My Summer Wonders

We ushered in our summer with a busy weekend that was full of sun.  After several days (weeks?) of rain, it was much needed sunshine–at least, it was much needed by me.

IMG_2009IMG_2012 IMG_2014We celebrated the solstice on Friday evening at our Unitarian-Univeralist church, caught a puppet show on Saturday morning at the library (highly recommend catching one of the many performances of Molly and the Magic Boot this summer; my daughter is still singing the “hootenanny” song–though perhaps that’s not a selling point. . .), and joined ten thousand other music fans for Rock the Garden on Saturday night.

While Matt and Kim stole the show for me (even though I was not previously familiar with them), Best Coast deserves a mention for singing “Why would you live anywhere else?”  Of course, they were referencing California, but on the first day of a Minnesota summer, there is no better place to be.  Why would you live anywhere else right now?

Our summer has just begun, of course.  In the weeks to come we will be camping, swimming, grilling, and more.  What will your summer bring?

If you need some inspiration, try a picture book: Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka is a good place to start. It celebrates summer with simplicity and ice pops.  What more could you want?

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Perhaps at the end of the summer we will be able to make our own book of wonders.

A Weekend in Chicago

On our way out of town on Friday, I was scrolling through my social media feed when I saw a headline with the words “This might be the biggest Twin Cities weekend of the summer.”  That is not what you really want to see when you’re leaving for a weekend getaway.  We already knew we were going to miss Northern Spark and the launch of the Green Line, but we kept our eyes on Chicago.

It seemed that city was also having a pretty big weekend, and we were right in the middle of it.  Most of our fellow commuter train passengers on Saturday appeared to be headed to the Blues Festival .  We were there to play tourist.  I grew up outside of Chicago, and a part of me will always consider Chicago to be “my city” no matter how Minnesotan I feel these days.  It’s always fun to share my memories of Chicago, especially now that my daughter is old enough to get excited about it too.  I love that she showed as much enthusiasm for some of the more iconic scenes as she did a random playground we happened by.

That evening we made our way to the Wicker Park neighborhood (after the six year old was safely deposited at Grandma’s) for the reason we were willing to leave town on one of the best Twin Cities weekends of the summer.  Braid and the Smoking Popes at the Double Door’s 20th Anniversary celebration.  As soon as we saw that these two old favorites were playing, we jumped on the tickets and made our plans.

braid2014I grew up listening to these bands.  I mean that specifically: I listened to them in my late teens and early twenties.  They were, along with a few select others, my coming of age soundtrack.  Braid, in particular, was perfect coming of age music.  With lines like “let’s stop clapping / let’s start doing / a dream for the teens and in-betweens / and twenties yet unseen” the teenage me was conscious of the fact that these were guys just a couple of years older than me.  They often sang about finding your way, and it had a strong impact on me as I sorted out my ideas about life and love.  I saw them live a few times before they broke up in 1999.

In 2004, I caught the reunion tour. By then, I lived in the Twin Cities, and I was dating my now-husband.  I was in my mid-twenties, which meant that the band members were pushing thirty. My youthful optimism never considered that the show might disappoint, and it didn’t.  It actually made my Top Ten Favorite Shows even though it made me feel older than my years to have a reunion show on my Top Ten list.  I still consider myself an optimist, but I have to admit that it did occur to me, how ever briefly, that ten years might make a difference.

They opened with a song I didn’t know–the new record comes out next month–and then launched into a series of older songs from Frame & Canvas and other records I know so well.  There was no need to worry.  Funnily enough, lines like “a dream for the tweens, and in-betweens, and twenties yet unseen” can still resonate several years past one’s twenties.

The show could have ended there, and it would have been worth the trip.  It was already on my Top Ten Favorite Shows of all time–no matter what having two reunion shows on my list might mean about my age or taste.  But the Smoking Popes were up next.

smokingpopes2014The Smoking Popes were the first local band I listened to. They were the first band I saw play live so many times I lost track of when and where I saw them, and eventually it became no-big-deal in that way that local bands can sometimes get even to their super fans.  After a while, they didn’t play as much, and I moved away anyway.  I did catch them at the Triple Rock a few years ago.  That was a good show, but it doesn’t compare to the one I saw this weekend.  Saturday’s show was a reunion of the super fans.  It seemed like every song was a sing along in a crowd that knew every word.  No one yelled out “Pretty Pathetic” even though we all wanted them to play it.  Probably because we knew they were saving it for the end of the show with the stripped down beginning and dramatic end.  It was far from no-big-deal.

Here’s to the past for the memories and the music.  And here’s to what is still unseen.  Let’s stop clapping and start doing.

 

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.

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?

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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.

On the last day of spring break…

I’m typing next to my living room windows.  It is sunny outside, and there is a steady stream of bike and pedestrian traffic providing me with a soundtrack of conversational snippets as people pass.  It has been spring for weeks, but on a day like today, it feels like spring.

My five-year-old has already brought out her bicycle and played at the park today, and we’ve indulged her whims perhaps more than usual because she has only just returned from a week’s stay at her grandparents’.  A week is a long time to be away from your little one.  Although, I swear she doesn’t seem as little today as she did a week ago when my parents drove away with her.  Did she grow so much in six days?  She did lose another tooth while she was gone.  Perhaps that’s the difference I’m sensing.

I had big plans for those six days, and I only crossed about half of the items off my to-do list.  I always have such big dreams for my kid-free days, like the freedom of not having a little one trailing after me wherever I go (or arranging for her to follow someone else around for a while) will make anything possible.  In the end, though, it’s the little things that make me that happiest.  For example, I spent one evening lounging around reading while my husband was at band practice.  I was able to finish a whole book in an evening.  That used to be a common practice for me, but these days it’s pretty rare.

sigurrosIt wasn’t all small stuff this time though.  There were a couple of big events I was very happy I was able to attend.  The first was Sigur Ros at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, and I do not feel like I am over-hyping the event by saying that it would be on my top ten concerts in 2013 list, if I were to make one.  It was my second time seeing them live, and it was just as amazing as it was back in 2005 at the State Theatre–though I will say that the theater seating was more comfortable than the general admission floor at the Roy Wilkins even if it does make me feel every bit of my age to admit that.  There are some photos and thoughts on the show here, and video a friend took from the show here for those that are interested.  Photos and video can’t really do justice to the experience though.  I wholeheartedly recommend seeing Sigur Ros live if you can.

The second big event for my kid-free week was a chance to give back to my community.  Mikey Max Heals the World is an annual birthday charity event that features local music and supports local causes.  This year the lineup featured some of my friends’ bands, and the charities were organizations I was very happy to support.  My personal highlight was Fort Wilson Riot, who have been featured on this blog several times before.  It had been way too long since I had seen them live.  They have been touring an awful lot in the past year.  Great for them, not so great for me.  In any case, they played a great set of their indie-pop awesomeness.

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I have yet to hear the final total of money raised for the charities, but there was a great turnout.  It is one show that I don’t mind when the audience gets a bit crowded.  I’ll endure a bit of crowding for the knowledge that we’re all there supporting organizations like the Neighborhood Involvement Program (provides health services for the uninsured), Perspectives (supports at-risk families trying to break the cycle of poverty), and the Chicago Avenue Project (a theater mentoring program).

Life gets back to normal tomorrow.  Fewer nights out, more time at the park.  That’s okay too.  There’s plenty of time to read while my girl bikes circles around me.  Maybe I’ll get through this book club pick yet…

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I might not make it out to all the shows that some of my childless (childfree?) friends do, but I can’t help but think it’s a good life.  :)