Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Austin City Limits Taping – St Vincent

I had the opportunity to attend an Austin City Limits taping this past Monday for St. Vincent. For those that aren’t familiar, St. Vincent is the stage name for Annie Clark. This is her second appearance on the show. Her ACL artist page has details on the first appearance. ACLs own recap from Monday can be found here. The episode will air in the Fall as a part of Season 44 on KLRU locally or on your PBS station.

I first learned about St. Vincent sometime just before her third album, Strange Mercy, was released. I really liked the first single, “Surgeon”. I heard an interview with her either on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast or elsewhere and learned that she grew up in Dallas. As for the new album, I ran through it a few times on Spotify prior to the show. I’ve heard “Los Ageless” which grew on me after only a few additional listens and I also found that I immediately liked “Pills” and “New York”.

She visited Austin back in February as a part of her Fear the Future tour. The stage show on Monday was quite elaborate by ACL TV standards and is clearly designed to reflect themes from her most recent album, MASSEDUCTION. She came out in an all red latex suit and took the stage with her three backing musicians, each on their own separate LCD floor and background screen. Being in the balcony was a benefit for this show due to the elaborate lighting that was used below and behind each performer. The keyboardist and drummer both wore very drab brown jumpsuit costumes (and masks?) in contrast to the female bass player and Miss Clark. I definitely thought of both David Bowie and Kraftwerk in watching the spectacle. She’s a pretty accomplished vocalist and guitarist. The solo performances held up as well if not better than those with a backing band. I’ll be interested to see how the light show translates onto television.

As always, ACL TV producer Leslie Nichols posted a shot of the set list to her Twitter account. Check out previous ACL TV posts going back to 2008.

Carmen: fast, furious, and fiery

Austin Opera continues to be an outstanding asset to Austin. The number of children in the audience at the opening performance of Carmen was astonishing; even more astonishing is that they stayed to the end and were not restless. These were elementary-school students. Perhaps they were in attendance to see and hear siblings perform in the children’s chorus, which was excellent, as was the large adult chorus.

The orchestra grows better and better and better. Under the baton of Richard Buckley, it rendered true justice to the beautiful score.

The principal singers embodied their characters well, and they sang exceptionally, solo and with other members of the cast. Austin Opera is especially fortunate to have such strong singers in the roles of Don Jose and Escamillo. It sometimes seems that the male members of a cast do not rise to the level of the female singers, but such is not at all the case in this production.

Set in Spain, the four-act opera by Georges Bizet is sung in French. Above the stage, there are supertitles in English. The translation is good and the coordination of the titles with the action on stage was always precise.

Although there was perhaps an element of almost silent-screen action in the last act, with somewhat overwrought physical action and dramatic movement, the direction of the large cast was otherwise supremely managed throughout, taking every advantage of the versatile and handsome set.

In some performance of this work, professional dancers take the stage in certain scenes, in this one the singers appeared to execute the inventive choreography themselves, and very well.

On line there’s a synopsis of the plot. Those who do not know the opera should ignore it and be drawn in by the momentum of the unfolding action.

Acts I and II last 90 minutes. A 25-minute admission is followed by acts III and IV, running 60 minutes, so that the total performance time is about three hours.

Advance tickets are available for the remaining shows: 7:30 PM, Thursday, November 16; and 2:30 PM, Sunday, November 19.

Performances are at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 West Riverside Drive. Early arrival allows enjoyment of the scenic terrace looking toward downtown.

Be warned: parking at One Texas Center that was once free, with designated spaces for Car2Go vehicles, is now behind a barrier and costs $5; a credit card must be used. Opera-goers did not know how to get in to the lot (there are bollards and drop barriers), and they did not know how to exit.

The parking annoyance, however, is no reason at all to miss this memorable production of Carmen.

Austin City Limits Taping – Run the Jewels

I can’t remember exactly where I first heard about Run The Jewels or “RTJ” as they and their fans refer to them. I’m pretty sure it was somewhere on the Internet. The oldest e-mail I have from their mailing list is September of 2014 prior to their release of their second album RTJ2. I decided to try out the first album because they made it available to download for free (well, in return for your e-mail address) and they’ve done that with their follow up albums. You can get all three at their web site.

Run The Jewels

Killer Mike of RTJ is an activist and has made the rounds on many talk shows like Stephen Colbert. He was outspoken during the 2016 election, campaigning for Bernie Sanders. He did several interviews about the violence in Ferguson.

Interestingly, Jaime Meline, the other half of RTJ, used his real first name in the e-mails from their mailing list until the beginning of 2106 when he started to use EL-P. And then there’s Meow The Jewels, which I somehow totally missed and am still not sure I get.

I happened to see their show on Sunday of Weekend One of Austin City Limits festival. In addition to both weekends of ACL Festival, they played to a packed house at Stubb’s the first Friday night and then did the taping this past Saturday. Both the festival show with its massive crowd and the smaller taping audience were very energetic. The taping audience was fairly sparse, probably due to Weekend Two of the festival along with OU weekend.

You can find ACLs review of the taping on their blog. It will air later this season (locally on KLRU). As she usually does, ACL producer Leslie Nichols shared the set list from her Twitter account. You can keep tabs on the schedule and upcoming tapings on their site as well.

You can find my previous taping posts going back to 2008 here.

Pesky pirates, pusillanimous police, pretty poppets!

Pirates of PenzanceThe Pirates of Penzance brings you all these, and more, thanks to the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin.

Look forward to an accomplished chorus, an expert 19-piece orchestra, and vocal music of distinguished quality from each of the lead and featured singers. Every comedic bit is carried out so well that it elicits outright laughter from the entranced audience.

If you don’t know the story, it won’t be spoiled for you here. Just remember, though, that “pilot” and “pirate” can sound very much alike. Thanks to the wonderful acoustics of the venue and also to the assistance of the supertitles above the stage (to aid in understanding when the tempo is breakneck), there’s not the least difficulty in hearing all and following every little twist and turn of the plot (there is one and it’s complicated).

The Father’s Day Sunday performance was attended by many, many children, who sat rapt and thoroughly engaged. Not one family departed during the intermission; all remained for the entire performance, which is quite a testimonial to the delight afforded to all ages.

In the Worley Barton Theater every seat is a good seat; there are no bad ones. Every seat enjoys an excellent view. Every member of the audience hears every note well, enjoying to the fullest not only the clever comic songs, but the rousing pieces and the sweetly sentimental numbers as well. This production is theater at its finest and music so wonderful that a person listening only and not seeing a bit of the spectacle would nonetheless be privileged beyond compare.

There’s a lively printed program. The cast bios are most entertaining, and so are the candid images of cast rehearsals.

The house was full. All advance tickets appeared to have been sold, and additional seats were brought in for those who arrived planning to buy tickets at the door.

Five performances remain. You owe it to yourself to attend at least one. You will smile, you will laugh, you will be thoroughly happy during the show, and for many, many days afterward.

Joyous Juneteenth

Austin All Star Band

Austin’s Juneteenth Emancipation Day Parade brought joy to the participants and joy to the spectators.

A highlight of the parade was Austin’s own Austin All Star Band.

See a sample of unedited still images and a little unedited video. If you were there, relive the event; if you weren’t on the scene, make plans now to be there next year, for a uniquely Austin occasion.

The Gondoliers: not to be missed

The summer production of the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin is a delight for all ages. Elementary-school students enjoyed the entire Father’s Day Sunday matinee performance with complete attention from start to finish. A large orchestra, a cast that sings, dances, and acts at the highest level, and a fully theatrical production presented to the audience in an intimate theater with excellent acoustics are a credit to all who have had a hand in bringing this wonder of live theater to Austin. So stellar is the cast that it’s not possible to single out any particular singers, old favorites or new ones, but the combination of earnest sincerity and comic exaggeration cannot be surpassed, bringing the clever lyrics and spritely music to brilliant life. As the audience headed home, hearts were light and smiles were omnipresent. Remaining performances at the Brentwood Christian School are: Friday (today), June 24, 7:30pm; Saturday (tomorrow), June 25, 2 pm, and 7:30 pm; and Sunday, June 26, 2 pm, Everyone sings with the utmost clarity; all performances are supertitled so that not one nuance fails to be appreciated. This show is guaranteed enjoyment. Don’t fail to treat yourself and your friends and family to a very special event.

Austin City Limits Taping – Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop with Josh HommeThe start of a new season for Austin City Limits usually coincides with SXSW which means it’s a great opportunity to get some pretty big names into the studio. Season 42 of Austin City Limits is no different with rock icons like Iggy Pop and Robert Plant doing a taping over the next week or so. I attended Iggy Pop’s taping this past Tuesday night. It’s my third time seeing Iggy. The first time was at Texas Stadium with INXS and Guns N Roses for the Calling All Nations tour. GNR was at the pinnacle of their popularity and INXS was riding pretty high as well. Iggy was earlier in the day along with Ziggy Marley, a bit of a footnote, but I remember it being a good show. The second time was actually a free show at SXSW 1996 when the stage was at 6th and Brazos next to the Driskill. That was pretty amazing. He could still get pretty crazy twenty years ago.

As you can see from the photo, the program is pretty amusing this time around. Iggy and Josh clearly have a sense of humor. It also pretty quickly highlights how huge Josh Homme is and how tiny Iggy is. This is probably my favorite ACL program since I’ve been regularly attending shows. Oddly enough, my seat for Iggy was not too far from my seat for the Queens of the Stone Age taping a couple of years ago. Pop contacted Homme a little over a year ago asking if he’d like to collaborate. They hit it off and the new album, Post Pop Depression, will be released tomorrow, March 18th. They did a showcase show encore last night at the Moody Theater. The Post Pop Depression tour appears to have limited US dates, so if you want to catch him, you might have to travel. I had already heard “Gardenia” a few times on Underground Garage and liked it. I can definitely hear Homme’s influence on the music. There are similarities to the most recent QOTSA album. The backing band for this tour is pretty much QOTSA. They’re all wearing matching red silk jackets to Iggy’s black one.

I wonder how Iggy is feeling about things with the recent passing of David Bowie. The did a respectable cover of “China Girl” at the midpoint of the set. Pop probably needs to stop going bare chested at shows at this point. He abandoned his black blazer about three songs into the set. He could pull it off really well at 50, but at 68, it’s starting to be a little much. I’m guessing he doesn’t know any other way to do it though. He has a noticeable limp going. He, like my parents, probably needs hip or knee surgery. Still, his voice hasn’t gotten worse with age. I’ve noticed several singers lose their range as they got older. Iggy still has his, which admittedly isn’t super wide, but what he does have is still intact. He had no qualms about getting out into the audience during the show.

My guess is that the episode will air in the fall and, of course, locally on KLRU. You can keep tabs on the schedule here.

Most of my previous ACL taping reviews are here.

Set list:

  1. Lust for Life
  2. Sister
  3. American Valhalla (PPD)
  4. Sixteen
  5. In The Lobby (PPD)
  6. Some Weird
  7. Fun Time
  8. Tonight
  9. Sunday (PPD)
  10. German Days (PPD)
  11. Mass Production
  12. Nightclubbing
  13. Passenger
  14. China Girl (David Bowie Cover)
  15. Fall In Love
  16. Repo Man
  17. Gardenia (PPD)
  18. Baby
  19. Chocolate Drops (PPD)
  20. Paraguay (PPD)
  21. Success


The Sorcerer enthralls

The Sorcerer: Gilbert & Sullivan Society of AustinYes, it’s silly; yes, it will make you laugh. The Sorcerer is the current production of the Gilbert & Sulllivan Society of Austin.

A mysterious potion in a teapot causes upheaval in a country village. Love is everywhere but perhaps not always where it should be.

Not least among the pleasures is a full accompaniment for the excellent vocalists provided by the Gillman Light Opera Orchestra under the expert direction of Jeffrey Jones-Ragona: nineteen instrumentalists!

There’s no stinting on the fine chorus: ten men and ten women! The principal parts are sung by old favorites and new. Each is wonderful in his or her individual fashion, and there’s no justice in singling out anyone.

All are easily understood, thanks to the small auditorium with its excellent acoustics. There are, nevertheless, supertitles for all dialogue and lyrics. The libretto is available on line, but why spoil the story in advance if it’s unfamiliar? Keep the suspense. Read it after the performance.

Direction, costumes, lighting, set and sound design, stage business, and choreography are all just as they should be. We attended a performance preceded by an hour-long children’s program. Little children attended that and then stayed for the two-act show afterwards. The Sorcerer is truly a delight for audiences of all ages.

There are no bad seats in the house at the Worley Barton Theater, Brentwood Christian School, 11908 North Lamar. Remaining performances are:

Thursday, June 25; 7:30 pm
Friday, June 26; 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 27; 2 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, June 28; 2 pm

Ticket prices are most reasonable, from $7 to $25. The Sorcerer is a sparkling jewel, one not to be missed.

Austin conjunto festival: 25 years of bringing happiness

conjunto t-shirtsHappy music makes for happy people and happy feet. The Austin conjunto festival marked its 25th anniversary on Sunday, May 3, established by Johnny Degollado all those years ago, when people first gathered in July in the heat, but in the shade of Parque Zaragoza, to hear and dance to the many rhythms of the accordion, bajo sexto, and other customary members of a traditional conjunto, so complex yet simple enough to set up in about five minutes.

The festival and dance contest were a happy component of the tenth Fiestas Patrias of Austin celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The weather was more than cooperative under the shade of the trees and the pavilion at Fiesta Gardens, with a beautiful breeze playing as children scampered and people of all ages danced and danced. Seven conjuntos were on the bill; we could be present for the first two only: Conjunto Aztlan and Santiago Jimenez, Jr.

This event is always perfect for music-lovers of all ages. See still images and unedited videos from this year’s festival and resolve to attend next year.

Honk!Tx 2015: joyous sights and sounds

dancing in the streets

dancing in the streets

HONK!TX festival of community street bands brings life to the streets of Austin. For the fifth year, music and dance were to be found all over town, all free to those enjoying the event.

This is Austin as we know and love it. Some contingent (Wheatsville Co-op?) was offering kazoos to the onlookers during Sunday’s free parade to the park. They were put into immediate use.

View still images and unedited videos to see an acquaintance or to realize what you missed, if you did miss it. And if you did, resolve to listen for it next year and let your ears lead you to some of the best fun Austin offers.

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