I was skeptical. Skeptical about the album, Scratch My Back, and skeptical about the May 7 concert at the Hollywood Bowl. A seasoned and talented musician releasing and touring a set of covers reinterpreted with orchestra is certainly different, but it’s still covers. Nonetheless, I bought the album and bought a ticket to the concert when they were released and I’ve not been disappointed. The tour was short, and only touched down in Montreal, New York and Los Angeles in North America. This was the last show of the tour. So, a treat.
For the record, I probably own every standard release by Peter Gabriel (including Ovo – which he performed two songs from this evening) and I’ve seen him once before in September 1993 at the Oakland Arena. A fan? Probably. 😉
Mr. Gabriel performed with the 54-piece New Blood Orchestra. No guitars. No drums. A portion of the orchestra was composed of musicians traveling on the tour and the remainder were picked up in the cities of performance. The orchestra was led by Ben Foster, a young and entertaining conductor who was periodically viewed from a fishbowl camera on the screens throughout the evening.
Our seats weren’t in the fancy boxes or down in front, but we were front and center in the “super seats” (aka, non-benches) with a great view of the entire stage and behind the mixer. The performance began at 8:00pm and ended at 10:45pm (with a 20-minute intermission). The first set was all the songs from Scratch My Back (in order) and the second set was old Peter Gabriel songs. Continue reading →
I always loved that Bowie line. After several years of talking about putting together a radio show, not to mention dreaming of it when I was in college, I finally had my first show last week thanks to SBCC Radio.
My second show airs in a few minutes. You can listen in iTunes Radio (College/University Stations), in SecondLife, online, or using the iPhone App.
There is no long term podcast, so if you want to hear the show be sure to tune in live.
What a rare experience, to see Brian Eno live in this day and age. From a musical perspective he is relatively reclusive and so when the opportunity arose to see him give a lecture at the Carpenter Performance Center at CSU Long Beach, I jumped at the opportunity. They no music was performed, he spoke eloquently for just under 2-hours to a sold out crowd of just over 1000 people.
In a simple black suit, he was calm and comfortable on the stage. He spoke with a simple projection system in which he shared images, screwdrivers, and interactive drawings. No PowerPoint here. He told some jokes and primarily shared his philosophy of being an artist in this day and age. He mentioned Jon Hassell three times and harangued the Los Angeles Times art critic David Pagel at the same time as recognizing how the criticism helped him to look more deeply at his art.
The last two months have been a boon for my musical collection. Typically I purchase quite a bit of music in a year, but for some reason I have added twelve new pieces to my collection in the last two months and I’d like to share my thoughts on 11 of those releases.
In addition to playing my iPod at my desk, I also have a 45-minute commute each direction, which provides plenty of opportunity to listen to music. My musical tastes vary considerably and I hear about music from a few key friends, listening to KEXP, and reading the linear notes of my existing collection. Take for example the new release by Rocco DeLuca and the Burden. Though I’ve heard of him, and almost went to see him last year, the motivational factor on this purchase was that Daniel Lanois produced Mercy. Dan is one of my top artists and producers, so I usually grab anything related to him. Once again, this is not a disappointment. A great blues release with subtle lyrics and an angelic voice. Clearly a unique sound on an old style. The “Lanois” sound does not come through too strong like it did on the Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, and U2 productions but if you listen closely then you can hear it. You won’t be disappointed.
Where was I last year when Bon Iver released For Emma Forever Ago? This is a truly fantastic lo-fi release that I heard on KEXP’s “Music That Matters” podcast. Recorded in a hunting cabin during the Wisconsin winter, guitar and voice blend together a stirring story and an enjoyable piece of music. It came out in mid-2008 and if you haven’t heard this, you might find it of interest.
I’m still a fan of purchasing an entire release and listening to it from start to finish (and also usually purchase the physical media). After I become a little familiar with the music as it is presented by the artist, I can load it up on my iPod and create a shuffle playlist of all my new material. That’s where I’ve been the last week as I shuffle the songs from the eleven CDs. Here’s what else you’ll find:
One of the toughest decisions of my life happened in the past two weeks when I decided to end my love affair with motorcycle riding. I’m almost crying as I write this and look at the included picture. I’ve been riding since age 14 when our family had a little Honda 50 for dirt riding (or in the back alley’s of Fresno). From there I moved to a Honda Passport, Kawasaki KZ750, and finally to a series of BMW motorcycles. In all it is about 25 years of riding and a quarter million miles on a bike.
Why is this ending? I have been a very lucky rider. In the five accidents, I have never broken a bone or been seriously injured. This includes almost 10 years of riding in San Francisco. In the last decade I have considered selling the bike a couple of times but have never gone through with it. This time my gut tells me it is time. Earlier this fall another rider with my age and experience spent a month in the hospital after being hit at an intersection I cross daily. We get a lot of bikes in Ojai due to our fantastic curves, so accidents and deaths are not uncommon. On January 10, 2009 a fellow rider, sangha connection, and friend was killed near his home in Malibu. Peter Kollock is only a little older than I and rides the same BMW model. That same weekend, there was a death in Ventura and another on Highway 33 above Ojai.
The new year brings us the opportunity to reflect on the past and ponder the future. Our family spent two weeks at Deer Park Monastery with a six-day Holiday Retreat in the middle. The second day of the retreat I was honored when Thay Phap Hai asked me to participate in the planned dharma talk. We did this talk with our friend Karen Hilsberg.
The Plum Village sangha has a practice called Beginning Anew that we used for the foundation of our talk, since the theme of the retreat was renewal. Rather than focusing on another person, as we typically do with this practice, the focus of attention was ourselves. Karen provided us with four meditations that we explored in the one-hour talk. Please enjoy the talk.
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Four Meditations for Self-Renewal
Flower Watering/Sharing Appreciation. Looking deeply, I see many positive and wholesome qualities in myself such as…
Benign Regrets. Looking deeply, I regret that I have caused myself pain through my thoughts, speech and actions in the following ways…
Hurts and Difficulties. Looking deeply, I can understand my own hurts and difficulties with deep compassion and friendliness toward myself, without blame or criticism as follows…
Challenges and Intentions for the Future. For the future, I anticipate the following challenges and intend to practice mindfully and skillfully in the following ways…
The key here is to be kind and honest with yourself. If you can’t listen here, you can download the talk.
In the past decade, I have put together a mix of my favorite tunes from the CDs I bought that year and have given it away to friends and family. Last year, I tried something different by posting the files for download and keeping to the CD-length selection. This year everyone gets this blog entry instead. It is rather strange to not be limited to an 80-minute CD, but I still have tried to keep things reasonable since I buy a lot of music annually. For those of you who know my tastes, you should see some familiar faces here – Beck, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Portishead, David Byrne/Brian Eno, Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell.
The mix starts with some world music from Issa Bagayogo – a great Malian musician. The second track is from one of my favorite new artists (for me) in 2008 – Shearwater. This Austin band is remanisant of Mark Hollis and Talk Talk. Very sweet music. The other new band for me this year that I’m really digging is Elbow. If you’re listening now, and you want to skip around, it starts off a bit mellow, jumps to some rock, and then a series of ambient and jazz material. I hope you’re enjoying it.
Steve Jansen is a favorite and is the brother of David Sylvian from Japan fame. To be honest, I never thought I’d like Coldplay because they sound too much like U2 but I’ve really enjoyed the new release. k.d. lang has got the voice from God and this is being called her “Buddhist” release since she has become a practitioner. Sun Kil Moon is the band of Mark Kozelek, of Red House Painters fame (Bay Area). Kruder & Dorfmeister and Willits & Sakamoto fill in toward the end. And, if you can believe it, Nine Inch Nails put out almost five albums worth of material in 2008 – most of it as a free download.
The mix ends with the downer Spiritualized who writes beautiful music to make your heart ache. Leslie and I were fortunate to see him open for Nick Cave earlier this year at the Hollywood Bowl. Great show. We also saw the David Bryne at the Arlington in Santa Barbara and Beck at the new LA Live venue Club Nokia. Fantastic shows.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the music. What are you listening to this year?
One of my great loves in life is music. Though I can read music, and have played an instrument in the past, my primary interest is in listening to music – both live and at home. Since the children came, and we moved to a small town, I don’t see as much live music as in the past. I did try to get tickets to Radiohead at the Santa Barbara Bowl (scalpers are selling tickets for hundreds to thousands of dollars); I was not successful. I am excited about seeing Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds for the 7th time (but never at the Hollywood Bowl) with Spiritualized (3rd time) and Cat Power (1st time). Should be fun and different with that line-up. Picked up the latest Portishead, their first in over a decade, and it is quite good. I saw them Continue reading →