Archive for the ‘Crunchy grooves’ Category

Taking Some Me Music Time

Friday, 24th June 2011. Filed in Crunchy groovesNo Comments »

It is a very music-oriented day today. We’ve got bits and pieces of Glastonbury on the BBC firing up. (I’m looking forward to tucking the Noodle in a bit early and sitting my booty down in front of the tv tonight for some festival action. We’ll see what happens with that plan! [It’s currently 20 minutes into that plan. Noodle’s in bed fine, but Andy Murray’s on Wimbledon and that’s what my father in law, who’s been staying with us this week, is watching. Thank goodness for the iPlayer and videos on the web. I’ve got B.B. King through my headphones right now. ])

We didn’t get to any music festivals last year, due to obvious higher priorities, and I have missed it. Crunchy husband and I were lucky enough to catch Peter Gabriel in March in London.  We had our babysitters flown in from San Francisco so we could go. No, not really, but well, kind of.  It was just really good timing for my family to arrive. We picked them up from Heathrow, settled us all into a hotel, went out to dinner and then left the Noodle sitting with/near them on the Tube and hopped off. I have to say that was really strange, watching the train disappear with my baby sitting in his stroller amidst a rush hour-packed commuter train. The Noodle looked happy enough, but I looked at Crunchy husband standing next to me on the platform and said, “oh my god, we are horrible parents.” Needless to say, the Noodle had a super time with his Granny, Poppa, auntie, uncle and cousin that evening. And we had a great time at the show. I guess that’s kind of what happens when you have family around!

Beside Glastonbury coverage, I got three new cds through the door yesterday thanks to an Amazon gift certificate given to me for my birthday: the new Bon Iver, Dengue Fever and Paul Simon albums. I listened to the Bon Iver last week on NPR, and I liked it, except for the odd last song, which made me feel like I was watching a Hallmark daytime tv movie in the 80s. I wonder if it will grow on me? Not sure. I am looking forward to tucking in to the others. It’s just getting the chance. The Noodle’s been monopolizing the stereo with his nursery rhymes and Aloe Blacc lately. (“I Need A Dollar” is his favorite song at the moment. I think he likes the deliberate striking of the piano keys. I once caught him getting down to the beginning of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5″ with the same sort of piano action.)

I am also simultaneously working on a couple mix cds for some people that deserve ‘em – and a new one that popped on the radar after a chat with one of my good friends from California who admitted to me that she had no Peter Gabriel, but she thought the show in Berkeley was amazing. I’ve never had this process take so long, but like everything with being a mom, I’m getting used to it!

Tuesday: Run – 30.28
Friday: Run – 30.11

Peter Gabriel at WOMAD 2009

Friday, 31st July 2009. Filed in Crunchy grooves, Photography4 Comments »

San Jacinto, Peter Gabriel @ WOMAD, 25/07/09

One evening when I was in high school, I remember sitting in our living room after dinner. My dad had some music on in the background and all of a sudden I was like, what IS this? I am sure I had heard “Sledgehammer” or “Big Time” previously, but my earliest actual memory of Peter Gabriel was the emotional cry in “Blood of Eden” shooting through me as I sat on the floor in front of our couch. For whatever reason at the moment of time, it just got me. (I had a happy childhood, I swear!) From there, I worked my way backward and then forward through his catalogue, and he’s been one of my all time favorites ever since, despite the fact that none of my friends listened to him, and in fact one of my best friends had a complete aversion to him. I’ve always liked how his music sounds, and I’ve always liked what it says, how it paints pictures in my mind, how it makes me feel.

So, when Peter Gabriel announced last month he was going to play WOMAD as a benefit concert for Witness, an organization he co-founded to promote the use of technology to document human rights abuses, it didn’t take long to find a way through work schedules to get to Saturday WOMAD this year. 

I thought I knew what the set list was likely to look like, as I’d seen what he recently played in South America. So, I was intrigued as we watched the crew set up for a string section center stage (all the while Crunchy husband excitedly whispering, “do you think he’ll do ‘Growing Up’, do you, do you?” I just shook my head, “dude, no. You missed your chance on that one.”)

Lucky us, first song out, as a surprise to me, we got a peek into the Scratch My Back covers project with his version of “The Boy in the Bubble”. (I can’t wait to hear what Paul Simon has covered of Peter Gabriel’s for the album.) I still prefer the faster-paced original, but this slow version was not bad. He continued with the string section for a couple more songs before getting into the more familiar formation with the ever-cool Tony Levin & Co. to knock out some “Steam” and “Games Without Frontiers,” etc.

Like I felt at David Byrne a few months ago, it’s interesting listening to the music of your life live, and feeling so much connection to so many different parts and times and what they mean – what they meant then and what they mean now. The imagery in “San Jacinto” always makes me think of traveling across the western part of the United States and Canada with my family on summer vacations, dusty hot air beating through the window, my sweaty legs sticking uncomfortably to the seat in our van. “Solsbury Hill” always takes me home – that jolt of excitement and relief when the airplane finally reconnects with earth and you know you are back where you belong.

The only fault of the show was that it felt way, way, way too short. (No “Sledgehammer” or “In Your Eyes”.) But then, I suppose the guy would have to play his full catalogue before I might begin to be ready to go home.

Steam, Peter Gabriel @ WOMAD, 25/07/09

Peter Gabriel @ WOMAD, 25/07/09

Melanie Gabriel, Tony Levin @ WOMAD, 25/07/09

Biko, Peter Gabriel @ WOMAD, 25/07/09

Views from the Lovebox 2009

Wednesday, 22nd July 2009. Filed in Crunchy grooves, PhotographyNo Comments »

Rokia Traore @ Lovebox, London 19/07/09
Rokia Traore and her beautiful guitar

Noah and the Whale @ Lovebox, London 19/07/09
Noah and the Whale (I think there were drugs involved)

Rodrigo y Gabriela @ Lovebox, London 19/07/09
Rodrigo y Gabriela

Rodrigo y Gabriela @ Lovebox, London 19/07/09
Rodrigo y Gabriela

Rodrigo y Gabriela @ Lovebox, London 19/07/09
Rodrigo y Gabriela

Summer music is rockin’

Monday, 20th July 2009. Filed in Crunchy grooves1 Comment »

Ah, music is in the air.

Summer festival music is most definitely here, and it is sweet. It started with some rocking sets by Ben Harper and Neil Young at Hyde Park at the end of June, with an added ‘wow’ factor appearance by Paul McCartney for “A Day in the Life”. The Fleet Foxes also played at the show, but I was disappointed. The sound kind of sucked for them, so I’d like to see them another time, possibly indoors. I think that would be better. At one point during the day, we found ourselves sitting behind a guy with a Peter Gabriel Warm Up tour shirt, and began reminiscing about the deluge that soaked us on that very field two years ago.  It could have been a bittersweet reminiscence, except for the fact that someone has her Saturday WOMAD ticket in her hot little hands, so life is good.

Oh yes, we are, once again, in countdown mode. Six months ago, Crunchy husband and I decided that this would be the year we finally made it to WOMAD. I’ve wanted to go to a weekend festival, and that’s one of my top choices. Three months ago, I started a fab new job that makes attending the festival a bit difficult considering it’s during school holidays. So I told myself it wasn’t to be, and quit checking the line-up additions online. And then about a month ago, Peter Gabriel announced he’d be playing Saturday for the Witness organization. So, about three weeks ago we bought our Saturday tickets.

I’m excited.

But, I was still a little disappointed because we’re missing Rokia Traore, who’s playing Friday night. (I stumbled upon her somewhere earlier this year and have never looked back. Her music’s beautiful.) However, as I mentioned, life is good. We trekked  it in to London yesterday to catch Rokia Traore and Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Lovebox festival. Both acts – amazing. So talented! It was great!

So, if you’ve been following this crazy train of thought, you might see that I still have yet to have my camping festival weekend. But, we’re piecing the music together and it’s been mighty fun!

The Sony Walkman W Series: the Good, the Bad, and the Robot

Sunday, 3rd May 2009. Filed in Crunchy grooves, RunningNo Comments »

Recently, I was supplied with a new Sony Walkman W Series to test out. I loaded up my challenge playlist, and then got a bit distracted by the responsibilities of a fabulous new job. I haven’t been able to exercise much in the past couple weeks, beyond daily office stair climbs, but I have had the chance to test out the mp3 player a few times on the weekends.

The Good: It is lightweight and very easy to wear. There are no wires to poke down my shirt, no head to hip connections, beyond the usual anatomical circuits. I was skeptical when I took it out of the box – I have a small head and there is not a way to adjust the cord length between the right and left ears. But it stays on, even if I have to rotate the ear pieces to point down more than I imagine is usual. It is easy to turn off and on, adjust the volume and flip back and forth through tracks by just reaching up to your ear. In terms of sound, I’d say the speakers pack a reasonable punch. It’s pretty rich. Out of the box, the unit charged pretty quickly and was ready to go in good time.

The Bad: As I suspected, due to its size and portable nature, it has the same limitations as the iPod shuffle. You load up your songs, they get put on in the artist/folder order and off you go. That’s great for times when I want to listen to tracks in a random order. But, if I make a playlist for a run, I want to hear it in the order I’ve set. In this specific list, MGMT sets up the rhythm, Peter Gabriel tells me not to break it, and Andrew Bird carries the momentum through. I certainly don’t want to hear my cool down songs when I need a power song to get pep me up. The player is not very flexible to this need. To put the playlist onto the player in this order, I had to rename all the tracks to get them to fall in that order. So it’s not really realistic if you want to use the player to its 2 GB capacity with any kind of control, order, or an easy way to find what you’re looking for. You can use the ZAPPIN technology to hear clips of each song as you pass through, but eh, that’s not as exciting as it sounds. Usually, I can figure it out from the beginning of the song.

Also, the unit charges when it’s plugged in to a computer. I know this is the digital age, but there are times when I’m traveling and I don’t have my computer with me, so this doesn’t seem ideal.

The Robot: You can’t take yourself too seriously in one of these things.  A few months ago, I acquired a pair of Oakleys with prescription lenses. They are a bit big (small head) and the first time I put them on and looked in the mirror, I thought “oh god, I feel like the Terminator.” Thus, the combination of my sunglasses and this mp3 player prompted Crunchy husband to shout, “Robo boogie – binary solo!” the first time I hit the fields for a run. The robot effect feels a bit silly; however, they are so light, you forget about it and it becomes less of an issue.

My recommendation: If you are less worried about track order and easily locating specific tracks and just want something comfortable to exercise in, this could be what you’re looking for. Otherwise, I am not so sure.

David Byrne serves up a tasty set

Saturday, 25th April 2009. Filed in Crunchy grooves4 Comments »

“Hi, I’m Dave and I’ll be your waiter this evening.”

What can I say? Who else could pull off the quirky choreography? Who else could burn down the house wrapped in guitar and tutu?

On Easter Sunday, the husband and I boarded the 188 bus to wind our way through southeast London to catch David Byrne play the songs that he and Brian Eno have made together over the years at the Royal Festival Hall. The Jubilee line is getting some major work done on it (it’s never open on weekends), so it was onto the bus we climbed. This suited us just fine. It takes longer but the view’s better. We were able to get the top front seats,  and sit back and relax. The only problem with the long ride was I was pretty hungry and someone behind me had some nice smelling Indian food. It made me crave the Dosa Man, a street vendor in New York City that our good friend introduced us to last summer.

“I’m couting all the possibilities, for dancing on this lazy afternoon…”

David Byrne is known to hop on his bike and explore the cities on his tour, so our position on the bus left us in prime position for David Byrne spotting. We saw lots of commuters, some bmx-ers, and nearly took out an old lady on a scooter. But, no David Byrne.

That was all right. I am sure he was running over some last minute changes to the office chair choreography.  Or just really bored. (From an almost daily chronicle, his enthusiasm for describing the world around him along his voyage drops off after Belfast.) Now, I don’t like to read reviews before I go to see anyone I really enjoy, but Crunchy husband had told me that Mr. Byrne had gotten some mixed reviews on his integration of dancers within the set.  Quirky movements, detached expressions, unpointed toes? It suited his style perfectly.

The show opened exactly as I’d hoped: with an open invitation to take pictures, despite the sign out front that said no video or photography allowed. Unfortunately, I then took nothing but crappy pictures. We were instructed to post only the good ones online. I disobeyed. Sorry, Dave.

Every person on stage performed the entire evening dressed only in white. I was skeptical about this at first, but it worked really well with the lighting cues. They acted as a canvas, especially in ‘I Feel My Stuff’. It took it to another level.

The set was a mixture of old Talking Heads and Bush of Ghosts collaborations and new songs from the Everything that Happens Will Happen Today album. No ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody,’ but I suppose Brian Eno didn’t have much of a hand in that one.  It was continuously energetic and grooving. Guitar jogging is in this season.

The best thing about the music throughout the evening is that it made me forget where I was and appreciate exactly where I was at the same time. It makes me think and not think at the same time. It makes me feel. I guess I have various emotional memories tied to David Byrne performances. I remember walking out of the Warfield late at night in San Francisco and the Crunchy man putting his arm around me to ‘protect me.’ (Puh-lease!) Thinking about it, it may have been the first concert we went to together. I remember crying in the bathroom at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge. It was my first trip to England, we were in a major transition  period – Us again? In England? Would it work? – and I’d just been told that “being myself” had “scared” the Crunchy man’s brother. Obviously, we got through it.

My life has just entered a new phase again (hence lag, lag lag on the blogging front). A good one, I hope, ripe for personal development and new experiences. I take from the Royal Festival Hall happy memories of good beats, dancing (thank goodness the auditorium atmosphere didn’t stop people from standing), and thoughts of my life and family.

And Mr. Byrne in a tutu.

A new playlist for the Sony Walkman W series

Friday, 10th April 2009. Filed in Monday mixtape, Running2 Comments »

I haven’t run with music in a while. Even when I was running much more than I am now, I wouldn’t always take music, and had gotten to the point where I rarely took music. Sometimes I just like to focus on me: my breathing, my thoughts, how I am feeling physically and psychologically. I also don’t like to be completely plugged in when I am outside so that I can hear my surroundings – safety first! (If I’m completely plugged in to music, I’m gone, in my own little world. It’s a fantastic world to be in, as long as you don’t have to worry about cars, tractors, dogs or crazy people.) Even when I want music, my set up is not ideal. My iPod tends to do funny things like skip, stop and refuse to play when it gets jostled. (I don’t have a Nano and, though carrying the weight of the video doesn’t bother me, the frustration at not being able to listen to music when I have  set out to does.)

So, when I was contacted to take the new Sony Walkman W series mp3 player for a spin in return for setting out a power playlist that would improve my performance, it didn’t take long to decide to accept the challenge. I’ve been in a funny place running-wise lately but ultimately I like running, I like music, I sometimes like running with music (it’s essential on the treadmill), and I love to try out new gadgets. So, here goes.

Songs that make good running tunes for me do two things: they let me lose myself a bit and they make me dance. Mostly they are upbeat, positive or remind me of something inspirational. The playlist’s a bit long (!!!) for my distance right now, but maybe it will be what I need to get me back in training for longer distances again. I’ll be back to tell you how it goes with the player. I have a sneaking suspicion I will not actually be able to put the songs on the player in this order, or at least not easily, without having to rename them. We shall see.

Prelude – Getting ready, dancing a bit, singing a little, lacing up the shoes

1. Almudo – Daby Touré and Skip McDonald
2. Late In the Evening – Paul Simon
3. Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel (any live version with a long intro with the crowd humming – the music kicks in and I’m out the door and jogging up or cruising down the hill)

I’m Off, I Rockin’ Out

4. Elevation – U2
5. Legs – ZZ Top
6. Rockin’ Me – Steve Miller Band
7. Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival
8. Dancin’ Til Dawn – Lenny Kravitz
9. Girls & Boys – Blur
10. Fashion – David Bowie
11. Electric Feel – MGMT

I Have Indeed Hit the Fields and Marshes, I’m Pep Talking My Legs

12. Don’t Break This Rhythm – Peter Gabriel
13. Not A Robot, But A Ghost – Andrew Bird
14. Music (Groove Armada 12″ Mix) – Madonna
15. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) – David Byrne (Live from Austin, Tx)

I’ve Probably Started to Daydream and Lag and Need To Refocus for the Push Home

16. Work (Freemasons Radio Edit) – Kelly Rowland
17. Can’t Stop – Ozomatli
18. Tounka – Rokia Traoré
19. A Sense of Home – Peter Gabriel
20. Learning to Fly – Pink Floyd
21. Good Things – BoDeans

Cool Down, Stretch, Reflect

22. All That We Let In – Indigo Girls
23. There is A Light – Great Lake Swimmers
24. Simple Gifts – Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss
25. With My Own Two Hands – Ben Harper and Jack Johnson
26. Supposed to Be – Jack Johnson

Singing with Daby Touré at the Jazz Cafe

Thursday, 19th March 2009. Filed in Crunchy grooves3 Comments »

I love Daby Touré sing-a-longs! Do I know the words? No! Does that stop me? No! Do the people around me care? Possibly, but then most of them probably can’t make me out for the rest of the singing anyway! Yeah, baby!

We fought traffic and drove west into a really bright setting sun to see Daby Touré and Skip McDonald play at the Jazz Cafe in London last night. They’ve recently recorded an album together that we really like, but I was hoping Daby Touré would play a lot of solo stuff as well. I wasn’t disappointed as it turned out he played all solo stuff with Skip McDonald on guitar too. Except, I was a little disappointed because I would have liked to have heard them play some of the songs they’ve recently recorded together.

But no matter, the music was great, including audience singbacks. I didn’t know what I was singing, but it was fun and I felt happy. Even though I don’t know the language, I take meaning from how the songs make me feel and I get a sense that the music is full of strong, positive connotations, more than “I had cereal for breakfast today” (even though Crunchy husband thinks he probably goes home thinking, “I can’t believe the crazy stuff we got the audience to sing back to us tonight!”).

The energy on stage was fantastic. There’s Daby Touré jumping up and down, strumming and drumming his guitar while smiling and jogging in place: fluid, enthusiastic, bouncy. Forty-five minutes in, enter Skip McDonald: mysterious, rigid, cool. And together, it works. It’s a little bit yin and yang for music chemistry – everything balanced out for a joyous, harmonious set.

I left happy in my heart, made buoyant by great music (yay “Bibou”!). And by the fact that I snagged myself a little souvenir from the stage after the show. Because I am just that geek.


Daby Touré and Skip McDonald @ Jazz Cafe, London - 18/03/2009

Daby Touré and Skip McDonald @ Jazz Cafe, London - 18/03/2009

Daby Touré @ Jazz Cafe, London - 18/03/2009

Skip McDonald @ Jazz Cafe, London - 18/03/2009

Everybody else is doing it: Our picks from 2008

Tuesday, 30th December 2008. Filed in Monday mixtape3 Comments »

It’s not Monday, but it’s a mix.

Everywhere you look, it’s a roundup of the best of 2008. So last week, Crunchy husband and I cranked out a CD of good sounds from the year. It was slapped together so it would be done before Christmas. I think we are both surprised how it came out. There’s a lot of clapping involved, which is never a bad thing.  To us, anyway. Not sure how the neighbors appreciate it, but they always call us the quiet ones in the corner, so…

This mix will no doubt evolve over the next couple days with all the music we’d waited ever so patiently for Santa to bring. Most of which he didn’t bring because he and Mrs Claus each forgot to check the Amazon wish lists, so we wowed the (obviously very cool and knowledgeable) HMV guy with our stack of “I didn’t get this for Christmas but I really wanted it, so here I am and it’s on sale hooray! and you haven’t had the Fleet Foxes on your shelf for weeks, can it be that you really don’t stock it??”s yesterday. His accolades at our impressive taste in music wavered at Dido, but he obviously didn’t hold it against us too much because he produced a Fleet Foxes cd for us, out of thin air it must have been, I’d looked everywhere, multiple times. [I thought we were going to have to leave without Bon Iver too (yes I know, where HAVE I been?) when the one cd located in the ‘Bon Iver’ section was actually Michael Bolton’s “Greatest Hits” (good god. Imagine my surprise. I should have been staring at the visual depiction of the emotions of a man who holed himself up in a cabin with only his laptop, grief, and his liquid voice through a cold Wisconsin winter to tend to a broken heart and got, well, Michael Bolton’s mullet staring up at me, proclaiming he has greatest hits. The cd almost flew across the store), but I found For Emma, Forever Ago elsewhere. It took some, uh bending but I got it.]

We spent the night working on a puzzle and listening to our new cds, so stayed tuned for an updated version. I have a feeling there might very well be chiggers involved.

Our Picks from 2008, Part I, Let’s Clap and Dance and Stuff:

1. Amerykahn Promise- Erykah Badu
2. Strange Overtones- David Byrne and Brian Eno
3. One (Blake’s Got a New Face)- Vampire Weekend
4. Breaking It Up- Lykke Li
5. Surprise- Gnarls Barkley
6. Exit Through You- Joseph Arthur, Peter Gabriel/Big Blue Ball
7. Dishwasher- Fujiya & Miyagi
8. Integratron- Dengue Fever
9. Radio Retaliation- Thievery Corporation
10. Tazeb Kush- Dub Colossus
11. Shadow- Papa Wemba/Big Blue Ball
12. Sing for You- Tracy Chapman
13. Sleep Through the Static- Jack Johnson
14. Mykonos- Fleet Foxes
15. 6am Corner- Kathryn Williams & Neill MacColl
16. I Keep Faith- Billy Bragg
17. More News from Nowhere- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
18. Mr E’s Beautiful Blues (Live from Town Hall)- Eels

Billy Bragg’s for life, not just for Christmas

Tuesday, 2nd December 2008. Filed in Crunchy grooves3 Comments »

Amidst a crazy, busy weekend, on Saturday night we headed down to Hastings to see Billy Bragg. I tried to get some pictures for Jeanne, but they all came out really crappy. (But, what do I do when photos come out crappy? I post them on Flickr anyway.  Hooray!)

The show was good. I don’t really know much of his music, except for songs Crunchy husband has popped on mixtapes for me over the years, but man, does that guy have good things to say. He is really inspiring, both in song and chit-chat between songs. I cannot get enough of “I Keep Faith” at the moment. It just reminds me of everything good that has happened lately, and how we have a more promising future ahead of us, both in what Obama can himself achieve, and in what he inspires in all of us to achieve.

In ways, Billy Bragg helped me hit on something that I’ve been having a hard time conceptualizing these past months. There is one part of my being (the very largest part) that is so optimistic and hopeful and so damn excited to see how things might play out over the next four years, at least. And then there is that voice that whispers, don’t be foolish, don’t be hasty, don’t get your hopes up. That second voice usually doesn’t win out, but it does add caution to my excitement.

But, something Billy Bragg said really resolves this conflict for me: cynicism is our greatest enemy. I know Barack Obama won’t be able to do everything everyone would like him to do.  He is only one man, working within a system, to clean up a mess that poses deep challenges. I was flipping through the group the Guardian set up on Flickr for people to post messages to Obama, and I started to feel nervous for the guy, so many hopes and dreams, so many problems to solve. It’s not realistic. But, I have faith that he will make a darn good start. It feels like in many ways, he has already done so much, inspired so many people to be involved, to care again, to take action toward a better world.

And so yeah, “and if your plans come to nothing, washed out in the rain/let me rekindle all your hopes and help you start again/I keep faith in you…”

Billy Bragg @ White Rock Theatre, Hastings 29/11/08

Billy Bragg @ White Rock Theatre, Hastings 29/11/08

“If you have a web site, I want to be on it…” Well, there ya go!

Billy Bragg and Otis Gibbs @ White Rock Theatre, Hastings 29/11/08

With Otis Gibbs