Archive for the ‘Live Music’ Category

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Fate has a way of showing I’m where you belong.

February 25, 2009

Let’s talk about last night.

But first, let’s talk about iPods. My iPhone is the latest addition to my collection. His name is Orion, and he is quite hip. Obviously. Because he’s an iPhone. My iPod Touch, named Disco Lemonade, was a gift from my dad, and he is colorfully flamboyant, and all he wants to do is dance. (We are talking about Disco Lemonade here, not my dad, who, while he may occasionally enjoy dancing, would never say it’s all he wants to do. I will allow the description of colorful flamboyance to remain ambiguous.) Cordelia’s my iPod shuffle. She’s silver and sleek, and she lives to run. The sole female of the group, she keeps her head clear with exercise and loud music.

And finally, there is ROCKSTAR, the OG of the crew, my very first iPod. He’s so old, in fact, that you can’t really listen to him anymore. His tremors cause the music to skip. But I can’t part with him, not yet, not after all the good times we had together.

And I think he would have gotten a kick out of last night. I went down to the Roundhouse in London last night to see the Fleet Foxes play. I didn’t bother to check who was opening for them beforehand, so it was a pleasant surprise when I showed up and inquired about the timing of the performances (I ask that at every show I attend) and discovered that it would be Vetiver taking the stage first. But then, as happy as I was to hear they’d be playing for me, I realized I couldn’t place anything else about them, besides knowing that I knew them and liked them. I couldn’t name a single song or album or memory that included them. I was completely blanking.

At 8:05 (five minutes behind schedule), they took the stage. They were a motley crew, with the lead singer dressed like a train conductor, the drummer dressed like Neil Young, and the bass player straight from the set of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

(This was actually a five person band, though, so once I had my first impressions of those three, I desperately wanted to decide on people that the last two looked like as well. The best I could come up with was that the guitarist looked like John Mayer dressed as a priest, and the keyboardist looked like Sarah Peltier. A really funky Sarah Peltier.)

They started their set, and played song after song that I either didn’t recognize or could barely recognize but that I knew wasn’t THE SONG that I was waiting for. As the evening progressed, I became more and more certain that there existed THE SONG that I loved by them, and I knew that they just had to play it. In the meantime, of course, I managed to appreciate the songs as they came.

Finally, they kicked into their last song. And the second it started, I knew this was it. ROCKSTAR knows what I’m talking about! “Been So Long.” The number one played song on ROCKSTAR. When we got home last night, I even found ROCKSTAR, who had been abandoned on the floor of the extra bedroom, and plugged him in to show Michael that “Been So Long” was in fact the number one song on there. Not that he doubted the veracity of my claim, but providing proof is always satisfying. Even when you’re the only one who cares.

Now, because I’ve owned ROCKSTAR the longest out of all of my iPods, I’m assuming “Been So Long” must be my number one played song among all four. (Although if you look at the number one played song on Disco Lemonade, you might be fooled into thinking that “FM Radio” by Joshua James takes the all-around title, but that’s only because Disco Lemonade records the number of times that song was played on the computer before it found its way onto the iPod. And I wasn’t the one who fell asleep to that song playing on repeat. So someone ELSE listened to it a couple hundred times, tyvm.)

“Been So Long” was so frequently played because I listened to it during my cooldown stretching period at the gym. Almost every single gym workout for close to a year. That song was 4 minutes long, so I knew that if I couldn’t stretch at least the duration of that song, I was definitely not stretching long enough! Over time, I managed to stretch for a couple of repetitions of the song. And I never grew tired of it. And last night’s performance was even better than the album version.

Don’t get me wrong. The Fleet Foxes were great. “Your Protector” (my favorite song from their eponymous album) was probably also my favorite part of their performance last night. And yes, “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” was haunting in its beauty, and “Blue Ridge Mountains” lived up to the quivering of its lyrics as the evening’s closer. But I walked in the door knowing I’d love them. No surprise there.

So the high moment of the night as a whole just had to be Vetiver playing “Been So Long.” The unexpected encounter with the band, the anticipation of waiting for THE SONG to be played, then the fulfillment of actually hearing it. Take a listen for yourself.

Very nice.

With last night now over, I don’t have tickets for any gigs in the near future, so you may be happy to hear that you won’t have to suffer through any more sycophantic ramblings about bands and what their music does for/to me. At least not for a while.

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Some day I’d like to take a walk with you.

February 23, 2009

In 2005, I made a cd for my friend Kate. I named the cd Palindromes because I thought the date I worked on it was the 1st of October. Turns out it was actually the 30th. I was only confused for a second, but when you’re armed with a permanent marker, a second is all you need. As I have to utter way too often in life, I blame the wine. I don’t believe I ever explained to Kate why the cd was named Palindromes, so she probably thought it had a much deeper meaning than it did. How foolish of me to reveal the man behind the curtain after all these years!

It had been my original plan to include only female singers on this cd, for I had only recently started to realize that I didn’t dislike them all. Selections included Mirah, Rilo Kiley, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sleater-Kinney, and Azure Ray.

Ultimately, however, I couldn’t decide on enough songs to make a full cd, so I gave up and just put pretty songs on there, sung by either men or women. I made the cd on a Sunday afternoon, drinking that bottle of wine which made me lose 4 whole weeks of my life, while figuring out the critically important order of songs and writing up a little tidbit on each selection. I remember what I wrote about Ray Lamontagne’s “Trouble” – that it was the last song to make the cut (though it was not the final track on the cd), and I still wasn’t even sure I was making the right decision in including it.

Well, as you can probably guess, or maybe you simply know, of course I made the right decision to include it. Within weeks, I was listening to that song on repeat, especially the opening lines of the second verse. Not just great words, but set to a great rhythm. (I wanted to use the word cadence there, but Wikipedia reminded me that cadence refers to the chords or rhythmic pattern that CONCLUDES a phrase.)

This little indulgent trip into the lost Sundays of years past was simply to say this: I saw Ray Lamontagne perform Saturday night. We headed down to Bristol to see his sold-out Colston Hall show. And he was better than I could have ever hoped.

Priscilla Ahn opened for him, and she was adorable. The place was packed, and she came on stage armed with just her voice and guitar (okay, she also had a vocal looping machine, harmonica, and kazoo), and she grabbed our attention quickly and easily. Her stories between the songs were adorable as well. A snippet: “All my life I’ve dreamed of living in a tree. So I wrote a song about it. It’s called…All My Life I’ve Dreamed of Living in a Tree.” See? Cute.

And the cover of her EP.
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See? Cute.

Before her last song, she gave the requisite appreciation speech, thanking us for allowing her to play for us and thanking Ray for including her on the tour and promising us that he would shortly come on out and “blow your minds.”

She did not lie. After a half hour of her simple but beautiful one-woman melodies, Ray’s band’s opening notes were almost jarring with their confidence and depth. I immediately looked at Michael and said, “He’s good.” Sometimes, that’s all you can say.

But now I have more to say. He opened the show with Michael’s favorite tune, “Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s a Shame).” I hold that song dear to my heart because it’s one of several amazing songs out there with my nephew’s name in it, which should make it easier for me to indoctrinate him with my taste in music – maybe once he’s past his teething stage.

Ray played for about an hour and a half, mostly with his band, but he did play two or three songs alone. Priscilla came out for a couple of numbers to sing a bit of back-up. Very minor parts, but she harmonized well, and solidarity between acts is always kind of touching.

Michael asked me my favorite moment of the night, but I couldn’t decide. I loved the way Ray sang, “in the pocket of my blue jeans,” during his rendition of “Jolene,” which he performed without the band. And I loved the slide into that last verse of “I Still Care for You.”

The hours grow
Heavy and hollow
And cruel as a grave

Any change in tempo that inspires me to use the word “slide” is usually my favorite part of that song. And the rule applies here as well.

So maybe it was one of those moments. Or maybe it was the way he closed the show with “Gossip in the Grain,” so that it was as if he were singing us a farewell lullaby, sending us off to face the cold night with a feeling of warmth and contentment.

Ah, it was all so pretty.