Thursday, November 17, 2011

Stephen Petronio Dance Company

Stephen Petronio’s fifth time at UCSB culminated in a night of provocative narrative and impressive physicality set to the backdrop of the powerful and prodigious music of Nick Cave. Underland, a production that Petronio choreographed in eight weeks in the heart of Sydney, Australia, looks at the cyclical and subconscious emotionality of Cave’s work through the physical manifestation of the body as the site onto which “the dark beauty of his music, its rawness, pain and redemption” saturate the dancers’ movements with pronounced mastery and passion. The pieces illuminated Cave’s predilection towards the battle of lightness and darkness and his unique articulation of communal struggle and salvation. In the Q&A after the performance, Petronio noted how blessed he was to work with so many dedicated performers and collaborators in a creative space where, after twenty five years in the business, he could finally have the confidence to illustrate Cave’s lyrics through textured flashes that slide back and forth between abstraction and explicit illustration. With industrial overtones and muscular grace, the Stephen Petronio Dance Company moved the audience with their sultry agility and blurring movements in pieces that aptly depicted Cave’s focus on the journey of both the submission and exaltation of the human soul.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Creole Choir of Cuba

On Wednesday night, the Creole Choir of Cuba, comprised of ten members from Camagüey, Cuba, arrived in Campbell Hall to a crowd eager to hear their internationally renowned traditional Creole songs. Creole, the fusion of multiple languages over the course of centuries of slavery and cross-cultural interactions, represents the hybridity of Cuban culture through beautiful and soulful vocal recitation. On a sparse stage with a small percussion section, the choir evoked a markedly powerful response through their passionate harmonies and nuanced choral configurations. Energetic and lively, the song selection spanned the cultural history of Cuba from the Haitian slave trade to contemporary neo-liberalism, illuminating the textured history of Creole culture. The themes freedom, family, and hope rang true through their intimate stories of resistance and identity. With music as the hub of expression and cultural preservation, the simplicity of the performance juxtaposed to their dynamic vocal exaltations made for an evening rich in rhythm and radiance.



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rejoice & Shout Film Review

On a cold and dark Monday night, I had the pleasure of viewing, Rejoice and Shout, a documentary that chronicles the 200 year history of African-American gospel music, stemming from the call-and-response spiritual hymns on the plantations all the way to the booming industry of contemporary Christian music. As a programmer at KCSB, I host a soul and R&B show and I was delighted to see the amazing footage that director, Don McGlynn, had collected. From rare recordings from the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet, to the Blind Boys sing-offs, to Mahalia Jackson’s heart stopping performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Rejoice & Shout not only informed the audience, but also entertained them with captured moments of musical brilliance and innovation. With a deftly constructed storyline as well as lush and insightful commentary by some of gospel music’s most significant performers, like Clara Ward, Ira Tucker, and notable gospel historians, Rejoice & Shout told not only the story of gospel music, but also the story of the communities that found identity within these hallowed voices. What struck me most about this film was that almost every performance captured in both film and audio was utterly saturated with a raw sound that was simultaneously exalting, haunting, and alluring. Upon leaving the theatre I heard a couple sum up perfectly why gospel music has left such an enduring legacy in American music: these musicians were not singing for fame or fortune-they sang with an ineffable and irreparable conviction of spirit that still resonates with listeners to this day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mary Oliver Review

You may ask yourself: why are you writing a post about a poet on a music blog? I won't even go into the intersectional nature of poetry and music (jive poetry and jazz, anyone?) but I'll say just this: Mary Oliver's poetry is music to my ears.

Bundled between a young boy and an older woman from the UK, I knew that this was going to be an experience. I had been eagerly anticipating to hear one of my favorite poets speak and here I was, right in the middle of it. The woman next to me expressed her surprise about the high quality of audience turn out. Indeed she was right: this Pulitzer Prize winner at Campbell Hall seemed to have attracted the cream of the crop of Santa Barbara's poetry lovers from both near and far. Mary Oliver's words had inspired the sleepy literary enthusiasts of the central coast to come out in full force to hear the enchanting musings of one of America's greatest poetic voices. She spoke with such endearing charm and humor, inserting witty commentary between her recitations of both her old and contemporary literary creations. Blending in old classics like "Wild Geese" (to the audience's delight she prefaced the poem saying, "People hit me if I don't read Wild Geese") and unpublished poems, she recited her work with graceful simplicity and sincerity. The times she fumbled between her passages she noted that "finding poems is like doing taxes," amusing the audience with her wry, casual humor. She created an organic experience of sharing and communication between her work and her listener, allowing her readings to be just as seamless and alluring as her printed words. As her poems capture the gorgeous multiplicities of human experience, so did her performance. Her traditional pastoral observations of her home in Massachusetts still embody an ethereal poignance even as her recent move to Florida has forced her to "learn to love the palm trees." Her fascination with the ineffable sublimity of nature enraptured the audience-the air was silent and still as they grasped on to every word. Mary Oliver's epistolic recitations was like a full season: embodying every facet of the world's dark and enduring beauty. She captured every range of emotion, confronting issues of mortality, love, nature, and, of course, her beloved canine companion, Percy.

Maneuvering between the worlds of poetry and academia, she found that "poetry only has one nation, no boundary--it's the warehouse of the world, full of metaphors." During the Q&A, Oliver revealed that while teaching she would assign students to write a "prose poem" to prove that they could, indeed, write a sentence. She seems to realize the balance of prose and poetry, claiming that one need not choose one over the other. Utilizing multiple part poems in order to allow a circular change of voice, Oliver shed light on her writing style stating that she utilized dashes and semicolons in order to make the listener more privy to finish the sentence-a sentence that could be 36 lines long. When asked about the validity of poetry she proclaimed, "Poetry saves lives...I read for joy, comfort, satisfaction, and then elegance." Each poem she read became my new favorite and by the end of the night, my notebook was full of her hauntingly gorgeous observations. Evoking an emotional standing ovation, Mary Oliver left the stage as quietly as she had entered it, but this time with an audience yearning for more.

Replacing "Wild Geese" as my favorite poem, here is "The Kitten."

The Kitten

More amazed than anything
I took the perfectly black
stillborn kitten
with the one large eye
in the center of its small forehead
from the house cat's bed
and buried it in a field
behind the house.

I suppose I could have given it
to a museum,
I could have called the local

But instead I took it out into the field
and opened the earth
and put it back
saying, it was real,
saying, life is infinitely inventive,
saying, what other amazements
lie in the dark seed of the earth, yes,

I think I did right to go out alone
and give it back peacefully, and cover the place
with the reckless blossoms of weeds.

Poetically yours,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

6/8/11 Playlist

1.Security-Otis Redding
2. Shake-Sam Cooke
3. Hey Lolly Molly-Oscar Mclollie & The Honey Jumpers
4. Time Is On My Side-Irma Thomas
5. Don't Play That Song-Aretha Franklin
6. She's Not Just Another Woman-8th Day
7.Get Something Out of It-The 5 Royales
8. Sitting On Top of the World-Sweet Honey In the Rock
9. I Got to Go-Little Walter
10. Frankie & Johnny-Champion Jack Dupree
11. How'm I Gonna Get Back Home-He's My Brother, She's My Sister
12. Looking For the Right Thing-Jamestown Revival
13. Little Ashtray In Sun-Cotton Jones
14. The Hills of My Home-Laurie Lewis
15. City of Refuge-Abigail Washburn
16. Wade In the Water-Patty Griffin
17. To Ramona (live)-Bob Dylan
18. Folks-Mirah & Thao
19. By Morning-Leftover Cuties
20. Minds Awake-Rumspringa
21. Wreck My Car-Scott H. Biram
22. New Shadow-The Dutchess & The Duke
23. Sophie's Waltz-Nathan

Happy summer,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

6/1/11 Playlist

1. Johnny's Heartbreak-Otis Redding
2. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy-Marlena Shaw
3. Gimme Little Sign-Brenton Wood
4. I Know-Barbara George
5. These Ain't Raindrops-James Carr
6. Girl Watcher-The O'Kaysions
7. Who Knows-Marion Black
8. God Is Trying To Tell You Something-Quincy Jones
9. Talk With Jesus-The Jones Sisters
10. Drown In My Own Tears-Ray Charles
11. It Won't Be Long-Clarence "Frogman" Henry
12. Leaving Here-Eddie Holland
13. My Country Man-Big Maybelle
14. Bloodshot Eyes-Wynonie Harris
15. Little Mama-The Clovers
16. Hey Bartender-Floyd Dixon
17. Sag Drag & Fall-Sid King & The Five Strings
18. Lord Lord-Junior Wells
19. Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan-Holcombe Waller
20. Wasteland-Maggie Bjorlund
21. Southside of Heaven-Ryan Bingham
22. Sometimes-Punch Brothers
23. Good Night Darling-Huckleberry Flint
24. Long Time Traveller-The Wailin' Jennys
25. Wicker Frames-Polka Dot Dot Dot
26. Buffalo-Mountain Man
27. Lakeville-Amy Correia
28. I Like The Way You Walk-The Donkeys

Paz, Paz, Paz,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

5/18/11 Playlist

1. For Your Precious Love-Otis Redding
2. Mannish Boy (Muddy Waters cover)-Erykah Badu
3. Who Knows Who?-Orgone
4. This Land Is Your Land-Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
5. Oughta Be A Woman-Sweet Honey In The Rock
6. Purple-Shuggie Otis
7. Don't Cry-Sam Cooke
8. Sincerely-The McGuire Sisters
9. I've Got That Feelin'-Darrell Banks
10. I Love You Baby-Moovers
11. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues-Chris Thomas King
12. Traveling Mama Blues-Joe Calicott
13. Sweet Appalachia-The Del McCoury Band
14. I've Just Seen a Face-The Dillards
15. As I Lay On The Prairie-Brian Harnety
16. Hello Goodbye-Barry Phillips
17. Lexington-Elephant Revival
18. Glencoe-Richard Thompson
19. Colorado Girl-Steve Earle
20. Art Isn't Real-Deer Tick
21. Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)-Justin Vernon
22. Spanish Pipedream-The Avett Brothers
23. Sold-Dan Mangan
24. Watchman-Peggy Sue
25. My Name Is Buddy-Ry Cooder
26. Showbiz Blues-Fleetwood Mac
27. Ooh La La-The Faces
28. She PLays Yo Yo With My Mind-Sonny & The Sunsets
29. Hard Line-Jill Barber
30. Bundles-Mariee Sioux
31. Hidden Track-Johnny Flynn
32. Your Only Doll (Dora)-Laura Marling

Eclectically yours,

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Del McCoury Band Review

On Wednesday, May 12 I strolled into Campbell Hall with absolute certainty that I would enjoy this performance. Taking the stage was bluegrass legend, Del McCoury and his faithful band, an ensemble who in the music industry inspire not only respect, but high praise from musicians of all genres. Having collaborated with heavy hitters like Steve Earle, Phish, and Elvis Costello, Del McCoury demonstrates that bluegrass isn't just for those with an acquired taste: it's about presence, passion, and the musical marriage of sound old and new. Listening to the Del McCoury Band was almost like a throwback to the Carter Family: after 50 years of playing, Del McCoury has certainly made his performances a family affair. With his kind and loving sharing of the stage, he incorporated his band through the recognition of his son, Ron McCoury, playing the mandolin, his other son Rob McCoury on the banjo, and his other bandmates, fiddler Jason Carter and bass player Alan Batram. Del McCoury warmly engaged with the audience, taking requests and recounting old stories ranging from his early childhood love of Earl Scruggs to past festival interactions with Richard Thompson. Del McCoury's charm was completely enchanting and comfortable: soft spoken with a wide grin, his "aw shucks" attitude perfectly complemented the ol' time sound of Americana lore. Conjuring images of wide open land, unrequited small town love, and rugged Southern mountain living, bluegrass can be at times a mesmerizing combination of both lonesome and enlivening sound, with its roots heavily embedded in the collective American unconscious. It's the soundtrack to the mines, to the family, to the pastoral, and to the golden ages of simple yearning for pure heart and soul. My favorite moment of the performance was when bass player Alan Batram hesitatingly took the mic to sing "Sweet Appalachia." His smooth and effortless voice and style took the audience completely by surprise as he crooned his way through this timeless classic. The performance in its entirety was much like Batram's solo moment: it was a showcase of everyone's immense talent and musical dexterity infused with an easy collaborative relationship of familiarity and friendship. It wasn't a time for them to put on airs (which, with their talent, would have been understandable). It was a time to play what they love with the people they love the most. And perhaps that's why McCoury is still playing to large audiences after half a century: genuine passion, a reverence for the genre, and an endearing and humble disposition to boot. And hey, I'm sure his prodigious guitar playing probably doesn't hurt either.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

5/4/2011 Playlist

1. Rock Me Baby-Otis Redding
2. Powerful Love-Chuck & Mac
3. I've Made Up My Mind-Josephine Taylor
4. Your Good Thing-Mable John
5. Rock My Soul-The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet
6. Wait a Minute-Eddie Ray
7. Are You Sure-The Staple Singers
8. Ooh Poo Pah Doo-Ike & Tina Turner
9. Land of a Thousand Dances-Wilson Pickett
10. Old No. 7-The Devil Makes Three
11. Drivin' Nails In My Coffin-Those Darlins
12. Vodka Before Breakfast-The Woodshedders
13. Crazy Train-The Waifs
14. I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow-Abalone Dots
15. So Sleepy-The Punch Brothers w/ Fiona Apple
16. Creepin' In (Exclusive Live Cut)-Dolly Parton w/ Norah Jones
17. Fire & Water (Live)-Alex Ebert & Jade Castrinos
18. Tickle Me Pink-Johnny Flynn
19. Two Tongues-Mariee Sioux
20. Man In the Box-Tunng
21. Spirited-Laura Gibson
22. Postcard from Mexico-Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch & Fats Kaplin
23. Carpenter-Huckleberry Flint
24. The Ghost of Tom Joad-Junip
25. Dimming the Day-Bonnie Raitt
26. River-Howlin' Woods
27. Hidden Track-Johnny Flynn

Hooray for May,

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

4/27/11 Playlist

1. Tramp-Otis Redding
2. Give Him a Great Big Kiss-The Shangri-Las
3. I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart-Candi Staton
4. Today I Started Loving You Again-Bettye Swann
5. Soul Serenade-Willie Mitchell
6. Blues Stay Away from Me-The Sweet Inspiration
7. Lord, Don't Leave Us Now-The Caravans
8. Stand by Me-Jimmy Ruffin & David Ruffin
9. Ain't It Baby-The Miracles
10. Mr. Lee-The Bobbettes
11. I Love You Baby-Moovers
12. Chained-Marvin Gaye
13. One Man's Leftovers-100 Proof (Aged in Soul)
14. My Country Man-Big Maybelle
15. Baby Please Don't Go-Big Joe Williams
16. Fire On the Mountain-The Marshall Tucker Band
17. So So Freely-AgesandAges
18. Jesus and Arizona-Paper Bird
19. Fisherman's Daughter-The Waifs
20. Green River-M. Ward
21. Granddaddy's Mouth-The Dexateens
22. Antonia June-Lightning Dust
23. Trapeze-Patty Griffin
24. Dagger Through the Heart-Sinéad O'Connor
25. Lille-Lisa Hannigan
26. Wizard Flurry Home-Mariee Sioux
27. Suspicious Minds-My Morning Jacket
28. The Tree (f/ Alela Diane)-Blitzen Trapper
29. Carpenter-Huckleberry Flint
30. Lonesome Blues-The Be Good Tanyas

Keep it real, lemon peel

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

4/20/11 Playlist

1. Rock Me Baby-Otis Redding
2. Honey Chile-Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
3. I'm the Lover Man-Little Jerry Williams
4. Lover's Holiday-Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson
5. I Don't Want to Lose Your Love-The Mad Lads
6. That's How It Feels-The Soul Clan
7. I've Got a Notion-Henry Lumpkin
8. Who's the Fool-Sammy Ward
9. I Got To Go-Little Walter
10. Frankie & Johnny-Champion Jack Dupree
11. I'm Feeling Alright-Big Mama Thornton
12. Cornbread and Butterbeans-Carolina Chocolate Drops
13. CC Rider-Old Crow Medicine Show
14. Blue Car-Greg Brown
15. Circuital-My Morning Jacket
16. The Ghost Who Walks-Karen Elson
17. Lil' Big-Mirah, Ginger, and Friends
18. Opal's Blues-The Be Good Tanyas
19. Lost In My Mind-The Head and the Heart
20. Bundles-Mariee Sioux
21. My Brambles-Alela Diane
22. Amazing Grace-Cat Power & Dirty Delta Blues
23. My Sweet Lord-Yim Yames
24. Hallelujah-Jake Shimabukuro

All the best,

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Maceo Parker

As I approached Campbell Hall, I knew that I was in for a treat. Clusters of excited fans gathered at the steps to the lecture hall, clasping their tickets and engaging in animated chatter about the upcoming performance. Settling into my seat, I soon realized that I was surrounded by not only fans, but by a wide array of accomplished musicians. Behind me sat a man who was an electronic/hip hop music producer who had just completed a music archive project that intersected environmental sustainability with the soundtrack of old-school funk and jazz. In front of me was a married couple of classical concert pianists who exchanged tender murmurs of excitement as the lights came down. "He's the real thing," they whispered. And then it started. Coming on stage, with a personality that filled up the lecture hall of 860 seats to the brim. The epitome of cool, he danced and jived all through the set and when he played his infamous instrument of choice, the seductive and powerful sax, there was no one in the lecture hall who wasn't moving right along. It was time, as he said, to get funky. Every solo elicited a holler from the audience members, every little dance a grin. The performance was like nothing I had ever seen. More than two hours of pure, unadulterated music (and don't let Maceo Parker hear you call it your mama's jazz!). This was prime, old-school, full-throttle funk. Fresh off a tour that has taken him everywhere from Moscow to San Francisco, Maceo Parker has been keeping funk alive for over twenty years, collaborating with a diverse set of artists such as Ray Charles, Dave Matthews, and even the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Weaving in songs and riffs from classic motown, R&B and soul, Parker demonstrated the absolute breadth and musical aptitude that he can incorporate into this established genre. This sentiment was only amplified by the immensely talented musicians that he surrounded himself with on stage (which he introduced with James Brown-esque zest and humor). A throwback to the glory days of funk and a harbinger of the many golden days to come, it reminds us that his catchphrase of "2% jazz, 98% funk" still rings true. And that's 100% okay with me.

Keep gettin' yo funk on,

Featured Artist: Mariee Sioux


I stumbled upon Mariee Sioux in the wee hours of an early morning music binge and was instantly captivated by her use of visceral imagery and her utilization of a sparse but powerful musical technique that echoes the theme of longing for solace, a solace that can be both lost and found within the natural world.

Here is her biography from Grassroots Records:

"The tale of Mariee Sioux began as delicately and spiritually as her captivating song, as a small ember introduced to the universe that soon grew into a flame of hope and illumination. Her dazzling debut album, Faces in the Rocks, weaves together the poetic interpretations of the universe’s deep truths and interconnectedness that have intrigued her since childhood. Each spin invites listeners to be the cast in Mariee’s entrancing tale with a journey ahead that is only beginning.

The stage was set in her hometown of Nevada City, CA, a historically creative community in which artists have flourished over the ages, where Mariee intertwined the vivid verse she had been writing as a child with the life lessons she has learned as an adult for this powerful record. Her roots had been planted deep in music through the love of her mandolin-playing father, but it was not until Mariee ventured a life-changing trip to Patagonia at the age of 17 that she began to play an instrument herself. She soon perfected the spry, delicate finger picking guitar technique featured on Faces in the Rocks, a faultless accompaniment to her strong yet sweetly cooing vocals, and toured internationally with her adoring compatriots Brightblack Morning Light.

Featuring Grammy-nominee Gentle Thunder’s enchanting sound on a redwood-carved Native American flute as well as her own famed father Gary Sobonya on mandolin, Mariee recorded Faces in May 2007 with a troupe of Nevada City’s talented musicians. Recorded with the intent of aligning the magnificence of the human voice with the universe’s creative energy, each song is a stirring exploration of life. Her tales range from the profundity of friendship on the single “Friendboats” to the yearning of self-understanding on “Bundles,” each laced with fabled images and poignant verse. “Two Tongues at One Time,” recently released on a rare 7” vinyl, is a sonnet-filled homage to the ancestors who traversed the wild lands of America hundreds of years ago, reminding listeners of our vital ties to our past.

Continuing the folk tradition of songwriting greats such as Joni Mitchell, Kate Wolf and Nick Drake, Faces glorifies an appreciation of the working spirit and the oneness of nature that remains timeless."

With respect and love,


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

4/13/2011 Playlist

1. Johnny's Heartbreak-Otis Redding
2. Headline News-Edwin Starr
3. Westbound #9-Flaming Ember
4. Who's That Guy-The Kolettes
5. Lift This Hurt-Elvin Spencer
6. You Keep Me Hanging On-Bonnie & Sheila
7. Invisible-Baby Charles
8. I Can Be Cool-Bob & Gene
9. Your Love Keeps Drawing Me Closer-Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum, & Durr
10. Promised Land-Naomi Davis & Sugarman Three
11. Let's Take a Walk-Raphael Saadiq
12. You Wish-Nightmares On Wax
13. Nobody But You-Junior Kimbrough & The Soul Blues Boys
14. Jumper Hanging Out On the Line-R.L. Burnside & The Sound Machine
15. I Got My Eyes On You-Robert Belfour
16. John Henry-Fred McDowell
17. Baby Don't Go-Hacienda
18. Railroad Bill-Etta Baker
19. The Traveler, 108b-Cordelia's Dad
20. Angel Band-The Stanley Brothers
21. The Magnolia Set-The Duhks
22. Lil' Bit-Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, et al
23. Love's Melody-Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli
24. Swing to Bop-Charlie Christian
25. Made By Maid-Laura Marling
26. Lost In My Mind-The Head and the Heart
27. Oh Mississippi-Lissie
28. Don't You Remember-Adele
29. The Walker-Gayngs
30. Had to Go-Heartless Bastards

Spring has sprung! Let warm evenings with pleasant tunes commence!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: Jake Shimabukuro

Courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures, I was able to catch a free concert in Storke Plaza featuring one of the world's most celebrated ukulele players, Jake Shimabukuro. Before performing at his sold-out Campbell Hall show, Shimabukuro performed songs off of his new record, Peace Love Ukulele. On a warm Santa Barbara afternoon, Shimabukuro took the stage and performed for hundreds of eager listeners who had flocked to campus in order to see one of YouTube's biggest musical sensations. Of amicable demeanor and presence, Shimabukuro sprinkled his set with charming stories and insights into the craft of his both delicate and powerful sound. Taught by his mother in his native Hawaii, Shimabukuro recounted stories of young love in "143," dazzled the audience with his rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and paid homage to the victims of the Japanese earthquake with the ancient Japanese folk song "Cherry Blossoms." With his inclination to transcend the rigid boundaries of genre, Shimabukuro demonstrated the unique propensity for the ukulele to combine two seemingly different musical worlds into one beautiful and unifying presentation. It was such a pleasure to see such an innovator of profound musical virtuosity and enthusiastic sincerity. I am so excited to see what he does next!

Check out his most famous cover, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" here:



Monday, March 14, 2011

2-14-2011 Playlist

1. Open The Door-Otis Redding
2. Walking The Dog-Rufus Thomas
3. Rock Steady-Aretha Franklin
4. Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead-The Marvelettes
5. Boogaloo Down Broadway-Fantastic Johnny C
6. Show Me-Joe Tex
7. I'm Blue-The Ikettes
8. She's Not Just Another Woman-8th Day
9. Let It Please Be You-The Desires
10. They Are Falling Around Me-Sweet Honey In The Rock
11. Unrequited Love-Lykke Li
12. Lock Your Devils Up-Nathan
13. Tales That I Tell-He's My Brother, She's My Sister
14. Ten Thousand Words-The Avett Brothers
15. In the Summertime-Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter
16. Well OK Honey-Jenny O
17. Cheating Heart-The Barker Band
18. Dreams Come True Girl-Cass McCombs
19. Our Hearts Are Wrong-Jessica Lea Mayfield
20. Ruby Mae-Felice Brothers
21. Granddaddy's Mouth-The Dexateens
22. Ellis Unit One-Steve Earle
23. Amandrai-Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Touré
24. Down By The River-Neil Young

With finals week upon us, I tried to choose some tunes that would be conducive to studying...oh, who are we kidding? tunes that are conducive for procrastination.

KCSB 91.9FM/

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Review: Kings of Pastry

-Kings of Pastry-

Let me preface this review by saying one thing: I was utterly starving the. entire. movie. This film was an ocular feast, weaving together the stories of these chefs' quest for excellence as carefully and sweetly as the delicate sugar concoctions that they created. My fellow foodies agreed: This was the Food Network meets Fashion Week. Following the lives of three chefs in their endeavor to compete in a 3 day competition to win the prestigious Meilleurs Ouvriers de France competition. A medal would solidify their position in the culinary arena as one of the best pastry craftsmen in France and the world. The film highlights chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer, Regis Lazard, and Philippe Rigollot and their families during their training and moments of triumph and heartbreak. This film encapsulates the unforgiving world of taste, texture, and the unrelenting desire for perfection. The task is daunting: create one of the most intricate and gravity-defying sugar-based desserts, a sculpture that is both sweet to the eye and tongue. The viewer sees the massive amount of effort that goes into this arduous task: from the plotting, planning, revising, rejections, and finally the grand finale: the final course. As one of the jury members notes, "Your mind has to work as hard as your hands." This movie seems to be less about the food itself but rather about the unparalleled attention to artistry that these men have incorporated into every facet of their lives. They are not providing the meat and bones of culinary consumption. They are not slicing and dicing to satiate a customer's craving. It is about the visual, the aesthetic, the sweetness of their labor which the citizens of France are completely and continually enraptured by. Their passion and precision is alluring and their final creations cater to our own appreciation for the dainty and delicious while inciting our romanticism of this otherworldly aesthetic.

For me this movie showed me the all-encompassing efforts that are made in the quest for this culinary art. But I think what is also interesting is the aura of comfort that fuels this contest. We see their ultimate devotion to reviving our senses of taste, vision and I would even say memory. Pastries are one of the few cultural productions that have long been imbedded into our domestic psychology: it is a marker of candied celebration, it is nectarous nostalgia, it is comforting coziness, and when all is said and done, it is home. This film is by far one of my tops films for 2011 thus far. It showed not only the complexities of baking, but also provided an insight into our perpetual desire for simple sweetness in both aesthetic and sustenance. During one of my favorite scenes, Chef Pfeiffer, after spending hours concocting a dome wedding cake, brings it back to his modest home in Chicago. Pfeiffer's daughter perfectly summarizes our intense yet oblivious reverence for this art: as she peers into the box, she quietly murmurs: "It's pretty. Simple." The film is quite pretty, but far from simple, and is one that can be enjoyed (and savored) by all.

With a soundtrack scored by Sebastien Giniaux, my obsession with gypsy jazz has reached new heights. Dessert AND a Django Reinhardt inspired soundtrack? You don't have to ask me twice.

Keep an ear out for some of this on Monday's upcoming show!



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Women Are Heroes

Such an amazing idea for guerilla art! I suggest scoping out both the film as well as the soundtrack composed by Massive Attack. Check out Erinrose Mager's review of Women Are Heroes (

"There is no stage to separate the actors from the spectators," says renowned fly-by-night French photographer JR of "pervasive art" or (l'art infiltrant"), the force behind his latest project, Women Are Heroes. The resulting film of the same name documents JR's travels to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Kenya, Brazil, Cambodia, and India as he takes candid portraits of local women with 28mm lens, rendering their images on huge canvasses that he and townspeople then plaster onto crumbling steps, train cars, rooftops, and favela walls. It's a cooperative effort, and one that speaks to the artistic and social dialogues that JR promotes through his gigantic portraits. JR was recently awarded a TED grant (it stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design-a nonprofit that supports "ideas worth spreading") for his work, and continues to collaborate with Massive Attack who score Women Are Heroes. The documentary shows the often underrepresented women of these areas whose faces articulate sorrow and hardship, faith and pride, and perhaps most strikingly, an unwavering sense of humor amidst devastating violence and upheaval."-Erinrose Mager

Check out the trailer here:

Monday, February 28, 2011

2-28-11 Playlist

1. Free Me-Otis Redding
2. These Ain't Raindrops-James Carr
3. First I Look at the Purse-Contours
4. Piece of My Heart-Erma Franklin
5. Let's Twist Again-Chubby Checker
6. Keep Your Hands Off My Baby-Little Eva
7. A Woman, a Lover, a Friend-Jackie Wilson
8. Oh Lover-Sherri & Singin' Sammy
9. I Can't Quit You Baby-Otis Rush
10. Revival-Soulsavers
11. Freight Train-Elizabeth Cotten
12. Stackolee-Mississippi John Hurt
13. Overflowin'-Infantree
14. Bear Cat-Rufus Thomas
15. Call Me The Breeze-JJ Cale
16. Buggin' Blues-Kitty, Daisy and Lewis
17. Jesus-Amos Lee
18. Bridal Train-The Waifs
19. No One Knows My Name-Gillian Welch
20. Leave the Light On-Chris Smither
21. Wedding Bells-Lissie
22. Drop Down Daddy-Lucinda Williams
23. Antonia June-Lightning Dust
24. You're The One I Care For-The Weary Boys
25. Glencoe-Richard Thompson
26. A Song for Dreaming-Judson Claiborne
27. Lakeville-Amy Correia
28. The Poet-Ryan Bingham
29. White As Diamonds-Alela Diane
30. Ship Out On the Sea-The Be Good Tanyas
31. How'm I Doin-Mountain Man

Marchin' into March,
KCSB 91.9FM/

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Record: Contemporary Art & Vinyl Exhibit

I wish I could have seen this!! Such a brilliant idea.

An excerpt from Emily Temple's article:
"Opening this month at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, this exhibit makes it quite clear that vinyl records can be much more than just sonic masterpieces. The 41 artists whose work is represented--including Christian Marclay, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, and the ever-inspiring Carrie Mae Weems--made pieces out of (and about) records. The exhibition features Laurie Anderson's "viophonograph," a brilliant record-player-cum-violin, Berlin-based artist Satch Joyt's 16-foot canoe made of red 45-rpm records, and a life-sized Polaroid photomontage by David Byrne--the very one that graced the cover of the Talking Head's 1978 album More Songs About Buildings and Food.

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University exhibit summary:

"The Record" is the first museum exhibition to explore the culture of vinyl records within the history of contemporary art. Bringing together artists from around the world who have worked with records as their subject or medium, this groundbreaking exhibition examines the record's transformative power, from the 1960s to the present. Through sound work, sculpture, installation, drawing, painting, photography, video and performance, "The Record" combines contemporary art with outsider art, audio with visual, fine art with popular culture, and established artists with those who will be exhibiting in a U.S. museum for the first time.

The exhibition is organized by Trevor Schoonmaker, the Nasher Museum's curator of contemporary art.

"The Record" explores the intersection between visual art and music, considering the vinyl record as a lens through which to view the world. Powerfully marked with nostalgia, linked to the search for musical and cultural authenticity, and valued for its listening quality and cover visuals, the record has long been both a significant source of inspiration and material for artistic production. Indeed, for many contemporary artists, the specter of the vinyl record looms large, taking on a power and significance that moves well beyond the medium's traditional use, and thoroughly into a space of innovative artistic production. The exhibition will explore the impact of the medium on both art and popular culture and the ways in which the record has been manipulated, preserved and transformed through art.

The exhibition includes rarely exhibited early work and recent and newly commissioned work by 33 international and mutigenerational artists, as well as an interactive artist-and-musician-curated component. "The Record" exhibition will be accompanied by a wide array of educational programming, a 240-page color catalogue and an extensive website with supplemental information on the exhibition and record culture at large.

Artists (partial list)
Laurie Anderson (b. 1947 USA), Felipe Barbosa (b. 1978 Brazil), David Byrne (b. 1952 Scotland), William Cordova (b. 1971 Peru), Jeroen Diepenmaat (b. 1978 Netherlands), Satch Hoyt (b. 1975 UK), Jasper Johns (b. 1930 USA), Taiyo Kimura (b. 1970 Japan), Tim Lee (b. 1975 Korea), Christian Marclay (b. 1955 USA), David McConnell (b. 1975 USA), Mingering Mike (b. 1950 USA), Dave Muller (b. 1964 USA), Robin Rhode (b. 1976 South Africa), Dario Robleto (b. 1972 USA), Ed Ruscha (b. 1937 USA), Malick Sidibe (b. 1935 Mali), Xaviera Simmons (b. 1974 USA), Su-Mei Tse (b. 1973 Luxembourg), Fatimah Tuggar (b. 1967 Nigeria), and Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953 USA).


Vinyl dreamin',

Thursday, February 24, 2011

35th Annual Banff Film Festival

UCSB Arts & Lectures: 35th Annual Film Festival
When: February 22-February 23
Where: Arlington Theatre

The warning that the director of the Banff Centre gave before Wednesday night's screenings was undeniably true: these films will make you want to go on an adventure--immediately. The film festival offered a wide array of film genres while catering to the evening's diverse crowd. From the adrenaline junkie to the socially aware environmentalist, the film festival attracted Santa Barbarians from all ages and backgrounds, drawn together by their immense love and fascination for the undeniable allure of the natural world. With a slightly Thoreauvian meets Patagonia meets FuelTV tone, the festival's selection highlighted films in which the filmmaking and narratives were as awe-inspiring as the locations depicted. Upon leaving the always stunning Arlington Theatre, my wanderlust had never been so potent. This film festival was more than a small introspection into the natural world: it was the equivalent of a stamp on your passport. The audience held their breath with every climb and crawl, they gasped in amazement with every phenomenal physical feat, shivered with every snowy gust, swelled with every tide of the rolling sea, and gushed at the surreal world that only a few have truly seen.
The first film, The Longest Way, chronicled Christopher Rehage's travels in which he decided to walk from Beijing to Germany over the course of the year. Although his trip was cut short, the montage of the pictures taken of himself in all of his destinations allowed him to document the physical manifestations of the internal change that he was experiencing through his search and unremitting desire "to find a place called home." His film revealed the transformative power of travel, traversing the borders and landscape of the physical world and the search for one's self. It reminds me of the quote by T.S. Eliot: "We shall not cease exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." The exploration of the world coincides with the exploration (and subsequent transformation) of self in Rehage's 5-minute film. Although the film was simplistic in intention and execution, the impact was one of profound revelatory and meaningful significance. (Check it out at the bottom of this post).

As emotionally powerfully as The Longest Way, the second film, Into the Darkness, evoked an equal response, but this time of physical reaction. Into the Darkness followed extreme explorers who embarked on dangerous journeys underneath the earth's most elusive secrets: underworld caves. The audience cringed with the cave divers' struggle to get into the microscopic spaces that led to the magnificent caves adorned with ancient stalagmites. Deemed as one of Earth's "final frontiers," the hunt for these caves highlights the evanescent nature of the world's geology and the great lengths that some will endure in order to witness this uncharted terrain. Director John Waller offers a brief glimpse into the hidden worlds that are just below our feet, but teasingly out of our grasp.
In A Life Ascending, filmmakers document the life of Ruedi Beglinger, one of the most respected mountaineer guides in the world, along with his family in their residence tucked away in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia. The film examines their lives of quiet solitude against the backdrop of one of the North America's most unrelenting yet stunningly beautiful geographic landscapes. We see Ruedi's life as one of simple determination: hard work, dedication, family, and a deep abiding love for the nature that he has immersed himself in since his childhood in the Swiss Alps. It is at first contradictory: adrenaline with a business plan? adventure with household responsibilities? But we soon realize that living in such harsh terrain requires not just planning, but plotting. We learn through sorrowful testimony that it is not only difficult, but also potentially fatal. With the loss of a dear friend and seven guests, Ruedi is forced to reassess what it means to be a husband, a father, and above all, a mountaineer. Banff critics describe this film as one that "ultimately explores the power of nature as both an unforgiving host and a profound teacher." Interspersed with touching poetry and resplendent music, the film explores the Beglingers' grief, love, connection, and renewal under the heavy gaze and dark beauty of Selkirk's indomitable mountains.

Feel the Hill, was positively drenched in creativity, spawned by the ideas of two 17 year-old boys who combined their penchant for master editing and a sincere passion for the sport of longboarding all on their own dime. Although not entirely groundbreakin, this film was an amazing contribution that added a zest of enlivened youth into the realm of extreme sports. In an industry constantly dominated by corporate sponsorship and the cutthroat quest for trophies, filmmakers Jeremy Comte and Alexandre Auray reminded the audience of the unadulterated sincerity and enthusiasm that sports can evoke while highlighting their incredible inclination for highly aesthetic camerawork. A People's Choice finalist in the festival, these two young men personify the Banff festival's fresh and invigorating spirit.
The evening closed with the lively and entertaining 20 minute film, The Swiss Machine which offered an interesting view into the vivid story of Ueli Steck, the fastest alpinist in the world. While his tenacity for perfection is only matched by his surprising amicable nature, Steck showed the audience the intensely arduous journey of a man pushing the limits. Slithering up the sides of daunting mountains and cliffs with fellow climber, Alex Honnold, Steck demonstrated with unparalleled physicality and steadfast concentration (jokingly attributed up to his Swiss descent) a relationship to the natural world that was not only about survival or observation: it was one of an unquenchable lust for immaculate performance and strength. While short and sweet, this film was an appropriate close to an evening that encompassed so many dimensions of the natural world: the adversarial, the enduring, the creative, the adventurous, the daring, and most of all, the irrefutable sublimity that can occur when humanity bares witness to the raw and ferocious purity of the natural world.

Happy trails,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Freight & Salvage: Chris Smither

On a cold, rainy evening in Berkeley this past weekend I saw Chris Smither perform at one of the coolest venues in town: the Freight and Salvage coffeehouse. With floor to ceiling wooden walls and wagon wheel chandeliers, Freight and Salvage offered me an incredible concert experience (while completely satisfying my caffeine addiction). Every seat was filled and the aisles were full of people teeming to get an earful of Chris Smither, an acclaimed "blues infused innovator." Celebrating it's 40th anniversary in 2008, Freight and Coffee has created a tradition of playing host to a myriad of musicians of all genres. In its biography, the owner, Nancy Owens, states that, "Since its founding in 1968, the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse has been deeply rooted in that aspect of Berkeley's culture that embraced freedom, tolerance, cooperation, and innovation. It has resisted the bottom line mentality, and, instead, has been a mission-driven non-profit organization. The club not only survives, it has become a world famous venue for traditional music, be it folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, world-beat, or gospel...From the start, my hope was to be multi-ethnic and multi-racial," Nancy continues, "a group of men and women and children who could get together in a spirit of community. Somehow, our dreams came together and meshed, and we created this community."

Christ Smither put on a great show, expertly blending beautiful guitar with gruff, grainy vocals. Tossing his hair back and forth and singing through a half-cracked smile, his commanding presence and witty banter was comfortable and effortless. He charmed the audience with anecdotes and stories about everything from past music festivals, to his impeding age, and, most memorably, to his young daughter. Stereo Review wrote that, "Chris Smither recasts the real folk blues in the ethereal language of the poet, projecting a kind of streetwise mysticism." Check out Richard Skelly's review as well:

"Like John Hammond and a handful of other musicians whose careers began in the 1960s blues revival, guitarist, singer, and songwriter Chris Smither can take pride in the fact that he's been there since the beginning. Except for a few years when he was away from performing in the '70s, Smither has been a mainstay of the festival, coffeehouse, and club circuits around the U.S., Canada, and Europe since his performing career began in earnest in the coffeehouses in Boston in the spring of 1966. Smither is best known for his great songs, items like "Love You Like a Man" and "I Feel the Same," both of which have been recorded by guitarist Bonnie Raitt. Raitt and Smither got started at about the same time in Boston, though Smither was born and raised in New Orleans, the son of university professors.

Smither's earliest awareness of blues and folk music came from his parents' record collection. In a 1992 interview, he recalled it included albums by Josh White, Susan Reed, and Burl Ives. After a short stint taking piano lessons, Smither switched to ukulele after discovering his mother's old instrument in a closet. The young Smither was passionately attached to the ukulele, and now, years later, it helps to explain the emotion and expertise behind his unique fingerpicking guitar style. Smither discovered blues music when he was 17 and heard a Lightnin' Hopkins album, Blues in the Bottle. The album was a major revelation to him and he subsequently spent weeks trying to figure out the intricate guitar parts. Smither moved to Boston after realizing he was a big fish in a small pond in the New Orleans folk/coffeehouse circuit of the mid-'60s.

Since then, he's more than proved his mettle as an enormously gifted songwriter, releasing albums mostly of his own compositions for the Flying Fish, Hightone, and Signature Sounds labels. Smither's albums during the '90s and into the 21st century include Happier Blue (1993, Flying Fish), Up on the Lowdown (1995, Hightone), Drive You Home Again (1999, Hightone), Live as I'll Ever Be (2000, Hightone), Train Home (2003, Hightone), Leave the Light On (2006, Signature Sounds), and Time Stands Still (2009, Signature Sounds), a career highlight. Any of Smither's releases are worthy of careful examination by guitarists and students of all schools of blues and folk music. Smither is still, to some extent, an unheralded master of modern acoustic blues. Fortunately, his recordings and festival bookings during the '90s and into the 21st century have elevated his profile to a higher level than he's ever enjoyed previously."