Video Fridays: Ayron Jones & The Way

AyronJones_02-ACOne of the joys of summers here in Bellingham, Washington is the abundance of live outdoor music. From concerts in the park to concerts in the street, from harborside venues to, of all places, the top, uncovered level of the downtown parking garage, when we finally get reliably sunny and dry weather people go absolutely nuts and flock to the music, all adding up to a very fun, festive vibe.

One of my favorite concert series is Downtown Sounds, which takes place on five consecutive Wednesdays from 5:30 to 9:30 pm on a block of Bay Street that is temporarily blocked from car traffic. It’s free, it’s all-ages (though there is a 21+ beer garden), there’s food and other vendors, and there’s a state of the art stage where bands from around the region and beyond put on consistently great shows to large, appreciative crowds.

The band that headlined this past Wednesday, Seattle’s Ayron Jones & The Way, was a timely gift. I’d been getting burned out on the proliferation of R&B/Soul/Funk bands, locally as well as bands passing through, and so it was incredibly refreshing to see a young, edgy, raw power trio, simply electric guitar, bass, drums.

I had more fun, by magnitudes, headbanging in the crowd of headbangers in front of the stage than I have had watching/listening/dancing to the latest in a seemingly endless stream of dance-oriented bands I’ve seen these past few years.

Ayron’s music is described on his website thusly:

[Infuses] the raw energy of punk with the inner-city attitude of Hip-Hop. The result is a soulful reincarnation of that iconic Seattle sound. Think, Stevie Ray Vaughan meets Nirvana.

Those seem like odd juxtapositions, but it works. The band is young and rough around the edges, mostly in a good way, but Ayron is a monster guitar player, loaded with confidence, and to my eyes and ears his future is very, very bright.

Oh, and he can also play his guitar with a drumstick.

Which is awesome.

So, without further ado, here’s this week’s Video Fridays installment, by Ayron Jones & The Way.

Enjoy, and Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Pavement

pavement-quarantineSo, it’s happened again.

I’ve written before about how I fancy myself quite the student of music, and yet, despite my diligent efforts to know what’s going on, I occasionally discover that a particular band or artist has somehow escaped my attention.

Well, this time it’s ’90s indie, alt, rock, or whatever you wanna call it band, Pavement.

Yeah, I know, I’m only just getting into a band that officially broke up in 1999 and was insistent during their 2010 reunion tour that they were not getting back together again.

I’ve heard of Pavement for all of these years, heard just as much about their frontman, Stephen Malkmus, and his other projects, but it took coming across a video clip of one of my favorite bands, Wilco, doing a cover of a Pavement song for me to finally get it.

I’ve been listening to their stuff all day and find I really enjoy their punk-attitude-infused sound, very electric-guitar-centric, and yet melodic at the same time.

Only time will tell as to just how deep I’ll plunge into Pavement, however painful that sounds, or how long I’ll be as into them as I was today, but for now I’m happy to discover some great music that is new to me.

For today’s Video Fridays installment then, I hope you enjoy, as much as I did, this full show from the 2010 reunion tour.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: R.I.P. Omar Sharif & How Lawrence Of Arabia Explains A LOT

Sharif_in_Lawrence_of_ArabiaSad news today, of the passing of actor Omar Sharif.

I can’t say that I’ve been a HUGE Sharif fan, having seen him in only a relative few of the movies in which he appeared.

And yet, one film that he was in, 1962’s Lawrence Of Arabia, is one of my all-time favorites, a stunning movie in just about every way: cinematography, acting, directing, writing, etc, but also stunning for how it inadvertently explains a LOT about how the Middle East became a nearly perpetual battleground, remaining so today, thanks to Western imperialist greed.

It would require nothing less than revisionist history to argue that the latter was not the case. The Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America, coupled with rapidly expanding European and eventual U.S. empires, led to a voracious appetite for fuel, oil was first discovered in the Middle East in 1908, and, big surprise, World War I broke out six years later, with the events of Lawrence Of Arabia occurring during that war.

Lawrence Of Arabia is deeply poignant, in that it tells the story of how the British exploited the people of what was then a region generally referred to as Arabia, sending T.E. Lawrence to build an alliance of Arab tribes to fight the occupying Ottoman Empire, promising that the Arabs would then have full autonomy in the region, only to betray those promises under their secret Sykes-Picot Agreement with France, which divided up Arabia into “spheres of influence and control”.

For today’s Video Fridays installment, then, in honor of the late, great Omar Sharif, I’ve chosen a pivotal scene from Lawrence Of Arabia, the moment when the friendship between Sharif’s Sherif Ali and Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence was solidified, with Lawrence’s sharing of his background, and culminating in the burning of his British uniform, symbolic of oh, so much.

Video Fridays: Belated R.I.P. Chris Squier

chris-squierI’m WAY late in acknowledging the passing of a monster bass guitar player, the now-late, great Chris Squier of the band Yes.

I don’t love all prog rock, and I don’t even love all Yes music, but the Yes music that I do love has stuck with me for nearly 40 years, via powerful memories of songs like Yours Is No Disgrace, Starship Trooper, I’ve Seen All Good People, Roundabout, Long Distance Runaround, Close To The Edge, and And You And I getting regular airplay in the 1970s, and then, once I bought the albums, regular airplay at home, where I was entranced by what sounded like Classical music being played with Rock&Roll instruments and Rock&Roll sensibilities.

As The New York Times‘ Peter Catapano declared in his wonderful eulogy, of all the members in the band, Chris Squier Made Prog Rock Rock:

Squire, who was well known for being the band wild man, was a virtuoso of sorts who also poured a Stones-like street fighting spirit into Yes’s ethereal music, and saved many a song from descending into Hobbit-land (being human, he wasn’t always successful). Out of the mist of organ tones and castrati vocals would come a growl, disconcerting, oh-so-low, almost too low to be music, a primordial beast raising itself from the mud with a giant yawn. It was impolite, indelicate, wrong, and soon to be funky.

Indeed. Like I said. A monster bass player.

It took me no time to decide what song I would feature in this Video Fridays installment, as a testament to Chris Squier’s artistry and bad ass-ry, the first song I always think of when I think of him, Heart Of The Sunrise from the 1971 Yes album Fragile.

The song kicks off with a quintessentially wicked-fast Squire bass line, which it comes back to several times, the intro moves into a lush, slower, synth-drenched segment with seriously funky Squier bass, and there’s just wonderful bass throughout the whole song.

R.I.P., Chris, and thank you SO much for all of the wonderful music you left behind.

Video Fridays: Marriage Equality Edition

marriage-equalityThe news this morning, that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can no longer deny same-sex couples the right to marry is a major breakthrough for justice and civil rights.

We still have VERY far to go, so many areas where inequality — racial, gender, age, ability, economic, etc. — remains, here in the U.S. and around the globe, and yet today’s victory feels particularly poignant.

After all, as one of the catch phrases of the marriage equality movement points out:

Love is Love

I’m still one of those dreamers, though not the only one, who truly believes that All You Need Is Love, and we need LOTS more love to overcome the remaining inequality challenges, to end violence and war, to save the planet from global climate change.

Let all people love each other and make lifelong commitments to each other and tell me how that can have any other effect than to heal the world?!

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Father’s Day Weekend Edition

Me & Julian, Father's Day, 2013
Me & Julian, Father’s Day, 2013
Since I likely won’t be able to post anything on Father’s Day this Sunday, and since my son, Julian, is now 17-1/2 years old and his days in the nest are painfully dwindling away, I thought I would dedicate today’s Video Fridays installment to him, for I wouldn’t be a father if he hadn’t come along.

Today’s video, Ben FoldsStill Fighting It, featuring touching homemade-movie-esque footage of Ben and his son Louis, and lyrics about the experience of fatherhood, on one hand, and growing up, on the other, never fails to choke me up.

The song was released in 2001, when my son was about the same age as Louis, and as much as I’ve loved and cherished some aspect of every age Julian has attained, there was something particularly special about that age, when walking wasn’t so new and treacherous, when verbal communication was beginning to get easier thanks to a growing vocabulary, when the innocence and infinite sense of wonder of childhood was in full bloom, when playing was so much damned fun, and when simply holding hands as we strolled in public felt like I had an umbilical cord connecting me to an infinite pool of love.

Being a parent is an experience of extremes. There’s the infinite pool of love and the unbridled joy of play, but there’s also the anxiety concerning the future, the fear of terrible things happening to your child, the frustration when your child has the gall (wink) to remind you that they are an actual person, with the right to self-determination, the pain you feel when they feel pain, the excruciating guilt you feel for the mistakes you’ve made raising them, particularly when they pick up any bad habits that you have been unintentionally modeling for them, and the emptiness at the thought of them one day flying the coop.

Ben Folds captures this all so perfectly:

Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
And you’re so much like me
I’m sorry…

It was pain
Sunny days and rain
I knew you’d feel the same things…

You’ll try and try and one day you’ll fly
Away from me

Somebody get me a hanky, stat!

Anyway, it might seem that that list I wrote above, of the goods and the not-so-goods, suggests that the not-so-goods far outweigh the goods, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

When you love someone as deeply as you love your child, you never, EVER see it that way, you would NEVER prefer the alternative — losing your child, or not ever having had a child. You just hope that the Buddhists are right, that if we practice mindfulness awareness we can be totally present for them despite our fears, and if we practice non-attachment we can celebrate their departure when they come of age, feeling satisfied and sustained by all of the years of glorious memories, and excitement for the possibilities that life will present to them.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Video Fridays: Monty Python & The Holy Grail

monty-python-grailIn the early days of my Video Fridays series, I was apologetic about posting Monty Python clips so often.

But then, a funny thing happened, not ha-ha funny, but odd-that funny: I haven’t posted a Python clip since September 2012.

What the what?! That’s crazy! This must be rectal … I mean … um … rectified!

And so it shall be.

Back in April, a longtime friend from our days growing up in New Jersey emailed me and the rest of our Jersey gang, he’s a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Guild is compiling a list of the 101 Funniest Screenplays, and he asked us to name our suggestions, hoping we might trigger some memories of movies that he had overlooked, and, without hesitation, the very first movie that I named was Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

Comedy is an amalgam of various elements, chief amongst them are physical gestures, writing and/or improvisation, and the timing of the delivery of written or improvised lines, and it seems to me that the measure of a great screenplay is how quotable the writing is, and I while I can certainly think of other quotable comedies, I have personally quoted Monty Python & The Holy Grail FAR more often, by magnitudes, than any other movie, comedy or otherwise.

From the following scene alone, the famous Killer Bunny scene, the number of lines that I have committed to memory and have recited in social interactions are too numerous to estimate accurately.

And so, presented now for your enjoyment, the Killer Bunny scene in all its glory … um … any moment now … on a count of three, no more, no less, three shalt be the number I shalt count, and the number of the counting shalt be three. Four shalt I not count, neither shalt I count two, excepting that I then proceed to three. Five is right out! Once the number three, being the third number, be reached then shalt thou click the Holy Play Button, so that thou canst view the video presentation.

Here we go … ready? … one, two, five … no, three!!!

Happy Weekend, everyone!