The shows must go on

An injured Mark Dresser plays through of New York dates

Mark Dresser played every NYC date without his bass, or full use of his shoulder.
  • Mark Dresser played every NYC date without his bass, or full use of his shoulder.
  • Image by Brian Ross

Local bassist Mark Dresser has just returned from New York, where he performed two concerts per night, six nights in a row at the Stone (an East Village performance venue dedicated to experimental music). It was a gig booked six months in advance, but it nearly had to be scrapped at the last moment.

Mark Dresser

Live at the ISB New Music Summit 2013

Live at the ISB New Music Summit 2013

“Two days before I left for New York, I did a stupid move trying to climb over a row of seats in the UCSD theater and lost my balance and traumatized my shoulder,” Dresser told the Reader via e-mail as he readied for the trip back home. “I couldn’t lift my arm over my head so I couldn’t even bring my own instrument. I went to the acupuncturist the next morning and he broached the topic of canceling. That night I went to the ER for an x-ray to see if anything was broken, which thankfully wasn’t the case — just swollen. They gave me Ibuprofen and pain-killers and told me to ice. I took one dose of the pain medication and stopped.”

Dresser initially considered canceling the gig. “Then I considered that I had musicians that were flying to play with me at the Stone for a friggin’ door gig! A great drummer from Vilnius, Lithuania, a master flutist from Zurich, not to mention two bass colleagues from San Francisco and Pittsburgh. There was no way I couldn’t show up. Even if I was in pain and not full force I was going to make it work somehow. By the end of the first set I stopped trying to be careful and just play with abandon. Typically after the gigs, my arm felt better.”

Dresser plays basses that are specially modified to amplify certain frequencies, and that capacity is a large part of his personal sound. “I initially felt handicapped to be without my tools,” he admitted, “but truthfully, I got 90 percent of my vocabulary without them, and in the end, I played with as much intensity as is my norm.”

Despite the pain and inconvenience, Dresser is upbeat about the experience. “Musically it was rich and diverse. Humanly, I’m blown away by my community of musician friends, some of whom traveled from afar to be a part of the music with me with no concern for money. This is powerful stuff.”

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