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Archive for the ‘Vietnam War’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MANDOLIN ORANGE-Tiny Desk Concert #882 (August 23, 2019).

Mandolin Orange is one of my favorite new band names.  It’s funny and clever and tells you a lot about the band.

I so wish I liked them more.

In fact, their music is really lovely.  I guess it comes down to Andrew Marlin’s voice.  It really don’t like it.  Indeed, Emily Frantz’ backing vocals are delightful and if she sang lead I’d like them a lot more.

But clearly I am no judge, because their recent album (their sixth) was #1 on the following Billboard charts:

Heatseekers, Current Country, Bluegrass and Folk / Americana with Top 10 Entries on 5 Additional Charts.

So don’t listen to me.

Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz made everything seem so easy, pulling a few acoustic instruments out of their car and, in no time, huddling around a single microphone behind the Tiny Desk. With that, Mandolin Orange was ready.

Interestingly, “Golden Embers,” the first song that Mandolin Orange plays, doesn’t actually have a mandolin in it.  Rather, Frantz plays the violin while Marlin plays guitar.  I couldn’t get past his voice so I didn’t really hear the words beyond “it’s like an old friend,” but apparently he

sang about his mom being carried away in a hearse.

Yikes.

It’s the second song, “The Wolves” that features Marlin on mandolin and Frantz on guitar.  I liked this one a bit more perhaps because he seems to be speaking more than singing and that’s more palatable to me.  This song

 is a story song that … tells a tale on an older woman’s life, the “hard road” she’s taken and that feeling of wanting to howl at the moon when all is finally right.

The last track, “Wildfire” comes from their 2016 album Blindfaller.  He sticks with the mandolin as he sings about Civil War.

The lyrics to this song are pretty great

 It’s a song with a wish that the Civil War would have left racism to rot on the battlefield, and yet it still rages like “wildfire.” It’s a sobering message presented with a gentle tone.

And so I love their name, their music and their lyrics.  I just can’t get past his voice.  But what do I know.

[READ: October 14, 2019] “Are You Experienced?”

The title of this naturally made me think of Jimi Hendrix.  And I was correct to think this.  For this story concerns hippies about to shipped off to war.

Although Billy doesn’t know he is soon to be shipped of to Vietnam.  In fact, as the story opens, he is dropping acid with his girlfriend Meg near Lake Michigan.  Billy had hung a “Keep On Truckin'” poster on the wall.  The poster eventually started dancing, trying to lure her in.

Billy was always full of schemes.  He told her about his Uncle Rex and Aunt Minerva who had been farmers but had moved to Lansing.  He knew that Rex had a box of cash in his attic.  Rex doesn’t have the heart to spend the money because it came from the soil and “he lost his farm a few years back and he’s still not over it.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHAKEY GRAVES-Live at Newport Folk Festival (July 28, 2018).

I really only know Shakey Graves (Alejandro Rose-Garcia) from NPR Music.  I enjoyed his Tiny Desk and have thought he’d be a fun folk rocker to see live.  He’s got a raspy voice and is not afraid to go loud as needed.  He says that with this show, he has now played all four stages at Newport.

He’s going to “Kick this off with a waltz that I wrote years ago that has sadly become more relevant every year I’ve played it.  It’s about not listening to people and listening to people at the same time.  What?  How’s that possible?  It’s called ‘Word of Mouth.'”

This song is just him on his guitar with a kick drum and tambourine (not sure if he’s doing the percussion, but I assume he is).  Midway through, he kicks in the distortion for a loud middle section.  The song is long, about 7 minutes, and in the middle, he says, “And if you can’t handle shit here in the United States you better get the fuck out.  That’s terrible advice, honestly.  You gotta stand your ground and hear yourself out.”

The ending feedback segues into “Foot of Your Bed.”  A full band has evidently joined him as there is now a pedal steel guitar, drums, and a harp (?!).  It’s a quiet song which they segue into the much louder “Cops and Robbers.”

“The Perfect Parts” opens with a complex drum part and then a stomping clap-along with a big dah dah dah dah chorus (that he gets everyone to sing along with).

“Big Bad Wolf” opens with some cool guitar sounds before turning into a song that builds nicely.  “Mansion Door” is my favorite song of the set.  It builds wonderfully with Graves’ rough voice totally soaring. It’s followed by “Can’t Wake Up” which he says is about a “sleepy person, oh so sleepy.  No, it’s about changing things that you’re capable of changing even if they bring you distress.”

“Dining Alone” is the theme song of this fake person Garth Nazarth (all of his songs are about this fictional guy).  Garth hates his job, but all he does is fantasize instead of changing any aspect of it.”  Continuing with the downer aspect is “Counting Sheep.”  He says that the whole new album is about suicide “oh my gosh, not that.”  He says he was never suicidal, but he has gotten letters from people who have mentioned some intense feelings.  So he encoded “don’t die” messages throughout the record.  “Counting Sheep” is “a straightforward ‘don’t die’ song.  If you need a hug, come find me, I’ll give you a hug.”

The band leaves after the rocking “Excuses.”  It’s another great song from this show.

The final two songs are solo renditions of “Bully’s Lament” and “Roll the Bones.”  There’s some great rocking guitar on “Roll the Bones.”  I feel like the energy that Graves creates is what really makes his live shows special.  I hope he plays the Festival this year.

SET LIST:

  • “Word Of Mouth”
  • “Foot Of Your Bed”
  • “Cops And Robbers”
  • “The Perfect Parts”
  • “Big Bad Wolf”
  • “Mansion Door”
  • “Dining Alone”
  • “Counting Sheep”
  • “Excuses”
  • “Bully’s Lament”
  • “Roll The Bones”.

[READ: January 19, 2019] “Do Not Stop”

For some reason I thought that Salvator Scibona was an author I really liked and I was puzzled that I didn’t like this story very much.  Then I figured out that Scibona is not who I was thinking of at all, and that the last story I read by him I didn’t really enjoy that much either.

The first sentence sums up the story pretty well: “Okinawa was a fever dream of mosquitoes and Falstaff beer.”

The whole story, which is a Vietnam war story, is also a confusing fever dream that seems endless.

Vollie is getting shitfaced, but the Marine Corp rule was that they couldn’t put Vollie on the plane to deploy if he was too drunk to walk unassisted.  As he leaves the bar he is assaulted by people selling things, and advertising jingles just compound the alcohol in his head. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-New Year’s Eve 1995 – Live at Madison Square Garden (2005).

Phish has always made New Year’s Eve shows special (I have tried for a few years now to get tickets but have failed).  These shows are usually long, full of surprises and something of a spectacle (this was especially true when they were younger, like in this show–Rolling Stone named it as one of the “Greatest Concerts of the ’90s”).  The concert features a cover of The Who’s “Drowned” and “Sea and Sand” as well as a substantial number of songs from Phish’s mythic and hardly ever played Gamehendge cycle.

“Punch You in the Eye” opens the show with a funky groove and some great sing-alongs (this is a tangential Gamehendge song).  If you watch the video, you can see Trey and Mike dance during the salsa moments, which is pretty amusing.  As the song ends, Page gets a lengthy piano solo while Trey plays percussion.

“The Sloth” is an interesting second song–its chugs along and is very heavy (it’s also the second song in a row to mention getting sliced on the nipple).  (this is a proper Gamehendge song).  “Reba” sounds great—and at 14 minutes, it’s got a good stretching out guitar solo.  “The Squirming Coil” is one that I want to see live.  This version is mellow with a lengthy piano solo–it segues perfectly into “Maze” which has a long keyboard solo and then a guitar solo.  (20 minutes total).

Then things settle down into the Gamehendge saga.  It begins with “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent”in which he talks all about the Gamehendge Time Lab where the Phish guys work when they are not touring,  They say that they used the Helping Friendly Book to learn how to make time move forward–otherwise we’d be stuck in 1994 all the time and you’d hear the same songs on the radio (they play a minute of Collective Soul’s “Shine”).  This is all part of  lengthy “Fly Famous Mockingbird)

“Sparkle” sounds great with a super fast ending.  And the first set ends with an 8 minute “Chalk Dust Torture” which has a great solo.

Set two opens with the audience chess move in which the audience member defeated the band by capturing its queen.  Score at the end of 1995: band 1, audience 1.

Then they play a great version of The Who’s “Drowned” (even is Mike can’t hit all the notes).   It segues into a rocking “The Lizards” (part of Gamehendge) and an even more rocking “Axilla, Pt. 2” (tangential Gamehendge).  “Runaway Jim” is a 16 minute jam with a middle part that slows down to just bass and audience clapping–and then some 70s funky keyboards while Trey plays his own percussion kit. Things settle down with a pretty “Strange Design” and an a capella “Hello, My Baby” (which is totally audible hooray).

And they end set two with a great 20-minute “Mike’s Song.”  The first jam is Page and Mike and its long and groovy and the last five or so minutes ends in very trippy sequence with trey jamming on his digital delay pedal.

Set three begins with the end of the year countdown.  The notes for the disc talk about the Gamehendge Time Machine (you can watch the Countdown and celebration here–as well as the whole show).  Fish is dressed like baby new year.

Once the countdown finishes, they launch into an instrumental version of “Auld Lang Syne” which segues into a fun 17 minute “Weekapaug Groove” (Trey throws in some “Auld Lang Syne” notes into the solo).  It turns into a surprisingly stark piano melody of The Who’s “Sea and Sand” (sung by Page).  This is followed by a 25 minute “YEM.”  There’s a big long keyboard solo and then some lengthy guitar solos before the song settles to complete silence.  The silence ends with a whispered ”washufeet” that morphs in and out of Trey whispering and everyone muttering and making noises and becomes a vocal jam that is mostly harmonies.

They come out of the that with a bright version of Sanity.  It starts really rocking especially when they all start shouting “BOOM, POW.”  The set ends with an awesome version of Frankenstein (complete with one more “Auld Lang Syne” solo nod in the middle).

After nearly three and a half hours of playing, the band still had time for an encore—a rollicking version of “Johnny B Goode.”

Now that’s a way to welcome in the new year!

[READ: March 30, 2017] “The Sympathizer”

I really enjoyed this excerpt, but I was puzzled about what direction the story would go after this section.

I was also puzzled at first as to why this story was in the Pho Issue of the magazine (stories don’t necessarily correspond to issue themes).  It starts off in Vietnam, so I figured that was the tenuous connection.  And that was fine.

The narrator is reading a screenplay of a movie set in Vietnam.  He has been called in to counsel the auteur (whom he agrees is, in fact, talented) on the Vietnamese-ness of the story.  But the narrator is not to be swayed.  He himself wants to work in Hollywood, but he is immediately on guard against the racism that he encounters.  Or maybe it’s all in his head–he is certainly prepared to be offended by everything.

Not least because the screenplay, while good for the white heroes, treats every Vietnamese person exactly the same.  None of them have any lines [cut to villager speaking in their own language], most of them simply scream, and if they’re not getting killed (bad guys) they are thankful to the white people for saving them.

The narrator gets right in the auteur’s face with a very dramatic demonstration of how people scream differently in different circumstances. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2016] Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

neilThe title of this book sounded weird and fun. So I grabbed it from the audio book collection at the library and we listened to it on the way home from vacation.

Set in Long Island (narrator Emily Bauer does some great Long Island accents for the adults (and a few kids) in the story), this is the story of a young girl, Tamara Ann Simpson (Tammy) growing up on Ramble Street in 1969 just a few weeks from the Moon Landing!

But that’s miles away.  Because it is summertime and all she can think about is kickball.  Well kickball and her friend Kebsie who took off all of a sudden one day without even saying goodbye.

Kebsie was Tammy’s best friend.  She lived in a foster home on Ramble Street.  They did everything together and even had a secret “arooo” signal.  They were BFs and even bought necklaces to prove it.  Kebsie was a straight shooter and took no crap from anyone.  And then one day, she was gone.  As we understand it, her mother returned and took Kebsie away to secret place because there was some kind of abuse in he family and they needed to be removed from everyone they knew. (more…)

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