A Star Is Born

If you’re into music at all, the number of bands you’ve seen live really adds up over a few decades. From foot-staring technicians to sophisticated performance artists who happen to use music as their medium, there are a lot of ways to put on a good show. But every now and then, you see a true rock star. Some people have an innate ability to reach down and pick the crowd up.

I don’t even like the type of music he makes. But on the Bumbershoot stage in 2014, Otieno Terry was captivating. You would never have known that it was the biggest show the KEXP SoundOff winner had ever played.  The boy was in his natural habitat. He even stopped the show to sing Happy Birthday to his mother in the audience and instead of destroying the effect, everyone in the audience felt part of a special moment.

I pulled out my phone right after his set, intending to buy his album, only to discover he didn’t have one yet. In the years since, I’ve occasionally remembered that show and looked him up, and never found anything. Then a couple weeks ago I found Otieno Terry’s debut album The Woods. It’s still not my kind of music. But I’m looking forward to seeing him perform again. Rock stars always make you feel lucky to be in their orbit.

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Naming Ghosts

Sometimes I take a bunch of concert photos and don’t have time to go back and tag them all with names. Especially at festivals. I think this is Aubrey Bramble (what a great name) performing in Golden Gardens at Bumbershoot 2014. Golden Gardens is a great name for a band, especially one that sounds as shimmery and ethereal as this Seattle band. Golden Gardens sounds like a metaphoric name for heaven.

But for me, Golden Gardens is the park with the largest off-leash area in part of town. There are few things more neurotic than an urban border collie, so for nearly ten years, I drove there literally every day to spend 30-45 minutes throwing a ball. That piss-soaked corral was my third place, rain or shine. I knew more local dogs by name than humans.

The heavenly music of Golden Gardens is hard to reconcile with my muddy memories of rambunctious canine joy. But if all dogs do go to heaven, I know mine is at Golden Gardens.

Her Story at Pacific Northwest Ballet

“You never take me to the modern ballets,” my 8-year-old complained. “I only get to go to the story ballets.” Was she right? Conventional wisdom tells us to introduce kids to ballet through story, but I’ve never really bought it. After all, little kids are far more likely to spontaneously erupt into abstract dance than adults are, so why would they have a harder time understanding it? But as a reviewer, I do tend to take the kid closest to the age that readers are likely to want to bring, so maybe my artistic younger daughter had been unfairly sequestered in the story ballet ghetto? Fortunately, Pacific Northwest Ballet came to rescue with Her Story, a mixed rep of contemporary ballet choreographed by three of the world’s leading choreographers. The title implied a feminist theme, but the only link between the three pieces is that the choreographers are all women, and all three pieces are magnificent. Continue reading

Exploring the Dark at Reykjavik Calling

“Oh, so you’re going to see the girly band?” Our neighbor looked sympathetically at my husband, sure he was being dragged to Mammút’s set by me, his wife.

We laughed him off. We had already identified the middle-aged man in the camper next to our tent in the Eistnaflug campground as one of those whose only measure of quality was the yardstick of external genitalia, and knew there was no point in arguing the merits a witchy band like Mammút to such a person. Continue reading

Crocodile Kids

My husband was in a band all through college. Seattle had just hit peak grunge, and competition for gigs was fierce. He played around town in lots of the smaller clubs, most of which no longer exist. The Crocodile was one of the important venues back then, as it is now, and they never got to play there.

But my daughter did Rain City Rock Camp for two summers. So she’s played the Crocodile twice.

My Favorite Opera: The Barber of Seville at Seattle Opera

Daniel Sumegi (Basilio)/Kevin Glavin (Bartolo)/Marc Kenison (Ambrogio)/Margaret Gawrysiak (Berta)/Will Liverman (Figaro)/Andrew Owens (Almaviva)/Sofia Fomina (Rosina). Jacob Lucas photo c/o Seattle Opera

I think The Barber of Seville might be my favorite opera. The only thing that detracted from my enjoyment when I watched it last weekend was that every scene made me think, “I wish I’d brought my kids.” Because every single scene is so delightful, so funny, so beautiful, I hated for them to miss it. Even though my kids have already been to the opera before, I left determined to come back with them before the production finishes. Continue reading

Laser Iceland

The first laser show I ever attended was in a symphony hall in 1991 or 1992. Accompanied by a classic rock soundtrack, green lines flashed around the room, sometimes joined by a smoke machine. I wasn’t particularly impressed.

The next laser show I attended was Northern Lights, part of the annual Taste of Iceland Festival. Hosted in the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome, the free show was set to an hour of Icelandic indie music curated by KEXP DJ Kevin Cole. It was a little different from what I remembered. Continue reading