Sunday, August 30, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
School is in session. I began teaching at my new school this past Monday, Bear Creek k-8, in Lakewood, Colorado. My 4th graders have made the transition into the new school for me smooth and it has been a fun first few days of class. I am exhausted, but after having June, July, and most of August off, it will take a week or two to get back into the routine.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Live at UC Berkeley:
Eddie Vedder is the lead singer to the band Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam has been around since the early 90’s and they have grown significantly over the years and they have become a powerful quintet and they are beloved around the world. They established a dedicated strong fan base early in their career because of the energy that they put into their live shows. Each night they create a different set list from the night before and at each show, something surprising happens, Eddie will climb 35 feet up the scaffolding and atop the speakers and continue singing a song the band was jamming on for the previous 15 minutes, or Mike, the guitarist will rip into a Led Zeppelin instrumental cover and throw his guitar over the back of his head and solo for 5 min on that as a transition into the next part of the song, or any given night, they will invite a surprise guest onto stage, Ben Harper, Sean Penn, Neil Young, Jack Johnson,..the list goes on. In their musical career, they have released eight albums and they are working to release their ninth this year. Each album is arranged with two or three guitars, drums, vocals, ukulele, and bass. Some of these songs make you want to run around in circles in the mosh pit and slam dance and other songs are ballads and the vocals are soft and when listened to in a quiet room with head phones, a shivers may go through your body.
Last year Eddie came out with a solo album for Sean Penn’s film, Into The Wild. He created road songs, songs that fit the story and fit the life of Chris McCandless. Eddie’s process for writing this group of songs was very real. He wrote them with a variety of instruments including the uke, mandolin, guitar and banjo. Shortly after, he went on tour with these songs on the west coast and then the east coast there after. He played Santa Cruz and Berkeley where my friends and I saw him. Eddie came out on the stage with just a guitar and played some cover songs and told some stories. He strummed through the songs of James Taylor, The Beatles, Springsteen, and a Cat Steven cover from the film Harold and Maude, If You Want to Sing Out, he played on the banjo. After a set of cover songs, he played some songs from Into The Wild. Hearing them live, they sounded better than on the album because they had a raw sound to them, an organic sound, it was just Ed and the instruments that he brought with him and it went along well with the ideas and thoughts on life that these songs are about, Chris McCandless' life. After he performed the songs from Into The Wild, Ed came out with a vocal machine and said “this is, uhh, science”. He performed a song from Riot Act called Arc. In this song he loops his voice over and over again with different vocal structures and plays them over each other and by the time he completed the last loop, it sounds like an entire ensemble of vocalists.
It was a wonderful treat to see Eddie in this form, away from Pearl Jam, away from the large concert venues, away from the massive crowds. This intimate performance allowed Vedder to shine in his own artistic talent and gave him and the audience alike a chance to share and enjoy the masterpiece soundtrack of songs that he created.
My good friend Daren and I have been long time fans of Josh Ritter. We have jammed on our guitars through half an hour versions of Me & Jiggs and Harrisburgh. We saw Josh first at the Independent in San Francisco in the early 2000’s. We found out about him through a complaition CD from Ireland called ‘Other Voices: Songs From A Room Volume 1’. On Other Voices, Josh Ritter has a live acoustic track called ‘Snow Is Gone’. The studio version is on his album called Hello Starling. It is a beautiful, catchy, and about love and the changing of the seasons.
Josh Ritter is one of the most talented singer-song writers today. His recent albums are thematic and they have many layers to them and they take time to digest after the first few listens. His lyrics are filled with many complex ideas that tend to reference historic concepts. Sample verse from ‘Thin Blue Flame’:
“I flew over Royal City last night,
Bullfighting the horns of a new moon’s light,
Caesar’s ghost I saw the war time tides,
The prince of Denmark’s father still quiet,
The whole world was looking to get drowned,
Trees were a fist shaking themselves at the clouds,
I looked over curtains and it was then I knew,
Only a full house would make it through.”
Last spring my wife Jill and I were a part of the lucky audience at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco to see him perform, for the first time, with a string quartet. The combination of the talented string quartet and Josh's powerful acoustic guitar strumming and picking made it an inspirational performance. The music ran through my fingers and up my arms and sent shivers down my spine. It sounded natural and earthy and organic like they should have been playing atop a mountain or on a river bank somewhere in the wild away from the loud city crowd; that is where they took the audience during the performance.
The video footage below is from you tube. Two songs called Girl In The War (with strings) and a song called Wolves, (not performed with the quartet). Highlights from the show were Girl In The War with the Strings, Kathleen with strings, and Thin Blue Flame. Josh played “I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore” by Woody Guthrie without any plug-ins or mic’s while standing at the very edge of the stage singing at the top of his lungs to fill the room with Guthrie's powerful song about people and families who farmed, mined, and had to wander around the united states trying to find a job and place to call home,..all I can say to his rendition of this old folk tune is....wow.
It was a memorable show and if Josh comes to your town, go see him play.