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1985SOUNDTRACK: JOAN SHELLEY-Tiny Desk Concert #473 (September 25, 2015).

joan When I first started listening to this Tiny Desk Concert, I thought Shelley was going to be singing more of a country music style.  But more careful listening revealed an early British Folk songwriting style.  Because I’d heard Richard Thompson talking about Sandy Denny recently, I  thought of her.  So I was pleased to see that the blurb (and Shelley herself) references Sandy Denny as well.

The Concert is Joan on acoustic guitar and Nathan Salsburg (she describes him: “my band, we are Joan Shelley”) on the second guitar.  They play beautifully together.

The songs, like “Easy Now,” are really pretty with a delicate finger-picking style from Shelley and fairly complex finger-picking soloing/accents from Salsburg.  But the best thing is her voice.  Clear and powerful–no warbling or hesitation, just clear beautiful singing.

I didn’t think I knew Joan Shelley, but “Stay on These Shores” sounds incredibly familiar to me.  She says that she is from Louisville Kentucky so it doesn’t make sense to her that she would write songs about the ocean.  She attributes it to the Sandy Denny lineage.  The way she sings the first line of this song is just hauntingly beautiful.  I really love this song a lot.

In “Not Over By Half” it is almost uncanny how much she sounds like a 1960s British folksinger.  Her delivery and phrasings are just amazing.  This is another beautiful song, all three of which came from her album Over and Even.

Shelley is an amazing force in folk music.

[READ: August 31, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1985-1986

Schulz had been writing Peanuts for about 35 years when these strips came out.  Wow. It’s interesting to see how many themes have stuck around and how many have gone away or come back and been updated. I also love seeing the few pop culture references that he deigns to throw into his strips–things that he assumed would be eternal, I guess, or maybe things so ubiquitous he had to mention them?

Snoopy’s brother Spike is on the cover of this book.  I am somewhat surprised at how much attention he gets (especially since I don’t remember him at all).  The problem is that almost all of his jokes are about cactus.  I feel like Schulz was going for a loneliness angle, but it all seems to involved cactus “arms” or thorns.

The year starts off great for Patty because she won an essay contest on what she did during her Christmas vacation (she got a D- on the paper in school, however).  She even gets to read it out loud (where things don’t go so well).  Of course, she continues to get D miuses and in July 1986 she even get a tutor. He is quite snarky with her and she calls him Joe Sarcasm.  (There have been dozens of Joe ____ characters, although almost all of them have been aliases of Snoopy, this is one of the few for someone else).  Then she calls him Captain Tutor.  He shouts that his name is Maynard.  So Patty calls up Marcie to say she should meet him–he’s just her type…weird.  It turns out that Maynard is Marcie’s cousin (ha). Eventually Patty just throws him out.

For Valentine’s Day in 1985, Charlie has Snoopy pretend to be the little red-haired girl and Snoopy puts on a curly wig–is that the first insight into the girl’s appearance?  That week people are all hit by lost love.  It seems like an unusual and very specific emotion for Schulz to deal with–something he never really talked about before.  He’s certainly talked about lost loves, but never so directly.

Marcie continues to be one of my favorite characters.  Especially the way she picks on Patty.  Patty is still falling asleep in school all the time.  In Feb 1985, Marcie puts a binder on the back of her head, walks her up in front of the class and then shows off a “full-scale model of the human head” to the class.  Genius.  Patty doesn’t even wake up.

Linus decides that building a rock wall is good therapy.  It is suggested that he can do this instead of needing his blanket.  But let’s not go crazy.  Later, Linus tries to do his own laundry and Lucy catches him trying to stuff his shirt into the laundry detergent bottom

Every once in a while there’s a really wordy strip that I find very funny.  In March of 1985, Charlie is telling Sally a story from his grandpa about WII: “all the enlisted men were issued two pairs of shoes, but a lot of them men wore only one pairs so they could keep the other pair shined and looking nice under their bunks.  Battalion headquarters decided that the men should alternate shoes each day and to make to sure they did, the men had to lace their shoes on a certain way.  One day they had to wear the shoes which had the laces crossed and the next day they to wear the shoes which had the laces going straight across.”  Sally sensibly asks,. “How did they ever win the war?”

Sally is always asking her big brother for homework help, which he tends to refuse.  In March she says if he helps, he’ll get her everlasting gratitude.  When he doubts she knows what that mean she says “’til I ask you again.”

Sally has also been doing a lot of handwriting practice over the last few years.  Mostly it’s different pieces of punctuation (with funny comments about them).  In May 1985 she works on commas and possessives and quotation marks.  After telling Charlie all about it she says “stay tuned for the inside story of what goes on in the glamorous world of punctuation.”

And in some wonderful Sally mistakes that make me laugh: “behind the barn the farmer had a pastor” or “the walls were covered with naughty pine.”  For this one, she looks at Charlie and says “You looked like you were going to say something” and he wisely says, “not for anything in the world.”

In the realm of deliberate puns, Snoopy tells Woodstock to get a  job in a tree “you could be a branch manager.”  Sigh.

Pop culture: in May 1985 it is revealed that Woodstock has a satellite dish.  In August 1985 Patty reveals that she and Marcie are “mallies” :  They go to the mall to hang out.  But Patty is distraught that Marcie actually buys something there.  They even meet “a punker” which is snoopy with a kind of mohawk.  In October 1985, Sally does a presentation on Halley’s Comet saying that the next time it comes by will be in 2062–we’ll all be 80 years old when that happens.  [It passed by us in Feb 1986].  In May of 1986, Lucy starts a “swimsuit issue” campaign for the school paper.  She gets all the boys to wear swimsuits.  And in June 1986 Charlie’s desk comes equipped with an airbag.

In August of 1986, Linus asks Snoopy (the attorney) is he thinks cameras should be allowed in the courtroom.

August 1986 has Sally saying “I’ve decided to embark on a program of serious discipline. I’m going to eat properly, sleep properly and exercise properly.”  Charlie asks, “Then what?”  She replies, “You’re right, forget it.”

April 1985 sees an Easter Beagle strip (not as many of these as you might think).

There’s always baseball, and in April 1985 Charles mentions the new commissioner of baseball Peter Uberrroth (he took over in 1984).

There’s a lot fewer hockey references these days although Rerun is riding on his mother’s bike with a helmet and says people confuse him with Wayne Gretzky.  A few months later in March 1986 he has a Baby on Bike sticker on his helmet (That was a huge fad in 1985).

There’s not that much about football this year, although Sally wants to know why the guy is always holding up John 3:16 and then says she assumed it had something to do with John Madden.

There’s some tennis but not as much.  In March 1986 Molly Volley returns for a brief run with Snoopy.

Schulz must have been displeased about technological advances: Charlie tells Sally “if we watch TV all the time, we won’t have to learn to read.  if we use word processors and calculators we wont have to learn to write or do math.  Pretty soon we wont have to know anything.”  Sally replies “That’s when I’ll fit in.”

On the environmental front, in November Sally does a paper that she ends with “This report was written on recycled paper… no trees were destroyed to make this report.”

Summer camp in June of 1985 is all rain all the time. The only thing worse than all the rain is the prospect of a sing-along.  Ha  In 1986, the kids go to a survival camp which is pretty funny: “there are people out there who want to destroy our way of life.”

In August of 1985 Charlie and Sally are told that they are going to start taking the bus to school.  I love the way the joke plays out that they decide to walk instead, but the computer says they are on the bus, so they get in trouble.

Last book, Patty an Marcie went to a lot of Tiny Tots concert (Patty hates being called that). They always see Peter and the Wolf.  I wish that my kids went to Tiny Tots concerts.  But anyhow, in June 1985, Patty saves her ticket stub in hopes they will have raffle at the end–maybe she’ll win a violin.  Later in August 1986, Patty shows off her musical knowledge by asking why it is called Mostly Mozart, why not “Regularly Rachmaninoff, Principally Prokofiev, Frequently Franck, Largely Lehar, Chiefly Tchaikovsky [my favorite joke],  Mainly Mussorgsky, Essentially Elgar, Supremely Schubert or Generally Gershwin”.

Every once in a while Charlie gets a small victory.  Like when Linus tells him that he knows Charlie would like to cry but that he’s too macho.   Charlie gets excited “I am?!”

There’s few jokes of Woodstock getting attacked by a can of worms.  And even though i like Woodstock as a character a lot, for some reason, it’s always funny seeing him getting beaten up.

The World War I flying Ace continues to appear.  In a new twist he often speaks to Marcie in French.  Although in 1985, instead of the ace, he pretends to be Charles Lindbergh, the “Lone Beagle.”

Lucy continues to be a voice for women’s rights.  When Snoopy is flying over No Mans Land she asks what about No Woman’s Land.  So he changes it to “No Person’s Land.”

In February of 1986 Sally believes that the LL on the elevator button in the library stands for Louis L’Amour “that’s pretty neat having your initials on an elevator button.”

Schulz also taught me something new.  A ganglion cyst is also called a bible bump.  It is a cyst that forms on your wrists and they say you should hit it with a bible.  I’d never heard of this, but apparently it is a thing and quite common.  Of course Schulz uses it as an excuse to make a joke about the different translations of the Bible.

In another funny sequence, Snoopy and his scouts get a cannon.  And they fire it!  But it destroys not only his dog house but also Lucy’s doctor booth and even Schroeder’s piano (over the course of several strips).

In May of 1986 they elect a May Queen.  In Charlie’s school, Lucy is elected (which makes Patty say that the school has low standards).  In Patty’s school… Patty is elected!

Sally gets a great joke in.  A speed limit sign says 25 When Children are Present.  She says, “I never realized we had so much influence.”

And the best one liner of all: Sally has to go to the dentist “I have to go have my teeth criticized.”

Two new characters arrive in 1986.  One is a girl who is unnamed.  The joke with her is that Linus is two months older than her but she keeps referring to him as if he is an old man.

And in September 1986 we meet Tapioca Pudding.  Her dad is in licensing and she always talks about how her face is going to be everywhere.  Every time she talks to someone she introduces herself by her full name and everyone says “I know.”  Linus asks her out on a date (which makes Sally really jealous), but all she can talk about it herself and her licensing.  She asks Linus if she is boring him “No I always like to rest my face in a marshmallow sundae.”  Finally Snoopy the agent gets her a gig appearing at the Opening Ceremonies in the Olympic Game in L.A. (which were two years earlier).

In October 1986, Sally develops a new philosophy “Who Cares.”  From now on nothing bothers me.

When Patty wants to organize a football team, Marcie says the costumes aren’t feminine enough.  Then she wraps the football in a bow.  Patty gets mad and says she won’t kick a ball that’s wrapped in a bow, but Marcie says “The Icebox would”  Patty: “Refrigerator” Marcie: “Whatever.”

Lucy didn’t pull the ball away in 1985 (there was no mention of it).  But she does in 1986 with the excuse that it is a special moment to look forward to every year.  Then she pulls it away and sighs “it’s over before you know it.”  There’ also a Great Pumpkin joke in 1986.  Patty says she believes him about the Great Pumpkin.  And then jokes that “On Secretary’s Day the Great Secretary rises from her desk and rides through the city in a taxicab with notepads for all the secretaries everywhere.  And on Grandparents Day the Great Grandmother rises out of her condominium with cookies for all the grandchildren in the world.”

As 1986 draws to a close, Charlie gets up the nerve to wink at the red-haired girl. There is no reaction because she wasn’t in school that day.

And the musical jokes continue in December 19896 with Patty saying the enjoyed the concert because Marcie spent the whole time “Flauting with the flirtist.”

Patton Oswalt wrote the introduction.

He mentions how he bought the third Calvin and Hobbes treasury in 1988 and Schulz wrote the introduction to that.  Schulz’ introduction was full of praise for Watterson’s technical skill and all the wonderful details he put s into his strips.

Oswalt talks about how over the 35 years the strip went from kids writing with desktop inkwells and now he’s talking about answering machines.   Oswalt is dismayed that Schulz had to include an attorney as an imaginary Snoopy character–a sad reflection on our world

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[ATTENDED: October 9, 2016] Richard Thompson

2016-10-09-15-21-28I saw Richard Thompson play back in February at McCarter.  I saw him open for Wilco (well, I saw some of his set since I was late) back in June.  And now I’ve seen him in October.

That’s a lot of Richard.  But I couldn’t pass up this show because the Sellersville Theater is one of the most intimate venues around.  I scored Row G seats like in McCarter although Sellersville’s row G is a bit further back because they have tables in the front.  But it was still like having him play in my living room.

I’ve seen him play in many different styles over the years.  This summer he also toured with Bonnie Raitt with his trio.  I would have gone to that one, since I haven’t seen his trio, but prices were way too much and I don’t like Bonnie Raitt–well, her music anyway, I’ve no opinion about her.  Like the last two times, this was just him and his acoustic guitar.  And while I would love to have gotten a different setup, there is nothing wrong with just him and his guitar.

This was a matinee show (2PM!) thrown together kind of at the last minute (it was announced less than a month ago).  He joked about how matinees are usually played fro 5-year-olds or 95-year-olds–either playing 1930s covers or Puff the Magic Dragon.  He was glad that we were between those ages.

And like last time, there was the man just six rows away.  And I got to watch every amazing solos and chord changes and capo placements and tuning and everything else he could do with that one guitar.  For the McCarter how he played for 2 hours.  We only got 90 minutes (he said “I have three more minutes before I turn into a pumpkin”) which is a little skimpy (although probably about the normal length for a show).

And while no RT show is disappointing, I was a little bummed that his setlist was almost exactly the same as the one he played at McCarter.  The first two songs were different, but almost all of the rest were the same.  And there were no requests or improvs, apparently.

I mentioned last time that he doesn’t play a lot of songs from his new album.  Which is a shame both because his newer albums have been outstanding, but also because he works pretty hard at them (I assume), and he should get to play more from them.   Of course, I totally get that he is practically contractually obligated to play “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” “Beeswing” “Persuasion” and something from Fairport Convention.  But holy cow, he has so many songs.   He could play a different setlist every night for a month!

But enough griping, because the show was great.  he sounded fantastic and the acoustics in Sellersville are really top-notch. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 12, 2016] Flight of the Conchords sing Flight of the Conchords

chipsAfter having gotten a number of concert tickets fort he summer, I had planned a moratorium.  But it was impossible to pass up the opportunity to see Flight of the Conchords.  Especially if they were going to be singing Flight of the Conchords!  I didn’t even realize they toured (clearly they do), and since there were no plans for a new television season and since Jemaine Clement has lent his voice and face to all manner of awesome evil roles, I assumed the FotC was no more.  [Bret McKenzie has also done things but not nearly as much as Jemaine].

Since we loved the show and the music, I jumped on tickets once they were available.  Once again, I thought our seats would be better than they were (I really need to understand seating charts better), but it didn’t matter because they had two giant screens on which they projected the two of them and did many great visual effects as well.  It was easy to forget to look at them on stage since the screens were so compelling, but it’s always important to see what the guys are doing too.

They played 13 songs in total and did a lot of very funny banter in between.  The strange thing is that I didn’t know they had released a second album (how did I miss that?) so a lot of the songs that I thought were “new” were just new to me.  Although there were some brand new songs thrown in as well.

It was also awesome that as soon as Arj Barker left the stage, there was no delay before Flight of the Conchords came out. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 12, 2016] Arj Barker

arjArj Barker opened for Flight of the Conchords.  I didn’t know him, although I knew he had been on some episodes of the FotC TV Show.

Much like with my trip to the Mann for Wilco, it took a lot longer to get there than I anticipated–I think we’ll have it all figured out for our next show there later this week.  We wound up arriving a few minutes before 8 and had enough time to get a snack before the show started.  Barker didn’t start exactly at 8 either (how come Richard Thompson was so punctual?)

As we were chowing down, we noticed that later this summer the Mann Center is putting on a symphonic Pokemon event and we knew we had to get tickets for the kids for that.  So I ran out to the box office and spared myself the $13/ticket Ticketmaster surcharge at the expense of missing the beginning of Arj’s set.

We walked in just as he was going on about his girlfriend’s insistence on their new gluten-free diet (I’d guess we missed about ten or fifteen minutes). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 4, 2016] Wilco

2016-06-04 20.49.02After Richard Thompson’s half set, I walked a round the grounds a bit and grew to really appreciate the venue.  I also got a  pretzel which was pretty good.

Then Wilco came out and they were even more amazing than I anticipated.  They played for 2 and a half hours–33 songs–two encores.  It was awesome.

When I walked through the gates someone handed me a Wilco baseball card.   How cool!  Turns out that this is a Mann Center tradition during the summer, so I stand to get a few more.

I have to complain about the audience for a moment though.  I sat on an aisle seat and I had to stand up to let people past me not less than 20 times.  Between people coming late (and I can’t complain about that as I was late to the opener), but then going back to get drinks or whatever half a dozen times–and different people each time.  This was made more irritating by the people in front of me who were doing the same thing.  The girl in front of me got there just as the band went on and then left for three songs, came back with a beer for her partner and then left for two more songs.  WTF?  The amount of traffic was infuriating–it was really hard to get into a constant groove.

But the band overcame that (and clearly when I see them again I need to get in a closer section where the real fans are). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 4, 2016] Richard Thompson

2016-06-04 20.01.12I was so excited for this double bill of Wilco and Richard Thompson.  I had never seen Wilco but for the last few years I have really gotten into them.  And of course, I’ve seen Richard Thompson a bunch of times–but not as an opening act–how would he truncate his set?  And then a whole bunch of things conspired to make me miss almost his entire set.  (Details after the set list).

So I got to the Mann Center–a lovely venue–just as Richard was finishing “Walking on a Wire.”  Since his set could be anything, I hoped it was the first or second song.  But it turned out to be the sixth!

So I was able to hear him play three songs.  “Persuasion” sounded fantastic.  “One Door Opens” is a really catchy song that he played back in February and it was fun to hear again.  And “I Misunderstood” is one of my favorite songs of his, so that was great to hear.  And just as I settled in for more, he thanked us and welcomed Wilco.

Someone that I walked past said they couldn’t believe they only gave him 40 minutes, and I rather agree–although I can’t believe he didn’t start twenty minutes late or something.

After seeing him a few months ago from row J, I was pretty excited to see him from Row H, until I realized that it was in the second section back.  Not Row H, but essentially Row HH.  Nevertheless, the view was great and the sound was really amazing.

Here’s a clip from Persuasion and here’s a clip from I Misunderstood.

I hate missing any part of a show, so that all put me in a pretty foul mood.  And now that I see he opened with “When the Spell is Broken,” a song I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play, and certainly not solo acoustic I’m even more bummed.

On the plus side, Wilco totally cheered me up.  Especially when they invited Richard out to play on “California Stars.”

June 4, 2016
February 9, 2016
February 17, 2012
When the Spell is Broken  [this space left blank by accident]
She Twists the Knife Again
The Ghost of You Walks The Sun Never Shines on the Poor Easy There Steady Now?
Valerie The Ghost of You Walks Good Things Happen to Bad People
Dry My Tears and Move On Valerie Johnny’s Far Away
1952 Vincent Black Lightning Josephine Valerie
Walking on a Wire Johnny’s Far Away Oops I Did It Again
Persuasion Beatnik Walking Stumble On
One Door Opens 1952 Vincent Black Lightning 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
 I Misunderstood Dry My Tears and Move On Sunset Song
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight Saving The Good Stuff For You
Genesis Hall Pharaoh
Good Things Happen to Bad People Who Knows Where the Time Goes
Woods of Darney Hamlet (Dog Eat Dog in Denmark)
Read About Love My Enemy
Persuasion Shoot Out the Lights
Fergus Laing If Love Whispers Your Name
Wall of Death Crawl Back
I Misunderstood Hot for the Smarts
encore encore
Beeswing Walking on a Wire
encore 2 Down Where the Drunkards Roll
Down Where the Drunkards Roll Persuasion
One Door Opens Feel So Good
Shoot Out the Lights Beeswing
encore 2
Sydney Wells
Dimming of the Day

The FUBAR situation:

  • The weekend of June 4 later proved to be a weekend that Sarah was going to camping with the Girl Scouts.  In other words she wouldn’t be able to go with me.
  • I could not sell this ticket because of a miscommunication with someone who wanted it and the inability of several other who wanted to go to change their plans.  So I had to eat the cost (although I guess it was nice having an empty seat next to me)
  • The weekend also later proved to be a weekend that Clark was supposed to go on a camping trip.  I was going to go for Friday night and leave Saturday.  The troop discouraged that saying that kids tend to freak if you leave mid-trip.  Rather than going on the camping trip, Clark chose to bail on the whole thing and I felt guilty about it all weekend. [On the plus side we had a lot of fun Saturday on our own].
  • I thought the show was at 8 but it was really 7:30.
  • I had planned plenty of time to arrive early for 8, but 7:30 would have been about 15 minutes early.
  • However, I was bringing Clark to a friend’s house and we wound up leaving about 15 minutes after I initially wanted to leave.
  • En route, a road that i normally take was closed and the detour had my ETA on the GPS go from 42 minutes to 55.
  • I wound up in a location I’ve never been before and in my haste/trying to figure out how to get to where I needed to go (no detour signs at that end of the road) I committed a driving infraction evidently right in front of a policeman.
  • He pulled me over which added easily 15 minutes to the total time.  [MORAL: although I wasn’t speeding, it never pays to speed because if you get caught it will certainly nullify any time you would have saved].
  • The only positive of the night was that the policeman took pity on me and kept my record clean, giving me a fine for something else (thank you)–although I don’t know how much the fine is yet…
  • By the time I got close to the venue, the traffic was terrible.  The Mann Center is a great venue but there’s only one way in and a bottleneck is inevitable.

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[ATTENDED: February 9, 2016] Richard Thompson at the McCarter Theatre

2016-02-09 19.19.51This was my fourth time seeing Richard Thompson at McCarter Theatre (he says it was his 492nd time playing there).  And this time, I got my tickets early and scored ROW G!  Right in the center!

2016-02-09 19.24.13So there was the man just six rows away.  And I got to watch every amazing solos and chord changes and capo placements and tuning (that’s why I can’t play his songs) and everything else he could do with that one guitar.

For indeed, that’s what it was, just him and his acoustic guitar.  Standing in front of us for 2 hours and blowing us away.  When I bought the tickets, he was touring with a trio (last summer), so I assumed that this show would be the trio show.  But nope, it was just him.

And, more amazingly, he played with no opening act!  The night before he was at the Sellersville Theater (which sold out before I found out and although they called me about the waiting list, it was about 2 hours before show time, so there’s no way I could have gone) and had an opening act.  And the next show after this one he had a different opening act.  But we got just Richard (and we were home by 10, which is pretty awesome for us old people). (more…)

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