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Archive for the ‘Unicorns’ Category

[ATTENDED: March 11, 2018] The Flaming Lips

After Sarah and I saw The Flaming Lips in Philly, I really didn’t think I ‘d see them again.  I never said never, but I said, unlikely.  Then they announced a short tour which included a spot at the newly opened Xcite Center at the Parx Casino.  This was a close show in a small, seated venue.  And when I heard that they had added a few new surprises, I decided it was worth going once more.

There was some confusion in the listing.  Originally, Chappo was supposed to open for them.  They had opened for them in Bethlehem and I really enjoyed their set.  I would have been happy to see them again. Then Chappo said they were not opening (they opened on the three earlier shows).  But there was no word on who would be opening.  To make things weirder, the Parx site said the show was at 7 and the Lips said the show was at 8.

Well, I arrived at like 5 to 7, fought my way through the smokers at the casino (really??) and made it to the Xcite Center at one minute to 7.  The lady at Will Call said they’d be going on in 15 minutes and there was no opener.

Holy cow. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LO MOON-Tiny Desk Concert #688 (January 5, 2018).

WXPN has been playing “This is It” quite a bit lately and I’ve realized that it sounds way too much like Mr. Mister (I think it’s Mr. Mister, or something else cloyingly 80s) for me to really enjoy.  [Speaking of Mr. Mister, how is it possible that Pat Mastelotto, currently touring with King Crimson, was the drummer for Mr. Mister?  Are they better than “Broken Wings.” There’s hardly any drums in that song at all and Mastelotto is awesome].

Anyhow back to the history of Lo Moon, lead singer and instrumentalist Matt Lowell says he created the song “Loveless” 5 1/2 years ago in a basement studio in New York.

He then moved to Los Angeles and linked up with Crisanta Baker (guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and multi-instrumentalist and principal guitarist Sam Stewart. They spent months in a backyard shed with gear and guitars everywhere. There they learned to feed off each other, sometimes jamming on two-chord drones for six hours straight without even saying a word. With the lights turned down, it was a comfortable space for the band to catch its artistic wind and create a celestial sound.

No word on when Sterling Laws was added as a drummer.

The show starts with “This is It.”  Lowell is on piano, and the song sounds pretty faithful to the recording. It’s the combination of the four note melody and the synth sound of those four notes at the end of the chorus that really rings Mr. Mister to me.  The addition of the backing vocals (ahhhing) is a nice addition to the song.

For “Real Love” Chrisanta switches to piano, Sam switches to acoustic guitar and Matt goes to electric guitar.  He plays a pretty melody on the guitar, but I can’t help feel that his voice is too soft, too middle of the road.

The same is true for “Loveless.”  They switch back to the original instruments.  Like “Real Love” it’s a pretty song, but ironically, without those Mr. Mister notes, there’s really no hook.  The songs just sound like pretty, generic songs on some kind of soft rock station.

[READ: September 9, 2017] Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

I enjoyed the first Pip Bartlett book.  It was funny and had a good time with magical creatures.

In the first book we find out that Pip Bartlett is a young girl who can speak to magical creatures–unicorns, silky griffins, fuzzles–but no one believes her (because no one else can).  This is a drag because she loves magical creatures and her Aunt Emma is a veterinarian of magical creatures (people know magical creatures exits, they just don’t think people can talk to them).

Pip loves Unicorns and in the past has assisted Mr Henshaw with a very timid Unicorn–Regent Maximus–who was afraid of his own shadow.

I love the tone of the books.  This one opens: I was shoveling Greater Rainbow Mink poop. This wasn’t as bad as you might think. Greater Rainbow Minks only eat brunt sugar, so their poop literally smells like candy.  (It’s NOT candy, of course, It’s very important to remember that no matter how good its smells, it’s still poop).

And then we see (or actually we don’t see) a Rockshine who can only say the word Hey, but most often says “Heyyyyyyyyyyy!”  Rockshines are dull sheeplike creatures who turn invisible when frightened–which is often. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: DAUGHTER-Tiny Desk Concert #313 (October 21, 2013).

Daughter is a quiet folk band (at least in this Tiny Desk Concert) in which two acoustic guitars (Elena Tonra and Igor Haefeli) and one drum (Remi Aguilella) play behind Tonra’s gorgeous, angsty vocals.

For all three of these songs, she sings delicate whispered vocals that are quite lovely, but also quite dark.

Like this line from “Youth” “Most of us are bitter over someone / setting fire to our insides for fun.”  I love the way Haefeli’s guitar harmonics sound like keyboards and how powerful the martial drumming sounds when it comes in.

“Landfill” opens with thudding drums (Mallets instead of sticks) which are louder and bigger and yet still feel gentle.  And yet, as the blurb says: The song is “achingly pretty and melancholy, the track builds to an absolute gut-punch of a line — “I want you so much, but I hate your guts” — that conjures a pitch-perfect mix of gloom, desire and hostility.”

They put out an EP and in 2013 released an album:

the lovely If You Leave, but Daughter was kind enough to resuscitate “Landfill” for this stripped-down performance at the Tiny Desk. As you’ll see and hear, that aforementioned gut-punch is a recurring specialty for the band: In all three of these sad, searing songs, singer Elena Tonra showcases a remarkable gift for coolly but approachably dishing out weary words that resonate and devastate.

Between these two songs, Bob asks if this is an awkward place to play, and she responds, “No, we’re just awkward people.”

For “Tomorrow” there is a beautiful ascending guitar melody and loud drums.  I really like the way the guitars play off of each other–even though they are both acoustic, they sound very different and complement each other nicely.  Like in the wonderful melody at the end.  Despite how pretty the song was, apparently she was unhappy with it saying “a bit ropey, that one.”  I hadn’t heard that before, but evidently it means “unwell…usually alcohol related” so that’s pretty funny.

[READ: August 30, 2016] Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543

Zach Weinersmith writes the daily webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  I supported the Kickstarter project for his book Religion: Ruining Everything Since 4004 BC and this book was part of my funding level.

I was more interested in the religious comics, but I am tickled by how funny the Science comics are.  Weinersmith knows a lot of science (or at least scientists) and make some really funny jokes about the subject.

The one thing I have to say off the bat is that I don’t love his drawing style.  There’s something about it that I simply can’t get into.  Even after two full books of these drawings, it just never gels for me.  But that’s fine. because I’m here for the jokes.  And they are awesome. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 4, 2017] The Flaming Lips

I saw The Flaming Lips back in 2015 and I was thrilled at how much bigger their show had become since 2000 when I saw them the first time.  When I saw they were touring again for their new album and were playing The Fillmore, I knew that I had to see them again, and this time I needed Sarah to experience the show with me.  She doesn’t know their music very well (she liked a couple of songs and actively disliked a number of them (mostly their noisy covers)–but I knew they wouldn’t play those).  I couldn’t stop talking about that previous show, so I think her expectations were pretty high.  And she told me they did not disappoint.

Having clipping. as the opening band was unusual because if there was ever a show I couldn’t imagine Sarah at it would be a loud, screechy vulgar hip hop band.  But it served as a palate cleanser for The Flaming Lips.

I noticed that they added even more stuff to the previous set, but it was weird that they have all of this great stuff on stage, but then they tend to obscure it as well.  Between the lights in front of the stage (how weird to see all those lights dangling in front of the performers) and the fog machines, sometimes you couldn’t even see the cool stuff going on.  But it was all part of the sensory overload of the show.

Before the show started, Wayne and some of the other guys came out and checked some things. Its was funny to see Wayne walk out on stage and wave to us.  He even shot some hand-held confetti cannons at us.  But then they went back stage and it took another fifteen or so minutes for them to start.

In front of the stage were all of the strands hanging down.  It was impossible to know what they were, until the music started and we saw that they were light strands.  And as the music swelled, Wayne conducted the lights and the music.  It was very cool. (more…)

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pipbartrSOUNDTRACK: TURTLE ISLAND QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #111 (February 26, 2011).

turtleTurtle Island Quartet (there’s no explanation for their name) are a quartet who play an interesting hybrid/jazz crossover. This is most evident in cellist Mark Summer’s playing.  Half the time he bows the strings but the other half he plays like an upright bass (including a percussive elements when he slaps the strings).

“Model Trane,” the opening tune is a John Coltrane-inspired piece, propelled by Summer’s running bass lines Despite the more classical set up (and three violins) it feels very jazzy.  It runs about 4 and a half minutes.

The band leader is David Balakrishnan who has written most of the songs.  He describes the second song, “Monkey Business,” as “loosely based on a sardonic view of Darwin’s theory of evolution.”  I don’t quite know what that means (it’s an instrumental after all), but it’s neat the way the music is all over the place stylistically.  The most notable moment comes when they quote (and fugue) “Strangers in the Night.”  Although other parts of the song remind me of the music in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

The final song has the funny title “Groove in the Louvre.” He says it was inspired by Django Reinhardt.  I don’t know enough Django to know if that is evident here, but there is plenty of soloing going on.  There’s jazzy fiddles (Balakrishnan plays a baritone violin on this song).  There is very jazzy bass (and even a bass solo on the cello) as well as classical elements.  The song is 8 minutes long.

They are definitely an unexpected quartet.

[READ: June 1, 2015] Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures

Pip Bartlett is a young girl (yes I was surprised that Pip was a girl, especially since it didn’t say so until nearly the end of the Prologue).  She can speak to magical creatures–unicorns, silky griffins, fuzzles–but no one believes her (because no one else can).  This is a drag because she loves magical creatures and her Aunt Emma is a veterinarian of magical creatures (people know magical creatures exits, they just don’t think people can talk to them).

The Prologue sets up that Pip loves unicorns but she never really encounters them.  Pip is an authority on magical creatures because she has read (and carries with her) Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures.  She has actually been annotating it as she learns more stuff than is in the guide.  (The guide is good it’s just incomplete).  Then on field day, a classmate brings in four of her show unicorns.  Pip talks to them and discovers that they are incredibly vain and show-offy.  One of them demands that she ride her so that she can show off as much as the other unicorns.  So Pip does (against her better judgment) and all chaos reigns.  Pip is then sent to live with her Aunt for the summer.

As mentioned, Aunt Emma is a vet for magical creatures, and Pip is pretty excited to see them all.  Emma’s daughter Callie is less than thrilled.  She works in the vet’s office for long thankless hours.  And she is crabby when Pip sees her.  Within a few minutes, a couple of exciting things happy, though. (more…)

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