I’ve featured Emily Wells previously in a Music Monday post, but tonight Jana, CatBonny and I got to see her in person in neighboring Newport Beach.
Caption: On the right is the exquisite and singular Emily Wells. In spite of the challenges of the venue, there was no talking during her sets–the crowd’s attention was completely riveted on her. In person, she was charming, approachable, smart and really, really cute.
Update: Here are a few more photos from the complete set:
After months of trying and failing to see her in LA, she came to us! The venue was cramped–she requires a range of instruments and equipment to perform, so I’m amazed that she was able to squeeze everything in to the pub. (It was more convenient for her at times to climb through the window than to work her way around the equipment and through the crowd.)
I got to chat with her for a few minutes before her set–she was easy to approach, and very generous with her time, letting me take a few pictures and talking about the poetry documentary "The Drums Inside Your Chest" that was showing at the NB Film Festival.
I’m attracted to artists and creatives, whose work, like Emily’s, defy boundary and classification. I like to introduce her as "the hip-hop violinist," and while this captures some of her eclecticism, it does nothing to represent the spectrum of Emily Wells.
One of the things I love about MoF is that we’re a pretty small community and don’t attract a lot of trolls. This is not to say we never attract trolls, but when we do, it’s a surprise. There are many sites whose comments I simply don’t read because I don’t want to deal with the douchebaggery that goes on. One of my favorite podcasts, This Week in Law (iTunes link) had an interesting discussion of the reasons why it’s easy to flame people when you don’t see them in person. It’s a long podcast, but I think it’s a good discussion of the many factors. And that may be why MoF is different: most of us, even if we don’t know each other in person, know each other on other sites: I know you from your own blog, from twitter, maybe we IM each other, maybe we’re in the same flickr group. And somehow, that manages to make us more congenial toward each other’s opinions. Or maybe we’re just nicer people than the intarwebs at large.
This vid is NSFW and ROTFL funny.
All right, folks, come hither and hearken unto my latest hare-brained scheme:
Have any of you heard the Jonathan Coulton classic, First of May? If you haven’t, here it is (warning: there’s literally some fucking language in there). If you have, I know you’re all like “MST LISSEN NAO”, so here it is. See how we at Mind on Fire take good care of you?
What I’d like to do is assemble a community cover of the song, which I would then post on May 1st for all the world to hear. It’s a fun, accessible, NSFW song that celebrates spring and all the things we enjoy here in MoF-land. I wish I could claim that I thought this up all on my own, but that credit goes to Bill Shunn. He even did it for a better cause.
Anyhow, if you’re interested, here are the prerequisites. You must:
- Be able to sing (or chant or shout or read the words in a sultry or Woody Allen voice or approximate singing) anywhere from one to four lines, and the full chorus (my idea is to create a composite of everyone singing the chorus together).
- Be able to record an mp3 of yourself singing the above.
- Be willing to provide a square photo/avatar and a web home that I can link to.
If you want to join in the virtual chorus, please comment below or send me a message via email (mindonfire, preceded by john@) or twitter (johnremy). The First of May is coming up soon, so you have until the evening of Tuesday, April 21st to let me know, so that I can send instructions and give you time to record and for me to collect and edit the final audio. Feel free to invite your friends and neighbors and tweeps!
Pitch: For all you exmos and/or SF lovers, I’d like to pitch Bill’s Shunncast. He’s releasing the audio of his entertaining and poignant Accidental Terrorist memoir, which helped Jana and I survive, with humor intact, our transition out of the Church. It explains why Bill, who was serving a mission in Canada, is still–sadly–not permitted into the country some two decades later. Also: stalked by stake presidents, and testicles in a jar.
Think of your top five heroes (sorry, your mom’s my hero too but she doesn’t count)–people you admire from afar. Imagine that you wake up one workaday morning, and find that one of these people has invited you to a tea party. (albeit a tea party sans tea and finger sandwiches, in a warehouse in a barbed wire zone on the LA River.)
If I had to name my top heroes right now, the short list would include Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Sarah Vowell, Joss Whedon and Amanda Palmer. They’re not necessarily household names, but they’re all powerfully creative people who are not bound by any single genre or medium. They defy convention and definition and splash their creations all over this scene and into the next. And today Amanda Palmer performed an impromptu “secret show” in Los Angeles and invited us to attend via twitter.
This is how Jana and I found ourselves huddled in the cold wind next to an auto-wrecking shop in the heart of industrial LA with 50-some other twitterites and fans of Amanda. Fucking. Palmer. We were all one-day members of the plan-free cult. In the post-show interview, Amanda repeated the theme of “plan-free.” Did she have another solo album in the works? Probably, but she was “plan-free.” To a number of questions about her past, present and future, she sounded the refrain: “Plan-free, baby!” I’m over-simplifying things, but it seems that Amanda isn’t an architect of life so much as she’s a DiYer, working with whatever’s handy. Certainly today’s secret show was a manifestation of that credo. I was full of plans, but I had to give them up–to become plan-free for a day if I wanted to have the opportunity to meet Amanda. Was it worth it? Let’s dive in, shall we?
I wonder if this sort of intimate venue isn’t the optimal outlet for Amanda’s performances. It gave her just enough room to create genuine, momentary connections with her fans. I’ve been to many concerts over the years, but the generosity displayed in this show was singular: the pre-show camaraderie between fans, her fans willingness to give to her (from the sacrifices they made to make it to the show to the PB&J sandwich that @manakatie gave up to the famished singer) and Amanda’s generous gift of the show itself. We adored Amanda, and it seemed that she adored us in return. This artist who can command sold-out performances in the thousands used real-time social media to create an intimate gathering with an all request show and time at the end to give each fan a lingering hug. Would this magic be possible in 2000-seat concert hall?
Amanda spoke briefly and jokingly about how we as humans have developed to handle the concerns of the village, and not a world of villages. But the twitters and facebooks and myspaces of the world are designed to overcome our deficiencies in this area and to enhance the perceived intimacy we can experience within meta-village groupings. And this is definitely the sense that twitter gave us: it created a a burst of a community between AFP fans on twitter in LA and it gave us the sense that Amanda was speaking directly to each of us. She felt bad that *I* was shivering in the cold outside the venue! And *I* failed to bring her the tutu that she wanted!
What amazed me was that she needed 50 people to fill the venue, and while it was possible that anywhere from five to five hundred could have turned out, she came very close to the mark (maybe the high fifties/low sixties). I’m not sure how much of this was smart management of information, or just plain pure luck.
And not only were these folks hardcore AFP fans, they were hardcore about twitter and their iphones. At some point I saw that @amandapalmer had tweeted to her fans in line: “i feel your pain outside. we’re opening doors in just a second. hang tight.” I pointed this out to my neighbors in line, only to be met with blank looks. “Oh, we thought you had something new.” I looked back down at the post time, and said to them, “You’re right. That was so three minutes ago.”
The other fun thing about starting on twitter was that we could make connections with people from the online discussion. We recognized @andythecurefan who had tweeted “damn it amanda, this is confusing as to where it’s at, but the thrill is amazing. thank you. i will be wearing a Cure shirt.” And by Robert James Smith, he was and we mentioned it. I know this sounds goofy, but how often can you go to a concert and already have talking points for individuals standing in line?
I was in the middle of a conversation (a face to face one) with a fellow fan when I realized that I had already tweeted about her, offering my opinion that she had nailed the location in the midst of all the guessing. I was silly with excitement when I made the connection, saying, “You’re @read_a_book!”
Amanda came out and walked the line asking fans for clothes. She was trying to assemble an outfit for the show, but ended up wearing her standard touring uniform (which was beautiful–no complaints from the fans, except for the one fan who doesn’t want to see Amanda’s underthings, and that one fan is only a product of my imagination).
The set was short but was made entirely of requests from the crowd. I wish I could share how empowering this made us feel. I asked for my theme song, “Runs in the Family,” and got it. A nice young lady (who became twitter-famous for sharing her PB&J sandwich with Amanda) asked very sweetly in a moment of post-song silence for “Leeds United,” and Amanda obliged, saying something to the effect of “that was the most civilized request I’ve ever heard!” Just for fun, while struggling to choose between two requests, she started a mash-up (even calling it a mash-up), singing the lyrics of “Oasis” to the tune of “I Google You.”
About two songs in, I realized that I was so drunk on Amanda that I would’ve done just about anything she asked. “John, jump up on stage, strip naked and scare away my fans with a silly Monty Python song and dance” would’ve had me singing “SPAM SPAM SPAM” in the buff in a heartbeat. Fortunately for everyone’s sake it only lasted a few songs before dying down to standard fanboy levels, but I now understand a bit more about the meaning behind the words enthralled, bewitched and enraptured. Thank you, Ms. Palmer, for infusing my vocabulary with some life.
After the set on stage, we moved to a comfy couch section, where we all had graham crackers and milk and took a group nap. Well, almost. We sat in a circle around Amanda while she played an ode to her childhood (home) on the ukelele and went through an interview for CurrentTV’s After Ellen show, which should air in a couple of weeks. I’ll post a link when it does.
Amanda was a delight to listen to in conversation as well, which cannot be said of all rock stars. I don’t have time to go into the interview in much detail now, since after yesterday’s excursion I really really need to work long and hard today, but I finally got my answer to the connection between Guitar Hero/Dresden Dolls/Arthur “Killer” Kane of the New York Dolls (never expected to be able to ask Amanda the question in person!). Answer: there is none. Well, only the connection in my mind–I will still think of him when I hear the song.
After the show, I got a long, sweet hug from Amanda, and Jana got her prosthetic tattooed with AFP-Love. She said in her interview that her attitude towards her fans was, “come with all your weirdnesses and we’ll love you.” And she does. And this is one of the amazing things about her fan-base: we accept each other in all our weirdnesses.
So, to answer my earlier question, was it worth it? And is it worth my writing about it now? Here’s my take: the best things in life–the memorable experiences, the ones that make us feel alive and connected are the ones that involve risk. Yesterday, I felt alive and part of something larger than myself. I got to touch genius (literally and figuratively) and to be inspired by a true muse. How can you put a price on that?
Apparently some aspect of the LDS temple ceremony will be portrayed on HBO’s Big Love (tonight?). Here’s a picture that was forwarded to me, apparently from TV Guide:
Mormons are decrying this as sacrilegious and disrespectful, of course, but as one of thousands who was hoodwinked into going through the ceremony and socially coerced into accepting its secret oaths and tenets, I think that just about any public airing will help to diminish the power of the ritual. While I would hesitate to characterize Mormonism as a cult, the temple is where it gets the closest to acting like one. So this airing is a Good Thing. And it may be the first episode of Big Love I actually watch.
I’ve been listening to this recently and it’s kept me going as law school ties me up in its basement, feeding me only bread and water, and negotiating a ransom exchange with my
family husband. I keep getting the feeling that the majority of my family would like me to settle down and start having children, rather than dicking around with this law school rigamarole. My parents seem entirely nonplussed by it and most of my sisters are just baffled by the fact that I might want it. So I feel like it’s an uphill battle, not just in the classroom, but on the couches of my family and in conversations with them.
Enter this song. I remember hearing this as a kid and identifying with the need to “get out” of something, of being trapped in an insular community (in this case, not a “town” but a religion, a family, and a path of life that included marriage and children and nothing else).
To spend my life here
Is more than I can do
I know somewhere down the road
My dreams will come true
And so they are.
If I stay here forever,
What will I have to show?
But if I make it over?
Well, then everyone will know!
I’ve been wanting to share something from this genre with you guys, but it’s hard to find the vids online. This is Eurobeat, which is often Italians singing in English for a Japanese market. Quite the international trip—and it is a trip, in all sense of the word. Night of Fire is one of the most popular, having been remade many times, including into (my favorite) “Christmas of Fire”. Eurobeat would be called Happy Hardcore in Germany and is most often found on classic (as opposed to American) DDR, a dancing game played with your feet, or Parapara, a dancing game played with your hands.
In college, my roommate played these games and so, consequently, did I. With one major difference: she was good at them. I still love listening to Eurobeat and have a startling number of tracks in my iTunes. Including Captain Fantastic (not the Elton John version), Sex Crime, and I Wanna Be Fat (a song which is just as explicit as Sex Crime—and if you didn’t click on that link, those Brazilian guys are priceless, watch the guy on the right at the end, he’s whoa into it).
Parapara is kinda like Japanese line dancing, in that it’s only cool if lots of people are doing it. It’s really fun to do and really hard to learn (at least, I find it hard). This might give you a better idea of what it’s like without the creepy weird Sex Crime guys. The lyrics range from nonsensical to offensive and manage to hit everything in between. This is what it looks like when only one person is doing it—kinda like they just need help. This is why you do it in groups, so you don’t get committed on sight.
And so, without further ado: Night of Fire, as covered by a large mostly naked Japanese guy and four thin and equally clothed Japanese girls:
SFW, your coworkers will merely think you’re weird.
And watch this vid. An MoF favorite singer and an MoF favorite cause: Regina Spektor and No On H8. Do this before V day and enjoy your partnership on Valentine’s Day guilt-free (and full of hope).
Let’s dedicate this Valentine’s Day to love.
My husband and I don’t have any one “our” song, but anything by Burlap to Cashmere, Train or Vertical Horizon reminds me of him. This is one that especially reminds me of when we first met & fell in love. What are your favorite love songs (not necessarily songs about love but songs that remind you of the ones you love)?
My favorite part: “You have one wing, and/I have another”—like, together we can fly, although separately we just kinda look funny.
(no, not that one)
“That says, ‘oh, Love Me Dead!’”
or, A Feminist Critique of Ludo’s “Love Me Dead”
Today’s music brought to you courtesy of DH *ahem* who picked it up from a House commercial. Which is funny, since I watch TV & he doesn’t and the song totally escaped my notice. I’ve had it stuck in my head essentially since I first saw the video for it, which I shall present forthwith:
I did not know anything about Credence Clearwater Revival (or “CCR” as they are affectionately known) until I took a road trip a few years ago with my sister. We had, as the only CDs that were acceptable to all members of the van (my sister, her husband, myself, and their 4 children), two CCR greatest hits albums and one album which we only ever listened to one song from. We drove to Seattle. And then back. With only this music.
And it was awesome. Unlike the U2 album that sustained my class and I for 2 weeks in Africa, I can actually listen to CCR songs. When I do, I am immediately transported back into that 15 passenger van, singing at the top of my lungs along with lyrics that were iffy.
Part of what we did while listening to CCR (over and over and over) was speculate on what the lyrics were and what they might mean (“let the midnight special shine it’s ever loving light on me”?!). It would be another 3 years before my sister and I discovered that “chooglin” is the sound that an original VW bug makes. My sister still calls me to ask what certain lyrics are (since I know how to use teh Intarwebs); most recently, we discussed the meaning of “I went down Virginia, Seekin’ shelter from the storm. Caught up in the fable, I watched the tower grow.” Our conclusion? Drugs. (Interestingly, that video appears to have been beset by the selfsame cause that inflicted the lyrics.)
But, oddball lyrics aside (“a giant doing cartwheels, a statue wearin’ high heels”), I love singing along to these at the top of my lungs. This is not my favorite, but it’s hard to choose one. And it’s one with good memories of trying to figure out what the lines were…
It’s like a gospel song—you can’t help singing along, whether or not you know the lyrics (whether or not it’s even possible to). It comes from deep in CCR’s soul & returns to deep inside yours, forces you to tap your feet, crank the volume, and all of a sudden you’re seeing Miss Rosie (piece of paper in her hand) and doin’ right in Texas. Maybe even clapping; or at least wailing on your air drums.
(My favorite lyrics are “down on the corner, out in the street, livin’ in a boat house’ll play ya, give a nipple, grab your feet!” that song includes “rooster hits the wacko”, something about “a nutface”, and “the devil’s only zoo”. Seriously, listen to that song and see if you can discern English in it!)
Let there be no mistake: I ♥ Phil Collins. I sat through the whole of Tarzan for him. And Genesis’ Land of Confusion is a classic among classics. Disturbed’s version, however, manages to meet the challenge of Collins’ historic talent while at the same time making it their own. While the Gensis version is suitable for a call to arms to make the world a better place, the Disturbed version brings out the darker elements, making it a reminder of what a horrible place the world is.
My generation will put it right!
We’re not just making promises
That we know we’ll never keep.
is even more sobering when you realize that Genesis is probably just about a generation before Disturbed and their version exactly 20 years younger than the original.
I could go on about all the wonderful lyrics in this one, so I shall merely instruct you to close your eyes & listen to the poetry of Mike Rutherford through the grating, pained voice of David Draiman.