Archive for the ‘Theater’ 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: 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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SOUNDTRACK: ADAM SCHLESINGER (October 31, 1967 – April 1, 2020).

Adam Schlesinger was best known as the co-founder of Fountains of Wayne.  I always appreciated the band because I was familiar withe the store Fountains of Wayne (in Wayne, NJ).  But I was never a big fan of the band.

They wrote indie pop songs, which were not really my thing in the late 90s (although I did really enjoy “Radiation Vibe”).

Ironically, Schlesinger was pretty much simultaneously involved with a band that I really did like called Ivy.  I liked Ivy a lot primarily for the vocals of Dominique Durand and had no idea that Schlesinger was involved.

Since then I have really come to appreciate Schlesinger’s songwriting (he’s written amazingly catchy songs for just about everyone).

The Coronavirus is devastating the world and Schlesinger’s death from it just amplifies the unfairness of this deadly virus.  That a man who made people happy with his melodies should be killed by it while people who are causing direct harm are not even infected by it just seems to show where we are in the world.

[READ: April 1, 2020] “Inside Tove Jansson’s Private Universe”

I’m a fan of the Moomin Universe and I know a bit about Tove Jansson.  I also know that her brother Lars (she called him Lasse) took over doing the Moomins at some point because she had burnt out.  She died in 2011 at age 86.

This essay is more or less a book review of a new collection of Jansson’s correspondence called Letters from Tove, which I might consider reading.

I did not know that Jansson wrote short stories. Her short story “Messages” is composed of snippets of letters she received: “Last time you didn’t make a happy ending.  Why do you do this?  We look forward to your valued reply soonest concerning Moomin motifs on toilet paper in pastel shades.”

It’s easy to see how forty years of these letters would be wearying. (more…)

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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: October 26, 2019] MST3K Live

I didn’t realize it was exactly one year ago that I went to the previous MST3K Live experience.  How funny.

I have enjoyed both of the two previous MST3K Live shows quite a bit.  So when it was announced that they were going to do it again and this time it was going to be in New Brunswick instead of Glenside, PA, I got tickets right away (and wound up in the third row).  I only wish I had picked the other side of the stage, because Joel and the bots did their movie watching from over there.

I have been very lucky to have gotten two movies each time I’ve seen the performance.  It seem like a lot of locations get only one movie.  I’m not sure why I’ve been so fortunate.  (And State Theatre offered a discount if you bought seats for both movies!).

Last time the riffing was done by Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray as well as many of the actors from the show.

This time things were very different.

Jonah Ray was not there.  Nor was Rebecca Hanson as Synthia Forrester.  And of course, no Felicia Day nor Patton Oswalt (not even on video).

But the big announcement was that this was going to be Joel Hodgson’s last MST3K Live tour.  I don’t know if that means there will be more, or if this is the end of them entirely. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: 47SOUL-Tiny Desk Concert #884 (August 26, 2019).

I had never heard of 47Soul and, surprisingly, the blurb doesn’t give any real background about the band.  So I had to turn to Wikipedia.

47Soul is a Jordanian Palestinian electronic music group.  The band’s first album, Shamstep, was released in 2015 and they are one of the main forces behind the Shamstep electronic dance music movement in the Middle East.

So what the heck is Shamstep?

Shamstep is based on mijwiz (a levantine folk musical style) and electronic dance.  ‘Sham’ refers to the local region of “Bilad al-Sham”, and ‘step’ refers to dubstep. The band’s music is also associated with the traditional dance called Dabke.

So, that’s a lot to take in, especially if you don’t know what half of those words mean.

The blurb does help a little bit more:

Shamstep is the creation of 47SOUL. At its heart is Arab roots music laced with dub, reggae and electronic dance music, including dubstep. It’s positive-force music with freedom, celebration and hope for the people of the Sham region (Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria).

47SOUL play three songs and their instrumentation is pretty fascinating.  Three of the guys sing.  They also play bass drum (Walaa Sbeit); darbuka– a small hand drum (Tareq Abu Kwaik); guitar (Hamza Arnaout) and synthesizers (Ramzy Suleiman).

So what do they sound like?

Well, the first song “Mo Light” opens with some very synthesized “traditional” Middle Eastern music.  It sounds like an electronic version of traditional instrumentation.  The guitar comes in with a sound that alternates between heavy metal riffage and reggae stabs.  The three singers take turns singing.  Walaa Sbeit is up first singing in Arabic.  Then there’s a middle section sung by Tareq Abu Kwaik who is playing the darbuka and an electronic drum pad.  His voice is a bit rougher (the Arabic is quite guttural).  Meanwhile Ramzy Suleiman adds backing vocals and seems to sing loudest in English.

For the next song, Tareq Abu Kwaik does the narration while introducing Walaa Sbeit:

“Is it ok if I do a little dance on your desk?” asked 47SOUL singer and percussionist Walaa Sbeit on first seeing the Tiny Desk. I thought a minute, went under the desk, tightened the bolts, stuck some splints of wood under a few of the uneven legs and (feeling reassured) gave him the nod. It would be our first traditional Middle Eastern Dabke dancing atop the Tiny Desk and the first sounds of Shamstep (a kind of electronic dance music) behind it.

The dancing involves a shocking amount of deep knee bends!

“Don’t Care Where You From” opens with a cool synth rhythm and then sung in English.  It’s fun watching Walaa Sbeit walk around with the bass drum slung over his shoulder as he does some dancing while playing.  The song is one of inclusion

Well you might be from Philly (?) or Tripoli / from the mountains or from the sea
maybe got the key to the city / don’t mean anything to me.

They don’t care where you’re from, it’s where you are that counts.

47SOUL’s message of equality, heard here at the Tiny Desk (and on the group’s current album, Balfron Promise) is meant for all the world. This is music without borders, mixing old and new, acoustic and electronic from a band formed in Amman Jordan, singing in Arabic and English. It’s one big, positive and poignant party.

It segues into “Jerusalem” with the controversial-sounding lyric: “Jerusalem is a prison of philosophy and religion.”  The middle of the song had an Arabic rap which sounds more gangster than any gangster rap.  The end of the song is an electronic dance as everybody gets into it–clapping along and banging on drums.

It’s pretty great. I hope they tour around here, I’d love to see them live.

[READ: August 27, 2019] Submarine

I saw this book on the shelf and was attracted by its busy cover.  I also thought the authors name sounded familiar.   And so it was.  I have read some of Dunthorne’s poems in Five Dials magazines.

This was his first novel.  And it sounded unusual.  The back cover had this excerpt:

I used to write questionnaires for my parents. I wanted to get to know them better.  I asked things like:

What hereditary illnesses am I likely to inherit?
What money and land am I likely to inherit?

Multiple choice:
If you child was adopted at what aged would you choose to tell him about his real mother?
a) 4-8
B) 9-14
C) 15-18

Dunthorne is from Wales, which made this story a little exotic as well.  It is set in Swansea, by the sea (where people surf!) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IMOGEN HEAP-Tiny Desk Concert #859 (June 20, 2019).

I know of Imogen Heap from a song called “Come Here Boy” that she released way back in 1998.  It was stark and dramatic and somewhat sexual. In short, a quintessential 90s track.

Then she disappeared.

Well, she actually made an album with Guy Sigsworth as Frou Frou.  And then she disappeared a again.

Actually she didn’t disappear at all. She released a song, “Hide and Seek” which was mostly just her singing into a vocoder (and was quite transfixing.  It became a huge hit (which I didn’t know about because I didn’t watch The O.C.).

But in 2011, she started experimenting with these high tech gloves that allowed her to do all kinds of audio manipulation just by moving her hands.

She even says, some people know me because I am interested in block chain technology and some people know me for these gloves.  They don’t even know I make music they just know about the gloves.

But in this Concert, the gloves come last.

Up first is the first song that she and Guy Sigsworth have written together in 17 years.  “Guitar Song” (she tends to leave placeholder names, so that will likely change) is a quiet pretty song with a lot of, yes, guitar from Steve Jones.  It’s a simple melody fleshed out with keys from Sigsworth.  It’s really pretty and very catchy.

Up next is “Speeding Cars” which she says was a B-side that was never released as a single but which her fans really love.  Zoë Keating plays cello and Imogen says she has a terrific album of her own called Snowmelt and she hopes Keating gets her own Tiny Desk someday.  Tim Keiper is on drums and vast array of percussion.  Imogen is on the piano she has an excellent falsetto for this very pretty song.

Then she puts on the Mi.Mu gloves.

Imogen Heap not only has an enchanting voice but also the talents of a world-class audio engineer. She’s completely engrossed in a technology she’s helped to develop, one that makes it possible to alter sounds, create loops and compose tunes all with the wave of her glove-wearing hands. The high-tech gloves, now called Mi.Mu Gloves, were first shown at a TEDGlobal conference eight years ago. Her performances, with her sound-altering arm and hand gestures, resemble a summoning of spirits, a far more compelling live experience than what Imogen said used to look like she was standing behind her laptop checking email.

She gives a lengthy explanation and brief demonstration of these very cool loves.  Then it’s on to “Hide and Seek,” which she had re-imagined for the Broadway play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and which she says that if she doesn’t play people throw tomatoes at her.

It really sounds nothing like the original but it is amazing to watch her make the song with her hands waving around.

[READ: June 1, 2019] “The Maid’s Story”

This story introduces us to the Gersons, a family on vacation in a hotel. The husband is small and insignificant. But the wife is larger than life.  Both physically and in personality.

Hannah Kohl, the maid, was taken with Mr Gerson’s red brooch and when she went to clean the room later, she pocketed it.  As she did so, she promised herself it would be the last thing she ever took from a patron.

But Mrs Gershon walked in before the maid had time to close the jewelry box.  She told her it was costume and worth nothing but how could the maid have thought Mrs Gerson wouldn’t notice?

The maid is very apologetic.  She begs not to be ratted out and pleads with the woman.  She says her eight-year-old son has polio (“So did our president, but Eleanor doesn’t go around stealing jewelry).

Mrs Gerson asks where Hannah is from–Wroclaw Poland.  In the camp? No, her father moved them before.  And the hotel owner’s second cousin helped them.  Then Hannah did something unexpected–she opened up to Mrs Gerson about her travels and her life.

Mrs Gerson diagnosed her as a kleptomaniac (she compulsively stile things she didn’t need).  But she was mostly concerned about the boy, Isaac.  She insisted that he receive proper care for his polio  The doctor Hannah’d been going to was an elder in the old country synagogue who showed no evidence that he knew anything about medicine  He said the polio would clear up and go away on its own.

The new doctor was in Manhattan, a lengthy trip for Hannah and Isaac.  Mrs Gerson said they could stay with her family when they traveled in.

The doctor gave many recommendations and said that Mrs Gerson was paying for it all.

The Gerson children were uninterested in Isaac until he told them a story about people dying at the hotel.  They found his story (which was partly made up) to be engrossing.

After dinner Mr Gerson excused himself and left the two women to talk.  Mrs Gerson pulled Hannah on to her lap  She soothed her and stroked her head but soon the stroking became sexual.  This made Hannah very uncomfortable and she froze, enduring the touches which gave her revulsed pleasure.

Hannah and Issac went to Manhattan twice a month.  Each time, the same thing happened.  Mrs Gerson never said anything about it, but it happened nonetheless. It was especially upsetting because Hannah very much liked Mrs Gerson otherwise. She was funny and bold and seemed genuinely interested in their health and prosperity.  And Hannah would put p with anything for Isaac;s welfare.

Soon, Issac was deemed just about normal;–one more visit would do it.

One night, Mrs Gerson revealed that all of their money was her husband’s–her family is as poor as Hannah’s. Nobody least of all Mrs Gerson really understood why Bert chose her.  Plus, he always knew that Mrs Gerson liked girls better.

Bert wants things to be easy.  So Mrs Gerson does everything—raises the kids, takes care of family affairs.

The thing with wives is they can leave. Mothers can’t.

Finally Mrs Gerson declared that she loved Hannah.

Hannah grabbed her things and Isaac and left.

When Hannah returned to the hotel, she was called to the office and informed that a guest said that Hannah had stolen from them.  They had to let her go.

What could Hannah possibly do?


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[ATTENDED: June 11, 2019] Baroness

Baroness is, for the most part, the work of John Baizley.  There are others in the band, but there hasn’t really been any consecutive albums with the same lineup.  I first heard of John Baizley on March 10, 2017 when he was brought out as as special guest at a Strand of Oaks concert.

I thought Baizley was great at that show and I really liked his voice.  So I investigated and I discovered the wonder that is the prog metal of Baroness.  Baizley writes beautiful passages and tacks them onto brutally heavy metal.  His voice is a rich baritone and it all works perfectly.  I later found out that all of the art is done by him and that he has crafted some amazing heavy metal covers as well (here’s his art site).

In 2017, Baroness was between albums (their previous one came out in 2015, their new one is coming out in a couple of days).  But I listened to his older records and really liked them a lot.

They have recently toured for this new album, but the two shows they played near me were not ones I wanted to see.  In April they played the Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest which sounded like a terrible thing to go to, quite frankly (even if they were the headliners) –7 bands and all that beer, no thanks.  A few days earlier they were playing Starland Ballroom with Deafheaven.  A double bill I would have liked to see, but I was already seeing Voivod that night.

They announced a tour of the rest of the lands and I was a little bummed.  But then they announced this little acoustic tour to coincide with their new album.  I was planning on getting the album anyway, so to travel to Fords to get that record and to have Baroness play an acoustic show was a no brainer. (more…)

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I saw that Kelsey Lu was playing NonCOMM this year.  I had never heard of her, but her record was getting some high praise.  Then as I was going through some older Harper’s things, I saw this story by Pamela Lu.  I quickly thought it might be the same person.  Then I double checked and of course they are different, they just have the same last name.

Kelsey Lu is a classically trained cellist and has become one of many classical performers who have migrated into the pop world.  She is certainly underplaying her chops on the record, going more for melody than virtuosity.

This piece opens with a pizzicato cello (looped I assume).  It is overlaid with a mournful melody before Kelsey sings in her quiet but affecting voice.

The song is just over three and a half minutes and it slowly builds with more and more organic sounds–strings and voices.  By the half way point, there’s echo and by the three minute mark, this quiet, almost chamber pop song has built into a full-sounding piece which just as quickly drops nearly all the music as two cellos fade the song to the end.

It’s an astonishingly pretty and subtle song to start an album that has production credits from Skrillex (on a different song).

[READ: April 24, 2019] “Ambient Parking Lot”

I started reading this excerpt and thought it might have had something to do withe The Flaming Lips’ Parking Lot Experiments:

During 1996 and 1997, The Flaming Lips ran a series of events known as “The Parking Lot Experiments”. The concept was inspired by an incident in Coyne’s youth, where he noticed that car radios in the parking lot at a concert were playing the same songs at the same time, Wayne Coyne created 40 cassette tapes to be played in synchronization. The band invited people to bring their cars to parking lots, where they would be given one of the tapes and then instructed when to start them. The music was “a strange, fluid 20 minute sound composition.”  [from Wikipedia]

I’ll assume there is some kernel of something, maybe, that inspired this, frankly, disappointing piece.

It begins by talking about the recording of “Ambient Parking #25.”

With just a little filtering, the empty landscape managed to express its industrially generated solipsism and came to overshadow even the engine gunning and trunk popping of SUVs.

The seven inch vinyl was released two weeks later on an indie label.

It was a huge success compared to attempts 1-24 and inspired them to make a full album. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Corel Centre, Ottawa, ON (November 29, 1996).

This is the 15th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.  The site has recently added a DAT version of the show in conjunction with the existing fan-recorded version.

It opens in a very amusing way.  I imagine that Dave and Martin are lying on the stage, because Dave asks, “Martin can you sleep?”
Martin: “No, I can’t sleep.  I’ve smoked about three cigarettes.”
Dave “I had this weird dream we were playing in a giant arena named after a software company, opening for Ringo’s All Stars.  It felt really weird.”
Tim starts playing the bass.
Daev: “Might as well just get up.”
Martin: “That’s either a nightmare or a fantastic dream.”
Then they loop saying “Let’s see what Tim and Don are up to.”

Dave breaks character and says, “The comedy is free tonight.”  Which leads to a rocking “Fat” followed by a nice surprise of “Aliens.”  Martin sings, “they came down in 1996.”

Then comes a grooving “Dope Fiends.”  I love that in these 1996 shows the middle part is a cool jam.  It makes the loud ending even more powerful.  And as the song fades it segues nicely into “Digital Beach.”  They start “Claire” before Martin is done and Martin sings a few more “beautiful things” before they start “Claire” properly.

Dave says that they are the Rheostatics from Etobicoke.  They’ve been around for 17 years and it’s a privilege to share the stage with The Hip and uh… we like you.  We have a new record out called The Blue Hysteria.  Sixteen songs, one of them is secret, so really only 15 and this next song is from that.”

Dave keeps talking about the record–it’s in quad sound while someone starts playing “Bad Time to Be Poor.”

Dave thanks the Green Sprouts who are here tonight–we have an address on the back of our CD and if you write us, we will write you back.  We promise.

Dave asks, Is anybody here form Italy tonight (massive cheers).
Martin: Oh my god, it must be empty over there.
This next song (a rocking “Motorino”)  is about being over there and wanting to be home.  It’s a great version that segues into a terrific “Feed Yourself.”  Boy I hope the next time I See them, they play “Feed Yourself.”

[READ: February 2019] Lawn Boy

Yup, I grabbed this book because of the Phish song/album.

Nope, it has nothing to do with the band at all.

Yup, I still enjoyed it quite a lot.

This is the story of Mike Muñoz.  He is basically stuck.  He absolutely loves landscaping–it is his passion.  He wants to sculpt topiary and be a recognized artist.  But he is stuck doing menial landscaping jobs–ones that often involves picking up dog poo more than beautifying plants.

Mike’s father abandoned him a long time ago, when Mike was 11.  When Mike was five, he took Mike to Disneyland.  Disneyland turned out to be an abandoned building site.  He told Mike “I guess they moved.”

There have been many stepfathers since then, but now his mom is pretty much done with all that. She works double shifts as a waitress in a bar (Mike tries to not go there).  Mike lives at home with her and his mentally handicapped brother.  He basically hasn’t matured past a child and has an impulse control and gets upset very easily.   He is also bigger than Mike–by a lot–so even though Mike does a good job watching him, its not easy. (more…)

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