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Archive for the ‘Princeton, NJ’ Category

[CANCELLED: June 6, 2020] Acrobuffos

indexS. took her Girl Scouts to see Acrobuffos and said it was great.  I had actually wanted to go to the show but was on a Scout hike that weekend.

So when they announced they were coming to McCarter, I bought us all tickets.

Of course, now McCarter has cancelled the rest of their season, so we can only hope that the troupe comes back next season.

What are Acrobuffos?

Visual, completely wordless, comedic physical theater. The Acrobuffos present sophisticated image-driven performances, playing games using poetic mime. They are not your typical clowns – they are artists and surrealists – who will not be easily categorized.

Who wouldn’t love that?

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[CANCELLED: May 21, 2020] Chris Thile

indexI got tickets for S and I to see Chris Thile because we both like Nickel Creek.  I’m not even sure that I told her about this show before McCarter decided to cancel their entire season.

Chris Thile is a masterful mandolin player.  I’ve seen him on numerous occasions in various Tiny Desk Concerts and I saw him with Punch Brothers, which was a lot of fun.

I’m not sure what he would have done as a solo artist (or if he was going to have special guests).  I don’t really care so much either, because whatever he did would be great.

I hope he comes back next season.

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[CANCELLED: April 5, 2020] Cirque Éloize: Hotel

indexWe have seen two productions by Cirque Éloize: Saloon and Cirkopolis and they have both been fantastic.  We were really excited to see this third show, Hotel.  [They have six shows in production: ID, Nezha, the Pirate Child and Serge Fiori, Suel Ensemble.

Then my Scout even was scheduled for that weekend which meant that C. and I couldn’t go but S. and T. could.

Of course, now McCarter has cancelled the rest of their season, so we can only hope that the troupe comes back next season.

 

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[CANCELLED: March 27, 2020] The Peking Acrobats

indexWe didn’t have tickets for this show yet.  I’m not entirely sure we were even going to go.

We have seen many Chinese acrobatic troupes perform; however it has been six years since we last went to such a performance and we were thinking it might be fun to take the kids now that they are a little older.

There always seems to be some kind of troupe coming through New Jersey, so even if this show is not rescheduled, it seems likely we’ll be able to see some amazing acrobats in the near future.

 

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[ATTENDED: January 18, 2020] Richard Thompson

After seeing Richard Thompson back in 2016 (three times in a short span) I decided I could take a break from seeing him a bit.  Although when he announced an electric trio tour I was really excited to check it out.  Sadly, I couldn’t make that show.  But when he announced another show at McCarter (I believe his 20th show there?) I figured it had been four years and was time to see him again.

This was my tenth time seeing Richard Thompson (first time in 1997).  I tend to focus a lot on the songs that Richard plays at every show.  I’m sure I’ve seen “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” ten times.  But in this set he played 13 songs that I hadn’t seen in at least the previous two shows and that’s pretty awesome.

We had some amazing seats (center stage about eight rows back) and we could see his fretwork absolutely clearly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROBERT SCHNEIDER-“Reverie in Prime Time Signatures” (2009).

Robert Schneider is the lead singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer of The Apples in Stereo.  He also received a PhD in mathematics from Emory University in 2018.

So he seems like the perfect person to write this complex score (even if he wrote it before he got his PhD).

In the back of the book, Schneider explains in pretty great detail how he chose to write what he did.

He also says that the music was written and and first performed at an experiemntal reading of the original script at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton on Dec 12 2009. Schneider played synth along with cellist Heather McIntosh and clarinet Alex Kontorovich.  The musical score is included in the book and you can hear it here

The piece is two minutes with harpsichord and a lead cello and flute with a synthesizer underneath.

It is mournful and quite pretty.

For a song that is all about odd time signatures, it somehow doesn’t feel awkward or choppy.  I don’t know enough about time signatures to even tell where the different parts are–I can’t hear it at all.  But I find the piece to be quite nice.  And it is reasonable to think that the victims could have the melody stuck in their heads.

 

[READ: June 19, 2019] Prime Suspects

Raise your hand if you want a graphic novel (illustrated by Robert J. Lewis) that is a CSI-styled investigation but is actually a pretty thorough look into higher mathematics.

I have a hard time summing up what this book is all about because I didn’t get all the math that’s going on here.  But the story itself is pretty fun and easy to follow.

The book opens with two cops finding a dead body in a tunnel  There’s also a documentary crew filming everything for the show MSI: Mathematical Science investigation.

A man in a hat and trench coat welcomes us to his world–a world where you don’t have to understand everything to know something.  Where a legendary mathematics professor became the subject of a documentary.

That professor is Professor Gauss. His assistant Mr Langer is in the precinct with Gauss to talk about what hey have found.

Langer is a formally educated student.  A bit uptight and stuffy.  One day in Professor Gauss’ class a young woman with a ring in her nose and unique fashion sense came in.   Her name is Emmy Germain and she proves to be incredibly smart.  But she is self-educated–an abomination to Langer.  But she turns out to be a delightful surprise to the documentary crew that is inexplicably filming Guass’ class. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 16, 2019] I’m With Her

I’m with Her is something of a folk and bluegrass supergroup made up of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.  I knew each of them from previous Tiny Desk Concerts and knew I’m With Her from a Tiny Desk Concert as well.

I was pretty excited to see them as both Sara and Sarah were on my list of artists that I wanted to see live (I was otherwise unfamiliar with Aoife).  One thing that always come up is their name–did they name themselves after the Hillary Clinton campaign?  In fact, no, the three got together and named themselves before Clinton used the slogan for her campaign.  Technically the band came first, but the Clinton campaign didn’t take it from them either, evidently–coincidental naming.  The band says that the exposure certainly didn’t hurt–but if it had been the other side’s campaign, they definitely would have fought it.

But on to the music.  The women sing in absolutely gorgeous harmony.  Individually, their voices are wonderful, but as they add one and then a second harmony…swoon.  They also switch instruments constantly–fiddle, mandolin, ukulele, guitar, banjo.  Everything sounds a little different. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 16, 2019] Billy Strings

I had never heard of Billy Strings before this show.  But when he was announced, the crowd was really effusive about him, which led me to think that he was well-known.  And I gather he is.  He has some 40,000 fans on his Facebook page, which is no small thing.   (Interestingly, headliners I’m with Her have only 22,000).

So Billy Strings came out and I swear I thought he was 18 (he’s 26).  He said a friendly “Hi, folks” and proceeded to absolutely blown me away with his guitar playing.  He opened with Brown’s Ferry Blues a folk song from around 1930 and proceeded to play the heck out of his guitar.  He also sang the rather amusing lyrics in a good ‘ol drawl (he is from Michigan).

Then he surpirsed me even further by playing a Jethro Tull song (which made S. and I quite happy).   It was a rather fast-tempoed version of “Thick As a Brick” and it was wonderful.  The song segued into a guitar workout called Fishin’ Creek Blues.

He then played “Tom Dooley,” a song I never expected to hear, well, ever.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 14, 2019] Gabriel Kahane

I saw Gabriel Kahane open for Punch Brothers about four years ago.   I was really impressed by his piano playing and songwriting.  So when he announced a new album I was on board to see him right away.  I got a ticket for him at a small bar call Bourbon and Branch in Philly.  But I wound up with other plans so I couldn’t go.  Then I saw that he was playing a show at Princeton!

The show was titled 8980: Book of Travelers and was supposed to come with a video of some sort documenting his Book of Travelers album.  I was really curious about this (and pretty excited too, as there were only two locations on the tour where he was going to include the video).  There was no video at our show.  On a message board I was able to find out why not:

There is a version with video and we had originally planned to present it last night. Ultimately, the more personal, direct, Gabriel at the piano seemed like a better fit for our space so we made a change.

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“The Hamilton Polka” (2016). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has declared his love and respect for “Weird Al” on many occasions.  So it makes perfect sense that he would ask Al to contribute to the online Hamilton project known as HamilDrops.  The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” is amazing too.

But seriously, how could Al parody a more or less biographical story of a historical figure (that’s two hours long)?.  By not parodying it at all.

Rather, he makes one of his polka mashups which he’s been doing hilariously since his second album.  They are often a highlight of each new album.  This song compresses (almost) the entire musical into 5 minutes.

“The Hamilton Polka,” provides what’s essentially a CliffsNotes-style run-through of the musical’s hooks and highlights — just enough to get the entire musical stuck in your head all over again.

I love the way in the original, the third sister, poor Peggy, is sort of musically dissed whereas Al is just explicit about it.  And of course, how could he refuse to include some actual gun shots for “Not Throwing Away My Shot?”

So they cram in 

Alexander Hamilton
Wait For It
The Schuyler Sisters
Yorktown
You’ll Be Back
The Room Where It Happens
Guns and Ships
Washington On Your Side
Non-Stop
History Has Its Eyes On You
My Shot

And Al can really sing and rap some of those lyrics quickly.  It’s a really fun mashup.

[READ: January 11, 2018] Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father

Before the musical, most people’s familiarity with Alexander Hamilton probably came from this (awesome) commercial (even if none of us could remember what it was ultimately for).

Actually, my father worked for (and owned for a time) Alexander Hamilton Printing in Paterson, NJ, so Alexander Hamilton has always been a part of my life.  Although I had no idea why.  Not really.

There’s a new reason why people know about Alexander Hamilton (can you even say his name without singing it?).

And I’m sure that reason has something to do with the creation and publication of this book.  But Hennessey is not just jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon.  Well, maybe he is, but he has two other historical graphic novels out already: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation (2008) and The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (2012).  He also has books called The Comic Book Story of Beer, and The Comic Book Story of Video Games so he’s not all stuffy.

The musical is far more catchy than this book–far more steamy.  But this book is really chock full of details that the musical skips (for various reasons, obviously).  The book is a lot less interested in the romantic dalliances of the founding father, although it certainly does acknowledge them.

Indeed, the book is 176 fully illustrated pages jam-packed with information.  It reads a little, if not dull, then certainly more academic.  That’s because there’s a lot of text and a lot of history. (more…)

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