Gorilla vs. Whale

The internet likes animals. And music. And music and animals. I am not particularly surprised. Though the mariachi beluga video meme was one. It appeared within 48 hours of the release of our gorilla video. And went viral.

As interest in the beluga video ballooned on a massive scale, we were totally upstaged. But I’m not complaining. The gorilla video debuted on the Fader, was up on Gorilla vs Bear, and covered by various news outlets in Canada, New York, and Mexico. The alt weekly, Boston Phoenix, wrote an article too “How Grass Widow came to play a concert a small group of great apes.” But let’s be honest. The beluga was more interesting. Because it seemed so unplanned and it probably was. And well, because it was a whale. What’s striking about that beluga video is how expressive he is. Gorillas, even though they are more closely related to us, aren’t expressive with their faces. Unlike chimps, and us, they seem pretty detached most of the time. But they’re not. They just don’t use their faces to express emotion like we do.

I visited Mystic Aquarium (where the mariachi fan lives) to chat with their head veterinarian and the trainers almost two years ago and they told me that one of the belugas really liked music. Especially harmonica music. I can’t tell from the youtube video if it’s the same whale, but it probably is. He’s been on my mind ever since.

Here’s the thing though. Our video was unplanned and unstaged too. We had no idea how those gorillas would react. And it was supposed to be an experiment. We were going to come back at a later time and shoot a “real” video once we knew what the gorillas liked. We decided to shoot the trial run anyway though. And that is the footage that became the video.

We didn’t plan for Kiki to bring her baby over the glass to show Raven (the guitarist) when the band stopped playing. We didn’t ask Gigi (the older female) to come sit inches away from Hannah (the bass player) for the whole show, alternatively making eye contact with each of us, or bemusedly gazing into the middle distance. And we certainly didn’t expect Kimani to come up and bang on the glass in front of Raven and Lilly (the drummer) and then stare in interest.

The thing that I like about playing shows for other animals is that you have no idea what will happen. For the musicians it’s probably a little like busking on the sidewalk. Except even if you’re great, you’re not going to make any money. And if someone throws something at you, it’s probably not in disgust. Though it might be.

Hannah Lew,  as our dinner conversation is drowned out by mariachis in SF

One Comment on “Gorilla vs. Whale

  1. Pingback: Music for Animals | The Spec Blog

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