Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dusk, Thanksgiving

Friday, November 26, 2010

Junip w/ Lost in the Trees at the Black Cat

Gonzalez & guitar

Junip, the trio (and for this show, 5-some; extra 2 unidentified) of Jose Gonzalez, Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn, played a solid, if oddly predictable show on Tuesday night at the Black Cat.  As the ten year old group has spent most of their time sidetracked from the group (Gonzalez with his solo work, Araya and Winterkorn with other art and life projects), they were working with one album of Junip music.  It featured Gonzalez' syncopated guitar work, as technically adept as you would expect.  "Black Refuge" added eerier tones.  "Always" was the crowd pleaser that everyone knew.  Crowds were happy and bopping, swaying to the trancey repetition inherent in the music. 

But here's my confession: I had more fun watching Lost in the Trees, the opening act.  With two cellos, a fiddle, a tuba, a French horn and an accordian, along with more traditional folk-y instruments like a guitar and a bass guitar, they were visually more arresting and musically more varied.  The symphonic strings added a depth to musical arrangement that soared for me.

Sometimes, going in blind is the way to go, the surprise can catch you open and unaware. And the enthusiasm of Lost in the Trees was contagious...the last song they played, they marched down into the audience and set up in the middle of us.  It's hard not to feel kinship with the band when the bongo player is sitting six inches away from you in socks, shoeless and jamming. 

Clearly, I have no clue how to use my new camera in a club setting yet.  I'll work on it...


Lost in the Trees:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Church for Sale, Dump Closed on Thanksgiving

For those who want to live like Arlo Guthrie's Alice, Ray and Fasha there IS a church for sale on Capitol Hill.  Be sure to ask about pew removal...

"Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, was on - two years ago on Thanksgiving, when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the restaurant, but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant, she lives in the church nearby the restaurant, in the bell-tower, with her husband Ray and Fasha the dog. And livin' in the bell tower like that, they got a lot of room downstairs where the pews used to be in. Havin' all that room, seein' as how they took out all the pews, they decided that they didn't have to take out their garbage for a long time.

We got up there, we found all the garbage in there, and we decided it'd be a friendly gesture for us to take the garbage down to the city dump. So we took the half a ton of garbage, put it in the back of a red VW microbus, took shovels and rakes and implements of destruction and headed on toward the city dump.

Well we got there and there was a big sign and a chain across across the dump saying, 'Closed on Thanksgiving.' And we had never heard of a dump closed on Thanksgiving before, and with tears in our eyes we drove off into the sunset looking for another place to put the garbage."

Excerpted from "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie.  Complete lyrics available at

Remember, you can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant (excepting Alice).  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Silver Spring Thanksgiving Parade

Some shots (using new camera, Nikon S570) of the parade...


"You've dressed me up and
dragged me to a parade.
You are no longer my master."

Cheerleaders rockin' it.

Tilting penguin

Joy in motion


I'd run too if I were being followed by that large a toy soldier.

The beauty queens couldn't be more thrilled
to be involved in the parade.

 The Great Pyrenees and their
devoted people.

Marching bands abound...

Happy dancers and (lower-right) the not-so-happy family.

Yes, the big man is in Maryland now.

Heading home, single-file, following the lovely girls.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shannon McNally & Hot Sauce and Scrapomatic at Iota

I returned to the Iota for Shannon McNally & Hot Sauce, a band of Mississippi folks (natives and transplants) and one Arkansas boy.  We stayed on for Scrapomatic, a duo +1 from Minneapolis with some groovy vocal hops, skips, jumps and harmonies.  Great show, only slightly marred by annoying drunk guy at the end of Scrapomatic (note to drunks: if you're grooving on the music, feel free to sway, but please don't yell. Their music rocks. Your silence is golden.). 

Shannon McNally was one of many female vocalists on a music compilation CD provided to me by a friend for a road trip, and was one (of many on that CD) that I picked out as a particular favorite.  McNally's voice is husky and twangy, somewhere between blues and country, full, not thin or wispy.  She's got some grit to her.  And she can, as my friend pointed out, "really wail on that guitar."  Yup.  Backing her up, the uber talented Hot Sauce, Jake Fussell on the bass (in my mind, "the groovin' guy in the hat"), Eric Deaton on guitar ("long-haired dude with crazy fast fingers"), Wallace Lester on drums ("dude who makes weird expressions, including rolling his eyes") and someone who may remain The Nameless Guy from Arkansas on the guitar/mandolin/fiddle/everything ("earnest and multitalented young-un with a great head bob").  They played, I am pleased to say, a couple of songs I actualy knew, since I'd listened to the CD and done a little poking around before the show, including "The Worst Part of  Broken Heart" and "Jack B Nimble."  "My True Possession" and "High" (which she introduced as "not about smoking pot, no matter what you might have heard") gave a taste of the new album out in January, Western Ballad. But there played some wayback songs too, including ending with "Bolder than Paradise" off the first album, Jukebox Sparrows. 

The song I'm most obsessed with that the moment though is "I Don't Wanna Know," a cover of the Bobby Charles song.  A great heartbreaker: "Please don't make me go/to New Orleans no more/ Because I am so afraid/ I might see his face/ and that I couldn't take." She nailed the longing right on.  Bobby Charles passed away last January.  You may know him as the songwriter who penned, "See You Later, Alligator."

And then Scrapomatic, who immediately won my favor by announcing that they were the "most polite band," which, given the Minnesota influence, is not surprising.  After the next song, they thought perhaps they might storm a record producer's office, which was perhaps less polite, but funny.  Mike Mattison has a voice that just grabs you, totally original, breathy to scat, unexpected up and down ranges, clapping and inviting you in. Paul Olsen zips around that voice with his own tenor and guitar, fluid and fun.  Hip-swinging blues tunes that will make you smile or cry or both.  Can't say you hear a lot of songs about a double murderer either

Of other minor note, we inadvertently managed to sit in the musicians section (oops).  Nobody kicked us off the bench, but we kept getting smiling looks from Shannon as The Next Band Up.  I think she was amused.

So.  The quest into music, and into the art world at large, continues.  Rock on.  More music on tap for next week, assuming I get myself organized on details like tickets, etc.  I'm unlikely to ever be able to provide great insight into musical talents and trends, musical theory, etc., but it feels good to be out in the world, sucking in some art, basking in melody and passion.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Riley's Lock, C&O

Recently, Sundays have become my museum day, where I get up lazily and then finally motivate to bond with Art by afternoon.  No museum last weekend though.  Or perhaps, a personal one, not an official one.  I drove down River Road until it ends, and then took a left and another left until I got to nostalgia-land: Riley's Lock, C&O canal. 

In high school, I remember jumping off this bridge (before part of it crumbled away) and swimming one night, paddling in the sultry dark.  The water was much higher (and cleaner, I like to think), as I remember when I came up for air, a friend pointed out that pipe, noting that I'd missed landing on it by the matter of about a foot.  We swam and sat around a fire and drank beer, peaceful as could be, chatting up some people who were camping there overnight.  We were probably missing all kinds of permits and permissions, if any of that was even allowed, but no one seemed to care and we didn't cause any harm. 

My favorite kind of light, the last gasps of the day, that turns everything red in the face of the setting sun. 

It was one gorgeous sunset. 

Reflections of the sky turned the water pink. 

Twas a day to revist the past and check the signposts.  To revel in beauty, the clarity of solitude, quiet places and lapping water, rivers that still flow through me, to remember good company and look forward to future warmth, all added up to a day well spent.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Loïs Mailou Jones at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

The first Sunday of every month is community day at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which means (woohoo!) it's free to get in.  So that's what I did last Sunday.  I'd wandered into the museum once years ago, and had then much the same impression of it that I had this time around: it's a LOT of space, marble and chandeliers, that seems just a bit empty, echo-y.  They are doing their best to liven things up, and now run a brunch on Sundays (the remains of which looked quite tasty with the last lingering diners still scattered about) and later, had in some dancers who did an exhibition of Brazilian dance.  Great drums, although I seemed to keep missing seeing the actual dancing, as each time I came out away from the paintings to look, the dance was just ending and discussion ensuing. 

The highlight of the day, by far, was the exhibit, "Loïs Mailou Jones: A Life in Vibrant Color."  Photography not allowed in the exhibit (only in regular collection), so none of my own photos.  I lifted these from google to give you an idea.


"Mere du Senegal"
Jacqueline Trescott, cultural reporter for The Washington Post, had this to say about Mailou Jones and her work:

Mailou Jones's great gift was transporting the viewer into the daily lives of her subjects. Her work was colorful, soaked with the shades of skin, sunshine, textiles, fruit and other objects of art. When she did a mask, the eyes moved with you. When she showed an African American girl cleaning fish, the strokes were rhythmic.
Mailou Jones taught at Howard University for 47 years. She had plenty of lessons to share, not only about technique, but about fighting for acceptance in the white art world. Despite rejections and racism, she pursued her own path and is considered a forerunner of several black art movements. She was the first African American to have a solo show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, in 1973. Jones, who died in 1998 at 92, is represented in many major museums and collections.
Full Post article, click here.

For more info on Mailou Jones, check out

Capitol Hill Books

Now this is what a bookstore should look like:

Overflowing.  Abundant.  But organized too. And a wee bit quirky.  By the door, they have a sign saying "J.D. Salinger reading tonight!" with "Canceled" in big red letters over it.  Literary humor.     

I stopped in Capitol Hill Books last weekend after brunch with a friend and felt better about humanity.  Food, friends and poetry.  Good living.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Portrait of Maud Dale by Fernand Léger

I went to the see the Chester Dale collection at the National Gallery of Art a few weeks ago.  Much amazing art. I fell in love with this portrait of Chester Dale's wife Maud painted by Fernand Léger.

Uncool musical memories

Over the last year or so, I've received three infusions of music from friends, largely music for road trips (mine, theirs or ours), which has led me to realize that despite having historically hung out with musicians, music junkies and music snobs (or combinations thereof), I myself tend to listen to whatever music falls from the sky. I always have music playing in the car (partly to avoid actually learning anything factual or concrete on NPR), but it's most often random radio. So I know all the words to some Lady Gaga songs (hard to avoid right now) and am sometimes caught car dancing at stoplights. But I don't follow bands, don't explore much, don't pursue music that interests me, and seldom see it performed live.  Mostly, I just hope the good stuff comes by again.  I find that unpleasantly passive, so on occasion, I've hassled music folks for something New. And they've kindly provided. 

Unfortunately, rather than help me establish my own musical taste, it's mostly just established that I can recognize my friends' musical tastes. Mine remain wildly eclectic and largely situational to the occasion on which I encountered the music.  I'm very clear that I loved the Indigo Girls and Suzanne Vega in 1988 in college, precursors to my affection for Ani DiFranco in my mid 20s, but how much of that was the necessary response to hanging out with my feminist awakening cohort?  True, I still tend to prefer women's voices, but that's largely so that I can warble along with them. I just had a good ole Sheryl Crow sing-a-long when an old friend was in town.   

There's kindly nostalgia for past eras in general, music and memory being intertwined. In college, my roommate liked Modern English. A Boy I Liked liked the Smiths and Depeche Mode.  Everyone had that Cure poster on their dorm wall.  Alternative was in.       

When I was a kid, my mother liked the Beach Boys, and so I had their music, along with many 50s compilation records so as to avoid the horrors of disco ("Disco Duck" - need I say more?).  I actually liked the Beatles over the Beach Boys, but considered them, at eight, roughly the same, which is slightly hard to fathom now.  But maybe here's is the glimmering of personal taste with the fab four: the first cassette tape I purchased, right before boarding school, was the Beatles 'red' album.  But the Beatles got swallowed up in another friend's John Lennon obsession in high school and I lacked that kind of cataloging mind. I am more big picture than memorized minutia, which makes me a lousy audiophile. 

A portion of my musical scattering is related to theft and loss.  All the random tapes a friend gifted me when he went CD only, along with my own collection of mix tapes from high school, were stolen (along with almost everything else I owned) out of my car when I was traveling through New Orleans in 1993 or so.  The collection was never replaced, not even close. There are still tapes that I miss, if only in theory, obscure music from that era that's hard to find, and mixed tapes of sentimental value (the love letters of the late 80s). 

Sometimes, rediscovering can be disappointing.  When I was, oh, five or so, my favorite song was "Delta Dawn" by Helen Reddy.  My parents had it on 8-track (yes, I'm old, thanks for mentioning it).  I finally dug that up on iTunes, as the tune still randomly pops up in my head for shower singing to this day.  And, oh my, it's an awful, awful arrangement, country choral ho-down, and while I still sing it in the shower, I can't stand the country twang.  Tastes change from five years old, I suppose (thankfully, lest we all be singing along with Barney the purple dinosaur). 

But then, my first musical memory is playing my "Joy to the World" 45 by Three Dog Night on my Big-Little portable mono record player over and over and over and over and over again until my mother finally begged me to stop.  Perhaps she was flashing back to my endless requests for the "Itsey Bitsey Spider."  I guess she didn't care that Jeremiah was a Bullfrog and a good friend of mine. 

So there's an aspect of my taste in music: repetition. There are very, very few songs that I latch onto immediately with that ah ha! of happy. I loved Norah Jones' voice the first time I heard it (yes, I know, I'm middle-aged and she's a little cheezy, but really, such a voice, you have to admit). Some blues tunes, perhaps with the built-in comfort of the blues repeat, send me to happy fast, e.g., Guy Davis's "Sometimes I Wish." Plus, that song has just the perfect combo of yearning and resignation, impending grief. Mostly, however, songs just seep into me, bit by bit, and are connected with a good memory, or the 20th time on the radio, it becomes an old friend, or on the right day the right lyric reaches out and grabs me.

I played some classic 70s easy listening on that Big Little record player: The Carpenters and John Denver come to mind ("Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong").  For a long time, I got John Denver and Elton John confused, which also makes my head hurt a little bit now.  Imagine my surprise when I found a Carpenters' song  ("Superstar") remixed into some British electronicy song a music-y person was listening to.  It's like a haunting, ten minutes of going, good heavens, why do I know this?  I remember that band's name, but now I've discovered Sonic Youth covered the song too, in a vaguely creepy pedophile way.  Wow.  Eventually, if you wait long enough, everything is circles back around.     

A lot of my musical reticence boils down to Cool - which is why I've made a point of exposing some seriously unCool memories here, because Cool is a ridiculous concept as a grownup.  But it was not cool among my high school crowd to like the music that everyone else liked (a sort of contradictory moment, if you think about it...I mean, there may be a reason people like the music, although yes, I get that there is a watering down with masses as well).  I can tell you it took me a long time to acquire a taste for hardcore punk rock, the music of Washington, DC in the late 80s.  I managed, but it was not really what I was into, and truth be told, I haven't listened to Minor Threat in a decade or two, and I liked Husker Du's more melodic songs. Sure, I liked Suicidal Tendencies "Institutionalized," but anyone who was a little offbeat in high school did.  (All I wanted was a Pepsi).

With a boarding school friend, I went through my metal phase, glomming onto her musical library and running endless hours around the tiny indoor track listening to the Scorpions, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult on my Walkman.  Of course, I was also studying to the mellow tones of the very unhip but very soothing James Taylor in the evenings.  I still listen to Cat Stevens. 

I'm talking a lot (and in no particular order) about childhood, high school and early college in terms of memories and tastes, and maybe that's the reality, that we tend to latch onto bands at times in our life where we need the directed passion that music provides.  Hearing someone speak to our longings and rages and goofiness is perhaps most crucial when we're a lot closer to sixteen than I am right now.  But that doesn't mean it's not still important now. And you could make an argument that it's more important now, that holding onto passions makes us more enthusiastic and engaged people.  But I'm arty, so of course I'd say that.  But I mean to make my pursuit of music, and art, more directed and engaged than it has been. 

Enough rambling...If you know of good music, tell me. If you've got a crazy or sweet or bizarre musical memory, feel free to share.  Send me songs. Drag me out to see bands.  Because really, I'm sick of Lady Gaga.