Thursday, June 16, 2005

Six Favorite Songs, Six Friends Meme

Allright, I got hit by a chain letter. But several factors confluenced to make it inevitable that I'd respond... *sigh*

My sister included me on a LiveJournal "meme", which is a newfancy way of saying "chain letter". If you need to pass it along to more than one person, it's a chain letter. If there's money involved, it's a pyramid scheme.

First of all, it's from my sister, and I've got some weird guilt going on there, since for most of her life she's been living in a different town from me, and the few years we did live in the same town I was being a "need to get my own life going" asshole, and so was a terrible older brother. Not to mention some serious jealousy about my mom's new and happy family which caused me to want to basically stay away...

But, it was a question about music, and this has been one of the few ways by which we've connected even a little bit...

But, seriously, I have no idea what my favorite songs are!

I quipped in her journal that, "I always draw a blank when asked to name my list of favorite whatever. Were I to give astrology any creedence I'd say it simply screams 'libra', but I don't, so let's just say that I operate on a relational rather than a heirarchical paradigm. I usually quip that I couldn't choose between apples and oranges if you held a gun to my head..."

I really don't think this way!

I seriously do not think in terms of better / worse. Except in terms of specific features.

I hate this, but I'm a total and complete Libra about such things. And I don't give any bloody creedence to astrology, dammit! I'm an astronomer and I'd get kicked out of my guild for such crap! But it's entirely accurate.

New contest: provide two things which I cannot find more than three ways in which one is "better" than the other. One or two ways are too easy for me.

To start off, it would be relatively easy to create a little script which would play songs at me from my collection and would have me rank songs as better or not than the previous song played, but this would probably lead into a tangle.

Opinions are weird. It's enirely possible for completely rational people to have circular opinions about things.

Given three songs, normal people frequently do such things as like A better than B, B better than C, and C better than A.

Not kidding, I've seen studies about very serious topics like voting strategies which show this!

And then tonight we re-watched High Fidelity partly becuase Nick Hornby was on Fresh Aire and party because he's obsessive about musical lists and I wanted help!

No help.

The movie just served to remind me that there are just so damn many good songs out there...

Here's a weird list, but the best I can do.

List of significant songs:

CCR, Down on the Corner

My dad created a cool little world in our basement when I was a little kid. I had no idea at the time that it was because he and my mom weren't getting along at all. They were both pretty cool about keeping such conflicts away from me. I would go down there and be with him doing stuff, and he noted that I really liked the CCR song Down on the Corner. So much so that he made a little star on the reel-to-reel tape box. I always looked for that star on the box when I was down there, even when I stopped wanting to hear that song all the time. This was the first song I remember being fond of, because my dad noticed it and made a little note in something which I noticed years later and remembered.

My first mix tape... I only remember the first two songs:

Abba, SOS
Alicia Bridges, I Love the Nightlife

Damn, I wish I could recall the rest! I remember putting so much effort into it, like I seem to have done for every mix ever afterwards!

First music bought:

Goofy Greats (still own it!)

There was also a 50s collection which featured two songs each by the big artists of the day. And a Little Richard collection.

I could go on, but my point is that there is a very powerful emotional resonance whenever I hear these songs.

And later in life, I developed equally powerful emotional resonances with songs.

Sometimes this resonance lines up with songs which I think are good, and sometimes way not.

I could go on in a very trite and pathetic way to relate why Christopher Cross's Never Be the Same just still tears me up... but that's 8th grade and we'd all like to forget such things.

And it's hard for me to not put myself into my self as me of a certain age. Me at 12 had a favorites list, as did me at 17, 21, 26, etc...

My favorites ever? Does 23 trump 15?

Enough waffling! Commit, damn you!

Alright, here's a list, without any qualifications whatsoever...

I'll not waffle like my sister did and list several things under a specific band as one choice. I'm fully aware that I love bands more than songs, and that great songs can be one hit wonders or the like. This has nothing to do with my appreciation of the artists, just the song.

So, just songs only, and songs which I seem to return to time and again, or seem to include in mixes:

(in no particular order)

Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime
Michelle Shocked - Come a Long Way
Rush - Red Barchetta
Allman Brothers - Blue Sky

and my favorite:

John Mellencamp and Meshell N'Degeocello - Wild Night

Yes, it's a cover, but it seems to be a song my brain likes to listen to, as I seem to hear it often. I also respect it on many levels, as it's incredible because it's a collaberation between two fantastic artists, of a cover of another magnificent artist, attacks stereotypes of race, gender, age, style, instrument, raspy voices, and sexual stereotype. Love his guitar and love her bass. Love their voices together. Wish they'd done more toghether. Love that race was irrelevant to the project. Would love to hear more like this.

Anthrax with Public Enemy did Bring the Noise, which I loved but not in my top favorites, but this seemed to squash respect for both bands. Oddly enough.

Okay, the Talking Heads was a total copout! There are Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Diamond Songs which I totally enjoy more as songs! Aaaaugh!

And A Taste Of Honey's Boogie Oogie Oogie is now a great and wonderfully respected song now that I've seen them play it on a PBS special about disco. I had no idea that it was two women, and that they played guitar and bass while singing! And kicked ass playing it! I thought they were a band, not a duo.

Seriously, it's one of the best disco songs ever, and M----- found out that feminist tomes don't give them their props because they're black.

You explore acoustic blues and you have to get into Led Zeppelin, and you explore electric blues and you have to deal with Van Halen.

And there's a whole realm of songs which are metaphors for things.

Not sure what to think of my progressive rock infatuation. Rush, Yes, and King Crimson...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Shell Shocked

We saw Michelle Shocked this afternoon down in Lafayette Square as part of the free Wednesday at the Square concert series the city puts on every year. Great show!

Just like with Jonathan Richman on Sunday, we got rained on. Part of Summer in New Orleans, I guess. Actually, we found a spiffy spot with a clear view of the stage under a huge live-oak tree which blocked the worst part of the rain. We could've been closer, but we'd have been wetter and in the mud.

And the sound guy seemed completely oblivious to a horrible spike around 12KHz which simply killed my ears every time the trumpet went altissimo or the piano went up into the top octaves. I really didn't want to get any closer to the speakers than we already were. I'm listening to one of her CDs now and it sounds a bit muffled, meaning my ears haven't recovered yet.

Paralleling Jonathan Richman, she put on a totally different show here than she did in Cincinnati. Similarly, that show was more straight-ahead and the one here in New Orleans was devoted to more improv and new material. I really enjoyed it, but have to admit to my inner teenager jumping up and down and whining, "why don't you play your hiiiiits..."

She was working with a fantastic array of local musicians. Good enough that they had only started working on the songs together the night before (!) but sounded amazingly tight. It was mostly N'awlins-influenced rockin' R&B souding, but with her unique twist on top, rather than the folky stuff she's usually known for, but it really worked. Evidently she lived here for a while, which I never knew. She seems to have come by the sound honestly as her reason for moving here back in the day was to work with Alan Toussaint, which is enough N'awlins music cred for this non-native.

She's one of those incredible but hard-to-classify artists who seem to keep doing new things. This irritates fans who only want more of the same, but I tend to prefer musicians like this. Especially when they always seem to do the new stuff damn well, like she does. And with a great sense of humor. It's always nice to see people who're having just a fantastic time up on stage.

She did a short acoustic bit when the band left the stage which I loved, as I fell in love with her for her Texas Campfire Tapes, and always will love her best when it's just her and her guitar. She did some of our faves, like Amsterdam, Come a Long Way, and Anchorage, all of which she said people were calling out for. Wonder what she would have done on her own choice? Come a Long Way is one of my favorite songs ever, but I liked the Cincinnati version better. Here it sounded like she was kinda sick of playing it, which doesn't surprise me. She seems like an artist who gets bored easily doing the same thing over and over.

She'd kinda been letting the excellence of the band do the heavy musical lifting for the first set. Not a complaint, and I'm sure it was just great fun for her to be working with such excellent professionals. But when she got up there by herself, and did some stunning acoustic fingerpicking while just belting out some powerfully emotional vocals... *chills*... oh, yeah! she's one of my favorite musicians and this is why!

Her trumpet player came back and added some beautiful and tasteful backup to a couple of songs. Acoustic guitar and trumpet is a combo I never would have thought of, but it was a great musical moment I'm glad I was there for.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Jonathan Richman

We saw Jonathan Richman on Sunday night at One Eyed Jacks down in the quarter, and it was a great show.

Not as great as the show we saw at the Southgate House back in Cincinnati, but still quite tasty. We were talking after the show, and both feel that Jonathan got lots more radio support in Cincinnati. We never hear him on the radio here, and radio here is arguably superior in many ways, but there are some notable exceptions.

The before-the-show hassles were extremely frustrating, but we managed to not let it ruin our evening before it had begun. I had expressed a desire for an artery-killing cheeseburger earlier in the day, M----- concurred, so we decided to go down early and eat a late dinner at the new Fatburber in the old Jax brewery-mall, which was mere blocks away from the venue.

I munched some celery around dinnertime to assuage my appetite without blunting it while we watched the Tony awards waiting for the song from Spamalot, and was mightily hungry when we hopped in the car around 8:30. The show ostentably began at 10:00.

It had been raining heavily all day, but the TV weathercritters claimed that it would be ending before showtime. Indeed, there was but a light sprinkle when we departed.

We even found a street (free) parking spot right by the pay parking lot, which was a close to the diner and only a few blocks away from the venue! Amazing luck! Looked like a great evening was beginning...

Right as we were parking it started to rain something fierce, but we were listening to a very cool radio show, so we waited a bit until the rain let up. Which it did, so we started walking... and then RAIN... and we got utterly soaked... but it was warm, and so close to the restaurant... which was just closing as we got there. Grrrf.

As it was still raining hard, we sat under the awning and considered options. M----- wasn't really hungry, but I was, but I couldn't really think of anything nearby which sounded good, so we decided to just trek onward to the club, and waited until the rain let up a bit. It did, a bit, but we got much wetter.

One bitch... the artsy New Orleans balconies which are cast iron rails with balconies built from slats of wood are certainly pretty but crappy rain awnings! The wood slats seem to focus the rain, so that there are fewer raindrops, but underneath these balconies when you're hit with water leaking through it's much more water at once. You get the annoying illusion of being under cover but without much benefit.

At the club, the doors weren't open yet, and there weren't seats available in the foyer bar, so we waffled. And had a long while to wait since dinner fell through. And now the show wasn't starting until 10:30...

My blood sugar began to make me cranky, but I was sincerely trying to not be a jerk about it, which I am wont to do when that happens. I've been known to get highly irrational when not fed, and need to keep on top of it so as not to turn into a raving asshole. But it was really raining hard, and that was making me as cranky as the food issue was. *breathe*... *calm*

We tried to walk up a couple of blocks to check out what might be available when there was a break in the rain, but that just seemed to call an even harder rain squall which trapped us underneath a narrow awning half a block away from the horror that is Bourbon Street.

I was really looking forward to the show, and I knew M----- was really really looking forward to it, so I was honestly trying to not throw a mood on the evening, and I knew my food issue was irritating her.

At this point I decided to be cheerful by force of will if not blood chemistry and we went back to the club. Where the doors still weren't open. I eventually asked the doorman where one could get a quick bite to eat, and finally went down and got some fries where he recommended, which cheered me up immediately. M----- noticed me being more cheerful and that cheered her up!

Soon after this we were let in, and got to see the new decorations of the club. Last time we were there, to see X, the hall was laid-out in some unsuccessful barn decor, which severely didn't work at all with the hipster aesthetic they tried to project to the public. Now under new ownership, they've done a wonderful punky whorehouse motif which we both loved. The velvet nudes up beyond the lights were a nice touch.

One nice thing about the rain was that the show wasn't very crowded. The floor was full but not packed, which made for an intimate energy. We were right up next to the stage, and Jonathan and Robbie were close to the front edge, so things were nice and immediate. He played some of the hits, but lots of the evening was given to improv work. Some of it worked, and some of it didn't, but that's improv. "We try to split the evening between songs we know and songs we don't know."

I wonder if they would have done the same if they weren't in New Orleans, where such things are respected? He certainly didn't seem to in Cincinnati. Nice contrast, but he didn't play Hang On Sloopy here. I like it when I see gifted performers twice and each show is unique. Reminds me that I'm not seeing an amimated jukebox, but a real, live performer, and that this show is unique and very different from any other show. That's the kind of performance which is worth paying for!

However, I totally missed the blonde who was dancing and falling out of her dress, which M----- mentioned during the intermission. Teach me to pay attention to what's happening up on stage! I looked for her during the second set but it seems that the alchohol had shifted gears on her in the meantime and she just sat in the back.

During the intermission, when the band just walked out into the audience and bought a round of bottled water for their friends, we walked up two feet and sat on the edge of the stage. I had to watch where I put my hand so that I didn't move the bass drum mic. I got to peer at the box drum Robbie the percussionist played, which had a fantastic sound. It had a better snare and bass sound than his drum kit's snare and bass! It was a box he sat on to play the drum kit, but frequently he'd reach down and play it hand-drum style.

Turns out it was a Cajon La Peru, a version of a cajon box drum from Latin America.

The last time I saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones play, Future Man played a box drum magnificently, and it's nice to know what they're called.

Oddly enough, the cajon is very popular in flamenco music, and today M----- asked me to research flamenco rhythms because this weekend she wants to attend a flamenco dance workshop!

Now I'm going to have to look into making one for us.

It's interesting to learn that drums don't have to look like "drums" in order to sound nicely. Then again, anyone who has turned over an acoustic guitar and played bongos on the two tones knows this...

No soap for you!

Well, no one's even entered my Spot the Flaw in the Liberal Rhetoric Contest so I'll just have to put you all out of your misery...

In my earlier post I noted that each teacher has about five classes, but I failed to take into consideration that each student has in turn about five teachers. So, each student's increased earnings and tax revenue needs to be split amongst their five teachers.

I was in effect claiming that 1 = 5.

Bad mathematician! No biscuit!

I still think that my argument's valid, though, but let me borrow some Republican rhetoric to bolster my case... a rising tide raises all boats, a phrase which was used to justify cutting taxes for the rich, also works for the poor, yes?

Poor people who are more capable will earn more and will in turn earn more for the people they work for, who will in turn pay more taxes!

In short, more educated citizens contribute more to fund their society than their education costs, even if education itself costs more than it does now. That's my fundamental postulate, and I stand by it.

A similar argument can be made for more healthy citizens and universal health care, but let me wait on that one until I've got some numbers to throw at you.

A new contest, again for a bar of my elegantly sensual homemade soap: demonstrate how 1 can equal 5...