Monday, August 31, 2009

Yes, No, Maybe

Phenomenal Hand Clap BandI was watching this TED talk by Alain de Botton on success and failure and how meritocracies don't actually exist and got to thinking about the question "what do I care about?"

It's a question I ask myself a lot lately - because it helps me organize my mind and because knowing the answer makes it easier to articulate what I want if I've sifted through the choices already. Since I'm in the midst of my semi-annual event-related frenzy, the question is timely and allows me to loosen up on my micro-managing tendencies. Most importantly, it lets me define success. Botton, whose Art of Travel I really wanted to like when I read it on vacation last month but it didn't resonate for me - meanders his way more successfully in this talk through snobbery, envy, and the comparisons one makes in modern society. Interesting stuff with an equally insightful conversation in the comments.


In non-work-related things: I caught The Phenomenal Handclap Band, who mercifully didn't feature a full chorus of hand clapping. To be honest, I can't remember what exactly they sound like - the review I just read described them as "indy soul rock jam-core" which could be just about anything - but the crowd - including the two tiny little schoolteacher-looking-ladies-complete-with-pearl-necklaces next to me - and I had a great time dancing and I only paid $5 to get in.

Looking forward to seeing Numero Group's Eccentric Soul Revue and my friend Stew's musical Passing Strange as a concert film by Spike Lee. I will never be fortunate enough to see Tsunami, but instead I've had the good fortune to work with both Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson.

Speaking of Jenny and Kristin, come to FMC's DC Policy Summit (my baby) on October 4-6, 2009 if you're a musician or at all interested in the music industry's future. Register! Apply for a musician or student scholarship! Watch the live webcast! Come to the shows! Watch the film screening! Have a few drinks! Talk too much! What? Ain't that enough???

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kickin' It Live

Run for CoverOn the live music front lately:

I caught Run for Cover, a DC tradition where local bands remake themselves into crack cover bands for a one-night-only benefit show. These musicians knew, too, what make cover bands work as entertainment: complete knowledge of the material and total commitment to it. After all, making fun of the music is only funny if you're playing it properly. Otherwise, you're just being lame. Confession: I saw Bon Jovi in high school when Extreme opened for them at Great Woods outside of Boston. I might have thought the music was cheesy, but they were excellent performers because they knew how to put on a show...and it was the same thing with my friends David Brown and David Durst of Poor but Sexy who were part of the covering band. The Runaways and the Top Gun reenactment were also great; sad I missed Casper Bangs leading the Bee Gees finale though.

Tinted Windows (a "supergroup" - a term I hate more and more), in contrast, excelled at playing OK filler songs. Maybe if they'd stuck to covering songs by each of their bands - Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins, Hanson, and Fountains of Wayne? The only upshot to the evening: US Royalty, the openers, who were worth seeing again.

I don't have plans to see any other live music at that moment, but I am trying to produce my first show for FMC's conference in a few months. I know booking shows and audio and marketing and budgets to varying degress, but putting it all together is new and a little scary since I'm trying not to lose money and put on a show from scratch, i.e. not in an existing venue. But then what's to worry about? It's not like the concert business is losing so much money that they're giving away tickets for free? Hah.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Barcelona: No Straight Lines

When you're going through airport security in the US, you often see signs telling you not to joke about bombs or otherwise try to lighten the asinine process. When I was proving to the disarmingly good-looking gate agent in Madrid that I was eligible to fly to the US, he was simultaneously looking at passports and conducting a poll of the best food to eat in Spain.

That story exemplifies for me what made Spain different. Airport security has fun. There's more PDA on display than I've seen anywhere else: from teenagers making out to middle-aged couples grabbing ass - and I do mean grabbing and squeezing - to the elderly couple who'd probably been married a lifetime sneaking kisses while schooling passerby on how to dance the flamenco. The street entertainment never stops: the guy who keeps the soccer ball off the ground to the guy dressed like the alien from Alien pretending to bite people for spare change to the person who is inexplicably headless with his head on a table next to him. I was wandering around one night after dinner and came across an emo-girl with a faux-hawk and Docs who was blowing enormous soap bubbles to earn spare change.

Even the city's most well-known art feels looser. There's no Mona Lisa primly displayed behind glass - instead there's Antoni Gaudi's fantastical buildings with no right angles. There's the Picasso museum where he recreates Velazquez's Las Meninas paintings in multiple cubist renderings. I admit I don't get Picasso and get tired of assembling his cubes to find the complete image but I enjoyed watching his art evolve over the course of his life from straight forward portraits to cubes that focus on the whole rather than the parts.

Some other highlights:
- The food! Predictably, the farther off the tourist track, the better and cheaper the food. House wine was as cheap as water in many places and I got used to drinking it with every lunch, the egg sandwiches were an excellent breakfast, and tapas were so easy and delicious. I tried all sorts of random edibles: local hard cider, fried codfish balls, some killer blue cheese, all sorts of funny sausages, fish of various sorts stuffed into things, rice cooked in pig's blood, panther's milk which a kindly bartender handed us when we were paying our bill. (The explanation took some doing: "Por favor, que es esto?" "Leche de pantera." "Que es leche de pantera?" "Leche de animal." "Leche de que animal?" "Pantera." "Pantera?" "Si, pantera." "Ah, si, si, panther.")

- The Tour de France: I got to watch in person the end of Stage 6 into Barcelona and the beginning of Stage 7 leaving Barcelona en route to Andorra. The tour has become part of my summer routine - for reasons that would need another post to explain - and this was the one of the nicest surprise moments of scheduling I discovered. Very cool moment to be that close to the action.

The notable lowlight was having all my electronics and my passport swiped in Barcelona on my second day. Other than my photos, it was all thankfully replaceable though caused some hassles at the time. Between my cousin Elizabeth getting sick at the end of the trip and my lost stuff, I ended up visiting all the places one doesn't want to go on vacation: police station, consulate, and hospital.

The free and easy way about Barcelona didn't translate that well when things weren't going well: my police report was full of typos and they couldn't have found me even if they had found my things. The place where my bag was stolen was unsympathetic and told me I should've paid better attention and handed us our astronomical bill. But then, Elizabeth's trip to the emergency room was completely free - a courtesy that the US certainly doesn't extend to travelers.

I'm still replacing crap, but the upside is my new iphone! Elizabeth's photos, too, will arrive eventually.

Anyway, that's it, folks. I seem to have fallen out of the blogging habit while on vacation, but my brain is now considering blog-worthy topics again, so I'll be back on a more consistent basis.