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Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 26, 2019] MST3K Live

I didn’t realize it was exactly one year ago that I went to the previous MST3K Live experience.  How funny.

I have enjoyed both of the two previous MST3K Live shows quite a bit.  So when it was announced that they were going to do it again and this time it was going to be in New Brunswick instead of Glenside, PA, I got tickets right away (and wound up in the third row).  I only wish I had picked the other side of the stage, because Joel and the bots did their movie watching from over there.

I have been very lucky to have gotten two movies each time I’ve seen the performance.  It seem like a lot of locations get only one movie.  I’m not sure why I’ve been so fortunate.  (And State Theatre offered a discount if you bought seats for both movies!).

Last time the riffing was done by Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray as well as many of the actors from the show.

This time things were very different.

Jonah Ray was not there.  Nor was Rebecca Hanson as Synthia Forrester.  And of course, no Felicia Day nor Patton Oswalt (not even on video).

But the big announcement was that this was going to be Joel Hodgson’s last MST3K Live tour.  I don’t know if that means there will be more, or if this is the end of them entirely. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: 47SOUL-Tiny Desk Concert #883 (August 26, 2019).

I had never heard of 47Soul and, surprisingly, the blurb doesn’t give any real background about the band.  So I had to turn to Wikipedia.

47Soul is a Jordanian Palestinian electronic music group.  The band’s first album, Shamstep, was released in 2015 and they are one of the main forces behind the Shamstep electronic dance music movement in the Middle East.

So what the heck is Shamstep?

Shamstep is based on mijwiz (a levantine folk musical style) and electronic dance.  ‘Sham’ refers to the local region of “Bilad al-Sham”, and ‘step’ refers to dubstep. The band’s music is also associated with the traditional dance called Dabke.

So, that’s a lot to take in, especially if you don’t know what half of those words mean.

The blurb does help a little bit more:

Shamstep is the creation of 47SOUL. At its heart is Arab roots music laced with dub, reggae and electronic dance music, including dubstep. It’s positive-force music with freedom, celebration and hope for the people of the Sham region (Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria).

47SOUL play three songs and their instrumentation is pretty fascinating.  Three of the guys sing.  They also play bass drum (Walaa Sbeit); darbuka– a small hand drum (Tareq Abu Kwaik); guitar (Hamza Arnaout) and synthesizers (Ramzy Suleiman).

So what do they sound like?

Well, the first song “Mo Light” opens with some very synthesized “traditional” Middle Eastern music.  It sounds like an electronic version of traditional instrumentation.  The guitar comes in with a sound that alternates between heavy metal riffage and reggae stabs.  The three singers take turns singing.  Walaa Sbeit is up first singing in Arabic.  Then there’s a middle section sung by Tareq Abu Kwaik who is playing the darbuka and an electronic drum pad.  His voice is a bit rougher (the Arabic is quite guttural).  Meanwhile Ramzy Suleiman adds backing vocals and seems to sing loudest in English.

For the next song, Tareq Abu Kwaik does the narration while introducing Walaa Sbeit:

“Is it ok if I do a little dance on your desk?” asked 47SOUL singer and percussionist Walaa Sbeit on first seeing the Tiny Desk. I thought a minute, went under the desk, tightened the bolts, stuck some splints of wood under a few of the uneven legs and (feeling reassured) gave him the nod. It would be our first traditional Middle Eastern Dabke dancing atop the Tiny Desk and the first sounds of Shamstep (a kind of electronic dance music) behind it.

The dancing involves a shocking amount of deep knee bends!

“Don’t Care Where You From” opens with a cool synth rhythm and then sung in English.  It’s fun watching Walaa Sbeit walk around with the bass drum slung over his shoulder as he does some dancing while playing.  The song is one of inclusion

Well you might be from Philly (?) or Tripoli / from the mountains or from the sea
maybe got the key to the city / don’t mean anything to me.

They don’t care where you’re from, it’s where you are that counts.

47SOUL’s message of equality, heard here at the Tiny Desk (and on the group’s current album, Balfron Promise) is meant for all the world. This is music without borders, mixing old and new, acoustic and electronic from a band formed in Amman Jordan, singing in Arabic and English. It’s one big, positive and poignant party.

It segues into “Jerusalem” with the controversial-sounding lyric: “Jerusalem is a prison of philosophy and religion.”  The middle of the song had an Arabic rap which sounds more gangster than any gangster rap.  The end of the song is an electronic dance as everybody gets into it–clapping along and banging on drums.

It’s pretty great. I hope they tour around here, I’d love to see them live.

[READ: August 27, 2019] Submarine

I saw this book on the shelf and was attracted by its busy cover.  I also thought the authors name sounded familiar.   And so it was.  I have read some of Dunthorne’s poems in Five Dials magazines.

This was his first novel.  And it sounded unusual.  The back cover had this excerpt:

I used to write questionnaires for my parents. I wanted to get to know them better.  I asked things like:

What hereditary illnesses am I likely to inherit?
What money and land am I likely to inherit?

Multiple choice:
If you child was adopted at what aged would you choose to tell him about his real mother?
a) 4-8
B) 9-14
C) 15-18

Dunthorne is from Wales, which made this story a little exotic as well.  It is set in Swansea, by the sea (where people surf!) (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 11, 2019] Baroness

Baroness is, for the most part, the work of John Baizley.  There are others in the band, but there hasn’t really been any consecutive albums with the same lineup.  I first heard of John Baizley on March 10, 2017 when he was brought out as as special guest at a Strand of Oaks concert.

I thought Baizley was great at that show and I really liked his voice.  So I investigated and I discovered the wonder that is the prog metal of Baroness.  Baizley writes beautiful passages and tacks them onto brutally heavy metal.  His voice is a rich baritone and it all works perfectly.  I later found out that all of the art is done by him and that he has crafted some amazing heavy metal covers as well (here’s his art site).

In 2017, Baroness was between albums (their previous one came out in 2015, their new one is coming out in a couple of days).  But I listened to his older records and really liked them a lot.

They have recently toured for this new album, but the two shows they played near me were not ones I wanted to see.  In April they played the Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest which sounded like a terrible thing to go to, quite frankly (even if they were the headliners) –7 bands and all that beer, no thanks.  A few days earlier they were playing Starland Ballroom with Deafheaven.  A double bill I would have liked to see, but I was already seeing Voivod that night.

They announced a tour of the rest of the lands and I was a little bummed.  But then they announced this little acoustic tour to coincide with their new album.  I was planning on getting the album anyway, so to travel to Fords to get that record and to have Baroness play an acoustic show was a no brainer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Corel Centre, Ottawa, ON (November 29, 1996).

This is the 15th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.  The site has recently added a DAT version of the show in conjunction with the existing fan-recorded version.

It opens in a very amusing way.  I imagine that Dave and Martin are lying on the stage, because Dave asks, “Martin can you sleep?”
Martin: “No, I can’t sleep.  I’ve smoked about three cigarettes.”
Dave “I had this weird dream we were playing in a giant arena named after a software company, opening for Ringo’s All Stars.  It felt really weird.”
Tim starts playing the bass.
Daev: “Might as well just get up.”
Martin: “That’s either a nightmare or a fantastic dream.”
Then they loop saying “Let’s see what Tim and Don are up to.”

Dave breaks character and says, “The comedy is free tonight.”  Which leads to a rocking “Fat” followed by a nice surprise of “Aliens.”  Martin sings, “they came down in 1996.”

Then comes a grooving “Dope Fiends.”  I love that in these 1996 shows the middle part is a cool jam.  It makes the loud ending even more powerful.  And as the song fades it segues nicely into “Digital Beach.”  They start “Claire” before Martin is done and Martin sings a few more “beautiful things” before they start “Claire” properly.

Dave says that they are the Rheostatics from Etobicoke.  They’ve been around for 17 years and it’s a privilege to share the stage with The Hip and uh… we like you.  We have a new record out called The Blue Hysteria.  Sixteen songs, one of them is secret, so really only 15 and this next song is from that.”

Dave keeps talking about the record–it’s in quad sound while someone starts playing “Bad Time to Be Poor.”

Dave thanks the Green Sprouts who are here tonight–we have an address on the back of our CD and if you write us, we will write you back.  We promise.

Dave asks, Is anybody here form Italy tonight (massive cheers).
Martin: Oh my god, it must be empty over there.
This next song (a rocking “Motorino”)  is about being over there and wanting to be home.  It’s a great version that segues into a terrific “Feed Yourself.”  Boy I hope the next time I See them, they play “Feed Yourself.”

[READ: February 2019] Lawn Boy

Yup, I grabbed this book because of the Phish song/album.

Nope, it has nothing to do with the band at all.

Yup, I still enjoyed it quite a lot.

This is the story of Mike Muñoz.  He is basically stuck.  He absolutely loves landscaping–it is his passion.  He wants to sculpt topiary and be a recognized artist.  But he is stuck doing menial landscaping jobs–ones that often involves picking up dog poo more than beautifying plants.

Mike’s father abandoned him a long time ago, when Mike was 11.  When Mike was five, he took Mike to Disneyland.  Disneyland turned out to be an abandoned building site.  He told Mike “I guess they moved.”

There have been many stepfathers since then, but now his mom is pretty much done with all that. She works double shifts as a waitress in a bar (Mike tries to not go there).  Mike lives at home with her and his mentally handicapped brother.  He basically hasn’t matured past a child and has an impulse control and gets upset very easily.   He is also bigger than Mike–by a lot–so even though Mike does a good job watching him, its not easy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CAUTIOUS CLAY-“Sidewinder” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next few shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

Cautious Clay is the “far-reaching and breezily soulful project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Karpeh.”  I love his stage name, but I wasn’t that crazy about his music–it was a little too soft and flat for my liking.

And yet I really enjoyed this song.

The song is remarkably simple–a rubbery bassline (that never changes throughout the song) and simple slightly jazzy drum beat.  Karpeh sings in his gentle voice and strums occasional delicate chords.  The chords, while gentle, bring in some nice sharp high notes to the otherwise bass-filled song.

But the real joy comes when, after a couple of verses, Karpeh puts down his guitar and picks up his…flute.  He plays a wonderful flute solo and it totally makes the song shine.

[READ: March 17, 2019] Toast on Toast

I have never seen the BBC show Toast of London, but I love Matt Berry and assumed this would be a very funny read.  I see that this also came as an audio book and I assume it would 10 times funnier if it was read by Berry instead of by me.

So this book is an autobiography and “helpful guide to acting” from Steven Toast.  Since I haven’t seen the show I genuinely don’t know if Steven Toast is any good at acting or not.  I can tell from the book that he is a pompous ass (which is 3/4 of the humor), but I don’t know if he is justified by behaving that way.

I’m also unfamiliar with BBC practices and with British stage actors in general.  So, while I assume that most of the names are made up (the more outrageous ones, surely), there may be a few who are real which might make the jokes even funnier.

Best of all, the book is fairly short, so while there are plenty of laughs, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 15, 2019] 42Ft-A Menagerie of Mechanical Marvels

It has been a while since we’ve been to see a cirque.  For a time it seemed like we were seeing some kind of theatrical spectacle every six months or so.  S. decided to take her Scout troop to see this show and I was super excited to tag along.  Because RVCC has some amazing shows and the price is always right.

Cirque Mechanics are based in San Francisco and they have several shows that they put on.  But at heart

The shows, rooted in realism, display a raw quality, rarely found in modern circus, that makes their message timeless and relevant.  The stories are wrapped in circus acrobatics, mechanical wonders and a bit of clowning around.

That was absolutely true tonight.  This show specialized in strength, balance, physics (and the defiance of physics) and lots of humor. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION (“Field Recording” March 2, 2009).

Years before NPR created a category called “Field Recordings,” they were creating Field Recordings–“backstage” (or elsewhere) recordings of bands.  Most of these seem to happen at Music Festivals where musicians just seem to be hanging around anyway.

I have no idea how many of these there are.  In fact, the only reason I discovered this one is because there was a link to it from the Blood Orange Tiny Desk Concert.

Because it turns out that Devonté Hyness, the guy behind Blood Orange was once Dev Hynes, the guy behind Lightspeed Champion.

And so, eleven years ago, Lightspeed Champion played SXSW.

It was a spectacularly beautiful day in Austin, TX when Lightspeed Champion’s Dev Hynes and violinist Mike Siddell met with All Songs Considered’s Bob Boilen for this exclusive outdoor performance. Hynes and Siddell offered up an intimate little set as they ran through four songs, opening with “Tell Me What It’s Worth,” followed by “Everyone I Know is Listening to Crunk,” “Galaxy of the Lost” and an inspired cover of Olivia Newton John’s “Xanadu.”

For all four songs, it’s Dev on acoustic guitar and Mike on violin.  Like on “Tell Me What It’s Worth” Dev sings mostly quietly with his accent audible.  The violin adds sweet touches and occasional solos.

He introduces “Everyone I Know is Listening to Crunk” by saying that crunk is a musical genre that originated about two hours east of here.  Li’l John more or less started it and the queen of crunk is Sierra.  It features this amusing chorus (?)

my drawings are starting to suck
My best friends are all listening to crunk
i feel like the world’s gone crazy
…sometimes in the cold night my phone rings but it’s not you

“Galaxy of the Lost” is a slow pretty ballad with a lovely rising scale in the middle.

Finally comes his cover of “Xanadu” (a song I love).  The opening guitar sounds like “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” and I love the way he resolves it into “Xanadu.”  The sprinkles of violin are a nice touch.

It’s pretty amazing how different this sounds from Blood Orange.  It’s an impressive development for an artist.

[READ: January 23, 2019] Secret Coders: Potions & Parameters

Secret Coders 4 ended with a puzzle.  But I read it months ago, so I haven’t even thought about it since then.  In fact, I have conceded that I will not learn basic programming from this series, so I’m not even trying.  I could see, though, that if you were reading these in quick succession that it would be fun to learn how to do what they are doing and to try the tests.

When we last left our heroes they were being attacked by biting ducks (!).  They use their program skills and the hard-light-generating Light-Light to escape.  And they wind up in a room with all the people who have drunk the green soda.  Including Hopper’s dad.  What?

As they try to snap him out of the “green!” stupor he is in, Dr. One-Zero arrives with Paz.  Turns out Paz was double crossing the kids all along and now Dr. One-Zero has the hard light generator and has the kids trapped.  He’s that much closer to winning–and his final plan is pretty terrible. (more…)

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