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Archive for the ‘Gay/Lesbian’ Category

[ATTENDED: July 15, 2017] Kings of Spade

Back in November, I saw King’s X and Kings of Spade.  I was more than a little surprised to see that King’s X were coming back to Sellersville and to see that Kings of Spade were opening again (turns out, not again, but still).  The band said that King’s X brought them to Europe, which was pretty exciting for them.

In the last 8 months or so, Kings of Spade have gotten even better.  They were really tight and solid back then, but their rocking songs rocked more and they really had a lot of fun on stage.  I guess 8 months of touring will get you to loosen up a bit.  In fact, when I saw them after the gig–they hung around for autographs again, I told the singer they sounded even better and she said she felt a lot more comfortable up there and danced a lot more–very nice folks.

It was cool seeing how well the bassist Tim Corker and drummer Matt Kato feed off each other–there’s some great rumbling sections in the later songs, with some great, complex drumming and fast bass playing. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VIOLENTS & MONICA MARTIN-Tiny Desk Concert #625 (June 5, 2017).

I don’t really understand why Jeremy Larson chose the name Violents.  His music is anything but–pretty piano melodies with (in this show) really nice string arrangements.  I love the way the strings really dramatize the pop song elements.

About the strings, (who go by the Rootstock Republic),he says “they saved our lives this week–because even though a solo vocal performance with her would be amazing…,”

“Equal Powers” has such beautiful melodies.   I really like the way Martin’s voice plays off of the piano.  The chorus melody line is perfect and the high notes “I know I know” are like a perfect icing topper.  I like this lyrical construct:

lean in, let me feel your breath on my skin/I know, I know
lean in, liquor on your breath/ I’m tasting, I know, I know

Her voice has a lovely delicate straining to it that is really pretty.

So who is Martin?  The last time we saw singer Monica Martin at the Tiny Desk she was singing with Phox, her folky, poppy band based in Madison, Wisconsin. But, while that band is on hiatus, Martin took time to walk into the world of Violents, the project of pianist, string arranger and songwriter Jeremy Larson. Larson and Martin make a lovely pair and have created a subtle, soulful record — Awake And Pretty Much Sober — that benefits greatly from Larson’s classical training.  It’s the first full-length Jeremy Larson has released as Violents, a project that, generally, sees him joined by a different singer each outing, resulting in an EP.

“Unraveling” has a pretty, slow piano melody.  It’s more of a ballad.  Once again the chorus is gorgeous–especially the way Martin hits some of those notes in the ooooh section.

and again her voice hits some lovely notes and her ooohs are delightful against the strings.

Before introducing “Spark” he says playing the Tiny Desk is “a bucket list kind of thing.”  He says they’re gonna do one more song.  We were supposed to do a different one but this one’s a bit more appropriate for a smaller setting its called “Spark.”  It has a simpler melody and is certainly a ballad.  It is not as powerful but it’s still quite lovely.

The Rootstock Republic is Juliette Jones (violin); Jessica McJunkins (violin); Kristine Kruta (cello); Jarvis Benson (viola).

 [READ: May 3, 2017] “On the Street Where You Live”

I have really enjoyed Yiyun Li’s stories of late, although i didn’t fully enjoy this one.  I found the location of it a little hard to follow and then it seemed to be about something but was then about something else.

It begins in China, with Bella and Peter walking down the street.  Bella and Peter are friends and have been for 25 years.  They met in Boston.

Bella is Chinese by birth but moved to the USA to study.  They are in China because Bella and Peter always talked of going there.  And it turns out that Peter’s boyfriend Adrian is doing research on his ancestors from China.  So they decided to use it as a chance to travel together.

This was kind of mistake.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  CHICANO BATMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #612 (April 17, 2017).

In the blurb for this show, Felix says that he was sol by their name.  And I am too.  It’s a great name.  And yet it is not entirely useful in terms of musical style.  But he summarizes pretty nicely:

a sound that perfectly captures dark lounges, quinceañera dances, car shows and backyard parties.

That lounge sound is completely evident with the keyboard tone–old fashioned and bachelor pad-like.  But this is no bachelor pad music, because behind the keys are some groovy and at time funky bass (from Eduardo Arenas) and some cool guitar wah wahs (from Carlos Arevalo) and more.

Holding it all together is Gabriel Villa on drums and then on keys and guitar and vocals is Bardo Martinez.  Martinez sings in such a cool, laid-back manner.  It’s often a gentle falsetto but it always feel like he is just chillin’ and singing these groovy songs.

And they also wears suits with bow ties.

“Freedom is Free” is a delicate and groovy song with lots of wah wah guitar and a cool echoing guitar solo.  It’s also got a great bass line.  The song is sweet and catchy with a great wah wah build up at the sudden ending.

“Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm)” has been quite popular on the radio here and man is it catchy.  The loungey organ and vocals are a great start, but the way the chorus just burst forth after the first verse–the backing singers (Nya Parker Brown and Piya Malik) hit the marks perfectly and then the staccato guitar riffs after that.  Its irresistible. (Parker Brown and Malik are from the band 79.5 and have been touring with them).

The ladies leave for the final song, “Jealousy.”  There’s a great funky bass line and fun drums before the song turns rather mellow.  I love the between chorus riffs.  Although I find the main song a little too slow, it probably works well between faster songs.

And they are all so polite and charming, I’m sure I’d enjoy seeing them live.

[READ: February 20, 2017] “The Prairie Wife”

I recently read another story by Sittenfeld in the New Yorker and really enjoyed it.  And this one was not only great and wonderfully written, it was full of surprises.

It’s hard to write about without giving away some of the surprises because they were so good.

But here’s a spoiler free attempt.

Kirsten is married with two kids.  The family has a routine and it involves Kirsten waking up and getting the boys up in time for school.  But lately she has been using her morning time to look at Lucy Headrick’s Twitter feed. (more…)

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Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #576 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

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mc mcSOUNDTRACK: CHEYENNE MIZE-Tiny Desk Concert #289 (July 20, 2013).

Cheyenne Mize is yet another musician I’d never heard of performing behind the Tiny Desk.  The blurb tells us:

Behind Bob Boilen’s desk at the NPR Music offices, Mize — a multi-talented singer, instrumentalist and music therapist — reduces her band to a duo for three songs from Among the Grey. Naturally, this entailed showcasing some of the album’s quieter, moodier moments (the slinky “Raymaker,” the dreamy “Whole Heart”) before closing with the more forceful “Wait for It.” But along the way, Mize’s voice rings out assertively in every style and setting.

As it turns out, her voice was the problem for me and I can’t really place why.  I like her voice and I like her music I just feel like they don’t go together somehow.

For “Raymaker,” it’s just her on a 4 string guitar and her partner on a box drum.  I really love the sound she gets out of that little four string guitar and he gets some great sounds out of the box drum.  I can’t decide if maybe with a fuller musical sound I’d like her singing more.

For “Whole Heart” she plays a hollow-bodied electric guitar and the drummer plays an electric guitar.  The song is quieter (presumably because of no drums).  I like this song a bit more–the chorus is especially nice–and I feel like her voice works a bit better here.  The guitar interplay in the middle is really delightful as well.

For the final song, “Wait for It,” she switches to violin.  She says it’s both a blessing and a curse I’ve never been able to decide which instrument to play.  “Sometimes it’s helpful and sometimes it just means I have to carry a lot of instruments around.”   She gets a great raw scratchy sound out of the violin.   The drummer stays on the same guitar and adds little background notes.  This song has a great rocking vibe.  And again, the chorus is a neat chord change.  And yes I think her voice works good here too, so it must have been that first song.

And yet for all that I really like the sounds her instruments make more than anything else .

[READ: April 27, 2016] A True Story Based on Lies!

I was unfamiliar with the artists McDermott & McGough.  But I really liked the cover and title of this piece.  I have since learned from Wikipedia that

David McDermott and Peter McGough are best known for using alternative historical processes in their photography, particularly the 19th century techniques of cyanotype, gum bichromate, platinum and palladium. Among the subjects they approach are popular art and culture, religion, medicine, advertising, fashion and sexual behavior.

This particular collection plays around with time–they create works that seems like they are older than they actually are.  And in fact, this is something the artists did in their daily life as well:

From 1980 through 1995, McDermott & McGough dressed, lived, and worked as artists and “men about town”, circa 1900-1928: they wore top hats and detachable collars, and converted a townhouse on Avenue C in New York City’s East Village, which was lit only by candlelight, to its authentic mid-19th century ideal. “We were experimenting in time,” says McDermott, “trying to build an environment and a fantasy we could live and work in.”

This collection looks at advertising from the 1950s and updates it with contemporary additions.  I assume that they are actually painting and re-creating the earlier ads and not simply using the originals.  In their titles they indicate the date that the painting could have been created and then the date that it was created. (more…)

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fakeSOUNDTRACK: MATANA ROBERTS-Coin Coin: Chapter 3 Mississippi Moonchile [CST110] (2015).

cst110cover_258x242I felt like the first Coin Coin disc was way too long, so imagine my surprise to discover that the whole Coin Coin series is planned as a 12 chapter collection!

Unlike the previous 2 chapters, this album was created entirely by Roberts.  She is credited with playing saxophone, Korg Monotron and a 1900s upright piano.  But like the others, the tracks bleed into each other and seem to end indiscriminately.

This disc also quotes from The Star Spangled Banner, Beautiful Dreamer, The Pledge of Allegiance, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Lift Every Voice and Sing and All the Pretty Horses.  As well as samples from Malcolm X and a field recording of a travel through Mississippi, Louisiana Tennessee and NYC.

The first song, “All is Written” is 10 minutes long.  She sings quietly and starkly (voice breaking) while spoken words overlap behind her voice (and the saxophone and drones).  Her singing is at times pained and strained—aching with the truth of her words.  As “The Good Book” begins, the spoken word continues but the main sound is an industrial throbbing.  Near the end, a new metallic sound comes screeching in and then resolves into a kind of drone while angelic voices takes over for song three, “Clothed to the Land, Worn by the Sea” which is more pleasant.

“Dreamer of Dreams” resumes some spoken word and synth noises while two overlapping tracks of sax solos play.  “Always Say Your Name” has some more drones and a wild sax solo.  “Nema Nema Nema” experiments with analog synth noises while she sings a pretty melody with other voices circulating behind her.  “A Single Man o’War” has a high pitched drone. which is accompanied by several three note chants.

“As Years Roll By” is spoken words, with drone and church bells.   And lots of “Amens.”  “This Land is Yours” has lots of voices speaking and overlapping.  It ends with someone singing “come away with me come away,” which segues into “Come Away” with a noisy background and spoken voices talking about Zanzibar.  Then there is a keening, pained voice singing the middle. “JP” is a speech about he slave trade.

Although this album is difficult, it is more manageable than her other releases in this series.  But manageability clearly isn’t her plan, she is making a statement and it is exciting and frightening to listen to.

[READ: August 10, 2016] Original Fake

You should never judge a book by its cover.  But I really liked the cover of this book a lot.  And the title was intriguing, so I grabbed it off the new book shelf.

And what a great, fun story it was.

The book opens with Frankie sneaking into his school at 6:30 AM.  No one else is there except maybe the janitor.  He is sneaking into the school to do a small amount of vandalism. But the vandalism is not your typical vandalism.  On the school hallway is a mural that is currently being painted.  Frankie is an artist but he was not asked to paint the mural (no one really knows he does art).  The mural is a of a lake and farm fields and all that.  And he has decided to tag the mural.  He has painted a water-skiing abominable snowman giving the hang loose sign in the corner of the lake.  “He’s maybe six inches tall, and I kind of put him close to a rock so he’d blend in, but if you get close, its pretty obvious he doesn’t belong. He’s completely amazing.”

Amid the telling of the scene is a drawing of Frankie painting the snowman–this book is full of illustrations by Johnson.  Most of the illustrations complement the story but a couple actually tell the story, too. (more…)

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julyaugSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, September 5, 2015).

06Sep2015Almost exactly one year ago, my family traveled to Toronto as a mini-vacation.  The impetus was my scoring tickets to see the Rheostatics live for the first for me (and potentially–but not in reality–last) time.

They had called it quits 8 years earlier and were reuniting for the 20th Anniversary of their Group of 7 album–a soundtrack of sorts that was created to celebrate the works of the great Group of 7 artists.  They were scheduled to perform three nights at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

I purchased tickets to the second night assuming that the first night they might be a little rusty and the final night they might be burnt out.  Well, it turns out, that was completely faulty logic.  The first night was pretty great.  The final night was outstanding and my night proved to be the weakest of the three.  Of course, it was still awesome, especially since I didn’t know that it was the weakest at the time).

In terms of recordings, this one is a little less clear than yesterday’s show as well (it was recorded from the upper section of the hall).

The Go7 part of the show was pretty stellar.  You can read my review of the full show here).  During the break after track Six, Dave began talking to us, mostly thanking people and then commenting “we’re totally feeling the love.”  Dave says his dad’s here tonight and he lent us his car for their 1988 tour. (Sorry, dad).

When the Go7 album was over, the band played some bonus tracks.  Last night they played “Claire” and “Horses,” two songs I would have loved to hear.  So when Tim walked up to the mic, I was sure we’d get Claire, but instead, we got “Henry’s Musical Beard,” a one minute song of total what the…?  I can’t imagine when it was ever played before.  But even though i didn’t get the songs I really wanted, I did get some songs that were still awesome: “Bad Time To Be Poor,” “Stolen Car” (amazing!), “Legal Age Life” (much fun), “Christopher” (another favorite), and “Saskatchewan.”

“Bad Time” sounded great–a lovely Tim sung song.  Before “Stolen Car,” Dave described it as a desperation song, there are bad things going on in our country we have chance to change that on Oct 19.  (Hard to believe that our election process was underway at that time as well).  Martin seemed to miss a bit during the song, but was backed up wonderfully by Hugh Marsh on violin.

“Legal Age Life” was a lot of fun.  Before the song began he shouted, “Fuck art, let’s dance.” And dance we did.

Our version of “Christopher” was pretty catastrophic.  Before playing it, Dave introduced it by saying, “Let’s hear it for Saskatchewan.”  But they played “Christopher.”  It has a very cool slow opening, but Martin got really lost during the song.  He repeated lines, forgot words and about half way through, he just ended the song (two minutes shorter than the other ones).  I remember being concerned for him, because he seemed really upset about the performance.

They ended the show with “Saskatchewan” a great song that I love (and we were the only night to get it, so yes, we were lucky indeed).  As I say, at the time, I was so excited to be there and to hear everything.  It is definitely sour grapes to complain about the other nights, and I should just consider myself lucky that I can still hear them.

But between Martin’s stress and Dave’s surprising lack of banter (and, no “Claire” or “Horses”), Saturday was definitely the weakest night of the three.

Amazingly, though, with the various differences, the length of the concert is almost exactly the same length as the first night).

01. One (Kevin’s Waltz)   2:40
02. Two (Earth (Almost))   7:42
03. Three (Boxcar Song (Weiners and Beans))   7:00
04. Four (Landscape And Sky)   0:46
05. Five (Blue Hysteria)   3:55
06. Six (Cello For A Winter’s Day)   8:03
07. Banter   4:05
08. Seven (Northern Wish)   5:09
09. Eight (Snow)   2:05
10. Nine (Biplanes and Bombs)   7:00
11. Ten (Lightning)   8:01
12. Eleven (Yellow Days Under A Lemon Sun)   7:53
13. Henry’s Musical Beard   0:57
14. Bad Time To Be Poor   5:31
15. Stolen Car   8:54
16. Legal Age Life   7:05
17. Christopher   4:27
18. Saskatchewan   7:36

[READ: August 19, 2016] “The Shoe Emporium”

The July/August Summer Reading Issue of The Walrus has a theme of “Love and Lust.”  The theme promised to be a bit more upbeat than the darker stories in the last few issues.  Of course the other two stories this month were a little dark, but this one was pretty much just very funny.

It involves a delightfully convoluted romantic triangle of people working at The Shoe Emporium.  And I loved the way the story was structured.

We begin with Steve, a 40-something year old guy working as a shoe salesman (he has a past).  He is helping a customer and she is kind of smitten with him.  Steve is hunky, and has the best features of his Irish-Canadian heritage showing.

And then the story shifts to his boss, Cathy.  Cathy is 20 years younger than him–although she makes less money.  We lean about Cathy because of a high-tech device that measures the heat of people’s feet (to best get their feet to match a shoe).  Cathy had pressed it to her heart to demonstrate.  She was showing this to the other salesman, Marty.  But Steve saw it as well and thought that he could see an imprint of her nipple in the pad.

When Steve saw that, he was instantly turned on.  Mostly because he typically didn’t think much of Cathy before that.  She’s usually angry–justifiably as she is working two jobs and going to school.  But mostly, she really wants to win the top salesman prize–a  trip to Toronto and tickets to the musical Kinky Boots.

Even though he knows she wants to win, Steve is trying his best to beat her even though he doesn’t care about Toronto or the musical.

The two are pretty close in sales and he is doing a great job today.  Across the store, Cathy has a family with a crying child–never a good sign for mega sales.  Especially since the daughter wants an expensive shoe which the mother doesn’t want to buy.

But what of Marty?  Marty also has a fascinating back story.  Until recently, he lived with his grandmother.  She recently passed away (in a shocking fashion).  She was also a marine biologist and there is some amusing talk of sea cucumbers.  His grief was intense and he went to a gay party (he is 100% gay) and took a lot of drugs.  He’s been in a haze since.  And he has recently hooked up with Cathy.  But it had to have been the grief or drugs because Marty is definitely 100% gay (he thinks Steve is pretty hot too).

Cathy knows Marty is gay, but she believes the hookup has changed things–it was pretty great.

As the story comes to a close we get a close up look at that hook up which is steamy and funny, and we see Steve double down on trying to sell an expensive pair of Saucony to a customer who clearly can’t afford them.

I’d love to see more of this story–I really want more of these three.  This has been my favorite Walrus story in a long time.

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