Sunday, October 12, 2003

Confessions of a Duranie

I love Duran Duran. And this is not a bandwagon thing based on their recent comeback tour. Here I go dating myself, but I was a Duranie in high school. Those who knew me in those days can confirm that I had a fedora hat that I wore all the time -- not the Indiana Jones kind, but the Duran Duran kind like in the video for "Hungry Like the Wolf". :)

Back in the day they were generally dismissed as a boy band and never really got their props for being able to play their instruments and write songs (unlike the boy bands we are subjected to on commercial radio today). Granted I don't like *everything* they've done..."Wild Boys" and "View to a Kill" never did anything for me. But I still enjoy their work a lot. Their singles collection, set on random in the CD player, is perfect for working out to. "Electric Barbarella" from 1997 is a great treadmill song. (The more weight I lose, the harder it is to keep the heart rate in the target zone so a fast insistent beat is important. But then the speed I'm going starts to overwhelm the CD player's anti-skip abilities...but I digress.) I put it on repeat sometimes, since it's fun listening to the story of one man's twisted infatuation with a state-of-the-art sex doll over and over.

Their ballads are very strong. "Save a Prayer" is beautiful, and I plan to cover it someday. :) "Come Undone" is also very deep and thick.

I think of Duran Duran's songs as eighth-house pop music. The eighth house, in astrology, covers things like sex, death, and mystery, which Simon Le Bon's lyrics keep coming back to in most every tune of theirs. Simon is a Scorpio, so it's natural for him to write lyrics about those topics. As it happens I'm also a Scorpio, and I think that comes out in my lyrics too.

In other news, Jim and Grant have provided their bios! Check out the artist page if you want to read them.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

21 Grand

21 Grand is not actually on Grand Avenue, nor is 21 its address. It is actually on 23rd Street in Oakland.

I played a gig there last night which was completely satisfying. Not only did my set go well (even though the sound board refused to accept my effects, which was frustrating), the other opening act, Glass Bead Game, played an intriguing and slightly deranged set of their own. Front-being Cera was charismatic and riveting with a kind of Joan Osborne-esque voice restrained to suit the taste of the songwriting. She played understated rhythm guitar. The rest of the band, "her boys", as she put it, backed her up on drums, upright bass, and violin/alto clarinet.

The headliners were Carla Kihlstedt's Two Foot Yard, a trio with Carla Kihlstedt on violin, Fred Frith on guitar, and Wu Fei on the "grandfather of the koto". Their set was such a treat. They employed looping and effects, but it was never the focus of the show. Of the three jams they did I enjoyed the second and third the best. Carla's combination of violin and voice during the third piece was haunting. Fred Frith's guitar work was so enjoyable to hear and watch. What fun to open for someone I learned about in grad school. :)

The blurred edges among the colors of all three stringed instruments made for a subtle and complex texture. The beginning of their second piece, when Fred Frith and Wu Fei called and answered each other slowly and tenderly, was very beautiful.