Monday, August 29, 2011

Braille, Theory Hazit, Knowmads, Greg and Jerome and Friends

Hip hop show Sunday night at the Vera needed steering, when I checked in I was told they had steering but minimal volunteers so I could do Lead Front Door. I brought my son and a couple of his friends, between them they did front door security (checking purses and backpacks), concessions (probably $50 or so in business) and roaming security. Steering never showed, so the show manager and I sort of herded the boys while I sold tickets. The show manager was nice enough to cover me for several minutes here and there so I could start and restart my video cameras and take a few pictures.

Here's the show manager waving and my son in concessions:
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The set list showed 4 acts and we had a couple extra plus a few guest performances.
Korvus Blackbird performed an early set (I know his name because I signed him in, not sure what the other dude's names are).
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Greg and Jerome, plus Korvus Blackbeard and Julie C take turns putting on a show:

Knowmads put on a great show, I suspect most of the crowd turned out to see them.
They've always been good about sharing bills and revenue and tonight was more of the same with Braille and Theory Hazit both capably headlining but the Knowmads doing the heavy lifting of delivering the paying audience.
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Tom Pepe did a spoken word introductory piece:

We got some new material too:

Several classic joints like The Boat Can Leave Now:

and Wildflower:

A few additional bits from the show ended up on my youtube channel.

Knowmads are one of the more reliably creative local hip hop crews, always putting on a good show and always pushing the envelope with free-styling and battling, nailing their classic numbers every damn time. Kind of odd noticing kids who aren't even 20 yet (Tom Wilson and Tom Pepe - wait, didn't they just have back to back 21st birthdays or something?) have several year old "classic old school" tunes.

Theory Hazit put on an excellent set of urgent personal music.
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I got most if not all of Theory Hazit's performance on my youtube channel if you want to check it out. Here's a couple more bits:

I enjoy the way his faith informs his music and the intensity, very nice.

Finally Braille came on and finished the show off with a great headlining set.
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I got quite a bit of good video footage by leaving the Flip running on a tripod in the balcony.

Dense with hip hop music, little filler, strong rhythms and interesting rhymes.

I ended up getting most if not all of Braille and posting most of it here.

Some other stuff and the finale can be found on my youtube channel if you're interested, the 3 selections above cover most of Braille's set though.

I believe I count the 4 announced acts plus 3 others (Korvus, Julie C, one other) for 7 total. Could be more, hip hop is interesting and flexible that way. So the running total ends up at 237 performances so far through August, 209 bands for the first time.

Thank you and good night.

P.S. Official Packed Bagz off of The KnewBook is available via KnowmadsMusic on youtube

Braille has a video listening session for "Native Lungs" that looks interesting.Braille

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Prepping for Bumbershoot

Bumbershoot is next weekend and I've started preparing my devices and planning my strategy. I've got a new 2 hour Flip so I can record 168 minutes of video plus whatever I add with my digital SLR. The SLR does nice HD videos but the sound fails badly when recording anything that's loud so the Flip produces usable video, SLR mostly does photos.

I'll try my new Flip out tonight at the Vera Project with Braille, Theory Hazit and Knowmads. I may borrow or purchase a field recorder too.

I'll do a few Wii Fit yoga and exercise workouts this week to keep my back limber and my strength up, and we'll pay attention to hydration and good food choices at Bumbershoot and hope things go well. No major physical trauma heading in this year, but my neck and shoulders are still out of sorts from my epic unpleasant trip back from India.

Plotting out Bumbershoot bands, why did they have to have Shelby Earl and the Presidents of the USA at the same time? Brite Futures and Craft Spells too, and Nice Nice vs. PS I Love You, tough choices, that plus Shabazz Palaces and it isn't even 6PM on the first day yet. I count 38 bands I wouldn't mind seeing, if I can get to 20 of those that's better than 50%, anyway. Saturday is shaping up to be a good day, both of my daughters and my son will be going with me. This will be the 4th or 5th time I've seen the PUSA, my daughters have seen 3 or 4 I think, and this will be Ben's 3rd at least. They're definitely a family favorite, always put on a hot energetic fun show. STRFKR, Lawnchair Generals, Meklit Hadero, Ray LaMontagne and Mavis Staples and others I've never heard of. Awesome lineup for the first night!

I should be able to get some good videos, here's a favorite from last year's Bumbershoot:

This performance is on the Broad Street stage, they aren't using that stage this year. and they also aren't using Memorial Stadium as the main stage. They are using 2 stages in the EMP, the Key Arena as the main stage, and an additional fountain stage, so the venue lineup is a little different.

Sunday kicks off with Sol, local reggae, Lonely Forest and Whalebones at the same time, Mad Rad and Massey Ferguson at the same time, No Means No overlapping with Broken Social Scene, Thee Oh Sees, DaM FunK + Master Blazter, Atari Teenage Riot, Com Truise, Das Racist, Anti-Flag, Warpaint, Butthole Surfers and Leon Russel at the same time, with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis 30 minutes later, Tori Y Moi, The Kills, Joe Pug, Whiz Khalifa and more. Sunday's lineup looks excellent.

Monday has Motopony and the Horde and the Harem at the same time, a stretch of unfamiliar (to me) bands: Legendary Oaks, Fly Moon Royalty, Quadron, Curtains For You, Kendric Lamar and DJ Introcut. Finally bands I recognize: My Goodness, Head Like A Kire, Grand Hallway, Big Boi, YACHT, WD4D, MASH HALL, Ill Cosby, LAKE, Sharon Van Etten, Vendetta Red, Urge Overkill, Ravenna Woods, Fitz and the Tantrums, Phantogram, Truckasaurus, The Reverend Horton Heat, Hall & Oates, Grant Lee Buffalo. Other new to me bands like Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, SPLATINUM, Over the Rhine, 214, Eisley,
Charles Bradly, and Greensky Bluegrass. Quite a lineup, I hope I can do it justice!

I'll bring 2 Flips and my digital SLR and (hopefully) a field recorder. I try to get a video of a song and some photos from each band, with favorite bands (PUSA) getting several songs.

Even 168 minutes of Flip will get used up pretty quickly and I can be pretty picture happy with the SLR. I'm trying to arrange a spot for my laptop so I can download videos wile recharging the Flips and download my photos and recharge the SLR batteries too. A 45 minute pause to get downloaded and recharged (overlapped with food and water and cleanup etc.) could double the daily capacity!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Summer Update

I was trying to do monthly retrospectives to review what I've seen and look forward a bit. Due to circumstances beyond my control (a death in the family) that plan went off the rails for a couple months.

I finally got caught back up on the Capitol Hill Block Party (except my pix from Saturday have disappeared for now) so it's time to catch up with another retrospective.

All kinds of awesome music related performance since my May retrospective and a few sad musical experiences too. The songs you hear while a loved one is passing away will take on an amazing (and somewhat painful) poignancy, at least for me. I love remembering my parents, even if it makes me cry, so in an odd way I celebrate the painfulness of hearing those songs again. More than anything else I love passion in music, and passionate performances knock me out.

Passion can be up or down - passionately angry and amazingly passionate depression are both common in some of my favorite songs. The upside of human emotion is well represented too, thank goodness. In some cases we bring our own passion and meaning to songs based on associations with events in our lives that we feel passionate about, and that's also another beautiful element of music.

I saw an amazing amount of good music over the last two and a half months, even though I was somewhat missing in action for a fair amount of it. As the saying goes, life is what happens to us while we're making other plans.

The free Veracity shows kept me supplied with some music when I wasn't really able to spend much effort on it.

I got to check out a new (to me) venue called Luther's Table and listen to a free show - somebody in the band was a friend of a friend's fiancee's kid or something like that, good enough excuse for me to check it out. I'm pretty sure Luther's Table is run as an outreach for the Lutheran Church and I think that's pretty darn cool. There are many ways to witness for your faith and reach out to those willing to listen, and I think music is one of the better ways. I know it's central to my faith.

Perhaps that's enough about death, faith and philosophy, at least until next month. Partying is pretty darn fun too! The Capitol Hill Block Party kicked ass like it always does, one monster hedonistic jam with lots of cheap beer if you know where to look. I heard a pile of new (to me) bands like Fucked Up:

Ra Ra Riot:

Spaceneedles (love the name):

Campfire OK:

I finally saw TacocaT!

I also got to hear some old favorites like the Head and the Heart and Grynch:

I also heard some music in India while I was there on a business trip (the soud is somewhat drowned out by the fountain, too bad):

Let's see, through May I saw 157 bands, 136 for the first time. In the last two and a half months I saw 73 more so the total now stand at 230 performances, 203 for the first time.

I didn't make it to Hempfest - too jet lagged and tired, I got back late Saturday and took it easy Sunday. There's an interesting festival next weekend called the Northwest Love Fest I'd like to see but I'm not sure if I'll make it. Seattle Peace concerts coming up too, I may get to one of those.

In two weekends Bumbershoot is here, and I have tickets for all 3 days. Here's one of my favorite performances from last year's Bumbershoot with Hey Marseilles covering Love Insurgent:

I should see 60 or so bands Bumbershoot weekend alone, which will put me very close to 300 for the year. Looking forward to more good music, and with my second Flip I can get even more video per show!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Capitol Hill Block Party: Sunday

On Sunday at the Capitol Hill Block Party I took my Flip video recorder; since I wasn't allowed to take my nice digital SLR I only got videos. Not that videos are a bad thing!

Land of Pines put on a good musical set, I enjoy their sound.

Lisa Dank at Neumos was fascinating, I'm not sure how to characterize or describe it but it was a perfect Capitol Hill experience somehow, odd possible connotations and subtexts. The performance dropping to the floor and nearly out of sight, classic stuff.

My Goodness had an excellent sound for just 2 bandmembers, wish I got some more of them:

I caught a little bit of both Dunes and Cold Showers but didn't get any video. Dang.

Spaceneedles had an interesting spacey driving groove going in this song, and I love the name too!

Figuring out which bands were which was a little challenging, luckily for me Virgin Islands had their name on their bass drum. I liked the sound and repeated riffs, good energy for an early set during the bright sunlight.

I only got a tiny bit of the Posies, basically an extended end to a song. I wish I had more from them, the Posies are an iconic local band that has been around for an amazingly long time. Talented performers, I need to catch a full show by them some day.

Campfire OK put on a good show, I like how tight they are on the emphasis beats, the excellent control of dynamics, and how they blend the vocals and horn into the overall sound, makes me want to hear more from these guys.

I finally got to see TacocaT - any band with a palindromic name is worth checking out in my book. Fast post-punk with occasional nearly shouted harmonies, loved the sound and enjoyed the heck out of their set. This is one of those examples where I liked it too much and started enjoying the show and bouncing around - the camera work goes to heck. Dave's inverse concert fun rule: the more fun the show, the poorer the video. Sorry!

Battles doing Atlas on the mainstage, excellent sound, really like how the vocals fit in. Another case of too short a video. I finally decided to get a second Flip, this one holds 2 hours, so in the future I should be able to catch more material from each band if I manage it right.

I think this is Lake but I'm not sure. I couldn't find Lake on youtube, and they played the Vera Stage around the right time, so my best guess is that this is Lake.

Loch Lomond played pleasant well arranged pop, the song Blood Bank was outstanding: good harmonies and vocals, the song progression especially the build in intensity without over-amplifying everything, very appealing, excellent performance.

The Cave Singers had a nice sound, the vocals were more up front and easier to make out. The sun totally washes out the band so you can't see much.

Grand Hallway was in good form playing beautiful aching music:

Federation X played guitar oriented rock, nicely distorted guitars, thumping beat, good vocals, well put together. I liked these guys:

I think this may be The First Times, but I'm not sure. I like the sound, the keyboards fit in very nicely and the vocals are excellent. Whoever they are, they are kicking some butt.

Grynch closed out the Block Party at Neumos in fine form. My kids took me to see Grynch a long time ago when I wasn't into hip hop all that much, his brilliant word play was a key part of changing my mind and eventually getting into hip hop.

I caught a couple of the bands at the after show, here's Metal Chocolates:

I also saw Mash Hall, but my Flip was out of memory so I didn't get any video. I would've liked to hear Mad Rad again, but I ran out of energy and headed home. Too bad, they always put on a good show. Still, I managed to catch 20 bands. Not bad for a days work.

Capitol Hill Block Party: Friday

I'm very late getting material from the Capitol Hill Block Party posted, sorry about that. It was a great festival/party and I saw many good bands, but I didn't do a very good job getting videos and photos.

On Friday I took my nice digital SLR, but not my Flip video camera. The digital SLR takes great pictures and good videos, except that the mic does NOT handle loud music well. as a result some of the videos can be pretty much un-listenable.

I'll go ahead and run through what I saw and use the material I ended up with, anyway.

I saw (or mostly heard) Grave Babies and Boat playing on the Vera stage while I was working at the Vera Project booth, so I didn't get any video or photos, but I enjoyed both bands.

The first band I recorded was Fucked Up (that's the bands name, not a description).
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Here's a video of them doing Crooked Head:

They use a triple guitar, bass and drums lineup. The vocals are pretty much screamed over the top, resulting in a loud and obnoxious sound that I enjoyed. The audio distorts to some degree, but you can sorta hear what it was like. Nice energetic set, had the crowd moving.

I managed to catch Skarp on the Vera Stage, they were enjoyable and loud.
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Unfortunately the video is pretty much unlistenable. Too bad!

I saw Craft Spells, second time I've seen them, they're getting more attention & seem to be blowing up to some degree. Didn't manage to get any video, just photos for them.
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We did manage to save Metro, so I'll post this photo in honor of that accomplishment:
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Somewhere in there I saw the Yarn Owls and the Wheelies, liked them both, especially the Wheelies. I was to late getting into the venue and it's a small flat space, so the photos aren't very good. For example, I'm not even sure who this is:
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No video either.

Back at the Vera booth, the kids were digging the bubbles and chalk:
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Thurston Moore played on the mainstage, interesting sound. He played an acoustic guitar and they had a fiddle player too.

Ra Ra Riot played the mainstage, interesting sound with a violin and a cello on top of the usual guitar and drums.

I caught Sol on the Vera Stage, solid hip hop with nice backing musicians on bass and vocals.
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Short video from his performance, he really works the crowd:

The Constant Lovers were one of the few bands I got close enough to at the Cha Cha to actually get some good photos:
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I enjoyed the Constant Lovers, they were loud, distorted and fairly fast with a heavy beat. The video of their performance sounds better than most, they didn't quite overdrive the bass as much.

Caught a bit of the Head and the Heart on the mainstage, here's a brief video:

I've seen the Head and the Heart several times now, they sure blew up quickly!

Shad put on an excellent set at the Vera Stage:

I think this is Shad playing guitar too:
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The last band I "saw" at the Capitol Hill Block Party on Friday was Absolute Monarchs, I like their sound. Loud, beat heavy, distorted guitars, lyrics that you can almost make out. Good stuff!

Once again, getting to the Cha Cha stage late means I can't see the band much, I could here them though.

The music wasn't over for the night, though. I had to leave a little early (missed Ghostland Observatory and THEESatisfaction, too bad, but I had to catch a bus home) and there was a full brass band playing on the sidewalk outside the block party. I've always been a sucker for brass music (Tower of Power kicks ass!) and these guys were playing complex arrangements with many instruments, pretty cool for a free street performance. Their sign says they're "The Ten Man Brass Band"

Further down Pine (or was it Pike?) there was a dude playing acoustic guitar and singing, I shot a bit of him playing too:

Quite a bit of interesting music for one day at the block party, wish I had better video for more of them but I sure enjoyed the performances.

By my count that's 16 bands in one day. Hopefully I learned a few lessons: always bring my Flip, it consistently does a better job capturing audio. Also, blog about shows quickly afterwards, or I'll forget stuff. I enjoyed many of the bands, but a month later the details are fuzzy. I probably saw another band or two, but if I didn't get a photo or video then I'm not sure I'll remember who I saw.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Music Festivals and Value

I noticed a festival in Seattle I had never heard of before called Northwest Love Fest coming up on August 27 & 28 in Fremont at the end of Stone Way. When I was a kid I thought having a street named Stone Way was hilarious, but I found plenty of things hilarious back then. This is their 2nd annual festival, so I missed last year's completely.

After looking at the lists of bands for the 2 days I got more interested - there are acts I'd like to see: The Missionary Position (note: these aren't my videos,dug 'em up on youtube):

Elbow Coulee, Common Market (!):

Yogoman Burning Band (saw them before, would enjoy seeing them again), and may other bands I've never heard of that sound interesting based on the description, well over 30 bands total in 2 days. Hmm, definitely worth checking out.

After poking around the site a bit I found that admission is $10 a day, or $15 for both days. That seems like an amazing value to me - if I have $15 and I'm available those days I'll have to consider going; if I can get somebody to go with me it's a slam dunk. Well, almost; I'll have been out of town in India for 3 weekends leading up to the weekend of the Love Festival, and the following weekend is Bumbershoot (going all 3 days), so I may have to give it a pass just so I can hang out with my family a bit.

The whole process of deciding it was a great value got me thinking, though. I like new experiences, and seeing bands that I never heard of putting on excellent shows is one of my favorite things. Not everybody feels that way, and many of the new bands I see are somewhat forgettable, and occasionally they are somewhat lame in one way or another. I cut them a lot of slack - they got a group together, rehearsed, and got booked for a show, which is more than most of us ever achieve.

The math works for me - more than 30 bands for $15, less than .50 per band, an awesome deal. Others with different taste and higher standards might disagree, though. Paying $15 bucks to see bands you don't know could be a waste of your money, especially if you don't like novelty (in the sense of new to you) all that much.

I can only experience things from my own point of view, though, so I'll continue to see shows like this as a steal and go out of my way to attend them when I can. Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, of course, but I sure have seen a pile of bands I've never heard of put on awesome shows! I just love the experience of seeing unfamiliar bands that take me on a mental and emotional journey that I had no idea was coming, to a destination I'd never considered - for me, it doesn't get much better than that.

Of course, an element of this is the "Indie Rock Pete" thing - indie Rock Pete is a character in Diesel Sweeties who likes knowing about bands before everybody else does, and no longer likes the band once they get popular. It's summarized nicely in this Venn diagram:

The comic is too wide so the final punch-line gets cut off, sorry about that, but the Venn diagram on the left is what I was referring to anyway. Like any good satire it overstates things, but I do like being ahead of the curve a bit on bands.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Vera Open Mic Night 8-3-2011

The Vera Project is holding open mic nights the first Wednesday of each month. This isn't the first time the Vera Project has had open mic nights, but it's the first time in several years.

I ended up steering the open mic night, so I wasn't able to film things. I got one of the volunteers to film the show with my Flip, so I do have some video. I didn't bring my good camera so I didn't get photos, and my Flip only had 12 minutes of space, so we got one act and a bit of the next. Hopefully next time I'll be able to catch more of the show.

Open mics are interesting since you never know what you're going to get. Spoken word performances, poetry, music of different sorts (usually solo, often a singer/songwriter/guitarist), as I said you never know who's going to show up and what you're going to see and hear. That can be one of the best aspects of open mics; at the same time it can also be a little painful, but we managed to get a consistently good set of performances so it was a pretty cool evening.

The performances at the first open mic night were mostly singer/guitarists who wrote their own songs, maybe 8 out of 10 or so.

The first act I managed to get taped was Tom, this song is from his Milwaukie band:

I can't quite make out the name of the Milwaukie band, but he says it right at the beginning of the recording so you can check it yourself. Nice acoustic guitar playing, odd lyrics about mushrooms, definitely different and amusing.

I got all of Tom's performance recorded, you can check out the whole recording (all of Tom and the first bit of Shelby) here.

Next up was Shelby, she played a nice understated acoustic guitar and sang an original song called "Never":

She has a nice breathy singing style and gets some interesting lyrics and emotion out in a fairly short excerpt. Unfortunately I didn't get the whole thing, as my recorder ran out of room.

I ended up hearing roughly 8 musical acts and a couple of spoken word performances. One comedian had the audience talking back which was fun, and Julia did a bit that was somewhat self revealing and told me things about her I hadn't known. It takes a certain amount of courage to get up there and talk about personal stuff, I admire that!

Hopefully I'll get more of next month's open mic recorded so I can blog about more of the acts, I found the experience charming and the variety was excellent.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Music for Dinner

I went to the nice Indian restaurant in my hotel for dinner last night and was pleased to discover that there was live music being played during dinner. A duo played interesting music on sitar and tabla which kept me quite entertained through the meal and for a while after as I sat and listened.

They were on a raised platform in the center of the restaurant, and several times tourists went up and stood in front of them for their friends to take pictures - I understand the impulse, but it seemed a little disrespectful.

Of course, if I had realized there was live music I'd have brought my Flip and gotten some video, so I don't have much room to be critical. I would've filmed from my table, but the difference is only a matter of degree.

The music was quite interesting. The first time I heard sitars and tabla playing was in the film "Concert for Bangladesh" which documents the grand-daddy of all benefit/aid shows, 2 shows put on to raise money and awareness for the people in what is now Bangladesh, who were suffering from the effects of a cyclone as well as political violence. Here's an image of the concert's album cover:
George Harrison - Concert for Bangladesh
I was fascinated by the sound and different rhythms, quite strange to my western trained ears but very musical and impressive. I've heard sitars and tabla live at Traveler's in Seattle too, it's fascinating sitting close and watching the performers hands, I suppose that's the typical approach for a technical nerd like me: spend at least half the time watching how the performers make the sounds they make, rather than enjoying the music the whole time. I enjoy things more when I think about them and analyze them, I suppose, but that's just me.

The performance at the restaurant last night wasn't as intense, but it still was enjoyable. The sounds of the tabla, the higher pitched faster finger strikes on the smaller drum and the louder lower sounds interjected on occasion gave the rhythm a very full presence for having a single player. The sitar playing was also beautiful, with strange (to my ears) progressions and sounds, fast runs up and down the fretboard, and the drone strings - err - droning in the background.

The "rules" in Indian sitar music are quite different from what I'm used to. The music would often hit an intense climax, which in almost any western song would have been the end of a tune, but here they filled beats and drone under the climax, then kicked the melody off again. Sometimes they seemed to continue roughly in the same vein, other times it sounded a bit like they were moving to a different progression after the climax, and I found I couldn't predict which way it was going to go at all. That difference from my musical expectations is a good part of what makes the music seem exotic to me, and increases the appeal quite a bit. The "tone" - the specific character of the sounds, the twangy sitar melodies, the odd collection of notes combining for the drone, the way the tabla generates quite a few different percussive sounds off of just two drums through skilled use of hands and fingers - that's the other part that seems exotic.

My instincts are totally out of whack, though. I went to a Sikh Gurdwara and didn't take my Flip since I wasn't sure it was allowed. It was, and I missed filming a very interesting performance. I went to the worlds largest Hindu temple complex and took my Flip - I wasn't going to miss out twice - only to find that cameras are not allowed there, and there wasn't any musical performance as part of religious observations anyway. I went to dinner without the Flip and missed another performance. Batting 0 for 3 so far, I suppose it can only get better from here.

I think I'll go see if they have a musical performance tonight, if so I'll eat dinner there again - this time with my Flip.

Postscript: I ate dinner in the same restaurant last night and listened to a sitar/tabla performance. This time I brought my Flip! The sound isn't great due to the fountain I was seated beside, and on some clips the waiter obscures things for a bit, but I'm happy I got some videos!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Music and Worship

I'm in India on business which may make it a little tougher to blog about music. On the other hand, I have evenings and a 3 day weekend free, and Delhi is a large city with plenty of live music. Well, at least some live music, anyway.

My first musical experience here was an unexpected pleasure. I went with a couple of locals to Gurdwara Bangla Sahib on Wednesday night. We removed our shoes and socks, leaving them in our car, and walked to the gurdwara. The view is amazing.
A Gurdwara (translates as gateway to the guru) is a place of worship for Sikhs. The Sikh faith is interesting, most men of this faith take the surname Singh, and it's at least to some degree a warrior faith; I believe every male Sikh has a sword as both a symbol of their faith, and in the past as a tool for fighting. As a fantasy geek and D&D gamer from way back, any faith that includes swords is definitely cool!

This particular gurdwara is considered the most prominent one, and it's easy to see why. The site is beautiful in it's architecture and use of water, and the gurdwara itself is a feast for the eyes (intricate stonework, beautiful water features and golden towers) and ears.

The ears in particular: for the hour we were there they had a group in the central area, somewhat like an altar, playing and singing songs related to their faith. The vocalist sang solo and almost continuously with a strong, rich and attractive tenor. He was backed by a tabla and a couple of harmoniums. The combination of instruments, especially the tabla, the different use of intervals while singing, and the foreign language gave it an exotic (to me) Indian flavor and greatly enhanced the vibe in the temple.

There are little intricate rituals being performed all over - as you go up the steps to the gurdwara, people stop and touch each step, then make a motion towards their mouths and hearts which reminded me of our Catholic ritual of crossing ourselves over our forehead, mouth and chest during mass - committing our mind, words, and heart to Christ. Other rituals are performed at various places in different ways around the gurdwara and its grounds.

A mixed crowd of Sikhs and Hindus were worshiping (meditating? I'm not sure what the terminology is) inside the gurdwara and we sat down on the floor, my local Hindu friends meditated while I prayed for a half hour. By typical Western standards it was a pretty humble musical experience - not much flash, fairly repetitive, just good solid musicianship in a beautiful setting.

For me it was more than that. Praying with my eyes closed, asking for help with my issues and for all of those around the world who are in such difficult positions, the sound and it's exotic associations made me feel more connected to the locals, even though their language is incomprehensible to me and their culture is fairly foreign too. To quote a perhaps trite Led Zeppelin song and theme, even though we are all different "The Song Remains the Same." I hadn't brough my Flip since I wasn't sure that would be acceptable, turns out I could've brought it. I wish I had, it would be wonderful to share more of the experience.

I was greatly comforted by my prayers and the atmosphere in the gudwara, and it was a nice first step into the Indian experience in Delhi. After that we walked around the gudwara grounds doing some of the traditional activities like petting the catfish in the reflecting pool, getting a handful of a porridge-like substance handed to us to eat while we walked around (I was warned to avoid anything prepared in carts but I went ahead, I was feeling very connected and it seemed important to participate; it gave me no problems at all), circling the flag pole while praying - you're supposed to make a wish and if it comes true then you must go back again. Meenakshi had been granted her wish (she didn't say what it was) so she was returning to pray in thanks.

Afterwards we headed back out of the gurdwara and walked through the Connaught Place district, the high end shopping district in Delhi. The area is an interesting mix of familiar (McDonalds, Benetton, Sony and other familiar stores and brands) and exotic (the architecture was quite different, the climate is hotter and more humid than I'm used to, the way the pedestrians deal with traffic and crossing streets, even the food are all quite exotic to my Seattle sensibilities).

We visited a park and ate at a local tea shop. It was an interesting evening and I'm looking forward to more trips into Delhi, and a little more live music too if I can arrange it. Next time I'll be sure to bring my Flip so I can share the sounds and sights as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Far Side of the Earth

My normal posting efforts have broken down a bit - busy with family issues and work, I've fallen way behind. I still haven't blogged about the Capitol Hill Block Party yet, so figuring out which photos and videos are of what bands is going to be a bit challenging. Hopefully the CHBP schedule is still up on the internet, since it's the main tool for figuring who the heck a given band is. Saw all kinds of good stuff, finally caught a TacocaT show (I'm a freak for palindromes so I was pretty much guaranteed to like it, and the fact that they put on a great show only made it better). More about that later, because now I'm out of town. Way out of town - in Gurgaon, next to Delhi in India. I do have an expense account and a car and driver though, so I think I can catch some live music while I'm here. As long as jet lag doesn't knock me out too completely, anyway.

There are a couple of clubs in the mall right next to my hotel that feature live music, I feel like I have to at least check out Beer Island based on the name alone! I'm not sure if I want to try the live music in the bowling alley, we'll see, and there's still another club or two in the mall that has live music beyond that too. Several other venues in Gurgaon have been recommended to me, and Delhi has a pile of them too, especially in the Connaught Place district.

I'm not sure exactly what (if anything) I'll manage to see, but that's half the fun. The locals tell me that most of the clubs that feature live music have cover bands, so I may even be familiar with the material. Of course if they cover Indian standards then it'll all be new to me. I haven't heard a lot of live music in foreign languages recently (although I did enjoy Ser.0, which had several songs in Spanish) like this song called Disco:
...and I grew up in the sixties listening to an odd bootleg tape that my dad had of a Beatles performance in Hamburg that I really liked. I have no idea where he got it, and unfortunately Mom gave his tapes away when he passed on, so the Jack Straw Foundation now has that odd old bootleg, if they didn't toss it out. Oh yeah, and I also listen to Latin, German and Italian songs in church. Hmm, I guess I listen to more songs in foreign languages than I had realized.

I've been visiting with some of the Indian folk for months now, talking about music and swapping links to favorite bands and interesting youtube videos of performances and so on. One interesting thing I've noticed is that the major Western styles are reflected in modern Indian music which can be fascinating.

I've listened to what could pass for mainstream pop in the US, except for the language, and I've heard bands with distinct heavier metal-ish sounds, and even rap influences. Don't get me wrong, the results aren't completely derivative and they usually only show influences merging with the Indian approaches. The "rap" influenced performer I listened to had the rap cadences and rhythms and relative lack of melody down, but the backing music was more traditional rock and roll than rap. The heavier sounding stuff apparently had a very clean and non-offensive message in it's lyrics, so while it sounded somewhat like heavy metal in a foreign language, the subject matter was much lighter than most heavy metal in the US.

The reverse is also very apparent - Bollywood musicals have influenced American pop; didn't Madonna do a song along those lines? It started way back in the sixties (if not earlier) when the Beatles spent time in India and produced songs like "Within You and Without You" that used traditional Indian percussion and sounds, and "Across the Universe" that directly quoted the Hindu faith in Hindi with it's "Jai guru deva, om" chorus.

With a little luck I'll be able to catch a few performances, get a song or two from each on video, and post the videos and blog about it.

Belated post script: the clubs in the mall did not play live music. When I went to the Rock and Roll bar and asked if they featured live music they gave me odd looks. They clearly had no idea what I was talking about. At least the beer was good.