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[ATTENDED: July 27 & 28, 2019] Newport Folk Festival

Back in 1998, I won a radio contest (not through luck, I knew the name of a song and couldn’t believe no one else did!) and scored a ticket to the Newport Folk Festival.  It was in a lull back then and also, I believe there was only one stage (it’s hard to remember).  Now it is at full power, selling out before artists are even announced.

S. and I have talked about going and finally this year I saw when tickets were announced and I bought 4 tickets for us.  I knew that our son wouldn’t want to go, but I decided to make a long vacation out of it–a couple days in Rhode Island and then about a week in Maine.  He couldn’t say no to going to that.

I didn’t get Friday tickets because three days seemed excessive.  Plus, you never know who is going to appear until long after you buy the tickets. and that actually worked out pretty well.   Turned out, there wasn’t anyone I really wanted to see.

So we rolled in for Saturday.  I was told that if you wanted to get the poster you had to get their very early.  We arrived at 12:30 and they were long sold out.  Oh well. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2019] Aurora

I enjoyed the Aurora show in New York so much that I knew I’d want to see her again.  I also knew that I could bring my wife and daughter to the show and they would be equally enthralled even if they didn’t know her music very well.

This was my daughter’s first club show and I thought she’d be pretty excited at the prospect.  But we do go to a lot of different live entertainment, so she wasn’t any more excited than usual.  Although I think she enjoyed the fact that we weren’t in seats, because she liked walking from where we were to up close by the stage.

Aurora’s stage design was minimal but cool–five or six large jellyfish hung from the ceiling.  The lights were a dark blue–feeling very underwater as she sang the beautiful and haunting “Churchyard.”  Her voice is powerful and amazing (even if she was a little under the weather–she told us an amazing story about the color of her snot).  And it’s very funny when she speaks between songs because she is quiet and soft-spoken.  She tells adorable, weird stories (which has garnered her an overly dedicated, slightly annoying, eye-rolling fan base).  The kind of fan base who shouts, “no thank YOU!” every time Aurora says thanks.  On the plus side, this fan base is absolutely respectful while she sings which is wonderful because you can hear everything.

The setlist was very similar to the show in NYC, although I actually didn’t realize it until i looked at them right now.  In NYC, the new songs hadn’t been released yet so they were new and ephemeral.  By now they were well established.

She continued to sound amazing through the uptempo “Warrior” and “Gentle Earthquakes.

I tend to not like dance music or aggressively pop music and Aurora certainly falls within the confines of that style, especially a song like “All is Soft Inside.”  But she has this wonderful off-kilter presentation.  It certainly has something to do with her being from Norway and living what appears to a be a fairly isolated existence.  She just sings differently.  It’s not weird or radically different, it’s just not the same as what everyone else does.  And her sense of melody is also slightly different.  It’s really wonderful.

She slowed things down with the disturbing ballad “Murder Song (5,4,3,2,1)” followed by the other sad song (she apologized for these songs being so sad), “Runaway,” a soaring beautifully sad song.

The stage production was mostly understated.  Some lights, changing occasionally and appropriately.  Mostly it was an opportunity of Aurora to dance and dance–an infectious dance.  But “The Seed” was just utterly intense with the flashing strobe lights in the more intense moments.  And when the strobe ended and the stage when briefly black it was an incredibly moment.

Things really quieted down for “It Happened Quiet” where it was just her and her amazing keyboardist/backing vocalist Silja Sol.  Then she came back with the new single “Animal” which brought everyone back up with some great dance.

The rest of her band is really stellar.  Most of them are from Bergen Norway.  Magnus Åserud Skylstad plays drums and while I’m sure there are a lot of electronics in the kit, the sound was powerful and amazing.  Odd Martin Skålnes is the bassist in her band.  His backing vocals–largely singing low but occasionally going high–are fantastic.  Although nobody’s backing vocals were as amazing as Silja Sol.  She may actually get higher than Aurora.  Throughout the show her voice was just wonderful–perfectly complementing Aurora in whatever was sounded best.  Aurora’s voice is great, but with Silja Sol, she is unbelievable.

I love the new song “Forgotten Love” which she followed with the older song “I Went Too Far.”

The show was nearing its end and my daughter grabbed my hand because she wanted me to come up really close to the stage.  To the left of the stage is an artist’s entrance.  And not many people were there.  So this afforded us an amazing view of her from very close up.  I wouldn’t have wanted to stay there for the whole show as you miss everything else going on stage (the sound was also a little different there but still sounded great).  But it was really cool being a few yards away from Aurora with my daughter while she sang the stunning “Running with the Wolves” one of my favorite of her songs.

Aurora left for an encore break and when she came back it was just her and keyboardist Sean McVerry (the only American playing that night, he also had a solo set earlier in the evening).  They played the lovely “Infections of a Different Kind.”  When the show started people were passing out small paper hearts with instructions to shine out phone light behind them during this song.  Many people did and it looked very cool–she even commented on how lovely it was.

During the encore break, people brought her all manner of creative things including a rather large painting which was, frankly, creepy as all hell.  Aurora was so kind and said she would put it over her bed, but damn, it would give me nightmares.

She ended the show was the wonderful “Queendom.”  It was catchy and dancy and the whole room vibrated with fun.  I especially liked that she said there would be no presidents in her queendom.  She also brought out a rainbow flag to wave around.  And then the spell was over and we were back out in the cold night.

I don’t know if it was the life-enhancing moment that I wanted it to be for my daughter, but my wife has certainly become a fan.  Maybe when my daughter goes to her first concert on her own she’ll remember being that close to someone who is inexplicably not huge.

 

 

Union Transfer 2019 Bowery Ballroom 2018
Chrurchyard Nature Boy
Warrior Warrior
Gentle Earthquakes Gentle Earthquakes
All Is Soft Inside Under Stars *
Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) Forgotten Love
Runaway Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)
The Seed Runaway
It Happened Quiet Soft Universe ⊗
Animal Queendom
Forgotten Love All is Soft Inside
I Went Too Far Animal
Running with the Wolves I Went Too Far
encore The Seed
Infections of a Different Kind Running with the Wolves
Queendom encore
Through the Eyes of a Child ∀

* early single
∀ All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend
⊗ Infections of a Different Kind Step 1
ℵ new unreleased

 

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[LISTENED TO: August 2018] The Sixty-Eight Rooms

Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell

I didn’t know this story, nor did I know anything about the Thorne rooms before our trip to Chicago last summer.

So the Thorne Rooms are, well, I’ll let the Art Institute of Chicago’s website describe them:

The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.

Read more about them and see pictures here.  That description doesn’t really do justice to the rooms themselves.

They are really magical in the way that they fully represent a room from a specific time and place.  The floor, ceilings, walls and furniture all meet exacting standard of detail.  And what makes them somehow even more special is that each room shows rooms out of the side and back doors.  These are lit (and show a painted facade) that indicates what is just beyond the walls of the room you are looking at.  It really adds a lot of depth and character to a scene.

Seeing them in person was really wonderful.

T. and I had started listening to this book before we left for Chicago, but we decided to wait until our trip to save it for the whole family.  Then we wound up not listening to it until the home, after we had seen the rooms.  And I feel like that made it all the more special. Because I could see exactly what the kids were doing in this fun and bizarre adventure. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Summer 2017] Danger Goes Berserk

After how much we loved Brixton Brothers Books 1 through 3 we were excited to get to Book #4 (which appears to be the final book since it has been six years, despite what was hinted at in the end).

However, there is no audio book!  No Arte Johnson guiding us through the mysteries of these teenage sleuths.  No one to say Rick (pause) Jerk.

Gasp.

So we did the next best thing.  S. read it to us on a long car ride.  This is second best because it’s exhausting for S. to read out loud for that long and to have the constant complaints of “can you turn it up” which makes me laugh every time one of the kids says it.

It was great to be involved with Steve Brixton and his chum Dana once again.

The detectives are back (in Steve’s hilarious new office) and there are two cases to look into.  One is about surfing.

The other is about… gym shorts.

Someone has been stealing Brody Owen’s gym shorts.  Brody even paid Steve to take the case.  But Steve doesn’t want to take it.  Both because it’s stupid and because he’s got more important, bigger cases to deal with. (more…)

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curswedSOUNDTRACK: MAYA BEISER-Tiny Desk Concert #283 (June 29, 2013).

mayaMaya Beiser is an Israeli-born American cellist.  And the blurb tells us that:

Maya Beiser’s Twitter handle — @CelloGoddess — says it all. She’s a brilliant cellist with a stunning command of her instrument, and she’s tightly tied to technology. Beiser takes the sound of her cello and runs it through loop pedals, effects and other electronics to make her instrument shimmer, drone and groove.  Time Loops, her 2012 album, is one of that year’s hidden gems.

The music feels experimental in that she’s using an age old instrument (and age old tuning) mixed with technology.  But the two songs she plays here are simply beautiful and the technology only serves to make the songs all the more enticing.

I don’t know what these pieces are “meant” to sound like.  In fact, I don’t even know the composers.  But her version of these pieces (with the wonderful drones and echoes of what she is playing) are terrific.

Osvaldo Golijov: “Mariel” One of the fascinating things about this piece is that it is impossible to tell what she is looping (especially since we miss the very beginning to see if she clicks any pedals).  But is she looping what she has played or is there some other music being added in?  This is a mournful piece with some great sounds (looped) accompanying her.  It’s seven and half minutes of beautiful cello music.

She introduces the second piece “Just Ancient Loops” Mvt. 1 by saying that Michael Harrison wrote the piece for her.  She plays 6 minutes of the 25 minute epic piece, or what amounts to the first movement (called Genesis). She also tells us that it was written in “just intonation” which is an ancient way of tuning the cello, but it is natural for the instrument which is all about pure fifths.

It opens with some plucked bass notes which are immediately looped and run through much of the piece (how is she controlling the loops?  I can’t see her feet at all).  By the middle, the piece is in full swing with different cello sounds echoing and looping. It sounds full and fantastic and over all just really wonderful.

I typically enjoy cello music, but there is something especially cool about this performance.

[READ: September 2, 2016]. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I wasn’t all that excited about this book.  It was a play.  Did Rowling even write it?  (I actually still don’t understand the provenance of the story)?  And did I really want to read about a grown up Harry?

Well, first T. read it and then S. read it and they both said it was great.  So I read it.  And I flew through it (and stayed up too late reading it, too).  And, man was it enjoyable.  More than enjoyable.  I immediately got right back into the Potterverse and I loved seeing the famous characters grown up.

So, what’s this book about, exactly?

Well, without giving spoilers (to those few to whom it applies), the plot starts off 19 years after the action of the last book.  (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: December 2016] A Boy Called Christmas

boyS. brought his audiobook home for us and we started it the night we went to pick out our Christmas tree.

This is a delightful story of Nikolas, an 11-year-old boy living in Finland in the olden days.  His parents called him Christmas, because he was born on Christmas day.

Nikolas’ life has been one of terrible hardship.  His mother was killed when she was attacked by a bear (a bear that lingers around their house to this day).  His father, Joel, is a woodcutter.  He cuts enough wood for them to survive, but otherwise things are bleak.  They eat mushroom soup for every meal and, in Nikolas’ whole life, he has received just two toys: a sled and a doll with a turnip head.

The only friend that Nikolas has is a mouse named Mika.  Now, this may be a fairy-tale kind of story but even Nikolas can’t understand Mika’s squeaks (although we can).  Mika is constantly on a quest for cheese–even though he has never tasted it.

Joel has noticed a man, a hunter, in their vicinity.  He turns out to be an excellent bowman with silver arrows.  In fact, once, when the bear that killed Nikolas’ mother is nearby, an arrow flies through the air and scares off the bear, saving Nikolas’ life.  The hunter finally comes to their house with a proposition for Joel.

The hunter is on a quest on behalf of the king.  They are setting off to prove that Elfhelm, the mythical land of elves, really does exist.  If they can bring proof to the king, they will be incredibly rich men. Joel and Nikolas believe very strongly in magic and in Elfhellm, and after much hemming and hawing, Joel decides to go on the quest.

This leaves Nikolas alone (with Mika).  So Joel calls his sister Aunt Carlotta to watch over Nikolas while he is gone.

There’s a lot of villains in the story, but Aunt Carlotta might be the worst of them.  She is mean from the start.  She takes all of the cushions for herself and forces Nikolas to sleep outside.  He is put to work immediately–gathering food and firewood–and cooking for her.  And finally she reveals that the only reason she came is because if his father does return–which she doubts–he will give her a lot of money.  As the section with Aunt Carlotta continues, she commits the gravest sin imaginable.  And that’s when the last straw is broken and Nikolas leaves. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 7, 2014] Universal Studios Island of Adventure

ioaOur final day of vacation, and…nobody was sick at all!  Hooray!

It was another day at Universal.  I didn’t know if it could compare to the first day–how could it, really?  And while we didn’t do quite as many thrilling things, we fully explored the world of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade and even left that island to explore others.  It was quite easy to forget was that there were so many other islands outside of the Harry Potter World.

We knew we wanted to ride the Harry Potter Express again–what’s the point of getting the MultiPark Pass if you don’t?  But we also knew that we wanted to start in Universal Studios Florida again because we wanted to go on the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem (the one ride that had a perpetually long line–oftentimes up to an hour) before heading over to Hogsmeade.

Remember, the entrance is shaped kind of like a Y.  You come in via City Walk and then you go left for Universal’s Island of adventure or you go right for Universal Studios Florida (the older f the two parks).  Unlike Disney, both parks are right next to each other.  But like Disney, if you pick to go in one, you can’t go in the other.  Unless you buy the Two Park Pass.  Then you can leave one and enter the other through the front, or you can go via the Hogwarts Express.

(more…)

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