Grace VanderWaal


Grace VanderWaal explains my weakness for televised talent competitions. Nauseating panels of celebrity judges, scripted punctuation of crack filling banter, inane segments of soul sucking spackle explain why I record and view with a finger on fast forward. Every so often though, cut to the chase reality television sends a Grace VanderWaal my way.

Grace VanderWaal makes up for hours of ho-hum television. One moment drifting off to sleep, the next mesmerized by her presence. Watch this clip of her audition on America’s Got Talent –

Who saw Grace coming – an awkward 12 year old girl unaware of her talent. Tentative beginnings give way to unabashed determination, her voice curling melodically as confounded viewers recognize the enormity of Grace’s debut.

Most days I’m too busy for television, when I do watch, chances of eluding sleep long enough to watch an entire show are slim to none. Grace woke me up, delivering an unexpected package that sent me back to bed grinning from ear to ear.

 

Advertisements

Tragically Hip


This past Saturday one third of all Canadians witnessed the final performance by Tragically Hip from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario. 11.7 million people gathered in bars, hockey arenas, town squares, restaurants, back yards and living rooms, tipping hats to front man Gord Downie and the Hip.Saturday morning Toronto police tweeted “Dear world, please be advised that Canada will be closed tonight at 8:30 pm. Have a #Tragically Hip Day”. From the Yukon to Newfoundland, Saturday August 20, 2016 will go down in Canadian history as Tragically Hip day.

Who the Hip are is easy, what they are is harder to define. Constant from bar stools to sold out arenas, Gord Downie’s iconic voice navigated the Hip to a place of knowing familiarity – when a Hip song played it felt like slipping into bedroom slippers, troubles waned, we were home. Canadian to the core, Tragically Hip never sought headlines or spotlight. Musicians, poets, balladeers captained by “Canadian poet laureate” Downie. Three decades of unabashed Canadian expression delivered with respectful unapologetic grace.  In May of this year a news conference reported Gord Downie had terminal brain cancer, followed by dates of a farewell tour before Downie succumbed to aggressive terminal illness. Listen to Ahead By A Century then Bobcaygeon. Youtube Nautical Disaster, Google Rolling Stone Top 10 Tragically Hip Songs, explore the interactive link below from CBC, read this article by Rachel Sklar at Vox –

http://www.vox.com/2016/8/23/12575952/tragically-hip-last-concert

http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/tragicallyhip/

I find myself pondering how many Canadians have “I saw the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time” tattooed on their arm. (Line from Bobcaygeon below)

Gord Downie August 20, 2016

Those outside Canada, people unfamiliar with the Hip might not fathom why a third of our nation gathered to hear Gord Downie’s final live performance. Why Justin Trudeau took in the concert wearing a Hip T-shirt,Tweeting –

Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.

crowds pack out a square in Kingston, Ontario, on 20 August 2016

 Kingston, Ontario – live broadcast for those without show tickets.

Tragically Hip permeate our lives, Gord Downie casts a spell of fortifying unity. This will be remembered as summer of the Hip. Following a three hour, three encore performance in Kingston Gord Downie said “thank you for that” before walking off the stage. Make no mistake, Canada thanks you Mr. Downie.

Revisiting Across The Universe


Julie Taymor’s 2007 musical masterpiece Across The Universe dominates my top ten list. Never before or since have I left a theatre  wearing unabashed joy from ear to ear. Gob smacked patrons bound by a collective aura of measurable energy, stepped out with enlightened strides of purpose. Wikipedia link below details the premise, misses the magic –

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Across_the_Universe_(film)

ATU opens with soft footsteps – a love story set in 1960’s America, unknown actors singing Beatles songs. Captivated by cinematography and stunning Beatles covers, audience members barely notice Taymor’s seamless punch of trans formative anti war and civil rights protest. Riveted to our seats, witness to the glaring relevance of Vietnam era America in our modern world. Brilliant. If you haven’t seen it, make a point of seeking it out. I get goosebumps watching this –

 

 

Friday Night Covers


Truth be told, cover songs are an obsession. Not the debilitating obsessive compulsive sort; more the kick back, work doesn’t beckon till 2 pm Saturday afternoon kind. In my world diversionary cover quests are like panning for gold, every so often a nugget winks back. Most valuable – songs I wasn’t looking for, covers transforming ordinary to extraordinary. Bells ring when covers of radio station changing originals smack me in the face. A classic example –

Searching for cover breaks my heart one moment, warms it the next. Ponder this –

A handful twinkle brilliantly beside originals from the soundtrack of my life –

Very late now, Friday night cover concludes with Playing For Change covering Bob Marley –

Brian May Asteroid Day


On June 30, 1908 an asteroid exploded over Tunguska, Siberia releasing energy of 100 tons TNT – the force flattened 800 square miles of Russian wilderness. Last year astrophysicist Dr. Brian May, Apollo 9 astronaut Ricky Schweickart and astronaut Dr. Ed Lu co-founded Asteroid Day to coincide with the anniversary of the Tunguska event. June 30, 2016 was the second official Asteroid Day.

Hold onto your hat – astrophysicist Dr. Brian May is Brian May, guitarist and songwriter for rock band Queen (he wrote We Will Rock You ). Brian May, ranked 26th of the top 100 guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2011, is an astrophysicist.

With a degree in physics from Imperial College London, 1974 found May working on his thesis ( the study of reflected light from interplanetary dust and the velocity of dust in our solar system ). Academic pursuits ended with the rise of Queen’s star. Over 40 years and honorary degrees from Hertfordshire, Exeter and Liverpool John Moore universities later, May buckled down. Submitting an updated thesis “Motions of Interplanetary Dust” to Imperial College – Brian May earned his PHD in 2007.

Dr. Brian May

From a 2015 interview with the Guardian –

“The aim is to ramp up public awareness and the awareness of governments to the fact that we are under threat from a meteor strike,” May told me during a visit, “It’s been made light of, and we’ve seen some great films, like Bruce Willis saving the day, but it is a very serious threat.”

A key aim of Asteroid Day is to lobby for a 100-fold increase in the detection rate of Near Earth Objects.

“This is a catastrophe that could be averted,” he said.

I leave you with “We Will Rock You – Asteroid Day”

Dr Brian May

Hunting For Cover


Hunting for the best cover of Bob Dylan’s Knocking On Heavens Door dominated well over an hour this evening. Concluding every version has merit, led to pondering why the original hadn’t factored in the quest. ( that’s an exaggeration, in truth I went “huh” mid hunt and clicked on more covers).

Some time later it came to me – certain songs are destined to carry weight from generation to generation. Lyrical plucks of conscience, melodic fists erupting from belly aches of social injustice. Here’s the thing, Knocking On Heavens Door is an anomaly – it wasn’t born a protest anthem. Dylan’s now metaphorical heaven of consequence, was penned for a movie soundtrack.

Bob Dylan wrote and sang Knocking On Heavens Door for the soundtrack of  1973’s movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. In the film it played as the voice of a deputy sheriff, dying of bullet wounds, telling his wife “Mama take this badge off of me”.

Mama, take this badge off of me
’cause I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama, put that gun to the ground
’cause I can’t shoot them anymore.
There’s a long black cloud comin’ on down
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door
Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

I don’t care if a definitive cover exists. Hunting for cover reminded me – music is protests’ mightiest weapon.

Argh!

Everyday People


When was the last time you heard a politician address disabilities, poverty or education? Quibbles over religion, immigration, crime, oil, same sex marriage and climate change trivialize everyday people. If  “Everyday People” produced by PFC in conjunction with Turnaround Arts doesn’t slap you with a wake the f**k up, I give up.

Turnaround Arts, the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities empowers high-need, low performing schools with innovative arts, dance, theater and music programs, arts integration across subject areas, arts resources, musical instruments, and high-profile artist mentors, as a proven strategy to help address broader school challenges and close the achievement gap.
Learn more: http://turnaroundarts.pcah.gov
Twitter: @TurnaroundArts
Facebook: @TurnaroundArts
Instagram: @turnaroundartsnational

Playing For Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. The idea for this project came from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.
Learn more: http://playingforchange.com
Twitter: @playing4change
Facebook: @PlayingForChange
Instagram: @playing4change

Click play – it won’t hurt a bit….

For an encore, take a listen to Jeff Buckley’s version –