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moellerSOUNDTRACK: UNTIL THE RIBBON BREAKS-Tiny Desk Concert #420 (February 17, 2015).

untilI’d never heard of Until the Ribbon breaks–a synth band from Wales–before this show.

It’s hard to imagine what their recorded songs sound like (this is evidently really stripped down).  The notes say that in order to achieve this sound, the solution involved a spaghetti strainer, a paint bucket and an acoustic guitar.  And as the show starts you can see the drummer putting a spaghetti strainer down and laying some paint buckets around.

They play four songs and they are all good.  They are fine.  “2025,” “Pressure” “Until the Ribbon Breaks,” and “Spark.”  In this stripped down form there’s really not that much too them, but they’re not bad at all. The lyrics are topical and current about relationships and the like.

I like that the drummer plays guitar instead of drums on the  third song (which is quite mellow).   The final song, “Speak” is my favorite–it is quite catchy with great backing vocals. You can watch the Tiny Desk here.

I just checked two of their recordings and they are very electronic–very dancey and moody.  I like the acoustic stripped down version of “Sparks” better, but the electronic aspects of “Pressure” make it a little more interesting than the stripped version.

[READ: January 5, 2015] An Almost Perfect Thing

This is a fascinating play told in a fascinating way.

There are three people in the play: Greg, Chloe and Mathew.

Six years earlier, Greg (who is a journalist) wrote a story about Chloe, a girl who went missing.  Now, six years later, Chloe is free from her captor but, rather than go to the police, she hunts down Greg and offers to give him an exclusive story about what happened to her.

Greg is excited about the prospect (even if he does think she should go to the police).  But she tells him that she won’t reveal her captor or give any details, she just wants to relate the experience to him.  He imagines that it could be a very successful book, but she says no, it must be installments in the paper. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: April 24, 2015] Guster

2015-04-24 23.01.50I’ve seen Guster a few times as openers (Tori Amos, Ben Folds, Barenaked Ladies) but never as the headliner.  And it was amazing how different the band was for this show–in which the crowd was totally there for them.

Singer Ryan Miller commented on how they haven’t played the Theatre of Living Arts in  a long time–and that the fans were with them on the way up and now again on their way down (it’s unclear if he was serious or not).  The band’s “stage design” for this tour was afghans.  As you can see in the pictures, the band has afghans draped all over everything.  Ryan said that the band’s fans supplied them with all of the afghans.  They decided to totally embrace the theme and even put an afghan on one of co-singer Adam Gardner’s guitar.  I did not get a good photo of it, but there’s a great photo on Instagram of it.

Midway through the show the band mentioned that they’d been together for 24 years.  Which is pretty impressive.  The three main guys (Ryan, Adam and “Thundergod” Brian Rosenworcel on bongoes and other drums (most of which he plays with no sticks–seriously, he smashes drums and cymbals with his hands–ouch)) are sill there.  For touring they’ve added an instrumentalist Luke Reynolds and a friend of the band on drums and percussion for some songs. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED, April 24, 2015] Kishi Bashi

2015-04-24 20.11.02This is our second time seeing Kishi Bashi in about a year.  As Sarah said, I’m really glad we saw him in the State Theater first because in that venue, you could really see what he was doing with his feet and his other gear (well, and the sound was better).  But it was so much fun seeing him in this venue because the show was very different.

But still it was just him and his violin (and a bunch of looping pedals) and, man, is his good.

Whether it was the lack of seats or just more confidence on stage, K. was a more wild performer.  At this venue we stood one the floor (and marveled at how we are apparently very short).  We could see his head and torso (bow tie and leather vest) but not his feet.

He opened the show with “Atticus, in the Desert,” my favorite song of his.  He did some really fun beatboxing and sound manipulation (even commenting that one of the beats was “sick” and that he had to try to remember what he did) he improvises a lot of beats and is really good at it. Continue Reading »

moonknightSOUNDTRACK: ZOLA JESUS-Tiny Desk Concert #421 (February 23, 2015).

zolaI didn’t know Zola Jesus before this Tiny Desk show.  I’d heard the name but didn’t know that it was the “group” formed by Nika Roza Danilova.

This show is practically a capella.  It is just Nika and Daniel Walter Eaton on trombone.  Yes, trombone.  He works as a punctuation to her voice (which is powerful and really impressive).

She evidently normally plays with a much bigger band, and often with a lot of electronics.  So this really showcases the quality of her voice.

She sings three songs (in just 9 minutes): “Ego,” Hunger” and “Nail.”  “Nail” is probably the catchiest song of the three.

I can’t say much more about them, except that a trombone is certainly an unusual accompaniment and her voice is tremendous.  Check it out.

[READ: January 6, 2015] Moon Knight

This book collects the Moon Knight series issues 1-6.  I had never heard of Moon Knight before although apparently he is an old character resurrected by Ellis.

The story is a fairly simple (supernatural) one.  Marc Spector, a mercenary, was killed in Egypt under the statue of Khonshu, the moon god.  Spector was resurrected (or something) in the guise of the moon god.  According to the introduction of the book, “he wore [the god’s] aspect to fight crime for his own redemption. He went completely insane, and disappeared.”

This is what happened next. Continue Reading »

elephantSOUNDTRACK: DAN DEACON-Tiny Desk Concert #422 (February 25, 2015).

dandeacDan Deacon is a trip and a half.  I only know him from NPR (and they love him).  He is a weird dude, that’s for sure.  He plays some super weird electronic music.  But more importantly, he really really gets the crowd into his show.  Indeed, this is one of the few Tiny Desk Concerts where the audience features more than the performer.

His opening mantra is that you will close your eyes and enter the consciousness of Martin Lawrence’s character in Bad Boys II.  This is apropos of nothing of course.

“Feel the Lightning” is amazing.  He has his synth set up to control an acoustic piano (you can see the keys playing).  Deacon plays some really catchy music (an amazing amount of noise and layers) but with a beautiful piano melody over the top.  And he sings.  But his voice is utterly and utterly processed.  There are high harmonies added to it and frankly I have no idea what he’s singing most of the time.  It’s catchy and alienating at the same time.  It’s amazing to watch the piano playing by itself–wailing–at the end.

Deacon himself is a pretty weird dude as well, as I said. He starts talking about filing down solenoids and other technical details about what he did and then he shifts gears and tells them to form a circle for a dance contest.  He prattles on and on (and is quite funny).  The contest rules: be sassy, after 5 seconds, pick the next person to go in, imagine you’re a T-Rex in Jurassic Park.

“Sheathed Wings” opens with the wrong song and then when the song proper starts the dance contest begins.  And how fun to watch the NPR staff dancing along (and to see how big their office is).

The final song “Learning to Relax” is nearly 7 minutes and it also features a group interpretive dance (with captains).  As with the previous dance off, everyone is brought out one at a time (including Bob and Robin!) for a dance off.  Always maintain eye contact with your team otherwise you won’t know if your dance moves sucks.

And while all this is going on, he’s singing along, pressing all kinds of weird (homemade) gadgets.  I love watching him “conduct” the piano during the slow part.

As the show ends, you hear Bob say it’s heart-healthy NPR (and Dan asks if there’s a shower in the building).

I don’t even have all that much to say about the music–which is hyper and dancey, but man, I’d like to see him live sometime.  It’s a show one won’t soon forget.

This is a must see.

[READ: January 6, 2015] An Elephant in the Garden

I didn’t realize until after I read this that this play was an adaptation from a novel (I’m curious to read the novel now).  Or that the novel was actually a children’s novel ( I just saw on amazon).

This is a simple story of a girl, her mother and an elephant.

As the play opens, it is 1989 and Lizzie is visiting the recently torn down Berlin Wall.  Then it flashes back to her life in Dresden.  She as born in 1929.

Set in 1945 in Dresden, Germany (yes, you know what is going to happen), Lizzie and her family are a Christian family who do not approve of Hitler or his plans.  They have relatives who support Hitler (and who blame the Jews for their losing World War I) and who call Lizzie’s father a Jew-loving pacifist (!). Continue Reading »

cityspiesSOUNDTRACK: PHOX-Tiny Desk Concert #423 (March 2, 2015).

phoxtinyPhox play pretty, quiet music (quiet for a six piece anyhow). There’s a 12 string guitar, banjo, bass drums and piano al held together by the lead vocals of Monica Martin.  Her dusky voice is quite lovely (as are the high backing vocals of the piano player).

“Kingfisher” is bright and chipper and that little trill at the end of the verses (and the song) is really catchy.

It’s always fun when artists are nervous about being in a small room–closely scrutinized.  Monica notes, “It’s so bright in here.”

“1936” is chock full of great harmonies (both backing vocals and when the whole group sings together).  It has an olde quality, especially when they start doing the “bum bum bum” in lovely harmony.

The final song is also lovely—the harmonies again, and the delightful times when the music drops out and its’ just piano or glockenspiel are really dynamic.  There’s even whistling!  I wonder if this is what the band sounds like live or if they are usually more rollicking.

This was a very (to quote Monica) “dreamy” show.  Watch it here.

[READ: December 24, 2014] City of Spies

I have dozens of posts about books I’ve read over the last few months that have been pushed back because of other things that I wanted to write.  So I’m going to start publishing these older posts–most of which are about comic books!

I had also decided to read all of the First Second Graphic Novels. There are a lot, and I got a whole bunch from the library all at one time.  I kind of burnt out on them so I haven’t read too many lately.  But now its time to see what I’ve been reading.

I had literally no idea what it would be about (spies, obviously).  So imagine my surprise to find out that it was also about the Nazis infiltrating America in the 1940s.  Clark had read it a few days before me, and he said he liked it but after reading it myself, I have to find out just how much he understood.

It’s a clever book in which two kids (who are drawn rather simply–like Sunday funnies kids, which I liked)  try to bring down a secret Nazi spy ring in Manhattan in 1942. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: April 18, 2015] Popovich Comedy Pet Theatre

popvichThis show was playing at McCarter Theater and at RVCC. It was at least $10/ticket cheaper at RVCC, so good for us!  The RVCC show was a general admission seating situation, so we got there much earlier than we normally do for shows.  Of course, so did everyone else and we wound up sitting pretty far back (I was glad that people were actually coming to an RVCC show!).

But that was okay, because we could still see all of the action and all of the pets perfectly.

Some fascinating things to note about Popovich before I even get to the show.  Despite the name, the show is not only pets.  In fact there are a lot of human clowns and acrobats and performers on stage as well.  Evidently Popovich is quite well-known and has appeared on many TV shows.  And the whole show is told as a vague kind of story.

pop tvWhen we arrived, one of the troupe was standing in the aisle with a cat on his shoulder.  Tabby got to pet the cat, which was sweet.  Then a man in a cool green outfit (a big flared jumpsuit) with some white face on came down the aisle eating popcorn.  He played some jokes on people in the audience and then climbed on stage.  He was a kind of warm up, doing cheesy jokes (the fingers transferring from one hand to the other joke), and then doing a bit with a balloon that he could not move.  He was a really convincing mime and that bit was great, especially when the other guy came out and tried to pull the balloon away and couldn’t.  It was all simple but when it’s done well, it’s really magical. Continue Reading »

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