A weekend of solitude

Call me an introvert if you must–you wouldn’t be wrong–but I have to admit that there are few things better than a weekend to myself.  It’s been a busy couple of months (as evidenced by the lack of blog posts), and I was more than happy to spend a couple of days re-charging from all the goings on of late while my husband and daughter traveled for the weekend.

I decided to avoid planning too much, to just do whatever I felt like doing at the moment.  It felt like the height of luxury.  I highly recommend the experience if you have the opportunity.

My weekend consisted of books, art, and writing.  Here are some highlights:

  • 20140406-184336.jpgLive-tweeting my reading of Dangerous by Shannon Hale with the hashtag #dwoh (or Dangerous with one hand).  It is the only novel I recall reading with a main character with a congenital limb deficiency, and I couldn’t help but be excited about it.  Shannon Hale has some interesting things to say about why she chose to write a character who is differently abled, among other things, in this essay.
  • Exploring the meditative quality of writing with Karen Hering, author of Writing to Wake the Soul, at a Sacred Salon at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The Sacred exhibit and the Salon were wonderfully inspiring, and I recommend both experiences to anyone interested in meditation or Buddhist ideas.  I’ve mentioned my interested in meditation here and here.
  • Turning up the volume on my latest musical obsession: Catbath.  What says spring more than opening the windows and playing the music a little bit louder?

How would you spend a weekend to yourself with no obligations?

An Evening at Torch

Live music doesn’t have to be about huge arenas and screaming fans or late nights at crowded rock clubs.  Sometimes it’s about connection.   I recently had the pleasure of attending an event at Torch, a new performing arts space in Minneapolis that puts the audience-artist connection at the forefront of the experience.  It’s a great space with a strong vision, and I am excited to see what’s next there.

I caught the final date in the Raw Deal concert series that ran on Sunday evenings in December and January.  I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect at Torch, but I couldn’t help but smile when I walked in to find friendly faces and the smell of brownies baking.  “Homespun” is the way it is described on the web site, and I think that describes it well.  Torch has a homespun feel to it in the most complimentary way possible.  This is a venue where you introduce yourself to your fellow audience members and you talk about what brought you there.  It’s a venue where you can, not only meet the artist, but also have a conversation with them.  When the show started, we all paid attention.

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Hannah von der Hoff performed first.  Her bluesy style radiated warmth and fit perfectly with the setting.  There was no set list.  The audience drew the song names from a couple of hats, which kept things conversational and open.

Matt Latterell closed the night with songs that told stories.  His album Life on Land has been in regular rotation on the playlist at our house for a while, and my husband and I were happy to have the opportunity to see him perform in a venue like  this one.

What does winter sound like?

If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have looked for the answer in a picture book.  It seems like a picture book sort of question, doesn’t it?

photo (1)“Snow came singing a silent song,” writes Lynne Rae Perkins in Snow Music.  In this book, winter is quiet after a snow fall, but there is a whole symphony of sounds if you listen for them.  Cars, trucks, and animals all sound different in the winter.  There’s a beauty in the whispers of snowfall and the loud scrapes of trucks clearing the way.  There’s a beauty in the differences.

For the past several weeks, I have had a different answer to the question.  I have had Haley Bonar’s new EP Wntr Snds on repeat, and these six songs are spare and intimate in a way that creates just the warmth that we need in a cold, cold Minnesota winter.  “Like Ice and Cold” is my personal favorite.  In this song, winter sounds like change, like hope.  Maybe it isn’t so different from Snow Music.

If you need a little encouragement to see what winter can offer during this sub-zero week, try one of these and listen closely.

Find Snow Music at your local library or indie bookstore. Or get more wintery picture book suggestions here.

Twenty years ago

inuteroTwenty years ago I might as well have been living in a bunker without access to the outside world for all I knew about music or pop culture. Don’t get me wrong. My family owned a television and lived a generally normal life. We just weren’t tuned in to some things. Mostly I think that was a good thing. But occasionally I find that there are gaps. For example, I would not have recognized a Beatles song until I was an adult.  Not kidding.

This weekend I found another gap: Nirvana.  I’d always told myself that I was too young. I was only a young teen in the early 90′s after all, but the crowd at the Uptown Cheapo store for the In Utero tribute on Saturday afternoon wasn’t any older than me. Actually many were younger.  The musicians on stage spoke of memories of Cheapo, Nirvana, and being a teenager, and I found myself considering my gaps.  So I missed it the first time around.  This is clearly something worth going back for.

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HighTV covering Nirvana at Cheapo

When it comes to books, I live in the future.  The nature of my job means I’m reading books before they are released.  My desk is stacked with 2014 titles right now, and it’s hard to look back to a previous publishing season to a title I didn’t get around to last year, or even earlier.  If I miss something, I’ve missed it.  Or so it seems sometimes.

I feel like I should conclude with something profound about balance, but I think I’ll just turn on some music.

Maybe I should start listening to The Current’s Teenage Kicks occasionally?  I’ll catch up with the rest of you eventually.

Monday Morning Music with Falcon Arrow

falconarrowMy partner and I don’t agree on everything. But we do agree on post-rock. Friday night we were out together without the five year-old for the first time a what felt like a long time, but it wasn’t really a date night. His band was playing that night and celebrating the release of a split EP, so he was busy with last minute details for the show and networking–the life of a local rock star is a glamorous one–while I enjoyed the music.

Falcon Arrow, a local post-rock duo, opened the show. They have been around for a couple of years, but they were new to me. And I loved it. When I re-connected with Chad later in the evening, he had procured a Falcon Arrow CD. It seems we still have something in common, after all. :)

Check out Falcon Arrow on Bandcamp for their latest. Here’s a video from the album:

Want to be in a band?

wanttobe

I came across Want to be in a Band? at work recently as I was going through some new picture books, and I paused.  It isn’t often you find a picture book that is one part memoir, one part instruction manual for the music industry.  And it’s illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators?!  Love.

I wasn’t familiar with Suzzy Roche of the family folk-band The Roches before this book.  I’ll add it to the list of trivia I have learned from my work in the book industry.  In any case, Ms. Roche reveals the secrets to successful musicianship. Here they are for anyone secretly harboring a desire for family folk band stardom: A lot of practice, a lot of shows, and not letting the critics get you down.  Most of all, it’s about love.  Love for the music and love for your sisters.  That’s the important thing, she says.

Maybe I liked the book because I have a thing for memoirs and picture book memoirs are so rare.  Or maybe it’s because I really do want to be in a band despite my ridiculous lack of musicality.  Actually, it’s probably because I’ve been listening to a lot of The Ericksons (a local sister band with a folk/rock sound) lately, and I can’t help but wonder if they sing at breakfast.  Because that’s what being in a family band is like, right?    Perhaps Roche spoiled the fantasy a little bit with her pragmatism, but next to Giselle Potter’s folk art style illustrations, I’ll allow it.

Whatever the reality, sisters can make some lovely music.  Here is “Where Do You Dwell?” for you to listen to while you imagine a life in which you practice a lot, play a lot of small shows, ignore the naysayers, and just love music.

Find Want to be in a Band? from your local library or support an independent bookstore. No affiliate stuff here.  Just trying to support my fellowbook people. :)

Also, you can name your price for The Ericksons music here.

Dessa Deconstructed

DESSA_PARTS_OF_SPEECH_COVERI always seem to grab my notebook when Dessa is on the radio.  Her songs have a way of sparking my own creative spirit, and her commentary on her craft become journal entries and eventually  blog posts.  Today, as I listened to the rebroadcast of Dessa Deconstructed on the Current’s Local Show, I once again found myself jotting down quotes and scribbling poetic jumbles.  When you have some time, watch the program or listen to her latest record.  Perhaps it will have the same effect on you.

 

Monday Morning Music with Caroline Smith

My partner says I have a type when it comes to music.  He’s probably right.  Look at some of the artists I’ve blogged about: Haley Bonar, Zoo Animal, Lucy Michelle.  I can’t deny it.  I like female singer-songwriters, especially those who write folky indie pop.  For the record, I’ve also blogged about totally different music (See Bloodnstuff, M83, and GY!BE), so I’m not completely stuck in a genre bubble.

I bring this up because Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps is so my type.  The recent documentary about the Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter, My Way Back Home: Caroline Smith, highlights Smith’s evolution as a songwriter, her relationship to her family and hometown of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and finding her voice.

Enjoy.

Happy Birthday to Me

February is a good month for a birthday.  At least here in Minnesota, where it is cold and snowy, it is nice to have a reason to celebrate in the middle of February.  I am grateful to my lovely friends for celebrating with me with music at the Whole on the U of M campus on Friday night.  We just couldn’t resist seeing Now, Now play a rare show at a small venue here in Minneapolis, even if it meant being the oldest people there.  I am not lying when I say that I overheard a couple of students saying “she was at least 30″ when talking about weird it was to see a University librarian at a show.  At first, I tried to pretend I was not a 30-something librarian, but then I figured that at least I’m a 30-something librarian with good taste in music. :)

Speaking of my taste in music, Prissy Clerks opened for Now, Now, and they are a recent favorite of mine.  When I first played one of their songs for my husband, he put it best: “I think this is what it would sound like if you and I ever started a band.”  He has a point.  It’s cute and kinda girly, but it’s noisy too.  We like it.

Here is Prissy Clerks performing “No Sir” for Radio K in January 2013:

Monday Morning Music with Low

greatdestI’ve been listening to the Local Current radio stream lately, and I’ve been thinking about how long I have to live with things to give them a chance.  Low, Local Current’s Featured Artist of the month, has been around for 20 years, and I’ve known of them for at least 10-12 of those years. I never really gave them a chance until they released The Great Destroyer in 2005.  It was a departure for them, and I loved it immediately.  More than that, though, it put their backlist into context for me.  Everything clicked.   The songs that had been in the background for years weren’t background anymore.  They were the ground, and they have been ever since.

I didn’t get it for a long time, and now Low is a band I will always come back to.  Their latest record, The Invisible Way, will be released in March.

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