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Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Jasper Heritage Folk Festival-Day Set (August 3 2001).

Rheostatics played two sets at the Jasper heritage Folk Festival in 2001.  They did a day set to promote their new children’s album Harmelodia and then later an evening set full of hits.

This is a fantastic sounding show … the afternoon set at the Jasper Heritage Folk Festival and is unique in that it is an almost complete run through of the entire Harmelodia album including Dave reading parts of the book. One of the earliest shows with Michael Wojewoda on drums.

In the intro Dave explains that they’re playing the entire Story of Harmelodia album, borrowing a page out of Luther Wright and the Wrongs’ book and do a concept program.  [I wonder what that was].  We’re going to read a little bit and play a few songs.

The Intro music is kind of like the more we get together, the happier we’ll be.  Dave narrates and the music sounds really good.

He tells everyone that the album is available for only $25 over there, easy.  How much you got?  $15?  We’ll take $15.  And your hat and your glasses.

Tim sings “Monkeybird” which is, admittedly, not as good as Kevin Hearn’s version, but which is still fine (they have a really hard time with the high note of the “we love the sound.”

“Invisible Stairs” is a twist on the “Twinkle Twinkle” melody–a pretty 2 minute interlude.

During “Popopolis/Drumstein” Martin makes a cool humpback whale sound.

They take a small break, “a little interlude then the program will resume.”  Then he says “hurry hurry come on up,” and some girls wish Chrissy Way a happy birthday.  Dave jokes Chrissy’s 37.

Tim says that Dot wrote “Loving Arms,” but ripped off The Beatles.  Dave replies, “it’s make believe Tim, there’s no copyright in make believe land.”

They don’t do “Father’s Sad Song” (because Gord Downie wrote it?).

The bass is suddenly too loud but otherwise it sounds great.  You can compare the concert setlist to the album at the bottom of the post.

[READ: February 21, 2021] “Paris Diary (1992)”

I’m not sure who Mavis Gallant is, but she had the third of three “Memory” sections in this issue of the New Yorker, so here it is.  It is indeed a few samples of her 1992 diary.  The first few entries are from January.

She writes about three prisoners released from solitary confinement after eighteen years.  Two of them are shrunken and need a wheelchair.  The third has his daughter to look after him.  She imagines what it must be like to get your father back after so long.

Gallant was young when her father died and yet she could not accept the truth.  She always imagined he would return.  Like how Isaac Babel’s daughter wrote, “Every time a car stopped in front of the door, I expected to see my father step out of it.”  But of course, he never did.

Then she recalls Josée de Chambrun (her father ran the Vichy government in 1942 and was tried for treason).  She has just died.  Mavis and Catherine (whoever that is) saw her in a gallery, eyes full of defiance.  After the war, the French either stood behind her or despised her.

The next entry (February) concerns her friend at dinner.  She smoked through the meal, juggling fork, knife and cigarette.  No one seemed to mind. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKGABRIEL GARZÓN-MONTANO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #147 (January 19, 2021).

Gabriel Garzón-Montano did a solo Tiny Desk Concert a few years ago, as the blurb quickly points out

If Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s solo Tiny Desk back in 2017 was an exercise in restraint and vulnerability, his home set is the polar opposite. It beams ingenuity and unveils multiple layers, figuratively and literally.  In this performance he brought the full band, sporting all white from mask to toe and bringing to life all the sonics we hear on the record, last year’s genre-snubbing Agüita.

They play three songs.

Garzón-Montano morphs into three different characters from Agüita and stretches the boundaries even more, adding salsa flavor to “Muñeca” and delivering some bonus bars on the set opener, “With A Smile.”

“With A Smile” opens with just his face surrounded by flowers as he plays a pretty acoustic guitar.  The flowers move away as the Gracie Sprout’s harp adds more pretty notes.  As the song moves along with Gabriel’s soft and sexy voice, Itai Shapira’s bass and Lenny “The Ox”‘s drums come thumping in.

Like the rest of his band, Gabriel is in all white, including white Uggs and a long white coat with tails.   The only color is from the sweater underneath.

At the end of the song he raps in Spanish, which has a really nice flow.

Taking advantage of of the rare opportunity to gather musicians in quarantine times, he says “It’s like being a child who’s allowed to do what they always wanted to do when they didn’t wanna get up for school, and it’s also felt like an adult who didn’t know what to do at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. I’m focusing on oscillating between those states with ease.”

For “Muñeca” he takes off the big coat and shows off the colorful sweater which has a fascinating cut, including tails.  For this song, it’s a trio of bass and Daniel Rodriguez on drums. Rodriguez plays a funky middle with conga and cowbell as Gabriel gets up and dances.  He picks up the guitar again at the end of the song for a little strumming outro.

Before the final song, Gabriel moves to the piano.  He takes off the colorful sweater to reveal a sleeveless shirt underneath (which shows off his tattoos).

“Tombs” features the KROMA Quartet and everyone else on synths.  Nicholas Semrad plays the lead, but everyone else adds melody.  It’s a delicate song with an interesting and slightly creepy synth melody.  About half way through this six minute song he gets up and picks up an electric guitar.  He and  Justin “Jhawk” Hawkins play a harmony solo together, which sounds pretty cool.

I am quite intrigued by this singer, and I love the description of genre-snubbing.

[READ: February 28, 2021] Pops

I have often said I wanted to read more books by Michael Chabon.  And after finishing this I realized that the only novel by him that I’ve read is Kavalier and Clay and that was 21 years ago.  So maybe it’s time to get into some of these other books.

Pops is a collection of (very) short essays.  Most were written for Details Magazine (which folded in 2015), one for GQ and a final one I’d already read in the New Yorker.

“Introduction: The Opposite of Writing”
It’s not too often that you really enjoy an introduction, but this one was pretty great.  In it, Chabon talks about when he was an up and coming writer and he met a well-established Southern writer.  This writer told him that the secret to being a good writer was not having children.  That for every child you have, you will lose one book.

Chabon had no children with his first wife but has had four with his second wife (the writer Ayelet Waldman).  So clearly they have lost eight books between them.

The writer’s argument was that children take away time from novel writing and that novel writing takes away time from children.  Chabon had always felt that his father was not very present (as one of the essays says) and he promised to be much more involved in his children’s lives).  These essays suggest that he was.  So how did he find time to write?  He does not say. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAZMINE SULLIVAN-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #132 (January 8, 2021).

I know Jazmine Sullivan from a previous NPR set from 2014.  I hadn’t heard anything from her since then.  The blurb says

We don’t see or hear much from Jazmine Sullivan until she has something to get off her chest. She drops a body of work every five years or so, shakes up the world of R&B with each offering, then quietly goes back to minding her own business.

That’s pretty awesome.

Her latest project, Heaux Tales, is a bold and timely conversation piece addressing truths regarding relationships, sex, social norms, self-worth and a myriad of other topics that women grapple with. Each song is masterfully connected to another through unique yet familiar testimonies by women from all walks of life.

Sullivan’s set is five songs in nearly twenty minutes.

The singer-songwriter, draped in a trench coat while her band sports all black, are nestled in the corner of a dimly lit space resembling a cabaret.

She starts her Tiny Desk (home) concert with three extended and reworked selections from Heaux Tales,

“Bodies (Intro)” is jazzy an old-fashioned sounding with prominent piano from Eric Wortham and gently echoed guitars from Simon Martinez.  But it’s got very non-old-fashioned lyrics.  The end even has her scatting and crooning and there’s some wild drum fills from Dave Watson.

“The Other Side” features prominent bass from Jermaine Blandford and piano open this set.  It’s got a really nice catchy chorus.  The backing singers (Alisa Joe, Natalie Curtis and Ayana George vocals arranged according to height) add really nice harmonies and at the end they do a nice vocal fugue.   The song ends with a smooth bass riff.

“Lost One” is the first single from this project although I think the other two songs are much catchier.

“Let It Burn” a blast from the past and

thee fan favorite from 2015’s Reality Show,

For the last song, “Girl Like Me, she invites Tiny Desk alum H.E.R. to the stage to close.  H.E.R. plays a delicate acoustic guitar.  The song is just guitar and bass until about half way through when the rest of the band joins in.  I liked this song least because there was a lot of vocals acrobatics that i did not care for–something that it seems like Sullivan doesn’t do much.  The graphic lyrics with the gentle acoustic guitar was a nice contrast though.

[READ: February 21, 2021] “My Mother”

Like Nadine Gordimer, Amy Tan had a “memory” in this issue as well.

Unlike Nadine, this memory was concrete and very poignant.

She says that when she was sixteen she said some hateful things to her mother, including “I hate you, I wish I were dead.”  Her mother replied, “Okay maybe I die, then I no longer be your mother.”

They would not speak to each other for days after fights like this.

A Couple of years ago when Amy was 47 and she was already a successful writer, she was writing a story about a girl and her mother when the phone rang. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-3rd Annual Green Sprouts Music Week Show 7 (Ultrasound Showbar, Toronto Ontario September 23 1995).

It has been a while since I’ve listened to a live Rheostatics show.  Darrin at Rheostatics Live has added a number of new shows in the last eight months.  On the last night of Green Sprouts Music Week, the band played two shows in one day. This first one is all ages, which I kind of think of as a children’s show, but really it means that people under 21 (or whatever the drinking age is) can get in too.

Seventh and final show of the annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar September 18-23 1995. Excellent finale to the week with some peak performances of the material being worked on for The Blue Hysteria album – most of which debuted live during the week long run. There are some great references in this show as well – to Martin’s new double neck guitar used for the first time and which they were debating how ugly it was (it had yet to be painted), the Whale Music Movie premier which was to take place in Los Angeles the following week, as well as Dave talking about the actual Joe Jackson at Massey Hall event noted in My First Rock Concert which is the sample noted below. Farm Fresh and Tamara Williamson guest, a great Spirit Of The West segue into Claire via Scaffolding and the traditional gift exchange at the end. Less than a month after this show they would perform Music Inspired By The Group Of 7 at the National Gallery in Ottawa…which at this point not a single note had been written.

Tyler from Farm Fresh will sit in with them tonight.  Sgt. Tielli will start the show (he’s wearing some kind of fancy suit–Martin: we used to tour with these outfits all of us.  Tim: I bet you never washed yours.) He begins with a lovely “Song of Flight” that segues into “California Dreamline.”

During “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” the chant is Farm Fresh and They Suck. Tyler does a turntable solo.

Tamara Williamson comes up for “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  She’s with Mrs. Torrance and they’ll play her next Tuesday.

Martin debuted his double neck guitar this week. Martin: It’s a trial basis–I’m borrowing it to see if I like it.  Dave: It’s ugly but in a nice way.  It goes with the jacket.  It needs stickers (!).

After a lovely “All the Same Eyes,” Dave says “you just gotta spina around when you hear that song.”

Some Green Sprouts start whistling “You Are Very Star.”  Dave: You could start your own religion with a tune like that.

Don talks about a concert event this Sunday.  He’ll be playing with Cake (I don’t know if it’s that Cake), and on the bill is “Don’t Talk, Dance” and Bob Wiseman.  It’s a benefit for The Campus Coop Day Care which burnt down.  Tim: so when it says “members of the Rheostatics, they mean you.”  Tim says Bobby Wiseman’s new album is awesome.

The do alright with the counting on “Four Little Songs” and Dave says Neil Peart’s kitchen.  When Dave tells them to count off on the final 4321 some says “that’s your job Dave” and Dave retorts: “You guys are getting lippy.  On Monday the audience was quiet.”  Don: They’re tired of your jokes–same jokes 6 nights in a row.

Tim says that he taught the fellows the next song (“An Offer”) during rehearsal this week.  He kept writing out the charts but someone kept stealing them.  He got tired of writing them.  Someone shouts: I heard some other band play the song on the radio today!

After the song, someone shouts “encore!”  Dave: Encore already? The longest encore in rock.

“Desert Island Poem” features some scratching from Tyler and a solo from Martin.

Don sings “Never Forget” (I feel like he never quite gets the vocal right).

Dave says he was interviewed by CBC.  Originally he said no, but they paid him fifty bucks.  They interviewed him for like an hour and he was on TV for all of two and a half seconds saying “Italo-Canadian.”

Next song is in French.  “Chansons Les Reulles.”  Tim says, “Play it in French, Don.”

Martin: Someone asked me if the Joe Jackson song is really true.  Dave tells the story then sings the son.  He adds an extra first verse about Aerosmith and the Carpenters.  Never heard it since.

A footnote to ELO.  They were going to come out of a big spaceship–like a Big Mac box.  As it turns out they were sued for playing backing tapes.  My first real rock concert wasn’t even live.

“A Midwinter Night’s Dream” sounds good even though Martin doesn’t even try for the high note.  But he plays a wild solo.

Dave says that Whale Music is opening in Santa Monica.  Are we going down there?  No Hollywood party for them.   But then we thought–Hollywood party–free coke.  Don tells a story about cocaine when opening for a big big Toronto band.  He found a rolled up $20 sitting on a mirror.  He made $20 that night because you never get paid for those big gigs.

They play “Claire” (hard to believe how rare this song is. Tim opens with a verse of Spirit of the West’s “Scaffolding” before starting the song properly.  During the solo, Tim says, Martin, can you play the other neck?  Both at the same time?  he must do it because Tim sings “purify me / blow my fucking mind with that thing.”

They invite Farm Fresh to the stage for a gift exchange and Andrew Rourke’s vocal debut.

Farm Fresh brought 40 tapes and they sold out in the first night, so they’ve been dubbing them in the back.  Then Farm Fresh plays “Space.”

Their gifts include a music trivia book (he asks some of the questions).  Apparently a Red Sonya #1 (it’s worth $700 at least) and a Fantastic Four #358.  And also The History of the Bonzos by Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Then Dave thanks a bunch of people.  The T-shirts sold out!  Or we lost them.
Dave thanks everyone.  Being a rock guy and playing big stadiums is good, but playing a club for a week and having people come all week long is the dream.

Farm Fresh present the Rheos with an album: Truck Stop Comedy by Gene Tracey: Double Clutchin “for tough adults only.”  Tim reads the back of the record (it’s hilariously bad) and they all fight for who will play it first.  You can actually find comedy by this guy online.

What a great week of music.  I wish I’d been able to go to alo of the shows, although I didn’t actually know them yet.

[READ: February 20, 2021] “Visiting George”

This is listed as a “Memory” in this issue.  I thought I was familiar with Nadine Gortimer’s work, but I don’t know if this is anything like what she normally writes.

It was really hard to follow as I don’t know who she’s talking about or even what exactly happened.

She says they were in London for a conference and wound up near a house where old friends lived.  She was about to say they should pop in–it had been so long. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HAYLEY WILLIAMS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #124 (December 9, 2020).

I basically missed Paramore entirely.  I’ve heard a few songs not realizing it was them and really liked them.  I listened to a bit more recently and really like the pop punk energy.

So this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert came as a real surprise. The music is stripped down and really spare.  There’s a real dancey element (funky bass and drums) and the guitars are really quiet.

The second big surprise came when Hayley introduced her band.  Becca Mancari on keys and backing vocals!  And Julien Baker on guitar!

This change in musicians and sound is intentional.

Petals for Armor is a soul-cleansing exhale from years of holding her breath. Originally released in a series of EPs, her solo debut sings through heartache in a tangle of triumph and hard-earned wisdom. It’s a pop album that knows sadness can simmer, but also shout over an ever-shifting sonic palette.

She plays three songs in ten minutes.

During the pandemic and protests, Williams has played these songs from her couch with muted restraint, and self-serenaded with acoustic covers — sad songs really can be sympathetic companions during dark days. But in her home, surrounded by blank canvases, Williams and friends splash a bottled-up energy.

The joy is infectious, as “Pure Love” bursts from first bloom

Aaron Steele counts off on the drums, while Williams gives a Huh! and Joey Howard introduces a funky bass line.  Her voice is powerful and soars throughout.

I’m disconcerted by the high fiving after the song–I hope they’ve been safe.

“Taken” shows off Baker’s jazzy-funk licks.

It opens with an outstanding bass from Joey Howard line that repeats throughout.  The song feels quintessentially dancey and a very different sound from Paramore.  Baker plays quietly wah-wah’d guitar as Mancari sings the backing bah bah bahs.  Williams plays a keyboard on a very tiny stand (I feel for her back).  The best moment comes with the five seconds of silence while Williams looks around and then jumps back into the danciness.

For the final song, Williams leans into the “Dead Horse” kiss-off with gleeful abandon.

The foundation of this song is the funky drum and bass once more. Williams picks up the guitar, but it’s Baker who plays the slightly askew riff that opens the song.  Baker plays lead licks throughout while Williams adds grace notes.  The best of which comes at 10:08 when both Williams and Baker plays a single note in harmony to make it really stand out.

And that kiss off?

When I say goodbye, I hope you cry.

[READ: January 5, 2021] “A Philadelphia Local is Unamused by the Fuss”

Today seemed like an ideal day to post about this election-related essay from Dave Eggers.

Today, a bunch if seditious Senators are going to pretend like our election was unfair.  They are going to make a spectacle of themselves and question the integrity of our very democracy.  They should be removed from office immediately.

This essay shows, in a small aside, how this phony scandal, this manufactured outrage, was created by the trump team long before the election happened.

On November 5th, while the election results were being tabulated, Eggers was in Philadelphia talking with Anna Palagruto.

Palagruto is the quintessential Philadelphian:

Palagruto has an accent so acute–“gonna” was “go-won-a” and an attitude so Philly-specific, that, if the city ever wanted a no B-S tourism spokesperson, no one but her would suffice. Come to Philly, she’d say. Or don’t.  No one cares.

Palagruto is fed up with the protesters on both sides. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ASHLEY RAY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #125 (December 11, 2020).

Ashley Ray is a singer from Kansas.

Her voice is raw and harshly accented–purely from Kansas.  But her voice goes beyond country into what sounds like ancient folk music.

In this Tiny Desk (home) concert, Ray is

sitting on a screened-in porch with producer, songwriter and longtime friend Sean McConnell (and a distant chorus of crickets chirping in the early evening light).

I don’t know what her music normally sounds like, although this blurb says the songs 

all from Ashley Ray’s latest album, Pauline feel like a breakout release for this Kansas native, but she’s been putting in the hard work for close to 20 years now, spending much of her time waiting tables while writing songs for better-known artists.

All three songs feature Ray singing.  She plays guitar on the first one.  She is accompanied by McConnell.  He plays guitar as well, but it’s when he adds his harmony vocals that the songs really flesh out.  The second song, “Dirty work” almost feels like an X song (or many a Knitters song) with Exene singing lead and John Doe adding the harmonies (and playing the only guitar).

It’s interesting that Ray’s speaking voice is almost unaccented, when a song like “Pauline” is so clearly Southern.

“Just A House” feels more country than the other two–the melody of the chorus, I’m sure.  But I like the understatedness of it.

I do not like country music (duh), bit I really enjoyed this.  It was devoid of production and twang and felt real.

[READ: January 5, 2021] “Delaware Voters Await Joe Biden: ‘We Just Need Him'”

Today Georgia voters get to decide if Joe Biden will be roadblocked by The Worst Man in America, Mitch McConnell (he may have actually done more damage than trump).  

They get to decide if two trump supporters, who have already proven that their role in government is exclusively to get rich and screw the rest of us, should be thrown to the curb (preferably from a moving car).  

This election shouldn’t be happening.  These two horrible people should in no way be close to winning an election for anything.  And yet here we are. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHLOE X HALLE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #123 (December 8, 2020).

Chloe x Halle’s album, with its arresting album cover, has been on all the top album lists this year.  I hadn’t heard anything off of it, so this is my introduction to this “powerful sister duo.”

Flanked by personal memorabilia supplied by their mother, the Bailey sisters did their best to make this studio performance really feel like a home concert.

I don’t know what he album sounds like, but this recording (complete with a full band, horns and strings) sounds pretty amazing.  Almost as amazing as Chloe and Halle’s voices.

As they volley off each other, swapping lead and harmonies, it’s amazing to watch how years of practice and innate genetic chemistry have them synced tight.

After introducing themselves, the sister play “Don’t Make It Harder on Me.”  There’s a clean bass opening from Elin Sandberg and quiet guitar chords (it’s fun to watch Lexii Lynn Frazier play as she is smiling a lot and really into it).  The addition of the trumpets (Arnetta Johnson and Crystal Torres) adding soft and then loud accents is a really nice touch.  But nothing can distract from the voices.

Halle takes the higher notes and wow does her voice soar.  But the two of them together, whether singer counterpoint or their gorgeous wordless harmonies are really amazing.

“Baby Girl,” the second song here, starts with notes reminiscent of Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless),” and is preceded with Chloe sharing “I know this year 2020 has been absolutely bonkers for all of us. For those moments where you kinda feel less than and you’re not good enough … that’s why we wrote this song. … Whatever happens, we’ll be OK. And this is our world.”

The song is softer with keyboard splashes from Elise Solberg and soaring strings from Stephanie Yu (violin), Chelsea Stevens (cello) and Marta Honer (viola).

Halle sings the first verse with Chloe adding punctuation on this cool refrain

step up to the patio
listen to the radio
try to play it on my Casio

more great punctuation from the horns nicely flesh out this song.  The song ends with a short drum breakdown from Brandi Singleton with some ripping bass work as it segues into “Do It.”  “Do It” is a great moment to see the sisters play of of each other.  It’s fun watching them smile at each other as they bounce and bop and back and forth with the “do it”s and the “woo”s.

“Ungodly Hour” is upbeat but “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” is a very different song.  Chloe says it’s a song telling the perspective of the other woman and what does that feel like?  What would we do in that situation.  Chloe sings the first verses accompanied by gorgeous strings.  It’s a beautiful torch song and their voices are simply fantastic.  Their harmonies in the third chorus are, frankly, jaw dropping.

I don’t tend to like R&B albums, (and it’s possible the album doesn’t sound like this), but this set was really impressive.

[READ: January 3, 2021] “Preparing to Spin the Wheel of Fortune”

I like when an author I enjoy has a Personal History in the New Yorker.

This one was especially fun because David Gilbert relates his experience appearing on Wheel of Fortune.

The studio is cold.  There are contestant handlers who are mystically upbeat.  They tell them to clap without clapping (so they dont mess up the sound recording).

He rather enjoyed the make up because she makes him look very good (he’s very critical of himself).  Before talking about the whole process though, he gives some background on the show. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LIDO PIMIENTA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #94 (October 13, 2020).

This set is utterly fascinating.

I’d never heard of Colombian vocalist Lido Pimienta, although apparently she

had one of the musical highlights of a year marked by tragedy and uncertainty. The healing magic of her album Miss Colombia transfers beautifully to this visually stunning Tiny Desk (home) concert.

Pimienta is dressed nicely with ribbons in her hair. Her hair is fascinating and, in braids, reaches the floor!

The set design is set up to recall a quinceañera.

I actually thought that Pimienta was a teenager (she is in her thirties), because after the first song she says:

Welcome the show that celebrates … me.  I am fifteen years old and I am a musical prodigy.

She even acts fifteen when she says, “you can hire us for the very cheap price of one million dollars USD” and “Wikipedia, get my birth date correct, I am fifteen and just starting out.”

The quinceañera design is

a coming of age tradition that Pimienta could not share with her mother who had to flee Colombia. With her mom, Rosario Paz, present at the video shoot, Pimienta uses her energetic performances to close a dramatic circle with her mom as we celebrate with her.

The first song “Eso Que Tu Haces” is mostly voice and percussion.  There is just so much percussion here, it’s hard to believe only two guys play it all: Brandon Valdivia and Reimundo Sosa.

The vocalists are varied and add such a wall of beautiful voices to the song.

Backed up by a bevy of international musicians based in her new home of Toronto (I see you, members of the Cuban group Okan).

Magdelys Savigne and Elizabeth Rodriguez of Okan sing along as do The Road to Avonlea choir: Felicity Williams, Robin Dann, Isla Craig, and Ivy Farquhar-McDonnell.

The song gets bigger and more musical as it moves along with a tenor saxophone solo from Karen Ng that combines with the trumpet from Tara Kannangara.

“Nada” starts as Ng plays flute (Pimienta comments that this is her show not Ng’s so she should stop being so multitalented).  It’s a catchy dancey song and the end is a beautiful mix of the backing vocals and Pimineta’s solo soaring voice.

When her mom comes out on stage she jokes, are you glad that I’m finally a woman?

Introducing “Coming Thru” she says she always likes to work with women and feminine energy.  The world needs feminine energy so we can heal.

As the song starts, Elizabeth Rodriguez plays violin while Lido sings.  They are joined by the horns which flesh out the sound nicely.  Lido really does have a wonderful voice.

And as the variety of sounds indicates,

you can hear… how Pimienta’s quartet of songs challenge the concept of just what qualifies as “Latin music” in a way that both honors and expands tradition.

They are also joined by Prince Nifty, who plays keys and fleshes out the songs.  Although the start of the final song, “Resisto Y Ya” begins with just voice and percussion.

Lida explains that the song means, “I just resist.”  She says it is about Colombia and all of its drama and beauty.  The country is full of anger and also breathtaking landscapes.  The full band joins in by the end and the song just grows and grows as the set ends.

This is a terrific introduction to Pimienta’s music, whatever her age is.

[READ: November 20, 2020] “The Ability to Cry” 

This essay came out over a month after yesterday’s essay.  But they seemed so thematically similar that they work well together.

I’ve really enjoyed Yiyun Li’s stories over the years.  This piece of nonfiction was remarkably sad.

It begins with the death of a valued friend.  Or maybe not a friend so much as a caretaker.  The woman Julia, was supposed to dog and baby sit for Yiyun while she was out of town before her husband got home.  But she never answered the phone calls.  Julia had dogsat for thame on many occasions in the past and she always took pictures of the dog to show how well the dog (and garden) were doing.

Yiyun Li says that death has been prominent in her life in the last year and a half.  Her eldest son, her mother-in-law and her father have all died.

She did not cry when any of then died.  But when she saw Julia’s obituary, she broke down.   She felt like she was part of the delayed crying club. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #93 (October 9, 2020).

The Flaming Lips have recently performed a live concert in front of an audience (Yes!).  They did this by putting themselves and every audience member in one of Wayne Coyne’s giant bubbles.  What an amazing idea and a wonderful experience, I’m sure (especially after nine months of no live music).

Back in October, The Lips did their very first Tiny Desk Concert.  And, being the Lips, they decided to do their home concert entirely in their own bubbles.  (Although technically two people share two bubbles).

This Tiny Desk Concert features two songs from their newest album American Head.

The Flaming Lips have always embraced the surreal. Drugs are undoubtedly part of the culture, and on their new songs from American Head, drugs are at the core. These are songs for the lost, the overdosed dreamers, the damaged, the car crashed.

The open the set with “Will You Return/When You Come Down,” a simply wonderful song.

On the album’s opening track “Will You Return/When You Come Down” (which also begins this concert), Steven Drozd asks in falsetto, “Will you return? Will you come down?” while Wayne Coyne responds, “Thinking back to those lost souls / And their ghosts / Floating around your bed / Hear it said / Now all your friends are dead.”

I love everything about his song.  Gentle bells (from percussion Nicholas Ley) open the song along with Steven Drozd’s falsetto singing the refrain.  (Drozd is an amazing guitarist but only plays the keys in this set).  Wayne begins singing the verse.  It’s gentle and pretty, and then with a drum flourish from Matt Duckworth in comes Michael Ivins’ typically wonderful bass lines.

The song builds beautifully into a big major chord with Derek Brown’s acoustic guitar leading the way.

Whenever I’ve seen The Lips live, Jake Ingalls almost always sits on the floor.  In this set he’s sitting with Steven.  I’m never quite sure what he does, but I imagine he’s creating all kinds of interesting sounds.  Ingalls’ band Spaceface is pretty wonderful, but the way.

“God and the Policeman” features one of Ivins’ coolest basslines around.  It’s a stuttering rumble that seems to come from nowhere and adds a fantastic element to this song.  Ley adds in some tubular bells and Wayne plays the siren on his megaphone.  The main musical melody is a pretty piano circuit that soars with Wayne’s voice.

On the record, Kacey Musgraves sings the backing vocals but Steven takes them here. Wayne says that he has a good Kacey-esque voice.

Steven replies:

It sounds like you’re saying something nice but I can’t hear anything you’re saying.

The go back to 2013’s The Terror for “Be Free, A Way.”  Wayne says he wrote this when he was depressed.  He’s only been really depressed once or twice and this song came out of one of them.  I love the echoing vocals as Steven follows Wayne’s lead.  The vocal melody of two word sentences is just fantastic.

They end the set with “It’s Summertime” from 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Yoshimi is a fantastic album from start to finish, although this song is somewhat of a left-field choice–not one of the big hits from the album. Wayne gets a nice trumpet solo too.

This is a wonderful set to see.  And I really hope they bring their bubble shows to a theater near me.

[READ: November 20, 2020] “My Three Fathers”

I have not read any of Ann Patchett’s books, although I keep meaning to.  Her soon to be released novel is supposed to be fantastic.

This essay sounded kind of interesting even without knowing anything about her.  She talks about having had three fathers during her life.  She prefaces all of this by saying that marriage is irresistible to her family members: “we try and fail and try again.”  She and her sister have both been married twice, while her mother married three times (thus, three fathers).

Her first father was her biological father.  He and her mother divorced when she was little. Her second father was her mother’s second husband–he adopted her.  Her third father was her mother’s third husband.  Her mother married him when Ann was an adult.

She writes about this third wedding, the rare time when all three of Ann’s fathers were together and at which she got a picture of herself with the three of them.

Then she talks about all three men. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE-“Killing the Name” (1991).

I was living in Boston when this song came out.  It was an electrifying shot across the bow of institutional racism–thirty years before that terms was on everyone’s lips.

This song was amazingly catchy and very vulgar.

It had few lyrics, but they were repeated over and over–a chant, a call to action.

Some of those that work forces
Are the same that burn crosses…
Well now you do what they told ya…
Those who died are justified
For wearing the badge
They’re the chosen whites
You justify those that died
By wearing the badge
They’re the chosen whites…

The song begins with a staccato opening, then some thumping bass and drums.  A cow bell and off goes the riff.  It’s as jagged and aggressive as angry as the lyrics.

The bridge is a pounding three note blast as the sections repeat.

Then comes a guitar solo.  One thing I remember distinctly when this album came out was that most of the talk was of Tom Morello’s guitar playing.  The album stated in the liner notes “no samples, keyboards or synthesizers used in the making of this record.”  It was an odd disclaimer, but with the bizarre sounds that Morello made, it was fascinating to wonder how he did it all.

The solo came at the four minute mark and, if radio wanted to play the song, they could fade it right there (that’s still plenty long for the radio).  But if they didn’t, then the chaos began, with crashing drums, and a slow build as Zach de la Rocha started quietly and got louder the simple but effective refrain

Fuck you. I won’t do what you tell me.

A band anda  room full of people chanting that song might just frighten the authorities a bit.

And that’s why in 2020, that song is being played a lot.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “On Defense”

A quote attributed to Dostoyevsky (who evidently never said it) is”

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

This quote is in the visitor center of the Manhattan Detention Complex (known as The Tombs). De La Pava says The Tombs is “one of the most hideous places on earth.”

I have really enjoyed Sergio De La Pava’s fiction.  I knew that he was involved in the New York City court system (his novels were too detailed about the system for him not to be).  This essay is a non-fiction account of his time as a public defender (he is still in the system, and is now the legal director of New York County Defender Services).

It seems like the public defender is not always appreciated–he or she stands in the way of putting criminals behind bars.  But De La Pava’s experience (along with many of the accused) shows that he has the really hard but important task of keeping innocent people from unfair punishment. (more…)

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