Archive for April, 2007

Playing a dance

I supply the groove; you supply the move.

Every spring, the staff and students of the Folk School play a contra dance for the Childgrove Country Dancers. Next Sunday, May 6, the Wall of Sound will take the stage again. I played at the one last year as a green fiddler, and it was fantastic fun. Seeing all the people out on the floor whirling around with smiling faces thrilled me. Playing is so popular among Folk School musicians that we will split into two sets this year. I will play the second one. I might try to sneak into the first set or actually learn to dance this time. The dance will be at the Monday Club, 37 S Maple, Webster Groves, MO 63119. There will be a workshop at 6:30 PM followed by dancing from 7 to 10. $5 is the cost. Come out.

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Michael M. on April 29th 2007 in General, Live, Music


After returning from Chicago, I caught some of A Prairie Home Companion between trips to the laundry room. Frigg was the highlight. The band features great fiddling from Finland and Norway. Their MySpace page provides several samples, and the Prairie Home episode can be streamed. I knew that the Nordic countries had strong folk music traditions with fiddling.

When I fiddled with Tom Paley at a Folk School jam session, he played a fiddle tune or two from Sweden or maybe Finland. I also remember hearing several Finnish folk songs at a party when I was in college. I do not know enough about Frigg or about Nordic fiddling to judge how traditional they are, but I know that they sounded great on the radio. I wish I could see them on this tour, but it does not pass through Saint Louis. See if it passes near you.

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Michael M. on April 29th 2007 in General, Live, Music

Drove to Chicago

A few weeks ago, I spent the weekend in Chicago to see a friend through the end of his bachelor days. It was my first real time there. Previously, I had driven through on one trip and stopped there on flights a few times. It is a really fun city that is way too cold.

We spent the afternoon watching the Cubs soundly beat the Reds at Wrigley. I knew it would be rough when I saw so many fans wearing caps and big coats. It was too cold for a baseball game. I had a good time although maintaining sensation in my extremities was a struggle. Wrigley Field is a great old stadium, and the fans are spirited.

We caught the train a few blocks from the Congress Plaza Hotel. The hotel reminded me of many Saint Louis buildings, and it was built for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, much like many buildings here were built for the 1904 World’s Fair. The train was not nearly as clean as the MetroLink, but it did seem well used. I saw a variety of people on the train, and the system seemed extensive and efficient. I wish the trains here covered the region as well.

We spent the rest of the day in Wrigleyville. It was a fun day. I saw many young people out and about there and the other places we went, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I cannot understand how they escape having the cold slowly crush their wills. Perhaps they do not. I would like to make another visit, though.

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Michael M. on April 29th 2007 in General

Andrew Bird again

I caught Andrew Bird‘s Pageant concert last week. I think it was my fourth concert of his. It was also the least fun. I blogged two previous ones. They were great. I do not understand what was so flat. Except for the rare body moving in the crowd, the audience looked like statues. Maybe that is the way that his music is usually received. Maybe they, too, simply were waiting to feel the music.

The magic of his past performances stemmed from the one man band method of putting down samples and then layering more sounds over them. This time, he had a backing band. They added little, and the took away from the wonder of his previous methods of making music. The encore was the only part I really liked. He went back to using his skills to create music. The songs before then were disappointing. He talking about playing on the Late Show recently, and there are YouTube videos. It is disappointing seeing him so flat when he his poised to reach a bigger audience.

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Michael M. on April 23rd 2007 in General, Live, Music

Dana Falconberry

Dana Falconberry is a friend of a friend whose music I came across through MySpace and through a mix CD. When I saw that she would play Lemp Arts earlier this month, I decided that it would be worth hearing her in person. The venue was overbooked. It was unfortunate because I wanted to hear her, but I was not interested in the rest of the bill.

Beginning the long parade of acts, Imo Reeder opened the show. His lyrics seemed awfully anguished. I caught something about learning to like the taste of blood, and I knew that I was not in his target audience. Statler and Waldorf bounced around my mind, but I checked myself except for a few whispered cracks. Gadabout Film Festival came next. It is a traveling show of independently produced films. The segment I saw drew laughs from some in the crowd, but it produced none from me. Perhaps certain kinds of silliness would have affected me more in the past.

Greg Farley strummed, sang and stomped his way through a solid performance. He delivered a performance more like the occasionally blogged Woody Guthrie than a singer-songwriter. His “Worried Man Blues” with the audience joining him on the choruses was the highlight. After the tortured songs, he provided relief. Of course, there is plenty of hardship in those old songs. It just is not so limited to the internal realm.

After far too much waiting, Falconberry delivered. She was featured in a live set on KCRW‘s Morning Becomes Eclectic last month for SXSW. In the interview, she said that she moved from writing about herself to writing about characters a few years ago. After the confessional openers, it was a good change. She was backed up by Gina Dvorak and Erika Maassen. When the hosts could not provide three simultaneously functioning microphones for them, she unplugged, and they stepped up. It was a simple move that left a good impression. She maintained a good full timbre while singing loudly. Her performance was strong, direct and confident. Stepping forward was only the first sign of mettle. Her singing is clear, and the songs are just pretty. “Sadie” is definitely the hit waiting to blow up. Her music is somewhat heavy on the ooos and ahs for my taste. Solos and bridges allow for variations within a song, and the rhythmic palette of ooos and ahs is small for frequent use. They were, however, done well. I would like more tempo variation, too. The singer-songwriter phenomenon and the folk tradition overlap in some ways and conflict in others. As I have moved more into folk world, the singer-songwriter one has lost some appeal. Dana put on a great show, though, and I am glad I made it out.

Attendance confirmed my feelings about the main attraction. Amanda Kofron was scheduled to play later, but I and much of the crowd left before her performance and the continuation of Gadabout. Falconberry should have played a bigger place, maybe Off Broadway, and she should have been a real opener if not a main act. I hope she will pass through again. A longer set in a bigger space would be a greater pleasure. As portended by the Morning Becomes Eclectic feature, her future looks promising. Although there was a lot to sit through, it was worth it.

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Michael M. on April 23rd 2007 in General, Live, Music

Chris Rubin de la Borbolla: la salida

My mind registered the name Chris Rubin de la Borbolla when I heard it this afternoon on the KDHX arts and events calendar. Unfortunately, his exhibition la entrada at the Bruno David Gallery appears to have ended today. We attended the same high school although I was there a few years after him. I met his brother a few times, but I never met Chris. I hope he has another show that I can see.

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Michael M. on April 15th 2007 in General

So long and thanks for all the fish

Oops… wrong guy.

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. I enjoyed most the books of his that I have read. Their quality varies. I have criticized a couple of them, and I have mentioned him two other times here. I definitely consider myself a fan. I know that several of you friends who read this blog are fans, too.

/. had coverage. My favorite comment included Vonnegut’s own review of his work. Of the ones I have read, his grades match my feelings except for Breakfast of Champions, which is better than rated. The big two are dead on. SlaughterhouseFive is a terrific book. Cat’s Cradle is great, too, although there should be a special A+ for Slaughterhouse Five to convey the supremacy of achievement.

I think I read Cat’s Cradle the summer after high school when I found my mother’s old paperback. It probably came from one of the first paperback runs. I also remember watching a television series Monkey House together. Although I am often at a loss to account for my cultural tastes, Vonnegut is no such case.

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Michael M. on April 15th 2007 in General

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

I found Sister Rosetta Tharpe on YouTube several weeks ago. Check out videos of “Up Above My Head” and “Down By the Riverside.” Following my comment, pal Johnny C wrote two posts with embedded videos of her. You can hear a few songs on her page on MySpace. Listening to the World Cafe on KWMU, I heard that she would be featured Sunday on To the Best of Our Knowledge. I listened to the episode this morning. The segment centers around the new biography Shout, Sister, Shout! The book’s site has this page of videos with a few I had missed. This review in The New York Times Sunday Book Review from a few weeks ago provides some more information, and Here and Now aired this segment. Author Gayle Wald is a professor of English at George Washington University. GW English News has two posts.

After listening to the episode and reading a few reviews, the revival of interest in Tharpe is a bigger deal than the book itself, and it is still growing. Searching for more information led me to this post on Trickster!, a blog to which I linked in three earlier posts, and to this post on WFMU‘s Beware of the the Blog. NPR‘s All Things Considered had this story about her with a preview of the biography in 2004.

She should be recognized as a major influence in creating rock and roll, but she rarely is. Maybe it is because she played gospel. Maybe the major barrier is her gender. It is not her talent. YouTube seems to be playing a role in this renewal. It is hard not to be wowed by the videos. She plays and sings commandingly at high tempo and with apparent ease, and the integration of guitar and voice is flawless. Prepare to be amazed. If you are already familiar with her, prepare to be amazed again.

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Michael M. on April 1st 2007 in General, Music, Recorded

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.