phorbesie reacted to jimmy skyline for a post, Slippery People
Part musical concert, part dance, part performance piece, part kinetic sculpture, David Byrne's latest American Utopia Tour settled into a slightly abbreviated stop at CityFolk Festival in Ottawa. The show has been gathering an endless stream of positive reviews, and fan appreciation. Really, the reason why this seems to resonate so deeply amongst the wide-ranging demographic that makes up David Byrne fans base is a little perplexing. Minimalist in design, the performance is endlessly engaging and transforming. Within the somewhat self referential opening of the show, (so similar in idea to Stop Making Sense, with David Byrne at centre stage in bleak surroundings and alone), the audience is drawn in and seduced by the stark setting, grey leisure suit, bare feet, desk, chair and a “brain” carrying showman. David sucks you in and before you know it we are living in Dave’s Byrne Big World. With no explicit narrative, there is the thread of positivity, and hopefulness that permeates the overall exploration of design, form, and movement. The overall effect of the show is Kinetic Sculpture… using humans and the occasional simple prop, Byrne leaves enough room to transpose your imagination onto the dance and the forces that cause and create movement.
The latest record, American Utopia, deeply benefits from the continued collaboration with Brian Eno, making it Byrne highest chart topping success. The time is ripe for some positivity, but American Utopia and recent projects are filtered through the eyes of the modern condition. Tracks like, “Lazy”, and “I Should Watch TV, which are both collaborations with St. Vincent, were sobering reminders of the bleak separation and general malaise that encompasses so much of our daily encounters. On stage, the band was watching a “tv” that was simply a beam of light glowing off of the hanging chain link strands that boxed in the stage’s back and sides. David Byrne rolls up his sleeves, miming shooting up, and sings “touch me, and feel my pain”, suggesting that the drugging of our nation is a response to the alienation from the advent of technology, and an environment where we can be instantly be connected to each other, but still suffer the painful isolation and solitariness of being lost in society. The idea of “Utopia” is not a delusional pipe dream, but one tempered by an understanding that it is an ongoing struggle, and that it is a work in progress. It is often overlooked that “Utopia” is part of a larger project that David Byrne is engaged in. The project, which borrows a title from Ian Dury and the Blockhead’s song “Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3”, which ironically was written in the U.K. during the Margret Thatcher years. Within the context of this bigger project David Byrne ’s “Reasons to Be Cheerful”, looks at the complexities of the urban environment, and the subtle but transformative cues, like the changing impact of increased bicycle use on our daily life, our outlook, our habits, and the environment. Byrne is looking at the ways to change our perspectives by engaging with the world in more direct and meaningful ways. The bombardment of images and messages that promote fear and dread, largely propagated by media, corporations and the government, is what the authorities want you to feel. This is part of a “Hegelian dialect”, that keep the power structures oppressing individuals in society, and allow the exploitation of those individuals at the same time. “They” want you to live in fear, keep you at bay and use this as leverage for policies and attacks on freedoms and liberties. The “Reasons to Be Cheerful” project, is a plea to turn off the fear mongering media messages, and re-engage in your community, make real human connections and participate in civic issues. In other words, he is hoping that people simply get involved in a direct and meaningful way to make the world a better place, no matter how small the contribution may seem. Walk to the store instead of driving, bike more, grow your own food, and to be really subversive, smile more. Yes, smile more, and if you do, you may soon notice, people will smile back.
All of this is a subtext to a performance which is at its core is a celebration of joy, music, and movement. The fluidity of the dance, the freedom of the musicians to move freely, the stripped-down aesthetic gives a lot of opportunity for the audience to celebrate alongside. The entry point into the performance is easy, nothing really stands between the performer and audience, and this transforms the event into a giant kinetic experience. The energy of the dance was infectious for the audience at CityFolk. With the side screens that usually give the back 40 a good close up of the performance, were black. The only way to experience the show was by directly watching it. There was no way to filter the experience through another medium. The stage design was as striking from the dead centre 30 feet out, as it was from the back of the Great Lawn. The stage glowed with a shimmering intensity, the dancing so bold and engaging that no matter where you stood, you were in on the action. Of course, it was the music that propelled the dance, and the Ottawa crowd dropped it usual conservatism and boogied right along. There were more balls out dancing then I have ever seen at an Ottawa show. It was very heartening to be in the middle of this energy, and be able to dance with abandon at the foot of the master of polyrhythmic cross-cultural musical mayhem. I have seen David Byrne perform over the years, including the small understated tour that he did after the St. Vincent collaboration. On that tour, he played mostly his back catalogue of Talking Heads material. Although this tour was incredibly satisfying, in all sincerity, Ottawa shock their collective money maker just like I remembered at “The Remain In Light Tour” of 1981. This was a watershed moment for me, at only 14 years of age, (with The English Beat as an opener), my life was transformed. I danced for the first time that night. And I mean really danced. With abandon. Forgetting time and space, and dissolving into rhythm and movement. Pure joy. Pure celebration.
Lots of smiles.
Just like Ottawa.
Two songs were dropped from the set list that has been commonly played on this tour. Both “Bullet, and the unrecorded live song, “Dancing Together”, were dropped from previous shows. A slightly different song order was also an unusual feature of this rare outdoor festival performance. Most venues have been sit-down theatres, like the two summer shows in Toronto, at the Sony Centre. So, it was very heartening to see Ottawa take advantage of the setting, and cut a deep rug on The Great Lawn. The bulk of the set list was from “American Utopia”, and smatterings of the Talking Heads back catalogue. A little less then half the show saw a survey of some of the Talking Heads best material, and there was a lovely shout out to David Byrne's many collaborations with a light-hearted Fatboy Slim (The Brighton Port Authority) number called “Toe Jam”. Deep tracks like “I Zimba”, “Once in a Lifetime”, and the “Great Curve”, had the most resonance with the audience. I suspect, as was the case with me, that the older Talking Heads pieces transported us back to our youth and the start of our musical awakenings. I heard many a side conversation re telling which album and at what age people discovered the Talking Heads. From “77”, through to “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts”, to the underrated last record “Naked”, everyone seemed to hold high reverence to their David Byrne initiation. Now, I’m a realist, and not someone prone to using my rose coloured glasses to view my past. As awe-inspiring as this tour is, I can not shake the idea of how notoriously difficult David Byrne is to work with. Often, and especially for this incredibly intricate performance, David Byrne gets a pass on his curmudgeon demeanor. I suspect that as free-flowing and celebratory as the performance appeared, there is an iron hand driving the performance and its aesthetics. Initially, the “American Utopia” tour was booked into several venues and then canceled… Burlington and Montreal come to mind. It is my understanding that the stage set up did not meet David Byrne's minimal requirements, leaving several cities out of the mix. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it is his tour, and his vision, and a fine one at that. One opinion that i seemed to share with only myself, was that the band was not near as powerful as “The Remain in Light” band that had Adrian Belew, and Busta Jones and, well everyone really… in the shadows of my mind, this band was different than the Talking Heads. I would like to think that comes down to ownership… the fellow founding members of the Talking Heads, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth owned the material, shaped it and created it. When the original Talking Heads played, they were nothing short of dangerous, and provocative. They were a machine with many moving parts, that sometimes felt like they would implode, but rarely did. The “American Utopia” band felt like they were hitting their cues, and marks, but not free enough to soar above the clouds. Wonderful they were, and I appreciate that this is at best nitpicking, but 1981 this wasn’t. What we did get was a peek into the future of stage performance. With the advent of technology freeing our collective constraints, this novel approach to an unfettered musical experience will become more common, and perhaps even the norm in a few years. Bravo to David Byrne for using a minimalist approach to high light the physical freedom and collective dynamic energy to bring a joyful celebration of music, dance and performance art to the wonderment of all in attendance. This was a real coup for CityFolk and a very high water mark for next years performers.
Set List David Byrne September 14, 2018, CityFolk The Great Lawn Landsdowne Park Ottawa
Here Lazy I Zimbra (Talking Heads song) Slippery People (Talking Heads song) I Should Watch TV (David Byrne & St. Vincent cover) Dog's Mind Everybody's Coming to My House This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads song) Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads song) Doing the Right Thing Toe Jam (Brighton Port Authority cover) Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) (Talking Heads song) I Dance Like This Every Day Is a Miracle Like Humans Do Blind (Talking Heads song) The Great Curve (Talking Heads song) Burning Down the House (Talking Heads song) Hell You Talmbout (Janelle Monáe cover) (with Merrill Garbus) (also with Ani DiFranco) If you want to explore more about the Talking Heads, David Byrne and the Reasons to be Cheerful movement, check out the links below. Well worth your time. Now smile, dammit.
An Introduction to The Talking Heads
Well How Did We Get Here? A Brief History of Talking Heads
An Audience Video of the American Utopia Tour (complete performance)
Reasons to be Cheerful
Lecture/Talk by David Byrne
David Byrne - Reasons To Be Cheerful talk - Jan. 8, 2018
phorbesie reacted to Booche for a post, 3 Day Recap of Bluesfest
Photo Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest
Change is inevitable and one must embrace it in order to keep moving forward. Bluesfest is a prime example of that ideology. 20 years have seen the location go from Lebreton to City Hall and back to Lebreton. No longer do we have 6 stages and we are now dealing with dead air rather than sound bleed, which was the biggest issue as far as I am concerned but it’s easy to get used to. Which do you prefer? Running from stage to stage like a jack rabbit or being like a lion after a satisfying meal? Both have their positive points. Recently, people wanting to sit down in lawn chairs are cordoned off far quite a ways back and that might be the single most important aspect adding to the experience.
Purchasing a 3 day pass seemed perfect while essentially becoming a ‘buy 2 get one 1 free" deal. Capitalism begets the ideal of smart purchases and this one made sense because the Foo Fighters had a very high price point for their first show in Ottawa since 2008. They still sold out the venue which is a massive rarity.
Stepping onto the grounds it was immediately clear that security had ramped up their efforts but that is now the norm with any large collection of individuals. Go to a Sens game or any concert at the Canadian Tire Center and you will find the same thing. Long lines while bags and pockets are checked along with metal detectors. These moments are no longer a stroll in the park so planning accordingly with a schedule of the bands you want to see are of the utmost importance.
Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest
The War On Drugs has been a band I have been dying to see so Friday July 6th was the first pick of the 3 days pass I held. Having missed them at Folkfest a few years ago it was an obvious choice. Their studio work is perfect, the song writing is praiseworthy and their style is comforting. The question remained; can they pull off what they do in the studio? The answer is a resounding yes. The biggest surprise was discovering that Adam Granduciel is a monster player as well as a solid front man, which ended up being a common theme amongst many of the acts gracing the stages. Much of the material in their hour long set was culled from their last two albums, Lost In The Dream and A Deeper Understanding. It’s easy to wonder what a full show from them must be like. Towards the tail end there was strong, yet intentional, feedback emanating from Adam’s guitar during Red Eyes when all of a sudden one of the stagehands let him know they only had 5 minutes left. Adam then changed guitars while stating "We were about to do Under The Pressure but we only have 5 minutes left. Here’s one that we don’t often do." They launched into Lost In The Dream which became immediately satisfying considering the expectations of what hadn't occurred.
Photo courtesy of Scott Penner and Ottawa Bluesfest
After that it was time to check out St Paul and the Broken Bones on the Claridge Stage but that was an exercise in futility. The tent was packed with people spilling out every which way but loose. As wonderful as that music is there was no way it was being felt in any meaningful way. There were too many conversations with people milling about and it became a waste of time. Making way towards the Blacksheep Stage I noticed there were people all the way at the back on the top of the hill. That alone was intriguing but once crested it became obvious why so many folk were seeing this band. Brockhampton were throwing down some serious hip hop. The energy level coming from the stage was palpable in a way you can only explain if you experience it. The crowd was much younger but were hopping in unison. Music is best when there is a collection of individuals all feeling the same thing and this was it. Theoretically that is why we keep going and this proved it. At a certain point when they mellowed out for a bit, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out Jethro Tull. My presence didn’t last very long because I kept wondering what I was missing on the Blacksheep stage so I ended up heading back that way. They were an absolutely perfect discovery and I look forward to seeing them again in the future.
Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest
The second choice of the 3 day pass was a no brainer. Being a huge fan of Dave Grohl’s song writing brought me on Tuesday July 10th and from the moment we arrived we knew we were in for a massive crowd. Getting there just after 6pm knowing there might be a lineup is one thing but getting there that early while witnessing such a sea of people is another. It was shocking. We figured out the quickest way to get in thanks to an amazing eye but things could have been so much worse. By the time we were getting scanned with metal detectors Greta Van Fleet were onstage with their heavily pulsating sound. The interest level in seeing them was quite astounding, however it was very difficult to get into their set thanks to it being so early and only an hour long. We had just enough time to get in, grab a beer, get a spot, coordinate with those coming and before we knew it the band only had 2 songs left. That was enough for us to know we will be keeping tabs on these kids. There was plenty of "Led Zeppelin-esque" talk amongst our crew with none of it being negative. They wear it like a badge of honour.
At this point it was pretty much impossible to get anything from the concessions offered and if you didn’t have an insider you were going to deal with what had to be at least a 45 minute line. Thankfully the concert overlords graced our group so all we had to do was laugh at one another while waiting for the Foo Fighters. When they hit the stage they hit it running and opened with what I consider to be the best opening song almost any band does, All My Life. Learn To Fly followed and then The Pretender, which was the opener the last time the band was in town but it was time to move. By the time we found a more palpable spot, Dave Grohl had invited his daughter on stage to sing back up to The Sky Is A Neighbourhood which Is from their latest album Concrete and Gold. The singalong during My Hero was perfectly entertaining from our new vantage point. Not long after there was the inevitable drum solo. Taylor Hawkins is pretty much the human equivalent of Animal from the Muppets so it didn’t come off as incredibly cheesy but the majority of drum solos do showcase a solid level of talent. A particular section introducing the band members was really entertaining. Taylor sang Queen’s Under Pressure but the highlight had to be the Imagine/Jump mash-up. Picture the arrangement of John Lennon’s Imagine with the lyrics to Van Halen’s Jump. I couldn’t do it simply reading that line but the Foo Fighters put those puzzle pieces with perfect execution. It was musically geeky and comedic all at the same time. The rest of the show featured a few more heavy hitters like Monkey Wrench and Best Of You and shortly followed with Dirty Water from the new album. They came out for the encore and never let up, in fact one could suggest they went for it even harder and it would be hard to argue against that point. There were a couple of shout outs to Alanis Morrisette because Taylor Hawkins used to be the drummer in her band. Apparently she introduced him to Dave Grohl. You Outta Know offered a quick hello at the start of the encore followed by Big Me, Times Like These and finally Everlong. Just about as perfect as an encore one can envision.
Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest
Friday the 13th was the final pick of the 3 day pass and expectations were sky high. Sturgill Simpson on the City Stage followed by Beck. We got there really early again thanks to our Foo experience but this was vastly different. It felt like no one was there. You could go anywhere, order anything and be in the bathroom in a second. That’s what I always loved about Bluesfest so it was nice to feel like a return home. Having said that, it’s amazing so many people opted out of the music from this night because they opted out of a fantastic experience.
The last time seeing Sturgill was during his Grammy winning Sailors Guide To Earth album tour. He had horns backing him as well as this insane lead guitar player named Laur Joamets and we wondered which band we would be seeing. Turns out it was the bass, drum and keyboard core of that band. For a brief moment I was disappointed but then a friend turned and said "Sturgill can rip it on guitar". Sure enough, that boy can play. He tore his country songs to shreds but they were no longer country. This was "the Allman Brothers minus one guitar player" as Todd put it. Strugill approaches his live songs much like Bob Dylan. If you think you only know it in one key then get ready. They will change the key and change the tempo to the point you might not know what song it is until they hit the chorus. He was destroying his Tele whenever that was in his hands and was easily the best guitar player I witnessed at Bluesfest. It’s simple to label him as a Waylon Jennings clone when you hear him sing but that is a disservice. Most of the songs came from A Sailor’s Guide To Earth and Metamodern Sounds In Country Music but there were at least a couple of songs that I had no idea whether he wrote them or covered them.
Photos Courtesy of Mark Horton and Ottawa Bluesfest
Everyone enjoyed Sturgill’s set so the break was welcomed as folks discussed what had just happened while feeling excited to see Beck. We all grew up on his music and the vast majority were finally seeing him live for the first time. What was it going to sound like? That was a predominate idea but when Beck finally took the stage and opened with Devil’s Haircut the City Stage turned everything into an old school dance party. Loser followed and bodily streams started flowing perfectly, complete with a mini sing-a-long. Que Onda Guero was up next and that’s the moment when it became obvious the bass player in this band was the real deal. His tone was perfectly aligned with our favorite bass players on this website, Phil Lesh and Mike Gordon. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he played a Modulus because he was throwing fastballs with his piece of wood while also creating an earthquake. The acoustic interlude dulled a few people who wanted the dance party to keep going but it gave others a chance to catch their breath. "Beck clearly went to Prince University" so when he dropped Raspberry Beret on the crowd, complete with a glowing purple light showcase, everything was lining up and shit got lit. The rest of the set was unfamiliar to our crew but no less harmonious. Make no mistake this was a really quick set with regards to time. I think it was no longer than an hour and a half. Where It’s At brought the dancers back in full force and then segued into a band introduction. During this medley we were privy to Miss You by the Rolling Stones, Cars by Gary Numan, Once In A Lifetime by the Talking Heads and In The Air tonight by Phil Collins along with at least 1 or 2 that are forgotten. Where It’s At came back around to complete the circle.
Bluesfest was positively tremendous this year with one of the best lineups they have offered in quite some time. Local food vendors, plenty of amenities and a bevy of conscientious music lovers helped take things over the top. Experience has formed their logistical thinking and I look forward to seeing what next summer, and beyond ,has to offer.
phorbesie reacted to gentlemonkey for a post, Jazz Fest Report - Terrific Tuesday
Tuesday night the Ottawa Jazzfest delivered the kind of satisfaction usually reserved for an All-you-can-eat Sizzler, thankfully without the inevitable heartburn and diarrhea. After leaving underwhelmed Monday, every turn taken on Tuesday brightened the spirit and entertained the soul, in a truly buzz-inducing evening. The absolutely perfect summer weather was a great place to start, (one of the two or three perfect nights we can typically expect in Ottawa) with an ethereal airy pink painted sky and a warm soothing breeze.
The Dusty Drifters kicked things off early at the OLG stage in Confederation Park with an entertaining set of favourites and surprise covers including a new arrangement of a 'Big Sugar' tune. The group's vocal harmonies and stage banter have really progressed, with local legend Pauly Roberto at the helm, so much so, that they charmed the pants off the shirtless. (If you're reading this, Ronny: Not cool!). Great to see so many smiling supporters demonstrating their pride in this talented local favourite.
Ghost Note was already underway on the Tartan Homes tent, I was thankful to catch the last 40 minutes or so of this power house funk band, featuring members of Snarky Puppy and bass Phenom MonoNeon. Masters of timing, colour and groove- the band packed their short, early slot with more action than a Burt Reynolds movie.
This band was in fact, so fun, talented and engaging- it was like high thread Egyptian cottons had been laid out artfully over the stage, after Knower's borderline bed-shitting the night previous. Total palate cleaner. It's not often I can be found literally jumping up and down in sandals, at 7:50pm on a weeknight- or buying shirts that don't fit because I want to support a band, but it all happened this fine night. SEE THIS BAND.
Alison Krauss packed Marion Dewar Plaza with the most attentive crowd I've seen in recent memory. Though a little bit quiet through the main speakers, and muddled by wine-tent yakking, the audience tried their best to catch every breath and fiddle twiddle the songstress shared.
Her band was comprised of Nashville magicians, softly singly sweet songs of love and sorrow in unmatched harmony. You know music is working when you are truly taken away- and at moments during this set I found myself exploring deep recesses of my mind, just freely wondering... Where will it all go? (I'm not sure) - Is Mr. Dress Up still alive? (no- Ernie Coombs died in 2001, I Googled it) - Should I be trying to write fiction so there is no accountability? (Probably). It was a lovely set, and definitely primed me for the jaw-dropper to come.
Tartan stage hosted The Jerry Douglas Band, in what can only be described as a close encounter of the 4th kind, the Jazz-Grassian kind. There was a power and energy on that small stage which is not often available to mankind- it was almost divine, or maybe alien. Spacey, exploratory and dense music danced into our hearts with grace and precision.
The combination of tenure, experience, confidence, and genuine delight in music-making seduced revellers to the point of ecstatic convulsion (That is just how I dance, Ronny!). Jerry looked like a mature southern ranch owner, with a twinkle in eye and a knowing flash in his toothy grin. He's the uncle we all wish we had, with his perfect leather boots and winky smarm. He could be a character in a Quentin Tarantino movie, played by Don Johnson, or Jeff Bridges. Jerry earns his reputation, and as 'the best dobro player in the world' it comes as no surprise that Jerry would have the best Nashville hot-shot soon to be elites in his band, and he gave them all an opportunity to strut their stuff.
They collectively sashayed the audience through a mesmerizing 90 minute masterclass in musicianship, style and excitement. With some of the most riveting interplay and compositional creativity I've enjoyed in a long time. All members were off the charts, but guitar player Mike Seal was a show-stopper, calmly picklessly picking his matte Ibanez like a modern Roy Buchanan with something to prove. His speed and tasteful layering often brought Jerry to smile, and their mutual grins were exceptionally cute, and kind of heartwarming.
I guess, I'll include my phone note: It was like Zappa was arranging for Garcia and Rice. Departing on my bicycle with a strong soberish music high- the world seemed just a little more beautiful.