Sunday, November 29, 2009

Local Bay Area artists featured in silent auction: Proceeds go to Bay Area Girls Rock Camp

Print by Jen Oaks

Artists and musicians are cut from the same cloth, but how often do the two communities get to directly support each other? Dozens of Bay Area artists have donated handmade items to raise money for the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp in a silent auction occurring this coming Friday, December 4th 7-10pm at Local 123 in Berkeley.

Just in time for the holidays, there will be everything from handmade earrings and jam to paintings, prints and sculptures. Check out the slideshow for a sneak peak. Homemade items can be special holiday gifts! Many items will start bidding at $10.

I'm auctioning off 4 music lessons starting at $20 each. Been meaning to pick up that guitar? Want to learn some piano? Always wanted to learn about African music? Bollywood? I can probably teach you about it.

These are some of the pieces that my friends Jessica, Erin, Diana, Jemal, Jen and Lauren donated. THANK YOU SO MUCH GUYS! I am so grateful that you are helping to support Girls Rock Camp, an organization that I have put so much of my own time and energy into.

Click here to read the article on and check out the slideshow of some of the other art that will be there (I think my friends donated the best stuff, but I'm biased).

Also, "my" girls, Poison Apple Pie will be performing at the event. It's been so much fun to see Emalee, Jasmine and Torrey progress as a band. Can't wait to see what they're going to play.

Homemade Peach and Strawberry jam by Diana Kowalsky (I made the labels)

earrings by Jessica Hilberman

Painting by Erin Wapple

Doodles by Jemal Diamond

A holiday playlist that doesn't suck: Christmas and a couple Channukah songs!

Thanksgiving has officially come and gone, and now I feel the time is appropriate to start talking about Christmas and Channukah. I think many would agree with me that before Thanksgiving, it's really just too early.

After scouring the Internet, reading blogs, looking at iTunes playlists and asking friends I've compiled an extensive list of holiday songs that don't suck (according to me). This list includes classics that never get old, sarcastic songs, punk covers, indie covers, funny songs and even a handful of Channukah songs that I feel are appropriate and don’t cross that cheese ball line. (I’ve placed them at the bottom of the list.)

Please feel free to share more. I want this list to serve as a resource for retailers to keep their employees from ripping their ears out, or folks who want to make a soundtrack to a party where people might actually have a good time. I’ve also included links to CD compilations (click on the captions under the images) and iTunes playlists that are acceptable.

Click here to see the list of 64 songs. Everything from Alvin and the Chipmunks and 2 Live Jew to Eartha Kitt and Sufjan Stevens.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Adam Lambert doesn't stand alone as openly gay male pop star: six musicians to check out

I wasn’t going to broach the subject of Adam Lambert's "coming out" into mainstream pop culture post-American Idol , but after hearing and reading reactions all across the board I had to get my two cents in. I, sometimes painfully, sat through most of the American Music Awards and can’t believe the media is getting their panties in a bundle over this. Nevermind, I can believe it, that’s what the media does. I guess I’m part of that, eh?

In the midst of all this Prop-8 nonsense, I do believe it is the double standard that is to blame. But there are two double standards at work here: that of gender and that of sexuality. As many have said before me the Britney Spears/Madonna kiss was okay with the media. They are both straight women. If Melissa Etheridge pulled what Adam Lambert did, I think there would have been a similar noise. Blatant homosexuality is threatening to mainstream media. This we know.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Band to check out: At Dusk

My favorite band photo of all time: At Dusk - Will, Greg and Cary

This post is coming to you about a year late, I should have blogged about the band At Dusk as soon as I started this blog. I'm sure one of the reasons you read this blog is so you can find out of about new and maybe obscure bands. I've been off writing about Green Day and musicals and other stuff. But here's a very cool band that sadly is no longer together, but one of the great things about music is that if it's new to you, it's still new.

At Dusk is Will Hattman, Greg Borenstein and Cary Clarke, three of my good friends from high school. I've actually known Will since first great. I remember him blowing his nose *really* loudly when he was 6 or 7. Sorry Will, I had to mention it.

I sang with Will and Cary in high school choir and am very happy to report they have spent the last 10 years since graduation playing music together, even through attending different colleges. The last several years they lived in Portland making music, lots of it. Four albums worth actually. I have all of them. At Dusk took themselves on tour in 2004 and stayed with me in Washington, D.C., where they got mugged on my street. Sorry about that guys, at least it made for a good story.

Will is still living in Portland, Greg has gone to grad school in NY and Cary moved up to Seattle. They've left behind a really cool album called Small Light. It's more acoustic than their previous sound, and while I've really liked the previous ones, I haven't played them over and over again like I have this one. Small Light really has an over-arching acoustic mostly percussionless groove to it of interlocking guitar rhythms that get under your skin.

Check out At Dusk's myspace page and listen to the song "Okays." I really can't get enough of this song. I love the vocal melody - I'm a super fan of Will's voice, but I'm biased. I love the Kennedy reference too. "Loose Tooth" is really cool too; a dance-y number that I bet these Sonic Youth loving intellectuals never thought they would write.

I remember Cary's girlfriend once called their music "avant-garde art rock." I guess that's a good way to explain it. CD Baby calls it American Underground Rock. Prog rock would work too. It's definitely smart people music. There's complicated rhythms, bizarre harmonies and interlocking melodies going on here. I know that At Dusk takes a good amount of inspiration from gypsy/roma music as well as bands like Sonic Youth. You're smart reader, you should take a listen.

Unfortunately they don't have anything up on the myspace page from any of the previous albums, so if you're so inclined, go to At Dusk's cdbaby site and listen to some clips there. My favorites have been the awesomely schizophrenic "You Make me Worry" off of Heights and "Forver Ago" off You Can Know Danger.

Again, to listen here is At Dusk's myspace page (the have a flier up as the profile pic of their freshman yearbook photos) the At Dusk website and the CDbaby page. I think you can also download on itunes.

I know they would appreciate it if I filled you in quickly on what they're working on now. This is Will's new hard rock band Jana Osta. Greg is geeking out at Tisch in New York City studying communications technologies with the ITP program, here's his blog. Both Greg and Cary were working very hard to get PDX Pop Now! up and running in Portland. It's a non-profit that celebrates the music of Portland in an all-ages setting.

Give the guys some love even though they're not playing together anymore. I'm sure they'll have a reunion arena tour one day when they're old and wrinkled. It'll be cute.

Okay I kind of love this picture too. Three man racquetball, gotta love it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Green Day and "American Idiot" Berkeley Rep Cast to Record New Version Single "21 Guns"

This is only the beginning of the staged production of American Idiot's rise in popularity.

According to cast member and star John Gallager, Jr's twitter the cast of American Idiot at the Berkeley Rep went into the studio yesterday to record "21 Guns" with Green Day. It is rumored that the production will spread onto Broadway and the big screen.

Personally I'm looking forward to the cast recording of American Idiot. The arrangements are spectacular. I saw the show opening night just over two months ago. READ MY REVIEW HERE and can't quite remember who sings "21 Guns" (it might have been one of the female characters), but the cast was terrific and it's bound to be good.

Green Day's singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong is producing the track, which will hit the radio at the end of November and be made available for purchase through all digital retailers. With bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool the band will also shoot a video for “21 Guns” with the American Idiot cast. The digital version of the "21 Guns" has gone platinum, selling more than one million downloads, while the video won three 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in September, including “Best Rock Video.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scenes From An Alternate Universe Where The Beatles Accepted Lorne Michaels’ Generous Offer

Imagine a world where the Beatles continue to make music well into the 80s and 90s and work to change the world for the better - together - until they were old men.

Thanks Greg for tweeting about this. It made me way too emotional for a Wednesday morning. But I loved it!


My favorite part: A battle of the bands on the Muppet Show with the Electric Mayhem:
The episode [where the Beatles appear] is the highest rated episode of The Muppet Show in the show’s history and the most watched television program of the entire year, beating even the news coverage of the 1980 American presidential election. The undisputed highlight of the episode is the “battle of the bands” between the Beatles and the Electric Mayhem (although Starr says his duet with Fozzie the Bear remains his personal favorite moment). Jim Henson would later say that the Beatles episode “rejuvenated” his joy in working on the show, which by that point he had begun to feel was growing stale: the show continues for another seven seasons.
Read the rest here

(I'm noticing that I post a good deal about Muppets... interesting)

What's your favorite karaoke song to sing?

Had a fun conversation last night about favorite karaoke songs. Andy, if you check this I'm expecting you to respond! I like the soulful lady songs. My recent favorites to sing are:

- "Midnight train to Georgia" - Gladys Knight and the Pips. When I can I get some Pips on stage with me, make the song way more fun

- "Livin on a Prayer" - Bon Jovi. I can hit those high notes and people are impressed! And everyone knows this song, so they sing along, dependiny mostly on how late in the evening it is and how much people have been drinking.

- "Piece of My Heart" - Janis Joplin. I like Erma Franklin's (Aretha's sister) version of this song, she did it first. And some of her phrasings are fun. But I still like trying to howl like Janis, although I certainly don't do it as well.

- "Son of a Preacher Man" by Dusty Springfield. Again, people know this one, so folks sing along.

What are you favorite songs to sing at Karaoke?

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Touch Me" From Spring Awakening on the View

Okay, hopefully my obsession with this show is nearing an end. But I've watched this video so many times I just had to share it with you. And yes, I saw the show again in Sacramento last weekend. I wanted my parents and friend from out of town to see it.

While there are plenty of good songs in this show, for some reason this performance of "Touch Me" on The View has become my favorite.

Spring Awakening takes place in the 1890s, and while many of the buttoned-up/prude Victorian era-like themes are present in the show, the main theme, teenage sexuality, is something that is very much present today. I was 14 once, I remember thinking about it all the time. What it's like? Who will I have it with? When? Who is having sex? Is it like in the movies?

At this point in the show, Moritz, played by John Gallagher Jr. has asked his friend Melchior, played by Jonathan Groff to tell him what he knows about sex (he's not had sex yet, he just reads a lot). And they sing about it, of course, it's a musical.

This is a beautiful song and the lead characters are great, but it's the performance of the secondary characters that just stop me dead in my tracks. First you hear the sweet, sensitive, rich voice of Gideon Glick. Then a second solo by Brian Charles Johnson, with a rockish, raspy voice (now in the cast of American Idiot and whom I'm trying to get an interview with). And then, oh-my-god, Skylar Astin and his amazing solo. The hair-do might fool you, but don't let it. This kid can sing.

Anyway, enjoy. I now release my obsession, hopefully soon to move to something else worthy of my attention.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Presenting The Cathedral of Christ the Light: a new stunning venue for choral and organ music

Today my parents and I stopped into The Cathedral of Christ the Light located about half-a-mile from my house. This cathedral was under construction when I moved to Oakland over two years ago and it opened a little over a year ago. I went inside soon after it opened and thought it would be a good place for music, but was disappointed by the lack of music on the calendar. Well, today, I found the schedule and I'm so excited about a venue like this being so close to my house!

For those of you that know me, you know that I'm a nice Jewish girl that LOVES music about Jesus. No apologies here! For those of you that are new to this blog, get used to it (I wrote my Master's report on the commercialization of gospel music).

Check out my article and see what amazing concerts the Bay Area has in store: Bach, Rachmaninoff (The Vespers! Hear a selection down below) and choirs like Chanticleer and the Oakland Symphony Chorus as well as groups that I didn't know about like the Pacific Boys Choir and the California State University East Bay Singers.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Interview with Pomplamoose!

Hello everyone! Last week I got to do an interview with the band Pomplamoose. They are sweet genuine people and I learned so much from them. I posted an interview in three parts on Check it out.

I wanted to stress that if you are a musician or have friends that are struggling musicians, tell them to read this interview (at least the first two parts). Nataly and Jack of Pomplamoose are supporting themselves on their mp3 sales! Of course they are also talented and charming, but they've made the internet really work for them. They're doing so well they're even looking for a personal assistant to help them with day-to-day administrative tasks.

If you are in the Bay Area next weekend, Pomplamoose will be playing a show at the Brainwash Cafe on Friday November 13th.

Read the interview

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

And now, a special 'hello' to all of you at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

"Spring Awakening" addresses teenage sexuality in a buttoned up era

What young men do with all that pent up sexual energy: JUMP!

Teenage sex, masturbation, abortion, child abuse, suicide... sounds like another night of bad television right? Wrong. Spring Awakening is a musical based on a play by the same title by Frank Wedekind that was banned in 1891 for portraying all of these situations, many of them graphically.

Western society has come a long way since the Victorian era of zipped lips (and flies) when it came to sexuality. I figure, it was hard enough being a teenager in the 1990s when we had sex ed and 90210 to teach us, what must it have been like in the1890s when kids had nothing?

Right now, Spring Awakening is playing in Sacramento at the Community Center Theater just until November 15th. In 2007, Spring Awakening received eleven Tony Award nominations, winning eight, including best musical, direction, book, score and featured actor.


Taylor Trensch as Moritz

Christy Altomare as Wendla and Jake Epstein as Melchior

T.R. Knight stars in "Parade": a sobering reminder of Red/Blue State politics, racism and anti-semtism. Jamie's Dad reports

T.R. Knight stars as Leo Frank in "Parade"

This blog entry was written my my Dad, Jeff. Every so often I ask him to write a review of a show he's seen in Los Angeles. Check out his review of "Howling Blues & Dity Dogs."

Who was Leo Frank? No, he was not Ann Frank’s father. And, while he was also a Jew, he was an American and not a German. And no, he did not die at the hands of the Nazis. He was lynched by Georgia whites in 1917 for a murder he may not have committed and after the Georgia Governor had reduced his sentence from death by hanging to life imprisonment.

Why are we talking about Leo Frank? It’s because the play with music Parade is currently being performed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles . Fresh from runs in New York and London, where, respectively, it won a Tony award and was nominated for an Olivier award, an ensemble of about two dozen talented men and women deliver a powerful performance of this “musical” about a subject which, although almost 100 years old, still has relevance today in our “red state vs. blue state” reality.

Here’s a quick summary of the story...


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brad in Namibia and his field recordings

My good friend Brad is a couple months into his two year Peace Corps Adventure. He is living in a small isolated city called Luderitz on the Namibian coast (the country directly north of South Africa on the Atlantic Ocean) located pretty close to the South African boarder. He's described the terrain there as being like the moon.

Brad has been assigned to teach at a Diaz Primary School grades 5-7 and, being a musician, he's going to start an afterschool music program!

Even though mail takes a whole month to get there, I'm going to send him some classroom materials and makeshift instruments. It has to be something relatively small, good for kids and inexpensive. What can I send? A good idea I've heard are kazoos. What else?

Also, Brad brought recording equipment to capture the sounds of this adventure. The hope was that he could make recordings of musicians who might not have access to recording equipment. So far he's recorded Peace Corps songs that he learned during his language and cross cultural training. The sounds quality is *amazing*, this is commercial quality. They are choral songs that remind me very much of South African choral songs.

Brad will be posting his recordings on his blog and you can listen to these Namibian Peace Corp song recordings here.

Please follow Brad's adventures in the Peace Corps. There is a link to his blog in my blog roll over there on the right. He's also posting video as well.

on top of Diamentberg (Diamond Mountain)