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Archive for the ‘Witches’ Category

SOUNDTRACKPHISH-“Shipwreck” (MGM Grand Garden Arena, Friday 10, 31, 2014).

In honor of Halloween, these Ghost Box stories will be attached to a recent Phish Halloween show [with quoted material from various reviews]. 

Known for dawning musical costumes to celebrate [Halloween], Phish broke with tradition last year to offer a set of original music.  The Phish Bill read that Phish’s musical costume would be a 1964 Disney album of sound effects – Chilling, Thrilling Sounds Of The Haunted House.  But it wasn’t a cover set. Phish played original music set amongst an incredibly psychedelic, theatrical graveyard stage accentuated by zombie dancers and a ghoulish MC.  At the start of the set, the stage was cleared before a graveyard came to the foreground.  Smoke filled the air, zombie dancers appeared, and music filled the venue. A haunted house was brought to the front of the stage, which eventually exploded, and all four-band members appeared, dressed in white like zombies. 

The story behind “Shipwreck” is that you are on a holiday cruise when you encounter a dense fog.

“Shipwreck” was similar to other songs performed during the set as it started with a spoken word soundtrack from the original album as the zombiefied actors danced around stage and led into original music. This time around, the quartet unveiled a dreamy progression.

The song is slow and trippy, like a slow sea journey.  And then the samples come in: “Are you too near the shore?” (played forwards and backwards).  Then repeats of “jagged rocks jagged rocks.”

Phish followed the spoken word section with a gorgeous piece of ambient music that was reminiscent of studio jams of the late ’90s.

There’s a kind of threatening low keyboard note while Trey was playing feedback noises.  Then page started a series of fast keyboard trills with many sound effects.

[READ: October 21, 2017] “Savory, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar comes The Ghost Box.

This is a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening) that contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

A collection of chilly, spooky, hair-raising-y stories to get you in that Hallowe’en spirit, edited and introduced by comedian and horror aficionado Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, on the inside cover, one “window” of the 11 boxes is “folded.”  I am taking that as a suggested order.

I though that this story took a really long time to get where it was going, but once it got there it was really interesting. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Ventura (2013).

Not content to have just one concert on a release, Ventura contains two complete concerts from July 30, 1997, and July 20, 1998, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, California.

It’s an opportunity to compare the band at the same location one year later–these two shows exist in the vacuum between the release of Billy Breathes (1996) and The Story of the Ghost (1998), so there’s a few “new” songs in 1997, but it also doesn’t mean that they are playing the same sets–not by any means.  In fact, between the two shows they repeat only two songs: Water in the Sky (new) and Prince Caspian (from Billy)

1997 sees the band in good form.  After two solid openers with “NICO” and “Wolfman,” they play a wild “Chalk Dust” which has some crazy dissonant soloing in it.  “Water in the Sky” is a slow countryish version with piano and twangy guitar.  There’s a great “Stash” with appropriate audience clapping (I really want to see that live) and then a typically fun “Weigh.”  This is followed by lovely versions of “Piper” and “Cars Trucks Buses,” and the set ends with a slow funky version of “Character Zero.”

Set two opens with a groovy “Pinch You in the Eye” (9 minutes) and a great jamming version of “Free” (almost 12 minutes) with a funky solo.  “Free” is one of my favorite songs by them and I always think of it as “new” because it is rather poppy.  But it’s from way back in 1996 so it’s surely not new. After about four and a half minutes of trippy sounds and echoes. they start “David Bowie” (which includes The Simpsons riff and a Doh!).  The solo is long with a lengthy piano section and a mellow jazzy middle before it turns a little funky and then to a groovy jam to the end.  It runs for just over 21 minutes and the end of the song starts the chords for Talking Heads’ “Cities,” which the band segues into perfectly and then segues back into “Bowie” fop another 6 minutes.  There’s a scorching end of the song with a lot of noise before the end.  Those last scorching solos each have a break where the band sounds like they are collapsing before resuming perfectly.  It is a spectacular 32 minutes of music.  (Their live releases have me believing that they “Cities” a lot more than statistically they do).

They slow things down with a relatively mellow version of “Bouncing around the Room” (as mellow as that song can be anyhow) and then the bluegrass version of “Uncle Pen.”  The end of the second set comes with a mellow jam to start “Prince Caspian.”  Even the jam is mellow for about 9 minutes, but the set ends with a raucous version of Jimi Hendrix’ “Fire.”

The encore is a rollicking run through “My Soul” with a very fast “mymymymymymmysoul oh my soul.”  It’s a great show with lots of perfect peaks and valleys.

There’s a bonus track–a 9 minute soundcheck jam.  There’s some casual singing of some “dah dah dahs” and some high pitched “ooohs.”  A keyboard solo follows and it ends with a noisy section and a scream of delight.

In 1998, the band opened the show with a 21 minute “Bathtub Gin.”  It’s not that often that their opening song is a big ass jam.  (I’m sure someone has stats to back that up).   There’s a lot of piano riffage in the middle too.  After this, the band plays mostly short songs for a while: a mellow version of “Dirt.” Then a  fast and fun “Poor Heart” (in which Trey introduces Mike as the author–which he is).  Then a jazzy “Lawn Boy.”  There’s a romping “My Sweet One” which segues into a rocking “Birds of a Feather.”  By the time the get to “Theme from the Bottom,” which sounds great, they’re ready to stretch out.  It’s about 9 minutes long with a nice long solo.

They repeat “Water in the Sky” from last year.  It’s pretty although a minute shorter than 1997.  There’s a 4 minute jam before “The Moma Dance” starts proper (that will be on Ghost).  The set ends with a 14 minute “Split Open and Melt.”

Set 2 opens with a really long (14 minute) version of The Who’s “Drowned” and a dark moody jam although the reggae chords of “Makisupa Policeman” start long before “Drowned” ends.  And as the reggae jam starts, Trey sings “woke up this morning… SKUNKED” to much cheering.  The song ends with a trippy synth section that segues into “Maze.”  Page continues The Who theme with a solo version of “Sea and Sand.”  It’s interesting that in 1997 their second to last song was “Prince Caspian” (about 9 minutes). A year later their second to last song is also “Caspian,” this time 12 minutes with a rocking solo.  It segues into a stellar set-ending fifteen minute “Harry Hood.”

The encore is a crazy “Sexual Healing” sung by fish.  It’s goofy and it goes on way too long (nearly 8 minutes), but they follow it with a 12 minute jam of “Haley’s Comet.”  I love the harmonies.  The song ends with some rumbling noises as the guys leave the stage.

The bonus soundcheck is a reggae riff with them reciting the lyrics “I’m your Venus, I’m your fire.”  It’s a decent enough jam for a soundcheck although I’m most impressed with how Trey ends with a wrap-up riff instead of just stopping the song.

The bonus soundcheck songs aren’t that great to have–more like special feature on a DVD.  But the main sets are fantastic.  And you get 35 different songs between the two shows.

[READ: November 22, 2016] Tales Told in Oz

I read the 16 Madras Press Books some time ago and posted about half of them.  So here’s the other half coming up.  So what is Madras Press?

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors.

For this particular book, “The author of the bestselling Wicked Years series returns to Oz with a compendium of folktales.  Proceeds to benefit Friends of West Hartford Library.”

I’m probably the only person who would read this book not knowing who Gregory Maguire was.   Well, I’ll amend that.  I knew who he was and I loved Wicked when I read it.  But I forgot who he was (his name  did sound familiar, though).

As I said, I loved Wicked but didn’t read anything else in the series.  I was only vaguely aware that there was a series–evidently there are 4 books and this book is considered 0.5.

All of this is introduction is to set up why I didn’t really enjoy this book that much.  Not realizing that it was part of Maguire re-imagining Oz, I thought it was weird and arbitrary that it was “set” in Oz.  Why not just make up your own world to tell these stories about.

Now realizing what was at stake, I appreciate it more, but since I’m not invested in his series (or really in Oz itself–I’ve never read more than the first book of that series either), these were just amusing tales. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: August 2017] Falling In

Our trip to New Hampshire wasn’t going to be that long but I decided to really stock up on audio books.  This one sounded interesting, but I was mostly intrigued because I’ve enjoyed Jessica Almasy’s narration in the past (she sounds very young and like she is always smiling).

I liked the premise of this story: a girl walks through a door into another world–not terribly original, I admit, but still interesting.  And the way O’Roark Dowell set up the story was really promising.

The main character is Isabelle Bean, a middle school girl and a misfit.  And I absolutely loved the way her character is set up:

Over the years Isabelle had demonstrated an impressive talent for irritating teachers to the extremes of their patience. It wasn’t something she set out to do. In fact, she never quite understood what she did to raise her teachers’ blood pressure to such dangerous levels. Neither did her teachers, and this irritated them even more. Teacher’s college had equipped them to handle nose pickers, fire starters, back talkers, hitters, biters, and whiners. But quiet girls who weren’t shy, girls who talked in riddles but were never actually rude, girls who simply refused to comb those confounded bangs out of their eyes, well, girls like that were beyond them.

(more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: SARAH JAROSZ-Tiny Desk Concert #324 (December 7, 2013).

I know Sarah Jarosz’ name from somewhere (anything spelled like tha I’ll remember), but I’m not sure where.  It turns out that Jarosz plays awesome bluegrass.

Perhaps I’d heard of her because of her youth:

The singer and multi-instrumentalist first surfaced as an 18-year-old wunderkind with the release of 2009’s Song Up In Her Head, which generated the first of what will likely be many Grammy nominations; now a grizzled 22, she’s out performing songs from her fine new third album, Build Me Up From Bones.

performed with the aid of fiddler Alex Hargreaves and cellist . All

“Over the Edge” has a great riff.  It starts out with Jarosz’ guitar (which is an 8-string guitar: twinned four string, so almost like a bass and yet strummed).  She’s accompanied by a plucked cello (by Nathaniel Smith).  And then her voice comes in: distinctive, raspy and really lovely.  But it’s after the first verse when the guitar and cello both play that fast 8 note riff that the song really kicks into bluegrass territory. In the middle of the song, it’s fiddler Alex Hargreaves who throws in some great bluegrass fiddling lines.  It’s swinging and rollicking and really fun.

“Build Me Up from Bones” is more folk sounding—her voice is beautiful and the melody of this song (which she plays on that 8 string guitar) is outstanding.  There’s a cool alt-folk tone to the song, especially in the bridge.  The cello is bowed, giving a rich sound before the violin (rather than fiddle) solo comes in.

For “Fuel The Fire” she switches to banjo.  This is a great bluegrass song and that banjo sounds great.  I’d love to see a double bill with her and Punch Brothers.

[READ: November 12, 2016] Gunnerkrigg Court 3 [23-31]

I really enjoyed book 2 of the series and was pretty exited to see that book 3 was already out–in fact books 4 and five have been released, too.  This book collects Siddell’s online series–for frame of reference, this book ends with chapter 31 and as of May 2017 he is up to chapter 62 online.

I loved that Chapter 23 started with a totally different style–looking like a kind of sci-fi epic (and called Terror Castle of the Jupiter Moon Martians). But we quickly learn that this new look is a simulation–a kind of test for the main kids.  But it’s very poorly made and they solve the mystery almost instantly. This plot leads to a couple of interesting revelations.  That Parley has a thing for Smitty (everyone can tell but the two of them), and that Jones is becoming a fascinating and enigmatic important character. Reynard is also even funnier with his comeback “I think you detect a hint of shut your face” which Anni responds to with “Hah, Katerina must be helping you with your comebacks.”

The simulation room also allows for us to learn more about the origins of Reynard and Coyote. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: ASHLEY MONROE-Tiny Desk Concert #317 (November 3, 2013).

Ashley Monroe is a country singer.  She’s part of the new way of female country singers, most of whom I don’t really like.

But some of the folks at NPR music love country, so I’ll let the blurb do the talking for me:

The title track from Like a Rose tells an optimistic story of survival, the ambivalent ballad “You Got Me” chronicles ill-advised romantic obsession, and, of course, the Top 40 country hit “Weed Instead of Roses” functions as a playful, fun-loving mission statement. Speaking of “Weed Instead of Roses,” which closes this charming performance, Monroe says the straitlaced [Vince] Gill insisted upon the song’s inclusion on Like a Rose — even going so far as to declare it a condition of his producing the album. The guy knew what he was talking about, both in his support of the song and of Monroe herself.

“Like a Rose” is almost comical in how stereotypically country it starts out:  “I was only 13 when daddy died /Mama started drinking and my brother just quit trying.”  Good lord.  At least it has a positive message.

She says that the melody for “You Got Me” came to her in her sleep and woke her up.

“Weed Instead of Roses” is a song she wrote as a joke when she was 19.  She says her grandpappy first heard the lyric as “give me weeds as well as roses” and he thought that was right on because the weeds are just as important as the roses.

The song is definitely fun (and funny) but the whole set is way too twangy country for me.  And IO find her back up guitarist/vocalist to be even more whiny/twangy than her.  Yipes.

[READ: February 26, 2015] Gunnerkrigg Court 2 [15-22]

I was originally mixed on Volume 1 of this series, but I jumped right into this one and loved it from start to finish (even if I admit to not understanding everything that was going on).

The book, which compiles chapters 15-22 and some extras, doesn’t begin with any kind of recap, so you kind of have to catch up as you go along.

We meet the fairy from beyond the river who was turned into a girl.  She is very upset that her friend is no longer friends with her.  She assumes it’s because of her hair (which is now long).  In an amusing sequence, she believes that if she cuts her hair short and spiky she will be friends again (with some other girl).  She is delighted to learn she can cut her hair and it doesn’t hurt (then she attempts to cut off her finger).

But these cute one-off chapters are strategically placed between the more serious arc, which involves the awesome looking Muut (an owl head on a hunky man’s body) and the introduction of a short-haired woman who might be a teacher and who goes by the name Jones. She is a wise woman and an amazing fighter (she shows off by beating a man wielding a sword while she is unarmed). (more…)

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melvin3-cover_SOUNDTRACKCREOLE CHOIR OF CUBA-Tiny Desk Concert #192 (February 6, 2012).

creoleThis concert was something of a surprise for me.  The blurb seems to think that it should be a surprise, especially if you are familiar with Cuban music.  I’m not, so I’m even more surprised.

Just when you think you know Cuban music, along comes the Creole Choir of Cuba. This group sprang from the ashes of Grupo Vocal Desandann, a small vocal outfit created in the late 1990s to celebrate traces of Haitian culture in eastern Cuba.  That history dates back to the late 18th century, when slaves from Haiti were delivered to Cuba to harvest sugarcane after successful slave revolts in Haiti. A long-lost culture was revitalized by the group through music performed largely a cappella and entirely in Haitian Creole.

As with other forms of music associated with the African diaspora, The Creole Choir of Cuba’s work resonates with songs of resistance and celebration of community life, which offered hope and relief from the bitter realities of slavery.

The choir sings three pieces.  And it’s cool the way it is a choir for certain, but that they throw elements into it that are not normally associated with choirs.  For “Marasa Elu” their voices are beautiful, with a great bass voice underpinning the soaring lead voice.  It’s fairly astonishing that she starts to cry at the end of the song (whether fake or not it’s hard to tell).

“Ayiti Krye” has a different lead singer with a very different voice.–although the rest of the choir still sounds great with her.  It comes as quite a surprise about half way through the song when the drums and percussion come in–it really changes the feel of the song and of this choir.  Suddenly the piece is a more dancey song, especially as the percussion picks up speed.  A guy with a wonderfully raspy voice takes over lead.  And the rest of the group really starts to get into it–dancing and singing a beautiful backing vocal that sounds much less like a choir and more like a Cuban dance song.

For “Lumane Casimir” the first singer is back.  There are quiet congas keeping the beat.  While the backing vocals sound a lot like a choir, the lead singer sounds more like a conventional singer.  By the end, they are having a ton of fun and she invites two of the audience members to dance with her (including Felix, the host).  And as any music like this should, the end of the song introduces a whistle keeping a beat.

This is a very different kind of choir–at once sacred and fun.

[READ: January 22, 2016] Melvin Monster Volume 3

Last year I really enjoyed the Moomin books which Drawn & Quarterly reprinted.  Another artist that D+Q has reprinted is John Stanley.  And they have made the appropriately titled The John Stanley Collection.  This collection is somewhat confusingly labelled because there are collections of different characters (Nancy, Tubby, Melvin) each with multiple volumes, and it seems like maybe they are supposed to go in a certain order.  And really it’s not that hard to figure out once you know the way it works, but it’s a but of puzzle if you see only a few books on the shelf at the library.

These books were originally printed as comic books.  This book contains the final Melvin Monster comics.  The title page says “Collected from the issues seven to nine of the Dell comic book series”  And D+Q has retained that look perfectly.  Even the paper that they have used for this beautiful book looks like comic book paper (although it is very heavy stock).

In the first issue of the book, Baddy tries to get Melvin a job as a babysitter.  The baby is actually a huge giant which leads to all kinds of amusing scenes of Melvin fleeing from the giant.  Although Stanley was never concerned about being PC, the fact that he set his strip in Monsterville certainly allowed him to get a way with a lot of rather un-PC dialogue.

I’m not sure why Stanley only made nine issues (if it was Dell’s decision or his), but there’s a lot of repetition in the premises.  Melvin trying to go to the school and Ms McGargoyle not allowing him in is a very common joke.  Although in fairness, she does think up many new ways to keep Melvin away.

Little Horror is always a fun character.  In this one she does a spell which turns Melvin into a half frog.

There’s a joke about Cleopatra, the family’s alligator, trying to eat him. And the one with Damon constantly giving him bad advice would be funny whether they were monsters or not.

“Blackout” is an interesting strip as it shows Baddy getting ready to watch wrestling –“the first four rows of human bean lady fans armed with cement filled handbags an shish kabob skewers.”

Book 8 opens with “Supermonster” in which a huge monster living nearby is getting ready to destroy Monsterville.  And it’s up to Melvin to help out.

I enjoyed seeing him integrating snow into a few of these strips (although not sequentially in any way).  There’s a good one that involves digging to the school.  There’s a short one that involves Little Horror breaking ice with her high-pitched shriek and another short one with a giant snowball (that I don’t quite get).

Speaking of un-PC, there’s an entire story that involves a Native American totem pole monster–I guess since it’s a monster its okay, although the way it talks is pretty awful.

Book 9 starts with a monster that frightens Baddy.  I enjoy that Baddy is actually quite a coward despite his size and demeanor).

Little Horror returns with a broken magic wand which is pretty fun.  The punchline where a tiny Baddy is afraid of Mummy is outstanding .

I also really enjoyed the way that McGargoyle got rid of Melvin in the final schoolhouse joke–by having him learn C-A-T and B-A-T and then telling him he graduated.  Of course Melvin redefines high school for us all.

The final strip in the book is the one I knew from the D&Q 25th anniversary book.  In it, Melvin drinks a potion that turns him into a normal-looking boy. Which would of course freak out the whole family.

I also like that the final pages of this book include all of the original covers from the Dell comics (12 cents each!)

I’m fascinated at the publishing schedule of these issues

  • Apr-Jun
  • Jul-Sept
  • October
  • December
  • July
  • October
  • January
  • Apr
  • May
  • August

Perhaps the most interesting thing of all though is his biography which states that John Stanley “bitterly left comics sometime in the late 1960s never to return.”  Woah, I want to hear more about that!

Maybe when I read the Nancy books.

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melvin2-cover_SOUNDTRACK: GLENN JONES-Tiny Desk Concert #188 (January 23, 2012).

glennI’d never heard of Glenn Jones.  The blurb says that he only recently took up the banjo (which I assume means he has played the guitar for a long time?).  Also, how funny is it  that there are two banjo players in a row.

Jones plays 3 instrumental pieces  “Tinka Marie” is a very pretty banjo instrumental (although I can’t help but feel that his high string is slightly out of tune—I find it a little jarring throughout the song).  The banjo also sounds very compressed or tight or something.  It’s unusual especially when compared to the expansive sound of the guitar in the other two songs.

Before “The Great Pacific Northwest,” he says that if he plays it right, “Mt. Rainier should burst right through the floor of this room.” He has a very interesting playing style.  He has capoed the three bass strings, but not the higher strings.  He then plays chords up and down the fretboard (leaving the capo where it is).  The beginning of this song is a series of slowly played chords, which allow each individual string to sound.  Then it picks up as he begins playing fast finger-picked (with a  thumb pick for the bass strings) melodies.

“Of Its Own Kind” continue with that half capo style and finger picking.  It has a really lovely melody, as do all three.

[READ: January 17, 2016] Melvin Monster Volume 2

Last year I really enjoyed the Moomin books which Drawn & Quarterly reprinted.  Another artist that D+Q has reprinted is John Stanley.  And they have made the appropriately titled The John Stanley Collection.  This collection is somewhat confusingly labelled because there are collections of different characters (Nancy, Tubby, Melvin) each with multiple volumes, and it seems like maybe they are supposed to go in a certain order.  And really it’s not that hard to figure out once you know the way it works, but it’s a but of puzzle if you see only a few books on the shelf at the library.

These books were originally printed as comic books.  The title page says “Collected from the issues four to six of the Dell comic book series”  And D+Q has retained that look perfectly.  Even the paper that they have used for this beautiful book looks like comic book paper (although it is very heavy stock).   (more…)

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