Rockin guitars shared in Olympia

I had two tickets tonight to the Los Lobos acoustic concert as the Performing Arts Center in Olympia. Each year I get a pair of season tickets and then get various of my friends to come along to the shows. This time, I just couldn’t find anyone that was free. While I was really looking forward to this concert, it was seeming a lot less fun on my own, but I figured I would have a good time anyway, so I headed downtown.

I had an hour to kill before the show and had not had dinner, so I stopped in at a local coffee bar to get a bite. That extra ticket was really burning a hole in my pocket – 3rd row seats to a really hot, sold out show. And sitting in this cafe, a bunch of college students who probably couldn’t afford the relatively steep $40 price. Finishing up my dinner, I gave the ticket to the barrista and told her to choose someone to give it to – I didn’t want to choose and I wanted it to be a surprise, I figured it would be just too awkward to try to do it myself. She thought that would be fun and agreed, and I took off and headed for the theater.

For a while I watched the door, wondering who they’d given it to and hoping they had followed through. It was an interesting crowd, the arts patrons in Olympia are all white-haired and such, but you just know they were Deadheads and rocked out once upon a time :D I bumped into a few people I know professionally, which always seems to happen. I saw lots of young men with their fathers too, and more earringed guys in leather and jeans than usual. But no-one who seemed like the right person.

I headed to my seat, and there I found a young man with a guitar and backpack – one of the many young musicians in Olympia. His guitar was beautiful and obviously his prized possession. He turned out to be from a family of musicians, knew a lot about the band, and had always wanted to see them. He was homeless and had just spent the last of his money, which was not at all obvious given the well-cared-for guitar case, his clean clothes, sketchbooks (he was an artist too) and overall niceness. He had left his wallet in the cafe, and when he went back to get it, they gave him the ticket – it’s hard for me to imagine a better choice.

He was totally excited about the concert and so was I. On the stage were rows and rows of guitars of all imaginable types. The band was truly hot and talented, one of those bands that can morph from sweet Latin ballads with romantic voice, classical guitar, and tenor sax/accordian duets, to hard-driving southwestern rock, to fairly spacy Grateful Dead-inspired transitions. They spent a good part of the concert playing acoustic, but as the night went on, trended toward Latin rock, finally getting the sold-out concert hall to stand up and dance (one of my few quibbles with this venue is that they have tons of great dance bands but no way to really dance). They got all the ladies up on the stage, and the white-haired one in front was putting the teenage kids to shame :)

A great night. I really had a good time, and am thanking the inspiration that brought me good company for the concert and no doubt a totally unexpected surprise for him. Something about Olympia – where things like that seem normal. I’ve had more good times with strangers since I moved here than in the last 5 years put together :)


The Voices of Men


Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Olympia with a friend, and it brought to mind something I have noticed before, which is how the voices of men in song are missing from our culture. I’m not sure exactly how to explain this, because I’m sure you can immediately think of all kinds of genres, such as rock and roll, pop, etc., where men are prominent. But it’s not this basic – unembellished, deeply male, powerful singing.

I have heard it other places too – on Anoushka Shankar’s albums of Indian music (for example, “Rise”), in Peruvian music… basically in world music. But not ours. Our male voices are almost always counter-culture – not a strong presence of or within the culture. Just being men, who they are, expressing their basic essence with their voices. The only good examples I can think of that give me the same feeling are black spirituals from the South – but again, those are African roots and African-American voices, raised in opposition to (or spiritual endurance of) the dominant culture of the time. Maybe it’s no surprise that my favorite American music now is blues.

So where are our voices? Where are the male voices that represent my culture – Norwegian, French, Welsh? American? Did they ever exist? Or is that not our way? Perhaps they are heard in fishing tales, in heroic stories, in myth rather than in song.

More jazz, or the benefits of daylight savings time

Now, normally I hate daylight savings time :) Today, I was supposed to be heading over to a friend’s house for a gaming day – halfway there I realized I was not 15 minutes late, but almost 45 minutes early! I decided to head over to the nearby and excellent Mandolin Cafe. I was listening to jazz on NPR on the way over, and as I walked in the door, I thought they were playing it as well. Except… it was better :) So I was treated to lunch and excellent live music by Gypsy Swing, a band with guitars, mandolins, a drummer and an amazing trumpet player. Really great, and a totally unexpected pleasure – the best present daylight savings time has ever given me.

Top 22: Classic Hits of the Major Arcana

80si.gifI just had to share this with you – it’s an album of ’80s hits my brother and sister-in-law made for me on my birthday last year – one for each of the tarot majors. The songs and artists are listed below :) Now I’ve discovered there’s an ’80s tarot online as well, whose origins may be loosely related. It’s fun – check it out!

0. FoolJump, Van Halen
1. MagicianMagic Man, Heart
2. PriestessWhite Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane
3. EmpressMaterial Girl, Madonna
4. EmperorMacho Man, The Village People (hee, hee)
5. HierophantBrother Love, Neil Diamond
6. LoversLife in the Fast Lane, The Eagles
7. ChariotLittle Deuce Coupe, The Beach Boys
8. StrengthI am Woman, Helen Reddy
9. HermitPeople are Strange, The Doors
10. Wheel of Fortune The Gambler, Kenny Rogers
11. JusticeI Fought the Law, The Clash
12. Hanged Man No Surrender, Bruce Springsteen
13. DeathDon’t Fear the Reaper, Blue Oyster Cult
14. TemperanceEbony and Ivory, McCartney & Jackson
15. DevilSympathy for the Devil, The Rolling Stones
16. TowerBurning Down the House, Talking Heads
17. StarStar, David Bowie
18. Moon Eclipse, Pink Floyd
19. SunHere Comes the Sun, Beatles
20. JudgmentSolsbury Hill, Peter Gabriel
21. The World Imagine, John Lennon

Jazz and Spices

Last night I went to the Wynton Marsalis concert in Olympia … oooh yeah. It was great. That band is awesome – hot hot jazz in a very intense style. An amazing piano player and bassist. If you have a chance to see them, don’t miss it. The more time I spend in Olympia, the better I like it – who woulda thunk our state capital would be so interesting. Last time I was there (for a Bo Diddley concert – also very cool), my friend Martha and I wandered around and went shopping :)

We found the most amazing store of exotic spices – like an apothecary shop of old only filled with strange spices, truffle oils, hard-to-find ethnic spice concoctions from far-flung lands, mortars and pestles, tiny little tins of multi-colored salts and peppers with tiny little spoons, dried and powdered mushrooms of every variety, you name it, it was there. Stuff that I normally don’t cook with because it’s an incredible pain to make from scratch, like garum masala or mole. I couldn’t resist the white truffle oil or African curry powder with cashews. You end up walking out with little bags of spicy treasures – and to top it all off, if they don’t carry it or combine it just the way you want, you can send them the recipe and they’ll get it or make it for you. If you’d like to try mail-order, you can find it here: Buck’s Culinary Exotica.

Just down the street, we found an entire independent bookstore selling only mysteries. Not too many towns where such a store could thrive in this day and age. And last night I finally got to enjoy my (usually-sold-out) fave Italian restaurant there, Trinacria. Simple, perfect, olive oil and garlic pasta. Hot crusty little breadlings, perfect salad following the pasta. When asked for Parmesan, the waitress recommends Pecorino to go with that specific pasta instead. Not too much of anything, nothing extra needed. Just right :)