Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Come "Water the Fields"

The folks at ROSA LOVES have designed an exclusive t-shirt based on the story of Hananasif Orphanage. My friend Hannah's friend Kat Costello brought Hananasif's story to the attention of ROSA LOVES, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing awareness to social needs within our community through creative t-shirt designs.


Cool, eh?

You can read Kat's experience at Hananasif and purchase a t-shirt at http://rosaloves.com/stories/waterthefields.

A percentage of t-shirt sales will go to support Hananasif.

Thanks to Kat for sharing her Hananasif experience with ROSA LOVES:)

So... go buy a t-shirt! I just did;)

Melissa

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

my other conversion

So I have a confession. As many of you know I have recently become mildly obsessed with the music of Sara Bareilles, after months of being too cool for it.

Allow me to chronicle my inevitable conversion.

The first time I paid any attention to her was when my sister bought her “Little Voice” CD while we were at Virgin Megastore awhile back. I had just bought some old school Bob Dylan and Van Morrison albums, and was not in the mood for the next pop star. I heard the first pounding ascending bass notes of Sara’s in her famous “Love Song,” and thought “hmph, cool” but then I shrugged and put my iPod headphones on to drown out her music. I was simply not interested in what I had deemed in my snooty mind to be polished, commercialized music so I shut it out.

The next time I heard her name was Australia Day at Outback Steakhouse, when Matt was trying to explain to me why “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat was a terrible song by comparing it to the ingenuity of “Love Song.” Honestly, other than that first G minor chord intro, I hadn’t really taken the time to listen to “Love Song” beyond that, so I kind of just stared blankly back at Matt.

This was also the evening we all watched the movie “Once” together, and Matt once again tried to convince me of the awesomeness of Love Song, which I immediately rejected, especially after Matt started pounding away on our couch pillows, playing the song on air piano.

Now allow me to say that I realize that this song has been topping the charts since last summer, but since I rarely listen to radio I was of course light years behind the rest of society in terms of popular music.

Next, I saw Sara briefly interviewed on Ellen DeGeneres’s show, although I don’t recall her playing after the interview. She didn’t seem to be a typical pop star… she seemed fairly down-to-earth and it appeared that she worked very hard to get where she was—6 years of playing out and touring before anybody took notice. She toured with Aqualung, Mika and Rocco DeLuca and the Burden. Also my sister mentioned to me that she co-headlined a tour with Jon McLaughlin, which automatically made her ten times cooler in my mind. So I started warming up, having been introduced to her tour credentials.

Finally, one evening I borrowed my sister’s car because I didn’t trust the windshield wipers on my car to handle the rain that had been falling all night. Also my dashboard light fuse was blown, which makes driving at night in the rain much scarier. Anyway, in a fit of spontaneity, I decided to take the long way home, and cranked up disc 1 in Miriam’s disc changer and it happened to be… yep, you guessed it… Sara Bareilles.

I could blame it on the slow and steady rain, the unexpected route through winding side streets of Orlando or the mood I was in. But whatever the reason, I was instantly converted.


I actually listened to the lyrics this time and heard the playful wit and take-charge tone of Love Song. It was empowering without feeling fake or feminist. I finally listened to her lyrics and her melodies and was blown away by their unpredictability. She had enough sass and know-how (and occasional saltiness) to be edgy, but there was still vulnerability and introspection that did not seem contrived or overdone, but playfully insightful and refreshing. The lyrics and subtle string orchestration of the song "Gravity" also got to me on an emotional level.

She tricks and melts and slides her voice over lyrics and melody with so much soul. It didn’t feel derivative or bland like so much new music these days. It seemed fresh, original and something I could track with.

Of course, then I went to the Hotel Café show @ The Parish in Austin and the rest, as they say, is history. The funny thing is, especially after a week in SXSW and hearing a lot of amazing (and not so amazing) singers, it hit me that she’s not necessarily the best vocalist out there. There are plenty of other singers out there with more range, control, technical ability, etc. You can tell she hasn’t had any formal training. But her marriage of raw vocal ability with her uncanny ability to pen the perfectly un-perfect melody and lyric is what makes her a stand-out artist, in my opinion.

Achieving that for one song is one thing. But for all 12 tracks to be strong, varied, compelling and just plain FUN to listen to takes a true artist.

That said...

I am now a bona fide Sara Bareilles fan.

Monday, March 17, 2008

post SXSW

On Friday, Matt, Greg and I went to catch Anathallo’s day party, although we missed a couple songs since we were running late, what with the insane traffic on I-35. I enjoyed this show much better than the previous one. I hope we can tour with them… I feel like fans of their music would really get ours. I wish I could have seen their showcase, but I think I was in Hotel Café concert at that point.


After Anathallo, we wandered around the Flatstock Poster show and Trade Show in the exhibit halls. There were some AMAZING artwork and designs. During the trade show, we wandered over to the Uncensored Interview booth, where one of the producers spontaneously decided to interview us on-camera, which was pretty cool. Then we had another day party at Pangaea’s… again, a humble turnout, but honestly, I think it was just good for our band to get used to playing shows together. Always the learning curve… I also went shopping again at the awesome store and got a shirt, which I ended up wearing for our set.


Then we went to County Line BBQ on the outskirts of Austin, and it was exactly what my soul needed that evening. Texas BBQ is bold and in your face…a lot different than the sweet honey bbq pulled pork we’re used to in Florida. But it was still delicious! It was also nice to get away from the craziness of downtown.


At night, we traipsed around downtown trying to track down some good shows. We wanted to see Destroyer @ the Parish (once again, my favorite Austin venue to date); unfortunately, the line was crazy long. So we went to see the Asthmatic Kitty (Sufjan Steven’s label) show.


I saw a couple songs of My Brightest Diamond, before the heat and stuffiness of the Central Presbyterian Church venue began to get to me, so I stepped outside for some fresh air. What I heard I did appreciate—she had an amazing voice, and the strings were gorgeous, but with all of Austin frenetically amping up all energy, I wasn’t in the mood for any music that didn’t have some kind of driving rhythm. Which it didn’t. Also, her onstage presence and persona (fake British accent and frou frou dress) just kind of bothered me. A bit contrived and out there. I respect what she’s trying to do, I just wasn’t in the mood for it that evening.


Our band’s show, the “Deja Vai” (chuckle, chuckle) party at Spiro’s (that’s SpEEro’s, not Spy-ro’s) Rhumba Room on Red River and 6th turned out a lot better than I was expecting, after a humble turnout to our previous 2 day parties. We also had an interview (well, Matt and Ryan had an interview) with the Palestra.com which I think went over nicely. I tried to sneak into Rachel Ray’s party next door, (or next tent rather....the line went all the way down the street!) but I couldn’t swing it. Becca suggested too late that I cut holes in the tent to peek through. I thought that was kind of like Alejandro in The Mask of Zorro. That’s what I get for not carrying around a pocket knife…


But we had a really good response from the people that turned out for our Spiro’s show, and I think we played the best we did all week.


After our show, we hit the road. But not before I had a yummy bratwurst with kraut, curry ketchup and mustard. Yum.


We made it back to Orlando without incident Sunday afternoon. As for driving, I had the 9:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. shift, which worked out well since I somehow turned into a night owl on this trip.


One odd thing I discovered as I was unpacking was that my digital voice recorder in my backpack suddenly had no battery, even though I had recently put in a fresh pack. Strange, I thought. I then noticed that I had a couple extra files that I didn’t recall recording. I listened to the new file.


Turns out, while I was shuffling my backpack around, I had switched on the recorder and accidentally recorded 9 hours of highway noise, radio and random conversation from Austin all the way through 9 hours later (probably somewhere in Louisiana or Mississippi). Sadly, nothing incriminating took place so I simply deleted it.


Ah well, anyway back to reality. My allergies are KILLING me… I think cottonwood trees and ragweed conspired to explode all over Florida today so now I can barely breathe. Hopefully that’ll clear up later…


Any allergy remedies out there, other than Claritin? I would be most grateful….

Friday, March 14, 2008

sxsw

So it’s my second full day here at SXSW. I have been a negligent band member, failing to take any photos of our actual band endeavors. Sadly, all six of us have generally neglected to document in any form or fashion our first musical foray into Austin, Texas.

Summary: Last night, we played our Fanatic showcase at The Wave on Sixth Street. The stage proved a lot smaller than we were accustomed. Our set up reminded me of being on a public school bus, actually, with Tim and Greg in the front, me and Ryan downstage and Matt and Jeremy upstage. The location was great, right on Sixth Street with all of the foot traffic. Austin reminds me of New Orleans: Sixth Street is to Austin what Canal Street is to New Orleans, in my opinion.

We played a great show, although our quieter, intimate acoustic moments were a bit overwhelmed by the concert going on upstairs on the Wave Rooftop. Our Fanatic guys were there, cheering us on, so that was nice. I stayed afterward to watch Die! Die! Die!, a crazy, intense time with the lead singer jumping up on top of speakers and crashing into the audience. Entertaining for sure. My ears were ringing for a good 30 minutes after their set ended.

Today, we ate breakfast at the Cinnamon Bakery… I have discovered I really enjoy Seattle’s Best. It’s a welcome change from Starbucks, as much as I love my Starbucks blend.

We played a show at Sonny’s Vintage, a vintage clothing store on the north side of town. There were only about 4 people that turned out, sadly, but it’s always good to play, no matter what, I guess. I also splurged and bought a hat (one of my materialistic weaknesses) and some new sunglasses.

After the show and stop over at Pangaea’s to see Mumsey, I headed downtown with Greg and Matt to check out some shows. I finally got to eat some Tex Mex-ish food at Taco Shack, so I was a happy girl. Then I parted ways with my fellow OaKs to what I termed to be my “girly music,” a.k.a. Hotel Café, a primarily L.A. singer/songwriter show at The Parish. My main goal was to see Joshua Radin and Sara Bareilles, and also check out Rocco DeLuca and the Burden. I was kind of band-ed out by now and just wanted to hear some simple, songwriting and vocal artistry.

The Parish was by far the best venue I’ve been to yet in Austin. Spacious, but small enough to remain intimate, with an amazing sound system and good ambience. I weaseled my way to the front and saw the tail end of Greg Laswell. I can’t really say much about him, since I only saw half of a song, but I liked what I heard enough to want to try and track down some of his stuff later.

The next artist was Kate Havnevik, a European pop artist from Norway. I really wasn’t sure at first if I liked her… I am not really into the whole Euro-pop thing, and the first song seemed almost a bit Enya-ish. But her set had a lot of variety, she even pulled out a melodica at one point. I think this SXSW festival made me realize that I tend to be really critical of female singer/songwriters if they don’t exhibit this mix of classiness and down-to-earthness. I know that might be completely off since I should be judging them strictly by their music, but to me that’s part of what makes an artist an artist: you can’t bury your head in your art and expect everyone to get it. You have to engage your audience. Kate, as it turned out, was way more versatile than I originally thought. Whatever my dislike for her genre may be, she totally owned the stage. She also did some really cool Imogen Heap-ish things with her voice, and by the end of the set I decided that I liked her.

Next up was Jessie Baylin. I also had mixed feelings about her. She executed everything well and had a good soulful voice, but I don’t think she spoke to the audience once. That was my only beef with her. Overall, though she sang well and was entertaining.

Priscilla Ahn was the first artist of the evening that swept me off my feet. There were some technical problems getting her mike set up for some reason, but once she plucked that guitar and sang, I was sold. Greg made a comment that I totally agree with: she really uses her voice as an instrument…and not just a static conveyer of words and melody. She also played a harmonica/mouth organ thing, a ukulele and a kazoo…not many people can make a kazoo work. Her casual in-between-songs-banter was endearing too.

Next up was Joshua Radin, one of the reasons I came to the show in the first place. He played a few songs. I hoped he was going to play Winter or Star Mile, but the only older song he played was Closer. His new stuff sounded great, so I’m going to have to check that out too…
Blurry Joshua Radin.

Rocco DeLuca and the Burden up next. I have to admit, the first time I heard about this band was actually because of Kiefer Sutherland. I had heard that Kiefer started a label and Rocco DeLuca was his primary artist. I heard a few songs on myspace but hadn’t really gotten around to immersion yet. Tonight, it was simply Rocco on the dobro with another guy on percussion, and Rocco absolutely wailed on that thing. He has a really interesting voice… reminds me of Queen a bit, and the way he marries his voice with the dobro was freakishly good. I am now officially a Rocco DeLuca fan.
Rocco Deluca

Next was an atrocity. I won’t even go there. I felt like I needed a haz mat wash down after he sang. The only song of his was decent was the last song, although I’m not sure if it was because his last song, or if because it was actually decent. It definitely was catchy, I’ll give him that. Plus he brought out all his backstage friends to sing along, which is always a good time.

After the atrocity came Meiko, this tiny girl with introspection and talent aplenty. She was pretty funny, too, asking randomly for a shot of whiskey near the end of her set. My roommate Kyara actually told me to listen to her a few years ago, but being the Sagittarius that I am, I never really got around to it, and what I did hear was a half-hearted 30 second listen on myspace before I moved on. Meiko was right up there with Priscilla and Rocco in my book. Totally engaged the audience, memorable hooks, casual on-stage presence, beautiful melodies, amazing vocal control and range.
Blurry Meiko.

At this point, it’s getting close to midnight and I’m still waiting for Sara Bareilles to come on stage, so we’re all getting antsy. I had inched my way to the stage, so I was less than a foot away at this point. I’d also made some friends around me, since we’d all been standing together for well nigh on 5 hours. So when Cary Brothers came onstage, I was a little annoyed. Then he won me over, especially when Cary hopped on over to the piano and cranked out a song, Coldplay style. And then they did their closing song Blue Eyes, which I realized I had really dug from the Garden State Soundtrack, and I felt bad for being so hard on him in my mind. Many of the other Hotel Café artists came back onstage and sang together on that one, too.
Cary Brothers and his band:)

Ingrid Michaelson came on stage to do a few songs. Her first number was on a ukelele. Those seem really difficult to mike. It kept feedbacking at first. Well, anyway, she was amazing as well and my impatience for the headliner was once again put to shame.

By far one of the highlights of the evening was when Ingrid invited her friends, including Kate Havnevik and Jessie Baylin to come onstage and sing a round (ya know... like Row, Row, Row Your Boat) that she had written. It was absolutely gorgeous and I wish I had a recording of it. She also definitely seemed the most vocally trained out of any other singers that night.
Allie Moss, Kate Havnevik and Jessie Baylin singing around the piano with the bass player.

FINALLY… around 12:45 a.m. Sara came out on stage. She opened up with Bottle It Up, transitioning into the Vegas song. She also did Love Song (of course), some other song that I didn’t know the name of, Many the Miles and ended with Gravity, which is the main song I was hoping she’d do. Her band was great, but it was absolutely fabulous just to hear her sing Gravity on her own. I wish she had done more songs with just her on the piano.
Sara Bareilles!

So, yeah… I was basically in singer/songwriter heaven tonight.

Anyway, so it’s 3:30 a.m. and I should be going to sleep now. Just wanted to pass on this SXSW experience thus far with you lovely folk.

Tomorrow is a day party with a bunch of Orlando bands at Pangaea’s. Should be fun.

I’m out, my peeps.

Ciao and cheers,

Melissa

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Virtual 3 X 5, pictures pending

Let’s see… In the words of John Mayer, I need to “catch you up on places I’ve been…”


#1 I had an amazing road trip to Chattanooga, TN for some spelunking (yes, I went caving 160 feet below the surface of the earth. It was mind-boggling), and then to Lexington, KY for the CIY discipleship conference. This was way more laid back and intimate than CIY Summer Conference. They even incorporated a pared-down version of Lectio Divina, which I always appreciate. We took about a gazillion group pictures, even one at the Kissimmee Hess gas station on our way out of Kissimmee/St. Cloud (so silly).


Caving was amazing, even though I did get stuck at the one pass known as the Colonoscopy, shortly after clawing my way through the tunnel known as the Birth Canal, this 30 foot long crawl-on-your stomach endeavor that made me want to rethink my female right to bear children. Thanks to Erin and Matt and everybody else who pulled me out of that hole. I felt like Winnie the Pooh getting stuck in the hole trying to eat honey, except sadly, there was no tasty treat waiting for me when I got loose.


Our guide also had us turn off our spelunking lamps at one point, so we got to experience total darkness. It was also extra specially scary when he told us it only takes 2 weeks of sitting in complete darkness before we would go completely blind. Apparently your eyes—as a muscle that needs to work to avoid atrophy—well keep dilating and then lock with no light to work them, and any exposure to light after 2 weeks of darkness will simply burn your retina, rendering you completely blind. Ack. We definitely wanted to turn on our lights on immediately after that, especially with Josh describing to us the movie the Descent, this creepy movie about Gollum-like creatures slaughtering foolish young people who venture into dark caves without a guide. (Never, ever do that, people. Ever).


But by far the best part was reaching the glorious cabin, after a long, winding, nausea-inducing drive up the scary dark mountain. We rented this incredible cabin for the night that had a full screened deck, king sized beds, a hot tub, a full kitchen, two fireplaces (even though one of them didn’t work) and a pool table.


More than that though, it was awesome just to hang out with good friends and be on an adventure together, good conversations, hours of playing phase 10, navigating together through a scary, dark, dusty cave, cramming in the van, even spontaneously producing an independent short film known as The Battle of Pigeon Forge while waiting for our dinner at Logan’s Steakhouse (see facebook for more details).


All in all, this will rank as one of the most memorable weekends I’ve ever had…


#2 The OaKs had our CD release party this past weekend, and despite the rain and tornado warnings we had an amazing turnout! I will post more pictures from the concert at a later blog. Thanks to everyone who came out!

Picture taken by Michael Kilayko

#3 I went to Relevant Magazines’ 5th anniversary party on Saturday night at Relevant Headquarters. Baron von Bear played, followed by Seabird and Pigeon John. It was an animal-themed concert, apparently. Baron von Bear was great, fun show… Lots of variety (they have a trombone, a melodica, harmonica, even a cow bell!) and their harmonies and upbeat tempos definitely sound Beatles-influenced. I hopefully will be making it to their CD release on May 10th. Kentucky band Seabird was amazing, and I’m glad we stuck around to watch them. It’s piano-driven rock, definitely more mainstream sounding in the vein of The Fray and Jon McLaughlin with a bit of British-Coldplay-esque thrown in there. The lead singer has a really amazing vocal, which was the draw for me.


#4 I went to Megacon and got a sweet Serenity poster and other fun stuff, including an autographed pic of Michael Shanks, who plays Daniel Jackson on Stargate: SG-1. This wasn’t as cool or fun or laidback as FX—there were way too many anime things there for my taste—also there was no Captain Mal this time, but it seriously was crazy to see all these people dressed up. There are a lot of people living in a fantasy world out there, I can tell you that much. Bizarre.


But I’m getting ready to head to Austin, TX for SXSW with the OaKs! I will try to blog from there, and keep you up-to-date in real time-ish. Incidentally, I am pumped about seeing Anathallo and Van Morrison, both scheduled to play this upcoming week. woot!


‘Til then, my peeps, keep it real…

Thursday, March 6, 2008