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September 2009

Dutch Island

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I visited Governor's Island for only the second time this past weekend for the Dutch-hosted New Island Festival, part of this year's NY400 celebration honoring the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's discovery of New York. Inspired by the annual Oerol Festival on the Dutch island of Terschelling, there were theater and dance performances, visual art installations, and live music - most of it free. Most of the performances could be witnessed from a 400 foot long wooden table, from which dinner was served in big metal pots dragged by clog-wearing servers. As one might expect of the free-thinking Dutch, the musical offerings were all over the map: everything from singer-songwriter Divera, to wacky electronic experimentalists PIPS:lab, to a Silent Disco, where all the dancers wore wireless headphones. Oh, and there was De Levende Jukebox (The Living Jukebox): a tongue-in-cheek cabaret featuring a pair of old cougars, Yvonne and Helen, who performed requests culled from a list of Dutch and American standards. "White Rabbit," anyone? (More pics below.)

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Jemsite Interview

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Jemsite , a website primarily aimed at Ibanez guitar enthusiasts, has just posted an interview they did with me this week, asking about my varied concertgoing expereinces and my perspective on the guitar, at least from a listener standpoint. It's part of their Scene Around Town series, and I'm honored that they chose me to represent good ol' NYC (even if I've been spending a bunch of time elsewhere of late.) Go check it out if you're curious to learn more about my past and present history around music.


Canadian Country

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My knowledge of Canadian country music is pretty much limited to Shania Twain, but there was a large and enthusiastic crowd last week on Granville Street in Vancouver for a free daytime performance by emerging and established Canadian country artists such as Jessie Farrell, Victoria Banks, Terri Clark and Doc Walker, all in town for Canadian Country Music Week. Among the standouts were Scottish-born, Toronto-bred Johnny Reid, who sang with a big, heartfelt voice that almost made you overlook his bleached tips. (Reid went on to win 5 awards at Sunday's Canadian Country Music Awards, including album of the year.) But it was 29-year old Jason Blaine who summed up what most in the crowd already knew: 

"Canadians are the best country fans in the world, and the best people in the world," he said. "But, there's nothing greater in the world than a Canadian girl." (Insert sound of 1,000 screaming girls here; more pics below.)

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Home/Away

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It's funny how sometimes you need to travel 3,000 miles to experience something that's been hiding out in your own backyard for years. Last night, experimental folk trio Akron/Family - long-time denizens of the Williamsburg underground - headlined Portland's Bagdad Theater (sic): a beautifully restored movie palace in the arty Hawthorne section of town that now hosts occasional concerts and other events.With capacity somewhere around 3,000, it was a far cry from spots like Death By Audio, but Akron/Family must be getting used to playing these sort of massive spaces: they were at Bumbershoot on Monday, and APW earlier this summer. 

Their sound is trippy and psychedelic, quiet and orchestral: a throwback to the classic rock of the late 60's (driven home by Seth Olinsky's Jimi-style blues guitar.) As if to drive the point home, they all wore dashikis; a homemade American flag hung above the stage, the blue field filled with a tie-dyed pattern. Indian blankets hung over all the monitors; on one was Walt Whitman's portrait. They sung of following your dreams, of living freely. Clearly, they seek to resurrect the more idealistic America of our parents: a mission that would seem to play perfectly in a place like Portland, which still embodies the that open vibe nurtured in places like San Francisco, about nine hours south.

"We love this town," drummer Dana Janssen said at one point from the stage. "So much so that I might move here." 

But, it wasn't all flowers and rainbows. Towards the end of their 90 minute set, bassist Miles Seaton unleashed a primal scream into a pair of mics that was both tterrifying and exhilarating, making everyone stop dead in their tracks. A potent reminder of the power of a single human, unleashed. 

After leaving everything they had out on stage, the band asked the audience to clap and sing along with the encore, which felt less like a burden than a benediction. The words speak for themselves:

"I've traveled all around this country past 28 years

I've traveled all around this country past 28 years

I've traveled all around this world past 28 years

And I've found out where I want to live.

I wanna live in Woody Guthrie's America

I wanna live in Woody Guthrie's America

I wanna live in Woody Guthrie's America

That is where I'll lay my head and call it Home."