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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RARE ESSENCE-Tiny Desk Concert #636 (July 19, 2017).

I have learned of go-go music exclusively from Tiny Desk Concerts:

Dominated by drive and momentum, heavy on percussion and bass, go-go music is all about the beat. Live, “songs” can continue on for half an hour, as the percussion continues to simmer and punctuate between and across different pieces. “That’s why we call it go-go, because it goes on and goes on and goes on,” as guitarist Andre Johnson put it in a documentary film.

This visit by Rare Essence perfectly encapsulated the genre’s incomparable meld of soul, R&B and, most importantly, funk (with a dash of Afro-Cuban influence).

So that’s go-go.  What about this band?

Rare Essence emerged not long after go-go itself did, beginning as a group in 1976 in Washington D.C. Ever since the group has kept a steady schedule playing around town and around the world.

The band plays seven–SEVEN–songs in sixteen minutes.  Many of them are just riffs that go on for a minute or so like “Down for My Niggas.”  Whereas “Rock This Party” is a bit more of a call and response piece–with some good congas.  “Freaky Deak” is pretty much a riff or two before they start talking to the audience.

They thank Suraya for arranging the show and there’s a lot of shouts outs and hand waving.  And then they start with one of their favorites, “One on One.”

All of the songs more or less flow into each other as one long jam.  There are multiple lead singers and everyone participates in the responses.

After a spell of their name (R-A-R, Double E, S-S-E-N, C-E) the lead guitarist sings lead on “Bad Bad” (he’s the oldest looking guy but he still has the power in his voice).

As they segue into “Lock It,” We apologize we could play this song for ever but I know everyone got to go back to work.  We’re gonna play the short version  We could play this for at least an hour.  They keys plays a nice Cuban sounding melody–almost like xylophones.

“After three minutes, he says this ant even the first part of the song–we still got about fifty more minutes.” Then they segue into “Overnight Scenario” which everyone sings along t o.

Anthony Andre “Whiteboy” Johnson (guitar, vocals); James “Funk” Thomas (vocals); Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris (vocals); Leroy “RB” Battle, Jr. (keyboards); Calvin “Killer Cal” Henry (vocals); Michael Baker (bass); Kenneth “Quick” Gross (drums); Samuel “Smoke” Dews (congas); Kym Clarke (trumpet); Derryle Valentine (sax, flute)

[READ: July 23, 2017] “Bonebreaker”

I find Nell Zink’s stories to be weird but compelling.  She writes about strange things in unusual ways.  The people are often peculiar but compelling.

But this story was especially odd to me because the two characters seem really stupid

Both Jed and Laurie are fleeing the States.  As the story begins they go to the airport with a lot of cash.  But they knew that the TSA would be suspicious of that.  So when they see the “money sniffing” dogs, they know the TSA is on to them.  They leave their stuff at the airport and return home–which puts them on the no-fly list.

After a few more aborted attempts, they decide to take a barge–a real refugee situation. Not only do they not get where they are going, they lose a lot of money and are mostly miserable.

Why are they fleeing? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Matinee Day 3] (February 27, 1994).

Second annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-March 1 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. Rare performances of Green Xmas, Floating and one of the earliest Desert Island Discs. This is the all ages Sunday afternoon show 3/5.

Sadly there was to be no celebratory party for the Canadian hockey team who lost the final match and took silver (they’d have to wait until 2002).

They’re going to play a lot of new songs and some old songs.  So they start with “Crescent Moon” from Greatest Hits (it’s so synthy!).  Midway through they seem to mess up and Dave says, “We know the new ones well we just don’t know the old ones very well.”

As the start “Green Xmas,” Dave Clark says, “I love Christmas Time so much so that I love playing this song even though it’s not Christmas.”  When the song is over there’s lots of talk about gum–I assume someone had some in the audience: Black Cat, Ton o Gum or Bubbalicious.  He asks what kind and they start talking about Dubble Bubble and how so many bad things happened to Pud (He could never win).  He contends that Ziggy ripped him off.

They get an organized snap going for Fishtailin’.  They play a verse and then hold it, Dave says “We usually play this song in A, Martin.”  However we will employ “capo technology.”

Clark says he enjoys playing that song because it reminds him of …Dave.  And all the good times they had…before the bad stuff happened (ha).  Clark describes how he met Dave when they were kids.  Bidini says he doesn’t remember the meeting and jokes “did you steal something off of me?”  Clark says Bidini’s aunt and uncle got the first in ground pool in the area and that’s where they met.  Bidini asks what he thought of him.  After shouting “Doofus,” Clark says, I thought “he would become a well kempt perhaps overspoken person.”  Bidini says he remembers being in his Delta 88 going for a drivers test in 1981 and picking up Clark and thinking “he has lips as big as mine–we can be square together.”

It’s a good segue into “Me and Stupid” (which they make family-friendly by singing “messed up” instead of fucked up).  For the fish chant at the end “pike, trout, bass, smelt,” Dave says they are the “four fish of the apocalypse.”

Dave apologizes that he “spit on you from afar but luckily I hit one of the Wooden Stars and I think that will bring me good luck in 1994.”  The Wooden Stars are the band that’s playing during the break.

Once again Tim says that “Introducing Happiness” is about having cats–not birthing cats, just discovering them.”

Clark says that they are “one of the laziest bands in rock.”  Bidini says they have inherited the mantle from Valdy.  Then he says I thought you meant “laid back.”   Clark says “I didn’t say lamest.”  But Bidini says that Valdy once paid The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos $1500 to open for them at the Port Credit Arena.  Clark says he wasn’t talking about Valdy, he wrote the Four Seasons.  Tim says he also sells really cheap groceries (I assume he’s joking about Aldi).

For “In This Town,” Martin asks for “Lots of reverb on the intro.”  Bidini says it’s like they’re in a cave.  Then there’s a great “Michael Jackson, ” followed by a rocking “RDA.”  A sloppy intro to “Soul Glue” is fixed and then the song starts for good.  Midway through Bidini tells them to do it nice and breezy, like Valdy would do it, and they make it very smooth.  “Zero angst, Tim.”  The gentle ending segues nicely into “Self Serve Gas Station.”

Clark tries to wax eloquent about the loss of sun, but he can’t get the words out.  So they encourage the kids to dance, which it sounds like they do.

They play the mellow “Row,” which features a really great solo from Martin in the middle.  After a discussion of new wave, they play the rapid, rather odd “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos.”   They play “Floating” again–one of those songs that has never gotten official release.  It’s pretty cool with a few different parts that complicate the song.

They ask, “Any teenagers in the audience?  I heard that teenagers don’t like to be called teenagers what do they like to be called?”  Someone shouts “Young adults.”  They play “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too.”

They ask that the lights to go up and they play a song/game called “Desert Island Picks.”  You say three albums you’d take with you if you were stranded on a desert island (in this case New Providence Island).  They walk around singing the folk song and then some people come up: it is really fun and very funny, a great good time is had by all.  They even bring up a little kid and he sings his three favorite things in the world.  When they ask another kid what school she goes to, she says  “uh…what?”  And someone shouts “Must be U of T!”

Someone had picked three Beatles albums, and Martin says “This is from our next album Let It Be…”  He sings “Jo Jo was a…” before beginning “Take Me in Your Hand” properly.  Then they play a lovely version of “Claire” and then a noisy messy sloppy verse of Neil Young’s “Farmer John,” which morphs into the crazy trilogy “Artenings Made of Gold/Cephallus Worm/Uncle Henry.”

Clark asks if they should play longer or shorter, and longer wins.  But he must take a five-minute bathroom break.  So Martin plays a gentle acoustic version of “Record Body Count,” which the crowd loves.   Then, “Oneilly’s Strange Dream” is introduced as “Saskatchewan Part 2”.  And then (despite some apparent crying from children) they play “Horses” (the moaning child actually sounds like a pretty good fit for this intense song).  There’s even a kid who sings the “Holy Mackinaw, Joe” part.  At the end, there’s kids doing the whole ending with them.

And then it’s a couple of covers: Jane Siberry’s “One More Colour” and a rocking rendition of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”  They leave the stage and there is a truly wild and rowdy encore cheer (banging things and lots of screaming).

Dave gives away a prize–nightgowns (?) from Sire Records–which Clark says he doesn’t want because he’s ashamed of being on a major label.  I’d love to see those.

It leads to a cool trippy version of “Dope Fiends,” and the end guitar section segues perfectly in to “Earth Monstrous Hummingbirds,” a version which doesn’t ever get really weird but which still sounds fantastic.

I can’t get over how cool it is that Rheostatics played matinee shows like this.  The show lasted over 2 hours, tickets were $6 and it was all kind-friendly.  That’s pretty awesome.

[READ: January 17, 2017] “The Curse”

This is an excerpt from Marías’ recent nonfiction book To Begin at the Beginning. It is a reflection on the art of writing fiction.

This brief section looks at how he writes; he doesn’t know how things are going to turn out when he begins–that would be boring for him.  And if he was bored, it would reflect in his writing and then his readers would be bored.

Just as we do what we do when we’re twenty without knowing that when we reach forty we may wish we had done something else, and just as when we’re forty we have no alternative but to abide by what we did when we were twenty, we can’t erase or amend anything, so I write what I write on page 5 of a novel with no idea if this will prove to have been a good idea when I reach page 200, and far from writing a second or third version, adapting page 5 to what I later find out will appear on page 200, I don’t change a word, I stand by what I wrote at the very beginning — tentatively and intuitively, accidentally or capriciously. Except that, unlike life — which is why life tends to be such a bad novelist — I try to ensure that what had no meaning at the beginning does have meaning at the end. I force myself to make necessary what was random and even superfluous, so that ultimately it’s neither random nor superfluous.

He cites an example.  When Marías’ Cuban great-grandfather was still a young man, he refused to help a beggar. The beggar put a curse on him: “You and your eldest son will both die before you are fifty, far from your homeland and without a grave.”  He wrote about this curse in his book Dark Back of Time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Night 2] (February 26, 1994).

Second annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-Mar 1 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. Rare performances of Poor Mouth, Green Xmas, Floating, Symphony and a crazy mash up encore of Cephallus Worm/Uncle Henry/Greens Sprouts Theme/Soul Glue. The band also noted working titles for the album included Revenge, You Are A Treasure, Skookum, Twaddling and Art If You Squint.

The quality of this recording is better than night 1

The show starts with Dave Clark asking, “Does anyone know the sound that sled dogs make when they bark?  They go Hi! Hi!, because they bark so much they don’t have voices anymore.  Bidini says “Dave knows this because he was once a sled dog.”  Tim chimes in, “we also met a llama at Exotic (erotic?) cat world in Orono, Ontario.  He said hi, hi.  Then it spit on you–because he liked you.

Then Martin says “Dave Bidini fresh from reading erotic poetry.”  (In last night’s show he said he would be reading erotic poetry).  Dave says, “I’ll read some more to you if you’re good… or bad if you know what I mean.”

They begin the night with “Poor Mouth” a rare song that I don’t really know but it sounds familiar.  It’s a slow song with some noisy sections.

Before Introducing Happiness, Clark asks, “How many people here have cats?  Be proud, Walk tall.”  Then Tim jokes, “This is a new song about cats.  Actually this is a new song.  They’re all new songs tonight.”  An All New Revue!  Clark: All New Revue Screw You!

For Fishtailin’, Clark says This song is not about Cats, nor about Dogs.  This one is about Birds, but nobody got it–it just went over there heads. Bidini: “What Catskills dive did you hear that joke in, it’s an old bad joke?” Clark” “You just killed the flow of the gig.”  The song opens with some finger napping and after a verse Martin says he likes the snapping and Dave says he likes Tim’s falsetto singing.

The begin “Michael Jackson” and Dave asks, “Where’s the Michigan table tonight?  Welcome!  Sorry to hear about Michael Jackson and stuff.”  Then he segues, Dave Clark is the only person I know who when I told him Nancy Kerrigan won the silver he went alright!  Clark responds, “Dave, it’s so hip to hate Led Zeppelin these days, that’s what the kids said in high school but I still loved them.”

After the song, Clark shouts out “Tim Mech all the way from the Mechheads….  a smattering of applause… if they only knew.”  In This Town has kind of goofy opening, as does “Me and Stupid.”  It opens with some crazy lurching almost seasick-sounding sounds.  Martin says that’s track one on our next record.  During “Stupid” in the quiet middle Dave states, “

Middle if song “Something is about to happen.  Two shores away a man is hammering in the sky.  Perhaps he will fall…”  The end of the song the band chants “pike trout bass smelt.”

So Bidini asks about smelt: How many smelt can you eat at one sitting?  I once ate 115.  Clark: “I’ve never eaten smelt in my life.”  Bidini, “I’ve got the bones in a jar.  Clark: Did you shat them out?  Bidini: No!  It is a nona food–an Italian grandmother delicacy.  Then he tells the story: “I went fishing with my dad and we chucked the giant net into the Credit River listening to AM radio with excellently bad Canadian radio from the 70s.  Martin says, “I’ve known you all this time we’ve been together 8 years or whatever?.  Bidini, “I’m glad we’re talking about this now.” Clark: “you should join that Iron John program.”

It’s a pretty complex introduction to “Oneilly’s Strange Dream.”

After the song, Clark says, “I saw Mark Hamill on that Conan the Barbarian show and he was kind of a sexist pig.”  Bidini: “Same with the Howard Stern guy.”  Martin jokes, We’re taking it even further than Vegas were recording in Tahoe.

Then Dave asks, “Acoustic guitar or electric guitar for this song? (Electric wins in landslide).  “Electric it is!”  Every decision you inch us towards will have a profound impact on our musical lives.  Be responsible.”

Dave then gives a lengthy introduction to “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos.”  He says it was originally a song that Tim and Martin sang when I got married two years ago at my wedding (at the bowling alley?).  Someone asks, “Did you marry the girl that you met when you went back to your old horse riding school?”  Clark asks: Bugsy Malone?  Dave says “Bugsy Bidini, you got it.”  I write the song and sang it and Tim said enh?  then Tim said “I’ll sing it” and now he sings it. It’s about an old band that was famous in Toronto (well, not really famous but were excellent) in the middle to the end of the 80s and this is about them.  Before starting he mumbles, the beginning is tricky and then asks, “Tricky beginning or not?”  Tricky!  we need to practice it once, we’ll do it really quietly so they can’t hear.  It’s funny how short the song is after all of that.

“Full Moon Over Russia” is pretty quiet, and then there’s a wild middle section during the “I don’t care, I don’t care” part.  Dave says do you care, and Martin shouts, “Don’t do that I hate that.” Then there’s a nonsense jazz breakdown.

During the banter Clark asks, are they calling the CIS Russia now?  Bidini says “It’s not the CIS”  Clark: “CIS, CSI,  C-sis?”  returning to the Olympics: Clark responds “My favorite Olympian is Ross Perot.  Martin asks “Dave what are you suffering from?”   “I’ve got Olympic fever.  I get the chills every day around 1 o’clock if I don’t watch channel 9.  The all white network, Jesus Christ.”

And then they have some fun with the Canadian sportscaster Rod Black:

But Dave how did you really feel about that performance in the last song it didn’t measure up to your expectations, did it?” …. “I guess you’ll just have to go home and face all the people who pinned their hopes and dreams on your performance.”

Martin starts “One More Colour” and then says, “This is another song that I have anxiety starting.”  Dave announces, “You can share in that anxiety?  How much did it cost you to get in?”

Opening “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too,” Dave says “This is for Robert Lawson who came by and gave us a tape of the National Anthem.”  (Not sure what that means).  And then they take a five-minute break.

After the break, Bidini welcomes everyone and invites them down into the “promecium” (the pit).  Clark corrects: “proscenium” a fan shouts “paramecium,” “Prometheus?”

These five days are dedicated to the Green Sprouts Music Club.  You can write to us and we can be friends.  And then they a play a song that I’ve never heard before called “Margaret Atwood.”  This appears to be the only recording of it, which is a shame because it’s pretty interesting with a catchy chorus and some wild guitar wailing.

Dave tells a story about Tim Ecclestone getting another player into a fight with a bruiser from Philly.  And then they play “Green Xmas.”  Clark says, “It can be Christmas any day you want.”  Bidini says, “that’s kind of your motto: every day is Christmas.”  Martin sings a short improv “Every Day is Like Christmas.”

Introducing “Floating” which was never recorded, Dave says “This is a song about taking acid and being 30000 feet above sea level, something we’re all very familiar with, I’m sure.”  This recording is much better than last night’s and it really lets you get a better sense of how interesting this song is.

Someone shouts out “Ditch Pigs.”  The band discusses it and requests and how this is not in the program but they never do it, so Clark agrees.  But Martin forgets the words and no one else can remember them.  He asks someone Do you have the song cued up?  And someone plays a recording of “Dancing Queen” (!).  They get through the end of the song and then immediately start up “The Royal Albert.”

Martin says that “Symphony” is a new song composed of many parts.  Bidini says that he’s going to relax back there behind the drums–that’s what you do back here, right?  It’s a really pretty song, but the recording gets a little muddy here, sadly.

Bidini asks Clark about his microphone which leads to a discussion about Gil Moore, the drummer from Triumph.  Gil Moore would get blind drunk, play really poorly and sing his ass off but he could only hear himself in the monitors and no one could hear him in the big giant rock stadium.  Clark concludes: “You know what they say igna…” someone: “breeds bad rock” someone else: “breeds Triumph.”  Shhh.  Martin comments, Rik Emmet’s a nice guy, right?  Bidini: “Rik Emmet’s a great guy.”

Then someone compliments Dave on his suit.  He says Gordie Johnson (of the band Big Sugar) lent Dave his suit  (and lent him his hot bum too).  Then you hear someone playing Blondie’s “Call Me” (!).  The crowd gets quiet so they tell them to say something.  Someone shouts various things and then “Legal Age Life,” which they agree to play.  It’s an acoustic jam pretty far from the recording, but a lot of fun.  In the middle of it things stop.  Then someone scream “hurry up” and Clark creates a vulgar erotic story that involved having sex with the man.  And then they resume he song.  It’s followed by “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”

In introducing the band, Clark mentions “Timothy Warren Vesely)–there had been a contest in a previous show to see if anyone could guess his middle name).  Someone requests “Memorial Day” and Bidini says, “We don’t do that anymore.  We’re waiting for John Cougar to do that song.”  They play a delicate “Take Me in Your Hand” instead.

Bidini mentions the Big hockey game at 9:15 in the morning tomorrow  Canada hasn’t won a gold medal in Olympic Hockey since 1952.

Then they start talking album names, like the ones mentioned above.  One other one is : Rheostastics Talk Too Much.

And then Tim gets two songs “Row” with the slide guitar and “Claire” (announced as a song by Desmond Howl).  “Claire” is wonderful with a noisy drum section in the middle.

Despite the requests for “Torque Torque,” the encore is another romping fun sloppy Cheap Trick song “I Want You to Want Me” ( I think Clark is singing?).  And then the crazy medley mentioned above: “Cephallus Worm” a weird enough song to begin with which segues into “Uncle Henry.”  Before it ends they begin a wild “Green Sprouts Theme.”  Someone asks how would Bruce do it?  Who cares?  And then they jump start “Soul Glue” but after just one verse they launch back into the frenetic ending of Green Sprouts and before that can end, they play the final verse of Uncle Henry in a pretentious operatic style.

Be here tomorrow when the Wooden Stars are there.  It’s out matinee show.  It’s only six bucks tomorrow.  Tea and biscuits and no profanity, bring the kids.

SIX BUCKS??

[READ: July 18, 2017] “The Main Attraction”

I’m never exactly sure what criteria are used to get someone into Harper’s.  Especially the short (typically excerpted) fiction in the beginning of the magazine.

It is usually an established author, very often in translation.  But the statement about this entry is particularly noteworthy: “Bennett’s first novel Pond was published in July and this is from a manuscript in progress.”  Wow, that’s seems to set the bar a little low, and yet I really enjoyed this strange excerpt.

Anyhow, this excerpt is fascinating for a few reasons.

It opens with this odd bit:

The idea of going out to dinner came about very suddenly–I wanted schnitzel–after having had absolutely no feelings at all toward it going out to eat schnitzel suddenly seemed vital, inescapable, in fact, as if preordained.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-University of Calgary (September 5, 1992).

This set is also them opening for Barenaked Ladies, just following the release of Whale Music.  It comes four months after the previous show online and I love that the set is almost entirely different.

It opens with a slightly cut off “PROD.”  I can’t believe they’d open with that.  AS they pummel along, the song pauses and the band starts whispering “what are they gonna do?  I don’t know.”  Then they romp on.

Bidini says they have three records out.  The first you can’t get, the second is called Melville and this is “Record Body Count.”

They’d been playing “Soul Glue” for a long time, this one sounds full and confident.  Then they introduce “King of the Past,” as “a song about looking for Louis Reil’s grave site. You know who he is, right?  Canada’s first and foremost anarchist.”  It’s a gorgeous version.

When it’s over they announce “Timothy W. Vesely has picked up the accordion!”  (Earlier Dave said that anyone who could guess Tim’s middle name would in a free T-shirt). They play a fun if silly version of “Whats Going On.”

“Legal Age Life” is a fun folky romp.  They get very goofy at the end with everyone making funny sounds and then Clark shouting “everyone grunt like a seal.”  Bidini asks “Is Preston Manning in the audience tonight?”  Clark: “No fuckin way.”  Near the end of the song they throw in the fine line “Eagleson ripped off Bobby Orr!”

Martin almost seems to sneak in “Triangles on the Wall.”  This is a more upbeat and echoey version than the other live shows have.  The end rocks out with some big drums.

As they preapre the final song, Bidini says, “We’re going to play one more song and then we are going to leave like sprites into the woods.”  He asks if anyone knows “Horses” and if they wanna “sing Holy Mackinaws with us?”  But they need more than 1–we need at least 3.  The three “imposters” are named Skippy and His Gang of Fine Pert Gentlemen.  They are told to behave until the chorus or “I’ll get Steve Page to sic ya.”

Then, back to the audience he says, “This is a song about Peter Pocklington and what a fucking asshole he is.”  [Pocklington is perhaps best known as the owner of the Oilers and as the man who traded the rights to hockey’s greatest player, Wayne Gretzky, to the Los Angeles Kings].  The fans aren’t very vocal during the shouting, but the band sounds fanasttsic.  Just a raging set.  It segues into a blistering version of “Rock Death America.”

Not saying that they upstaged BNL at all, but that would be a hard opener to follow.

[READ: January 17, 2017] “The Quiet Car”

This is the story of a writer who had been granted a temporary teaching job at a prestigious University.  I don’t exactly know Oates’ history with Princeton, so I don’t know if she was ever in the same position as the character of this story, but I was secretly pleased when she mentioned the Institute of Advanced Study, so that it was obvious that the prestigious University was indeed Princeton.

But the story starts many years after he has left the University.  R— is standing on a train platform.  The story begins with this excellent observation: “nowhere are we so exposed, so vulnerable, as on an elevated platform at a suburban train depot.”

While R– is standing on the platform waiting for the train to New York City he notices that someone is unmistakably looking at him.  He has been recognized before–there’s a small subset of the population who really likes his books. And, in what is a wonderful detail that tells you a lot about this man: “if the stranger is reasonably attractive, whether female or male, of some possible interest to R—, he may smile and acknowledge the recognition.”

This detail proves important because as he gets on the train he begins to think about the stranger–he believes he recognized her face. (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: GABRIEL GARZÓN MONTANO Tiny Desk Concert # 622 (May 26, 2017)

I have no idea who Gabriel Garzón Montano is.  The blurb suggests that even if I don’t know, others certainly do.

I was, admittedly, thrown for a loop when Gabriel Garzón-Montano told me that he wanted to perform unaccompanied, just him and a piano. The meticulousness of his work is clear on his debut album, Jardin, a three-year creative process in which Gabriel plays most of the instruments, tracking them to two-inch tape, layering its overall sound. Jardin takes its title as an umbrella; fruits, bugs and other plants are the driving metaphors tying together this dense work, which blooms over successive listens. Garzón-Montano doesn’t necessarily wear his heart on his sleeve — he forces you to listen and peel the layers back.

Garzón-Montano’s career trajectory veers wide — living with Philip Glass for a year while his late mother played in the composer’s ensemble, sitting under the minimal maestro’s piano as he practiced; Lenny Kravitz making possible his first tour experience; while Drake exposed Gabriel’s sound to the masses.

That decision to go it alone at the Tiny Desk made sense, though, the moment he started to play; his talent is left elegantly exposed in this unadorned performance. He says his visit to the Tiny Desk “with just piano and vocal reminds me of what is lost when a song is fully produced and arranged — it was an exciting and vulnerable experience. I was nervous for this one.”

Here then, are three songs from Jardin, along with the song that introduced Gabriel to the world… laid bare.

When I listened to this the first time I thought he played 2 longish songs but indeed, there are 4 shortish songs.

I really love the piano sound he gets but the r&b style of pop singing is not my thing and so many “babys.”

I singled out a few things in the songs.  The line in “My Balloon” “I’ll get back on my balloon and meet my baby on the moon” I find endearing even if it is kinda dumb.  I enjoyed the way “Long Ears” came seamlessly from the first song.  It starts with a high note and falsetto vocals. It’s much more interesting than the first song.  And the second half of “Long Ears” is quite interesting, almost dissonant–although I could do without the you you you section.

I thought the first line of “6 8” was “fuck me real slowly,” which was disconcerting.  Especially since a later line was “I’m just like a baby drooling over you.”  But I believe it is “rock me real slowly.”  It segues cleanly into the final song, “Crawl.”  I think he stars in the same falsetto but then switches to a deeper voice.  I love the bouncy middle section that sounds like a musical.  Although once again there’s too much oo ooo ooo ooo.

All of those vocalizings sound especially flat during an under produced occasion such as this.

[READ: April 26, 2017] “You Are Happy?”

This story was fairly straightforward, but it opened up a cultural aspect that I had no idea about.

The main character is Laskshman, an Indian boy living in the United States.  As the story opens, we see Lakshman’s grandmother telling Lakshman’s father that he should break his wife’s arms and legs to prevent her from getting to the bottle.

Lakshman’s mother is an alcoholic, and, apparently, there is no greater disgrace for an Indian woman.  At parties–parties that were usually segregated–she often joined the men and drank and gave her opinions, to the disgust of all present.

She had begun drinking was Lakshman was 8 and they moved to America.   But by the time he was 9 she was drinking during dinner.  When he turned 11 she was drinking during the day.  His father had had enough.  He stated matter of factly that she was a drunkard.  Their marriage had been arranged and they never grew to love one another.  This certainly didn’t help. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIM DARCY-Tiny Desk Concert #619 (May 15, 2017).

I really like Darcy’s band Ought, but I don’t really like this solo concert.  In Ought, I find his voice contrasts nicely with the punky music (and his arch delivery of the kind-of-spoken-words if entertaining to me).  But here he’s singing some pretty straightforward songs and I find his affected delivery to be kind of annoying.  The blurb name checks Roy Orbison and I’ve never liked Orbison’s voice either.  So I guess that makes sense

Darcy plays four songs–he’s on guitar for three of them.

“Still Waking Up” is first. He says that “Joan Pt. 1, 2” is more of a rocker on the record but he’s taking it down–wonder if I’d like it more as a rocker?  Musically I like the way it switches gears for Part 2 and I like his voice a lot more for this second part.  “Sledgehammer And The Rose” is a new one.  I like the slinky guitar lines at the end of each verse. For the final song, “What’d You Release?” Toronto songwriter Charlotte Cornfield plays piano (with no guitar).  His voice is a bit deeper on this one and it works pretty well with the slowness of the piano.

But I gather I’d prefer him with his band.

[READ: March 22 2017] “Herman Melville, Volume 1”

The previous Lodato story that I read concerned a young meth addict.  This one concerns a twenty year old homeless girl.

She remains unnamed throughout the story and we learn snippets of her past.  Her father apparently committed suicide recently and she has nobody else.  Her only thought about him is that she hopes someone is watering the grapefruit tree in his backyard.

She had been experimenting with running away–she gathered a lot of her stuff and some money and would head to the Greyhound station.  She would hang out there for a while and then ultimately go home. Then one day Evan was there.  He smiled at her and commented on her skateboard and banjo.  She began to cry and he held her and they have been togetehr for the past seven months.  He has even proposed to her (although nether one has mentioned in since, so who knows if it meant anything).

(more…)

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