Monthly Archives: April 2016

Death Be Not Proud

Death Be Not Proud
by John Donne

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

This is a post I’ve been putting off…initially I was going to write about David Bowie’s death and how amazing an experience it was to hear his album, Blackstar, which dealt with mortality, two days prior to his death and how the album actually saw me through my grieving process. It was a very strange experience…I think I was still adapting to a Bowie-less world when I had heard Prince was sick on an airplane. Hm that’s weird news I thought….though not entirely beyond the pale because he was doing a solo piano tour. Then I was out having lunch with a friend in a cafeteria style food court on 34th street on April 21st when I heard one Prince song on the radio and then another and on the third song I asked my cohort to look for news on the internet when the DJ came on and announced that Prince had died. I was immediately stricken. My main influences when I was a teenager were David Bowie, Lou Reed (Velvet Underground), Prince, and Tom Waits. The Beatles, Yes, The Who, Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, The Cure, Elvis Costello, The Clash all had their moments of varying degrees of fascination for me too but Bowie, Lou, Prince and Tom spoke to my core. It probably has something to do with the malleability of these performers. They could inhabit any character they wanted. They could raise the outcast to be greater than their oppressive circumstance. There’s a certain grace to restoring dignity to those who may have lost it or bestowing dignity upon those who never had any to begin with. I think Prince’s death struck me more immediately than David Bowie’s because of the primal connection I felt from Prince as a dancer. When music makes you move despite yourself, The funk. His sheer audacity as a performer was something to behold, smirking, sneering, and dancing like James Brown. Making sleazy acceptable is no small feat in the puritanical Western world. All of the showmanship was supported by the scope of his musical genius. He played guitar, piano, drums, you name it and didn’t just play but totally rocked whatever he was playing. The first time I had ever seen, “Written, Performed and Produced by”, on an album was Prince. I had only seen him perform once during his Lovesexy Tour. I’ll never forget it. There was a convertible Thunderbird on a track surrounding the stage which he played and sang in (undoubtedly during,’Alphabet Street’) and a little basketball court so he could shoot hoops while singing! He was a thrilling performer. While Prince’s songs were arguably less poetic than Tom, Lou and David they were certainly no less emotional. I’ll never forget when I bought ‘Parade’ at Rainbow Records on cassette and fell asleep listening to the last track, ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’, a sad ballad, and when I woke up in the morning there was snow blanketing the field….and it was April.

John Prine at The Kings Theatre

Good day dear readers! I hope all’s well in your lives. These are indeed dark days in the world of late….but really there’s always been strife. It’s how we endure and persist that matters…oh and what we’re listening to or what we can make, to accompany the ebb and flow of the tides of fortune. 2 weeks ago, April 8, 2016, I went to hear John Prine at The Kings Theatre in Brooklyn. I had previously seen Wilco there (see the Wilco post). Everyone I encountered, who works there, was welcoming, polite, and helpful. I had listened to Prine’s first 2 or 3 albums when visiting my sister, brother in-law, and nephews (my brother in-law had them loaded in the car). I had heard some of his songs before but from those concentrated listens I was hooked. I know it’s often said of artists you admire but I thought John Prine would be taller, it’s a testament to the towering songs he’s written. His face just beams, as though he has a permanent smile, it’s just built that way. The show began with a set by Iris DeMent (my first time seeing her live too). John kicked off his set with a cover of Merle Haggard’s, ‘Ramblin’ Fever’. Merle had died just a few days prior and it was a fitting tribute to his artistry and writing. I don’t know why John Prine hasn’t made bigger waves in the country music world….his views may lean too far to the left? I don’t know. He writes lyrics so effortlessly it’s as though they were always meant to be. His songs and his usually wry delivery of them, while often grappling with the harshest of realities, are never mean, often insightful, and sometimes just plain fun. The arrangement was; John on acoustic guitar and vocals, he really supported and enjoyed his young lead guitar player, Jason Wilber (who was a very tasteful player), Dave “Double Duty Daddy” Jaques on mandolin, guitar (who was clearly having a blast), and Pat McLuaghlin on upright and electric bass. Everybody’s time has to be pretty good to pull off arranged songs without drums and these men did so with great grace and style. If you ever get the chance….beg, borrow, or steal to go hear John Prine live. He will put a smile or a tear on your face from the depths of what it is to be human. He’s truly one of the best living songwriters. Not to be missed. I leave you with the setlist and Sam Stone. Be good to yourselves people!! Til next time! -p

Ramblin’ Fever
(Merle Haggard cover)
Glory of True Love
Long Monday
Taking a Walk
Please Don’t Bury Me
Six O’Clock News
Souvenirs
Grandpa Was a Carpenter
Hello in There
Fish and Whistle
Angel From Montgomery
Illegal Smile
You Got Gold
That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round
Mexican Home
Sam Stone
Milwaukee Here I Come (with Iris DeMent)
We Could (with Iris DeMent)
In Spite of Ourselves (with Iris DeMent)
She Is My Everything
Bear Creek Blues
(The Carter Family cover)
Lake Marie
Paradise

MAGMA

Magma are a French prog-rock band formed in the 1969 by classical drummer, Christian Vander. Prog-rock is often cast as nerdy due to content hailing from anywhere in outer-space to middle earth, lorded over by technically proficient players and revered by, well, various nerdy sorts. But really, what is a nerd and who cares? I’ve been called a lot of things and it hasn’t made any less or any more of me. That said, Vander claimed his inspiration for forming the band was a vision of humanity’s spiritual and ecological future (which was bleak). The first album was the story of humans fleeing a doomed earth to settle on the planet, Kobaia. Conflict arises between Kobaians and the earth refugees. Vander created a phonetic language, Kobaian, which is sung to express the story. The venue, Le Poisson Rouge, is still one of my favorite surviving NYC venues. It always sounds good and the sight-lines are excellent, and they get interesting acts (I wrote here about Califone and Iggy Pop). The opener was a solo cellist who goes by Helen Money though her name is Alison Chelsey. She created pieces with her cello and effects pedals which were cinematic and/or classical and occasionally piercing. She’s billed as a doom-cellist on her website but that’s a little limited according to what I heard. The place was packed. I’m pretty sure I spotted Greg Saunier, the drummer from Deerhoof, in the crowd. When Magma took the stage and got started I understood completely why Saunier was there. This drummer, Christian Vander, is amazing!! This band, Magma, are incredible!! Not wonky, nerdy, technical stuff but vocally and drum driven rock. It was wild, the guitar, bass, and keyboards (usual prog-rock suspects) served almost as ornamentation to the vocals and drums. There were interesting stops and great builds in the music and they had soul! The most important thing, as with most vocal performances, was the telling of the story which they did with the acumen of classically trained actors. One male lead vocalist in addition to Christian Vander and two females. The concert was like being at a modern classical music concert in the length of the pieces and intensity of the music. It was alternately meditative and hypnotic. Drums and voices….it doesn’t get much more primitive than that and yet those parts were both so expertly handled that it elevated the music as a whole. My first rock concert was arguably one of the best prog-rock bands ever, Yes, at Madison Square Garden. Compared to Magma Yes are traditional. It was really a one of a kind concert.

The Players:

Christian Vander
Stella Vander
Isabelle Feuillebois
James MacGaw
Benoit Alziary
Herve Aknin
Jérémie Ternoy
Philippe Bussonnet

Here’s a taste (with only one of the women) They played this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjYnuhIlnIU

Upcoming Dates:

Thursday April 14th @ Branded Saloon 603 Vanderbilt Ave. Brooklyn, NY Philip Lynch (solo) 7PM, Harry Graff Kimball (solo) 8PM, Los Chinches 8:30PM
Sunday April 17th @ An Beal Bocht 445 West 238th Street Bronx, NY Rob McMahon 8PM, Philip Lynch 9PM
Friday April 22nd At The Start / At Long Last will be widely available on familiar digital platforms