Showing posts with label rhythm and blues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rhythm and blues. Show all posts

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Outside Lands Fest Day 3 highlights: Italians, Africans, Bluegrass, and STEVIE WONDER

Stevie with one of his insanely hot backup singers.

Another year, another Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park. I (happily, these things are tiring) didn't get there all three days, but was surprised with a VIP ticket to Sunday, which was the BEST day to be there. Two words: STEVIE WONDER.

But first things first. We got there early to see this Italian dude Jovanotti, who was SUPER fun. His fabulously hooky song "Tutto L'Amore Che Ho" was featured on the festival's site and I just had to  see what his deal was.


Turns out this guy can rock a crowd, hard. His energy was infectious, reminding me of Manu Chao, like this video...



Toward the end Jovanotti popped down into the crowd (which was WAY smaller than what he usually plays for in Europe, I'm sure) and sang to us. Not bad for high noon.  I enjoyed seeing the sort of folks who knew who he was, and would get to the festival so early to see him.



"We usually play for three hours" Jovanotti said in the cutest Italian accent, "So we're trying to give you the highlights in forty minutes!


After some fried pickes from the Fabulous Frickle Brothers, we came across Dr. Flotsam's Hell Brew Revue, returning bigger and better than last year. "It's an extraordinary setup, envisioned and handmade by an artist named Mike Shine and his posse of Carny Bastards to evoke a family carnival ambience." (SFWeelkly blog)


And guess who was playing? The Brother's Comatose (a fabulous local bluegrass band)! And I later found out that's where The California Honeydrops and Tumbleweed Wanderers had been playing all weekend, to pretty large crows! I'm glad that local bands got to play for the throngs in such a fun and quirky spot.


Then we caught some of Caveman's brooding set, who I became familiar with after NPR featured them on one of their Tiny Desk Concerts. I love that their guitars are made by one of the band members and I love that dude's outfit. (Yes, I had some fun with the color saturation.)



And then it was onto Amadou & Mariam. The other highlight of the day for me. I've been wanting to see this Malian couple perform live since I first heard about them in grad school. My afropop ensemble covered a couple of their tunes (with varying success, this music is complicated!) And they did not disappoint! 

A totally oversaturated photo of Amadou y Mariam. With those colors I couldn't resist 



And then it was onto Mr. Stevie Wonder. HOLY SHIT. It was all I could have wanted. I mean the dude walked out onto stage with a freaking KEYTAR. He played all the hits, even the corny ones. That's OK Stevie, we'll let that go, because you can do whatever you want. Really WHATEVER you want. You're Stevie Wonder.


He really did whatever he wanted. It was pretty obvious that the band was pretty used to Stevie changing the order of the setlist, calling out keys and songs, and teaching them (Beatles) songs on the fly. Everyone was having a ball.

Aisha Morris, Stevie's daughter is second from the right.
I was particularly mesmerized (as I often am) by his backup singers. Not only were they too hot for words, but Aisha Morris, STEVIE'S DAUGHTER, is one of them. 

I heard that Metallica (who played the night before) was really fun, but I'll catch them next time. Two more artists checked off the bucket list: Stevie and Amadou & Mariam. w00t!

This is a cool photo of the Wine Land's tent. It's just purdy.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

'The Blues Brothers' (playlist!), 'Stand by Me' and Oakland's Paramount Theater

the lobby of the Paramount Theater
The Paramount Theater in Oakland is one of my favorite places to be. Not only is it incredibly gorgeous, I've seen two of my most favorite movies there this summer: 'Stand by Me' and 'the Blues Brothers' FOR FIVE BUCKS!

CLICK TO LISTEN TO MY 'BLUES BROTHERS' SPOTIFY PLAYLIST (or click play at the bottom of this post)

Both of these movies have two of my most favorite soundtracks of all time. So there has been lots of singing. There has also been boo'ing, cheering and lots giggling. There is something so wonderful about seeing a movie that is near and dear to your heart with a room full of people that love it too.

Check it out for yourself! All movies on Friday nights, 8pm, $5.

July 13 - Apollo 13
August 3 - Ghostbusters
August 17 - Close Encounters of the Third Kind
September 7 - An American Werewolf in London
September 28 - The Breakfast Club

I've blogged about this before, but the Paramount also does tours every first and third Saturdays of the month, also for $5. See my slide show here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Etta James dies at 73, a goodbye to one of the all time greats

I just like looking at her. She was so unique.

Etta James is, to me, the pinnacle of Soul music. As a singer, she is one of my favorites of all time. She nails the growling as well as the silky smooth. After learning her story and seeing her live she became even more inspiring.




Etta was someone with a rage to live as well as a "rage to survive" (The name of her Autobiography with David Ritz, which I highly recommend). She lived hard and lived surprisingly long for all that she put her body through. As a child she was abused, neglected and passed from one person to another. Her music reflected all this. You can feel it. This was not a person who lacked a story to tell. She didn't lack personality. This is sass in all its glory.

As a woman, she pushed some major boundaries. She was physically relatively large. She had a huge voice that was powerful in its sexuality and passion, something that made mid-century white mainstream America uncomfortable.

As a woman she is inspiring to me, balancing power, passion and femininity. I've realized that I hold most singers to this standard. To me she is perfection. Her music is perfection.



Yes, Etta had demons. And she overcame them, with a little help from friends like the Chess Brothers. While reading "Rage to Survive" I was moved by their relationship. While the biopic "Cadillac Records" capitalized off of this relationship in the Hollywood way, Etta credited Leonard Chess for saving her. For instance she had given him possession to the deed of her home in Compton, so even when she was totally down and out, she still had a place to sleep and had something to call her own.

I know it's cheesy, but this is the song I will be singing at my wedding.



Anyway, I wanted to pay this lovely lady a tribute on the day of her death.

Thank you Etta, for all of your music

For all your pain, for all your joy, your passion

Thank you for sharing that with the world.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dance off your pants with the California Honeydrops at their biggest Bay Area show and CD release

When was the last time you heard a groove so good you wanted to boogie all night? Last week I checked out the new Chasing the Moon podcast and have been shakin' it ever since. The California Honeydrops will be dropping their third album Spreadin' Honey at the New Parish in Oakland next Friday. It promises to be quite a party with non-stop dancing, bbq and, my sources tell me, honey dripping from the walls.

"Our mission, says band leader Lech Wierzynski (who sings, plays trumpet and guitar), "is to get the whole crowd participating and singing along, and we want them partying. It's about feeling good - everybody together."

Honeydrops fans are not just a necessary piece of the puzzle in terms of music making, but in the success of the band from a business side. The band has just returned from a tour of Holland (read about it here) where their Dutch friends helped them book shows through word of mouth. Later this month the Honeydrops will tour Spain, the Pacific Northwest and Eastern Europe. The band is not signed, and therefore relies on fundraising to pay for albums. The new album Spreadin' Honey was funded by a benefit at the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley.

READ MORE HERE

California Honeydrops @ Chasing The Moon 06.26.10 from Scott McDowell on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

'Cadillac Records': a review


I am a huge fan of biopics. It's very exciting to see the lives of real people illuminated in front of you. Knowing too much about the historical reality of their lives can get in the way however. Hollywood, as we all know, likes to "Hollywoodize" biopics: twisting and tweeking the details of lives to make them more interesting to the viewer.

I figure, you have to get over that. But sometimes it's hard.

Take the movie Cadillac Records: a biopic about the legendary rhythm & blues record label Chess Records. The movie stars Adrian Brody as Leonard Chess, Beyonce as Etta James, Cedric the Entertainer as Big Willie Dixon and Mos Def as Chuck Berry. I enjoyed seeing these notorious musicians come to life, but it was really hard for me to get past some of the added Hollywood aspect.

I cannot help but compare this movie to Dream Girls, but the big difference is that Dream Girls was an intact musical before it was ever a movie. And, even though everyone knows that the movie is based on the record label Motown, it's highly fictionalized.

In the film Etta James and Leonard Chess have an adulterous relationship that challenges racial stereotypes and employer/employee boundaries. As far as I know this is a fabrication, and it bothers me. I wonder what Etta herself had to say about it? I DO know that Etta was pissed that Beyonce got to sing "At Last" at Barack Obama's inauguration and not her...

I was also bothered by the character of Leonard Chess and the ABSENCE of his brother, Phil. It was the Chess Brothers that started and ran the label, it wasn't a one-man operation. But alas, Leonard was the more colorful character. He was a crude-mouthed, smart-ass and the role only brought that out in a very minor way.


Rich Cohen's The Record Men is a fabulous recount of the Chess story. Leonard Chess is quoted all over the book and his words are something right out of a Mel Brooks comedy routine.

"How to you celebrate a hit? You go to the bank, schmuck!"

or

"Who knew you could strike it rich with a few schvartzas and a reel-to-reel?

I imagine the producers consciously toned down... scratch that... DELETED the ugly money-grubbing Jewish Stereotype that was Leonard Chess. I guess as a Jewish person I appreciate that, but I still miss the personality.

What I did love about the film was much of what I simply love about the story in general:
  • Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf's frenemies relationship
  • Etta James' dramatic and traumatic life (her autobiography Rage to Survive stresses the fact that she owes Leonard Chess for keeping her alive and keeping her house)
  • Howlin Wolf's devotion to his band (he always made sure they got paid fairly)
  • Leonard Chess' devotion to his musicians (he took care of many of them, heightening his "White Daddy" status)
  • Muddy Water's womanizing
  • How the Rolling Stones loved and respected Muddy Waters like a god.

Chess Records has a fascinating story, and while I don't agree with some of the "Hollywood" type additions, I do feel that the essence of the label is treated fairly and with great respect in the movie Cadillac Records.