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Archive for the ‘Charise Mericle Harper’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANIIL TRIONOV-Tiny Desk Concert #691 (January 12, 2018).

It has been quite a while since there had been a classical pianist on Tiny Desk.  And man, what a return.  Trionov is just stunning and he makes some of the more complex piano pieces in musical history seem easy.

NPR’s Tom Huizenga has written a splendid blurb which I’m putting here because he covers far more than I could:

When we invited Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov to play a Tiny Desk concert, we rolled out the big guns. In place of the trusty upright, we wedged a 7-foot grand piano behind Bob Boilen’s desk in preparation for the artist who The Times of London called “without question the most astounding pianist of our age.”

That’s a pretty lofty claim, but watch and judge for yourself. His performance here is extraordinary. Still in his 20s, Trifonov seems to have it all: jaw-dropping technique and interpretive skills beyond his age. He’s also a composer — the night before his NPR visit, he played his own knuckle-twisting piano concerto at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C.

But for his Tiny Desk show, Trifonov focused on Chopin, beginning with the mercurial “Fantaisie-Impromptu” in C-sharp minor, a work that mixes sweeping melody, turbulent passion and wistful repose. Hunching close over the keyboard with feline agility, Trifonov’s slender fingers glide effortlessly. He coaxes the instrument to sing tenderly in the slow central section.

Trifonov follows with a pair of short tributes to Chopin by his peers. Robert Schumann’s “Chopin” accentuates the lyrical side of Chopin, filtered through the German composer’s forward-looking harmonies, while Edvard Grieg’s “Hommage à Chopin” offers volatility, lovingly rendered.

The smartly programmed set is capped with more Chopin, but with a nod to Mozart: the finale from a set of variations based on an aria from Don Giovanni. It gives Trifonov a chance to display his lightness of touch, plus a few pianistic fireworks. Smiling, he treats the tricky filigreed runs and hand crossings as if it were a child’s game. Look closely and you can see the piano shake.

So Trifonov plays four pieces.  The middle two are quite short.

Chopin: “Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66”  This is one of my favorite pieces.  The fast part is jaw-dropping and the slow part is achingly beautiful.  His fingers flow over the keys like he was simply petting a cat.

Schumann: “Chopin. Agitato” (from Carnaval)  Trifonov says Schumann wrote a tribute to Chopin called “Chopin,” which was a portrait of the man.   This is a quiet, delicate piece and it is so much fun to watch his hands float seemingly weightless above the keys.

Grieg: “Hommage à Chopin, Op. 73, No. 5”  This tribute focuses on the more stormy and turbulent aspects of Chopin’s faster work.  It slowly builds in intensity with very fast finger work.

Chopin: “Variations on Là ci darem la mano‘ (from Mozart’s Don Giovanni) – Coda. Alla Polacca”  Chopin wrote a variation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  This is the finale. There are some amazingly intense runs up and down the keys in this piece as well. And again a lot more bouncing around with his left hand to high notes.

This was a tremendous Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: December 13, 2017] Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle

I really enjoyed this third Crafty Cat book.  Anya continues to be an unreasonable character (and I want someone to stand up to her!), but her awfulness allows for some good humor and good setups in this book.

The book opens with Crafty Cat saving an ant after dusting it with glitter (the ant now feels pretty special).  But then it’s soon time for Birdie to get to school.  She tells us that they are picking roles for the class play about butterflies.  Everyone is supposed to pick a bug they want to be:  “Be creative in your choices, we don’t need ten ladybugs.”  Birdie confesses that she is going to be the butterfly she has even crafted a small model of the wings that she can make.

Then Evan shows up.  He rescues a glittery ant from the sidewalk (that was amusing)  and then reveals that he is going to be an ant for the play.  When Birdie says she’s going to be the butterfly, Evan has reservations.  When they enter the school we see 10 students all wanting to be the butterfly–especially Anya.  And image HER surprise when other kids want to be the butterfly–which is her role, after all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 3 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 10, 2005).

This was the 3rd night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.   Each night’s show has gotten longer, with this one reaching almost two and a half hours.

Ford Pier is back on keyboards.  They are joined by Alan Pigguns for a couple of songs and Jen Foster on accordion.

Throughout the show, someone is yelling “Legal Age Life” It never gets played–so that ought to teach you something about shouting requests.  But they are very friendly to the folks from San Diego who get lots of shoutouts.

The opening band was The Mellow Grove Band, and Tim says, “I’d only ever heard The Mellow Grove Band on CD.  I wanted to see them live.  They totally blew me away.

“Saskatchewan” is a beautiful slow opening with twinkling pianos.  Martin sang the first verse through his robot voice and it sounded pretty cool, but seemed to throw everyone off–no one did backing vocals and no one caught on to the chord changes.  Dave says he screwed him up with that robot voice, so they start over and it sounds great (and you can hear someone yell “Thank you, Martin”).

As the song ends, Martin plays a few lines of “Hey Hey, My My” before the final piano keys twinkle out and the rhythmic clapping of “Rain Rain Rain” picks up.  Dave is playing the bongos and Martin calls out “Bongo Davey!”  Dave keeps playing and Mike shouts: “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you!  You go!    Dave says “Bongo solo is supposed to be at the end of the show.”  Mike: “This is the end of the show.”  Tim: “No, it’s now or never.  Let him go a bit.”  When “Rain Rain Rain” starts, you can hear the loud woman singing along with him.  It even makes Martin chuckle.

During “Polar Bears and Trees,” Dave interjects, “the land of polar bears and trees, that’s Canada.”  Then Martin says “Hi there” which gets the Martin fans nutty.  Before singing “The Tarleks,” He does a lot of talking in the Tarlek voice: “Love what you do.  Dave Bidini, your books are such great books.  Mike, your production work…fabulous.”

Dave send the next one out to people who aren’t from:  Toronto, Scarborough, Markham, Etobicoke or  North York. Mike: what about Mississauga.  Dave says you know I don’t even acknowledge Mississauga,  mike.  You know that all of the worlds problems stem from Mississauga, let’s face it.  Tim: Our last drummer was from Mississauga.  Triumph was from Mississauga.

They play a delightful “We Went West” and then start talking about hydrating.  Dave mentions “precious bodily fluids.  It all comes back to Stanley Krueger, Krubrick.  Someone put liquid acid in my bottle of water.  Everybody knows it was the guys from San Diego.  They scored liquid acid at Queens Park today (they shout “last night”).  And you thought it was a Tylenol.

“PIN’ starts with the outro music and then launches into the intro with lots of strummed acoustic guitars.  There’s pretty twinkling sounds at the end with Martin stating “On the Dirty Blvd.”

During “Mumbletypeg,” Dave states: “We’re Klaatu from Etoboicoke.”   During the outro, three of them are all singing different things in a chaotic fugue.

While people are shouting out their requests, Dave says, “Thanks for your requests, we’ll get to them later.  Or not.  You’ll go home disappointed but we’ll have your money.  That’s the way it is. That’s the rock n’ roll business.”

This seems to get the audience riled up and I hate that you can hear people yelling and talking loudly during the opening quiet part of “In This Town.”  Whats’ wrong with these people?

Dave adds an intro to “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” “Death to you and death to me / death to the head of the company / corporate whores and superstores bring death to the future that i see / death to the men in pistols and pointed hoods who run F.M. radio and Hollywood.”  There’s some really  pretty vocals at the end of the song before Martin and I assume Ford take turns screaming the last note.

Why is someone hollering during the quiet beginning of “Northern Wish”?  Martin sings “gonna launch it from my garage.” And after that Martin seems to get lost but Dave is there to help him out.  At the “we don’t need submarines” (fucking hate em).  And then someone starts doing a doot doot submarine sound.  And then at the end, Martin is still doing the “land ho” when the band kicks into the “launch it from my pad” section.  Then Martin starts singing another verse and Dave says I believe it’s the end of the song.  So they do the land ho part again and everyone (even the crowd) sings along.

Martin: I think somebody slipped some ludes into my bottled water.   I was just enjoying the sweet grooviness of what was going on and I fell into a dream.”

Then up comes Jennifer Foster on the squeeze box.  She’ll be accompanying on “Who Is This Man And Why Is He Laughing?”  Dave: It’s a Michael Philip Wojewoda composition and it goes something like this (he plays drums really fast). Martin: “Put Dave behind the drum kit, he can barely contain himself.”  By the end on every fourth beat the audience starts shouting “oh!” in time.

We’d like to invite another beautiful person for tonight’s program, Alun Piggins.  Alun: “I’m just flattered that you called me beautiful, Dave.”  That idiot is still shouting of r”Legal Age Life” and Dave says, Al didn’t learn that.  Dave says “we;re gonna act like we didn’t discuss what to play.”  Ford: “I didn’t”  Alun: “Was that you, Mike?”  Mike: “No that was Ford, another smart ass in the group.”  Let’s do Fred.

They do a cover of Fred Eaglesmith’s “Freight Train.”  It sounds so different from anything else they play.  There’s even a harmonica solo.  It really rocks and sounds great.  I never heard the song before.

Note: When I write about kids books I try to keep the music somewhat clean.  It doesn’t always work.  And since I’m in the midst of this Rheos marathon who are usually only mildly dirty and am doing First Second books, I didn’t expect what comes next.  So, if you’re easily offended skip the next paragraph.

Alun asks if he can do a Christmas song. After some abuse, he says it’s a lonely Christmas song about a guy who spends Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day masturbating to internet porn.  Probably at triple xmas dot com.  Dave asks, Is this like that McLean and McLean song “Merry Christmas Handjob.”  Alun: No, I wrote this one.”  Dave is insulted by the McLean song saying “he calls it a handjob but he’s actually masturbating.  You know how fucked up that song is?”  Mike: “Is that from Toilet Tricks?”  Dave laughs and then admits that he does like the song. Alun’s song is called “Dirty Dirty Dirty Dirty Christmas” and it’s pretty damned dark.

When it ends, Mike notes: That man was in The Morganfields (a thrash/folk act).

“Here Comes The Image” has cool long keyboard solo and effects.  And a woman keeps shouting for “Making Progress,” but they don’t play it.

Dave says they’re going to play three songs from Whale Music, and that they’ll be doing the whole album on Wednesday.  And that tomorrow night is the all-ages show.

“King Of The Past” is a bit sloppy although Martin plays a great solo at the end: “ride that wild stallion, Martin.”  During “RDA”  Tim is pretty much screaming the backing vocals and laughing like a maniac.  Then Dave throws in a few choruses of “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” and starts chanting:

we have no voice
when force is the noise
when force is the sound
when guns are the melody
when wrongs are the truth
when the newspapers are the crime

Which sounds eerily prescient for 2017.

“California Dreamline” is kind of sloppy but “Feed Yourself” is really intense.

After the encore, Dave plays his two acoustic songs, “Last Good Cigarette” which he says is “our White Stripes tribute” and “My First Rock Concert.”  The end gets a kind of reggae style and Dave sings in an almost reggae-but-really-inaudible way.  Then Dave asks Ford what shows he saw at 14.  And boy does Ford have a list

Big Country, Killing Joke, The Pogues’ first European tour, Black Flag, Husker Du.  And that’s when I became a non-U2 fan.  During the Unforgettable Fire tour, when he was singing Pride and Martin Luther King was projected and I thought…this is….  Dave says, “I’m pro U2.”  Mike: “Martin and I are more into the spy plane, actually.”  Martin: “Dave said the War tour was awesome. The Waterboys opened.”

Another request for “Making Progress.”  But Martin says, “Let’s go back to the 1950s with this next number.”  Mike: “When nuclear energy was still hopeful.”  They play “Torque Torque” which segues into ” a rollicking Claire.”  Paul Linklater comes up for a solo as well.

You can hear someone ask Dave something and he says, March 2007 at Massey Hall we hope (and that did come to pass).

They end this lengthy show with a wild “Satan is the Whistler,” which they have been doing very well lately.

[READ: October 17, 2017] Crafty Cat and the Crafty Camp Crisis

I was surprised to see that this second book had come out already (and a third one is due soon).

In this book Birdie is excited to go to Craft Camp. Birdie and Evan had a deal.  He would go to Crafty Camp and afterward she would go to his house to play Pumpkins & Pirates.  And when she loses the game, she will watch him do the victory dance.

She has high expectations for what this camp will be like–a big table full of brand-new craft supplies?  Maybe the walls will be sparkly and decorated with all the cool crafts we’re going to make?

Her best friend Evan is running late and there’s an amusing scene where he shows up but has to go to the bathroom.  While he’s in the bathroom she gets a visit from Cloudy who tells her that she is a good friend.  But Cloudy won’t tell Evan to hurry because it doesn’t do bathrooms.

Evan also bursts her bubble–“Craft Camp. It’s just in our regular classroom at school.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 2 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (December 9, 2005).

This series of shows contains the final Rheostatics live shows that are left to write about–except for their “final shows” and their “reunion shows” (which I really hope to see some day).” This was the 2nd night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe. Ford Pier was once again on keyboards.

This show was slightly longer than the previous night.  Unlike the 2004 Fall Nationals, however, they are not promoting an album, so there is a lot more diversity of songs.  Although there are a few “new” songs.

As the show starts, Dave says, Thanks to TruthHorse for the films.  [TruthHorse is a sketch comedy troupe who makes a lot of short films.  Like this one].

They have a lot of fun teasing the intro of “Onilley’s Strange Dream.”  You can hear Ford Pier and Martin occasionally playing the melody, but it takes almost four minutes before Dave says “we’re trying to set the record for playing the longest sustained G chord…. Ronnie Milsap currently has the record.”  Ford Pier goes on a lengthy bullshit rant about Medieval scholars and Boethius and chords and colors and physical and celestial bodies.  He says essentially that the G chord should make you think of the color blue and the sun.  After five minutes, Martin starts singing.  He doesn’t seem to recall all the lyrics, but Dave helps him out.  The song fades out and picks up with an interesting opening to “Fan Letter To Michael Jackson.”  It’s pretty rocking with a lengthy jam in the middle and a big keyboard section (“Ford are you ready to feel alive.”).

Dave chats with the audience: “How old are you?  Happy 22nd.”  The belligerent man with “her” says “Sing it to her, I’m not joking, right now.”  What? “Happy Birthday.”  Dave: “Oh if we did that the union would be all over us.  I don’t even now it.  We’ll dedicate this completely inappropriate political rant to you, if you’d like.”  That rant would be a rocking “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  Dave introduces Tim: “Straight from the Czech Republic.”  Tim: “Slovak.”  Dave: “That’s what I meant.”  Tim ask the birthday girl: “Are you Heather?  Oh.  Three birthdays today.”  Dave: “There have been three babies born here tonight and they have all been named Rheostatics.”  Mike: “Just imagine the cruelty on the school ground.”

“Record Body Count” has a lot of organ in the background which changes the sound somewhat.  Next comes “Four Little Songs” which they start but don’t actually get going.  Mike: “What, no melody?”  The song takes off and sounds good.  Then for the third verse: “Here’s Ford Pier to sing you a song.” Over a circusy keyboard melody he sings about a magnificent driver.” No sure if it’s a real song or improv.  At the end Ford Pier plays the “soulful sounds” of Canadian Airlines.  The music they would play as you boarded….before they folded.

Then comes Tim’s new song, “Sunshine At Night.”  It rocks with a good thumping bass line.   It’s followed by “the civic premiere” of a new Martin song “Teen On The Staircase.”  It’s pretty spare to start.  And it’s either not finished or Martin is just having a hard time.  It’s got simple lyrics:  “Teen on the staircase, wash your interesting hair.”   They get lost on the song and finally jump to the chorus.  The lyrics seem very stream of consciousness.

Dave chastises someone: “It’s very dangerous to hide beer bottles under the poinsettia.  You;ll cut your foot.  What are you doing?  You must be from Brampton.”

Mike says: “Fuck the sophistication, let’s go with the stupid”  Dave messes up the first line of “Me and Stupid”  “What the fuck happens in this song anyway?”

“The Tarleks” starts in the wrong key. No one notices and they get along quite well and then stop.  “Shit that was sounding good.”  Then Ford picks up his earlier thread: “This is what I was referring to, it was moving a different organ than we are used to.”  He mentions INXS and a New Sensation. And then Martin says “INXS is one of the only relevant bands from the 80s.”  Which is a pretty bold statement.  They pick up where they left off in the correct key.

Next comes two of Dave’s acoustic songs “Song Ain’t Any Good” & “Pornography.”  It makes me laugh that there’s a line in “Song Ain’t Any Good” that dismisses writing songs about unicorns or cats, and yet later they play Happiness which is about cats.

“I Fab Thee” comes as a surprise. It’s a rollicking bouncy version where Martin sings “caught you masturbating” which is not in the original kids song.

Dave notes that “Were entering the shank part of the evening.”  I didn’t know what it meant last time either.

Ford asks if anyone noticed that there’s a different backdrop this evening.

Then it’s two Tim songs, “Introducing Happiness” and “Marginalized.”  Marginalized has some trippy synths which takes some of the bite out of the crunchy guitars.  But it sounds kind of funky this way.

Mike asks if anyone has a drum key and amazingly someone does (why doesn’t he?)  Then Tim asks if anyone has 20 bucks.

Dave has some kind of guitar trouble during “The Land Is Wild” but they don;t get sidetracked.  It’s followed by “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” in which the middle drum solo section finds Dave playing the guitar soloing riff from another song (I can’t place).   They take a break and for some reason, Martin mentions again that he smokes Gauloises Blue just like John Lennon and Bruce Cockburn.

After the break, Tim plays a solo version of a new Violet Archers song “Truth.”  It will appear on 2008’s Sunshine at Night.  Dave mentions that  they have the Violet Archers debut album as well as Martin’s solo albums and Dave’s books.  Ford talks about positive visualizations and about his 2005 accomplishment list.  One of them was playing a Fall Nationals.   “The other 9 or 10 items on the list… once the first domino has fallen… there’s three whole weeks left.”

Then comes two bird songs. “Take Me In Your Hand” is slow and spare–at first just drums and acoustic (with some keys on top).  There’s no coda at the end.  After making him feel like a  little bird, then comes “Little Bird, Little Bird.”

Someone requests “Whats Going On.”  Dave says we’re doing our whole whale music album Wednesday.  They guy says, I have an exam.  Well, you’ll have to fail.  You can surely fail a course to come and see us.

The last three songs are fun rocking versions of “PIN,” “Fish Tailin'” and “Soul Glue.”  For the last song, someone starts playing “Soul Clue” and then stops and Mike chants: Veto.  But then they play it again and everyone is happy.  The show was just over 2 hours.  And as they walk off, they thank Creaking Tree String Quartet and TruthHorse.

[READ: July 7, 2017] The Amazing Crafty Cat

This was a cute book about crafting and creativity.  I was totally caught off guard the way it started.  We see Crafty Cat in her room creating something (and saying Purrfect, which I didn’t like).  Crafty Cat keeps an eye out for colors and shapes that work together.  And with lightning fast paws, Crafty Cat makes it look easy. Crafty Cat has made a panda clip and Crafty Cat is a Big Winner and a Crafting Genius!

But then we hear a voice say “Birdie, you’ll be late for school.”  And that’s when we learn that Crafty Cat is the imaginary alter ego of a little girl named Birdie.

I was so relieved by this because I was afraid that the whole book was going to be Crafty Cat making crafts (which would have been a strange book, to be sure).

This breaks the Crafty Cat spell–she’s not ready to go to school just yet.   And she certainly doesn’t want to talk about homework.

But nothing can really bring her down because today is her birthday!  And everything will be perfect because she has a box of panda cupcakes!  She imagines that everyone will love them, even the mean girl, Anya.  (The flashback to Anya’s birthday is really hilarious–her birthday treat was playing a game called “I’m the queen and you’re all my loyal servants.” (more…)

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