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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BILLIE HOLIDAY-“Strange Fruit” (1939/ (live1959)).

This haunting song is sung with minimal piano accompaniment.  In between verses, the original version has some stark trumpet solos, although they are not present in this live version.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin’ in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin’ from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulgin’ eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burnin’ flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather
For the wind to suck
For the sun to rot
For the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop

She sings the words slowly (the song is 3 minutes long despite the relatively few words), letting the image linger in your mind as she stretched out “burning flesh”  and “for the crows to pluck.”  The way she agonizingly sings “drop” and “crop” really emphasizes the last lines.

The studio version has a haunting guitar line–the only guitar in the song–as a little coda.  It’s a remarkable addition and really affecting.

I can’t imagine the courage it took to sing these words in 1959 let alone 1939.

This song has a fascinating origin.

Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were two Black men who were hanged in a spectacle lynching in 1930.  A photograph was taken by studio photographer Lawrence Beitler.  He sold thousands of copies of the print [which is amazingly disturbing and I can’t imagine who would have bought them].  In 1937 Abel Meeropol, a Jewish school teacher from New York City saw a copy of Beitler’s 1930 photograph which “haunted [him] for days” and inspired his poem “Bitter Fruit” which was published in The New York Teacher in 1937 (under the pseudonym Lewis Allan). Meeropol then set his poem to music, renaming it “Strange Fruit” which Billie Holiday recorded in 1939.

[READ: March 8, 2021] Kindred [the fight]

This week took us to the end of the book.

Dana arrived home with Kevin this time.  He’s initially happy to be home, but is soon very restless. He was in the past for five years.  They have only been in their new house together a few days–noting is familiar here.  He is agitated and irritable.  He tells her about some of the horrible things he’s seen like a woman dying in childbirth.  It’s interesting that this horror comes from Kevin telling Dana about a woman’s whose master beat her until the baby fell out of her.

I feel like Kevin is overreacting to his return–his agitation seems way too great.  I realize that things are new in this house, but you’d think that even after five years, being home wouldn’t be such a bad thing.  And then he tells a story like the above and while I still don’t understand why it’s not just a relief to be out of there, i can see that he’s got PTSD.

But he was jumpy–the sound of jet overhead freaked him out.  Again, would five years without a jet overhead make you forget that they existed before hand?

Earlier Dana had been concerned that Kevin could be “won over” to the bad side. But he tells her that he had been helping slaves to escape.  he even imagined that they might both want to go back to help more slaves escape–to do good historically speaking. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NINA SIMONE-“Mississippi Goddamn” (Live in Antibes, July 24-25, 1965).

This song is amazing for so many reasons.

Nina Simone wrote this song in less than an hour as a response to  the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers in Mississippi, and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama (see the posts from John Lewis’ March).

It is simple and straightforward.  She pulls no punches, from the title to the explicitness of the lyrics.

The intro (and chorus) get right to the point

Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi, goddamn

She doesn’t stop there.

Don’t tell me, I’ll tell you
Me and my people just about due
I’ve been there so I know
They keep on saying
“Go slow!”

But that’s just the trouble “too slow”
Washing the windows “Too slow”
Picking the cotton “Too slow”
You’re just plain rotten “Too slow”
You’re too damn lazy “Too slow”
The thinking’s crazy “Too slow”
Where am I going What am I doing I don’t know

Having the band chant back “too slow” during the bridge is a nice call for support.

What’s most scary about this song is how little has changed since she wrote it fifty years ago,

Picket lines, school boycotts
They try to say it’s a communist plot [substitute Antifa or BLM now]
All I want is equality
For my sister, my brother, my people, and me

In the Antibes version, she substitutes Governor Wallace in one of the lines–and you can tell how intensely she feels these words.

Then there’s the music–a sort of bouncy jazzy number that could easily be about anything.  The lyrics are straightforward, but the music almost softens the bite, or at least.  In the Carnegie Hall recording she even jokes “This is a show tune, but the show hasn’t been written for it, yet.”

The middle section, which is a little quieter, definitely sounds a bit more sinister.  And justifiably

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day’s gonna be my last

Watching this video is really intense.  I wonder how impactful this was in France. And I can’t imagine what the impact was like at Carnegie Hall.

[READ: March 8, 2021] Kindred [the fight]

This week’s read is one long, painful chapter.

After the first few sections have established the scenario, the more you think about it, the more you realize how many things can (and likely will) go wrong for Dana.

Each time Dana is sent back in time, the gap between instances grows.  Time doesn’t pass in the present the same way it does when she goes back.  She had been gone for nearly two months but when she returned home she had been “gone” for less than a day.

Now that Kevin has remained, she fears for him as well and those fears are completely reasonable–he was treated well in that world because he was white.  He looked forward to watching the expansion of our country West.  Could he become a hardened white person if he was there for too long?  Kevin seems like a pretty decent fellow and doesn’t seem like he would become an owner of anyone, but you could see him getting caught up in everything that’s happening. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROKIA TRAORÉ-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #136 (January 14, 2021).

Rokia Traore.GlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The final artist of the fourth and final night is Malian singer Rokia Traoré.

Rokia Traoré performed at globalFEST in 2005, the music festival’s second year, and it’s a thrill to present her meditative performance as part of Tiny Desk meets globalFEST. Her work is rooted in the Malian musical tradition, but defies the confines of a single culture. Born in Mali to a diplomat father, Traoré had a nomadic upbringing that exposed her to a wide variety of international musical influences. She joins us from Blues Faso, a theater inside her Foundation Passerelle in Mali, which she created to support emerging, interdisciplinary artists, from music and the performing arts to visual arts and photography.

She plays three songs that more or less segue into each other.  I don’t know a lot about music from Mali, but the little I know I can recognize from the Ngoni played by Mamah Diabaté and the guitar played by Samba Diabaté, with lots of speedy runs.   In “Souba Lé” melody is played on the balafon by Massa Joël Diarra (although I wish they’d have shown us it up close).  Both this song and “Tiramakan” feature subtle bass from Aristide Nebout.  The final song “Fakoly” is a little louder and drummer Roméo Djibré is a bit more prominent.

But all of these songs are all about Rokia Traoré’s vocals which soar and ring out.

[READ: February 25, 2021] March Book 3

Each book has gotten longer.  Book one was 121 pages, Book 2 was 187 and Book 3 is 246.

This book begins right after the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.   You meet the victims before they were killed.  It continues through until the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.  Holy cow was there a lot of violence in these two years and the amazing art by Nate Powell never shies away from showing it.

Eagle Scouts at Klan rallies who then go on to kill Black teenager’s, hicks in pickups celebrating the deaths of the girls in the church with anti-integration chants and, as we see more and more in this book, police killing innocent people and not getting in any trouble because of it.

This book has opened my eyes to what Black people have known all along about police forces.  That they are completely corrupt and need to be restructured from the ground up.  When you see that it was their job to be racist in 1963, is it any surprise that they are still racist in 2021?

Reading a book like this I can’t help but think that the best thing we could have done for our country would have been to let the south secede.  Bring all people of color north and let the racists fester in their own lack of diversity.  Because their racism poisons the whole country.  And yet that is exactly the opposite belief that this book is based upon.

I’m embarrassed at how naïve I am. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKELISAPIE-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #136/156 (January 14, 2021).

ElisapieGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The second artist of the fourth and final night is First Nations singer Elisapie.

Elisapie returns to Tiny Desk for a show-stopping performance from Montreal, with the disco globe of our dreams helping to light her set. Elisapie, in both her songs and work, is a resounding advocate of First Nations culture in Canada. In her set, she harnesses an incredible energy with electrifying, emotive vocals.

I had really enjoyed Elisapie’s previous Tiny desk.  I found her to be a less extreme, but no less dramatic performer than Tanya Tagaq.  Her band is outstanding creating all kinds of textures to surround her voice.

The first song is “Qanniuguma.”  It starts quietly with a single ringing guitar note from Jean-Sébastien Williams and little taps of percussion from Robbie Kuster.  Joshua Toal adds some quiet bass as the guitar plays some higher notes.  After a minute Elisapie starts singing.  Another 30 seconds later the drums get louder and Jason Sharp start sprinkling in some raw bass saxophone.  As the song grows more intense, Elisapie adds some breathing and chanting–throat singing.  Things quiet down and then build again with the sax and the guitar soloing as the drums and bass keep things steady

Behind her you can see Mont Royal, which has a lot of history.

The second song “Wolves Don’t Live by the Rules” is “a small song” but very meaningful.  It starts in a similar way with ringing notes an thumping drums.  She sings this one in  English and it feels like a much more conventional sounding song.  It’s pretty quiet but the instrumental breaks adds huge guitar chords and the end is really loud.

Introducing the final song, “Arnaq” (which means Woman) she says women tend to forget that we have a lot of strength and we should celebrate it loud and clear.  This one opens with a loud raw sliding guitar like an early PJ Harvey song.  The song’s chorus builds with an “ah ya ya ya” as the instruments add chunky noises–scratches from the guitar and skronks from the sax and all kinds of precious.  It’s a cool noise fest, although the guitar could be a smidge louder.

I’d really like to see her live.

[READ: February 25, 2021] March Book 2

Book Two picks up John Lewis’ life.

Like the first, it starts with Lewis’ preparations for the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Then it flashes back.  Lewis was in college and had moved to Nashville where the growing student movement was gaining strength.

The visuals are even more striking in this book.  The panels of the white woman pouring water and then soap (or flour) on the quietly sitting Black diners and then hosing them down is really arresting.  As is the sequence (which is almost entirely black) of a room full of peaceful protestors being locked in a room when the fumigator was set off.

I couldn’t believe that a man couldn’t really left us there to die.  Were we not human to him?

Then next round of protesta was at the segregated movie theaters.  I love that they chose the Ten Commandments to protest (the irony was lost on the whites in Alabama).  The Black protesters would line up and would be refused seating.  Hundreds of people who would then get back on line and be refused seating again.  Whites would throw things at them and hurl abuse at them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKEDWIN PEREZ-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #136/155 (January 14, 2021).

Edwin PerezGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The first artist of the fourth and final night is Edwin Perez.

From the basement of the Bowery Electric in downtown Manhattan, composer and vocalist Edwin Perez and his 10-piece band come together to put on a show. With a strong backbeat and enough room to move around, Perez’s up-tempo energy brings the party and keeps it going. The theme of the night is salsa dura music, which originated in New York in the 1970s and gained acclaim thanks to acts like the Fania All-Stars and Spanish Harlem Orchestra.

This set is a lot of fun (even with the seriousness of the second song).  Cuban music is so full of percussion and horns it’s hard not to want to dance to it.  And this band has three percussionists: Nelson Mathew Gonzalez: bongo, cowbell (from Puerto Rico); Manuel Alejandro Carro: timbales (from Cuba); Oreste Abrantes: (from Puerto Rico).  The horn section is also pretty large: Leonardo Govin (from Cuba) and Michael Pallas (From Dominican Republic): trombone; Jonathan Powell (from USA) and Kalí Rodriguez (from Cuba): trumpet.

They play three songs. “La Salsa Que Me Crió” has lots of percussion and a great trumpet solo.  Perez even dances during the instrumental breaks.  And throughout, Jorge Bringas (from Cuba) keeps the bass steady.

After introducing the band, he says “Say her name Breonna Taylor.  Say his name Philando castile.  Say his name George Floyd.  End the abuse.”  This is the introduction to the quieter “No Puedo Respirar” (I Can’t Breathe).   Despite the subject, this song is not a dirge.  I don’t know what the words are but there is joy in the music as well.  There’s a jazzy keyboard solo from Ahmed Alom Vega (USA).

Yuniel Jimenez (From Cuba) opens the final song “Mi Tierra” with a fantastic introductory solo on the Cuban tres guitar.  The rest of the song brings back the Cuban horns and percussion. There’s even a drum solo (or two) in the middle.

[READ: February 25, 2021] March Book 1

I had heard amazing things about this trilogy of books.  I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading them.  Now that John Lewis is dead for almost a year, it was time to read them.

This is essentially a biography so it’s not easy to write about.  It’s also an incredible story of selflessness, fortitude and unbelievable courage.

The framing device is very well executed.  After a brief prologue that shows John and is marchers getting attacked by police, the book shows us Washington D.C. January 20, 2009, the day that Barack Obama is being inaugurated President.  Since John is (in 2009) in office he will be attending the ceremonies.

As he is preparing and getting ready to leave, a woman and her two children walk into his room hoping to look at Mr. Lewis’ office–a inspirational moment for her young boys.  But it happens that John (or Bob as he is called) is still in his office. They are embarrassed to interrupt, but he welcomes them warmly and shows them some of the things around his office.

Like photos of him meeting President Kennedy when Lewis was 23.  And from the March on Washington in 1963, where Dr King gave his “I have a dream” speech.

Then the boy asks him why he has so many chickens in his office.

The story then flashes back to young John (called Bob by his parents).  His father purchased 110 acres in Pike County, Alabama for $300. John was incharge of the chickens on the farm.  He also loved preaching.  He learned to read at 5 and began preaching to the chickens (they never said Amen or anything).

He also loved going to school.  He would even away from his house on the days his father insisted all the children work in the field because he didn’t want to fall behind.  (Even if it meant getting in trouble).

One of the first being moments in his life wa when his Uncle Otis drove him North.

Otis knew which places offered colored bathrooms and the ones where you would never get out of the car: “Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky.  These were the states we had to be careful in as we made our way North.”

It wasn’t until they got to Ohio that his uncle relaxed.  They arrive in Buffalo 17 hours later and John was amazed to see white and black people living next door to each other. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMARTHA REDBONE-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135/154 (January 13, 2021).

Martha RedboneGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The fourth artist of the third night is Afro-indigenous appalachian performer Martha Redbone.

Martha Redbone performs her Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST performance from her home studio in Brooklyn’s Navy Yards. Native and African-American singer-songwriter Martha Redbone is known for her mix of folk, blues and gospel from her childhood in Harlan County, Ky., which she infuses with the eclectic grit of pre-gentrified Brooklyn. Inheriting the powerful vocal range of her gospel-singing African-American father and the resilient spirit of her mother’s Cherokee, Shawnee and Choctaw culture, Redbone broadens the boundaries of American Roots music.

“The Garden of Love” starts with Martha playing percussion sounds.  Keyboardist Aaron Whitby is playing some backing chords while guitarist marvin Sewell is playing some interesting slide guitar sounds.   Martha sings in a very traditional style.  Then the song starts proper with an old sounding blues riff and the song feels old and gospel-like.

She tells us her inspiration is the Appalachian mountains where she grew up–rattles, soul music, the blues.

“Talk About It” is a prayer for stronger communication around the world.  It’s a more conventional sounding soul song, with heavy keyboards and Redbone’s vocals taking the fore.

“Underdog” is a very pretty ballad with slide guitar sounds and gentle keys.  But it’s all about her gorgeous voice.

[READ: March 1, 2021] Kindred [prelude-the fall]

I’m always happy to start a new group read with the fine folks at Infinite Zombies. Normally we read big books by white men.  So this time it was decided to pick a different kind of author.

I was pretty pleased to see that Octavia E. Butler would be the new reading choice.  I had only recently heard of her and had recently read Mind of My Mind, which I really liked.  So it was a great opportunity to read more from her.

Kindred is Butler’s most famous book.  I was looking forward to reading something different from Mind (although I do intend to read the rest of that series).

I didn’t know what this book was about.  The cover of this book gives absolutely no indication is what’s going inside.  In fact, it looked pretty much exactly like what is not happening in this book.

I was blown away by the first sections of this book.  Butler’s style is not fancy and I found this direct writing to be really effective at conveying what is going on.

Butler basically puts a horrifying slave narrative into a science fiction story.

It starts very abruptly with the prologue.  The narrator, Dana says that she lost her arm on her last trip home.  The police question her husband Kevin but she assures them it is not his fault.

Then the story resumes with The River.  It flashes back to when this all started–June 9, 1976.

In The River, Dana and Kevin are unpacking books in their new California home when suddenly Dana feels dizzy.  She is pulled through space into a river where a young red-haired boy is drowning.  Dana thinks quickly and stomps into the river to rescue the him.  She even does some mouth to mouth

The boy’s mother starts blaming Dana for what’s happening even while she is trying to resuscitate the woman’s son.  Dana succeeds and just as the boy, whose name is Rufus comes to, his father holds a shotgun at Dana’s head.  What is the black woman (who is dressed like a man) doing with her mouth on his son?

Rufus’s father is Southern and they seem very, very old-fashioned.  But just as Dana fear the worst from the shotgun, she flies back to her bedroom.  She is covered in mud and soaking wet, but Kevin says she was gone maybe ten seconds.  He has a hard time believing her (who wouldn’t) despite the proof of the mud on her clothes.

What in the hell just happened? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-3rd Annual Green Sprouts Music Week Night 5 (Ultrasound Showbar, Toronto Ontario September 20 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.  Like this full week of shows from the Third Green Sprouts Music Week.

Fifth night of the third annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar September 18-23 1995. The first song is Tim Vesely performing a rap he wrote along with Farm Fresh and Rheos and then perfected the following night. If you ever listened to or attended all the shows of a GSMW run you know how the band kind of builds through the week and really hits a stride a few shows in – this is one of those types of shows. Interesting to hear how even within single songs they were working on the transformation from night to night as they worked them out in front of a crowd – Desert Island Poem aka Drumheller is a great example. Song Of Flight/California Dreamiline/Digital Beach/Earth is a particularly great run from this show. Don sings Never Forget for the second time and also second time ever singing lead at a live show. Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine features Tamara Williamson who co-wrote the song. All in all a great show. It is funny looking back at shows that have the impression of classic setlists but in fact half of the songs had not even been recorded yet and were pretty unfamiliar to fans.

This recording opens with a freestyle rap from Farm Fresh.  I’m assuming that’s Tim on bass, and maybe someone else joining them?

Farm Fresh (Tyler, Pat and Ronnie) does “Space Song” and then Tim does a great story-rap about touring and listening to the Farm Fresh cassette and really loving it.  is tim playing bass with them

Then Farm Fresh does some more rapping and when they leave someone (Don?) says that seriously they fought over the Farm Fresh tape–which van would get to listen to it.

When everyone leaves there’s some weird swirling music that lingers while martin starts “A Mid-Winter Night’s Dream.”  He can’t reach the high note at the end–his voice kind of craps out but it’s still good.  The jam at the end makes up for it.

There’s a raw “Feed Yourself.”  Dave has changed “like a box of chocolates or a Beatles song” to “like Preston Sturges or a Beatles song.”  But they get the crashing end part perfect.

Tim’s “All the Same Eyes” has some fun harmonics on the second guitar.

Dave says: Friday night is rock night.  Each night is a like a snowflake–each one is unique.  Like, Martin’s guitar did not break down last night during that song.  And the new songs we have not yet worked out our dance moves yet.  Donny was playing the lower drums with his hands and the hi-hat with his feet.
Tim: and the crash cymbals with his teeth.
Dave: I aspire to have all gold teeth like Sticky Thompson in Ziggy Marley’s group.

They begin “Aliens” which I thought would make everyone pretty excited.  But there’s a lot of chatter.  At the end, Dave says, “that was nearly my chance to grab the brass ring of lead guitar.”

There’s a screaming person in the crowd again and Dave says, “nice scream. We hear you.”

There’s a long tech delay so they do “My First Rock Concert.”  Dave asks, “Does everyone know who ELO was?”  When it’s done Martin says that was the mystery song.  We’ve never rehearsed it, we just let it develop live.  Dave then talks about the five flash pots and asks if the guy from the Yardbirds died when a flash pot blew up in his face.  Or is that like the pop rocks guy story.  Someone shouts Same guy!

Dave asks, Martin, if we play “Four Little Songs” will that cheer you up?  It will.  During Dave’s part he asks, “who votes for a guitar solo?”  The 4321 at the end is perfect and at the end (“now they’re gone”) he asks several people if “you took them?”

The noisy crowd continues to irritate.  Dave wishes there was a button you could use to highlight something or other and then Don says, a button to eject screaming fan.  Or let them live?  Someone shouts “make them buy beer.”  Then as Tim starts the next quiet song someone shouts “shut the fuck up!”

Tim get a few songs now.  “Connecting Flights” and “An Offer” (It’s only the third time we’ve played this, so be gentle).  The falsetto seems a bit of a struggle.

Then comes Don’s song, “Never Forget.” Dave asks if he ever sang in his old new wave band.  Only backing vocals.  “Last night was the first time I was completely naked in front of the people.”  So Dave introduces: Second time for the Don Kerr Band.

Dave invites Tyler from Farm Fresh on stage, but they are doing an interview.  They play “Drumheller” (or “Desert Island Poem” as it’s also called).  Drumheller’s a weird place man.  We had great Greek food there once and terrible Greek food in the same restaurant.

As Martin plays a gorgeous “Song of Flight” he makes cool whale sounds.  (Whales lived in Canada once).  It segues into a lovely “California Dreamline” and then into “Digital Beach” and then into a wild “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”  It’s, as Darrin says a great sixteen minutes.

Someone asks if “Earth” is about Dave’s family.  Bidinis were the first humans.

Someone shouts “Winnie Cooper.”  Dave: “The Wonder Years? I don’t follow.   Lets meet outback later and talk about it.”

A ripping “Queer” come next with a “riff so nice, play it twice.”  Dave messes up some words (which hardly ever happens).  There’s a jam of the intro to “King of the Past” but no vocals.  Did Tim just not want to play it?

Tamara from Mrs. Torrance is invited up, and while Dave is talking he says to someone “Hey don’t fuck with me” (!) [What happened?]  Dave: I wish we wouldn’t swear as much, but we don’t swear as much as the guys in Farm Fresh do.

Tamara wrote the chorus to “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  The two of them singing this together gives me goose bumps. Martin says: “That song was for Winnie Cooper.”  Dave: How do you know about The Wonder Years?  Martin: “Late at night, lonely, kind of lukewarm depressed.”

Dave: Was she like the Miss Beedle? [from Little House on the Prairie].  Martin: No, she’s like Jan.

Up next is “Fat” with a great jam at the end.  Martin says “You hurt me with your rocking.”  And then proceeds to rock out a cover of jane Siberry “One more Colour.”

The recording cuts off after about a minute of “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson,” so who knows what else happened on this Friday night. 

[READ: February 12, 2020] Ready Player Two 

I really enjoyed Ready Player One quite a lot.  It was certainly one of my favorite books of the year.  I didn’t know there was supposed to be a sequel, but when I heard about it, I imagined it might be a lot of fun.

And while the book is largely the same in structure, the tone of it was really disappointing to me.

Set several years after the events of the first book, Wade (Parzival) and his helpers Aech, Daito, and Art3mis are all in charge of the empire that controls the OASIS.  They have bought out their competition and are basically a giant monopoly.  They are the only company making legit equipment to access the OASIS and each of them multi-billionaires.

They do a lot of philanthropic activities, especially when it comes to giving poorer people access to the OASIS.  And each one of them his his and her own pet causes to which they donate millions of dollars.  But primarily they (or at least Wade) is taking care of himself.  His house is palatial and costs billions of dollars.  He has made everything fit his heart’s (nerdy) and he wants for nothing.  Much of his money and energy is spent on building security measures for himself. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: THE REDNECK MANIFESTO-The How (2018).

Despite a terrible name that would keep me away from wanting to see them, The Redneck Manifesto are a very interesting and complicated band.  I discovered them through the book of Irish drummers.  TRM drummer Mervyn Craig is in the book.

The How is the band’s fifth album (and first in eight years).  The album is chock full of instrumentals that touch all genres of music.

There are jazzy elements, dancey elements and rock elements.  There are solos (but never long solos) and jamming sections.  Most of the songs are around 4 minutes long with a couple running a little longer.

“Djin Chin” has jangly chords and quiet riffs that switch to a muted melody.  All the while the bass is loping around.  It shifts tempos three times in the first two minutes.  Around three minutes the bass takes over the lead instrument pushing the song along with deep notes.

“The Rainbow Men” has a circular kind of riff with swirling effects that launch the song during the musical pauses.  After a minute and a half it drastically shifts direction and the adds in a cool solo.

“Sip Don’t Gulp” starts with a catchy bouncy guitar riff and bass lines.  At two minutes it too shifts gears to a staggered riff that sounds great.

“Kobo” is the shortest song and seems to tell a melodic story.  The two guitars play short, fast rhythms as call and response while the bass rumbles along.

“Head Full of Gold” is over 6 minutes with a thumping bass, rumbling drums and soft synths.  “No One” is nearly 7 minutes and feels conventionally catchy until you try to keep up with the beats.  After a middle series of washes from various instruments, the back half is a synthy almost dancey rhythm.

“Sweep” is a pretty song until the half-way mark when it just takes off in a fury of fast drumming and complex chords.  The end builds in upward riding notes until it hits a calming ending

“We Pigment” is a poppy staccato dancey number.  The second half turns martial with a series of four beat drum patterns and a soaring guitar solo.  More staccato runs through to the end.  “The Underneath Sun” also has a lot of staccato–fast guitar notes interspersed with bigger chords.  The end of the song is just littered with sweeping guitar slides until the thumping conclusion.

This album is great and I’m looking forward to exploring their other releases.

[READ: January 10, 2021] A History of Ireland in 100 Words

This book looks at old Irish words–how they’ve evolved and how they show the way Irish history came about.  The authors say:

our store of words says something fundamental about us and how we think.  This book is meant to provide insights into moments of life that may be otherwise absent from history books.  The focus is on Gaelic Ireland throughout as Gaelic was the native language of the majority of the inhabitants of the island for the last 2000 years. It yielded its primacy to English only in the last 150 years.

We selected words with the aim of illustrating each of our themes as broadly as possible.  We wanted the words in all their richness to tell their story … like how the word that originally meant noble came to mean cheaper (saor).

Almost all of the entries reference The cattle raid of Cooley (The Ulster Cycle) which features the hero Cú Chulainn.  This story is at the heart of most of historical Ireland and it’s pretty fascinating how many of these Gaelic words either originate with that story or get their foundation from the story.

There’s a general pronunciation guide although I wish each word had a phonetic guide because anyone who speaks English will look at Irish a if it is just a jumble of nonsensical consonants.

The book is broken down into sections, although the authors insist that there is no correct way to read the book.

  • Writing and Literature
  • Technology and Science
  • Food and Feasting
  • The Body
  • Social Circles
  • Other Worlds
  • War and Politics
  • A Sense of Place
  • Coming and Going
  • Health and Happiness
  • Trade and Status
  • Entertainment and Sport
  • The Last Word

There are also delightfully weird wood carving-like drawings from by Joe McLaren scattered throughout the book.

The words are listed below with either a definition or an interesting anecdote included. (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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