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I Got the Pistol, So I’ll Keep the Pesos. Yeah, and That Seems Fair

The night of our anniversary, we went out to see Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers.  Not only are they great musicians, they have that gift of showmanship to build up the crowd and feed off their energy.  It’s a mixture of knowing how to play with the crowd, sharing drinks, that sort of thing, and more subtle building of enthusiasm by transitioning through multiple favorites without pause.  They also know their fans, and don’t fall into the trap of only playing their first hits or the most recent album; it’s always a good mixture of their work.

Of course, having seen them before, this was what I have come to expect from them on tour. What blew my mind was the cover of The Violent Femmes‘ Kiss Off.   They’re not a band that seems to really do covers, and I was certainly expecting that particular cover, though it brought a smile to my face.

Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers (and a fog machine!)

The concert was at my favorite music venue (which I’d like to believe would be my favorite even if I didn’t know the current owners and hadn’t been involved when they were looking at it in the first place): The State Room.  It’s a nice size, it’s comfortable and just offbeat enough (e.g. they replaced the seats stolen by the previous tenants with old church pews).

Plus, you know, booze.   The State Room opened an upper level bar at the back of the auditorium to help relieve the pressure on the main bar downstairs; how do you not love a small intimate venue with two bars?  I don’t think they’d installed the disco ball the last time we were inside, but regardless, Clyne seemed decidedly pleased it was there.  At the end of the show, he requested the lower all lights but the spots on the ball.

Disco Ball, and you can see the dude with the light up sombrero in front of stage right

It’s been long enough that I can’t remember the whole set list, but I do remember it included over half of Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy along with generous helpings of all the other albums.  There was also something on this tour with sombreros that puzzled me.  I swear no one wore them the last time they were in town, but there were a number of people wearing hats with assorted detritus stuck on top.  One concert-goer had rigged up a battery-powered color shifting lighting band on his. Band members borrowed a couple of the more elaborate hats during numbers.

Clyne Borrowed a Sombrero

Last time the Peacemakers came through, it was mid-week; this year’s Friday night concert was packed. I would not be surprised if the show was sold out, honestly. I’m always happy to see energized crowds like this.

Unfortunately, there was one serious sour note between the wonderful opening act, Buffalo Jones, and Roger Clyne. I took advantage of the break to stop into the restroom. Standing very near the door was a man who I just ignored because I assumed he was waiting for someone. But as I opened the door, I and a woman visible from the door were harassed. He was no more than three feet behind me at the time.

I cried in the bathroom stall, feeling so creeped out and threatened that I felt trapped. I worried he would be there when I tried to leave. It took me several minutes to pull myself together and brave opening that door again. (He wasn’t there anymore, thankfully.) It wasn’t for a song or two that I really even started to enjoy myself again.

It was a few days later that I realized this was the second anniversary in a row I faced harassment or assault. That is a deeply depressing thought. I just wanted to go out and have a good time with my spouse. And I did have a good time, but it was so much less joyful than I was hoping.

There and Back Again: Our Roadtrip to SoCal

This is very, very late and I’m sorry.  But I can only say this: it’s over five thousand words.  It includes pictures and cute videos of dogs at the beach.  Feel free to skim as necessary.  I’m putting it up anyway, because I don’t want to have the specter of this monster hanging over future postings.

My Parent's Birds, Mango and Bobber

My cousin got married during the first Weekend in May. And while we were trying to decide on plans to get down and back, we realized that while we had people lined up to watch our pets, my mom had no one to watch her dog. So after checking with my aunt & Grams, we decided to drive down to California with our Midna and my mom’s Bonnie Lass, while an aunt and uncle here in Salt Lake looked after our three collective conures.

Since Salt Lake to Yorba Linda is a long damned drive in one stretch, we opted for a stopover at a really reasonably priced casino in Mequite, NV, that not only accepted pets, but didn’t charge a big fee to have them stay in the room. Two 5 hour (ish) drives is much better than trying to drive straight through, especially when you consider having to pack up, feed/water, potty-break two dogs.

Midna and Bonnie on the Drive

I don’t think either dog had ever been on a long drive before, but my mom’s dog is a much more confident traveler.  Midna it turns out is okay with maybe one long drive between houses she’s staying at, but refuses to eat or poop if you stop over through hotels and the like. She gets quite stressed, and is even pretty hesitant to drink water in the car. We’ve also discovered a whole new set of weird neuroses involving grass. Or rather the need for grass before a she can actually relieve herself. We tried and failed during potty breaks in the desert area behind the hotel room to get Midna to even pee, no matter how long we let her wander or sniff. We even went further away from the area immediately next to the hotel and let her off leash in case that was the problem. It wasn’t. Our solution was to make sure we stopped by a little park maybe half a mile away so she could do her business, but we now know our dog is crazy. Well, crazy in a whole new and exciting way, I guess.

The beginning of May seems to be a nice time to travel through the desert.  With all the rain, we saw blossoms all over, including this very pretty white flower that is much bigger than most the small scrubbish stuff that blooms in the spring.  I have no idea what it is, but they were everywhere on the trip down to California.

Mystery White Flower

We also learned a lesson about this particular hotel and the way that noise and footsteps are magnified through the ceiling above. While I’d definitely stay here as stopover again, I will definitely ask for an upper level room (Midna’s stair anxiety notwithstanding). We didn’t sleep especially well the first night we stayed at the hotel (on the SLC-SoCal leg of the trip) because the dogs took a long time getting used to unexpected noises above them. Lots and lots of growling and barking, mainly on the part of my mom’s beagle. It was a little frustrating and I was a bit irritable the next day.

Bonnie in the Park in Mesquite

May I just take a moment to complain about California drivers? Now people tend to rag on the drivers wherever they live (while assuming they are one of the few good ones) and that’s more or less just human nature.  But I swear, driving in California makes me 10,000 times as anxious and uncomfortable as driving anywhere else I have because they don’t actually behave predictably.  After years of spending childhood summers there, and now having driven there as an adult, I have come to one unifying idea about drivers in California: they do what seems most expedient for them personally without taking anyone else around them into considerations.  It makes for some stress-inducing driving.  It comes into play pretty soon after crossing the border, from what I’ve seen, so I believe there is some sort of bizarre social dynamic at work in training drivers within the state of California that produces scary fucking car operators.

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The Most Difficult Instrument

I’ve finished the Ken Burns series, Jazz.  Expectedly, the majority of the figures profiled were men, as men historically have been the most celebrated and publicized musicans.  The cultural biases in which jazz evolved would certianly be reflected in the representation of famous artists and innovators.  But I found I was disappointed with the way that the documentary itself deemphasized women’s importance selectively as well.  Greater screen time was given to the male musicians of their fields in general (for example, much more attention was given to the brilliance of Thelonious Monk than the earlier pioneer, Mary Lou Williams) and Ella Fitzgerald, a woman with incredible skills for rhythm and the improvisational elements implicit in jazz was mentioned only briefly in two short snippets.

They gave greater importance to the talented Sarah Vaughn than any other woman beside Lady Day (Billie Holiday).  And while I don’t begrudge the value they placed on Vaughn, I feel they should have given equal recognition to Fitzgerald, who was not even mentioned when they discussed the beginning of scatting or scat singing.  Ella was more or less dismissed as being unimportant because unlike Mary Lou Williams or Sarah Vaughn, she did not play any instrument but her own voice.  (I belive she was also downplayed because she, like Louis Armstrong, also did popular tunes and was famous across demographics.)  Vocalists in jazz were more or less reduced to mere entertainers or performers rather than the “real” craftsmen of the art, who played instruments.  Not a single male vocalist (that is, someone known only for their voice, not voice/instrument) was even mentioned as a jazz performer.

It pissed me off.

My grandfather played the piano, the organ, the accordian, the guitar, but always told us that the most difficult instrument to learn and master was the human voice.  He was an accomplished local musician and instructor, who played with a number of (now elderly) musicans I’ve met over the years.  He was the type of pianist who had that rare skill of modifying his play dynamically to make his fellow performers sound better; he could transpose songs to another key on the fly.  And yet after all this accomplishment, he respected the skills of a great vocalist and considered them every bit a real musician.  He had said that the human voice was in fact the most difficult instrument to master.

Would that the organizers of the documentary felt the same.

Sweet Ache of Music

I’ve been watching Ken Burn’s Jazz for a while now, ever since I noticed it was up on Netflix streaming.  It’s a fantastic series, and especially highly recommended if you enjoy jazz and/or history.  Yesterday I watched some of the episodes (can they be individual episodes when they’re often a couple hours long themselves?) that covered the developments in jazz during the Great Depression.

It amazes me that music older than my own parents can fill me nostalgia and sweet reminiscence the way that this does.  I’ve mentioned before that my maternal grandfather was a pianist, and that for a great deal of my childhood, he was like a third parent.  The functional upside of this is I was exposed to a rather unorthodox musical background for a child of the 80’s.  My early childhood was primarily filled with popular American classics played with flair, with beautiful classical sonatas and most of all with boogie-woogie.  There are recordings of me as a little girl, starting at five, six, seven, shouting, “Make me dance, grandpa!”  And he would play.

I don’t know whether others, when they hear the sweet notes of Begin the Beguine have the same transcendent rush, and a comparable ache at the unbelievable sweetness of Artie Shaw’s clarinet, but I hope that it is to some degree, universal.  I should think that the beauty of Mood Indigo is self-evident, and that any human heart would leap hearing those signature beats of Sing, Sing, Sing.