Saturday, October 30, 2010

No Boo's At The Season's Scariest Symphony

Cruella Deville walked in with her leashed, well-mannered Dalmation.  Frankenstein was in attendance, and on his cell phone most of the evening.  A trio of bugs sat behind us, and a cute little strawberry was in front of us.  A platter of sushi paraded among the guests.  And, of course, some wore spandex who {ahem} shouldn't have.
The top of the orchestra section in Salt Lake City's Abravanel Hall was an excellent vista for spotting the many princesses, super heroes, and goblins who came to hear a menu of Halloween treats from the Utah Symphony.  Conductor David Cho took to the stage but not before a ghoulish sounding Frank Oden appeared and gave stern warnings about cell phones and other misbehaviors.

The Symphony put together a delicious array of thirteen haunted classics, laced with ongoing antics and narrative from Oden between songs.  When I saw the program, I immediately ooohed over Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and Bizet's "Suite No. 1 from Carmen,"  but there were some that seemed new to me such as "The Ride of the Valkyries" from Die Walkure by Wagner and "Witches Sabbath," by Berlioz.

At the end of the evening, after all the prizes for best costumes were delivered, the Symphony got yet another standing ovation from the audience.  This is standard Utah operating style so no big surprise.  People either want to stand up after sitting so long or they are amazed every time, or both, depending.  The best and most sincere standing ovation I ever heard at Abravanel Hall was a couple years ago when they played Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Not only standing but cheering, thunderously loud clapping, and whistles that went on forever. It was a few days before my birthday, so I accepted their breathtaking performance that evening as a gift.  And yes, their performances are always excellent, so the Haunted Symphony was no exception.
But then there were the screaming children.  The little strawberry was well behaved, but there were some monsters in the upper sections.  The wails I heard sounded like teething.  I thought that the fine print on the Symphony's website said children should be at least eight, but maybe the little pumpkins got a waiver just this once.  When my kids were little, we lived in Boston and did many a Boston Pops concert, outside, I might add, where the screaming could be absorbed by other outside noises such as honking from crazy Boston drivers.  Or in the alternative, we played classical music right along with Sesame Street in our tiny Cambridge apartment.  Regardless, I hope the concert was as memorable for all the little ghouls as it was for us.

Disclosure: Ticket price for this event was $18. I received NO compensation for this review.

Friday, October 29, 2010

1450 !@#%!@#!, Or What Happened Instead of a Concert That Friday Night

"Well ladies, I've got an early flight to catch," Max said, "but I'd love to have you join me in my room for a night cap."  He pulled out a business card and firmly printed the room number - 1450 - on the reverse side.

I felt all the blood drain from my face.  My friend quickly said under her breath "Time to go."  My heart was beating at the hiking-up-a-steep-hill rate.  The five of us stood up.  My legs felt like Jello.

As we were walking out the door, my friend asked one of the three men we'd been conversing with for the last thirty minutes: "How could you even go there? I can't believe you would get any hint that we would be interested in a night cap in your room.  That is completely and totally insulting."

What turned out to be an unforgettable evening of music the pub crawl from hell included a stop at Salt Lake City's only five diamond hotel, Grand America.  Perhaps this sounds a bit twisted, but I'm not the only one who appreciates fine facilities ... America's Best Restroom had a contest and Grand America was voted amongst the nation's top places to relieve oneself.  It wasn't the only reason we were there, but it was first on the agenda.

The restroom was overrun with a group of Pacific Islander women dressed in beautiful black and white ceremonial costumes.  After washing hands with the luxurious cloth towels, my friend and I analyzed whose lipstick was staying on best.  Hers.  Cover Girl Lip Stain, just like putting a Sharpie to your lips.   We headed out the door, following the women down the hallway to their grand ballroom, where two muscular security guards stood at the front.  I was so hoping to see these festooned ladies dance, but it was not to be.

"You will love the Gibson Girl Lounge," I assured my friend as we reversed our steps through the long, elegant halls of the Grand America.  A far cry from the pulsating disco hooka club scene we'd just experienced endured, the Gibson Girl is the epitome of style.  A spacious, beautifully appointed parlour with overstuffed sofas and chairs, the lounge is a quiet place for libations, small plates, and conversation.

My friend and I hadn't been seated five minutes when a tall and rather statuesque bulky man asked if he could join us.  My "no" radar was going off, but I ignored it, mainly because my "no" radar is always firing.  Too many years spent working in risk management.  My friend and I looked at each other, paused, and then I said, "Sure."

Our drinks came shortly after Max sat down and he told the waiter to put them on the tab for his room.  He and my friend did most of the conversing, as I sipped on ice water.  Yes, that's right.  He was buying and I was drinking ice water. 

Max hailed from the midwest and was in Salt Lake City on business, but we never did figure out what was his line of work.  He wanted to know how we ended up at the Grand America.  We'd gone to the Depot for Black, a party and concert to celebrate black, which is why we were wearing black, I explained.  After procuring "rock star" parking, we arrived at the front door shortly after nine and were told by the door man we could not get in for at least thirty minutes, so we decided to hit another club and go back later.  We never went back.  Next was Sky Bar. Within minutes of our arrival, we were greeted by and refused the hooka waitress.  The wait to get a $3.25 glass of mostly ice with a splash of Diet Coke was much longer.  We then headed toward Green Street, but when I saw Grand America, the temptation for elegance and grandeur overtook me.

At one point, Max asked about the music scene in Salt Lake City, and I made the mistake of mentioning where I'd planned to be the next evening.  (Plans subsequently changed due to suspect "flight in the morning" line.)  He seemed eager to engage us in celebrity worship and pointed out one of his associates from across the room.  "He was a body/stunt double from {popular television series}," and we were pretended to be duly impressed.

My friend quickly responded that meeting a famous author could capture her attention and interest.   "Oh do you want to meet an author?" he asked and before we knew it, we were meeting his associates, one of them apparently a renowned author.  John Grisham, Bill Bryson, David Baldacci ... who was waiting for us???

Jake and the Captain stood and politely offered their hands to greet us.  We soon learned that Jake wrote tool and dye manuals.  Max, you made us walk across the room to meet an author of tool and dye manuals?  Give me strength.  

We got to had to hear once again how the Captain was a body double on an action television show that ran during the 1980s, but he was also a geologist.  We discussed the evolution of the Great Salt Lake and the landscape of the Salt Lake Valley during the ice age.  And we talked briefly about our respective employment in Salt Lake City's business community, but I concluded they thought us to be a different breed of professional women.

Eventually we learned that Jake was from Northern California probably Elko, Nevada, for all we know.  I had thought his name was John and was secretly hoping he was the long lost lover of my departed friend Michele.  He took a discussion of the name John sideways in a very inappropriate way, and try as I did to redirect, it was not easy.

People from outside Utah always "know best" when it comes to analysis of Utah's cultural, political, and business landscape, so I listened and smiled as the three of them discussed pontificated on Utah's shortcomings and collective simple-mindedness.  They did not talk equal smack about their home states of California and New York, both of which, incidentally, are living through fiscal nightmares {smack, from me ... take that one, fellas}.

My tolerance for bull crap is limited, except when I happen to fall in love.  I was pretty sure we were knee-deep in it after fifteen minutes with these fellas.  They kept on throwing out new and equally inane topics like darts to a dartboard, just to see what would stick.

We did ask if they were single, and Jake said "everyone's single in California on Friday night."  Ah yes.  We have that here in Utah, too.  This summer, I had met and kept seeing a handsome man with no wedding ring who had made unquestionable overtures towards me.  I was puzzled because I got the "I'm interested" signal from him loud and clear, but he never asked me out or asked for my phone number.  The other day, while I was lunching with my daughter, I saw him walk by with his significant other.  I always find out the real scoop on my men or would-be men, eventually. Sigh.

Back to my story.  The invitation to Room 1450 happened and was rebuffed quickly.  The card with 1450 printed on it was likely tossed in the trash by the bus boy after we left.  My puritanical, how-dare-you-dip-!@#% self was in shock, not the least bit flattered, that someone would think I was easy ... or cheap ... or possibly for rent.

We rushed out of the Grand America, and I looked over my shoulder as we walked sprinted in the chilly evening toward my car.  All the way to Green Street, I kept ranting, "Did they really think ...?" and my voice trailed off into non-existence.  I just couldn't say the words.  "1450 !@#%!@#!"

The door men at Green Street were delighted to see us as they checked our ID's.  The place was nigh unto empty.  Our close-down-the-bar friends were to be there, but we couldn't find anyone we knew so we left.

"I need to detox," I said to my friend.  And I didn't mean from alcohol as I'd consumed but a sip of my friend's B-52.  We went to the only place we could find that was open.  I'm not mentioning the name as the food was disgusting and I'm embarrassed to have gone there.  After we sat down, the analysis began in earnest.

"1450 !@#%!@#!" I continued when we sat down.  The waitress handed us menus.  "1450 !@#%!@#!"I repeated.  We ordered a light snack and water.  "1450 !@#%!@#!" I growled under my breath.

Just in case you were wondering, I was slightly incomprehensibly upset.  That they would think I would go play patty-cake in their Grand America Suite 1450 was beyond vile.

And to clarify, I am not naive and I wasn't born yesterday.  I have at least three friends who have wed men they met in bars. All great guys, too, I might add.  And ... I've been approached in a "meat market."  What woman hasn't?  Well, a woman who hasn't gone perhaps.  But the Gibson Girl Saloon at Grand America is not what I'd call a meat market, so the whole experience caught me way off guard.

After more than an hour of analysis, we reached no conclusions to explain why these morons lamebrains simpletons half wits addlepates thought we were so taken with their celebrity, prestige, and intellect, not to mention their looks that we'd "1450 !@#%!@#!" with them. 

There are no pictures nor music to accompany this post, and, unlike other posts for this blog, I have been unable to arrive at a snappy conclusion for my story.  So I will say this:

Dear Max, Jake, and Captain,

No, I do not wish to "1450 !@#%!@#!" with you, individually or collectively.

And be sure to read 25 Clever Bar Pick Up Lines and How to Pick Up a Woman at a Bar.  Your pedestrian attempts at charming me and my friend really sucked, and even though the techniques described in the attached articles will never work on me, maybe, just maybe, you can figure out how to get what you want.



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Fiddle Preacher Is Also A Yoga Teacher: Bronwen Beecher

Five musical genres, at least.  Four languages, in an amazing array of lyrics.  Three musical instruments, if you include the box.  Two-plus decades of playing experience.

One concert, with the fiddle preacher.
The self-proclaimed Fiddle Preacher delivered a resounding sermon at the Vertical Diner in Salt Lake City on Saturday.  I'd been to a Bronwen event before, in my pre-blogging days, and I distinctly remember the fiddle, not to mention the peanut butter and jelly sandwich ex-Romeo ordered.

How exactly do you "stick to your knitting" when you can play Latin, bluegrass, Celtic, classical, and ... train?  As in choo choo.  Bronwen is one of the fiercest talents of any artist on the Utah music scene.  "It's a variety show," she explained, and nobody in the audience was complaining about hearing Vivaldi interspersed with acoustic guitar.  Never mind that she sings -- beautifully, with a wide range, effortlessly, and on key -- while she fiddles.  
Bronwen's musical breadth and depth is explicable.  Her musical muscle memory began to develop at age 7 when she first picked up a violin.  She immersed herself in the New Orleans music scene when she was a classical music student at Loyola University majoring in music therapy and violin performance.  During her "off hours," she played in a gothic band, jammed with Irish musicians, and was the only white singer in the Loyola U. gospel choir.

A young girl of 13 was invited onto the stage for an impromptu drum solo.  No drums to be found, a CD case was an apt substitute.  Apparently, it's standard operating procedure for Bronwen to invite young musicians to join her onstage for at least one number.
During the set, I moved vertically through the diner until I was eventually seated in the chair closest to the stage.  What's not to like about the front row?
Someone behind me whispered, "Susi, do you speak French," when Bronwen was fiddling a Latin number and singing French lyrics.  "Yes, but mainly when I'm in France and need to find the subway," I said.  (I also know all the shopping words and how to reverse a credit card charge.)  "What's she singing?" she asked.  "Something about love," I whispered.  Bronwen floated with equal ease to Spanish and the language of yoga, Sanskrit.  Her set included a song with a yoga chant superimposed on an inspirational chorus:

Om nama shivaya shivaya nama om

Inhale your treasure, exhale and spread your wings

"Get Out of This House" is Bronwen's answer to life's unfortunate situations.  She advised the audience to sing this stern song a couple times a day for three weeks and life would begin to turn around.  And she's right.  Sometimes you really do have to send those nasty situations packing.

Go jump in the lake, go ride up the hill
Get out of this house
It's a house of your making, it's a house of ill will
Get out of this house

Bronwen poked a little fun at the vegetarian fare of the Vertical Diner.  "Is it okay if we sing about chicken in here?" and she improved lyrics to "Reggae Fries" upon hearing from someone in the crowd that Vertical Diner's French Fries were proclaimed to best in the state of Utah.  Be advised that the Mashed Potatoes were exquisite. Everyone at the table had to put up with me saying over and again, "These mashed potatoes are sooooooooo good."  The Jalepeno (Boca) Burger was delish too, but I have heard enough people whine about Boca's that I'm not going to try to sell you on eating one.  That said, you may want to compare the nutritional content of the Boca versus beef sometime and maybe you will acquire a taste.

As I walked to my car, I realized I'd just spent a wonderful evening doing Plan C.  It is really true ... "Life is what happens when you're busy making plans."  {hmmmmmmmmmmm}

Disclosure: Cover for this event was FREE. I received NO compensation for this review.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Aussie Pink Floyd's Illuminating Spectrum Colored My World

"Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?"
-- Pablo Picasso
 Australian Pink Floyd's recent concert at USANA Amphitheater in Salt Lake City was, in a word, kaleidescopic.  Beautiful colors, without smoking a thing.  The massive screen behind the band was visual mesmerization on steroids, hosting images and colors set to songs like "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," "Welcome to the Machine," and "Us and Them."

Chromaticity ... luminance ... hue ... colorfulness ... saturation ... chroma ... intensity ... set the visual tone for a handful of political messages such as "Money," and "Get Your Hands Off My Desert" about some names those of us who lived the 80s will remember.

Brezhnev took Afghanistan.
Begin took Beirut.
Galtieri took the Union Jack.
And Maggie, over lunch one day,
Took a cruiser with all hands.
Apparently, to make him give it back

Like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Australian Pink Floyd played two sets.  Each was equally psychedelic and delicious eye candy.  Songs that were almost meditative were intertwined with songs that brought concert goers to their feet with fists thrust in the air.  This was a musical event where almost everyone let it be known they learned the lyrics long ago.

The song that the original Pink Floyd and Australian Pink Floyd are best known for is "Another Brick In the Wall" finally came towards the end of the second set.  As the band sang and played, the feet of robotic little school children marched across the screen.  Then one by one, their heads appeared, in a military-esque line:


We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher, leave them kids alone
Hey, Teacher! Leave them kids alone
All in all you're just another brick in the wall
All in all you're just another brick in the wall

One wonders what must be going through a band's collective head while performing to a tiny but eager crowd when they've also ran at Royal Albert Hall and European music festivals such as the Sweden Rock Festival, Isle of Wight Festival, Lokerse Festeen (Belgium), and Castle Clam Classic Rock Festival (Klam), and Bospop (Netherlands).  Yes, I'm talking about Australian Pink Floyd, the "tribute" band to the original Pink Floyd.  I tend to think the ambiance of USANA, with its majestic mountain views, may have been a blip in their massive, if not colourful and pulsating, world screen. 

Of course it was in this whirling cloud of Pink Floyd sound and colour that my beloved, if not old, camera decided it was time to need new batteries.  And I was prepared with two extras.  As I tossed the used batteries in the trash and popped in new ones, the band was playing "Pigs" and a giant wild boar came onstage.  I turned on my camera and a message came on the screen: Camera needs date / time re-set.  Huh?  This never happens.  The magic green light came on, for a few seconds anyway, but when I tried to take pictures, the entire camera shut down.

Not getting a shot of the wild boar with the flashing red eyes was a tragic miss on my part.  Descriptive if not profane words are made for such a time, if I'd had time to waste.  I sought out an iPhone owner who I scarcely knew (we are great friends now, right Brittany?) and quickly gave her the 1-2 on my preferred shots of the band and stage for the remainder of the concert.  Every song, every angle, as close as possible, as wide as possible, and shots of anything really cool as it's happening.

The encore Run Like Hell" was no surprise. Of course, I'll admit to consulting before most concerts to review songs and print out my "cheat sheet."   Megabright lasers of every color and intensity pelleted the stage and VIP section.  It was deafeningly bright, if such a phenomenon is possible.  It takes a lifetime to see the million colors the human eye has the capacity to see.  Thanks to the Pink Floyd concert, I've seen more than my share. {chromatically sweet dreams to everyone}



Impromptu Photography by Brittany ... Brittany is a student at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, majoring in her customized field of study, International Sustainable Business.  She founded and still runs the EnviroClub at Salt Lake Community College.  EnviroClub raises awareness of environmental issues and lobby for green change within the college and local community.  

Disclosure: I was a volunteer at this concert. I received NO compensation for this review.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: Kings of Swing

Being the curious soul that I am, I kept sneaking a peak backstage before the concert.  Eventually, I saw the band and my heart skipped a beat.  These guys were the real deal, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  And all at once, they rushed onstage and began to play.

“Go stand at the edge of the stage,” I advised a shutterbug woman standing next to me incessantly snapping pictures of the band. “Their faces are so expressive and you can nearly capture the excitement in the air,” I noted. And off she went.

Facial expressions? Is this the new gold standard for stage performance? Members of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (BBVD) shared countenances ranging from amazement to delight when they performed at the High Road for Human Rights: Cooler World Music Festival in Salt Lake City last Saturday. I first heard of the group when my daughter's skating team did a synchronized skating routine to BBVD's “King of Swing,” which, incidentally, I didn't hear them play on Saturday. 

Founding band members Scott Morris (lead vocals and guitar) and Kurt Sodergren (drums and percussion) were joined by Dirk Shumaker (double bass and vocals), Andy Rowley (baritone saxophone and vocals), Glen Marhevka (trumpet), Karl Hunter (saxophones and clarinet), and Joshua Levy (piano, arranger) for an amusing and amazing flow of tunes. Sporting near zoot suits (no tight cuffs on the pant legs), the band put together a New Orleans swing band sound, in spite of hailing from Ventura, California. Ventura? Really? I suppose if they'd instead pursued the local favorite sport of surfing, they'd have remained in obscurity and long since graduated to wine tasting and art walks on the beach.

The lineup for the BBVD first set was chock full of lively tunes that practically caused the trees in the park to sway with the beat. Eager fans in the front danced non-stop to “Zig Zaggity Woop Woop,” “Mambo Swing,” and “Boogie Woogie” under mostly cloudy skies.

Simple Songs” was dedicated to a band member's young daughter:

Simple songs about simple things
Is what makes my baby swing
She's got eyes like an angel, smiles like a devil
Man you know she’s the real thing
So when my baby's not around
The whole world hears my poor heart pound
Cause “man you know that she’s the one for me.”
The playful stage choreography and banter amongst the saxophones and trumpet kept the magic alive for over an hour. The band played a second set, but I could not stay. Another concert – Pink Floyd – was on deck for the evening.

BBVD was the total package – superior music, choreography, rhythm, passion, connection with the crowd, and yes, facial expressions. Definitely one of the best performances I have seen all summer, BBVD is amongst the tops in the swing band genre, and in spite of vast musical contrast, when it comes to putting down a flawless concert, they're right up there with The Scorpions.   We hung around long enough to hear a few words from former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, then walked through the park towards the car ... very reluctantly.  Even the dogs were sticking around for the second set.  And I don't blame them a bit.


Disclosure: Admission price for this event was FREE. I received NO compensation for this review.