Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
I had listened to only the first couple of cuts off Leonard Cohen’s “London Live” album (streamed by NPR online) before I was surfing the net to find out Cohen’s tour dates and stops in the US. The closest location to me was in Grand Prairie, Texas (between Dallas and Ft. Worth) this last Friday, April 3rd. A modest three hour drive away.
Within minutes I was on Ticketmaster. My ongoing unemployment and need to conserve cash nagged at me as I trolled for the best “cheap” seat available. There was one available in the center of the first row of the mezzanine. A respectable seat for $57. I stopped, however, before passing go and finalizing the transaction.
“Just for the sake of, let’s see what is available at any price…” I coaxed myself.
A few seconds later, there was the seat – Row O, Seat 11 just right of center in the orchestra. With a price tag of $150.
Given my current situation – an uncertain future, dwindling reserves, financial obligations – I hesitated. How could I justify spending that much for a concert? And not only just for the ticket. There was gas for the car and, most likely, an overnight stay in a hotel. The price tag was ballooning.
And then… I let all that go. It was purely an impulse; a decision made within a single unfettered heartbeat; a leap without care. How could I let a chance of a lifetime slip by?
We can live our lives blandly or we can flavor it with a seasoning of rich experiences and adventure. And while I’m prone to live in the former, this time I chose the latter. And was glad I’d retained at least one credit card for emergencies such as this.
You see, Leonard and I have had a very long relationship. His poetry and music have been a large portion of the sound-track to my life. I had to go. It was ludicrous to think otherwise.
I set off for Dallas as soon as my class ended on Friday. I did, indeed, book a hotel room at a nearby “Studio 6″ and, in spite of a minor slow up in rush hour traffic, checked in with plenty of time to get to the Nokia Theatre a mile away.
Arriving about thirty minutes early, I paid the hefty $15 for parking and joined a light stream of people moving toward the venue. I’d printed my ticket at home which presented no problem at the door. It was electronically scanned and I was directed where to go to find my seat.
The orchestra was only about a quarter full, my row completely empty, when I took my seat. The stage was back lit with soft pinks, blues and purples through floor to grid lengths of fabric.
Upstage center a large projection peeked through – a later online search confirmed my suspicion that it was of Cohen’s own art: The End of the Day.
The stage was set with equipment and instruments, a couple of technicians and roadies doing what technicians and roadies do. The auditorium was slow to fill and I wondered if I’d be so lucky to have empty seats in front of me. I wasn’t – but it didn’t matter. I had a relatively clear view and was compensated with empty seats on either side of me for the first half. Flanking both sides of the stage were large video screens. A sign of modern times.
Close to curtain time, the auditorium filled – few empty seats. The audience at last in, a cheer rose up when the band and backup took stage, then a roar and we were on our feet when Mr. Cohen took the stage.
Clad in a dark grey suit, grey silk shirt, bolo tie and his iconic fedora, a slight stoop to his stance was the only betrayal to his seventy-four years of age. He took hold of the microphone like the cheek of a lover, knelt to the ground and eased into “Dance Me to the End of Love.” His rich resonating bass voice invited each of us in to share a deeply personal few hours of our time.
It’s no accident that Cohen has become the legend that he is. He has the gift of artistisc genius that enables him to refract his life through a prism of experience that makes it relatable and relevant to our own. And through it all – there was a twinkle in his eye. A reminder not to take it all too seriously.
Under the musical direction of Austin bassist Roscoe Beck, the band gave each song it’s signature sound augmented with new layers by Spanish guitarist Javier Mas, Neil Larson on keyboard (including a Hammond B3 organ with Leslie), saxophonist Dino Soldo, percussionist Rafael Gayol, and long-time collaborator guitarist Bob Metzger.
The gentle and almost ephemeral backup vocals were rendered by a trio comprised of Hattie and Charley Webb – (the Webb Sisters of the UK) who were exquisite on “If It Be Your Will” and Sharon Robinson – Cohen’s co-writer and soloist for “Boogie Street.”
There were several times I was moved to tears. Particularly poignant was Leonard’s recitation of “A Thousand Kisses Deep.” I looked up at the video screen to witness a tight close-up on his face. Toward the end of the poem, there was a glistening of tears in his eyes…
For three hours he took us on his journey – skipping on and off the stage to several encores and standing ovations. At last the band set down their instruments, came forward with the singers and Leonard and were joined onstage by the road-crew – all duly chappeaued. Cohen thanked everybody – everybody – from wardrobe to the hall tuners – for their work and contribution, his affection and respect for all clearly evident.
He closed by saying “I hope you’re surrounded by friends and family,” and then added… because he knew …”but if that’s not the way it is, may blessings find you in your solitude.”
Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for a night I will long remember.
My home town launched a free music festival last night that is hoped to become an annual event. With three blocks of our downtown closed off, two main stages flanked the east and west end with several mini-venues sprinkled within various store-fronts and one larger indoor venue.
The festival ran from noon to 11:00 pm –
I’d tell you who the artist’s were, but it’s website has already erased that info – a list of the artists can be found via this link. But I do know there was a healthy mix of genre’s from indie to bluegrass. Word has it that it wants to grow up and emulate the massive SXSW festival in Austin. I’m a bit skeptical of it’s chances.
Once upon a time, back in the day, our town was on the rise with it’s local music scene. The Campus Corner area at the rim of the University was rife with restaurants and clubs crowded on the weekends with people clamoring to see their favorite local band or artist. It wasn’t unusual to see street musicians on the corner in those days.
But the scene fizzled. It’s been debated over and over as to what happened, but my guess is one of lack of support from the city ‘fathers’ and lack of organization from the artists. It just never took off.
I am really out of touch with the current scene in this town, so when I heard about the festival – yesterday, day of – I was surprised (I don’t read our local rag, something that an acquaintance I ran into last night responded to by telling me I needed to get my head out of my ass… he may be right).
I was really surprised that the downtown merchants agreed to such a venture. My ten years running the indoor venue taught me just how tight-assed they were about anything that could potentially take money from their pocket without any consideration as to how they may make it work to their advantage.
A lot of those merchants have either moved on or were beaten into submission I suppose, because for twelve or so hours, on a Saturday, downtown was closed off and streams of people flowed in to enjoy the current local music scene.
I arrived about a half hour before one band was set to play. I came because it was a reunion of a hometown band that “made it big” as it were. A band that had also played at the indoor venue during my tenure there which gave me the opportunity to chit chat with some of the band members. They were/are great guys.
The band? None other then the Chansaw Kittens. With proud parents and grandparents at the foot of the stage, they jumped into an hour long love fest with their audience. I recorded a bunch of it with a friend in mind who, perhaps, has made more music festivals in his young lifetime, then I ever could have boasted of in my hippy youth.
This one’s for you, Pauly (the beginning is rough, the sound is out of sync for a brief moment or two).
The M3SC, like the former M36, features a 3-piece back, but with an added striking visual and tonal feature — the center wedge is Indian rosewood, with solid mahogany wings, and solid mahogany sides. The rosewood center wedge in the back adds warmth to an already crystalline mahogany tone. This spectacular mix is highlighted by C.F. Martin’s renowned hand-polished, nitro-cellulose gloss lacquer finish.
Of the few folks who drift by this blog time to time, I know there’s at least one person, maybe two, who understand why the above quote makes me positively cream…
I returned to a familiar daydream today. One that brought back sounds, smells and sensations of a time long ago and which were intensified when I gave into temptation, fired up the browser and took a stroll.
Many, many years ago I fantasized about being the next rising star on the folk music horizon. My top heroes were the three “J-s” – Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Joni Mitchell. During my high school years, most of my non-school hour time was spent with a guitar in my hands – I was either practicing or paying a bit of dues in front of an audience in the local coffee-houses.
I never gained proficiency on the guitar – picking patterns continually eluded me and were a source of great frustration – but, I never let it stop me from playing. I would spend long hours learning a tune, chord by chord, verse by verse. The song was ready for performance when I finally reached the moment when it would become organic. I didn’t need to think about the chords or the words or the tune – it would all just flow together and out.
There was a commercial that ran a few years ago that had a father and a young child sitting on a hill, under a tree, watching the sunset. The sun slowly dips below the horizon and then the young, awestruck child whispers “Do it again, Daddy.” It’s that kind of intangible magic moment that, when I’d hit it with a song piece, made me want to sing it over and over and over. It’s that intoxicating high that made me want to share it with an audience. I loved it.
College days and new interests kept the Gibson in its case for longer and longer periods as time went on. I finally sold it a couple of years after college when it came down to a choice between it or the camera and dark room equipment when I moved from Oregon back to Oklahoma. I couldn’t fit both in the car. Eventually, the songs left my memory, the callouses healed and my hands lost their familiarity with the strings and the frets.
Right now there’s a ton of good modern folk/accoustic music floating the airwaves and residing on a million iPods. Listening to it provoked me into buying a ninety dollar guitar from the local pawn shop a couple of years ago. I wanted to learn and play that music. I wanted to revive a part of me that had been in a deep sleep for a very long time.
The guitar was at home in my hands. The smell of it evoked remembrances of smoky coffeehouses and sitting alone on a stool on a tiny stage. My hands struggled through the first few chord progressions. Determination kept me at it while I attempted to learn a tune I’d craved to learn since first hearing it. My voice isn’t the voice of the singer I once was, but croaking out what I could while stumbling through the chords launched a time machine, of sorts, that took me back to that time when dreams were still possible and magic still happened. It felt good.
Unfortunately, I didn’t keep at it. Other distractions took my attention away and the guitar has remained a mere decorative item on its stand in the living room. Today, however, I felt the desire rise again after listening to a couple of great songs. The number of female artists is exponentially greater than it was in those coffehouse days and the songs they are singing are songs I want to play.
And it’s what, today, prompted me to type the magic words into Google which lead me the mecca of guitarists all over the world – the Martin & Co. website. I’ve had the desire to own a Martin guitar ever since the first callous formed on the fingers of my left hand. I came close – my Dad considered getting one for me as a birthday present one year, but stopped short when he saw the price tag of five-hundred dollars.
To buy the Martin I want, today would cost about three to four times that five hundred of thirty some-odd years ago. But, I’m really considering doing it. I hesitate, though, because I fear it would end up occupying space in a closet, rarely to be seen. That’s a lot of money to spend for something to toss the laundry on to. However, I’m lured by the tone, the look, the feel and the craving for the high of accomplishment I once felt so long ago.
Select abalone pearl inlays in the Style 45 rosette, and around the top and fingerboard extension, are highlighted by black and white fine line wood fiber borders. The Madagascar rosewood headplate on the square, tapered headstock provides the canvas for the rare Alternative Torch inlay…
I need a cigarette.
*Mortal lovers must not try to remain at the first step; for lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair.
-C S Lewis