May 24, 2017

| evolution |

Do you think some people just get to a point in life and say – “Ok, now I'm perfect,” then stop evolving to stay stagnant? Maybe some do, and maybe they are perfect. I am not one off those people. 

I recently took a year off dating after getting out of a yearlong roller-coaster relationship. I thought it a good time to work on my own shit sans other’s (being male). It was glorious – really liberating. Absolutely the best - no one did it better than me... (see what I did there?) There is something freeing on the psyche to say, “No, this year I am not dating.” It relieved any sense of anxiety that I “needed” to find someone; it also allowed me to say no to guys I might have otherwise have said yes to and thus have repeated the same dating rut I've been stuck in for some time now (I refuse to say for how long, but it might be a decade). 

During this glorious year to myself, I had a few ex boyfriends return to my life, as if the universe was testing my resolve. Obviously, I had somehow held on to these men in some sort of belief that I had fucked up an opportunity that shall never return in my life. “He was the one and I missed it, my life will forever be on the wrong path.”  This statement is not true.

One ex, BSB (before Santa Barbara), came back after a decade and proclaimed I was the one. Every woman wants to hear that! The ego wants to know that you missed ME. But it only highlighted how much I had changed and he had not. I was not that person I was a decade ago (thank god – I’m sure my sister would agree). I had spent this last decade working hard on my growth – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, professionally. I wasn’t that little girl with stars in her eyes for this man. I was at lease a wee bit more mature. I had explained that I wasn’t dating this year and working on some stuff, to which he exclaimed, “Shit Jenny! You are always working on yourself.” 

He said this as if it was a bad thing. It resonated with me. I had started yoga about two decades ago but still think I am a novice, and I work on that shit daily. How is working on your “inner” self any different. Am I supposed to wake up on Wednesday, go to meditate, then stop, “Nope. I’m perfect.” That’s not how it works. At least not for me.

Now I am not here to bash on this man. This experience helped to highlight my growth – and this should be celebrated. Wooo!! Sometimes you have no way of measuring how far you have come until a yardstick is thrown in your face, metaphorically of course. I struggle daily thinking I am not getting anywhere, but apparently, I have grown more than I have realized. For this face-plant yardstick, I am grateful.

This last year of purposefully not dating helped me see where I needed to grow and heal. That last breakup shined an intense light on my flaws, and although I may want to point that light at the ex, very brightly so that it's blinding, that’s not helpful. That is for him to illuminate and work on... or not. My business is on my own work. 

Now I am half way through 2017 and have had the opportunity to date a bit.  This is not a dating blog - but maybe it should be... jokes. That said, every date and interaction is an opportunity to look at that yardstick. Maybe it’s the scientist in me that is constantly observing, measuring, analyzing, hypothesizing… Adds to the intrigue I’m sure. But even in the opportunities that do not work out I find a new hypothesis to investigate, a new direction for my continued growth. That’s evolution for you.

"You cannot solve a problem from the same mind that created it." - Albert Einstein 

February 25, 2017

Porgy and Bess ~ February 25, 2017 @ The Victoria Theater

Summertime and the Living’s Easy

Jazz started to play behind a closed curtain. Scenes from the American 1960’s Civil Rights movement danced on the curtain, illuminated from a projector in the back of the theater. They depicted African Americans fighting for equality. It’s curious how themes repeat themselves throughout history.

Porgy and Bess took over the stage of the Victoria Theater this last month thanks to the Ensemble Theater Company. A musical written in the early 1930s, its theme is just as relevant today as it was back then, although there have been some contemporary adaptations. This particular production was set in the poor fishing community of Catfish Row during the 1960s, brought to life by the sound of jazz prominent in that era. In a nutshell, Porgy is a disabled man living in Catfish Row with a good sense of community, but no woman. Bess is an attractive cocaine addict from the city attached to a well-to-do thug. Things go awry when they visit The Row, Bess’s thug has to skip town in a jiffy, and Bess shacks up with Porgy to wait it out. They fall in love, and then once again, more things go awry.

The small cast worked well together, cohesively portraying a small, poor community that sticks together to care for their own, while keeping out of the “Boss Man’s” way.  The cast efficiently moved pieces around a well-designed set to help establish each scene. Through effective lighting, movement, and of course singing, the New Vic was transformed into Catfish Row during the summertime.

However, the beauty in the story is in its telling – or its singing in this case. The entire cast oozed talent, making jazz that brought both joy and sorrow to the audience. Elijah Rock’s physical depiction of Porgy was so flawlessly executed, I was sure Rock was handicapped himself. And with his deep, soulful voice, Rock added rich soul to his character’s plight. Karole Foreman’s sweet voice made you forget that Bess was an aging addict that lived off men.  However, Frank Lawson stole the show with his portrayal of Sportin’ Life, a previous resident of Catfish Row who is now all fancy in the city and slinging dope.  Lawson danced, swayed, and taunted the others throughout the story, making it hard to know if Sportin’ Life was a good guy or a bad guy – because he was certainly a fun guy.

It was a great ride, with all its ups and downs, suspense and romance. The underlying current of addiction and inequality was painstakingly vibrant throughout the entire ride. Luckily we had jazz, that made the living easy.

January 14, 2017

Gavin DeGraw ~ January 14, 2017 @ The Granada Theater (part of the Kids Helping Kids Benefit)

For the Kids

They seemed so professional – poised, articulate, and intelligent on stage. Knowing exactly when to pause for effect, adding a bit of drama and a dash of humor to the night’s events. And they were kids. Kids helping kids by throwing a benefit worthy of professionals twice their age and experience.

The night began with young gals and guys lining the entrance to The Granada decked out in formal black ties and black dresses, applauding the patrons who came to support their cause. Kids Helping Kids is a non-profit organization ran by San Marcos High Schools students that aid other kids in need across the world. This is the ninth time the group has organized the annual benefit, and it showed in the execution.

The night was packed with quality music, with singer-song writer Gavin DeGraw headlining the showcase. But of course KHK had to showcase one of their own – a young up-and-coming artist from San Marcos, Jazara. Although the young songstress only performed one song, she set the tone for the night.

Parachute, a band formed in Charlottesville, warmed up the crowd with their infectious pop tunes. With four albums and over 10 years touring under their belt, they really knew how to get the crowd moving. Only a two-piece this evening, they still managed to get a groove on, forcing the crowd to their feet and demanding attention in a fashion that only southern gentlemen know how to do with so much charm.  Simple songs purposely written to impress the ladies did just that as they performed their hits “She is Love” (think of a scene from One Tree Hill – wait that’s DeGraw) and “Can’t Help” (think Maroon 5 inspired). Talented and gracious, Parachute represented what the night was all about as they acknowledged the hard work that went into making the benefit a success.

And like a boss (bossi?), the kids took to the stage again to remind the audience why they were here – to raise money for disadvantaged kids. Again, with poise and intelligence, they broke down what a donation could bring around the world: $5000 – a year’s college tuition, $1000 – a teacher’s salary, $500 – HIV treatment.  Students throughout the Granada held flashing paddles up, waiving towards patrons as they made donations in envelopes provided under each seat. One after another, paddles lit up, making this quite a successful night.

Then came the main event, Gavin DeGraw. The piano man was accompanied by a percussionist and a guitarist on an elegant yet simple stage set. Known for his love songs, DeGraw did not disappoint. “Unlike politics and cars… Love does not go out of style,” DeGraw declared as started into a love set, playing selections from his six albums, the latest of which was just released in September 2016. And he hit the main veins, playing his poignant break though “Not Over You,” his arduous “Follow Through,” the more upbeat “Sweeter,” and his latest very danceable “She Sets the World on Fire” (not in that order). Throughout the set DeGraw was very personable with the crowd, at one time jumping down and going deep into the crowd to take selfies with lucky patrons. He too was grateful for the evening, telling the story of how the song “I Don’t Want to Be” literally got him out of his home town and a life he did not want to lead.

And sometimes that’s what you need – you need a little push, a little help, maybe a lot of community to come together showing gratitude for what they have and compassion for what others do not. And sometimes it takes kids helping kids to remind us.

December 8, 2016

Mr. Little Jeans ~ December 8, 2016 @ SOhO

Conscious Dancing

When Millennials don’t have their phones out snapping selfies during a show, you know you are in a hot spot. Touted as “the show” by one of SOhO’s very own bartenders, it appeared I was indeed at the spot, as the crowd was actually conscious in the moment.  

Mr. Little Jeans, known as Monika Birkenes on her driver’s license, graced the SOhO stage with her presence to a captive, crowded audience. The Norwegian born songstress’s smoky voice enveloped the room and beats filled every corner, leaving everyone swaying in the aftermath. The young crowd seemed mesmerized in her presence, as she danced on stage accompanied only by drums and keyboards. It was all vocals, tribal beats, and conscious dance moves from MLJ.

Mr. Little Jeans’ performance was a unique mixture of elegance, poise, and poignant relatability. Definitely classifiable as an electric pop “diva” in training, she had a dedicated following as the crowd moved along knowingly to “Waking Up,” “Good Mistakes,” “Stitches,” and “Haunted.”  Catchy tunes, slightly different yet slightly the same.

There is a lot of counter culture shrouding MLJ, including the conception of her stage name – but that is google material. MLJ’s performance was as whimsical as her delicate electronic music, which kept the crowd dancing – and that’s conscious material.

November 17, 2016

Tyrone Wells ~ November 17, 2016 @ SOhO

Comfort Food of Music

You know when you go to a restaurant that’s been hyped up and you get a meal that’s decent, but doesn’t quite excite the taste buds – well that’s what I got with Tyrone Wells.

Tyrone Wells is a singer/songwriter of typical form. Catchy tender songs, heavily relying on lyrics and relatability. His songs have been played on TV shows during the dramatic ending as the lead comes to some sort of life-changing conclusion and a single tear falls down their face.

Wells visited SOhO on his Cover to Cover tour, which Wells pleasantly explained as him playing songs off all his albums, but his first – which he’s heard too many times, as well as some covers off his newest album, amply named “Covers.” He played to a seated crowd full of his fans. It’s not often SOhO has seats, so it was a sign of the mellow evening to come.

While accompanied by his talented band, the songs were bouncy and upbeat. When playing solo acoustic, the songs were more melancholy and heartfelt. The set had a feel and tone of a Christian Rock band, and after some research, it was discovered that’s how Wells got his start. His fans definitely were dedicated to him, singing the chorus and rejoicing in its pleasantness.

Tyrone Wells seemed like a nice guy with a decent voice and catchy songs. It was very pleasant, but just didn’t set my world on fire. fine. Sometimes you just need comfort food, and that’s just fine.  

November 3, 2016

Lizzie ~ November 3, 2016 @ Center Stage Theater

The Devastation of a Little Girl

Contemporary musical theater is not a new phenomenon; musicals have been around for ages. However, hard rock musical theater is a bit newer, and quite a bit more electrifying. 

Lizzie, an Out of the Box Theatre Company presentation, tells the story of a young Lizzie Borden just days before the infamous brutal death of her father and stepfather in 1892. Written by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt, and Tim Maner, the story reasonably portrays the facts of the events, while taking some liberties in the story in between. Not a light hearted story, they portray the gruesome events with vivid imagery set to the back ground of hard, close to punk, rock, giving the story a deeper sense of insanity.

The cast is what makes this musical event stand out.  Katie Moya plays Lizzie, Amy Soriano-Palagi plays Lizzie’s sister Emma, Sydney Wesson plays their neighbor Alice, and Samantha Corbett plays the maid Bridgett (sometimes called Maggie).  The four of them create a rock opera event like no other. Accompanied by a live four-piece band set behind a curtain on a stage with a choice few props, the show centers entirely on the girls; their emotions, reactions, and interactions with each other. Together they tell the heart wrenching yet brutal story of the deterioration of a young girl as she slips deeply into darkness. 

Act 1 is one of innocence lost. Lizzie visibly struggles with the “secret” of her family, which is implied carefully through hints and innuendoes via songs in a very punk rock fashion, more Sonic Youth’s “Kool Thing” than West Side Story’s “I Feel Pretty.”  Feet stomping, clutching the mic stand, Lizzie screams “Why are all these heads off?” as the light of innocence visibly leaves her after her father brutally chops off the heads off her beloved pets. Lizzie’s world gets darker. All violence is implied in the background but seen in the anguish in the violence of the songs throughout the act. The intensity, complexity, beauty, and violence build until Lizzie goes mad, culminating in the ensemble gathering together in the beautifully poignant and painful “Mercury Rising” musical piece consisting of no words, only moans of loss. Then murder...

Act 2 is the emergence of a new Lizzie, a darker one. All four
ladies appear in period appropriate under garments and heavy, somewhat whorish, makeup. Perhaps to portray how hot it is in August, but most likely to demonstrate their power as females in their new world. It’s all in the interpretation. There are reprisals of songs from Act 1, but their meanings are reversed in this inverted world. Intricately intertwined within new lyrics, the twisted new world of Lizzie Borden is revealed. No longer the innocent victim, Lizzie is now a monster herself, wickedly commanding attention and getting her way, again in a very punk rock fashion.  Lizzie counted down her days in jail until pay day upon her release in “Thirteen Days in Taunton,” once again clutching the mic stand and stomping her foot. Then the verdict…

Historically accurate (cuz I fact-checked immediately), Lizzie stoked the fire of interest in the historical events surrounding the scandal of Lizzie Borden. Executed craftily through the use of provocative lyrics and hard rock, the lesson in history was quite painless and somewhat subliminal. The lesson was painless, but not the devastation. 

October 28, 2016

Jimmy Eat World ~ October 28, 2016 @ The Arlington Theater

Are You Listening?

Sing it back! Whoa oh oh oh oh! Jimmy Eat World, a hard edge emo-punk rock band from Arizona, took to the Arlington Theater October 28th in support of their ninth studio album Integrity Blues. Their ninth since forming in the early ’90s. That’s a whole lot of emo with a whole bunch of catchy phrases now stuck in your head.

Known for songs that express the pain that comes along with the confusion of growing up, of falling in love, of losing love, and of losing yourself, Jimmy Eat World’s newest effort is a bit harder with the rock and subtler with the context. Throughout their years, they have created such teenage anthems as “The Middle,” “Pain,” and “The Sweetness,” songs that were raw yet poppy, getting the darkest emotions stuck in your head in the most melodic way. The boys seemed to have grown up now and it shows in their new music.

But how is it for an established band to have new music out, on a very well-made alternative rock album, only to play live for a crowd that simply want to hear the emo songs that got them through the darkest days of their young lives?  Songs that are like dear friends in the cold, lonely night? I imagine you’ve learned to pick and choose your set list wisely and don’t get too attached to the outcome.

Boldly starting the set off with a new song, Jimmy Eat World teased the crowd to attention with “Get Right.”  Unlike most shows at the Arlington Theater, this one was General Admission.  This basically meant no seat assignments and some dancing (if not too close to security). It was the first time I had attended a GA show at this venue and it was perfect for this band.

Once at attention, Jimmy Eat World gave them what they wanted. “Bleed America,” “Big Casino,” “If You Don’t, Don’t” got the crowd jumping and singing along as if in church, leading into another new song, “You Are Free,” that actually could be a choir hymn.  By this time the audience was tethered in, the selection of new and old songs was so masterfully intertwined there was no escaping its musical web. Blocks of new songs, including “It Matters” and “You with Me,” quickly followed with the staples “A Praise Chorus,” “Let It Happen,” “23,” and “Work.” All the wonderfully crafted catchy phrases sung with all the emotion of middle-school, filled the Arlington as the crowd rejoiced in the music.

Jimmy Eat World went on to play twenty-four songs, including three encores, ending with “The Sweetness.” Truthfully they could have played on through the night. I was spinning free! Whoa oh oh oh oh oh! With a little sweet and simple numbing me…