PJ Harvey’s Astonishing Show At Wolf Trap

Posted in Music with tags , , on July 22, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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In the 21st Century, the only musical artist working with a conceptual breadth to rival Radiohead has been PJ Harvey.  Last night at Wolf Trap, with a nine-man band of shape-shifters who reconsolidated themselves, moment by moment, with emphases on percussion, horns, and strings, she accomplished what has become such a rarity: a live show of complex material that sounded so much better than the studio output.

They marched in like Buddhist monks about to perform the Black Hat Dance, nine men and a waif with a saxophone in her hands, and by the time they were into “Chain Of Keys” from last year’s D.C. travelogue, The Hope Six Demolition Project, the effect was astonishing.  The baritone saxes and all-men’s choir, the double drums and guitars, all allowed Harvey’s high, pitch-perfect voice to cut through the humid night air.  We say that her band, largely intact from her last album and one of the century’s greatest works, Let England Shake, sounded even better than it did in the studio, and so it did.  Paradoxically note perfect and looser, combined with a singer who over 90 minutes literally never hit a flat note, this was a live act on a tour you pray someone has the sense to let tapes roll so that that a rara avis can be captured: a live album you’d want to play instead of the source material.

The third song of the evening was “Shame” from 2004’s undervalued Uh Huh Her, but until she got to a mini-set of old songs three-fourths of the way through the show, the material moved back and forth between Hope Six and Let England Shake, with an emphasis on the latter.  Live, “The Glorious Land” was the perhaps strongest anti-war denunciation in musical history, as she hauntingly indicted America and England in growing “the glorious fruit in our land/the fruit is deformed children/what is the glorious fruit in our land/the fruit is orphaned children.”  She may have been singing about World War I, but at an outdoor show in Northern Virginia, with the Pentagon — the “Ministry of Defence” — so near, it was a searing indictment.

PJ 1Last year, when Harvey released The Hope Six Demonstration Project, it was proof that she operates on a literary plane different from her peers, because like her World War I chronicle, Let England Shake, it wasn’t simply an album of songs, it was an interconnected set of observations from her visits to Washington and Kosovo.  Widely criticized, including, perhaps, here, the put down was that she had taken a “windshield tour” of DC’s poorest neighborhoods and exploited them with a shallow rendering of their pathologies.  Last night, though, as the songs were allowed to breath in the hot night air, we changed our mind a bit, and found ourselves loving the material in a way we hadn’t last year, even as we included the album as #7 on our 2016 Top 10 List of albums.  And when she closed the set by bringing out Anacostia’s Union Temple Baptist Church Choir for “River Anacostia” and then “The Community of Hope,” all was forgiven.

To a non-PJ Harvey fan who was seeing her last night, we tried in advance to widen the frame of what to expect.  Don’t judge her, we said, in the narrow context of what kind of rock’n’roll show she puts on.  Harvey works on a level not dissimilar from Dylan, channeling all sorts of pre-rock influences, in her case going back to Greek theater. With her songs of war and the pain of missing children, this is musical theater as classic literature.  Oh, and also gorgeous rock’n’roll.  Last night, she did not disappoint.

The Rolling Stones in ’72.  The Clash in ’79, Gang of Four in ’80.  Alejandro Escovedo in 1997.  Yeah, PJ Harvey in 2017.  We won’t soon forget it.

If You Like Moose — And Who Doesn’t? — You’ll Love This Story

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 8, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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All  images taken with the Leica SL

Last summer, my wife and I returned from an overnight trip to Yellowstone to find these guys hanging out around the house.  They looked a little guilty, like thieves caught eating our trees.  Which of course they were.

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Once we got into the house, we actually were stuck there, because we couldn’t sneak out for dinner without worrying about whether we were disturbing the moose mama and her young calves.

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She had two young ones with her, and after a while we were able to get out for dinner.  We saw them in the neighborhood over the few weeks of summer we are able to sneak away to Wyoming.  The young ones got bigger before our very eyes.

By the time we came back for winter skiing, the mama moose was there, but where were the young ones?

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It was a brutal winter, with high snow drifts.  And while the mama was comfortable around the house, we worried for the calves.

Until yesterday, we came home and found these guys.

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Last year’s calf is now a mama, with a moosekin of her own.  We don’t know where the grandma is, nor what happened to the current mama’s sibling.  But we are so glad to see this third generation of moose arrive, and look forward to next year when, we hope, this young calf comes back with her offspring.

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Kevin Morby’s Gorgeous “City Music” Should Blare From Apartment Windows Everywhere

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on June 17, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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Some years ago, when contemplating the life I would lead in New York after graduating from a college set in the fields and orchards of Western Mass, I would stare at the jacket of Donald Barthelme’s collection, City Life.  A couple in nightdress, he older and somewhat delirious, she younger and game for the dance, seemed to sum up how much better life would be in the big city.

Yesterday was Bloomsday, which celebrates unquestionably the greatest love song to a city ever written, and of course it was fitting that Kevin Morby released his magisterial new album, City Music. For those late to this story, Morby was the bass player in Woods, and co-bandleader of The Babies, and beginning in 2013, a solo artist whose powers increase record-by-record.  His paean to city life is as heartfelt as Joyce’s, and the respect he pays to certain moments in modern urban history resonates deeply with me.

The title track of last summer’s fine sophomore album, Singing Saw, invoked the magic of  Talking Heads’ More Songs About Buildings And Food, and on City Music, the sometime-New Yorker invokes Television, Talking Heads, Garland Jeffreys, Lou Reed, and the Ramones, to name just a few of Fun City’s champions. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Dylan’s a New York artist too. Morby doesn’t.

In a lovely NPR piece published yesterday, Morby walks us through the album song by song. It’s worth a read, revealing as it does how this young artist absorbs influences and uses them as inspiration.  He cites “Marquee Moon,” as the source of the title track’s guitar sound, and it’s as fun to listen to as seeing Wilco cover the original by seminal New Yorkers Television.  On Singing Saw, Morby had the benefit of Sam Cohen as producer and a guitarist whose lines take these completely unexpected left turns; the ensemble assembled on City Life is a congenial and accomplished band that you’d love to see live.  Even on the slow songs, they swing.

Morby’s voice isn’t particularly expressive, but his songwriting and storytelling more than make up for it, and his ambitions seem to be growing.  On Singing Saw, songs like “Dorothy” and “I Have Been To The Mountain” were so strong that they masked weaker material elsewhere on an album that was pretty universally acclaimed, including in these here parts.  There’s no such problem on City Music: every song, even the cover of the Germs’ “Caught In My Eye,” will make you want to play this album loud enough to bug the neighbors in your stifling apartment building.

A year ago, when Morby was able to tell the story of how he picked up and moved from Kansas City to Brooklyn, landing a few weeks later in Woods — then and now, a highlight of modern New York bands — the notion of the Bright Lights, Big City luring him from the midwest placed his narrative in familiar terms.  In City Life, he’s made it, he’s gone from the periphery to the center, like Dylan, like Jimmy Reed of Dunleith, Mississippi, who wrote the song, and Jay McInerney of Hartford, Connecticut, who wrote the book.

Around the time that we sat in our college dorm dreaming of joining the party in New York, we fixated on another great work of its time, Raymond Sokolov’s Native Intelligence.  The novel begins with the college admissions essay written by a young midwesterner who wants to go to Harvard to participate in the intellectual discussions he imagines exist there.  The opening chapter ends with the admissions officer’s notes, written in longhand in the margins: “Grades, SATs, and high-school recommendations all very high.  We will, of course, accept him, but I think he is going to be disappointed with Harvard and depressed by Radcliffe.  Another case of great expectations in the boondocks.”

Thank Heaven young Kevin Morby got on that bus.

 

 

Capital Pride Parade 2017: A Photo Gallery

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 11, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux FLE

Since Trump’s inauguration, we’ve taken to the streets, camera in hand, to capture the energy he’s unleashed.  The crowds have been determined — to fight back, to remove him, to save the nation and the planet — but it’s been pretty joyful, all in all, from the Women’s March through the Climate March and the smaller ones like last week’s March for Truth.  Even those spontaneous demonstrations following the Muslim Ban were filled with fellowship, if not precisely happiness — people smiled for the camera, they were glad to be counted.

The 2017 Capital Pride Parade today was as if the blight of Trump had not settled upon the land.  It’s always a fun event, but today’s felt like we caught a glimpse of what life will be when this pestilential administration has gone back where it came from.  What a delight it is to live in a city with such a large and dynamic LGBTQ community, and their thousands of friends, gay and straight, who come out each year to show their true colors.

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At The March For Truth DC: A Photo Gallery

Posted in Trump Protests with tags , , , , on June 3, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica M10 and 35mm Summilux FLE.

Six months in, with the damage of the Trump presidency more obvious by the minute, the resistance will not let up.  On a hot summer day in DC, crowds still came out for the March For Truth, the protest organized around the principle that the President of the United States, his family, his staff, and their collusion with the Russians should be properly investigated.  This will be a big week on that score.  We believe our Saturdays will continue to be organized around capturing this steady resistance.

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At The Rolling Thunder Parade: Gallery Of Images

Posted in 50mm Apo Summicron Asph, Leica Images, Leica Monochrom, photography with tags , , , , , , on May 28, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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All images Leica Monochrom (Typ-246) and 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph

Donald Trump may have gotten 4% of the vote in the District of Columbia, but in certain precincts over Memorial Day Weekend here in the Nation’s Capital, we’d bet his vote was higher.

One can’t help but be moved by some of those who come each year, many by motorcycle, to celebrate Memorial Day.  For everyone who comes for fellowship, a good ride, a fun weekend, there are others in possession of raw emotions, more than 40 years after the Vietnam War, and memories of their loved ones and earlier selves.  We came upon this fellow sitting by himself, a few yards from the Wall.

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This ritual each year means a lot to our visitors who roll in from around the country.

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And some wars are never over.  (We see this guy here every year.)

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While some wait patiently for the Rolling Thunder motorcycles to come roaring by, others go into the pedestrian mall set up every year, to buy food and insignia, motorcycle gear, even holsters.

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And while few are still on active duty, some carry their rank with them wherever they go.

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While others carry the burden of their lives in the sadness of their eyes.

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Holy Grail Alert: We Found Henry Badowski’s “Life Is A Grand” In A Digital Format

Posted in Music with tags , , on May 20, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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In June 2013, we asked a simple question: Is Henry Badowski’s Life Is A Grand THE great lost album of all time? After all, this perfect gem of an Eno-esque solo album, released by IRS Records in 1981, had defied the near universal jukebox reality we have lived in since the dawn of the CD era, when record companies, hot to sell everything a second time, brought virtually all vinyl records into a digital format.  It never came out as a CD.  It couldn’t be found as a legal digital download.  Unless you had the vinyl, or paid up for it, you would have to take the word of people like me: this was about as close to the Holy Grail of record collecting as a modern power-pop fancier could get.

Over the years, a fair number of people have read that post, linked to it, and commented.  Every once in a while, there is some spike in Tulip Frenzy’s traffic and it quite often comes from some diehard finding the piece and linking to it.  Henry Badwoski’s fans may be fairly few, but they are devoted.  As they should be.

I’d like to think that some people have learned about Henry from that piece.  After all, we said “the record is like a mix of Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy and Bowie’s Low –– though it is so endearingly sweet, you have to imagine Bowie on ecstasy, not blow.  It is almost entirely upbeat, and the rhythm section could easily have been the Moxhams from Young Marble Giant — minimalist, spare — underneath Farfisas and simple keyboards.  All we see of Badowski from the album cover is a fey, Bryan Ferry head of hair posed near a hedge on one of those great British country gardens.  And that’s all we’ve seen of him for 30 years or more; he disappeared, at least on this side of the pond.  And the record?  It disappeared too.”  Who wouldn’t want to know more, to track it down, to hear it?  What self-respecting rock’n’roll fan wouldn’t be intrigued?

A few weeks back, someone commented on Tulip Frenzy that they’d found the record as a digital download on this here Internet thing.  And sure enough!  You can download “Life Is A Grand” here!

Now, let us say, we are opposed to artists not getting paid for their work, and have never participated in illegal fire sharing.  But there is no other way to get a digital file of this record.  And we justify posting a link to the site where you can download the record thusly: we bet that, if Henry is not going to be able to get royalties from his 1981 masterpiece, he would want people to listen to it.  To remember him.  To recognize that he produced The Great Lost Album of the post-punk era.

Happily, it’s lost no more.

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