Brahms Festival 2016

I adore Brahms, and if I had the cash I’d be on a plane out to Detroit right now!

Thanks to Rich Brown of Good Music Speaks for turning us on to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s ongoing celebration of Brahm’s life & works. They’re doing all four symphonies, a Berio arrangement of Brahm’s Sonata for Clarinet and Orchestra (I had no idea that existed!), and even a beard contest. But trust me – that’ll be a tough one.

There’s even a beard competition, but trust me – it’s gonna be a tough one.

Here’s more info:

Source: Brahms Festival 2016

Photo courtesy of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (UK), via Creative Commons.


January 11, 2016: David Bowie

David Bowie died on Sunday at the age of 69.

In an age of macho bullshit rock & roll, he moved fluidly between styles of music, fashion, and taste, while writing great songs and lyrics.

If you haven’t listened to much of Bowie’s music, 1969 – 1983 is recognized as being his “peak” period, but he kept on working literally until the end of his life. The last album dropped a couple of weeks ago.

Here are a few of my favorites, starting with a perfect “Monday Funday Dance Party” song:

My first exposure to Bowie was this album. One of my good friends from high school was (and still is) a huge Bowie fan, and we used to play this a lot.

David Bowie Fun Fact: One of the many cool things Bowie did was introduce Stevie Ray Vaughn to the world on this record. SRV wound up having to leave the “Let’s Dance” tour when his own album began taking off.

One of Bowie’s first singles was the hit “Space Odyssey,” which leaves the hero floating aimlessly in space. This is the sequel, and things have just gone downhill.

“Ashes to Ashes” was released in 1980 and is just dripping with ennui, Weltschmerz, or what you might call “disco hangover.” It’s perfect to listen to when you’re sad and don’t want to feel better.

With Queen. I love how Bowie and Freddie Mercury sing together on this. Bowie is no vocal slouch, but Freddie just had an incredible voice. With that perfect technique and huge vocal range, it would be hard for most rock singers to perform with him and not sound like an amateur.

But Bowie is terrific here. He doesn’t do the dazzling swoops and glides that Freddie does, but he is just as effective a performer. A much better duet than Bowie’s later collaboration with Mick Jagger on “Dancing in the Streets.”

One summer in college, my friend Jen made me a couple of mixtapes. Yeah yeah yeah, cassettes = old people, I’ll be dead sooner than you will, blah blah blah. ANYWAY, One of the tapes was a Bowie mix. It had some great songs on it, including this one.

It’s kind of fun and playful, very melodic, and vaguely threatening; just how I like a song. One of these days I’ll learn how to play it.

I’m really sad that Bowie died; my thoughts are with his loved ones during this time. I’m also very grateful that he made so much great music during the time he was here.

Okay, just one more:



Image: Nico Martin via Creative Commons

January 7, 2016

My wallen was stolen yesterday, right out of my purse. I guess you’d call it pickpocketing, except this wasn’t my pocket. Maybe “pickpocketbooking?”

Anyway, it sucks. I’m fine, and very grateful for that, but I now face a grand adventure in replacing all those little plastic rectangles that make life worthwhile. My bank has given me two completely conflicting answers about my debit card, and I do not look forward to my visit with the DMV.

In times like this, there’s really only one thing you can turn to. Two, really. Double bass drums.

And remember kids – teacher says:

  • If you prefer not to carry a purse, be sure to keep your wallet in your front pocket.
  • If you do carry a purse, make surely it’s securely closed. Don’t hang it on the back of your chair; place it on the ground between your feet.
  • Report the theft to the police – you might need a police report to replace some of your IDs.
  • Thieves are fiendishly tricky. Don’t beat yourself up if you get robbed.

Remember this: In 1999, famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma was performing in Manhattan. After the concert, he took a cab back to his hotel. He got out, and then realized he had forgotten his cello. His $2.5 million, 300 year-old Stradivarius cello. In the cab. In New York City.

The good news is, he got it back. But just imagine that moment when he realized where his cello was.

The Scream

So don’t feel so bad. As long as you’re okay, you have everything.


January 4, 2016 – Monday Funday Dance Party!

Wishing you a 2016 filled with love and glamour!

 There are 2 Brians in this band – Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno. Very different, but both great.

Personally, I’m more of a Brian Eno fan – he left the band after a couple of albums, and went on to a massive career as a solo artist and producer.

I just watched a documentary about Eno’s career in the seventies, “The Man Who Fell To Earth,” which is a great watch. It really focuses on his music and how it evolved over that time.


Bryan Ferry kept on with Roxy Music – it was really his beast. His stuff is great. I haven’t heard all of Avalon, but the songs I’ve heard are really romantic and lush.

I find it interesting to see how two people from the same group went on to make such different music.

December 30, 2015

Oh, how I love this album.

I bought it because I liked the cover, something that has served me very well in the past. Album art is really important, even now that physical album covers are becoming rare.

It’s a fantastic record. It goes from total noise to neo-country music, and the song arrangements are really inventive. And I wish Santa would bring me a voice like Carla Bozulich for Christmas.

Geraldine Fibbers Fun Fact: Nels Cline plays guitar on this record; he’s been on a ton of projects (including Wilco). Great, creative musician.

There’s a cover of Can’s “You Doo Right” on the album. I’m very picky about my Can covers, and in my opinion you need some serious vocal chops to do this song. When it song breaks down in the middle and then comes back, the singer is really pulling the whole group along.

I like what the Geraldine Fibbers bring to this. It has its similarities to the original, but they really make it their own.

And here’s the original:

I love them both.

Monday Funday Dance Party (Day 2)

Oh, things are just crazy right now. It’s all good, but it’s like being covered in a pile of kittens – delightful, but you don’t get much done. So let’s just consider this day Two of the Monday Funday Dance Party – Holiday Edition.

Here’s a song I know from way back. There’s a recording somewhere of me singing this with my mom at the age of five; the only lyrics I knew for sure were “Five Golden Rings,” so I made sure to sing that at the top of my lungs.

Please feel free to do your own interpretive dance in silhouette while a cowboy sits by, or something that you like even better.

December 9, 2015

It’s been a super crazy couple of weeks. I just got a new job, which I adore, and have been transitioning from my old job, which I also adored. It’s a really happy time, but also a busy one.

So here’s a couple of tracks in honor of working folk.

“Working in a Coal Mine” was a hit for Lee Dorsey in 1966:

Until just now, when I looked up the song, I only really knew the Devo version. I’m surprised by how similar it is to the original.

Not that I’m complaining; they’re both great. And so is this:

Nobody sings like Roy Orbison. Nobody. Bruce Springsteen agrees with me, so it must be true.


Monday Funday Dance Party

I adore Sly and the Family Stone. They were so positive, and this was one of the very very few bands at the time that was both multi-racial and multi-gender. And they played great.

In honor of trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, who passed away this week, and also to celebrate a recent court decision that awarded Sly $5 million in back royalties, here’s 6 or 7 minutes of awesomeness. I dare you not to dance.

Image courtesy of Danny PiG via Creative Commons. All rights reserved.

November 4, 2015

The first concert I ever went to was the Alarm, at the Beacon Theater in New York. Three of us drove into the city in a tiny little convertible that may or may not have been made out of fiberglass.

I actually don’t remember anything about the show, except that I enjoyed it. Actually, my dominant memory of that evening is my two friends doing impersonations of DJ Scott Muni.

This was a time when U2 was The Big Deal, and any band that even kind of sounded like them had a good shot at having a hit. The Alarm were angry in a good way, and had awesome hair and cool fringe-y suede jackets, just like Bono.

And they were actually a good band. They played well, they had some good songs, and they had the right music at the right time.

My second concert was at the Pier, again in NYC. I was a lot more into the bands that played that night; it was the Cure, with 10,000 Maniacs opening.

That was a really fun night – I was with a bunch of friends, and we drove into the city in nice, safe sedans and station wagons.

Photo of the Alarm by Helge Øverås.

“Alarm kalvoya 01071984 10 500” by Helge Øverås – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons