the Ego and the Oracle

Mystic Music Show

Longtime KAOS radio program "Radio8Ball" was inspired by the Magic 8-Ball toy. In turn, the program has inspired a Web version, a do-it-yourself party game, and now, a live show featuring the Boston band Jim's Big Ego.

This weekend, that show, "The Ego and the Oracle" - starring the band and radio host Andras Jones of Olympia - will make its Western Washington debut.

"On stage, we use a spinning wheel that has many of the band's songs on it," Jones said. "People write down their questions, and we pick at random. If their question is chosen, they come up on stage, read their question and spin the wheel. The band plays the song the wheel lands on and then we do the interpretation."

While the idea that a randomly chosen song can provide real insight might at first seem strange, that's exactly how it seems to work, Jones said.

When he came up with the idea for the radio show, which he's been hosting since 1998, asking questions wasn't even part of it.

"We thought we'd just play CDs on shuffle f unction," he said. "It seemed like it would be easy. It wasn't that we were going to ask questions.

"By the second time we did it, we'd talk about something and we'd play a CD on shuffle, and it would be amazing how it would relate to what we were talking about. It seemed like it would be a natural progression to ask questions."

Jim's Big Ego was a guest on the show last year. The folk-rock band members loved the format and had been wanting to develop a musical.

"I got this idea that what Andras does on the radio would be really great as a randomized, completely improvised musical event of a theatrical nature," said bandleader Jim Infantino.

"The questions generate a lot of compassion," he said. "People listen in a completely different way than when they're just at a concert.

"Say somebody says: 'I'm worried that my dog is dying. Is my dog going to be OK?' We spin the wheel, and a song comes up.

"Everyone has a feeling about the person's question. They're following the song for an answer, because most of them really want the dog to be OK. It's a very different listening experience than if you're just passively taking in a song."

The live production has an extra dimension, Jones agreed.

"There's something that's really powerful when everyone's really in the room and actually experiencing the divination together. It's a powerful way of breaking down the fourth wall.

"By the end of the show, it has a feeling more like a workshop or a seminar, where we're all engaged in something together, than like a performance."

by Molly Gilmore, The Olympian

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