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Archive for the ‘Summer Camp’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW-Tiny Desk Concert #839 (April 8, 2019).

I’d never heard of Georgia Anne Muldrow.  My takeaway from this set is that Muldrow is a wonderful hippie–spreading love and peace and being a total free spirit.  But what do we know about her?

The blurb says

The first song I ever heard from Georgia Anne Muldrow, back in the early 2000s, was called “Break You Down.” The opening line spoke directly to my experience as a twentysomething coming into my own:

“Don’t let them make you forget who you are
Don’t let them break you down”

I later found that she wrote, produced and performed that song when she was only 17-years old. She possessed talent and perspective beyond her years and I became a fan.

But more interesting than that is this piece of information.

She’s also made a name for herself as a collaborator with artists [like] Erykah Badu, with whom she introduced the notion of “staying woke” to the world, years before it was appropriated as a hashtag.

“Overload” opens with her doing some crazy muttering and sounds.  I didn’t think I’d like the song at first, but it got really funky with some cool keys from Mokichi (his keys dominate most of the songs as the main instrument) and a very cool six string bass from Bronson Garza.  I really like the chours.  By the end she is totally intense and into it–an amazing performer

I know they want to kill ya. I know they want to break ya.
I’m sure they envy you because your love is so true.
They want to break your mind they want to drive you crazy.
They don’t love no black man unless hes in slavery.
But let my love raise you higher.

It’s pretty awesome.

Some time would pass before she eventually released her debut album, Olesi: Fragments of an Earth, in 2006. Since then, she’s released well over a dozen, mostly self-produced projects. While much of her music’s focus has been on the healing, preservation and education of African American people, the themes are universal: family, struggle and of course, love.

Up next was “a reworked and animated versions of the song ‘Flowers.'”

She and the band were floating the possibility of swapping the duet with her partner in music and life, Dudley Perkins with another song. But she decided it was more important to showcase their shared love on the song “Flowers,” originally from Perkins’ 2003 album A Lil’ Light.

It’s a softer song.  She sings the beginning and then Perkins takes over.  I don;t like his voice all that much and find this song rather dull.  But they clearly had fun plying it.

They end the set with an extended and jazzy version of “Ciao.”  She plays bongos to start this one which accentuates Renaldo Elliott’s drum kit.  It has a jazzy bass line and feels really improvised.   She starts riffing on going to Africa–South Africa or Togo she stars rhapsodizing about all the places they could go Nigeria  left alone by the police there because we’ll be in the majority.

Pack my bags and go where the equator hugs me, maybe even pick me a mango.

Georgia Anne Muldrow is a force of love and it is hard, and somewhat foolish to resist her.

[READ: April 10, 2019] Be Prepared

T. has had this book at home for quite a while (she’s quite the collector of graphic novels).  I have seen the cover for ages and so I had an idea of what the book was about.  Boy was I wrong.  For I assumed it was about summer camp.  And while it is, it is about so much more.

I really enjoyed her drawing style in Anya’s Ghost but I like it so much more in this book.  Her drawings of Vera with her big glasses is just so charming and sweet.  I was hooked from the first page.

As the story opens we see Vera at a birthday party for Sarah Hoffmann.  The party is important–an ice cream cake, pizza, (with a stuffed crust) and of course, a sleepover.  All the girls have fancy sleeping bags, but Vera’s is Russian and very utilitarian.  All of the girls gave Sarah accessories for her fancy historical doll. While Vera drew her a picture.   The girls wonder where Vera’s doll is, and Vera lies (badly) about hers being at home.

When Vera has her own party later, she tries to create the same atmosphere–but fails miserably.  The ice cream cake is a Medovik tort (with writing in Russian), the pizza is from Dmitri’s and the drink is Kvass (carbonated beverage made from rye bread).  Everyone slept over, but they all called home to get picked up in the middle of the night.

Vera didn’t really fit in with anyone.  But she still had friends (and Sarah was certainly nice enough). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TERRA LIGHTFOOT-Live at Massey Hall (December 8, 2017).

I know of Terra Lightfoot because she has done some (very minimal) work with Rheostatics.

Amazingly, she is not related to Gordon Lightfoot (how many people have this last name?).

Terra Lightfoot opened for Whitehorse (a double bill I would love to see).  She plays a half a dozen songs.  I thought she might be a sensitive folkie (again that Gordon connection), but it turns out that she rocks (and blues), has a powerful voice and plays a pretty wicked guitar as well.

Lightfoot is a great front woman–engaging and funny–and she has some great stories to tell about each of her songs.

“Stars over Dakota” just rocks out–big guitars, smashing drums (from Joel Haynes) and then settles into a swinging shuffle.  Lightfoot has a singular voice which I quite like.  I also like the little guitar riff she gives after the “gin martinis make dizzy” line.  She is joined mid-song by Melissa McClelland of Whitehorse who sings some amazing harmonies.  That’s two killer voices on one stage.

Drifter is a slower song, with a really lovely opening guitar melody.  She has been inspired in her career by her grandmother and her aunt who both played music.  Her grandmother recently died, but her aunt is still playing.

Introducing the next song “You Get High,” she says she has a special new guitar–a woman made it for me Ashley Leanne from Waterloo, she’s 26.  While Terra’s going to play this acoustic, she invites Daniel Lanois up on the stage.  “Can we get a spotlight on the man here?”  They can’t so he scooches over to her spotlight amid much chuckling.  Lanois plays a beautifully fluid electric guitar while she picks out a lively melody on the acoustic.

“Norma Gale” is about a famous musician from the 70 who played with Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash and went on a date with Conway Twitty (I guess he didn’t call her back).  While she was doing all these cool things, she was also raising a young son on her own.  So Terra wrote this song for her.  It starts as a pretty, slow ballad but builds nicely with the addition of keys (from Alan Zamatis).

“Hold You” rocks up again, and it’s got a cool call and response with a bass melody (from Maury LaFoy) rumbling along.  “Two Hearts” is a song she wrote in a couple of places in Europe when she was very much in love…. with a couple of people.   The song starts slowly but build to an intense climax with pounding drums and Terra on her knees rocking out,.

Having had a total mis-perception of Terra Lightfoot, this show blew me away and I want to hear more from her.

[READ: January 19, 2019] All Summer Long

This was a fun story about friendship, distance and guitar playing.

As the story open we see Austin and Bina getting ready for 7th grade summer vacation.  They have been friends since they were five years old and have spent all of the previous summers together.  They even created the Combined Summer Fun Index–a way to tally just how much fun they have each summer.

Last summer’s included:

  • Cats petted: 22
  • Went swimming: 51 times
  • $idewalk change: $1.18
  • Sneaked into R-Rated movies: 2 times

But this summer, Austin can’t participate.   He is going to soccer camp for a month.  A whole month.  Summer is ruined–for Bina at least. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  CHICANO BATMAN-Tiny Desk Concert #613(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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SOUNDTRACK: DEREK GRIPPER-Tiny Desk Concert #587 (December 16, 2016).

There are so many amazing musicians in the world that it’s impossible to have heard of all of them.  So it’s no surprise I haven’t heard of Derek Gripper, but at the same time, he is so mesmerizing I’m surprised that I haven’t heard of him before.

The 38-year-old started on violin at age 6, then wound up with one of the few classical-guitar professors in his native South Africa. But touring the world playing the music of the great dead white men was not all that appealing (though Gripper still loves to play Bach). Then he heard a record by the Malian kora player Toumani Diabate. He decided that that’s what he wanted to do: not play the kora itself, but play kora music on the guitar.

Of course, the kora has 21 strings, each tuned to a fixed note. The nylon-stringed guitar Gripper plays has six. But by using unusual tunings and fretting the strings up and down the neck with his left hand, he can pretty much hit all of the kora’s notes.

The remarkable thing is, he figured all of this out — and recorded two acclaimed albums — just by listening to CDs and checking out music online. Gripper painstakingly transcribed what he heard onto a kind of notation called tablature — similar to the music written for the Renaissance vihuela, which was also an inspiration. Earlier this year, Gripper finally made it to Mali, where his efforts received the blessing of Toumani Diabate himself; the two even jammed together.

That’s an amazing story but it’s nothing compared to the quality of his music.  It really does sound like he’s playing, if not the kora exactly, then certainly an instrument with more than 6 strings.

He plays four songs, three are traditional pieces which he has arranged for guitar and the fourth is an original piece.

Hearing the opening notes of “Tuth Jara” (Trad. Arr. Derek Gripper) and you know that you’re not listening to a typical guitar–the trills and runs sound so West African.   And once you get past the mesmerizing nature of his fingers. The melody is really pretty too.

“Joni” is an original piece about a love affair with a singer–the way he tells the story is delightful.  I love that part of the song is him actually down tuning one of the strings for a bit and then tuning it back up (all while playing everything else).  I also really like that he makes relatively quiet humming/singing noises while he’s playing.

He says he was inspired by Diabate who turned the kora into a solo instrument–which is much easier than traveling with a  band.  And then he illustrates how he plays kora music on his guitar–a bassline, the accompaniment and the melody–all on the guitar all by himself.  That’s his introduction to “Jarabi” (Trad. Arr. Derek Gripper).  And during the incredible playing out comes a beautiful, catchy and fun melody line.  All too soon, it’s over.

But since he has some time, they encourage him to play one more–“they’d be happier!” if he did.  So he ends with “Duga” (Trad. Arr. Derek Gripper) which he describes as a conversation between ngoni and kora.  The kora wins because he knows more about kora.   And like so many of his pieces, it is over way too soon.

[READ: June 13, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown

As Book 4 opens, Lunch Lady is seen in a two-page spread wielding her fish-stick-nunchucks.

Then we see that everyone is heading off to summer camp.   The kids have been looking forward to summer camp since they were little and they are finally old enough. Sadly Milmoe the bully will be there too.

And, unbeknownst to Lunch Lady and Betty, they are working at the same camps as the kids.  Lunch Lady has worked there before and she knows everyone, she gives us the lowdown on the counselors like Scotty who has always been the most popular and Ben, the new guy, who is pretty foxy himself.

The counselors are super excited when the kids show up, although Dee is a little blasé about it.  And then they run into Lunch Lady. (more…)

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1999 SOUNDTRACK: JANE BUNNETT AND MAQUEQUE-Tiny Desk Concert #548 (July 12, 2016).

bunnettJane Bunnett is a soprano saxophonist and flautist from Toronto who performs largely with Cuban musicians.  She has been traveling there for about 30 years and has performed with all kinds of musicians.  For this Tiny Desk and her current she is playing with the women from Cuba in a band called Maqueque (they won a Juno award last year).

And they sound great together.  It’s interesting that Bunnett takes something of a back seat (or position anyhow) to singer Melvis Santa (who seems to mostly sing sounds (ah ah ahs, bop bop bah dah dahs, as opposed to words) .  But when it’s time to shine, Bunnett is there to impress everyone with her skill.

Felix Contreras says “If you want to hear what Cuba sounds like today, then be sure to listen.”

“Little Feet” features Bunnett playing a cool solo on her sax and Santa singing notes along with her.  But for this song Bunnett really wails.  (she’s quite winded by the end).

Of the three songs, the ten minute “Maqueque” is my favorite.  That’s in part because I don’t really like the sound of the soprano sax (she plays flute on this one) but also because the band membranes really get to show off their chops.  It starts with a simple piano melody and pretty vocals.  Then Bunnett plays the melody on the flute as Santa sings along.   When Bunnett gets her solo on, you can hear her vocalising a bit as she plays the flute.

After the song Bunnett says that women in Cuba don’t get the exposure they deserve, so she picked these woman to let the world hear them.

About 4 minutes in Dánae Olano plays an amazing 2 minute piano solo–fun to listen to and to watch as she is all over the keys–she plays  some great trills and riffs.  She’s very impressive.  About 8 minutes in Yissy Garcia (who Dave Matthews has said plays drums like Jesus) plays a great drum solo.  On the drum kit she is using her palms and fingers to play all of the drums and cymbals–she switches to sticks at the end. The percussionist Magdelys Savigne accompanies her, and while not actually soloing, she is keeping rhythm as well.

Celia Jiménez plays bass.  She doesn’t get to do anything fancy–no solos, but she keeps the rhythm perfect.

bunnett2“25 New Moves” has Bunnett back on sax with Santa singing along to her melody.  It’s a short (4 minute) catchy piece with another cool fast solo from piano and a few cool bass lines as well.

It’s a pretty great set with lot of cool jazzy Cuban melody and rhythms.  I enjoyed this set quite a lot.

[READ: November 3, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1999-2000

This is the final volume of Peanuts strips. After 50 years, it finally came to and end.

Schulz was diagnosed with cancer in 1999.  He died in February of 2000.

I was hoping that this book would be shockingly good–full of great “I’m finishing the trip” closure.  But as I understand it, he wasn’t ready to finish the strip, so things move on more as less as normal.

In fact, I found the first few weeks of 1999 to be kind of dull.  The punchlines just didn’t make me smile as much.  Of course there is something to be said for the consistency of the strip.  Linus still has his blanket, Rerun is still coloring (he has become a dominant force in the strip), Patty is still getting things wrong and Sally still doesn’t want to do anything. (more…)

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lumberjanes-3 SOUNDTRACK: YOUTH LAGOON-Tiny Desk Concert #490 (November 23, 2015).

youthI thought I knew who Youth Lagoon was, but this Tiny Desk surprised me.  Lead singer/keyboardist Trevor Powers sings passionately.  But I was surprised that his voice is quite the falsetto (and at times sounds a bit like Pee Wee Herman).

At first I found this distracting, but after listening for a while I started to enjoy his voice, especially for what it did for the music.  They play three songs.  Two are new and one is older.

“Kerry” is a pretty song with a simple keyboard melody that is nicely duplicates on the guitar at times.  In fact, even though the keyboard is the main instrument, I love the various riffs and melodies that the guitar plays to accompany him.  There are some absolutely gorgeous musical passages in this song and Powers’ fragile voice is perfect for them.  In the middle, when the guitar plays a great solo section, it’s quite something.

“July,” is a wistful reflection on youth and regret from the band’s debut.  It’s a much more spare song with just voice and keys starting for the first minute or so.  About half way through, the rest of the band adds some real beauty to the melody as he sings more intensely.  I particularly like when the bass comes in at the end with a cool pattern of high notes.

“Rotten Human,” is a meditation on the passage of time and search for purpose in life.  I like this lyric: “I’d rather die than piss way my time.” It’s a slow song but once the drums come in the song builds.  I love the melody just before the next part which he sings with much more passion.  The “No I won’t” section sees his voice getting more ragged and angry-sounding–quite a change from the other parts of the songs.  Again there’s some great bass lines near the end of the song.

It took me a couple of listens to warm up to Youth Lagoon, but I really liked them by the end.

[READ: July 18, 2016] Lumberjanes 3

This is the third volume in the Lumberjanes series and I liked it a lot more than the second one.  This book collects issues 9-12.

The focus in the middle chapter on Mal and Molly was a nice change of pace.  And I thought it was very very funny that the girls tried to spend a chapter collecting “boring badges” for a change of pace.

There were lots of different illustrators in this book, because in the first chapter each the girls tells a story and each has her own illustrator. (more…)

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lumberhjanes2 SOUNDTRACK: DIANE COFFEE-Tiny Desk Concert #483 (November 2, 2015).

dianeI first heard of Diane Coffee from NPR.  The band’s song “Spring Breathes” is bizarre and wonderful–simultaneously difficult and catchy.  I was especially excited to see them play at XPNFest, but sadly we arrived just as they finished up and I missed my opportunity to see singer Shaun Fleming all glammed up (in a sailor suit).

This Tiny Desk Concert is a bit more mellow (and acoustic), but it is hardly Tiny as there is a string trio, a drummer and a guitarist.  As well as a bassist and keyboardist in addition to Shaun Fleming with acoustic guitar and vocals (and blue eye shadow).  Fleming was the drummer in Foxygen and does a lot of voice over work.

“Spring Breathes” is not as dramatic as on the record (which has some cool electronic drops and changes of tempo). But it sounds great with the strings (I love the pizzicato parts).  This version also has a very glam-era David Bowie feel.  Fleming’s voice is great–powerful and full, completely unaffected and spot on (the part where he sings the descending riff near the end of the song is fabulous).  And the harmonies are all perfect, very 1970s.  The song retains its several parts (I love when the song shifts to a quick funky bass section) and the band handles it perfectly.

“Not That Easy” is a mellow song with Fleming singing primarily in a gentle falsetto.  It’s a fairly simple song but the joint guitar solos are really beautiful.

For something a little more upbeat, they play “Mayflower.”  Fleming doesn’t play guitar on this one, but he dances around (rather like Mick Jagger).  He is wonderfully flamboyant both in motion and in singing (he’s got a cool raspy 1970s singing style for this song). And again the harmonies are great.

He is quite out of breath after this song, which is funny. They are going to play one from their first album, a song called “Green.”   His voice sounds particularly familiar on this one–I’m thinking like when Jon Bon Jovi really belts out his lyrics–and it’s just perfect for the song.

Fleming has a charming persona.  I really enjoyed this acoustic version and I’m glad to hear that he can convert the studio magic into a live setting.

[READ: March 22, 2016] Lumberjanes 2

I love the premise behind Lumberjanes.  The Lumberjanes are a kind of Girl Scout/Wilderness Adventure group.  They have been around for a long time and the Janes must follow the manual to achieve their various badges.  I love the way the book is set up around an “actual” field manual from 1984 (tenth edition) which has been:

Prepared for the Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for [written in] HARDCORE LADY-TYPES.

I was really excited to read this second volume since I loved the first one so much.  But I was a little disappointed by this one.

I feel like we could have used a short reminder of who all the girls were–there were a couple who I couldn’t tell apart [I know if you’re reading the issues as they come out that’s not a problem, but how much work can it be for collected volumes?].

What I didn’t like was the way the story went in a totally unexpected direction.

It started promising enough with the girls’ counselor being shocked and afraid after the recent supernatural events. She wants them to just stay around the cabins and make friendship bracelets to get the Friendship to the Craft badge. (more…)

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