Feeds:
Posts
Comments

[POSTPONED: August 7, 2020] Porridge Radio

indexI heard about Porridge Radio from NPR.  They are exactly the kind of weirdo post-punk British band that I love and would never hear anywhere on the radio.

Singer Dana Margolin is more of a talker than a singer.  Her accent is thick and her intensity is palpable.  The band mixes melody and noise in an unexpected way.  And of course there’s “the growing legend of their intense live shows.”

This show promised to be about twenty people (which technically would have been okay for a legal small gathering) and it would have been fantastic.

I hope they can make it back.

[POSTPONED: August 5, 2020] Stick Men [moved to April 1, 2021]

indexBack in June, as larger shows were getting postponed into August and September, I held out hope that August might allow for some smaller shows like this one.

I had never heard of Stick Men until after a King Crimson show when I heard some fans talking about how amazing Stick Men are.

The band is a trio of Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter.  Levin and Mastelotto play in Crimson (stick and drums respectively) and Markus Reuter plays his eight string touch guitar covering much more ground than a guitar or a bass.  Mastelotto’s drumming encompasses not just the acoustic kit, but a unique electronic setup too, allowing him to add loops, samples, percussion, and more.

To be able to see these musicians up close (without all the distractions of the amazement of a King Crimson concert) would be so cool.  Stick Men play once in awhile, although the last few times they’ve been around I couldn’t make it.

Rescheduled to April is a good thing, although I wish they were somewhere closer than Sellersville.

51196238._SX318_SY475_SOUNDTRACK: LYRIC JONES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #57 (July 29, 2020).

download (69)Lyric Jones is a delight.  A smart, thoughtful woman who not only raps really well, she has a great singing voice too.

She talks A LOT between songs.  She plays 3 songs in 21 minutes.  She talks a lot about her hustling–driving for Uber and Lyft as well as all of the running around one has to do to be a musician.

Lyric makes it abundantly clear that her hustle is nonstop – writing, rapping, singing, drumming, engineering, and grinding it out to make Gas Money (the title of her latest album).  This quintuple threat, trained in the Berklee College of Music’s City Music program, recorded this Tiny Desk (home) concert from her studio in Los Angeles in May.

“All Mine” opens the song and I love how she plays her electronics while keeping her flow fresh.

My favorite song is “Adulting.”  I love watching her create the song a capella–making the beats and the music looping her voice and manipulating it with electronics.

 Her multi-layered prowess is present on “Adulting” a song about the evolutionary growth that happens in your late 20s and early 30s. Lyric uses a TC Helicon vocal processor to create percussive beats, looping her voice as a backdrop and packing a punch with vocal harmonies and ad libs.

After the song she jokes about how in the song she is complaining about wanting to stay home all day and not get up and do shit.  Be careful what you wish for.

Before the last song she has two important things.  First, how you can support Lyric Jones (ha).  But she takes the virus seriously, encouraging everyone to be kind to ourselves and patient with ourselves. It’s important to feed ourselves mentally, creatively and to literally feed ourselves.

In grappling with the pandemic, Lyric expresses the deep importance of this moment: “Whatever we put out in this time, in this era is a bookmark in history. Especially as musicians. … For me, my personal testament, I want to be intentional. … My children’s children are gonna know about this time. And I want to know that I impacted it with intentional music, intentional thoughts, insights and perspectives.”

She ends with “Lush Lux Life,” her “affirmation song” about “what I should be doing–living luxuriously.”  I really like this song for the excellent retro-sounding music behind the song.  I’m really curious if the jam at the end of the song is new or a sample from an interesting rocking jazzy solo.  Her producer Nameless has some great skill.

[READ: July 29, 2020] Thinking Inside the Box

A couple of years ago I read Cluetopia, a history of the crossword puzzle written from a British writer.  Now here’s a book about crossword puzzles written from an American writer.

Is the country significant?  In some ways, very much so.  Because Americans and Britons have very different styles of crossword.  Americans’ puzzles are full of puns and definitions as well as facts and information.  British crosswords are known as cryptics and are mostly full of wordplay–you don’t need external information to solve the puzzles, exactly.  Most of the time the clue contains all you need to find the answer (sometimes it even contains the answer itself) but they are quite challenging.

Other than that, the origin of the author is not that significant, because the origins of the crossword are the same regardless where you write from.  Arthur Wynne was a Liverpudlian lad who moved to Pittsburgh and then to New York City.  He worked on the New York World which was eventually run by Joseph Pulitzer.  (It’s ironic that awards of excellence are in his name since he ran the World full of pulpy news and yellow journalism).

In 1913, Wynne was put in charge of the FUN section.  He needed to fill space so he came up with a Word-Cross Puzzle.  It was shaped like a diamond and the three and four letter answers ran around a center hole.  He based it on similar word puzzles he had seen as a child in England.  The puzzle became a weekly feature.  Eventually a typo changed it to crossword.  The puzzles weren’t especially challenging because they were meant to be fun.

Wynne wanted to patent the crossword but the paper wouldn’t pay for the expense. Continue Reading »

[CANCELLED: July 31, 2020] The National

indexI like The National quite a lot.  Although sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes their songs can be more than a little dour.  But they also have a tremendous sense of humor–they have done three songs for Bob’s Burgers after all.

I never really considered seeing live them until my friend Armando told me how great they were in concert–one of his favorite live bands.  Since he and I both love seeing Phish and Pearl Jam, I figured I should put them on my list.

When I saw they were playing SteelStacks, I immediately grabbed a ticket.  Nevermind that S. and I were going to be leaving for the Newport Folk Festival that evening (probably). I didn’t think that one through, but I remained optimistic that I could pull it off.

We saw Julia Jacklin open for First Aid Kit tow years ago.  About her set I said

Jacklin is not a partier, but nor is she a downer either.  She is thoughtful and inquisitive.  Her music, even live, is fairly spare–except when it’s not–and she sings pretty quietly–except when she doesn’t.  She was charming and funny–delightful in an opening act.

When the Newport Folk Festival was cancelled on April 29, I was very bummed.  My silver lining was that I might get to see The National.  However, on June 10, The National announced that they would be cancelling their tour.

Well, now I certainly hope they come back next year.

[CANCELLED: July 31-August 2, 2020] Newport Folk Festival

Last year we took the whole family to two days of the Newport Folk Festival.  It was a fun experience for the most part.  Both kids were exhausted and my son decided he’d rather stay in the hotel than go on the second day.  However, this year he said he;d like to go again, so since the 2020 Festival was cancelled, maybe next year all four of us will go again.

I was not surprised that the Festival was cancelled. But it was still a shock when it happened on April 29th.

Here’s the formal message

Dear Folk-

This is the letter I was praying I wouldn’t have to write, feeling we need the healing powers of live music more now than ever. It is with the heaviest of hearts we announce the cancellation of the 2020 Newport Folk Festival. As devastating as it is to write those words, it’s balanced with a renewed sense of, well, HOPE. It’s Rhode Island’s motto for good reason and it’s also the feeling you, our festival family, constantly exudes when we come together in good times and perhaps more importantly, in difficult times as well. This community is truly unlike any other in music, and I believe we can emerge from this hardship stronger and more connected than ever before.

However, while your safety was at the core of the present decision, your support will be at the core of our future viability. Our ability to produce this festival in 2021 – and continue making a lasting difference in the lives of artists, students and music lovers like yourselves – is in your hands. Quite simply, we need your help.

Due to the financial and institutional uncertainties we find ourselves in, we believe the most trusting and direct course of action is to let the ticket holders decide where their ticket dollars should go. We have sent all ticket holders an email mapping out three options: 1) donate all or a portion of your ticket that will go directly towards ensuring our festival for 2021 while continuing our support for artists and educators; 2) apply your refund towards a 2021 Revival Membership – a new and one-time offer we’ve created specifically to ensure our future and provide these members with 3-day tickets to the 2021 festival (remaining memberships will be offered to the general public directly after the request period); and 3) receive a 100% full refund if desired.

For those of you who didn’t have tickets for this year, PLEASE consider making a tax-deductible donation. Help us continue these festivals, support year-round music education initiatives, and provide grants to artists in need.

I want to personally thank our founder George Wein, our staff, our Board of Directors, the City of Newport, and the DEM for their continued efforts. And, offer a personal note of gratitude to Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo, for her leadership and counsel in prioritizing our well being in making the decision to cancel the festival.

Although we won’t be able to gather at the Fort this summer, rest assured we have invited ALL the announced artists to join us next year. In the meantime, we promise we will all commune one way or another on our festival weekend. As always, we have some secret surprises in store as well, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Until then, stay strong and folk on.

Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK: LUCINDA WILLIAMS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #55 (July 27, 2020).

I don’t really like Lucinda Williams.  Her voice really bugs me. I don’t know if she always sang like this but this sort of drunken drawl just hurts my head.

I know that she’s a legend and everyone loves her, but I have a hard time getting through her songs.  And that’s a shame because her lyrics are great.  Well, maybe not her lyrics, but her sentiments.

Because the lyrics to “Bad News Blues” are not great.  It’s a pretty standard blues song in which she lists all of the bad news that she has around her.

Bad news on my left
Bad news on my right
Bad news in the morning
Bad news at night

The only thing interesting about this song really is the bluesy lead guitar work from Stuart Mathis.  Otherwise, it’s a blues song.

“Big Black Train” is a slower bluesy song about not wanting to get on board the train that’s barreling towards us.  Wow, her singing the chorus really hurts my ears.

“You Can’t Rule Me” is on the radio a lot and I’ve been turning it off when it comes on.  It’s obviously a song of empowerment but I can’t stand the drawl of her voice.  Although once again Stuart’s lead is pretty tasty.  In fact the guitar work from both of them is great throughout.

The set ends with “Man Without A Soul” and this is the song that made me think more highly of her.  Musically the song isn’t much.  In fact, it sounds pretty close to “Bog Black Train” in the chorus.  But its’ the words that are impactful.

It’s pretty clear who this song is about:

You’re a man without truth
A man of greed, a man of hate
A man of envy and doubt
You’re a man without a soul
All the money in the world
Will never fill that hole
You’re a man bought and sold
You’re a man without a soul
You bring nothing good to this world
Beyond a web of cheating and stealing
You hide behind your wall of lies
But it’s coming down
Yeah, it’s coming down
You’re a man without shame
Without dignity and grace
No way to save face
You’re a man without a soul

She says she wrote this to shake people up and wake people up.  I don’t know if it will do either, but I hope some people’s minds are changed by it.

[READ: July 31, 2020] “The Lottery”

This issue of the New Yorker is an Archival Issue.  It’s weird to me that at a time of unprecedented everything, the magazine would choose to have virtually no new content.

Except that the articles in it are strangely timely.

Calvin Trillin (he was writing in 1964?) was on a flight that Martin Luther King, Jr. was on and he overheard a white preppy-looking post-college boy who disagreed with King (believing that King was advocating violence and was therefore unChristian).  It was a remarkably peaceful conversation even if the boy never saw King’s point of view.

The second article is about Black Lives Matter with the subtitle “A new kind of movement found its moment.” What will its future be?”  But this article was written in 2016 and it ends “Black Lives Matter may never have more influence than it has now.”  How wrong that was?

And then there is the Shirley Jackson story, originally written in 1948.

I read this story in sixth or seventh grade and it has stuck with me all of these years.  I remember being rather blown away by it in school, thinking it was one thing and then realizing it was something else entirely.

I have not read it since. I felt that I didn’t really have to read it because it stuck with me so much.  But I’m glad I did re-read it, because although some details were still there, I had forgotten some pretty intense stuff.

Continue Reading »

[POSTPONED: July 30, 2020] Flora Cash / Beau Young Prince

indexI was looking at upcoming shows and was shocked to see that Flora Cash was headlining The Fillmore.  (It makes a ton more sense that they were headlining The Foundry).

I saw them open for Aurora two years ago.  I’d never heard of them and then a few months after the show, one of the radio stations around here started playing their single “You’re Somebody Else,” which is a cool song.

I wouldn’t have gone to this (there were two other shows I would have gone to first), but it is neat to have seen someone long before they were big enough to do a small headline tour.

I’d never heard of Beau Young Prince.  He’s a young rapper and the first comment on the first song I listened to said, “No drugs, no money, no mumble…love it!” which pretty well sums it up.  He uses autotune and raps pretty well.  I’m pleased at the diversity of this line up.

[POSTPONED: July 30/July 31, 2020] Built to Spill [White Eagle Hall show moved to July 30, 2021]

indexI’ve seen Built to Spill a bunch of times. The last time I promised myself I wouldn’t get too close to the stage, but I did.  The problem with being so close is the way Doug Martsch has his guitar set up.  His amp is right next to him and it is so loud.  From where I was you could barely hear anything else.  Of course I’m there to watch Doug play, so it’s not too bad.  But I promised myself I would stand back to fully appreciate his band.

On this newly announced tour, his whole band was going to be different.  In fact, I have seen at least three different lineups for the band over the years.  This tour was going to feature drummer Teresa Esguerra of Prism Bitch (who opened for Built To Spill last time) and bassist Melanie Radford of Marshall Poole.  I knew it would be a very different show.

Unfortunately, I had tickets to Kraftwerk on July 30 and tickets for The national on July 31 (not to mention we were supposed to leave for the Newport Folk Festival on the night of the 31st as well).  So I sure hope he keeps this line up when he;s ready to play again.  And I will stand back and take it all in.

[CANCELLED: July 30, 2020] Kraftwerk 3-D

indexKraftwerk are one of the most influential bands of all time–and most people don’t know them.

I know a lot of their songs, although I’m sure at a Kraftwerk concert I probably wouldn’t know half of the songs.

And yet, when they announced a North American tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary in which they will bring their beloved 3D visuals, music, and performance art on the road to play a career-spanning set this summer, I grabbed tickets immediately.

Normally I wouldn’t want to see a band that wasn’t full of original members. Kraftwerk really only has one–Ralf Hütter is the only guy still in the band from the beginning/  of the other three, Fritz Hilpert has been on board since 1987, Henning Schmitz since 1991 and Falk Grieffenhagen since 2012.  Florian Schneider another co-founder just died this year but he had left the band twelve years ago.

Nevertheless, Kraftwerk is decidedly not about the musicians, they are about the music.  And the spectacle.  And a 3-D show is pure spectacle.

I was really holding out hope that this show would not be cancelled.  I hope they decide to try again next year, (Hütter is only 73, after all) because a 51st anniversary is just as good!

 

SOUNDTRACK: A moment of silence (July 30, 2020).

[READ: July 30, 2020] “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation”

Congressman John Lewis is one of the most important civil rights leaders of the 20th and 21st century. His graphic novels March are required reading.

Lewis died on July 17.  He had the presence of mind to write this essay shortly before his death and asked The New York Times to publish it on the day of his funeral.

I am presenting it here in full because it is so full of hope, so full of love and so meaningful, that everyone should read it.

~~~~

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, through decades and centuries before you. The truth does not change, and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.