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Archive for the ‘Dance’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THOU-Tiny Desk Concert #847 (May 6, 2019).

I saw Thou play a show last year and they were loud, abrasive and intimidating.  So much so that when I saw this collective of people behind the Tiny Desk, I had to double check to make sure it was the same band.

I mean, the band I saw had a male singer who growled/screamed all of the lyrics.  This band had three women singing and was entirely quiet.

I had a ticket to a show recently featuring Screaming Females (who headlined for Thou last time, too) and what was listed as a rare acoustic show from Thou.  I assume it must have sounded something like this.

And this is pretty awesome.

But what is going on?

The first-ever metal band at the Tiny Desk is a little bit of a head fake. Make no mistake, Thou makes some of the heaviest, most tortuous music around; but the band also constantly experiments with beautifully ornate arrangements that balance its most extreme measures. In a set culled from the acoustic-driven Inconsolable — one of six full-lengths, EPs and splits the band released last year (no, really) — Thou shows us just how crushing quiet can be.

Guitarist KC Stafford plays guitar and sings lead.  The song is brooding and powerful in its slow quietness.

“This is the softest I’ve ever played,” guitarist KC Stafford told me during sound check.  Yes, their downtuned guitars are turned down low at the NPR Music office, but the weight is still ever-present. Stafford takes the lead on “The Hammer” as co-vocalists Emily McWilliams (blonde) and Melissa Guion (dark hair) sing, “Bring down the hammer / A bludgeon to my shrines / Bring down the hammer / To the corpse of my worship.”

McWilliams’ more high -pitched voice is an excellent companion to Stafford’s deeper delivery.

Guion also makes ambient-pop music under the name MJ Guider and MJ Guider was the opening act for the quiet show.

Stafford played bass when I saw them.  The bassist at this show, Mitch Wells, doesn’t look familiar from that night although he and rhythm guitarist Andy Gibbs are founding members (along with lead guitarist Matthew Thudium).  Perhaps Mitch was not around for that tour?  But he certainly brings some mirth to the proceedings.  He;s wearing a crazy bright shirt (not typical for a doom metal band) and he says that playing the Tiny Desk was a big old bucket list.

Even though the band’s line up has stayed pretty consistent since they began in 2005, they have had three drummers.  Tyler Coburn (who might be the reincarnation of Andy Kaufman) joined in 2018 which means I probably didn’t see him at my show.

The cryptic lyrics and melodies are largely written by Bryan Funck, who normally screams his existential despair for Thou. But for these songs and this Tiny Desk, he lurked in the audience.

So that’s where he was.  Turns out that for the Inconsolable EP, he didn’t sing anything, allowing guest vocalists to sing everything.

For the second song “Come Home, You Are Missed” McWilliams sings lead.  She sang on the EP as well.  Guion accompanies her very nicely.  For this song Stafford’s guitar seems tuned down so far you can hear the string vibrating and rumbling as she plays open chords.

The final lines, “Privacy is priceless to me” are repeated three times.

Thou’s decade-plus discography is an exercise in exploration and refinement, finding new textures in heft, which is why this set offers such a slow-burning thrill to its oeuvre.

I am now regretting even more not going to that show.  I can’t get over what a different experience it would have been.

The closing cut, “The Unspeakable Oath,” lead by guitarist Matthew Thudium, is a twinkling grunge song that overlaps guitar melodies with the grace and grandiosity of a whale.

I don’t believe that Thudium ever sang when I saw them, but his voice is fantastic.  He doesn’t even sing on the EP.  His voice seems wasted in a screaming band.

I really like this song a lot.  I like the way the verses quietly build up and then release with a simple but effective guitar riff as a segue to the next part.  The final part of the song also features some interesting/creepy “ahhhs” from McWilliams and Guion which conclude the song very tidily.

[READ: May 6, 2019] “The Escape”

Eddie Prior is the protagonist of this story and he makes a grand entrance.

As the story opens, Eddie has entered the Pavilion and is heading down the grand staircase when he slips (leather dancing shoes on parquet floor).  But he keeps smiling and manages to tap out the beat with each step, rescuing himself as he comes to a stop between two striking women.  Both women are named Millie and both are embarrassed by his attention.

The blonde Millie is dismissive.  The brunette Millie is embarrassed, but finds him handsome.  Later she agrees to dance with him and a year later agrees to marry him.

As with another recent New Yorker story, this one jumps ahead quickly.  There are children, a war, and bitter words but through it all they are Catholic, so they just get on with it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUMU FRESH Feat. Black Thought & DJ Dummy-Tiny Desk Concert #765 (July 11, 2018).

I recognized Mumu Fresh from when she appeared at a Tiny Desk with August Greene a few months ago.  Mumu Fresh was a true highlight of that show–her rap was political and personal and powerful.

Here she’s got her own concert (and DJ Dummy is back with her for this as well).

A regal combination of black power and Native American pride, Mumu Fresh — also known by her birth name Maimouna Youssef — is an abundantly gifted singer and emcee who prances between genres and styles. The Baltimore native fuses her rich multi-octave range and ferocious rap delivery with spiritually inclined lyrics so potent and mindful they precipitated a wellspring of emotion throughout the room.

Mumu began her own Tiny Desk in her native Lakota tongue with “Ink Pata,” signaling a call to prayer in a sacred ritual. Looped tribal chants of her own harmonies set the mood as delivered a stirring spoken word performance that journeyed through her ancestral lineage to the struggles of the present day.

Her looping is outstanding–she harmonized with herself perfectly.  After a minute and a half she speak/raps/reads a lengthy piece that is really powerful.

With a buoyant and thoughtful spirit, Mumu and her band transitioned into the classic-sounding “Miracles” from Vintage Babies, her collaborative album with group mate DJ Dummy. Declaring it a celebration of soul music, she mixed sweet tender melodies with lyrics to empower those devoid of hope.

She introduces “Miracles” by saying, we are always waiting for something to happen.  But what if your miracle is waiting for you to be prepared: “the teacher arrives when the student is ready.”  It was great having live strings on this track: Chelsey Green (violin), Monique Brooks-Roberts (violin), Kevin Jones (cello) and the backing singers (Amber Harmon) gave an excellent soul sound.

This song segued into the awesome “Work in Progress.”  Accented by the feel-good chords of The Roots keyboardist Ray Angry, and Chris Dave (drums) and Romier Mendez (bass), Mumu speaks t he truth.  With some of my favorite lyrics:

I wanna be a good role model to girls coming after
but sometimes I slip up and say some shit that’s wretched
Forgive me, I’m a work in progress

I don’t give a fuck about what you’re saying to me.
If I’m too big for my britches then give me a sheet.
I need room to grow I’m still figuring it out,
If you say you ain’t, you lying–what you talking about?

and my personal favorite

I’ve been through so much shit I’m surprised I’m still standing
so every time I see a mirror I pose dammit!

The set concludes with a new version of “Say My Name,” a song Mumu wrote about Sandra Bland, who died in police custody in 2015, and the impact it had on her. Starting off with a 1950s doo-wop circle, she blends traditional soul elements with politically relevant lyrics.

It opens with doo wop vocals and lovely pizzicato strings:

If I should die tomorrow at the hands of the policeman
and the papers say, hey, we’re going to call it as suicide
would you even question why?

We watched a woman get drug out and beaten
filmed on a highway
and all y’all could say was black women too mouthy
I’m vexed searching my timeline
See if people find time to criticize and villainize, call that shit a suicide.
What if Sandra Bland was your child

Audacity of hope
to believe you can succeed when everybody and their momma say no
Well fuck y’all. I’m different descendant of the fittest
I’ve been reincarnated just so i can handle business.

Black Thought comes out for a final verse, but it’s hard to hold a candle to what Mumu just laid down.  His flow is great though.  And she even tacks on an extra verse after the credits.

[READ: February 1, 2018] “The Requirement”

I rather enjoyed this simple story, told simply.  It begins with the narrator talking about how when you get older, you lose people.  You don’t care about people who have died until people your own age start leaving.

He says that when people who mattered to him died, he began to feel something was required of him. If he could do it, he did, but sometimes he didn’t know what the requirement was.

When his good friend Bog Ellis got sick he felt a requirement but had no idea what it could be or how to do it.

She tells us some great Big Ellis stories. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LEE ANN WOMACK-Tiny Desk Concert #711 (February 26, 2018).

Obviously I’ve heard of Lee Ann Womack.  I don’t know much about her, except that I’ve heard of her, like a lot, and that she’s a country music legend.

I wasn’t expcecting to like this Tiny Desk, but I really like the music of the first song, “All the Trouble.”  It’s rocking, the violin (Luke Bullais really moody and it sets a great tone.  But man, I just do not buy this lyric from her.

If you’re a country singer and I’ve heard of you, you certainly ain’t got all the trouble you’re ever gonna need, that’s for sure.  She may sound sincere singing those lines, but I’m not convinced at all.

My favorite part of the song was when the guitar (Jonathan Trebing) and violin played off of each other using the main riff from Phish’ “The Song I Heard The Ocean Sing.”

I also feel like she missed a great opportunity to flip some of the cliched lyrics of the song (and there are many) by making this one little twist:

If you got some good news give me a chance
if you’ve got some good love just put it in my (now, she says “hands,” but the better rhyme is clearly “pants”).

I also find her vowels to be very troubling.  The way she sings the word “more” is rather unsettling to me.

I was rather taken with the first verse of the song “Mama Lost Her Smile.”  I thought it was personal and thoughtful, but I feel like it was ruined somewhat by the overuse of the title phrase (I didn’t realize it was the title when I heard the line

I ain’t got much to go on / just a box of photographs / but every picture tells a story (ugh her vowel) and every story has two halves /
I keep on separating in before and after piles and somewhere in the middle is where mama lost her smile

I thought that was pretty great, but the overuse of it took away the specialness.

And then this chorus.  Why change from “you” to “we” it feels antagonistic.

you don’t take pictures of the bad times / we only want to remember the sunshine
but we don’t live in pictures this is real life / and they’re about as different as black and white

That last line was just painfully obvious.

Of the final song, “Hollywood” she says it is “one of my favorite things I’ve ever written or recorded.  I just like the vibe.  It kind of takes you to a different place.”  Wow, it is so dark, I can;t believe she’s so happy with it because it’s such a bummer song about a couple who have fallen out of love.

i ask you if you mean it you say yes.  I knew you would.
either i’m a fool for askin’ or you belong in Hollywood.

Damn.

The blurb says that although  she is massively popular and has had commercial success and widespread recognition, “these days, she’s working on the fringes of the genre.”

I find that hard to believe, but it’s not my genre.  The rest of the band is Dave Dunseath (drums) and Lex Price (bass).

[READ: February 27, 2018] “Seeing Ershadi”

This story starts with the narrator talking about her work as a dancer.  And while that sets the tone somewhat, it really doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the story.  Except that while she was injured she watched a film called “Taste of Cherry” by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.

I didn’t realize that this was a real film while reading the story.  I have just looked it up and it is very real (and Roger Ebert hated it).  The narrator of this story is mesmerized by the story.

The film opens with the actor Homayoun Ershadi’s face.  Not much happens in the film (which is what Ebert hated) but the narrator is mesmerized by Ershadi.  He is driving an SUV looking for someone.  When he finally picks someone up, the man, a solider, eventually flees the car.  It turns out that Ershadi (as Mr Badii) is looking for someone to bury him.  Badii plans to kill himself and wants to ensure that someone will bury his body.  Suicide is forbidden in the Quran, so obviously no one will be an accomplice to this. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Vegas 96 (2007).

This show was recorded at the Aladdin Theatre in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 6, 1996.  The set also includes a DVD.

The show has a great amount of classic songs, a few big rarities, some cool covers and a whole lot of surprises.

Wilson has a really rocking beginning (everyone is going nuts during the can you still have any fun) until just before the “blap boom” part when it slows to a halt with about 20 seconds of squalling feedback.  Then they launch into an excellent non-jamming version of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.”  It is followed by a fast romp through “Poor Heart”—one of the fastest I’ve heard.  It ends really noisily and then segues into a funky jam that’s mostly keyboard.  After 5 minutes it resolves into “2001,” which also ends noisily with scratchy guitars that segue into a very fast “Llama.”

This has been a simply rip-roaring show thus far.  And then they settle down for a 26-minute “You Enjoy Myself.”  The “Boy Man” section is very funky and the following jam stays funky with a lot of high-pitched bass soloing from Mike and a lot of percussion thrown in as well.  The song ends with a vocal jam but instead of doing weird sounds and screams, trey starts singing “doh doh doh donuts, I like donuts.”

I tend to think of “YEM” as set-enders (since that’s my experience with them), but this is still mid-set and they follow up with a synth and piano version of “Cars Trucks Buses” which seems like it’s going to morph into “Kung” but instead it becomes a loud, brash “Down with Disease.”  The set ends with a rocking “Frankenstein.”  I tend to thing they play this and “YEM” a lot because they seem to be on a ton of official live recordings.

Set 2 opens with a funky “Julius” (a song I always assume is a cover but which isn’t), and a nice version of “Sparkle” (with a super fast “laughing laughing” section at the end).  “Mike’s Song” runs about 10 minutes with a really noisy middle section and then segues into “Simple.”  There’s a lengthy piano section that turns into a rocking jam that goes on for quite a while (the whole song is over 18 minutes).  It winds down eventually and returns to a lot of piano.  It is followed by a noisy and raucous “Harry Hood” that feel really raw.  The song is 15 minutes and there’s a long solo before the “you can feel good” part.

Then comes a big, 11 minute “Weekapaug Groove.”  About midway through the jam the whole band stops dramatically and perfectly. They run through a bit again and stop perfectly again (except for an extra snare hit).  It’s amazing how tight they are.  The end grows very quiet as the band prepares for a quiet a capella “Sweet Adeline” (it’s so quiet all you hear is the crowd shushing everyone–this is the major downside to them doing these barbershop songs).  They come out of that with a set-ending, totally rocking cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” with Fish singing the “I know what it means to be alone” part.

The encore proves to be about 35 minutes long.  There are lots of guests and surprises.  And the band walks through a version of the “Harpua” story.  Ler and Les from Primus come out to start the song.  The chorus is done in half time—which is rather unsettling.  The story leads to Les singing Don Bowman’s “Wildwood Weed.”  I had assumed he made up but he obviously didn’t.  Then it’s back to “Harpua.”   In this version of the story, Jimmy walks to Vegas with his cat Poster Nutbag (Trey tells everyone to put all their money on 17).  As they get “closer to Vegas” they hear voices singing “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” (a song by Patsy Montana).  It is sung by the Yodeling Cowgirls.  (There’s some “Happy Trails” in there as well).  Then there’s more of the “Harpua” story and as they approach Las Vegas they see Four Elvises.  Which leads to a singoff of “Suspicious Minds.”  This contest was between four Elvis impersonators with Fish joining in at the end.  Unmentioned (as far as I can tell) are John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (on backing vocals) and actor Courtney Gains (on percussion). And then everyone launches into a wild “Suzy Greenberg” including the Elvises.  During the jam at the end, one of the Elvises turns the song into “Susie Q.”

This is one of my favorite shows.  The inclusion of the Primus guys and the crazy version of “Harpua” is just spectacular.  And by the end, everyone is having a great time.

[READ: April 1, 2017] “Las Gaviotas”

I enjoyed the way this story seemed really unsettled, just like its protagonist.

Finley is a in a relationship with Neil.  But she is currently hanging out at Brace’s apartment.  Brace is Neil’s old roommate.  Neil is in the other room with Brace’s girlfriend Alice.  They are all pretty drunk.

Brace is everything that Neil is not: he is big–not fat, just big–with a voice and presence to match.  And while Finley loves Neil–she keeps telling us that–there’s something about Brace (that name!) that she is drawn to.  She also hates Brace’s girlfriend Alice who has “otherworldly beauty.” (more…)

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may16 SOUNDTRACK: FANFARE CIOCARLIA-Tiny Desk Concert #335 (February 8, 2014).

fanfareFanfare Ciocarlia (pronounced “fan-FAR-eh cho-car-LEE-ah”) is a 12 piece Balkan brass band from the Romanian village of Zece Prăjini.  They are frenetic and wild, who knows what they are singing, but boy are they having fun playing.

On the left side we have four men in black all with big brass instruments–sousaphones and baritone horns and the like.  On the right side we have eight men in red shirts.  The far right have trumpets and saxophones or and down the middle are the percussionists and the singer.  And when they play, everyone is in motion, including the audience.

“Sirba De La Monastirea” is a super fast instrumental–the tempo is insane with the red shirted guys’ fingers flying up and down the horns.  It’s practically like a punk klezmer song.  Hard to dance to but impossible to sit still during.

“Lume, Lume” has vocals. It opens with a fast section but the song slows down to some gentle washes of bass horns–slow and mournful.  After some verses, a sax solo (which sounds like a clarinet for some reason) plays over the horns.  But once the solo is over, the song picks up with a clap-along that grows faster and faster until it once again hits breakneck speed.

“Asfalt Tango” opens with a lot of bass–low horns and drums.  And then that sax/clarinet comes in and wails around.  There are times when the song sounds somewhat mariachi (especially with the red suits).  The trumpets take over which is pretty magnificent.  After a few minutes (the whole song is about 9 minutes long), the band drops away and the sax plays a real solo–just him–until a trumpet and bass horn take over with the melody of “Summertime” while the rest of the band dances or claps along.

The band is having such a good time.  They are lots of fun, cheering and clapping and raising their hands in praise.  Whatever these songs are about, this they area  lot of fun.

[READ: July 6, 2016] “Dance, Off”

The May 16, 2016 issue of the New Yorker had a series called “Univent This” in which six authors imagine something that they could make go away. Since I knew many of them, I decided to write about them all.  I have to wonder how much these writers had to think about their answers, or if they’d imagined this all along.

Brooker, while serious, certainly has fun with his uninvention.  He would like dance to be eradicated.  “I’d sooner defecate on live TV than dance at your wedding.”

He says he is awkward at the best of times so any kind of  attempt to make him coordinate his body with music is astronomically cruel. (more…)

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1982SOUNDTRACK: DAVID BOWIE-“The Laughing Gnome” (1967).

gnomeI have always liked David Bowie.  Never loved him, but always liked his radio hits (and a bit more).  Suffice it to say that I have never heard of “The Laughing Gnome” before reading about it in this book.

What a strange little song.  I can’t tell if it came out before or after his debut solo record (he has the same haircut), but I gather it was released as a novelty record.

It’s a delightful little song.  Very sixties mod with a healthy nod of dance-hall.  The very different thing of course is that in the song, the main singer (Bowie) meets and sings with a sped-up-voiced Cockney “gnome.”

So the song is clearly a novelty song (what else would you call it?).  Except that the production is really great and the music is really good too.  Despite the gnome, the song isn’t really a “funny” song (well, there are jokes and puns, I guess).  It’s certainly weird and certainly silly, but it holds up pretty well to repeated listens (even if the chorus is “ha ha ha hee hee hee I’m a laughing gnome and you can’t catch me”).

Bowie doesn’t really acknowledge the song anymore, although he did joke that he was considering performing it in a new ‘Velvet Underground-influenced’ style.  Before that happens, hear the original

[READ: November 22, 2014] 1982

So yes, I know that Ghomeshi is in the midst of a scandal in which he is pretty undeniably a sexually abusive scumbag.  I’ll say nothing more about that since things are still under investigation {formal charges were brought today].  But it doesn’t look good for Jian.

This is rather upsetting.  For the women involved, obviously, but also for those of us who liked Jian and thought he was one of the good guys.  Which I did.  I loved Moxy Fruvous.  I loved his solo album.  I had a brief email exchange with him before he joined the CBC, and his show, Q was one of the best interview shows out there.  He always seemed so nice and on the right side of so many issues.  Ugh.

But anyhow, this is about the book, not him (although the book is about him as well).  I only heard about the book when I was looking for news about his scandal (I had no idea he had written a book).  The book is called 1982 because it is all about his life in the year 1982, a formative year in his childhood. (more…)

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dreamcactehr[ATTENDED: September 18, 2014] MOMIX Dreamcatcher

Sarah and I have enjoyed Momix twice in the last two years. So when we saw they were coming back with a new show called Dreamcatcher, we were right there at the box office.

As it turns out Dreamcatcher is a “greatest hits’ collection, not unlike Momix Remix, the first one we saw.  Since last year we saw the show Botanica, which has a few greatest hits of its own, that means we have seen some of these performances three times now.  That was a little disappointing. On the plus side, this is the first time we had seats in the balcony.  Our first time we had middle of the floor level, which was very cool.  Second time we were very close to the stage which was interesting for different reasons.  But from the balcony, you can see the patterns that the dancers make and you can’t see the dancers in the pieces where they are “hidden.”  (When we were close I could see the dancers, which was interesting in and of itself, but it did remove some of the magic).

I wish that I had included a “setlist” from the previous shows, to see just how many we have seen multiple times (there were a couple that were similar but definitely different in some aspect or another).  So this time I will be placing the setlist at the bottom. (more…)

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