Music to My Ears (and Heart)

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” ― Bono

Today is the 100th day of the 45th President’s new administration. Many of us are weary of his Tweets, Executive Orders, his incompetence, narcissism and probable untreated mental illness, his misogyny and prejudice, and his lack of understanding how government works and who government represents. As I’ve written before, I probably spend too much time watching cable news and the parade of talking heads, the circus of Trump’s cabinet and Republican Congress, and reading fake news, social media posts, and online opinion pieces. Like many others, I periodically take a break on Facebook and look at videos of babies, jumping goats, mischievous cats and cucumbers, and dogs who talk or do other incredible feats. This week I also played a Facebook game by listing 10 concerts, nine of which I attended, one that was a lie. It helped me survive this week of political madness.

Pete Seeger’s Banjo

Full disclosure: Sometimes I find myself being judgmental of the posts of friends and family on Facebook, the photos of the beer they drank or the meal they ate, the conversations with friends or colleagues at work about their favorite guilty pleasure TV show, or the movie they recently watched (oh yes, I’m also guilty of all the preceding, especially the latter).  I’m often envious of the vacations friends take, not because I can’t share in and celebrate their joy, but some days I admit, I want a life different from my own. The past week when my sister Tami posted a list of 10 concerts, nine of which she attended, and one imposter, it was a game — and a distraction —  that grabbed my attention and was perfectly timed for me to take a break from the news and drama of the day.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

First, I enjoyed learning a little more about family and friends, the music that appealed to them, the live concerts they attended, and experiences they had over time. Music is the soundtrack of our lives. CNN is currently featuring an original series, Soundtracks: Songs That Defined History, featuring how music chronicles important moments in our past from protest songs to 9/11.

Another gift was compiling my list. Each concert I added sparked a memory — a time, a place, a shared experience with a loved one and with an audience — an affinity group of fans who celebrated the musician’s art and our connection to each other. The list I was compiling spanned time, from my pre-teen years and first live concert — The Beatles, yes, I have bragging rights — to years of concert-going when I introduced my sister Tami to one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Joan Armatrading, and years later when we introduced her daughter and my niece, Gemma, to Joan during Armatrading’s farewell live concert tour.

Here’s the first list I posted to Facebook:

Okay, I usually don’t play these Facebook games, but this is a fun one. Of these 10 concerts I attended, one of them is a lie. Can you guess which?

1. Melissa Etheridge
2. Annie Lennox
3. Bette Midler (Clams on the Half Shell Tour)
4. Tina Turner
5. Willy Nelson
6. Tracy Chapman
7. Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention
8. Indigo Girls
9. The Beatles
10. Joan Armatrading

As I read the concert lists posted by friends and family, more memories flooded in and my list grew, reminding me how important music, culture, and the arts are in enhancing, marking milestones, and celebrating our lives. It is truly music to our ears and hearts. I posted a second list on Facebook, embellished with memories of people, places, and moments from the past that remain in my memory and heart. In this third chapter of my life, it’s not material things that hold value, but experiences shared with people I love.

From my Facebook post reveal: First, a little background before I reveal the concert I did NOT attend. One of the peak experiences of my life was seeing The Beatles perform in Milwaukee in 1964 when I was 14 years old. It was my first live concert, and I was joined by three of my best middle school girlfriends. We each adopted one of the Beatles names. I was John, because I wrote poetry, considered myself “artistic” and wore glasses (yes, I’m laughing at myself).

Another peak experience was attending Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Tour in Madison in 1974. Barry Manilow was her accompanist on the piano in a white tux. Between sets, he introduced a song he had recently released. It was Mandy. I went to the concert with the first woman I loved, Gloria as in G-L-O-R-I-A, her girlfriend, and my husband Frank (yes, it was complicated).

I saw Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention twice, the first time was at Alpine Valley in the early 1970s when he walked off stage, because he got angry at the DJ from WOKY in Milwaukee and some of the fans who were drunk and wouldn’t shut up. I saw him again at the Dane County Coliseum a few years later.

I’ve seen Joan Armatrading too many times to count, always a peak experience, and most recently saw her farewell concert at Shannon Hall at the UW Memorial Union, joined by my sister Tami Reschke and her daughter, my niece Gemma. Tami reminded me I took her to her first concert when she was 12 to see and hear Air Supply. Years later Tami and her friends, The Rowdy Girls, were in the same audience as my girlfriend and I, the first of a number of Indigo Girls concerts I attended.

Another memorable concert was Willy Nelson when my partner and I were vacationing in Cape Cod in Provincetown. We saw him perform in Hyannisport at the Cape Cod Melody Tent, which featured a rotating stage (yeah, Willy performed stoned, going around in circles, a real professional!). What made the concert memorable was it was the weekend that John F. Kennedy Jr, his wife, and sister-in-law were lost at sea and all the wedding tents were set up for his cousin Rory’s wedding at the Kennedy compound which was surrounded by cable news network trucks and satellites. Surreal. One of the best live concerts I ever attended was by a consummate performer, Tina Turner. Okay, for those readers who stayed with me as I reminisced — drum roll please — I never saw Annie Lennox, but she’s on the top of my list of performers I still want to see and hear perform. One of my favorite albums of all-time is her second solo album of covers, Medusa.

The Second List

It was fun seeing everyone’s concert lists yesterday. It reminded me of concerts I have seen that did not make the list I posted yesterday. One of the gifts of remembering is being reminded of who I attended the concert with and where I saw it. In no particular order (still a sampling, so many concerts over the years) with friends and loved ones too numerous to list here.

1. Catie Curtis in P-Town & Madison and numerous places
2. All the talented musicians at MichFest
3. Patti Smith (yeah, she was out of control!)
4. The Roches (I had backstage passes)
5. Shawn Colvin
6. Suzanne Vega (numerous times & with my sister, Tami)
7. Janis Ian (Stoughton Opera House with my friend, Leanne)
8. Lucinda Williams
9. Sarah McLachlan & Lilith Fair Performers (Summerfest)
10. Mary Chapin Carpenter
11. Tim Buckley (Jeff Buckley’s father)
12. Women performers at Lysistrata & Apple Island including, friends like Mary, & Lynette 13. Sting
14. Rickie Lee Jones
15. David Bowie (The Glass Spider Tour)
16. Pat Metheny
17. Dave Brubeck
18. Chicago
19. Blood, Sweat & Tears
20. Melissa Ferrick
21. Dar Williams
22. Beth Orton
23. Ani Di Franco (numerous times, numerous places)
24. Rod Stewart
25. B.B. King
26. Chuck Berry
27. Paul Butterfield Blues Band
28. Buffalo Springfield
29. Richie Havens
30. The Byrds
31. Judy Collins
32. Fleetwood Mac
33. Bo Diddley
34. Johnny Cash (with my mother and father).

And so many more…thanks everyone for the memories.

Madison Venues, Festivals, Recording Studios, Local Radio, & Producers

I’m grateful to live in a city like Madison, Wisconsin. For a city our size, we are music mecca. Performers like The Rolling Stones and U2, have filled Camp Randall, the football stadium of the University of Wisconsin. Our city streets hosted presidential candidates featuring musical guests like Bruce Springsteen and thousands of supporters.

Madison is home to a range of venues, from stadiums, arenas, and outdoor venues like Breese Steven’s Field, and a summer filled with neighborhood street festivals and parks, events on the Capitol Square and State Street from Concerts on the Square, the Taste of Madison, to Freakfest. Close by in Milwaukee is Summerfest.

Large capacity venues like The Kohl Center, Alliant Energy Center (formerly, the Dane County Coliseum), Overture Center which includes a range of large to intimate concert settings, and a number of former movie theaters now hosting live music, The Majestic, Orpheum, and steps outside my door The Barrymore Theater. There are a number of smaller clubs for jazz, comedy, podcasts, open mics, poetry slams and touring performers of all genres, and new theaters and music clubs in the works. Read more about our local clubs and the production companies who support them.

We’re home to musicians like the founding members of Garbage and the recording studio, Smart Studios, the subject of a recent documentary, The Smart Studios Story, a 2016 documentary film written, directed and co-produced by Wendy Schneider. The film chronicles the history and impact of Madison, Wisconsin-based recording studio Smart Studios, founded by Butch Vig and Steve Marker in 1983. The film premiered on March 16, 2016, at the SXSW Film Festival and was released on iTunes, March 7th, 2017.  In addition to local recording studios, Madison is home to WORT, listener-sponsored radio.

As an LGBTQ person and a second-wave feminist, I’m grateful for the producers and venues that hosted and introduced me to women’s music. Venues like Lysistrata and Apple Island, production companies like Fallen Angel, and Kissing Girls Productions and their annual variety show, I Got This Way from Kissing Girls. There were annual pilgrimages to women’s music festivals including the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and the National Women’s Music Festival, now held every summer in Madison, plus smaller, regional festivals all over the United States and on cruise ships like Olivia Cruises.

Postscript

I look forward to seeing more posts and photos on Facebook and listening to the stories from friends and family about the concerts they attend and the music of their lives. I’ve possessed and listened to music in all of its forms, my father’s 78 rpm records, my adolescent 45 rpm disks, many are now in my youngest sister, Tami’s hands, I gave away or sold many of my 33 rpm records, my niece Jennifer inheriting my Beatle albums. I still have mixed cassette tapes from girlfriends, and recordings of my comedy routines, and lastly, I have a collection of CDs from the past 25 years, plus music, oral history interviews, and podcasts downloaded to my laptop. Words and music.

As I wrote this blog post I started craving new music. Yesterday I ordered three CDs. Two have been on my list for a while yet I wasn’t emotionally ready to hear them, since the past 15 months has been marked by grieving my mother’s death.  I ordered David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar and Leonard Cohen’s album, You Want It Darker. The last new CD I ordered was Aimee Mann’ newest, Mental Illness. Judging by the titles alone, you may get a read on my head and heart. Aimee Mann is performing in my neighborhood on Tuesday at the Barrymore. I wanted to see and hear her live, yet I made the choice instead to order tickets for the travelling Broadway performance of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Yes, music to my ears and heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking News: Security Warning!

Just when I thought it was safe to play an innocuous Facebook social media game, I learned today that 10 Concerts I’ve Been To, One is a Lie, according to a New York Times article it might be a security threat for the participant. “Privacy experts cautioned it could reveal too much about a person’s background and preferences and sounds like a security question — name the first concert you attended — that you might be asked on a banking, brokerage or similar website to verify your identity.” 

Tomorrow, I see a new dystopian thriller, The Circle, which depicts a social media experiment that transgresses the boundaries of privacy and personal freedom.  Stay tuned…

Post Postscript 

First a mini-review of the The Circle, which I saw on Sunday. There was much to like about the questions it raised about privacy, social media, and transparency, however, the screenplay was weak in that it took shortcuts in telling the story and often there wasn’t sufficient motivation displayed to explain the characters choices and behavior. Without revealing the ending, I think it wrapped up all the loose ends so conveniently that it didn’t ring true for me. Critic Richard Roeper said, “This is one of the most crashing letdowns of 2017.” The following comment by James Berardinelli sums it up best for me, “From its beginning, the movie has difficulty wedding its collage of ideas with a compelling narrative.” I was disappointed in the film after looking forward to it. The good news is I enjoyed the company of my filmgoing friends.

Speaking of my filmgoing friends, I was also gifted tickets to Summerfest to see one of the musical performers (and Nobel Prize winner for literature) I have never heard live and has always been in the top two or three performers on my bucket list (if I had one!), Bob Dylan, who is performing with Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, and others. I was speechless when I opened the envelope. I’m grateful for friends and music. 

Additional Reading from Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!

Beach Boys, Beatles, Bob Dylan, & the Byrds

Waxing Sentimental

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