best of BFS&T, 2010 edition

beautiful, blogging, cello, dreams, funny, love, music, Oregon, pictures, Portland, recording, sad, true, Washington, Yakima No Comments »

2010 has been very strange.  At the beginning of the year, I was still on blogging hiatus, so it took a while to get back up to speed.  Springtime was crazy, with lots of great musical endeavors and memorable trips.  By the summer, both my life and this blog went into overdrive, when I really started writing again, and found my full stride while sharing a bit too much about my childhood.  Suddenly it was October, which is the month of my birth, but this year was also the month of my stepdad’s death, which has sent everything into a tailspin since then.  A surreal trip to Yakima for the funeral was followed by multiple trips to Seattle, both for gigs and for family functions.

There were some standout moments from this last year that didn’t manage to make it into the blog, for various reasons.  For example, here’s a video of a particularly interesting recording session that I was lucky enough to be involved with, albeit in a small way.  A local singer-songwriter, who is also a friend, put the word out on SocialNetwork that she wanted to create a cacaphony of 50 pianos, all playing an F chord at the same time.  I jumped at the chance.  She rented a piano showroom downtown, and my friend and I (and forty eight or so other people) joined in to participate.  I brought my camera to capture a bit of the action.

Another memorable moment from this last year was Trek in the Park.  This theater group gets together every year to re-create a famous episode from the original Star Trek television series.  This year’s was Space Seed, in which we meet the infamous character Khan (who returned in the movie The Wrath of Khan).  It was a very well-done production, with live music and everything. . .and it was all free of charge.  Here’s the climactic fight sequence between Kirk and Khan.

IrishBand released our self-titled EP this year, as well as an amazing animated video that a friend created for us.  I would post that here, but our band name is very unusual, hence the pseudonym.  To celebrate, we went to Port Townsend, Washington (the hometown of three of the band members, and an adopted home away from home for the rest of us) to play a CD release party and catch the Rhododendron Festival and parade and everything.  It’s always a huge party weekend for PT, and this year was the tenth reunion for PT High School, which included Violinist and a bunch of other friends, so I actually went to the reunion barbecue in Chetzemoka Park during the afternoon, since I knew so many of the people there.  (God forbid that I actually go to any of my own class reunions; I haven’t yet.)  I also performed in the parade, in disguise, as an honorary member of Nanda.  I’m the guy with the Mexican wrestling mask, playing the bass, miming along to the dance music that was blaring from the speakers in the back of the truck.

I had the opportunity to see the Oregon Symphony perform many times this last year, with some pretty big-name performers.  Violinists Midori and Hilary Hahn, violinist Pinchas Zukerman and his cellist wife Amanda Forsyth (who, incidentally, gave a cello master class at the Old Church that afternoon, which I also attended, even though I’m far from being a cello master) who performed Brahms’s Double Concerto together, and a number of others.  This month, I have a ticket for pianist Emanuel Ax’s concert, which I’m very much looking forward to.  Yo-Yo Ma performed here a month or so ago, but his concert was sold out in the spring, only a few weeks after tickets went on sale.  Curses.

So it’s been a good year, overall, but I’m really hoping that 2011 is better, or less confusing at the very least.  I have lofty goals for the upcoming year, which include finding a job, finding love and a real relationship, taking care of some things that have been dogging me for a while now, and producing more CD’s.  I have a bit of news on the music front, actually.  A friend of mine hurt her arms a year ago, and has since been unable to play the piano, but that hasn’t stopped her from singing, or from writing lyrics and melodies, or from having tons of ideas.  She e-mailed me at some point to ask what people in her position do in the music business.  I told her I don’t know about ‘the music business’, but I’d love to give the songs a listen, and that maybe I could put music to them.  She sent me some mp3′s, and I instantly felt like I knew where the songs should go.  They felt familiar without being predictable, which is always a good sign.  That was about two months ago, and we already have five or six collaborations in the works.  Pretty awesome and exciting.

In other news, December is the fourth anniversary of this blog, so it seems appropriate to have a little birthday party, no?  Come on, let’s have some sis-boom-bah.

So anyway, on to the Best Of.  Here are the lists of what I consider to the best entries BFS&T has to offer from this past year, which naturally includes a list of the most interesting dreams, as well.  Enjoy!

THE ENTRIES:

SteamCon – the steampunk convention in Seattle in which PolishCellist and I played, and had a total blast doing so

tragedy – the death of Stepdad

struggle – the early aftermath of the death of Stepdad

sitting here thinking about the Holocaust – one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard on the radio

folk festival fun – Portland Folk Festival, starring IrishBand, Dan Bern, Roll Out Cowboy, etc.

I’m kind of an a-hole – see for yourself

birthday present – prostitute schmostitute

the unicorn code – love it, learn it, LIVE IT

no one’s laughing – a peek into our family dynamics

déja vu – what it feels like, and a friend who claims to never have experienced one

the truth is out there – interesting UFO story, I promise

it’s not for shaving – Occam’s Razor, and how it applies to recording music

what if it is? – a very memorable and touching moment from the show Six Feet Under


THE CHILDHOOD STORIES:

shuttlecock

love and curiosity

he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

the final innocent tryst

synchronicity

THE DREAMS:

lights, camera, dream

festival dream

shape shifters

inimitable and imitable

subconscious and libido

this needs a name

frozen

Just in case this wasn’t enough for your insatiable appetite for blog entries, here’s the Best of BFS&T 2009 entry, for your gluttonous pleasure.

Thanks for being here and reading all this, and for supporting this blog for such a long time now.  I really appreciate it.  I hope we all have an excellent New Year’s Eve, and Day, and that 2011 allows us to learn, and to grow, and to change for the better, a little bit each day.

Happy New Year!

folk festival fun

music, pictures, Portland No Comments »

I just realized that in my blog hiatus I had forgotten to share some pictures and stories from a few weeks ago, when the Portland Folk Festival was happening here in town.  IrishBand played a sweat-drenched set that the reviewer from WeeklyAlternativeNewspaper favorably compared to a “grange hall punk show” that was “a fine balance of exactitude and slop,” which sounds about right.  That’s pretty much our modus operandi.   Our friend Dr. Something from Crappy Indie Music was there, and she sketched us, as well as the other two bands who played that night.  Totally amazing!  (I’m the one with the accordion, by the way.)  She seems to have a thing for our rhythm section, and who can blame her?  They’re strapping young lads, as you can see.  I love the way she made each of us look like our real selves, particularly Drummer and Violinist.

That was one of the most rockin’ and fun shows we’ve ever had, quite honestly, and certainly one of the sweatiest.  My tie was still damp the next morning.

Another cool thing about that night of the Folk Festival was that a couple of us got the opportunity to see a tremendous new documentary called Roll Out, Cowboy, which is about Chris Sand, a.k.a. Sandman the Rappin’ Cowboy.  It’s a very well done, sympathetic, and touching story about his interesting, bucolic, and somewhat disparate life.  I got to meet the filmmaker, Elizabeth, at the screening, who returned the favor by coming to our show later that evening.  Next time she’s in town, she said, she’d like to do a short interview film about us.  Naturally, we’re going to jump at that opportunity.

I don’t quite remember the chronology of everything, since in addition to all this, I had a ton of other things happening, including a huge birthday party for at least four friends and a gig/birthday party all in the same weekend, so it’s a bit of a blur.  Be that as it may, I’m gonna give it a shot.  My friend John and I got to see Sea of Bees downtown at Backspace, and we both kinda fell in love with them.  I particularly fell in love with the lead guitarist, who was a beautiful blonde girl, and a very cool and tasteful guitarist to boot, which is always nice.  Their show was great and very ‘low-fi’, but the CD is very polished and tight in a way that the show was not.  Both incarnations are excellent, and I highly recommend either or both.

John and I also made it a point to catch the inimitable Dan Bern on Misssissippi Street, doing a set of his childrens’ songs, after which we kidnapped him and took him to the food carts a bit farther on Mississippi to catch up and talk.  John got sushi, while Dan and I opted for some deliciousness from Native Bowl. I don’t know if you remember this or not (and due to the blogging hiatus, I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t), I got the opportunity to play with Dan when he was in town about six months ago, thanks in a large part to John.  I played accordion and sang harmonies, until one of my accordion straps broke (which made it unplayable), so I set it down and turned around to jump behind the piano instead.  Here’s a blurry picture; the blob in front with the guitar is Dan, and the blob sitting at the piano is me.  I think this picture was taken during the song “God Said No”, which I thought was particularly beautiful that night.

Anyway.

Another huge highlight of the festival was Matt Keating, a guy with whom I was not previously familiar, although he had appeared on John’s old radio show (which has since found a new lease on life in podcast form, thanks to the up-and-coming KZME) once or twice a few years back, so the two of them were friends already.  John and I arrived at the Jade Lounge at the appointed time, to find that we and Matt’s family were the only ones in attendance.  The bartender told us that they had pushed back the performance by an hour, so the group of us decided to eat dinner and hang out together.  With lots of other families, this would have been awkward at best, but Matt’s family is so outgoing and fun that we felt completely welcome and at ease.  After a while, we somewhat hilariously split off by gender; Matt, John and I discussed music and things at our own table, and Matt’s female family members talked about whatever ‘girly’ stuff they talked about.   :)

Matt was scheduled to be on John’s newer radio show later that night, and since we’d all had such a great time at dinner, John proposed that I bring my accordion to the station and accompany Matt, despite having only heard the three songs I’d heard at his gig.  Matt was game to let me sit in, and showing up with an instrument and improvising is a hobby of mine, so I was excited too.  It turned out great, and Matt even invited me to play a show with him later that week, with a guitarist friend of his, John Vecchiarelli (who is an amazing and talented songwriter in his own right) on snare drum, and me on accordion.  Matt called our impromptu band Freedom Tickler, which is just plain brilliant.

See what happens when I don’t blog for a while?  It’s not that I haven’t had things to write about, I just haven’t felt like writing, and I haven’t had two spare seconds to rub together in order to process all the things that have been happening.

In other news, keep your eyes on this space for the short film in which my friend Danielle and I acted.  It should be edited and available for viewing (and hopefully for sharing) within the next week or so.  I’m really excited to see that.

Super what? Super whatev.

blogging, music, Oregon, pictures, Portland, recording No Comments »

Well.

This is the infamous Super Bowl Sunday, and I for one could not care less about that.  In fact, if it wasn’t for Twitter, I wouldn’t have known that today is the day.   That’s how little I follow sports.

I know what I said a couple of weeks ago about how ‘the hiatus is over’ and all that, but life seems to have gone into overdrive since then, and I haven’t had two minutes to rub together to write anything new.

Two weekends ago, I went to Waldport, Oregon to spend the weekend with a childhood friend whose job is about to end, which will force him to move away from that pretty little town.  (Photos to come, as soon as I get the chance to go through them.)

IrishBand has a friend who’s creating an animated video for one of our songs, and it’s tremendous!  It should be done within a couple of weeks, and then I’ll be able to share it here.  It’s been quite a process, and very exciting to watch it all come together.  We needed to create an ‘intro’ section for it (you’ll see what I mean) that featured the sound of the band setting up their instruments and tuning up and whatnot.  Since two of the band members are busy in school, we weren’t able to schedule a rehearsal, so I set up the instruments (drums, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and cello played up high to simulate a violin) in my living room and recorded them using one microphone to simulate a camera person walking in and recording us that way.  (Photos to come, once I have a chance to go through them.)

I spent last weekend in Seattle to see a pipe organ concert at my brother’s church and to celebrate BabyNiece’s first birthday.  It was really fun, and super cute, and a bit stressful all at the same time.  (Photos to come, as soon as I get the chance to go through them.)  I drove back late Saturday night so that I could attend the Oregon Symphony the next afternoon.  They were featuring Jean-Philippe Collard performing Ravel’s beautiful Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, which I love and didn’t want to miss.  (Extra-special thanks to Kelly V. for making it possible for me and my companion to go!)  Hmm. . .’companion’ makes it sound like I’m gay, which I’m not.  For the record, my companion was a girl.

Anyway.

I couldn’t find a video of Collard playing the Left Hand, but here’s one of  him playing a similar piece by Ravel, for solo piano.

It was an incredible and beautiful show.  The orchestra started with a piece by Thomas Adés called “Powder Her Face”, which was very colorful and enchanting.  Next up was the Ravel concerto, followed by Gustav Holst’s “Egdon Heath” and one of the lesser-known Mozart symphonies, number thirty four.   The Ravel was the only piece either of us (and I daresay the majority of the audience, as well) was familiar with.  I love the way the conductor, Carlos, Kalmar, chooses music for his programs.  This is the second one I’ve seen so far this season, and he likes to blend the familiar with the unfamiliar in an intriguing way.

Speaking of the Oregon Symphony, next season promises to be world-class.  Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Hillary Hahn, Emmanuel Ax, Lang Lang. . .and that’s not even close to a complete list.  We are in for a treat multiple treats!

I had the opportunity to play with two nationally-known songwriters this week, in the same venue, on different days.  The first was Tony Furtado (a friend with whom I play fairly regularly) and the second was Dan Bern, who I had just met earlier in the day, when I helped my friend John by engineering and sort of co-hosting a podcast for KZME Radio called Hello Cruel World.  This was the second time I’ve had the opportunity to do that, the first being a couple weeks prior, when we interviewed an excellent new songwriter from Seattle named Tamara Power-Drutis.  Anyway, we were talking with Dan about the times we’ve seen him in concert.  John mentioned to Dan that I play accordion and multiple other things, and Dan asked if I know his music.  “Yes, I do,” I answered.  He asked, “Do you want to come play at the show tonight?”  “Absolutely!”

This picture was taken during the song God Said No.

So yeah, between the multiple out-of-town trips, the stellar gigs, the birthday parties and the nights out, it’s been quite a fun couple of weeks.  Now I’m off to meet a friend for dinner, and tomorrow I’ll be mixing some more songs for IrishBand.

I’m off of blogging hiatus, but we’ll see how long it takes before I have time to write again.  I don’t imagine it’ll be this long.

O, frabjous weekend

blogging, cello, music, pictures, Portland No Comments »

Man, I swear this blog gets more hits when I don’t post for a week than when I post all the time.  I guess it’s a good thing I’m still feeling un-bloggish lately, then, in order to give everybody a chance to soak up a bit of beauty, humor, sadness (although there’s been precious little sadness lately!) and truth.

Times have been good, overall.  Had a great gig on Friday, at which I got the chance to see many friends.  I started mixing the EP for IrishBand (our goal is to finish mixing some time in December), and I had an excellent birthday.  Got some new clothes.  My friend LJ returned from three weeks in the U.K., so we went to brunch and then came back here to my place where she could upload the pictures and explain the stories behind all of them.

I had another excellent day yesterday, which involved a new friend and much random fun.  We met at Powell’s, then watched a bewildering theater performance at Pioneer Square (we left after about ten minutes, scratching our heads with confusion), watched some buskers outside Nordstrom, bounced around between a bunch of closed restaurants (which finally led us to get sushi at Sansai), then we walked clear up to Vivace for coffee and dessert.  Lovely day.

NewFriend is a piano teacher, so we’ve been looking for classical music we’ll be able to play together as a duo.  I found a book of ‘easy to intermediate’ cello solos at Powell’s, which consists of classical pieces arranged for cello, with piano accompaniment.  Perfect!  It’s part of a two-book series; Book One is the piano book, and Book Two is the cello book.  I bought the piano one because A) it was the only one they had, B) it had both the piano AND the cello parts on it, and C) I figured we could track down the complementary book at some point, or just photocopy whichever pieces we intend to learn.

When I pulled up at home, CellistSkip was standing next to his car, and he said hello.  I brought the book over to show him, and he said, “No way. . .I think I used to have that book when I was a kid.”  FlutistSusan came down the steps just then and I showed it to her too.  “That sounds familiar,” she said.  “I think I may actually have the cello book in my files somewhere.”  She ran into her office, rummaged around in a drawer, and after about ten seconds pulled out a tattered copy of the companion cello book.  The cover is gone and about half of the pages are missing, but it’s the same book.  What a crazy coincidence, no?

So here are a few pictures.  I wish I would’ve taken more, but I was too hungry to think of it when we got our sushi.  The sushi was excellent, by the way, but the sunomono salad (with octopus, red onions, bell peppers and daikon radishes) was the hit of the day.

bkmsam40205

troupe

buskers

vivace

Perhaps I could recruit your help in locating a piece for NewFriend and me?  We’re looking for Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance #2 in E minor, Opus 72, arranged for piano and cello.  You know, it’s this piece (and what a beautiful performance this is!):

I could watch that all day.  Thanks in advance for your help!

. . .and the princess in peril

cello, music, pictures, Portland, recording, Yakima No Comments »

Today I was supposed to record with IrishBand, but Singer was sick and losing his voice, so he had to cancel.  That left me with a couple of hours to kill before our band meeting tonight, so I took the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful fall day and went for a hike in Macleay Park.

I thought about taking my camera, because after a few months out of the habit, I’ve started taking it everywhere with me again.  The reason I didn’t today is because I didn’t want to carry it on the hike, and I’ve taken it to Macleay before, and while the park is supremely beautiful, the pictures have never been compelling.  So I left it at home, much to my later dismay.

When I arrived at the park, there was a guy who was practicing his sword and staff skills, which was surprisingly cool to watch.  I’ve never been into it myself, but I’m fascinated with all that SCA stuff.  There was a guy I knew in Yakima who used to make his own huge swords and armor and everything, and go out into Randall Park and practice fighting.  He was a little too into it, as a matter of fact, and he was a little bit scary.   The guy I saw today just looked cool, and was doing parries and lunges.  He was just finishing up as I was walking by, though.

I hiked a mile or so up the trail, to the dilapidated Stone House, and when I got there, a family was shooting a movie with their little digital video camera.  I sat on a log and watched them for about twenty minutes, while they filmed the last few scenes.  They were in full costume; the princess, the witch, the adventurer, the sorcerer, and the two ghouls.  I arrived just in time to see the ghouls and the witch get killed by two different spells, like this:  “Abracadabra is what I say, and I want you to go away!”  The little princess was about four years old, and when she yelled, “Save me!  Save me!  Save me!” I have to admit that it was pretty dang cute.  The best part, however, was watching the dad be a director for the kids.  It seemed like he had some sort of video experience, or at least he was acting as if he did.  It was really a fun thing to see.  I had my phone with me, so I was able to take a couple of pictures, but they both suck.

indiana2

indiana2

See what I mean?  Oh, how I wish I had brought my camera.  I learned my lesson, that’s for sure.  After they finished filming, I thanked the guy for letting us all hang out and watch them (because a handful of other people joined me on the log), and asked him if this film had a name.  “Indiana Johnson and the Princess in Peril,” he replied.  Sounds awesome, and hopefully it’ll be coming soon to a YouTube near you.   Let’s keep our eyes open.

Tonight is a meeting with IrishBand, followed by a happy hour at Kell’s, where they have an open Irish music jam session that Singer and I have been to see a time or two before, and it’s really great.  It would be fun to bring my cello down there sometime, but space is at such a premium in there, and the cello would make it pretty cramped.  There are lots of violinists, and mandolinists, and flutists, and even an accordionist who played for a little while.  Cello would totally rule with a group like that.  Who knows, I may bring it in at some point.

Anyway. . .signing off.