Monday, December 28, 2009

For Battlestar Galactica fans: Edward Olmos interviews Bear McCreary, Brendan McCreary and Raya Yarbrough

This is very cool. Raya Yarbrough sent this video from Comic-Con 2009 in San Diego to me months ago and I'm just getting around to watching it now. I actually got a little emotional. James is such a sweetheart!

View more news videos at:

For those that care, I am planning on interviewing Bear again as he's got several projects in the works.

Click here to see my interview with Bear McCreary, Battlestar Galactica composer.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

An interview with clarinetist SSgt. Harry Ong of "The President's Own" United States Marine Band

Let me introduce my good friend, Staff Sergeant Harry Ong, a clarinetist in the President's Own United States Marine Band. We went to the University of Michigan School of Music together and spent a good deal of time hanging out in Washington D.C. when I lived there in 2003-2004. He still lives in the Nation's Capital and is in his sixth year playing with the Marine Band.

If you’ve been following my blog for a few months, you know that I like to keep up with what my friends and former classmates are up to musically. It’s been interesting for me personally to watch Harry experience this unique job that is more than a “regular” symphony or band gig (my hat goes off to all them as well). Most of his six years with the Marine Band were spent under the Bush Administration and I think for any Democrat or liberal this mere fact would induce an internal struggle (it certainly would for me). I asked Harry about this many times, and he was always very realistic about his role in the Marine Band and the joy that having such a special patriotic job as a professional musician brings him. I wanted to share his experience with you.

Established by and Act of Congress in 1798, the Marine Band is America’s oldest continuously active professional musical organization. Its primary mission is unique – to provide music for the President of the United States. Harry plays at funerals in Arlington cemetery, marches almost every summer night for the tourists, for VIP’s and dignitaries at the White House and inauguration.

Every fall the Band tours a different part of the lower 48 states and this year they passed through the Bay Area. I did a quick interview with him over drinks after a show at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. These are some of the intelligent (and not so intelligent) questions I had for him.

Jamie: Does Obama have you working more than Bush? (Clinton loved the Marine Band and used them all the time, Bush not so much)

Harry: Well it’s hard to tell because it still early on. It takes about a year for a new administration to find out what they musically want from the Band. I’ve played for events that Obama was at.

J: You played at Inauguration, right?

H: When you saw musicians under the ledge where Obama was standing, that was us. We’ve been very close to him. I looked up and it was present Obama. I looked up, and he was right there with Aretha Franklin with the hat! It was great. I played at the Press Correspondent dinner too. We played before the dinner. We do a patriotic opener, a bunch of marches, we help out with the colors ceremony and then we play the Armed Forces Medley that you heard tonight.

J: That was really moving.

H: Yeah. It’s really great to see all these veterans with their families standing up. We had a concert in central Oregon where we had about ten World War II veterans: a couple of which were at Iwo Jima. It’s really cool to have a role where we get to represent the Marine Corps, America and great Americans like them. You sometimes forget when you watch the news that members of our Armed Forces are people too with families. It’s really interesting to get that perspective.

The Marine Band is the longest continually active musical organization in the country. We’ve always been part of the Marine Corps. All the musicians you saw tonight with the exception of the director are all in the marines. We have a non-combatant role; our mission is to provide music for the President and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It’s a very different experience than Fleet Marine Bands. We all represent the Marine Corps and our country in the best way that we can and we’re all the best at what we do. I competed against fifty other musicians to get one spot. Some other musicians have 100 plus people to compete for one spot. We have a group of fleet marines who graduated in the top five percent of their infantry class and are assigned to our Band to help us out. They are excellent at what they do and we really appreciate them. Each [component of the U.S. military: Army, Navy, Marines] has a premiere band and we are very fortunate have our own stage crew. In some of other bands, the musicians have to be their own stage crew.

J: How did the Band get the name “The President’s Own”?

H: Thomas Jefferson coined the term “The President’s Own.” And that’s stuck ever since. We first performed at the White House in 1801 and then we played at every inauguration since Thomas Jefferson.

J: I notice that there were very few women in the concert tonight. The harpists are usually women and they weren’t playing tonight.

H: The ratio of men to women is 60/40. We only have one harpist and she just had a baby.

J: What’s up with the skirts? (They are long, dark blue and not too stylish.)

H: Well our uniforms are very traditional uniforms from the 1800s.

J: What it’s like to be the face of the military abroad and within the United States?

H: We had a group of musicians that went to Singapore last year to help the Armed Forces Band celebrate their 50th anniversary. In the summer of 2001 the Band performed for the World’s Symphonic Band Conference, it’s sort of like the world cup for bands. When we went there we had such a reputation. It’s an amazing responsibility and it is such a pleasure. I wasn’t there, I was still in college, but I heard we did four encores and the audience wanted more.

J: How do you deal with the political side of being in the Marine Band?

H: When we’re on the job we have to leave our personal beliefs at the door no matter what. We are here to serve for the President regardless of who it is. Personally I have to separate my own personal feelings and what I have to do as a job. Inauguration was a very special thing for me, but I still had a job to do.

Inauguration 2009

I find Harry's attitude towards his job particularly inspiring as a patriot. It's folks like him that make me, as I get older, more and more proud of being an American. I hope you find his experience inspiring as well.

If you want to read more about Harry and his background (especially interesting is his take on being born in Indonesia and his relationship to the United States military), check out this interview with him in the Seattle Pi.

To learn more about the United States Marine Band

Friday, December 25, 2009

A retro Xmas day

I just thought ya'll would get a kick out of this. I did.

In preparation for the more food I'm going to consume today I took a walk around the lovely Lake Merritt in Oakland, California today which I live close to. I wanted to bring some music, so I grabbed my CD player a couple of CDs (Depeche Mode's Music for the Masses and Doves Kingdom of Rust if you must know) and threw them in this awesome cassette tape bag my brother and his fiance gave me for Hanukkah.

Does this make me a hipster, retro or just lazy that my boss gave me her old Nano mp3 player months ago and I've not uploaded my music on it yet?

Also, I own one of these tape players. I do my interviews on them.

Have a lovely day, people.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"21 Guns" sung by the cast of American Idiot and Green Day

For those of you that are wondering about this Green Day musical I've been going on and on about, click here and listen to this track. I am so happy that the awesome vocals of Rebecca Naomi Jones, Christina Sajous and Mary Faber are featured on this track. They have such amazing voices. American Idiot translates so well to the female voice, this is one of the things about this musical that I love so much.

I can't wait to hear the entire recording of this show. The arrangements are incredible. You'll see.

Here's a silly video someone made with the audio track edited over it.


See my article on

Happy ninth night of Hannukah: "Honika Electronica"

I'm celebrating the ninth night of Hannukah with my family tonight, so the part ain't over for me.

This comes from comedian Eric Schwartz

Thanks Boris for posting this!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Monthly Seaweed Sway showcase for a relaxing Sunday evening at the Make-Out Room

Happy Birthday to Dina of Ramon and Jessica!

Sunday nights are for taking it easy and letting your brain have a little bit of a break before the week begins again. Sometimes you feel like staying in, and sometimes you feel like a relaxing night out with mellow music. If you're in the mood for the latter, check out the new Seaweed Sway monthly showcase at the Make-Out room this Sunday the 20th. It's purpose is to build community around local music and and highlight some of the best music in the Bay Area. The organizer is local music, farming and yoga enthusiast Jessie Woletz, and her blog is the Seaweed Sway.

This showcase falls during the holiday season and will be encouraging the festive, so wear your ugly holiday sweaters! I know you have one left over from the last party you went to. Bring a non-perishable (healthy if possible) food item to donate to the San Francisco Food Bank and get $1 off admission as well.

December's showcase will feature some of the best indie/folk/pop music in San Francisco from Garrett Pierce, Kacey Johansing, Ramon & Jessica, and MC'd by Jeremy Dalmas. Stick around for a dance party in honor of Dina Maccabee (of Ramon & Jessica)'s birthday, for those who can stay out late. Come celebrate! Sunday night style, so it starts early, but latecomers are welcome. Doors at 7:30, music at 8 sharp.

UC Berkeley men's a cappella group Noteworthy goes viral with Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"

Since we're all on this Glee/Lady Gaga/Sing Off kick, Bay Area folks will especially appreciate this video of the UC Berkeley men's a cappella group Noteworthy singing Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" with absolutely fabulous entertaining choreography. As of 11:50 PM on December 17, 2009 the video has received 1,072,697 views.

The song features Brian Wang sashaying and singing lead on the verses and Joey Goodknight singing the crap out of the chorus. The performance is from the 9th Annual West Coast A Cappella Showcase on November 13, 2009.

These men deserve some major kudos for dancing with such gusto and channeling their inner divas! GO FOR IT BOYS!

Read More

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lady Gaga concert photos from Monday December 14th in San Francisco

These are photos my friend's Sharon and Jeffrey (who I met waiting in line for RENT) took from about ten feet away from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium stage in San Francisco. I have to give them props for waiting in line for so long to get such a great spot. While you can sure find better professional quality photos, there's something fun in knowing that a regular person with a regular camera can get such a great view.

At the Gaga concert the night before I was hanging out over on the side, not able to see a whole lot. At least the Civic Auditorium has giant digital screen for us short people.

Enjoy! And thanks for letting me post your photos Sharon and Jeffrey!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Lady Gaga fans in San Francisco dress to impress: a photo essay

Yesterday I got a surprise phone call from a friend who had an extra Lady Gag ticket: did I want it? YES!

Yes the show was fun and crazy and WOW what is she wearing now???

I wished that Gaga played a little more piano however. She only tickled the keys for two songs. But, that's okay. I was there for a stage show, and that's what we got.

But the highlight for me was seeing how the fans came out in full force, dressed to the nines, even a Lady of Perpetual Indulgence was in attendance.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chanticleer performs in the Cathedral of Christ the Light: or how I spent my second night of Hannukah

Last night I had the absolute pleasure of attending the barely one-year-old Cathedral of Christ the Light right on Lake Merritt in Oakland for an evening with the Bay Area’s own "orchestra of voices" Chanticleer. The twelve guys are back from touring the country and have already begun their annual Bay Area Christmas concerts.

This is the first time I’ve seen Chanticleer, and what I really love about them (other than their music) is the air of the fun they have. There are jokes in the program bios and smiles all around. I spotted the signature insanely awesome handlebar mustache of eldest member Eric Alatorre and the faux mohawk of soprano Michael McNeil. I see this kind of artistic seriousness coupled with gleeful enjoyment a signature Bay Area attitude and I am reminded how much I love living in this part of the country. I am also proud that these guys (most of them from middle America) represent my little slice of the world when they go out on the road.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

CMASH and Classical Revolution bringing concert music back to the people

A note to my classical/concert musician friends:

If you are into performing music for not just folks in concert halls, please do yourself a favor and check out the organization Classical Revolution. They might put on shows near you.

A note to my composer friends:

Check out CMASH, a Bay Area collective of musicians and composers.


Star of Wicked and Rent, Eden Espinosa shows San Francisco how it's done

Eden Espinosa At the Rrazz Room - photos by Pat Johnson

If you are ever in the market for singers who can really sing, look to musical theater. I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know. If you are a fan of Glee or Adam Lambert, you probably know that all of these people have honed their skills and talents in the world of musical theater.

Luckily for San Francisco, we have the Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko that showcases singers; REAL singers, not the type of cookie cutter vocalists that we have become accustomed to on American Idol. Last Monday, December 7th, the Rrazz Room was graced by the presence of California native, Eden Espinosa, who has set herself apart from the pack singing the roles of Maureen in RENT and Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, Los Angeles and San Francisco. She also starred in the Broadway production of BKLYN (see this gorgeous performance of "One Upon A Time").

On Tuesday Espinosa performed a set list inspired by friends and family, featuring everything from Garbage’s sizzling “I Would Die for You” to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” Unfortunately there was no printed set list and Espinosa didn’t identify many of the songs, so I can’t tell you what else she sang other than a tune from the film An American Tail.


Video: The Swell Season invites Moji to the stage in Houston

This video is a month old and I had seen it a couple weeks ago. But I came across it again and I think it's worth sharing.

The Swell Season performed at Warehouse Live in Houston on November 13, and according to the description on the YouTube tag:
Glen introduced a new song, inviting the audience to sing along. Upon a quick rehearsal of our part, he heard one voice that he dubbed "Aretha" and promptly invited it's owner, Moji to join him onstage. Here is the magical result!

I love when she cues the band to come back in with louder dynamics. She's obviously a pro.

Moji's band: the 2 Dollar Sound

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Evolution of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going": Jennifer Holliday, Jennifer Hudson and Amber Riley from Glee

"I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" has, since the film version of Dreamgirls become the song for divas. American Idol contestants have sung it, Bianca Ryan has sung it, even the Filipina Divas have sung it (and quite well I might add). If you’ve got a big voice, and you want to show it off, you sing this song. You CAN’T sing this song badly, if you do, everyone will notice.

Last night we had the pleasure of hearing Amber Riley sing "And I'm Telling You" on Glee. Gawd, I love her ("Bust Your Windows"? Yeah!). But before Riley and J-Hud, there was Jennifer Holliday. She is the Godmother of them all. Holliday played Effie in the Tony winning production of Dreamgirls in the early 80s.

When Holliday performs this song, it's more like watching an emotional purging. I've never seen a performance like it before, especially the one below at the Tony Awards. You can see and hear the anguish emanating from her. I really enjoy Hudson and Riley's performances of the song, but both are lacking in the way that Holliday makes you feel her pain. Both Hudson and Riley can sing, no doubt about it, but Holliday really embodies the song when she does it.

Let me also just say, if I've done the math correctly, Holliday was the YOUNGEST of the three when she performed the song: she was 21 or 22. Hudson and Riley were a couple years older.

So, without further ado, I give you Jennifer Holliday at the 1982 Tony Awards. Please skip to 3:30 unless you want to see the scene that leads up to the song. She won a Tony for this performance.

Click here to hear Jennifer Hudson and Amber Riley's performance

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A case study of Pomplamoose: 10 tips to be a successful internet musician

Hello all! As an assignment for a potential internship (I'll tell you more when/if I need to) I've been asked to write up a case study about the band Pomplamoose and how they've become a financially successful internet band. I figured this would be a good blog article to have out in the world for posterity and reference, so I'm taking my assignment digital.

Pomplamoose has, in less than two years, become one of the most successful independent bands on the internet: they are in the top 100 most subscribed to musicians on YouTube, they have racked up over 2.5 million hits on their cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and are completely financially self-sustaining; meaning: they don't need day jobs.

Before I explain the various marketing and artistic tactics made by band members Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, I must define "internet musician": what does it mean? According to Nataly, it means "being a bad musician." Yes, there are many musicians that can be found on YouTube that aren't very good; and some have enormous followings. But there are also some very talented people out there and just like the regular traditional music industry, they have to figure out clever ways to rise above the rest. But when the internet is your only resource, you can call your own shots. You don't need a record label. The internet has given musicians and artists ways of connecting with their fans directly: no middle men needed.

Here is the main question: How has Pomplamoose reached the hearts of their fans? And how have they gotten these fans to spend several bucks on mp3s and merch?

This is key: being a successful artist isn't really about being rich and famous, it means being able to devote all of your time to your art, and you need money for that.

The way I see it, all the traditional ways of having a financially successful music career have gone out the window. Pomplamoose has eradicated managers, record labels, promoters, live shows, and even actual CDs. Granted, there are many successful internet bands that use some of these (like CDs and playing live), but Pomplamoose has left all of these behind. They've only played live twice and they don't even have a physical CD you can purchase, all of their music is digital.

If you want to be a successful "internet musician," take one of these 10 tips from the Pomplamoose model:

(much of this information I got directly from the mouth of Nataly and Jack in this interview)

1. Be good at what you do
Just watch a Pomplamoose video. They are are great fun, and the music is good enough to take offline and listen to when you're not looking at YouTube. Nataly has a gorgeous voice and her harmonies are well constructed. Jack's musical abilities are varied, well thought out and the mixing and editing is flawless.

2. Make interesting videos that people want to watch over and over again

Pomplamoose works in a new medium called "VideoSong" and it has two rules:

1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).

Snarkmarket has a very good discussion of the characteristics of Pomplamoose's VideoSong and why it is so enticing to viewers:
-Nor­mal duds, nor­mal envi­ron­ment. No span­dex, no fog machine.

- Gear. Lots of it.

- Sub­di­vi­sion of the video frame: over­lap­ping tracks visu­al­ized as over­lap­ping views.

- Per­for­mance! This isn’t just a hid­den cam­era in the stu­dio. It’s nat­ural, it’s unpretentious—but it’s still a performance.

[Pomplamoose's VideoSong] is show­ing us a com­pli­cated, vir­tu­oso per­for­mance, but mak­ing it really clear and acces­si­ble at the same time. It’s enter­tain­ing, but it’s also an exer­cise in demystification—which of course is exactly the oppo­site objec­tive of every music video, ever. Their pur­pose has been to mys­tify, to mas­quer­ade, to mythol­o­gize in real-time.
This demystification is one of the most powerful tools that Pomplamoose and other video bloggers use. Music lovers crave something "real" which is why if they think your music is good AND they like you as a real person, you've got a way in.

3. Be charming: make viewers care about you
This is true of any successful blogger (video or regular blogger). You have to be cute, funny or on the flipside, totally horrible. Either way, you have to present yourself in a way that people will want to keep coming back to see what you're doing and what you have to say. Fans think of the musician/blogger as their friend, someone they'd want to hang out with. Nataly and Jack are the most adorable couple: she is a smart self-deprecating cutie-pie who likes cereal. Jack is a goofy multi-instrumental smartypants who is obviously totally in love with his girlfriend. They have amazing musical chemistry as well as a social chemistry that you can see when they sit in front of their computer and chat.

4. Use several sites to spread the word - variety is key
Pomplamoose is on: YouTube, twitter, myspace, facebook, digg, iTunes, E-junkie and I'm sure many others. It's true that the average person is probably only on a couple of these sites, but many of these services are free, so why not take the time to set up and account. Nataly and Jack said that two-thirds of their sales come from iTunes and the other third comes from E-junkie. But they like E-junkie better because you can post a song immediately and E-junkie takes a smaller cut than iTunes.

5. Encourage fans to help shape the band's identity
Nataly and Jack have asked their fans to contribute designs for virtual album covers and t-shirt designs. Many of these designs can be found online for all to see, for example as the Pomplamoose myspace profile picture. People love to see their own names in print, they also love to see hard work acknowledged and available for others to see. Fans eat that up, it makes them feel truly appreciated by the musician.

6. Offer free stuff
Covers must be free due to copyright issues; Pomplamoose has used this to their advantage. Nataly and Jack put just as much work and time into covers as they put into their originals. I downloaded all of the free Pomplamoose mp3's off of E-junkie. If I decide to spend another $10 or so to get the originals, it would feel like a 2 for 1 deal. I also want to support my "friends" so that they can keep making more music that I love.

Covers also get viewers who aren't fans yet to take a peek. I saw "Single Ladies" posted on facebook, and since I like the song, I was curious about a cover. Unlike some other artists I've come across, Pomplamoose's originals are just as good, if not better than their covers. So if a viewer is impressed with the originals after seeing a cover, he or she will be more likely to spend a little bit of cash.

7. Get creative with your merch
There has been Pomplamoose soap (handmade by Jack's sister) and dongles (flashdrives). Who else sells stuff like that? They told me that they'd like to do more merch sales that help support and promote artists and craftspeople. Both the soap and dongles completely sold out and were sent to 30 countries. People LOVE to support Pomplamoose. Their fans are very loyal.

8. Have an online network of artists to interact with
I really love watching bloggers have some sort of relationship. Pomplamoose are fans of Julia Nunes and talk her up on YouTube. Julia and Pomplamoose talk to each other through their YouTube videos and fans can watch these coversations. Pomplamoose goes to Julia's house and produces some tunes with her. They make a video about it. Julia's fans mesh with Pomplamoose's fans. It's a big love fest. Nataly and Jack really think of YouTube as a community, they get crap for it, but it makes sense to me.

9. No need to make a big push to play live
Pomplamoose has only played twice in the last two years, this is one of the main things that set them apart from almost every other band. They played their second show ever at the Brainwash Cafe last month in in San Francisco. There literally wasn't enough room for everyone who showed up and folks were outside on the sidewalk.

Pomplamoose has fans all over the world. Until they're financially successful enough to tour extensively, they'll focus on what they do best: videos. Also, preparing to play live is a whole other skill and takes up a good amount of time, so they have chosen not focus on that.

10. Keep it interesting, change it up
I was actually wondering where Pomplamoose was heading and what they might have in store for the future. The VideoSong format is really cool, but it might be losing some of its novelty value. "Come on! Keep impressing me" says the fan. But then I checked Pomplamoose's twitter feed: They're looking for horn players. Nice. Step it up! I don't know how they're all going to fit in Jack's little recording studio, but it will be interesting.

There are many other ways to be a successful "internet musician." One of my favorites is Kina Grannis. She's got another style all together and each musician will. But you have to cover all of your bases so that you win the hearts (and pocket books) of your fans. As I said earlier, being a successful artist isn't about being rich and famous, it means being able to devote all of your time to your art, and you need money for that. If your fans really love you, they will support you.

I mean, look at this video they made me just because I asked...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Obama on Mel Brooks at the Kennedy Center Honors

Obama said, quoting Mel Brooks in his own words:

"Look at Jewish history, unrelieved lamenting would be intolerable, so out of every ten Jews god designed one to be crazy and amuse the others. By the time I was five I knew I was that one."

Obama commented that most of the best Mel Brooks quotes are unfit to be mentioned at the ceremony. (He must have been talking about, "hey, where the white women at?" Or "excuse me while I whip this out!")

The President also said that he saw Blazing Saddles when he was ten, well under the age limit for the associated rating at the time. You will not convince me that this movie, about a black man taking a leadership position and proving his success with a heroic intelligence, did not leave a lasting impression on the 10-year-old Barack Obama.

There is just something so poignant and beautiful about that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

By Area Girls Rock Camp Silent Auction round up

Poison Apple Pie: Emmalee, Torrey and Jasmine

Just wanted to report that the fundraiser was a success! I don't know how much money was raised, but there were over 65 pieces of art donated and most of them were bid on. Everything I donated was sold which is very excited for me! Thanks again Jen, Lauren, Jemal, Jessica, Diana and Erin .

Poison Apple Pie played a fabulous set including "Superman" by R.E.M., "21 Guns" by Green day, "Don't Stop Believin" by Journey (complete with the intro that Torrey and I worked on last week), and originals "I Need a Chainsaw," "Flying Swines of Doom" and my favorite, "I Don't Want to Hug You." The last one sounds like a 1960s garage band tune. They've just been getting better and better and better. I can't believe they are all only 12.

I sold two lessons, one to someone I know and one to someone I don't know. Should be interesting!

Anyway, everyone did a fabulous job and I am very happy to have been part of it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Tore My Heart": best "So You Think You Can Dance" performance of the night, a tune by Bay Area Girls Rock Camp volunteer Oona Garthwaite

If you saw So You Think You Can Dance last night, you saw Jakob Karr and Ellenore Scott give everyone goosebumps with the modern choreography of Sonya Tayeh. The performance received a standing ovation from the audience as well as from all three judges making them freak out quite a bit (there was a lot of screaming). Nigel called the performance "fabulous" and his "favorite routine of the season." See the video below.

But I'm not going to talk about the dancing; I'm a music writer! I will say, however that it was moving performance, especially when Jakob and Ellenore walked forehead-to-forehead across the stage at the beginning. The habanera rhythm used in the song - like the aria with the same title from the 19th century opera Carmen by Georges Bizet - really lends itself to modern dance. I love it when traditional pieces of musical composition fit right into modern pop culture. Ellenore and Jakob used the Cuban rhythm to undulate across the floor. The pauses in the song also add to the drama of the performance, which Sonya Tayeh's choreography brilliantly mirrored.

click here to enjoy a video of the performance.

OONA is the magical pairing of singer/keyboardist/lyricist Oona Garthwaite and drummer/songwriter/jack-of-all-trades Dave Tweedie. Their music is what I call electro-soul-pop, yes, I just made up a genre. But think of it: soulful vocals with a pop mentality that makes you want to shake your booty. Oh, just listen to some of their music!

The song is now available on iTunes. Congrats guys!

Oona Garthwaite volunteers with me at the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Some kickass Bay Area music: My First Earthquake, B and Not B and Dina Maccabee

Wednesday night I'm going to have to try my best to see all three of these bands, but I'll settle for two. They'll play again. I've known Dina Maccabee for years and am super psyched to see her fronting her own band for a change. B and Not B and My First Earthquake are new to me but am happy to have gotten to know them recently.

For those of you in the Bay Area, come check out these bands and/or keep them on your radar for future gigs. Those of you not in the Bay Area, check them out anyway! Support independent music.


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