Once

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Let me get this out of the way, I love musicals. Just absolutely adore them. The hustle and bustle, the pageantry, the anticipation right before the house lights go down, the costumes, the music. You get the idea, I love musicals. I have been known to keep a soundtrack in my car for weeks at a time; Dreamgirls got me through some very long trips up and down the PA turnpike. So, I am always taken aback when people do not like musicals. Imagine my surprise, then, when Sue and I are in the cab headed to the Academy of Music to see Once and she announces, “I don’t like musicals.” Wait, what? I think telling me before the tickets were purchased may have been a better time for that announcement, but she is a good sport so no turning back. I also knew that she would like the one we were headed into it, since it was all about music. Yup, I get what I just wrote- a musical about music, but it is true.

Once was first a movie and about a busker and the woman who helps him rediscover his love of music. I remember seeing it years ago and just falling in love with this very sweet love story that was about love on many levels, for one’s craft, for others, etc. You never learn the character’s names, they are just guy and girl, all the more to concentrate on the story. Ever since it was re imagined as a musical, I knew I wanted to see it.

I also knew that, regardless of her taxi comment, she was going to like it. As we walked in, there was live music happening, and people milling around, on the stage. The musicians were on stage and singing and playing their instruments as guests were enjoying the bar. As it turns out, since this musical takes place in a bar, the stage is used as a real bar and attendees are invited to enjoy the bar before the show and during intermission. I have never seen anything like that and if I knew, I would have splurged for closer seats just for the chance to view the Academy of Music from the vantage point of the stage. Anyway, there is no way this is going to be a bad show when you are getting settled to a beautiful stripped down version of Ragland Road.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova starred in the movie and also wrote the music for both the movie and musical. The music is my jawn- Irish singer and songwriter heartfelt music accompanied by string instruments. Every song, I can just feel it cursing through my soul. The story is just a good old fashioned love story- guy meets girl, girl helps guy rediscover his love of music, guy and girl fall for each other, timing is off and guy and girl return to their respective loves and do not end up together. Same old, same old- story’s been told a hundred times, but rarely accompanied to such a beautiful soundtrack or in such a beautiful locale.

It turns out Sue does like musicals, or at least this one. So much so, that she bought the soundtrack and I know she will be listening to it for her driving pleasure. Don’t tell her, but I already bought tickets for when South Pacific comes back around.

16 shows to go, 137 days left…

Weird Hot

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The first week after vacation is usually a tough one.  The second week, even more so when you wake up on a dreary cold and dark Monday morning in January to the news that David Bowie died.  It was a weird day that Monday, trying to figure out why I was so sad.  After all I didn’t know him personally and I would not even count him among my top favorites, but I was pretty much out of it all the same.  I know some friends really related to him when they were going through their freaky stages in high school and he made it ok to be different.  Me, I was just not that interesting in high school (or now) to have that level of connectedness to him and his art.  I guess, I just always thought he would be around to provide the musical soundtrack of the different phases of my life.  I had a couple things to get me through the week- David Bowie on the radio all the time, my dearest friend in the world was coming to visit and Weird Hot was holding a CD release party on Saturday night.

One of the reasons, Sue was coming to visit was because she wanted to make sure she shared at least one show with me this celebratory year.  After all, we have known each other for 40 + years, shared a lot of music through those years and she turned me on to bluegrass music and the Winterhawk Bluegrass Festival that become a constant of our summers for about 15 years.  I could not have gone through the year without her.

When I told her what show we were seeing on Saturday, I hedged with the description of the band.  If you know Weird Hot, you understand why.  They are this every eclectic band- kind of glam, kind of punk, definitely rock and roll and kind of 80s pop and bluesy.   They are fronted by the Shawn Kilroy, my favorite, and completely overscheduled, electrician in town, who has a sexual energy and moves that rival Mick Jagger.  At the show, we met up with friends who we have seen shows with and also enjoyed Shakespeare in the Park together. I would say that the group of people who I saw at the show were a good metaphor for the eclectic music we enjoyed that night.

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Weird Hot is a great band.  Period.  Each musician in the band is totally uniquely and spectacular. One woman was in fishnet stockings, while the lead guitarist was in red leather pants.  They are fun, high energy and tight.  Man, that band is tight.  They just keep getting better, too.  They opened with a couple of notes from Space Oddity and then launched into their set.  The crowd started out seated and by the end everyone was on the dance floor, doing their own thing.  And when they played Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” the crowd went even a little crazier.  I did not realize how much I needed, and how therapeutic it was, to dance to Bowie.  But it was exactly how I needed to end the week.

Next time they come around, do yourself a favor and go see them.  Though you may have trouble describing their music, you will have no trouble having fun.

17 shows to go, 138 days left…

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David Bowie earrings- great touch!

Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra

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Exactly happened what I thought would happen. I went great guns on seeing shows and then the holidays happened and didn’t see a show for a month. Now some would argue that I could count the Abba Museum in Sweden as a show. There is a, allegedly, video out there of me singing “Dancing Queen” in a hologram with members of the band, but that is only alleged. In any case, I had a great holiday season, but not many shows. So, it felt right to get back on track on January 1 and start the second half of my 50 years of shows enjoying the Philadelphia Ukulele orchestra. I know, I know. Those who know me would have guessed that the first show of 2016 would have been the Mummers, and that would have been a good guess, since I was out and about, but the first show was, indeed, the Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra.

The Kimmel Center has finally figured out how to use its wonderful space on Mummers Day by throwing open its doors, hosting free entertainment, making sure the bar is open, and most importantly, keeping those glorious, and clean, bathrooms open. If I spend my Mummers’ Day in Center City, as opposed to South Philly, then I always stop in. It was just an added bonus to enjoy the musical musings of ukuleles.

The Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra is exactly what it sounds like- a band of ukuleles playing old timey and current covers of songs. There are 12 members of the band with folks from those Philly bands I like so much- John Train, The Donuts, Beretta 76, Bumsteads, etc. Their ages range from 25- 80 years old and their names are awesome! Vivian Vapors, Mortimer LaGrippe, Horace Dropsy, Elmer Moxie, to mention just a few. They dress in smoking jackets, the men wear fezzes while the women wear gloves and they have little bars in suitcases with their bourbon.   The description of their music to tout their latest CD, “an irony-free ukulele and vocal romp through the Great American Songbook, Senior Division. Hits from before you mother was born.” Seriously, what is not to love?

I had a chance to meet up with friends, sip a little Bourbon while enjoying the gentle sounds of ukes through the great halls of the Kimmel center. It was a great way to start 2016 and my second half of the year seeing 50 shows.IMG_5810

18 shows to go, 153 days left…