Holding Court

Indulge me in a moment, will you, denizens?

(As if you don’t do that all the time already…)

So you remember on Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Captain Picard would get up from his command chair and walk toward the viewscreen when he was confronting the person with whom he was exchanging terse Federation-sanctioned “don’t make me kick your alien ass across this quadrant” words? He’d usually come to a stop somewhere in between the command center and the Ops and Conn positions and, if a show of might was necessary, he’d turn around and look up to Lieutenant Worf, right? Right.

Imagine, in this scenario that I was Captain Picard and the Court Yard Hounds were Worf. A much more attractive, better-coifed, far less addicted to prune juice version, of course. That’s how close I was to Emily and Martie last night.

Wait for it…wait…

SQUEE!!!!

I don’t get giddy girl apoplectic over music that often anymore. In fact, there’s only a handful of musicians I like enough to want to actually see live. The Dixie Chicks have always been very high on that list. I know, I said once upon a time that I was through with country music. But the Dixie Chicks are just…the Dixie Chicks. Somehow, they succeeded in transcending the jingoistic hurdle that country music became for me. They’re passionate, opinionated, and talented. Plus, they’re just so darned cute.

But this isn’t a post about the Dixie Chicks! It’s about releasing the Hounds last night. Actually, I’ve talked about the Court Yard Hounds before. Apparently, Natalie Maines still isn’t ready to return to the Chicks, so sisters Emily and Martie continue to make a go of it on their own. Last night, they rolled into town and took over the 6th and I Synagogue. Yep, that’s right: Bluegrass on a Bimah. You really haven’t lived until you’ve experienced such an event.

After listening to their debut CD many times and seeing them live twice now, I have to say I really do love the Court Yard Hounds. They give off a progressive adult vibe that’s flavored generously with country spice and bluegrass zing. Emily’s voice is surprisingly strong and (to me, at least) sounds almost identical to Sheryl Crow at times. That’s never a bad comparison, in my book. Last night, we also were treated to hearing Martie take the lead on a few songs. Here’s photo proof of that:

Martie has an equally lovely voice, but she didn’t seem as comfortable with taking the vocal lead as Emily does. However, when you can play the fiddle like she can, you’re okay without singing. More than okay. In fact, one of my favorite shots from last night is this one of Martie playing her fiddle:

It’s a little too blurry for my liking (it was difficult getting good shots without using my flash, which I didn’t want to do; nothing says “I love your music!” quite like blinding the musicians on stage, right?), but really the blurriness kind of adds to the frenetic aesthetic of her fiddle and bow when she’s in the zone. And look at that Cheshire Cat grin she’s got! Actually, Emily got almost the same look on her face whenever she was in her “Banjo Zone”:

Must be something about those Bluegrass Girls that we city folk just don’t understand. Whatever it is, though, I’m addicted.

Her Morning Elegance

There’s a new meme that’s circulating through teh Interwebz. I’m not going to link to it or tell you anything more about it than it’s a parody song written as a “tribute” to a very famous science fiction author. All it really is, though, is someone being crude for the sake of being crude, in this wolf’s humble, whiny opinion. Yet another example of someone wasting their talent just for the shallow shock value of it all.

Needless to say, viewing this inferior meme has made me want to combat it with something far more pleasing. Something like this video for Oren Lavie’s song “Her Morning Elegance.” This is what clever, creative, and classy looks like. Hope you enjoy!

Flashback Friday: Lilith Fair

A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile…

Well, sort of. It hasn’t been quite that long since music made me smile. I actually really enjoy music. It’s the concert experience that doesn’t make me smile all that much anymore. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point concerts became little more than soulless money sucks.

Actually, I do know when it happened, at least for me: Madonna’s Drowned World Tour back in 2001. What a dismal first (and only) Madonna concert! Plunging a clogged toilet is a more satisfying (and interactive) experience than this concert was.

But there are still lots of musicians on tour who put on exemplary concerts. For example, regardless of what you think of her or her music, Tori Amos is always going to be worth the price of admission. She is bizarre in the most wonderful ways, and her playlists always include music from her entire career, even sometimes going all the way back to her Y Kant Tori Read days.

And then there’s Sarah McLachlan, possibly one of the loveliest music imports that Canada has been kind enough to share with us. Her voice is beautiful, her smile is enchanting, and her concerts are always a joy to attend. It’s been a while since McLachlan was at the top of the popular music game, but she continues to release new music and continues to be involved in the music scene.

[She also continues to make Loba feel guilty on a regular basis with those soul-crushingly sad ASPCA commercials that make Loba want to run out to the nearest shelter and adopt EVERYTHING THERE. Seriously, I’m not allowed to watch these commercials anymore, because by the end, I’m looking for my car keys while sob-singing along with “Angel.”]

McLachlan is also the driving force behind Lilith Fair. Quick history herstory of this event: Back in 1996, when McLachlan was literally everywhere, she decided that it was ridiculous and completely misogynistic that concert promoters refused to place more than one female artist on a ticket at a time. The boys were being allowed to play together at venues like Lolapalooza…why couldn’t the girls be allowed to do the same thing?

So that summer, she paired up with equally hot-at-the-time musician Paula Cole (who has apparently gone the way of those mysterious cowboys she was looking for back then) as well as a few other female artists, and they all played several venues together around Canada and, I think, the United States.

These concerts were enough of a success to prove to McLachlan’s promoters at Nettwerk that there might actually be something to this all-girl line-up thing after all. So they teamed up with some marketing folk in New York and Lilith Fair was born.

[Loba Fun Fact: No, the concert is not named after Frasier’s ex-wife. Lilith is believed by some religious sects to have been Adam’s first wife, who subsequently left Adam after hearing too many times, “Baby, bring me a beer…and what’s for dinner? I’m starving!” Of course, she is demonized by the patriarchal religious texts in which she does appear. Then again, so is Eve…]

The original Lilith Fair played every summer from 1997 through 1999, and it was amazing. Almost every active female performer from the music world, big names and small alike, wanted to be a part of this annual event: McLachlan (of course), Sheryl Crow, Paula Cole, Jewel, Fiona Apple, Joan Osborne, Queen Latifah, Lisa Loeb, the Dixie Chicks, Shawn Colvin, Missy Elliott, Bonnie Raitt, the Pretenders, Mary Chapin Carpenter, the Indigo Girls, Meredith Brooks, Natalie Merchant, Erykah Badu, Luscious Jackson, Liz Phair, Juliana Hatfield, Nelly Furtado…the list just went on and on. If you want to see all the performers, check out the Wikipedia page on Lilith Fair.

I only went to the 1999 Lilith Fair, but I remember having a hella great time. The concert started in the early afternoon and didn’t wind down until around midnight. We had lawn seats, which were perfectly priced for recent college graduates treading the waters of a final summer of freedom before diving into the deep, dark waters of “Big Girl” employment. Of course, one cannot enjoy an outdoor concert unless it rains…and it poured for most of that afternoon. I think it took almost an entire week for my sneakers to finally dry after that day!

I also remember that the line-up was amazing. It was my first time seeing several of the singers I loved: Sarah, the Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow…of course, I did have to suffer through the Indigo Girls, but it was worth it.

[Yeah, I hate the Indigo Girls. Deal with it.]

It was a great day, a great concert, and a great experience, getting to see an entire venue packed with all variety of concertgoers from all ethnicities, genders, religions, sexualities, socioeconomic status, etc., gathered together by a commonly shared love of really awesome music. I’ve heard lots of disparaging comments about Lilith Fair throughout the years, especially when it was at its most popular, but you know what? It was epic in many ways, least of which in how it was able to bring together so many disparate people without conflict, at least for the duration of the day of performances.

Another thing that was great about that 1999 event? I won this:

This is a Takamine electric acoustic guitar, black finish with mother-of-pearl trim. It was supposedly played by Sarah McLachlan at one of the Lilith Fair stops. She then signed the guitar, as you can see in the photo, and donated it to some upstart Dot Com whose name I can’t even remember now, as one of the prizes for their “Sweet Sounds of Summer” contest (yes, I can remember the name of the contest, but I can’t remember the name of the company).

Honestly? I entered the contest because I wanted a signed copy of Sheryl Crow’s newest CD. I had no delusions of actually winning anything, however, let alone the first prize. I feel a little guilty that this beautiful guitar is stuck with unmusical me, sitting in its pretty case for the past decade…brought out only when people want to see it or when I want to photograph it for geeky reasons. Then again, would a musically inclined person actually play this guitar if they owned it? I think not. So I don’t feel that guilty. Plus, one day this puppy is going to be worth a fortune, and I’m going to sell it and buy Rhode Island and turn it into my own geek Utopia. And I shall rule with fairness and geekiness. And Beverly Crusher will be our queen.

Fast forward 11 years to the summer of 2010. McLachlan’s first new studio album release in seven years, Laws of Illusion, came out in June of this year. She was coming out of a divorce, primed with new music, and ready to jump back into the musical deep…so what better way than to revive Lilith Fair?

To be honest, the 2010 Lilith Fair was a pale comparison to its earlier iterations. The list of names was much shorter, several of the “big names” dropped out for various reasons, and in the end, ticket sales were poor enough that several of the scheduled events were canceled.

That being said, we went to the D.C. Lilith Fair this past Tuesday, and it was a mostly enjoyable time. The heat made everything a little wilty, but it’s been that way all summer, so nothing we haven’t been dealing with already. I did feel a little over-saturated by all the marketing this time: Chevrolet wanted me to win one of their cars, and Luna wanted to give me their super-sweet energy bars, and Degree wanted me to wear their deodorant and their body mist, and Style magazine wanted me to know how much they love Lilith Fair, and prophets know I now have enough free feminine care products to carry me through to menopause.

Then there was the line-up. You know the adage, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old”? I think that could also be changed to “If it’s too unknown, you’re too old.” I barely knew any of the secondary stage acts. Corrin who? Missy what? Nneka? Butterfly? Is that really your name?

[Okay, I actually did know who Butterfly Boucher was, but that’s because she toured with McLachlan back in 2005. She’s pretty cool and I really like saying her name. Butterfly Boucher (prononuced like “Bau-chər”). Say it. Out loud. NOW.]

I guess that’s the point, though: to introduce us to these new and rising singers, and several were very enjoyable…but a lot of them started to sound alike after a while. And that was when I knew I was too old. That and when I caught myself saying of Ke$ha, “I’m actually okay with her not being at this Lilith Fair. She looks like you’d need a dose of penicillin after seeing her in concert.”

Ouch.

Of course, the main stage was the big draw of the day anyway. And “Big Girl” employment means no more lawn seats. We traded in our soggy sneakers and picnic blankets for six rows away from the stage. Mmm. Favorite non-Sarah act? The Court Yard Hounds, which is basically the Dixie Chicks minus Natalie Maines. Sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire decided that they were ready to go back to recording, but Maines was still enjoying her time out of the limelight. So the sisters formed the Court Yard Hounds, with the promise of returning to the Dixie Chicks once Maines is ready to go.

I’ve always loved Emily and Martie. Last time I saw the Dixie Chicks in concert, I wrote this of their instrumental prowess:

Emily is to a banjo like Hendrix lighting guitars and Martie could beat the Devil and Johnny both down in Georgia any time on her fiddle.

That’s one of the reasons I did love country music for so long: I love the bluegrassy frenzy of banjo and fiddle. I can’t explain it. I just like it. Plus, look at how country awesome they look!

Needless to say, their performance at Lilith Fair convinced me to buy their CD, so apparently I am quite susceptible to marketing. And my love of country music is apparently returning.

Oh, and of course, McLachlan was delightful as the final act to what had become the final stop of Lilith Fair 2010 (thanks to those unfortunate cancellations I previously mentioned). She seemed hopeful that Lilith Fair would return for another go next summer. I don’t know if that’s actually in the cards or if it was just wishful hoping, but I’m glad I had the chance to visit once more with Lilith and rekindle some happy memories from my college days.

Poster Picks (and Bonus Movie Review): The Runaways

I don’t often review movies here at the lair beyond what I’ve been reviewing through my DVDregs project (which I haven’t forgotten about; I just prefer to spend more time reading books than watching movies). I also find that most movies that come down the Hollywood pipeline are such disappointments that I anticipate very little from the movie world anymore.

I was, however, greatly anticipating The Runaways. I’ve been a HUGE Joan Jett fan since I first heard the opening percussion and guitars of “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” And when that gorgeous, gravelly, smoke-saturated voice kicked in, my little Blackheart belonged to her. She is one of the original rocker grrls who still wails like nobody’s business, even at one notch past the half-century mark.

I didn’t learn about her early roots until much later (thank you, Interwebz!), but when I did discover The Runaways, I had another squee attack. This is the band that started the careers of Joan Jett AND Lita Ford?! Close my eyes forever, indeed.

So I began paying more attention to the cinema chat swirling around this one, and that’s when I stumbled upon the teaser poster for this movie.

What a big hot mess of sexual innuendo!

Let’s start with the tagline: “It’s 1975 and they’re about to explode.”

Okay, this could be interpreted in non-sexual ways, especially if you assume that people viewing this poster know who The Runaways were in the music world and subsequently look at this statement from a purely musical standpoint. 1975 was a year filled with some…interesting chart-topping musicians: Captain and Tenille. Glen Campbell. John Denver. K.C. & the Sunshine Band. Barry Manilow. The Carpenters. The Bee Gees. Melissa Manchester.

1975 was basically an easy listening station’s wet dream. But something was brewing under the surface on both sides of the Atlantic…something awesome and raucous and loud. The punk rock scene hit huge in ’75, with the appearance of groups like the Sex Pistols, Blondie, and the Ramones. I won’t try to ramble on anymore about punk rock since I have already pointed out that music knowledge is not one of my strong points (I only knew about these three groups because I like their music).

However, just this little bit of knowledge gives credence to the tagline’s statement that “It’s 1975 and they’re about to explode.” The Runaways were most assuredly nothing like The Carpenters. Their different-from-mainstream sound was ready to explode onto the scene and take that filthy muskrat love hostage. Plus, their arrival on the music scene meant the arrival of the girls to the predominantly boys’ club of hard rock.

Then we get to the poster’s solitary graphic: a ripe, red, luscious, dripping cherry with a lit fuse for a stem.

Again, let’s assume some Runaways knowledge. Probably their biggest hit was the song “Cherry Bomb.” It not only shows up on every Runaways compilation out there, but Jett has included her renditions on both her greatest hit CDs. So here we have the visual representation of the proverbial cherry bomb, made even more prominent by the black background.

[Loba Tangent: I love how this bright red image against the black background is so evocative of the poster for that 1975 movie cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.]

[Loba Post-Posting Tangent: I just realized, after looking at the poster on a monitor with a brighter contrast than the monitor I was previously on that the black background has the overlay of a record (you know, those crazy huge discs that artists now melt and sculpt into bowls?) ghosted into it. Nice touch!]

Then you get the names of the two principal actors, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, in a simple white sans serif, hovering above a roughly spray-painted and smudged stencil of the movie title, in matching cherry red paint. It’s amateurish but bold, which are definitely two things that could be applied to the early days of this band.

Of course, if we remove the assumption that people looking at this poster have any idea of who The Runaways were or what they meant to the music world, this poster drips with sexual innuendo (literally!), just like I originally said. Then again, with lyrics like “I’ll give ya something to live for! Have ya, grab ya til you’re sore!” there’s very little room for interpretation here. The Runaways were fiercely sexual, often referred to as “Jail Bait Rock” for obvious reasons: They were all in their teens or barely 20, with original lead singer Cherie Curie only 15 when she joined the band. Gives that “ready to explode” cherry a whole different connotation there, eh?

Sex sells, and this poster definitely sells the sexuality of this movie and this group.

Bonus Movie Review

I’ve already said a lot about the group The Runaways with my poster review. So what about the movie? I cringe a little at calling this movie a proper biopic of the entire group. It really isn’t.

The screenplay is based upon Cherie Curie’s Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. Curie was only with the band from 1975-77, so obviously basing the script on her recollections isn’t going to give the full story. Also, it’s her memoir so it’s told from her perspective with her take on what was happening. Jett was tapped to provide additional information, to help flesh out the story (which is only appropriate since Jett was the group’s founding member with drummer Sandy West, who died in 2006 of lung cancer).

That being said, obviously the focus of this movie was Curie, with Jett playing a substantial secondary role. I was actually very surprised by this, for two reasons. One, Joan Jett is the most successful musician to come from the original line-up and she was a co-founder, so you’d think she’d be more of the focus. Two, look at the teaser poster: Kristen Stewart received billing ahead of Dakota Fanning. I took this as an indication that her role would be more substantial. I guess it really was a matter of box office pull. Stewart is the bigger name thanks to those shitty twinkly vampire movies the Twilight franchise.

I’ve never read Curie’s memoir but I can only assume that it’s a bit of a weak read based on the overall weakness of this movie’s screenplay. There’s an absence of cohesion throughout the storytelling. Also, the band members who aren’t Curie or Jett get supremely shafted in screen time as well as character development. Case in point: The biggest scene for Lita Ford is brief and tantamount to a hissy fit. Regardless of whether or not this was an accurate portrayal or just how Curie remembered this particular moment, it makes Ford one-dimensional and rather unsympathetic. Again, though, since this is from Curie’s perspective, maybe that was the ultimate goal.

Negatives of the screenplay aside, this movie’s strength resides in those two names on the poster. I still find Dakota Fanning unnerving. She’s literally the oldest young person I’ve ever seen. However, she brings a fierceness and energy to her portrayal of Cherie Curie that is incendiary. Her transformation from mousy waif from a broken home to corseted, drug-addled prima donna jail bait was almost completely believable (hindered only by the obvious and unchangeable truth that Fanning isn’t all these things, so it’s really all pretend in the end).

As for Stewart’s performance as Joan Jett? This is the kind of acting I want to see more of from Stewart. She has an ability to completely immerse herself into a role to spectacular effect. For this movie, Stewart was Joan Jett, right down to the burgeoning of those amazing sexy-growly vocals that are synonymous with Jett’s solo career.

Jett herself is on record as stating that the first time she listened to a recording of Stewart singing one of the movie’s songs, she thought the producers had made a mistake and sent her a recording of herself from those days. Whether this is movie hype hyperbole or not, both Stewart and Fanning nailed their musical impersonations, making their contributions to the movie’s soundtrack excellent additions.

Yes, I have the soundtrack already. It’s actually quite good, a substantial mix of movie Runaways and real Runaways music interspersed with songs from other punk/rock scions like Suzi Quatro (Leather Tuscadero!!), The Stooges, Sex Pistols, MC5, and David Bowie.

Regardless of screenplay flaws, this is one raucous, vulgar, in-your-face, wild ride into the true essence of “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” and the brakes are out and there’s no stopping until the cliff appears ahead and we all go plummeting to our rock goddess deaths. But we’ll be so hopped up on whatever pills and booze we can get our hands on, we just won’t care.

I think the only thing that I would have loved to see more of was toward the end, when Jett began to be the dominant character and we started seeing her metamorphosis into the soon-to-be Jett of Blackhearts fame. And when Stewart appeared toward the movie’s end, wearing that fuchsia blazer with the hyper-huge shoulder pads? I squeed a little. And immediately pictured this in my mind:

I love rock-n-roll, too, Joan. Oh, yes, I do.

Of course, we don’t need a biopic on Jett. We know what happened with her post-Runaways. But I wouldn’t complain if Stewart wanted to finally stop hanging out with sparkly vampires and sink her teeth into another Jett-based role. Until then, though, I’ve added The Runaways to my wishlist and am looking forward to firing up the soundtrack for my commute home. Drive me wild…

I Think He’s Made It

This is the voice that gods summon to soothe their weary hearts.

Remember when I wrote this, denizens? No? I wrote it not very long ago in reference to the wonderful, talented Mr. Craig Bevan.

I still feel this way about his voice, perhaps even more so now that I am the proud owner of Craig’s debut album, I Think We’ve Made It.

Yes, the time has come, denizens. You know that Loba would never give her support to anyone or anything here at the lair unless I strongly believed in what I was writing. False promises are not how I roll.

I very much believe in Craig…and I don’t say that simply because he is my friend. I believe in him because he exudes talent in so many ways, but especially when he sings. Take a listen and you’ll know this truth: He loves his music, and that love shines through in every chord and every lyric.

So, here’s the deal: Head over to Craig’s site and get the free download that he’s offering there. And when you fall as in love with his voice and music as I have, you can go ahead and buy your own copy straight from his site. You can also follow the Amazon link I have up at the top of this post or you can buy it via iTunes. Whatever way you prefer, I simply hope you buy it. You won’t regret it, and you’ll be supporting a wonderful musician and a really groovy guy.

Second step of Loba’s Grand Bevan Plan? Tell your friends, just like I’m telling you. Send this post to them to read. Tweet them. Retweet them. Write about Craig on your Facebook page (or your MySpace page, if that’s how you still roll). Whatever way you choose, I hope you’ll join me in getting word out about Craig and his amazing debut.

Country Music is So…Gay?

I’ve been keeping a secret from you, denizens, but now it’s time I come out.

I used to be a major country music fan.

I know, I know. That statement just sparks WTFery, right? I am the one, after all, who often reminisces quite fondly about my metal hair days and I even recently expressed my still-bright love for old school rap and go-go. But there was a period of time in my life when I traded in my metal cred and my go-go bounce for the love of a little slide guitar and fiddle.

How did this happen? Honestly, I’m not really sure. I know it involved patient but persistent prodding from a very good friend whose veins ran hot for country. It was her ultimate goal, I think, to convert as many of her friends as possible. And, for a brief moment in time, she succeeded in convincing me that country music was worth my time.

Then, however, came the Bush administration and all the über-jingoistic insanity that went with it. And there went my love for country. Music, that is (don’t think I don’t know what you jingo dingoes say about my traitorous liberal bleeding heart commie kind being America haters).

Here, in fact, is the original blog post I made on September 9, 2006, to ring the death knell for my country music love:

It’s been over for a while now. We were just going through the motions because…well, we’d been together for more than 10 years and we were comfortable together, even in our mutual unhappiness. We had changed so much, especially in the past few tumultuous years, that there really was no more common ground on which we could agree. So we met for one more time last night. It seemed at times to be as great as it had been when we first met. But there was the taint of change still there, still reminding me that it will never be truly that great again. At the end of the evening, we parted ways, perhaps not for good but at least for a while.

And so comes to an end my love affair with country music. It couldn’t have been a better ending though – third row seats for Terri Clark. In the words of Wayne Campbell, she wails. I’ve always loved her voice and her lyrics as well as how, throughout her career, she has remained different among the bevy of Nashville Barbies. It was a strength that added to her allure. I think right now though, even she is relenting to the deluge of jingoism roiling through the country camp. Though she’s not draping herself in red, white, and blue, she has definitely undergone a shift that has dimmed her uniqueness just enough to be noticeable by long-time fans.

I will continue to listen to Terri Clark’s CDs, as I will continue to listen to the country CDs that I have purchased over the years. It’s a small collection, to be sure, but truly representative of why I loved country music in the first place. I was drawn to it for its simplicity, its honesty, its honky tonk chords and whiskey-soaked vocals. Now, however, there has been a pervasive attitude shift, and the simplicity has been replaced by simple-mindedness. And that’s my stop.

I think what sealed the fate of my love affair was last night, staring at the no-neck beer keg two rows in front of me who was wearing a T-Shirt that posed the following philosophical question: “What do deer and women have in common?” From the drawing of a mounted deer head with large antlers next to a buxom blonde wearing a camouflage bikini, I figured the answer would have to include the word “rack.” But no, it wasn’t even that clever. He leaned forward and I saw the answer: “The hornier the better.”

At that moment, I understood: These were not my people and I was not their people. I don’t want to listen to the music of a people who so blatantly debase women. This included the no-neck beer keg two seats down from Mr. Buck-and-Fuck, who constantly yelled out lewd comments to Terri Clark whenever she would engage the audience in friendly stage banter. Interestingly, he never made a peep when the male opening act talked to the audience. Disturbingly, his wife never made a peep when he was harassing Terri Clark. She and others around him simply laughed at his ribald shouts encouraging the singer to strip on stage. Had I paid for a striptease accompanied by the blathering of a bellicose redneck, perhaps I would have been more inclined to be amused as well.

I’m not blind. I know that country music is a genre geared toward people with a completely different mindset from mine. For more than 10 years I was an East Coast Yankee in the Confederacy’s Court. It wasn’t until last night that I truly felt like an outsider. I guess our differences are now just too deep a chasm at this point. Does that make me a fairweather friend? I guess it does. So be it.

So Terri Clark sang the swan song of my love affair. I couldn’t have asked for a better farewell.

I keep trying to imagine what “Mr. Buck-and-Fuck” from the above blog post is probably saying right now about Chely Wright. Not one thing I’m imagining is kind.

A lot of people don’t know who Wright is, so a brief Loba rundown. She debuted on the country scene back in the mid-90s, won some awards, had some big hits (hits, you pervs…hits) like “Shut Up and Drive,” “Single White Female,” and “Jezebel.” Though never hitting the dizzying heights of fellow country songstresses like Martina McBride, Faith Hill, or Shania Twain, she had a solid career and a solid following. Toward the end of my waning interest in the genre, I remember that she was also climbing onto the “Love This Country or We’ll Burn You Alive” patriotism bandwagon (led, of course, by Mr. “Boot to the Ass” himself, Toby Keith) that I think many country artists felt they needed to ride in order to survive in the genre, with some song about a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker on her SUV.

[Yeah, is it any wonder I stopped listening to country music? Like any true traitorous liberal, overt expressions of patriotism that involve the acronym “SUV” make my soul frown. What can I say? In many ways, I’m still blue through and through.]

Because of my distinct disdain for Bush-era country music, I really had no idea that Wright had fallen off the radar in recent years. She came out with a few more CDs, but never really hit the levels of popularity that she had in the 90s. Then, poof, she disappeared completely for several years. During this period of solitude, she reached a point in which, tired of praying and wrangling and hiding, she stuck a 9mm in her mouth and nearly ended it all.

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The thought of no more Chely Wright in this world also makes my soul frown, for distinctly different reasons. Whatever stopped her from pulling that trigger, I’m so glad she made it through that darkness.

Now, I’ve read some comments from people who think that Wright has made this announcement about her sexuality as a means of re-igniting her career and kicking up promotion for her new CD and her book. In watching the above clip, I can see a certain truth in that. Maybe it’s because I’ve written speeches and advertising materials before, but I can immediately detect the “pull quotes” from her comments, those little lines that she’s probably going to repeat so many times over the next several weeks that she’ll be saying them in her sleep. Regardless of anything else, Wright is an entertainer, and just like all others in the entertainment industry, she must market herself to audiences as part of her chosen career. This, like everything else, is another part of her pursuit of her celebrity. All part of the business…

I also see a woman who nearly ended it all because of what she was hiding from the world, and still seems quite fragile and uncertain as she struggles with what this will do to her place in a genre that, in her own words, is composed of conservative mindsets that are not readily known for kickin’ it rainbow-style at the annual gay pride parades. True, kd lang has been out for years, but she’s also been outside the country realm for years as well. Although lang won a Grammy for her country debut, she was never accepted by the Nashville elite and soon walked away from the mainstream genre completely.

And then there is the fact that even something as supposedly important to country music fans as enjoying those almighty American freedoms can get you in serious trouble. Isn’t that right, Natalie, Emily, and Martie? The Dixie Chicks know all too well how quickly country fans will turn on you. I still remember all the newsreels showing former fans burning their Dixie Chicks merchandise and running over their CDs with tractors. Why? Because Natalie Maines dared to speak her mind. And she and her bandmates paid for it, with radio stations refusing to play their music (I suspect some still would rather drink roadkill-infused moonshine than play a Dixie Chicks song) and people aiming death threats toward them and their families. All for Maines’s simple sin of exercising her right to free speech, which apparently many country fans believe is only extended to those who toe the same lines they do.

So, yeah. This is not the announcement you make when you’re trying to get country fans to buy your stuff. This is the kind of announcement you make when you want country fans to fire up the bonfires and the tractors and make death threats toward you and your family.

But you know what? I hope that country music fans prove me completely wrong, show me that things do change. However, I can’t really say that I’m holding my breath. I even tried to check out what country fans have been saying about Wright, but what I’ve found instead is a none-too-surprising silence coming from many of the big country representatives. County Music Television has nothing on Wright’s announcement on their Web site. Neither does the Grand Ole Opry (although they’ve got bigger problems right now, with Nashville floodwaters leaking into their home).

I was even shocked to see that our local country station, WMZQ, has fuck-all about Wright on their Web site. You’d think being located in the evil liberal empire of the D.C. area would have rubbed off even slightly onto this station. Of course, they are owned by blatantly conservative Clear Channel Communications, so there you go.

Of all the country sites I visited, the only one I found that mentions Wright’s announcement was Great American Country, with this piece on their blog.

Small step, to be sure. But even small steps get you where you need to go in time.

I also hope that country musicians surprise me, too, and embrace Wright rather than ostracize her. I know there are those within the country ranks who have it in them to do so: The Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton, and Garth Brooks immediately come to mind. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I really hope for the best for Wright, regardless of her reasons for her announcement. The best and maybe a duet with Terri Clark. “Dirty Girl” maybe?

Weapon of Choice

Watched this last night OnDemand and it’s been stuck in my mental theater ever since. I think this is one of the most wonderfully weird music videos ever made. All thanks to Christopher Walken.

Flashback Friday: Cariad

This one’s from the not-too-distant past, denizens. But it’s the conclusion of more than a year’s worth of research and perseverance that has left me incredibly happy today.

When I last visited London in September 2008, I took my cousin to a classical music concert at St. Martin-in-the Fields. Of all the things I love most about London, concerts at St. Martin are at the very tippy-top of the list. It’s no secret that I’m not a highly religious person, but sitting inside that beautiful church, ensconced in the glow of candlelight, the serene silence of history and devotion almost palpable around you…you can’t help but feel the flicker of kinship with whatever greater universal powers might be out there. I hope that my cousin felt something close to the same delight I feel whenever I go to St. Martin.

This concert, however, provided even more delight than any previous concerts. On this particular evening, the Locrian Ensemble of London, featuring renowned cellist Justin Pearson, gave the world premier performance of a piece by British composer Julie Cooper. The piece was “Cariad,” which is the Welsh word for “Love.”

I wish I had the words to capture the overwhelming joy that this piece brought to my heart. Tempered in style and cadence, it pulls you in slowly, softly, and carries you upward as it soars and swells to glorious heights before bringing you once more earthbound. It is rapturous and exquisite, and all other music from that evening’s performance melted away under the memory of this one composition.

I left St. Martin that evening with “Cariad” still playing in my head and heart. The piece was not on the evening’s set list, so I didn’t have the title on hand. But I couldn’t forget the music. So when I returned home to the States, I set about doing my best impersonation of Mrs. Columbo that I could muster since Loba Loves a Mystery, too (somewhere, a Kate Mulgrew fan is smiling right now).

My investigation led me first to Justin Pearson and then to the composer herself, Julie Cooper. Ms. Cooper has very kindly kept me informed about the recording schedule for “Cariad” ever since my initial query. And then, two nights ago when I arrived home and checked my e-mail, there was a message from her, informing me that “Cariad” was finally available for purchase!

I am now the very proud owner of this magnificent piece of music. And it is still as wonderful as it was the first time I heard it. So I’m encouraging all of you to visit Ms. Cooper’s page at CDBaby.com and listen to the preview of “Cariad.” If you like what you hear, by all means, purchase your very own MP3. I promise, you won’t regret it.

And, as a bonus, here’s a photo I snapped of St. Martin-in-the-Fields as my cousin and I sat on the steps of Trafalgar Square. Before you ask, I didn’t do a thing to this shot in PhotoShop. That glorious sky behind the church is all Mother Nature this time.

And So It Begins…

Remember all the times that I’ve talked about the English singing sensation known as Craig Bevan?

No?! Why not? What, do you think I type things here for my own personal amusement?

Okay, don’t answer that. Just go here and here so you can catch up with the conversation.

Finished? May I continue now? Okay, good. So this is what’s happening now with the Fabulosity Known As Bevan:

Local talent shines in the UK’s biggest original music competition.

Craig Bevan from Leeds has wowed the judging panel and sailed through the audition stage of Live and Unsigned. Craig will now be competing against the other most talented bands and artists in the country at the live shows of Live and Unsigned 2010 – all in a bid to be signed!

Craig battled against hundreds of auditionees to secure a spot in the live shows and now has the opportunity to prove that he is the best in the region. Acts that have made it through auditions will now take part in a live head to head battle in front of thousands of spectators and a professional judging panel to progress to the Live and Unsigned Festival at the 02 in London.

Live and Unsigned is the biggest original music competition in the UK for unsigned bands and artists. Attracting over 30, 000 entries in the past three years, it has set itself apart from its predecessors by offering and promoting originality. It’s now established as the definitive music competition for original acts and is open to all genres of music from Heavy Rock to Rap.

Chris Grayston, Events Director of Live & Unsigned explains “This competition really is worlds apart from X Factor and other TV talent contests – we’re all about originality, Live ability and credibility. We don’t accept demos or submissions and everyone auditions live. We’ve got some fantastic prizes up for grabs this year in a £60, 000 prize pool so there’s a lot of opportunity for everyone entering and not just the winners – that, along with the Festival means 2010 will be the biggest competition yet!”

All the acts that audition in the competition are battling it out for the chance to play at the Live and Unsigned Festival at the 02 in London! Which gives acts the chance to perform at the ultimate live music venue in the country. The overall winner of the competition is offered a recording and management contract with Future Music with an investment of up to £30, 000 to release their single. The winners will be crowned the UK’s best unsigned act in front of a capacity crowd on the main stage of the festival. A&R and celebrity judges last year include former Sex Pistols Manager Malcolm McLaren, pop RnB star Dane Bowers and Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale. Radio 1 DJ Greg James has already confirmed for 2010.

Acts will of course be competing for two main prizes, which include a management contract with Future Music and the opportunity to design and develop their own clothing range with Extreme State. On route the competition offers a comprehensive winners prize pool and acts will have the opportunity to win some fantastic prizes including Marshall state of the art amps, development through recording studio time in some of the UK’s finest studios and seminars and courses with ICMP. Other goodies up for grabs include an Extreme Element experience day, a year’s worth of Extreme State clothing and MUZU.TV will be contributing an all expenses paid trip to Dublin to film a music video and play at a festival.

Previous winners of the competition include Kiddo 360 who went on to pick up a Vodafone Live Award, B-Kay and Kazz who broke into the top 30 charts and last year’s winners from Glasgow The Detours who have just signed an exclusive clothing deal with Extreme.

The winners of 2010 will be thrust into the media spotlight through television, radio and the press and will have the opportunity to tour the UK. The tour involves as many as 100 gigs across the UK including the chance to perform live at some well-known festivals. One contestant who has caught the judge’s eye this year is local talent Craig Bevan, now competing in the Regional Final. Craig made it through the auditions at The Willows in Salford, Manchester amongst hundreds that queued for their turn in front of the judges. Craig is now preparing for the live show on the 7th of March at The Willows for the opportunity to progress towards the Live and Unsigned festival at the O2 in London.

For more information go to the website www.LiveandUnsigned.UK.com. Or better still come down and support local talent; you can purchase tickets on the door or from Craig personally.

See? I told you that Craig was destined for wonderful things. I have unwavering faith that he is going to rock this contest like it has never been rocked before. His voice is pure wonder and his soul is pure gold. He’s going to give incontrovertible proof that nice guys can and will finish first.

So what can you do, dear denizens? If you’re across the pond where all this excitement is going down…well, first off, the white wolf is an unflattering shade of green right now. Since I can’t be there to support Craig, I’m putting it to you: Go, get your tickets, and watch him perform. Scream for him like the groupies you know you are. And if anyone tells you to pipe down, you tell ’em LobaBlanca sent you. That and a 20£ note will hopefully get the bouncers off your back (I’ll pay you back later, I promise).

Seriously, though, if you can support Craig when he performs on March 7, please do. He is all-around amazing in everything he does, but especially when he sings. And he is one of the kindest, funniest, sweetest guys out there. If anyone deserves this, it’s Craig.

So sayeth Loba. And you know Loba would never lie to you when it comes to Bevan.