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Archive for the ‘Universities’ Category

SOUNDTRACKDEDICATED MEN OF ZION-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #133 /138(January 11, 2021).

Dedicated Men Of ZionGlobalFEST 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 band on the first night are the Dedicated Men of Zion from North Carolina.

Dedicated Men of Zion come to you from their backyard barbecue in North Carolina, bringing with them an electrified version of sacred Gospel soul music. This family band (all related through blood or marriage) has been isolating together during the pandemic, and the members are excited to provide an uplifting note during difficult times.

They sing three songs in front of an amazing looking barbeque in Dex’s backyard.  The first, “Father, Guide Me, Teach Me” is a rocking gospel song.  There’s a great old-fashioned organ sound from Aaron Adams.  The four men sing.  Anthony “Amp” Daniels sings lead, Dexter Weaver [his nephew-in-law], Antwan “Ace” Daniels [his son], and Marcus Sugg [his son-in-law] sing great backing vocals.  There’s a fun jam at the end.

“Can’t Turn Me Around” opens with Mark Richardson playing a simple blues riff on the guitar. Then Jerry Harrison joins in on bass.  Amp is full on power singing through it.  He sounds great.

For “It’s A Shame,” Ace takes over lead vocals.  He has a good voice, but not nearly as commanding as his father.  Drums throughout are provided by Amp’s little brother Jaheim Daniels.

They sound great, but honestly I kept thinking about that barbeque.

[READ: January 2, 2021]

Despite the boring title I was really intrigued by this story.  The cover is tshirtking and the blurb was really intense-sounding.

So, I was really fascinated that the fundamental basis of the story the #FeesMustFall Rally was real: #FeesMustFall was a student-led protest movement that began in mid-October 2015 in South Africa.  Much of the story is grounded in the reality and danger of this movement.

The story takes place over the course of a week and each chapter is told from one of six character’s person’s point of view.

Hector, a student protester is looking to get everyone riled up about the cost of education in Cape Town.

Noné, South Africa’s president is not ready to deal with this interruption because she has a big public event coming up–an extraordinary zoo.  Noné was once a student protestor herself but she has since become The System.  She can’t trust anyone because everyone is out to get her.  The only reliable face she knows is Alice.  Alice is young an beautiful and while Noné knows that Alice probably wants her job (and is undoubtedly prettier than she is), at this point Alice is a perfect assistant and only makes Noné look better.

Thuli is a student and friend of Hector.  She has been “glitching” where she can see seven days in the future.  She knows that Hector’s life is in danger.  She has to try to convince reporter Helen that what she’s saying is true. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKSOFIA REI-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #133/140 (January 11, 2021).

Sofia ReiGlobalFEST 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 third band on the first night is Sofia Rei.  Rei is

an award-winning Argentine vocalist and songwriter [who] blends South American folk traditions with experimental pop and electronic music. That mix of tradition and modernity extends to her surroundings, which features traditional iconography, exuberant plants and looping pedals.

Rei plays three songs.  “Un Mismo Cielo” (The Same Sky) opens with her looping her voice.  Big electronic drums are added and then JC Maillard is messing around with their electronics to create interesting sounds and textures.   After a quiet introduction, Jorge Glem adds lovely cuatro and Leo Genovese plays a trippy electronic flute-sounding keyboard solo.  I enjoy watching Maillard playing the electronic melodies on the keys and then the quick switch to bass guitar for a funky riff.

“Negro Sobre Blanco” (Black On White) is about putting things into perspective.  Rei picks up the charango as the drums echo in.  The charango plays a delightful echoing melody.  Ana Carmela Rodriguez Contramaestre sings backing vocals and platys percussion.  The middle jam with some wild electronics then Maillard picks up guitar a plays kind of spaghetti western melody.  Then the song returns to the original melody with an even fuller sound.

Saving the best for last, Jorge Glem takes an amazing solo on the cuatro.  His hands move so fast and he simultaneously plays high chords along with percussive strumming.  At the end of the solo he does so fascinating strumming with his fingernails to make a trippy psychedelic sound.  It’s phenomenal.

The set ends with “Escarabajo Digital” (Digital Beetle), a fun dancing song.  The juxtaposition of the fast cuatro with the grooving bassline is fantastic.

I enjoyed this set a lot and want to hear more from her (and Glem who has several of his own albums out).

[READ: January 11, 2021] Okay, Okay, Okay

This story is set around Adamastor University in South Africa.  The focus is on Simon, a former teacher (now an administrator) and his family.  Also his assistant Viwe (and his family).  There’s also Vida, a sound technician for live theater.  She is unrelated to them but she gets pulled into their drama.

The story initially seems to be about how Simon (the “Head of Effective Communication”) is desperately hoping to get promoted into a more plum position. He is currently in a very good position financially, although his former colleagues feel like he threw his soul away when he became an admin.  But the story grows bigger–tackling University policies as well as racism and sexism in South Africa.

But the book opens on Vida. Vida is a sound engineer.  She is familiar with University politics because she has been to a few of Professor Bruno Viljoen’s academic parties.  Viljoen is head of the drama department and invited Vida along because she has done sound work for them.

The one thing I didn’t care for in this book was some of the younger characters occasional throwing in text speak (WTF, LOL).  While those are certainly things people of that age might say (although Vida is in her 40s), it was jarring to see text speak in a character’s thought process:

A dinner party full of academics: WTF, she’d had more fun driving her car around with nowhere to go.

Why not write it out?  It just seemed odd.

Aside from that, Vida is a wonderful character–no nonsense, takes no crap from anyone.  She loves sound and is great at her job.  She also has two dogs and two cats and she is crazy about them.  There’s at least five times when she speaks her mind and it’s terrific.

Cecily is Simon’s daughter.  She is currently taking a class with Boris. He is, everyone agrees, a silver fox.  Even younger girls swoon for him.  But Cecily has known him since she was little and she’s not impressed.

As this class opens, Boris is encouraging them to dig into their past to present a monologue.

Half the people in this class probably have slave ancestry.  That blood flows in your veins.  You are slaves.

Immediately a student raises her hand:

I just want to say that it gives me offense when you, a settler, say that I, whose ancestors are buried here, am a slave.  “Slave” implies that a person is not a person–not a mother, a lover, a human being.

After class Bruno asks Cecily what that was all about.  She says that students are very sensitive these days so just mind what he says.  He then offers to set her up with his nephew–a rather handsome fellow who looks like “a Puerto Rican Ken doll.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LENNY KRAVITZ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #52 (July 20, 2020).

Few people are as cool as Lenny Kravitz.  Look at how amazing this room in the Bahamas looks.  Listen to how good his voice sounds (both when he’s singing and when he’s speaking).  When he speaks between songs he sounds otherworldly.

This Brooklyn-raised bohemian rock icon brings us to his home and tropical paradise in Eleuthera in the Bahamas for this visually alluring Tiny Desk (home) concert.

The set begins with the wonderful “Thinking Of You.”  The guitar sound(s) of this song are just amazing. Between Craig Ross’s acoustic echoing notes and Lenny’s strums the room fills with warm echoing guitars.  Midway through the song Bahamian native Yianni Giannakopoulos plays a chill lead guitar with expressive wah wah.  I hadn’t heard this song before, and it’s really terrific.

After wrapping an evocative rendition of “Thinking of You,” a touching song he penned in 1998 about his late mother, Lenny Kravitz imparts what’s really weighing on him during this historic time. “In the midst of all that’s transpiring on our planet right now,” he says, “it’s a blessed time for introspection, more importantly action. … What side of history are you standing on?”

For “What Did I Do With My Life?”, Lenny and Craig step outside (under palm trees) to play this questioning ballad.  Ross gets a really good electric guitar sound out of his acoustic guitar.  Over the course of the song as Lenny asks the title question, it grows more intense with him searching for an answer.

And it’s only fitting that he ended with “We Can Get It All Together,” a message about the power of unity and oneness.

For this final song, all three players are back, this time in front of an expansive (stormy?) sky. Once again Craig’s acoustic guitar sounds huge.  And this time Yianni’s electric guitar has a Middle Eastern twang to it.

I often forget how much I like Lenny’s music.  This was a great reminder.

[READ: July 20, 2020] How to be an Antiracist 

This book has been on the top of everyone’s recommended lists for being proactive about understanding systemic racism.

There’s a lot of reasons people might have for not reading this book.  I’m not talking about people who are racist and simply would never read a book like this, but about decent people who think they are doing their part.  Maybe they’re afraid of being preached at or of being told they’re doing things wrong.  Or maybe they feel that they can’t handle a book that seems especially intense.

I had some of these concerns myself before reading this book.  But I can say that if you have those fears or concerns about reading this book, put them aside and jump in.

Ibram X. Kendi is not writing this to make you feel bad about yourself.  He is not here to tell you that you are bad and should be ashamed of yourself.

He is writing to tell his story–his realization that racism is a cancer that is eating away at the country and that we can all work together to change things.

He is also writing to talk about antiracism.  Antiracism is a fairly simple idea, but it is very hard to achieve.  Indeed, his first point is to undo accepted ideas of racism. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FREE NATIONALS-Tiny Desk Concert #969 (April 20, 2020).

The full name of this concert is The Free Nationals Feat. Anderson .Paak, Chronixx & India Shawn, but that’s too many “featurings” for a headline.

Whenever you look for Tiny Desk Concerts, the top picture is always from the Anderson .Paak show (which was pretty great).  I never really gave it much thought as to why that picture is up there.  But the blurb here says that “Anderson .Paak’s Tiny Desk concert with The Free Nationals, filmed in 2016, is the most popular in the history of the series.”  Who knew?

It was a special return when The Free Nationals arrived in the nation’s capital to showcase their new tunes on March 4, before the coronavirus crisis had set in. Lots of NPR staffers showed up in the hopes that a surprise guest might be in store.

They play four songs.  First is “Beauty & Essex” It opens with opens with Ron Tnava Avant using a voice box on the keys: “Ron Avant invoked Roger Troutman of Zapp on the talk box”, followed by  some slow funky bass lines from Kelsey González.  India Shawn, radiant in a red jump suit, crooned Daniel Caesar’s “Beauty & Essex” in a sultry register.  Midway through, José Rios plays afully distroetd (but slow and very Prince-like) guitar solo.

India, formerly a background singer for .Paak and now an emerging solo artist, also sang lead on the second song,”On Sight” which is about catching the fade (punch across the face).  The end of this song features and even faster ripping guitar solo with some walloping drums from,  Callum Connor.  As the solo ends, Rios says, “It’s crazy to play so quiet.  I want to jump on this table.”

Then “Cheeky Andy,” aka Anderson .Paak, surprised the audience with his signature smile and spunky energy.  I like him a lot–he always has a mischievous smile.  He tells everyone

We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on big budget videos just to have our biggest video be in front of a Tiny Desk.

I don’t know Anderson .Paak much aside from his Tiny Desk, but i can tell it’s him instantly by his drum beat, his drumming style is quite unique.  . “Gidget” is “a song with a groove so catchy that it makes you want to two-step in your living room.”  This song’s about another one of Rios’ exes (see the last concert for the setup to this joke).  Rios asks, “Whys it always got to be about me?” .Paak sings the song and then Avant plays a wicked talk box solo.

.Paak wasn’t the only special guest. Jamaican roots reggae singer Chronixx returned to the Desk to perform his “Eternal Light,” a song he recorded with The Free Nationals on their album.  Btu first Anderson .Paak runs out “you got my phone man?”  Connor passes it to Rios who pretends to throw it.

Chronixx seemed stunned at the number of fans in the audience this time,  “last time I was here there was like five people.”

This song has a reggae feel about positive vibes.  It’s a the most chill song for sure.

It’s fascinating to have seen this band take off from four years ago.

[READ: May 3, 2020] “The Wish for a Good Country Doctor”

This was a totally gripping story.  One that I was not expecting to hear probably as much as the narrator was not expecting to hear it.

It starts with an unusual sentence

Most kids lose or beak their toys.  I curated mine.

In 1976, the narrator was at the University of Iowa in an America Studies program.  Every month, the narrator and “some other hippie Ivy graduates” blanketed the state to find “existing folk manifestations.” They traveled to thrift shops, junk stores and Salvation Armys for tools and dolls and then wrote over-interpretive essays about the items.

They were given $100 a month to purchase things and they set off on a Friday full of caffeine.  On this particular Friday the narrator had gotten a rural mailbox made in 1946 shaped like three Scottish terriers.  And an ironic iconic Find of the Week “a handsomely lettered five-foot-long sign explaining, ‘You’ve Got to Be a Football Hero to Get Along with the Beautiful Girls.  THEREFORE, GO TECH!'” (more…)

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30SOUNDTRACK: RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK-“Volunteered Slavery” (live March 1972).

kirkI had never heard of Rahsaan Roland Kirk before reading this story.  This surprises me since i rather like avant garde jazz. I looked him up and was blown away by this live recording from Paris.

The song starts with a catchy saxophone riff.  The band (Ron Burton on piano, Henry Pearson on bass, Richie Goldberg on drums and Joe Texidor on percussion) interacts throughout the song–chatting, laughing.  Then they sing the simple, catchy lyrics:

Volunteered slavery has got me on the run
Volunteered slavery is something we all know

Then at two minute the magic begins.  He starts playing three horns at the same time.  I can’t quite tell what they are from this video, but he puts all three in his mouth and is able to play melody and harmony on separate instruments.  It’s amazing, if all too brief.

Then he starts playing a proper saxophone solo.  It runs for the next seven or so minute with the main melody being fun and bouncy, a perfect representation of 60s/70s jazz.

The band is very into it–“you got it!” and lot of encouragement all around. The song ends with a cacophony of percussion and whistles. What a fun set.  Wish I could have seen him live.

[READ: December 30, 2019] “Super Goat Man”

The end of the year issue is called the Cartoon Takeover: A Semi-Archival Issue.  So there’s a lot of cartoons, but there’s also some old stories. Like this one.

This was originally published in the March 29, 2004 issue of the New Yorker.  I don’t recall reading it then, so it was new to me.

When the narrator, Everett, was ten years old, Super Goat Man moved into the commune down the street from his house in Brooklyn.  Super Goat Man had fallen out of the world of superhero comics because he spoke out against the war and now he was living in a commune. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SNARKY PUPPY-Tiny Desk Concert #913 (November 20, 2019).

I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about Snarky Puppy lately.  So much so that I assumed they were a new band.  Wrong:

Snarky Puppy has been a force for a while now, earning the ears of millions for more than a decade.  The band started as college friends in the jazz program at the University of North Texas back in 2003. But the formative era came a few years later, after Michael League [bassist and bandleader] became a part of the gospel scene in Dallas and eventually brought the jazz students to church, where music plays a different role than it does in the classroom. In the pulpit, it’s a channel for spiritual healing, a communal experience between players and congregation. As an experiment, League pulled his jazz friends and his gospel bandmates into one ensemble, where the two groups bonded together and established ground-zero for building the sonic identity of Snarky Puppy

I also had an idea that (because the name sounds similar to Skinny Puppy) that they might be a, what, young bratty dark punk band?  Wrong again.

Their secret sauce? A long-simmered recipe of jazz, funk and gospel.  Thirteen albums later, you can still hear these gospel and jazz orbits crashing into each other.

Oh, and one more thing.  They only play instrumentals.

They’re a band whose lyric-less melodies are still yelled (sung back) to them at their concerts around the world, as a shared catharsis for everyone in the room.

I really couldn’t have gotten that more wrong.

The band plays two songs in this lengthy set.

The first is called “Tarova.”  It opens with a wonderful sequence of keyboards.  Shaun Martin plays the keyboards with that talk box thing (made famous by Peter Frampton).  He seems to be having a kind of call and response solo with Bobby Sparks.  Sparks has the most fascinating thing on his keyboard.  A very large whammy bar/lever that he is able to push really far down to bend notes far more than any keyboard I’ve ever heard.  It was so much fun watching him do this, I was very glad he was up front.

During all of this, “JT” Thomas is keeping time on drums.  The song proper jumps in with a fun funky riff with lots of trumpets.  Everybody gets to do something impressive in this song and there’s a bunch of solos as well.

I really like the middle funky section that’s mostly bass and keys.

The song builds to a moment when everyone stops–after a two second pause which makes everyone clap, they resume with a great percussion solo from Nate Werth.

When the song ends, League introduces everyone and says who soloed.  He jokes, “That’s what you;re supposed to do in jazz, right, say who soloed n case anyone was confused that there were solos going on.”

Then he addresses the crowd.  He says that most people there are employees and family and an abundance of interns.  He wants to turn the cameras around for a minute (only one or two turn around) and force you into a musical rhythmic experiment.  Turns out that

Seconds before we hit record, Snarky Puppy’s bandleader, Michael League leaned in to ask if he could “do a little crowd work.” I suspect he waited until the last second on purpose, but it’s been easy to trust this band when they have an idea, judging by the three Grammy Awards they get to dust off at home after every tour run.

What resulted was a Tiny Desk first: League divided the audience into two sections, one side clapping out a 3/4 beat and the other half a 4/4 beat, creating a polyrhythm that I’m sure a handful of coworkers didn’t feel so confident trying to pull off. But this band pulls you in with simple instruction and a little faith.

League says, “we’re going to a polyrhythm because things have to get nerdy and unenjoyable.”  The crowd does admirably well with the two rhythms going on.  They are aided by Nate Werth on percussion who is really amazing (not necessarily here, but in the two songs).  I believe that they are creating 7/4.

The audience is warned that this polyrhythm will be used in the second song “Xavi,” dedicated to their friends in Morocco.

The song opens a funky bass and a lovely flute melody from Chris Bullock.  Then after a short guitar lick by Chris McQueen the whole band jumps in with a really funky melody.  The riff is taken over by two trumpets Justin Stanton (whose trumpet has a mute) and Jay Jennings (no mute) and Chris Bullock who is now on sax.

I was going to say you really don’t hear much of the violin in this set as it gets kind of melded with everything else.  Then mid way through the song, Zach Brock takes a wild and, often, effects-riddled solo in the middle of the song.  It might be my favorite part of a set that has many highlights.

The clapping part is used twice.  In the first one, the band is kind of quiet and the clapping is aided with great percussion from Werth and another lovely flute.

The guitar and bass in this song are fantastic even if they are never entirely prominent.  There’s also a very cool keyboard solo from trumpeter Justin Stanton.

Then the clapping comes around a second time.  During this one, there’s a guitar and keyboard making all kinds of sounds while the drums keep hitting everything, there;s more percussion and a little more flute.

The whole set is tremendous fun.  Totally not what I was expecting and so much better.

[READ: August 15, 2019] The Idiot

I grabbed this book because I had written down the author’s name as someone I wanted to read.  I also got a kick out of the title (and the obvious allusion to Dostoevsky).

I started the book and enjoyed it and then realized that I had read an excerpt from this story already.  And that is why I had written the author’s name down.

This book was written as a kind of response to her first book.  In an essay in The Guardian, she explained that:

In her first book, The Possessed, New Yorker journalist Elif Batuman complained that as an incipient novelist she was always being told to eschew books and focus on life. Literature since Don Quixote had been seen as false and sterile; disconnected from lived experience. After years as a graduate student of Russian literature, she decided to challenge this by writing an account of her own haphazard attempt to live with and through books.

Of the excerpt I wrote quite a lot (and quite a lot that almost gets left behind after the excerpt): (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is mournful and quite pretty.

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

 

[READ: June 19, 2019] Prime Suspects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SOUNDTRACK: THE NATIONAL-NonCOMM Free at Noon (May 16, 2019).

The National are an interesting band.  They tend to write songs that feel ponderous–sometimes slow and, with Matt Berninger’s deep voice, very intense.  And yet their lyrics can sometimes be inscrutable [“I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees”] and they have done cover songs for Bob’s Burgers on more than one occasion (“Bad Things Happen in the Bathroom”).

So this concert is a bit of a revelation because of how poppy and almost dancey some of these songs are.  Berninger’s voice is nowhere near as deep as I imagined (his speaking voice is deeper than his singing voice) and the songs have a lot of variety to them.

Perhaps it’s the new album, I am Easy to Find.

Expanded to a ten-piece band, The National showcased ten of the album’s sixteen tracks, demonstrating the beauty and strength of the project. Vocalist Matt Berninger led the group’s vast array of instruments and vocalists, and kept everything from sounding overwhelming. The resulting set was a glorious display of emotion and expansive sound.

They opened with “You Had Your Soul With You”,  The track shows their musical horizons starting to expand. Vocalists Kate Stables (This Is The Kit) and Pauline de Lassus (Mina Tindle), joined Berninger on stage, adding a new dimension to the band’s sound. They sung throughout the show, representing the inclusion of female voices and perspectives across the record.

Like many of their songs, it is pretty and invites you to lean in to listen to the lyrics.

Berninger introduced the next song “Oblivions” by emphasizing the “s” “There’s a bunch of them. They keep coming.  Together.”  This song sounded very different, with a synthy, almost dancey vibe.

Stables and de Lassus opened “The Pull of You” before Berninger joined them.  This song has some interesting drum work as many of them do. Midway through, Berninger has a spoken word section that makes it sound like Tindersticks.

He tells us that his wife wrote “Hey Rosy.” He deadpans, “I thought it was about me.”  There’s a quiet piano intro and I love the very-The National delivery of the chorus “Hey Ro / zee I  / think I know just what the / feeling is.”

“Quiet Light” is a gentle, shuffling song.  The warm horn solos that closed the track were a wonderful touch.

Aaron Dessner spoke before they played the tender “I Am Easy To Find” and dedicated it to his friend, Adia Victoria, who played the same stage yesterday and was watching the set from the balcony.

The song is a duet of female and male vocals.  I love the fast delivery of this chorus as well.  Once again, very The National: “there’s a million little battles that I’m never gonna win / anyway.”

The band contrasted the solemness of these tracks with the brightness of “Where Is Her Head.”

Berninger says, “Mike Mills wrote the lyrics to this one… well, most of them… so he gets all of the publishing.  So now you know whey were doing it.”

Sung mostly by Stables and de Lassus, the track replaced the grey aura that filled the room with glittering oranges and pinks.

The song features a quiet looping of the lyrics as Berninger sings solo vocal runs over their chorus.

“Rylan” continued the upbeat-streak. The song, which declared that “everyone loves a quiet child,” showed The National playing with their volume. Towards the end they repeatedly built up their sound, only to swiftly quiet it.

Easy To Find‘s closing track, “Light Years,” was the simplest and most moving they played. With its heartbreaking lyrics and one of the saddest basslines ever played, the track left the crowd awestruck.

It opens with a gentle piano and Berninger’s deeper, quieter vocals. When the women sang back up with him, it was really lovely.

They could have stopped there, with tears quietly building in everyone’s eyes, but they continued with “Not In Kansas.”

Berninger says. We have one more song. This one’s 25 minutes long.  It was.  Then Mike Mills made it like  6 minutes long.  Whatever.  He was in charge.  Everything that’s bad about the record we always blame on Mike and we take credit for all the good stuff.” He paused “there’s some good stuff.”

It has a lovely quiet guitar intro.

While its lyrics focused on the craziness plaguing the world, the track felt small and insular. In closing with it, The National went out with a polite wave, rather than with a bang.

My friend Armando told me that The National puts on some of the best shows he’s ever been to.  I hope to see them some day.

[READ: June 1, 2019] “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

I did not like the narrator of this story at all.  She is hiding behind so much. In fairness, she has a lot to get over, but she closes herself off so much that she’s hard for people to get to know (and also hard for a reader to like).

Dina is at Yale orientation.  She does not have to do the trust fall because she “shouldn’t have to fit into any white, patriarchal systems.”

In the next game she had to say what inanimate object she wanted to be.  She said “revolver,” which got her put on psychiatric watch for the entire year and a solo room.

She also saw a therapist whom she wasn’t interested in talking to but who seemed to see right through her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11, 1996).

This is the 22nd night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.  This is the last date of the tour (so far) for which there are recordings.

The show opens with a great “Midwinter Night’s Dream” followed by a rocking “Fat.”  As the song ends with the “bye byes” Dave save “see you in the next song, Martin.”

“All the Same Eyes” is a rocking good time.  And then, after a little riff, Martin starts “Motorino” which sounds great.

Dave says, “Hi we’re the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howl Brothers–they couldn’t make it.  But we’ve got their jackets.”  He mentions that they have a new album out, “get it before its reduced to clear.”

During “Bad Time to Be Poor” after “feeling winter through a crack in the door,” Tim goes brrrrrr.  More Tim on “Claire” with some great soaring harmony vocals before Martin’s rather grunting solo.  Although at the end, instead of spelling C-L-A-I-R-E, Tim seems to be singing Steve L.A. yea yea yea confides in me”

The set ends with two scorching tracks.  A terrific “California Dreamline” and a roaring “Feed Yourself” (with a really intense ending).

As the feedback fades, Dave says, “Thanks to the Tragically Hip.  God bless.”

It’s a nice way to end the tour–but maybe someday we’ll hear those last two shows.

[READ: April 9, 2019] “The Unexpected”

This was a darkly amusing story (yes, it is Joyce Carol Oates) that I had to wonder if it was in any way autobiographical or just horrifyingly possible.

The story is about a writer receiving an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the community college near her home town in update New York.  She left and never came back, but has been writing about her home town for much of her career.

She is awkward from the start, “Thank you for the honor.  I am very–honored.”

She receives applause–not thunderous, but polite, even warm .  But her speech seems to fall flat (if it can even be heard over the fighter jets).  But when she is finished, she pauses and the response is enthusiastic and she wonders “Is there where I belong now?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Northlands Coliseum Edmonton AB (November 13, 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.  This is the 5th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. Only recordings of Shaved Head and Earth from this tour.

This is their second night in Edmonton and they play some of what I consider their more risky opening-set songs.  The show begins with Martin playing “Digital Beach.”  It’s a quiet song but the crowd seems really respectful.  And Martin sounds in great voice with his falsetto hitting all the right notes.

The end segues perfectly into “Earth.”  I feel like it takes a little while to get Earth going (again, thinking as an opening act and it’s such a slow song)–I find a very risky.  But the loud part of “Monstrous Hummingbirds” roars out and Martin’s guitar sounds great and they have surely won people over by now.

Up next is “Claire.”  Tim sounds in good voice and Martin has some cool phasing for his guitar solo.

Dave doesn’t sing a ton, but he thanks Edmonton.  “Thank you, Edmonton the whole city’s here tonight.  I see the mayor.  I see the coach.  I see the wizard.”

They rip into a great “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” (some of you are here tonight).  Everyone is right on and the vocals are terrific.  There’s even a bit of a drum solo.

Dave mentions the cross country tour, the big crowds, the hockey rinks–shrines to the game of professional hockey.  They’re happy to be there “despite the fact that they still let Peter Pocklington in here [Pocklington owned the Oilers and is quite a divisive figure–he sold Wayne Gretzsky to Los Angeles, among many other things.  He will appear again in this show, shortly.]

Dave also says that they just released a record The Blue Hysteria, and if you get a chance to buy it we’d like that very much.

Up next is an amazing “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  The vocals are wonderful–Martin is in top form tonight.  I believe Tim is singing the really high backing vocals too.  The song feels like a show stopper the way Martin’s voice soars majestically at the end–higher and higher.

Despite how amazing that is, they start right up with “Horses.”  For years I have wondered what events this song commemorated.  I wasn’t really sure how to find out. And then, here Dave introduces the song and tells all: “This is a song about the strike at the Gainers meat-packing plant in the mid-1980s.  It is a privilege to sing this song here tonight.

This is where Pocklington returns.  Dave doesn’t mention this, but I looked it up and found out [from Wikipedia]

Perhaps Pocklington’s most notorious setback was the result of a six-month strike with the United Food and Commercial Workers union that crippled Gainers, which at the time was Canada’s second-largest meat packer. Pocklington used strikebreakers, primarily from Quebec, to keep the plant operating despite the picket lines, a decision that earned him the enmity of Canada’s labour movement. Eventually, he agreed to settle the strike and rehire the striking workers at the request of the Alberta government.

So not only did Pocklington trade Gretzky, he was the inspiration for “Horses.”  No wonder Dave hates him so much.

“Horses” is energized and spectacular and Martin plays a noisy, wild electrified solo with some great horse sounds at the end.

Normally this might end a show but they segue right into “Shaved Head” (someone in the audience screams twice–loudly like an actual shriek–I wonder if that was good or bad).  Martin continues to sounds great–he’s hitting those high notes like nothing.  A beautiful, powerful ending leads into the jolly intro of “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Once again, everyone sounds great with this song.

They end the show with everyone repeating the refrain of “It feels good to be alive.”  The voices all stop except Martin who sends everyone off with his gorgeous falsetto singing “it feels good to be alive.”

What a great opening act to see.

[READ: February 5, 2019] “All Will Be Well”

This story opens with a comic line, but the story is hardly a comedy.

“Once upon a time, I was addicted to a salon.”

I have really enjoyed the way Yiyun Li develops character and setting.  In this story the salon is run by Lily.  The magazines are in Chinese and Vietnamese and the TV is tuned to a Mandarin channel.  It is in a neighborhood where armed robberies were common.  Lily unlocks the door when she sees customers coming and immediately locks it again.

The narrator teaches at a local college, but she pretends that she is going to school for fiction-writing.  The best part of her character is that she lied and told Lily that she “had been adopted by a couple from Holland when [she] was a year old and moved to America when she was in Middle School.”   Because of this she was forgiven for not speaking one of the preferred languages.

She went to the salon more often than was necessary.  She says if she had been superstitious, she would swear Lily put a spell on her.  The narrator seemed mostly entranced by Lily’s stories–Lily loves to talk, and it gave the narrator a way out of her own life.  “I listened, smiled, and asked questions–these were my most tiresome traits, and I used them tirelessly.”  Normally she had to give her opinions all day (she was a teacher after all) but here she could forget about herself. (more…)

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