturday performance on the free, outdoor stage, Higher Learning’s crowd was fairly light. But the audience was surprisingly diverse: Families with strollers shared the space with dancers in long skirts and short tops, one caped guy pulling off some intricate choreography with his cigarette, and a lot of police officers.

The cops clung to the one sliver of shade by the ABC office while everyone else soaked in the sun. The music whipped into a frenzy but the crowd, languid and basking in Saturday, kept time with its own collective slow dance.

Changing pace, Higher Learning moved into a breezy song with cool keys tones, a shimmer of cymbals and tart hits from a touch pad. Organic and almost flowery, the tune echoed the mood of the afternoon. Even better, it seemed custom-made for the girl in front of the stage who guided a thin stick through the air with fluid motions.

The dancing stick seemed, appropriately, like a streamlined and stylized Moogfest retort to that jammy festival favorite, the devil sticks.


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