Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘music

Out Again

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Feeling quite the bon vivant event-goers of late, last night we found ourselves out on the town again. We took a chance with our chickens and left their coop access door open long after dark in order to head downtown to Minneapolis for dinner and a concert with Cyndie’s brother, Ben.

Highest accolades shout-out to Mercy restaurant for superb food, great service, and fine ambiance.

Oh my gosh, the salmon and fixings were sublime. Shared bites from Cyndie’s and Ben’s plates revealed their choices were just as good.

Conveniently, the restaurant was just steps away from the State Theater where Ben had tickets for a solo acoustic concert by guitarist, Trey Anastasio. I am most familiar with Trey’s electric guitar artistry on his self-titled album, but I’m sure he is better known for his role in the rock band, Phish.

I’ve seen plenty of performances that were advertised as “acoustic” but stretched the definition to a variety of degrees. Trey’s show held reasonably close to the genre.

Our seats in the balcony placed me appropriately between two levels of interested fans. There were two guys behind me who I assume came with dates who were in love with the guitarist. These guys decided to have a full-voiced conversation about the mundane, …about one of their dads, something down in a basement, how the truck was performing… in the middle of some fascinating finger movement across frets.

Two people in front of us were being moved to the highest levels of euphoria upon hearing the opening notes of every song, unable to keep their hands from floating into the air in joyous rapture, occasionally rising to their feet to dance, as if powerless to resist the bliss unleashed by the connection their minds provided to the Phish song Trey was acoustically covering.

I couldn’t join the Phish faithful in singing along, because I didn’t know the lyrics, but I was thrilled to be witnessing the live-performance virtuosity of such an accomplished musician.

It made it easy for me to overcome the urge to turn around to tell the guys about my deck and the power tools I was learning to use in replacing all the rotting cedar boards with new green-treated two-by-sixes.

As our car barreled east on I94 through St. Paul after the show, a call came in from Ben. He just wanted to let us know he was a few blocks from home already and wondered how we were doing. Funny guy. We had about 40-minutes left to get to Beldenville.

Happily, I found the chickens all safe and sound on their roost, cooing at my arrival to close the door.

Another smashing success of a night out on the town. Thanks, Ben!

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A Weakness

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When there is a Ken Burns documentary on PBS, I seem to lose my ability to turn away. And when it is a series of 8 two-hour episodes over two weeks, my nights vanish in a blink.

Last night, I barely noticed the storm that rolled over us because I was fixated by episode 7 of “Country Music.” Luckily, we didn’t need to move to the basement for cover.

I never considered myself a “fan” of country music as presented by radio stations, but the portions of this epic documentary that I have seen in the prime time broadcasts this week and last are showing me how much of the music that I do like is interrelated. The performing artists, songwriters, and recording engineers frequently cross over the artificial boundaries created by radio stations and record companies intended to compartmentalize their “product” and maximize profits.

The music that works the best for me comes from the fringes of Country Music where there is more artistic control and less broad commercial appeal.

In general, I could say I have a weakness for Ken Burns’s documentaries, but this one on the subject of a particularly American style of music, much of which has occurred in my lifetime, is almost overpowering in its demand for my attention.

I hope the universe will forgive me for getting nothing productive accomplished while this show is making its broadcast debut.

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Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Remembering Woodstock

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Ten years ago, on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, I wrote a blog post musing about how that event influenced my taste in music. In honor of reaching the milestone of 50 years hence, I’m going to re-post those thoughts once again…

Have I mused on music already here? I don’t remember.

It was 40 years ago now that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held. Three days of peace and music. I was 10 years old. I don’t have any recollection that I had any clue it was occurring.

I’m not clear about what point in my life it was that I got hooked by the music being made by artists like the ones that were so well represented at the Woodstock concert. The first album that belonged to me was a gift from a sibling or siblings (anyone remember?). It was the Monkees, “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. That album was released in November of 1967, so maybe I got it Christmas of that year. I remember they pranked me with the trick where they taped the album to the cover of the box the present was wrapped in so when I lifted it and looked in the box, there was nothing there.

The next record I recall getting was one that my sister, Linda, allowed me to select for myself, as a gift from her. I didn’t have a clue what to pick and went with what I saw before me when walking the aisle of the local record store. Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” was something that I recognized as having heard on the radio and it was in the front of a stack down at my eye level. I picked it and remember her trying hard to make sure that was what I wanted. I’m pretty sure she could sense it was not a well thought out selection. But I held firm, trying to portray that I was making an informed decision. I wasn’t.

Eventually, I came to revere the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The first concert I ever saw in person was The Allman Brothers Band. I was a fan of The Beatles, Derek & the Dominos, America, Loggins & Messina and a wide range of related groups. I have always liked live recordings and I think my favorite albums from all the above artists or groups are their live concert recordings.

     Impressionable years

Somewhere in my very impressionable music years, I heard the live recordings of Santana, The Who, Richie Havens, Country Joe & the Fish, Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joe Cocker, John Sebastion, and I’m sure others who performed at Woodstock, and those songs all locked in my consciousness as foundation blocks.

I probably heard them on the soundtrack of the documentary film released after the concert. From those songs, I built a fascination for Leon Russell and records like Mad Dogs & Englishmen, The Band, “Rock of Ages” and “The Last Waltz”, Little Feat, “Waiting for Columbus”, George Harrison and the musicians he recruited for “Concert for Bangladesh”.

This wasn’t music that was played on popular radio (remember the AM band?). This is what record albums and FM radio were all about. Eventually, I got a job at a retail record store for about a year and became immersed in more albums than I could comprehend.

I wasn’t old enough to be aware that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was happening at the time, but later, it became a very significant part of my music world because of the recordings made there. And the music that was made there came from the spirit of that moment. Woodstock was a very important event for me, after the fact.

Increasingly more so, in the accumulating years following that August weekend back in 1969.

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Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2019 at 6:00 am

Please Stop

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Just make it stop. Please.

When I stepped out of work yesterday, this is how my car looked:

It was snowing again, perfectly timed with the beginning of the afternoon drive. Lovely. Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

My commute home started well enough, considering the low visibility and slippery road surfaces, but in short order, progress slowed to stop-and-go, rolling along at a snail’s pace. That tedious speed lasted for more than an hour, during which I enjoyed a deep meander through my prized digital music collection on my phone.

With little in the way of driving decisions required, my mind was free to pay greater than normal attention to the music of my memories that was flowing from my car speakers. It served as adequate distraction from how extra-long the commute was taking, until the flow finally opened up and vehicles started moving at dangerous speeds again.

Somehow, I was able to steer clear of the two lunatics who were unsatisfied with the reasonable movement in the left lane and decided to race ahead in other lanes to cut back into the left again, disrupting everyone’s safety. One of them chose to cut off me, without the courtesy of a turn signal.

The other picked a driver who chose to “fight back” with a classic road rage tactic of “tit for tat,” racing ahead to cut back in front of the first jerk.

No problem, it gave me a chance to slow down even more to grant them plenty of space to take their grudge well ahead and away from me.

Beyond those two scares, the only other challenges of disaster I narrowly avoided happened to be three separate incidents of police and highway patrol cars precariously parked to protect vehicles that had crashed and spun out.

It took me twice as long to get home, but I did arrive without calamity.

Shortly after, the falling snow stopped, and the sun even appeared for a couple of brief glimpses before setting.

I’m going to visualize this as having been the last snowy drive I will suffer for the rest of the season. To help start this new run of luck in my favor, my goal this weekend (like it was on Tuesday, last), is to simply avoid driving my car at all over the entire weekend.

Here’s hoping I achieve that humble objective.

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2019 at 7:00 am

All About

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Cyndie. This Weekend, it’s all about Cyndie as we celebrate the milestone of her 60th birthday. With Jackie tending to animal chores at Wintervale, Cyndie and I are submersed in the loving energy –and I do mean energy– of the Friswold family. We are staying at her parent’s house in Edina, MN, but have twice in a row found our way to downtown Minneapolis.

Last night, it was dinner and music at the Dakota, where we ate like royalty and swooned over Shawn Colvin‘s very personal solo guitar song performance.

This morning, Cyndie is sleeping in. My brain is busy trying to process the onslaught of activity, memories, and emotions –not to mention distractions of mental and physical preparations for my biking and camping trip that starts on Friday– conspiring to confuse me over whether it’s all about Cyndie, or all about me right now.

I had the great pleasure of starting the day yesterday riding bikes with Cyndie’s brother, Ben. He rode over from about a mile away just as a rumble of thunder rolled over us.

We took pause inside to watch the radar long enough to see we would have a perfect window of opportunity after a very short wait. The tiny disturbance sliding south of us was just a precursor to the precipitation that would arrive in the middle of the day and hang around for the afternoon.

While the sky was watering the earth, more of the Friswold clan gathered for lunch at Jimmy’s restaurant near our old Eden Prairie stomping grounds.

After a little nap before heading out for the night, attention turned to a gift brother Barry presented to Cyndie. Her jaw dropped when she saw her younger face on the cover of a memory book of pictures he had spent many loving hours to produce.

Just as she finished a first pass through the overwhelming collection of memories the images trigger, we stood to witness Justify run for the triple crown. Then eleven of us headed out for dinner and the concert.

With noted local musician and song-a-day YouTuber, Zachary Scot Johnson opening the show for Shawn Colvin, we were treated to a range of guitar-accompanied stories, providing me with a second recent prompt to wonder whether I am still a guitar player, or not.

A variety of reasons have combined to allow months to pass without my spending time with fingers on frets. I am inclined to blame my yet-to-be surgically treated arthritic left thumb as the primary culprit for the hiatus, but deep down, I have a sense I may be giving that more credit than is due.

Somehow, while distracted with too many of my own concerns rarely focused on accomplishments, I have been granted the chance to flutter around the bright light that is Cyndie for 44-some years.

It makes for a tangled web that isn’t so much all about her or me in the end. It really has become all about us.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2018 at 8:35 am

Saturday Morning

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It’s just another Saturday morning. Yesterday is over and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. I’m tired, like so many millions of mornings before, but more aware of it than usual. Is it a physical tiredness, or mental fatigue? I think the answer to both is, yes.

I’m tired like I must be another day older. I guess I can’t argue with that. Older, I am.

I’ve got Trey Anastasio’s self-titled 2002 album playing straight through, in the order it was presented. It’s become an anomaly for me to let recordings play the way I listened to them when I was a kid, one side of a vinyl LP and then the other.

Now days, for me, it’s almost always a computer-generated “mix-tape” of songs from the complete catalog in my iTunes file. That has its own rewards, but it produces a different result, for sure.

Music is like food for my soul. Sometimes I eat just because there is food in front of me. “See food,” I call it. I listen to a lot of music in the same way, consuming it just because it is there. I like to assume it nourishes me adequately enough, but sometimes my mind must develop a craving for tunes that will give me something particular I need.

I want to hear a song I love, an instrumental performance that thrills me, or a composition played so inspiringly that I get a shiver up my spine.

It is a phenomenon that is difficult to manufacture. There are a lot of intangible aspects fueling the outcome, most of them in my head.

It’s odd that I picked one album this morning because I usually get what I seek by way of spontaneously building a custom mix for the moment and letting one song feed the next in a climb to satisfaction.

I’m thinking I might try that next, but the single album mode served to get my tired old self started this Saturday morning.

As I write that, Trey is singing, “Push on ’til the day, push on ’til the day, push on ’til the day…”

With no firm plan of action for the weekend, I look forward to discovering what unfolds.

Pushing on!

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2018 at 9:56 am

Great Show

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Many, many months ago, I bought tickets for a show in downtown Minneapolis at the State Theater on Hennepin Avenue, not really sure why I was picking this concert over so many other more obvious choices for us. Must have been my keen intuition.

Last night, the performance date finally arrived and we headed to the big city to see the TajMo band. Two blues greats, Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’, have joined forces to come up with a very pleasing combined version of themselves.

Here is a link to a nice review of their show in Nevada back in June that matches closely with the version we experienced. It does a good job of capturing the essence of the night we had.

The only drawback with our little forays to the Twin Cities on work nights is that it cuts into my sleep, which usually makes for short blog posts, too.

I’ll leave you with a couple of shots taken on my phone from up in the balcony. Did I mention it was a really great show? It truly was.

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Written by johnwhays

September 7, 2017 at 6:00 am