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Archive for the ‘Flash Fiction’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 15, 2001).

This was night 2 of 4 of the Horseshoe Tavern‘s 53rd Birthday bash.  Clark (the band) opened the show.

The Rheos play seven songs from their soon to be released Night of the Shooting Stars (those songs are bold), including the two songs they didn’t play the previous night.

Jeff Cohen, owner of The Horseshoe gives a great intro to the band.

“King Of The Past” is an exciting opening.  Tim seems to get lost on the lyrics but musically it sounds great.  It’s followed by “Christopher” which also has a nice slow intro and some great jamming during the solo.

“The Fire” is a new song that I feel they didn’t play much after this tour–it features alternating leads from Martin and Dave and a harmonica!  “The Reward” is the other new song they didn’t play the night before.

There’s some talk of Napster.  Dave says, “I don’t know if it is shut down but there’s a lot of neat stuff on the Rheostatics section that we don’t even have tapes of.  He says to check out “our performance of “Claire” with Rik Emmet (I would love to hear that).  People may have already heard “P.I.N.” on Napster.

“Christopher” was dedicated to Jeff of Kansas City.  Dave thanks the people who come from out of town to make a vacation of their four night run.

“We Went West” is followed by two songs from Harmelodia.  “I Am Drumstein” is kind of crazy, with Don singing parts of it.  At the end Dave tells him, you would have been asked to leave Drumstein’s orchestra for that last cymbal hit.  It’s followed by a sweet “Home Again.”

The crowd finally gets to hear “Record Body Count” which has a slow opening. Tim and Martin have a hard time with the words in the beginning prompting Martin to ask “Who wrote this?”

Then they call Ron Sexmith up on stage for his song “So Young.”  During the set up, Dave says that years ago when Ron released his first album Grand Opera Lane Don Kerr was on drums.  Ron sounds a bit like Jim James.

Then comes the old song “Bread, Meat, Peas & Rice” which is simple and fun.  Martin does a kind of trumpet solo with his mouth.  Dave says “That’s for the premieres over in China.”  Someone shouts “They’re in Korea.”  Dave: “Did they move?  I didn’t get the memo.”  It’s followed by “Remain Calm” which almost seems like a response to the previous one.

Martin introduces “The Sky Dreamed” as a sweet song called “Bug’s Song.”  Is it possibly Don singing on it?  Then Martin plays a lovely “Song Of Flight” which segues into a terrific “California Dreamline.”

There’s two more poppy new songs, “Song Of The Garden” and “Mumbletypeg.”  They miss the spoken middle part, and it sounds like DB is still tinkering with the lyrics, but it sounds great nonetheless.

Heading into the encore break, they play an amazing “Horses” (Martin even busts out the robotic voice to recite part of it) and a stellar “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”  (I wonder if I’ll ever get to see that live).

After the encore break, someone requests “PROD” but Dave says we’ve got four nights to play that one.  So instead, he sings “My First Rock Concert” and then a terrific take on “Aliens” with a little jam section in the middle.  Dave starts singing “Artenings Made of Gold,” but Martin doesn’t remember it.  But there’s some very cool drums in this part.

The tape ends with a delicate version of “Bad Time To Be Poor” which gets cut after a minute or so.

This was another fantastic show.

[READ: February 13, 2019] “Plastic Parts to Help with Life”

This was actually a series of short micro-fictions or flash fictions or whatever we’re calling them these days.  Although these are not really that short (1/4 to 1/2 a page as opposed to just one paragraph).  They’re all mildly amusing slices of modern life–each with an absurdist twist.  This comes from the author’s “third book in a trilogy of miniature fiction.”

“In the Privacy of Their Own Condo”
He agrees to watch a Woody Allen film because she wants to watch Blue Jasmine.  He finds Woody Allen movies too emotional and loud.  Sure enough, there’s a car scene where they yell at each other for a full minute while driving. He flings off the covers and flees the room, naked.  She’s not going to give up on the movie, although she does turn the volume down.  Can anything salvage this debacle?

“Protest”
This one opens, “Bryce said to me during dinner, ‘You look like Jack Nicholson when you smile.'”  Of course, this leads to a discussion of The Shining.  Why do I look like I have a drooling leer?  The talk was interrupted by protesters in the driveway.  They are out there most nights anyway with bullhorns and signs.  And they had many things to protest. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALISA WEILERSTEIN-“Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 5” (Field Recordings, February 16, 2012).

One thing I love about the Field Recordings series is the wonderfully unexpected places they have the performers play.  Like this Field Recording [Alisa Weilerstein: Playing Bach With The Fishes] which is set at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Strategically positioned above a tank full of stingrays, Weilerstein unpacked her cello to serenade the sea creatures — and dozens of pleasantly surprised aquarium visitors — with music by Johann Sebastian Bach. She chose the Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 5 for unaccompanied cello. The music’s tranquil power and meandering melodies became an extraordinary soundtrack to the majestic rays as they roamed through the water, rising occasionally to catch a note or two.

The music is sublime–sad and powerful but ever so fluid.  And the setting is just perfect–you can almost see the fish appreciate it.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Four Fictions”

Breytenbach confounds me with his stories.  This is a collection of four really short pieces and while I enjoyed parts of some of them, overall they were a big huh?

Race
This appears to be a race through the sea?  On foot?  A tractor charges into the waves and a Jeep follows. The route will take them through the sea to Germany and back to Stockholm.  Their friend Sven is running in the race (he’s from Lapland).  When the race is over he still has to run through the house to the balcony.  When they gather for the results , how many drowned, etc, the story ends with another man removing his top hat and his hair looking sunken and dry.

What? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SEVYN STREETER-“It Won’t Stop” (Field Recordings, August 6, 2014).

The blurb for this song totally cracks me up (especially 4 years removed) because not only did this song not seep into my collective consciousness, I’ve never heard of it. Nor have I heard of Sevyn Streeter.

Although it is funny that just last week my wife and I were utterly mocking people who name their child a number–what else did George Costanza tell them to do? And how misspelling it like this is even worse.

Anyhow, here’s the blurb:

In the spring of 2013, songwriter and R&B singer Sevyn Streeter released a song called “It Won’t Stop,” which she’s called her “baby.” Over the year and change that’s followed, the song has sunk into our collective consciousness through commercial radio play and a music video viewed more than 35 million times, and on the recommendation of a growing group of critics and fans. The lyrics are vernacular, warm, unpretentious, while the performance demanded by the music is not for the meek. Away from a studio — and air conditioning — in a New Orleans boxing gym, Streeter executed with muscle and grace.

Having mocked the blurb, the song itself is pretty.  I’ve no idea what the original sounds like, but this version is done with just two acoustic guitars–one of whom seems to be playing some bass melodies from time to time.  Streeter sings and warbles all over the song and does those R&B quivering notes that I hate, but she does have a nice voice.

But damn is this song long.  Why is a pop song five minutes long?

It’s neat that they filmed this Field Recording [Sevyn Streeter Knocks Us Out] in a boxing gym–how on earth were they able to eliminate all of the ambient noise?  It almost seems like it’s not live.

[READ: February 8, 2018] “Microstories”

This is a collection of flash fiction pieces which may or may not be connected.

Rain
Never ending rain seemed to be the truth until the day he was born.  While everyone was delighted for him that he never had to experience it, he lived with regret that he would never have the chance.

Divorce
He is dressing for his grown up daughter  What a strange thing to have to do–how infrequently he sees her, how should he look.  No idea what happened at the end of it though?  An earthquake? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DJANGO FESTIVAL ALL-STARS-“Them There Eyes” (Field Recordings, October 23, 2014).

This Field Recording was done under what looks like an old bridge outside of the Newport Jazz Festival.

Every year for the last decade and a half, select groups of hot swing musicians have come from Europe to tour the U.S. The exact lineups change, but they all feature masters of the “gypsy jazz” — or jazz manouche — style pioneered by guitarist Django Reinhardt. In fact, they’re billed under the banner of New York’s Django Reinhardt Festival.

After the last set of the Festival, done by the All-Stars, they asked the band, who had little time to spare, to play one last song.  Soon fingers were flying [The Fastest Fingers At The Festival, For Django Reinhardt]  The video there doesn’t work, but you can watch it on YouTube.

They chose the standard “Them There Eyes,” and to paraphrase its lyrics: They sparkled, they bubbled, and they got up to a whole lot of trouble.

Samson Schmitt, plays an amazing lead guitar–his soloing is blinding. The rhythm guitar from DouDou Cuillerier keeps up a great shuffle and Brian Torff on bass keeps the pace as everyone else gets a chance to solo wildly.

First up is Ludovic Beier, accordion and as a bystander observed: “He has the fastest fingers I’ve ever seen.”  And he does, it’s amazing.  His solo is followed by Pierre Blanchard, violin.  And Peter hits notes that seem like they might not actually exist on the violin.

There’s no vocals in the version which is just as well. No one would be able to keep up.

[READ: January 28, 2018] “Little Deaths”

Félix Fénéon was born in 1861.  In 1906 he wrote 1,220 brief items under the rubric “News in Three Lives” for the Paris newspaper Le Matin.  They were collected in a book and translated by Luc Sante

Seeing that these were written over time makes a lot more sense than having them all printed in a book–I mean, 1,220 deaths would be a lot to do all at once.  It’s still hard to believe that these would be printed in a newspaper at all.

Some examples in their entirety: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MESSTHETICS-Tiny Desk Concert #757 (June 20, 2018).

This has been my favorite Tiny Desk Concert in a long time.  I heard about The Messthetics recently, how they were the bassist and drummer “from D.C.’s pioneering punk band Fugazi crisscrossed with the brilliant, skillful and younger guitarist Anthony Pirog.”   And it’s such a great band name.

I was intrigued that they play only instrumentals, especially coming from such a political punk band.  I also never imagined they’d play a Tiny Desk Concert.

It was Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day when this somewhat loud and sometimes frenetic band came to play at my desk. I couldn’t help but wonder if The Messthetics would inspire some eight-year old child in the office to one day become a musician, one who’d go on tell the tale of seeing these D.C. legends at an office when they were a kid.

Bob knows about Pirog (I’d never heard of him):

I’ve seen Anthony in a number of settings around town, including the brilliant duo he has with his wife, cellist Janel Leppin called Janel and Anthony. His playing can be understated and over-the-top all at the same time. It never feels self-indulgent and his music always serves the song.

But how did he get together with Fugazi?

Drummer Brendan Canty saw the guitarist perform once and they eventually formed a band. Together, Brendan and bassist Joe Lally are a brilliant pulse of energy and that allows Anthony the freedom to fly. The instrumental music they make is memorable, relatable and transcendent.

“Radiation Fog/Crowds and Power” opens slowly with some washes (and mallets on the cymbals).  “Radiation Fog” is but a minute long and then they launch some heavy rocking chords interspersed with a rapid fire four-note sequence that changes and morphs as the song takes off.

I love the way they back away from the heaviness and allows Canning and Lilly to play a solid steady rhythm while Pirog plays some great emotive solos.  Through the middle of the song, the tempo slowly increases and the intensity builds as they run though those four not patterns again and again.

As the song nears the end, Canning counts off 1-2-3-4 and they play that four-note pattern really fast to the end.

After a crashing conclusion like that it’s funny that Lally quietly says “Thank you.”   And then “I am Lakshmi Singh.”

They follow with “The Inner Ocean” which opens with some looped harmonics and other cool guitar sounds as the rhythm section joins in.  This song is slower and moodier with some cool high notes on the bass.  Halfway through the song gets bigger with so low bass notes and more soloing from Pirog.  I love the way his solo builds and builds to the screaming point before the song backs down again.

“The Weaver” also opens quietly.  It is a shorter piece, only three minutes and doesn’t have all of the parts of the other songs.  But it’s a nice showcase that these punks can also play beautiful melodies.  I hope they come back to the area since I missed them back in January.

[READ: October 7, 2017] “Tape Measure”

This is another one of those stories that feels more like an exercise than a story.

This entire piece (far longer than enjoyable) is about the life of a tapeworm.  A sentient, thoughtful tapeworm who appreciates its host and is angry about the host’s desire to get rid of it.

In itself that’s not a bad premise, but the tapeworm is particularly verbose. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MILCK-Tiny Desk Concert #752 (June 8, 2018).

I know of MILCK the same way anyone who has heard of her knows her:  from her performing her song “Quiet” during the Women’s March On Washington last year.

MILCK is the music of Connie Lim:

Before the concert, we talked a lot with her and her production team about how to best share her deeply affecting, anthemic pop songs. Should we have a choir? Maybe a string quartet? Or should she bring out all her gear and perform as a one-woman band, live looping everything with backing tracks, to recreate the album experience? In the end she chose the simplest (and perhaps most fitting arrangement for an artist often billed as a one-woman riot): just MILCK, by herself, with a keyboard.

MILCK has a great powerful voice and she writes some very pretty melodies.

The beautiful soaring “Black Sheep” is restrained in this version.  Her voice sounds lovely but this song needs to soar.  Nevertheless, her positive message is undeniable.  Indeed:

the ultimate message in “Black Sheep,” like pretty much all of MILCK’s music, is that you are not alone. It’s a celebration of universal, unconditional love, something the whole world could stand to hear and get behind. These songs also resonate so profoundly because they come from a genuine and heartfelt place – from MILCK’s own experiences and not a corporate office churning out scientifically proven pop formulas

Next came “Quiet” which she says she wrote as a healing song.  It has become an anthem for women and men around the world.  She laughs that this song pulled her out of her own emo isolation.  It’s wonderful how clear and powerful her voice is on this version of the song.

She encourages everyone to take a deep breath which reminds herself how shallowly she breathes.  She was comfortable being emo and then complains that “Oh My My” is “infuriatingly joyful,” it reminds us that even if we suffer there is still room for joy.

The verses are spoken/sung with this amusing start

Thought I’d be 50 still alone chain-smoking cigarettes at a bar
talking shit about my married friends to my single friends

Mid song she annotates a line that she was singing songs in hotel lobbies–covering songs by Adele and Jason Mraz and now she is opening for Mraz, so she gets to tell his audience that she used to be ignored singing his songs in hotel lobbies and now she opens for him.

It’s a lovely happy song, with some pop leanings although she keeps it on this side of good taste.

[READ: February 7, 2018] “My First Real Home”

This story was in Vicky Swanky is a Beauty which I read so long ago I don’t remember. Of course these stories are so short I don’t remember most of them anyway.

For a Diane Williams story, I felt like this one was actually pretty enjoyable and pretty understandable.

Of course, once again, it ended and I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t lost the last page.

This is about a man who sharpens knives .  He did a great job and the narrator discovered him because Tommy used to use him and Ernie’s have hit the chain saws.  Or the man’s name was Ernie and he would do Tommy’s chainsaws.  It’s not clear. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DARLINGSIDE-EP1 (2010).

It’s amazing in retrospect how bland the first Darlingside song on their first EP is.

Darligside is a unique band, with gorgeous harmonies and unexpected instrumentation.  Their songs are gorgeous.

But this album is very different.  The first main difference is that there is a drummer–a real drummer named Sam Kapala.  Kapala is quite good, but wow does that change the entire tone of a Darlingside song.  Second, the band doesn’t sing everything in harmony.  Rather, there is one main singer (I think David) with the other guys singing fairly standard backing vocals.

The whole Ep has a kind of raspy-voiced-folk rock exploration feel.  The first song “Good Song” still has some mandolin, but only sparsely and the chorus melody sounds so much like another song or songs that I can’t get past it

“Surround” has a bit more of that Darlingside feel–the music is a bit more esoteric.  But the vocals are the same–that raspy-voiced lead singer.

But each song gets more interesting.  “Malea” has more of that cool violin and some really good drumming.  There’s definitely flashes of greatness on this EP, including in this song–although they need to bring in some of that cool vocal stuff.

“Catbird Seat” has some lovely violin and great whispered vocals.

“All That Wrong” starts almost a capella with some quiet guitar. It builds slowly until the middle section with the fast guitar and mandolin and the squeaky violin solo which is awesome.

“In the Morning” ends the disc with a quiet vocal melody but it eventually adds more singers and starts to sound more and more like the Darlingside we know.  In part because the drumming is left out almost entirely.  It feels like with three more songs they’d be on the verge of creating Birds Say.  But not yet.

[READ: January 22, 2018] “If Told Correctly”

I think the reason for William’s constantly publication is that it is so easy to fit at least one, or even more of them into a space in a magazine.  Got a small column to fill?  Grab 7 Williams stories.

This is a collection of five such stories

None of This Would Have Been Remotely Feasible
This story begin with the narrator admitting that she is smart and likes jokes.  So this is suitable for certain people.  The police found her in a pile of snow saying she didn’t want to live anymore.  Her mother saved her life. “This morning I was walking toward a tree… A woman was crying Melba! Melba!”  Perhaps it is a dog, that’s what we’re led to believe.  The last sentence is just a random jumble of words: “After a pause I looked into the world but I never found those.”  What? (more…)

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