Category Archives: Concerts

Ben Folds @ The Fox Theater, May 17

The Fox Theater was the star of this evening.

It opened in February of this year and this was my first of, hopefully, many shows here.  It is astonishingly beautiful.  There are several tiers of floor and a seated balcony.  The hardwood floors are fabulous, with little vents poofing cool air.  It’s sort of art deco and kind of Middle Eastern.  Opulent without being gaudy.

It gives me this feeling of hope for Oakland.  Like maybe it won’t be so scuzzy some time soon and that nice places to eat and drink won’t be so surprisingly noteworthy.  The charm of the Fox Theater is sure to improve the tenor of it’s surrounding neighborhood.

So… Ben Folds.  He was cute and geek chic, yes.  But mostly, I yearned for the shows of yore.
The last time I saw him was so great.  He got the audience singing a harmonized round that was super fun.  And he did an over the top cover of Aerosmith’s Dream On that left me a little obsessed with that song.
I loved Rockin’ the Suburbs and admittedly, his new album, Way to Normal, didn’t thrill me quite as much.  So I knew that the show would have a lot of his new songs going in to it.

And maybe something totally great happened at the end of the show.  I left at 10:30, because, you know.  My bed time is at 10.  And while the show was supposed to start at 8, nothing happened until almost 9:30.  Happily, I was enjoying my exploration of the venue during the wait.  To be fair, a group of semi-talented kids from Sacramento did an acapella cover of Annie Waits prior to Ben taking the stage.  So if something really great happened once the actual show started, I missed it.  But in the hour I saw there was a guy playing a fancy glow-in-the-dark tambourine, and Ben put some Altoid tins on the strings of his piano.

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Some things are not as nifty as they sound

Cello Madness would be an example of something that sounds really nifty, but ended up not being so much.

It’s supposed to be a troop of jamming cellists.  In previous sessions, there had been 5 to 8 of them, getting all kinds of cello madness on.

Last night, though, there were just 2 of them at the Make-Out Room.  The one who seemed to be generally in charge of the event was quite good and did some interesting things with his cello.  He made it make sounds like a strumming guitar with his bow.  He unabashedly was being cool and aggressive with his playing.  The other cellist was a lady who was clearly a skilled classical musician.  But she was terrible at improv.  Any opportunity to make up a little tune was lost by her random, atonal, double-stop, pseudo jazz.  It was consistently discordant and unpleasant.  And she seemed to want to try to compensate for her decided lack of coolness in her cello playing by flailing her legs around and slapping her bare feet on the floor like a nod to her recognition of rhythm.

An audience guy asked them to play some Bach.  She obliged and was quite good in that arena.  She played two pieces from the cello suites that I didn’t know, and I suspect they were probably quite hard.
The other guy took a stab at the familiar piece from the first suite that’s been in a dozen commercials.  He did a fun little improve bit in the middle and he messed up a bit in the rest.  I was caught off guard at one point and laughed out loud when he played a fast scale instead of the actual notes of the piece.  Even so, he was very interesting to listen to.

I may try out Cello Madness again and hopefully, it will be better with more people.  But I am skeptical and left feeling like I coulda done a lot better myself, which is dangerous thinking indeed.

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Outside Lands

I went to the Outside Lands festival this weekend, for the whole shebang: Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. I am the sort of girl who will plan to do something that is supposed to be entirely recreational and fun, and then angst about it. I was afeared that it would make me crabby and over-sunned and beer boozy, but it turned out to be pretty laid back and non-distressing. There were akazillion people, but it was easy enough to keep a distance from the stage, settle down in a grassy spot and listen to music without being in the crush. This does mean that I didn’t have any intense way into the music experiences, because I wasn’t anyway near the stage and it was basically like listening to the CD, but in the outside.

But whatever. It was a neat thing to have done. The Squeeze was there with me for just about all of it. We spent Saturday with my friend Shiny and some of Sunday with his entourage. It seemed like a good thing to be spending more time with one another’s people. And it had been ages since there’d been good Shiny time, so that was stellar. But then, it turns out a funk of some manner of existed: a complaint was raised that the Squeeze was “rolling around on top of me, “mauling” me and making everyone feel uncomfortable.” I am very fuggered about this, as I don’t recall doing much of anything with him even a little. But one of the members of his crew is an ex-girlfriend, so perhaps the sentiment is coming from her. And I could just obsess over this little bit of snark indefinitely. So let’s just leave it at that, shall we? Harumph.

But anyway.

Aside from having that rather distasteful topic come come up after the fact, I did have a rather nice musing to myself while I was there. I had the (obvious) realization while I was there with the Squeeze that we were friends… I recognized the sense of aimless ambling and plotting about what to do next as that feeling of camaraderie. That we are friends. Pals. People who comfortable sharing and vocalizing any passing though. Of snickering and pointing out the ridiculous looking people. Of daring one another to eat raw oysters. Of just being in one another’s company.

It was surprising and nice thing to recognize.

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Beirut @ The Grand Regency Ballroom

If you don’t know Beirut, go do the requisite business on the interwebs to rectify that. All kinds of right now. It is such a neat-o neat-o band.
The main singer is a really young guy from Arizona who plays the trumpet (fantastically) and the ukulele. Then he’s got an ensemble of people playing an accordion, a mandolin, guitar, violin, other horns, or whatever else might suit him. The sound is eclectic and a bit rough… kind of reminds me of the Triplets of Bellville. The rhythms are amazing and weird, like samples from gypsy music of Russia.

The scene at the show was fascinating. Nerdy hipster. There were twirling girls. Lots of hats. Dudes totally rocking out.

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Cat Power @ The Warfield

Dear Cat,

I can tell that you are very enthused, because you are bent over very meaningfully in a crouch to convey that. It’s true; standing up straight doesn’t say “I’m rocking out” the same way your Cro-Magnon stance does.

But you know what else may have convinced us that you are really in to your music *and* have been a lot more comfortable for you?

Enunciating.

Love,

Maggie

PS Your opener? Appaloosa? Other than reminding me of a childhood horsey story* she was el suck.

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misty_of_Chincoteague

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Hotel Café tour

This was one of the best shows I’ve been to in a long time.  Funnily enough, I didn’t even really knew what it was.  For her birthday, Sharon advertised an Ingrid Michaelson show and I was on board.  Granted, I only started out knowing who Ingrid Michaelson was because of that “here take my sweater” song that was on a ubiquitous Old Navy commercial pre-Christmas 2007.  But after she did a show earlier this year, I checked her out and decided she was all kinds of good.

Lo and behold, the Hotel Café tour is not just Ingrid, but a whole mess o’ people:  Cary Brothers (one guy, not some brothers), meiko, William Fitzsimmons, Jim Biano, Jessie Baylin, and one last lady I can’t remember except that her first name is Jessca, not Jessica.

The line-up was mixed, so you’d get two or three songs from each performer, and then one of the earlier performers came on again for two more songs.  I found this a bit confusing, since I didn’t know all of the performers, so I can vaguely remember that there was some breathy chic and then the other lady with the weird puffy hair.

There was a very cool vibe from the performers – it seemed like they’d all gotten along really well on the tour and were just having a lot of fun being together.  On many of the songs, one of the other acts would chime in.  For example, Ingrid had all of the ladies come on stage with her to do around, which was quite beautiful.  She said that there just aren’t enough rounds in pop music, and I agree!  Pip pip!

The best bits were:

the entire ensemble filed out into the middle of the crowd and did an acoustic song

meiko did a cover of No Scrubs

Ingrid Michaelson covered Radiohead’s Creep, all sweet and pretty

the show ended with the whole group singing The Rainbow Connection, which I recognized at the very first plunky-plunky-plunky-plunky-plunk.  Even though it wasn’t banjolicious.  Still.  It tugged on my wee childhood heartstrings.

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Jose Gonzalez @ The Fillmore

I went to see Jose Gonzalez at the Fillmore on Thursday with my manfriend.  It was  such a great show.  Jose didn’t talk much, so we didn’t get a strong sense of him, but the music was fantastic.  He played mostly by himself, but it sounded like he was playing two guitars and a drum at the same time.  His voice, too, seemed to have so much richness and depth that it sounded like he was singing two parts at once.  It was beautiful and clear and mellow.

I was also really wowed by the lights.  There was a lot of vibrant color, sometimes shining down on to the stage, sometimes emanating out above the audience.  One song had lights projecting strong silhouettes of Jose on the curtains behind the stage, giving me the impression that he was in a cave around a campfire telling tales.  Another song had this gorgeous green and blue light shining out from the stage, like the glow in an aquarium.  People were taking pictures like crazy, but I couldn’t find a single one on Flickr.  But it was very impressive and really enhanced the simplicity and beauty of the music.

We stayed in a hotel near the office, rather than contending with a late night sojourn to the East Bay, which was pretty awesome.  The two block walk into the work the next day was pretty cool, too.

Very, very good night.

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