My beloved Berlin pianist Nils Frahm played a sold-out show in Toronto a few days ago, and I was lucky enough not only to grab a ticket, but after the first song Says, he invited us to sit on the stage with him, so I was literally sitting at his feet as he played, a mere metre away. This is the fifth time I’ve seen him live in just over a year, previously I’d seen him in Cologne, twice in Copenhagen, and also Berlin. When you watch him live, you become entranced by his fingers and his arm muscles which seem to be moving faster than your eyes or your camera lens can see. Notice in the pic above how my camera can’t even keep up with his hands. He plays three pianos at once and pulls this amazing orgasm face when he gets really into it.
You heard me.
Anyway, after the show, I told him it was my fifth time seeing him, and he was like, whaaaaaaaaaaaat? I told him I even saw him in that play he did in Copenhagen earlier this year. And he was like, you’re here now? I said I just returned a month ago, and he was like, you never said hello after the other shows! He was delightful and I was a total fan girl. He’s adorbs and I want to fold him up and take him with me everywhere in my pocket…. or something.
Anyway, enjoy my pics from the show. I WAS SO CLOSE, YOU GUYS.
The toilet brushes were the best part.
The wonderful people over at FUSAC treated me to the best New Years Eve gift I could have received: tickets to see The Artist Live in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra! I had never been to the RAH and I have always dreamed of seeing the LSO perform live, ever since I was a second-chair Viola in my high school’s symphony orchestra, so this was a thrilling delight. I have already seen The Artist, so I didn’t pay too much attention to the film. I kept staring the the Cellos (celli?) and the xylophones and the tubas and the Double Basses …. I just love watching hands in vibrato in unison. Even the way they plucked pizzicato was glorious. Above is a super short clip of them warming up (no photos allowed during the performance, naturally).
Royal Albert Hall is a huge concert venue, with several tiers, balconies, and ornate architecture, it was a feast for the eyes. Somehow, FUSAC got me seats in the 14th row on the mezzanine floor! Best seats in the house! I looked up how much tickets were, and was shocked at the prices. I love getting sweet cultural experiences for free!
As the orchestra took a bow, the composer of the film, who was actually there, Ludovic Bource, joined the conductor Ernst Van Tiel for an encore. It was the most memorable New Years I’ve had in years.
So 2014, eh? In a few months, this blog will be nine years old. I’m tenacious, if nothing else.
I’m not one for Resolutions or for End-of-year lists or Best-of’s. I have a lot to reflect on, but so much more to come my way.
All I’ll contribute to the reflective dialogue of the changing of the calender year is this:
Say what you will about me, but in my life, I have had every opportunity to be boring, and I never took it.
May that continue in 2014.
During their set, I started weeping like the moron that I am.
Douglas Dare was the opener. I saw him live this summer and fell in love with the song Scars, which I recorded live last night (see above video).
He’s just a kid, like 22 years old or something like that, but his talent leaves no room for childlike comparisons.
Adam introduced the new music. Humbly thanking the sold-out crowd for coming, he then apologized for their rusty live set. D’aww.
Looking goooood, Dustin.
Oh yeah, did I mention I’m living back in London now?
A testament to how strange and wonderfully sync’d life can be sometimes:
Remember last month when I asked if anyone could put me in touch with the band A Winged Victory For The Sullen? (Read that blog post here). Well, as these pictures can attest to, currently playing an aria on my piano is none other than Sir Adam Wiltzie of A Winged Victory For The Sullen.
The band makes house calls!
We exchanged music for a dip in the pool. Hence the reason he’s shirtless and in swimming trunks.
I lead a charmed/strange life.
Aren’t I a cheeky bugger.
But it makes sense. Arcade Fire ARE from Montreal, ya know. IT’S ENTIRELY POSSIBLE that they decided on their name after a fire occurred on this street.
Oh, don’t give me that look.
The Girl Who Played With (Arcade) Fire.
Among many of my things to-do whilst in New York, one of them was The Madonna Tour of New York. This isn’t something that is organized and run by official tour guides. This is something I fashioned myself using Google. I’ve always been really inspired by Madonna’s life. Her music, I can take it or leave it, but I find her struggle for success really inspiring. Unlike most celebrities today who are famous through nepotism or for nefarious acts, Madonna made her own life. She arrived in New York with no money, knowing next to no one, and was even sexually assaulted. She squatted in buildings and barely scraped by for 5 years in New York, until she finally got that record deal in the early 1980s. So I’m not particularly interested in the Madonna of now, more of the Madonna from the late 70s. Every year or so, I reread Andrew Morton’s biography about her (which I bought 10 years ago in a second-hand bookstore for $3) and it really gives me a kick in the pants to do more with my life. To be more ambitious and driven.
Anyway, Morton’s book is so detailed about the places and people in her life in the late 70s that I realized I could actually (probably) find these places and meet these people whilst there. So after scouring the book once more for precise details, I set about fashioning my own Madonna tour of New York… one that visited most of the places that were a part of her tapestry. I also contacted one very important person from her life at that time (more on that later…)
First stop, the synagogue in Queens.
In the late 70s, Madonna met the Gilroy brothers, Dan and Ed. They were musicians in a band and she was still a dancer at this point. She began a relationship with Dan and promptly moved in with him and Ed. Dan and Ed at the time were living in this above synagogue deep in the heart of Corona, Queens.
You can tell just by looking at it’s size and architecture that it was built sometime in the early 1900s and was converted into a house probably in the 1960s after falling into disrepair and disuse by the Jewish community.
Ed Gilroy and his wife still live in this synagogue actually, but weren’t there when I visited, so I left a lil’ hello note in their mailbox. When Andrew Morton visited this synagogue, Ed took him down to the basement where 30 years prior, Dan had taught Madonna how to play the drums. She had been a drummer in their band The Breakfast Club before becoming the guitarist…. and finally wanting to take the front position. Also, in the basement, are reel-to-reel recordings they made back then of Madonna singing and playing, of her chatting with Dan and Ed playfully …. it’s like a time machine back to the 70s and of her unfamous life, Morton wrote.
Standing here, I was imagining a young black-haired skinny Madonna, younger than I am now, bounding down these steps and heading for the subway to go into Manhattan, taking the exact same steps I had taken to get there by subway….. it was a pretty connecting and exciting thought.
Next stop …. The Russian Tea Room in Manhattan
When Madonna first arrived in New York in the late 70s and was still a dancer, her dancing instructor (Pearl Lang) worried about how thin she was and how she was getting by, so she got Madonna a job at The Russian Tea Room on 57th. Now from all the sources I have read, she was a “hat check” girl there in the late 70s before getting fired. But I walked inside the TRTR and asked the hostess, and she said Madonna was a “coat check” girl in the early 80s. So I’m not sure which is correct, but either way, the hostess confirmed that yes, Madonna worked there.
Next stop …. The Music Building on the shitty west side.
The Music Building is an infamous shitty building on 8th avenue in the shitty “Minnesota Strip” part of Manhattan that, in the early 80s, must have been 100x worse. Drugs, violence, crime, and then this towering inferno, floor after floor, of disgusting sweaty, smelly wannabe rock n’ roll superstars jamming all hours into the night, spilling out into the street.
This is also where Madonna recorded her first demos and met her first manager, Camille Barbone.
Madonna used to actually squat illegally in the music building and wash herself in the ladies loo. Fab Five Freddy once said that when he met Madonna, she smelled so bad and it seemed like she was the type to get around, hahaha. Anyway, I tried to go inside but the doors were locked (you need a fob key to get in) and I didn’t have an appointment (which you also need if you want to look around).
But I looked up and knew that inside one of those windows was the studio where Madonna and Steven Bray put the finishing touches on Everybody…
Next stop, 30 West 21st street, which now is a very gentrified and beautiful area, but 30 years ago it was …
…where Danceteria used to be. Danceteria was the club where Madonna passed her demo tape to Mark Kamins (the DJ there, and sometime A & R rep, who briefly became her boyfriend) who then passed it on to Seymour Stein, head of Sire Records, who was laid up in the hospital after heart surgery and told Kamins to bring Madonna to him in the ward. Danceteria is also where Madonna had her first live performance of Everybody, and where she recorded her very first music video (Everybody).
Next two stops were the former locations of Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s, where Madonna and her early band Emmy played some of their first gigs. Emmy was actually Madonna’s nickname when she was younger so the band adopted it as their name. I have found some of Emmy’s recordings online, and I think my favourite is “Little Boy Lost.” It’s very punk-influenced and Madonna’s voice is so pure in it. She strains to hit some notes, but that’s what I love about it, she’s putting so much heart into it. Now they’d auto-tune out all her strain, which really is a sad thing. On “Little Boy Lost” you get to hear her voice unfiltered by subsequent technique and lessons. She had a lovely voice then, now it kind of sucks. When the critics in the 80s called her voice like “Minnie Mouse on helium” I think that really struck a chord with her and she has since tried to lower her octave (listen how deep she goes on “Papa Don’t Preach.”). But I kind of miss her spritely, natural voice.
CBGBs only officially closed in 2006…. and I made my first ever NYC visit in 2007 so I missed it completely, but luckily the dude who took over the space and turned it into a shop kept most of the memorabillia around.
The walls were never painted over. This wall and space was almost right behind the former bar.
Now, as promised, here’s the story of the person I contacted …..
Through a lot of online digging and sleuthing, I found the mailing address of Dan Gilroy, Madonna’s former boyfriend (mentioned above in the synagogue section), and also the man who taught her how to play the drums and guitar…. and basically how to make music.
So I wrote him a hand-written letter a few weeks before I arrived in NYC, basically asking him if he would be okay meeting up with me for a cuppa and a chat.
I figured that by the time he got my snail-mail letter, I’d already be in NYC, so I gave him my email address as a reply method, and kept my fingers crossed.
Whilst in NYC, I received an email from him! He said he was now living in Texas (my letter had been forwarded to him there, so the mailing address I had found was technically wrong) so we couldn’t meet. I won’t include all of his letter here, for privacy reasons of course, but here are some select lines:
He’s so kind!!! His letter was so generous and giving, he didn’t even have to write me back at all, so I was so grateful for his response. If that man wasn’t like 60 years old, I’d be all up in his grill.
So there you have it, that was my own personal Madonna tour of New York.
I would highly recommend it:)
Madonna once said that what you do in life, and how far you go, depends on how hungry you are.
this is how i weed out substandard suitors.
she’s not aware yet but she’s yours. she’ll be saying use me, show me the jacuzzi.
get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook.
your pastimes consisted of the strange and twisted and deranged.
fuck yeah alex turner!
enjoy the weekend, munchkins! make sure you spend it listening to your favourite band while dancing around your room in your undies with the blinds WIDE OPEN. (Hi neighbours!)
someone in Toronto with a spray can loves Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf
mon manège à moi, c’est toi
sung by edith piaf, translates (roughly) to “you’re a carousel to me.”
de la tête aux pieds, je suis faite pour l’aimer
those lyrics were sung in Marlene Dietrich’s “The Blue Angel” movie, and again, roughly translate to “from head to feet, i am made to love him.” (although the song was later recorded in English by The Beatles as “Falling in Love Again.”)
i am a huge fan of music and movies from the 1930s (It Happened One Night=fav movie ever!) yet i love graffiti …. turns out i’m not alone.
there are so few of us, y’know.
i’ve been bed-ridden for the past 4 days with a virus that is slow to depart, but i am on the mend (there were some scary moments though, i must admit)…. but a few days before i was a sick weakling with atrophied legs, i went to the Arctic Monkeys/Black Keys concert at the Air Canada Centre. i was lucky enough to get in on the pre-sale for this back in december, and quickly snagged a ticket before it sold out.
frankly, i was more excited for Arctic Monkeys than Black Keys (been a fan of theirs for five years, only been into the keys for two years).
i really am kicking myself for not going to an Arctic Monkeys concert whilst I lived in England, that would have been much better.
normally, i’m not a fan of arena shows. i prefer smaller venues. as you can tell, even though my seats were pretty great, i was still really far from my love Alex Turner….
oh alex…. now that you and alexa chung have broken up, please, can i have your abortion?
there were some people sitting around me who didn’t even know who the Arctic Monkeys were …. i was like WHAT.
they played all my fav tunes… Brianstorm, Crying Lightning, I Bet that You Look Good on the Dancefloor, Fluorescent Adolescent, Leave Before The Lights Come On, Don’t Sit Down Cuz I’ve Moved Your Chair…. but they didn’t play A Certain Romance, Fake Tales of San Francisco, or anything from the Submarine soundtrack. NEXT TIME, i’m going to a concert where they’re headlining, cuz they left me aching for more. stupid opening act slot does not do them justice
and then the keys took the stage
since there’s only two of them, they made sure their set was loaded with spectacle. flashy lights, disco balls, huge video screens, lotsa hullabaloo
they played all my favourites, Gold on the Ceiling, Lonely Boy, Tighten Up, Howlin’ For You, Next Girl… but they didn’t play Have Love Will Travel. WTF?
This is a band that I don’t think necessarily translates well into huge arenas. They can sell out the arenas, for sure, but their music is so intimate and so CBGBs that it feels like a crime to be seated a football field away from the stage….
i made a short video of their encore…. a disco ball dropped from the ceiling, illuminating the entire audience in an ambient light. that reverberation you hear isn’t the drums, it’s the entire ACC audience clapping in time. it was a great moment:) Enjoy!
…tell me the thoughts that surround you, I want to look inside your head.
And when the snow falls you’re found in Saint Moritz
With the others of the jet-set
And you sip your Napoleon brandy
But you never get your lips wet, no you don’t.
Eight & a Half is new band is made up of members of Broken Social Scene and the Stills. Toronto is redefining the culture of cool.
Laidback, chillin’ choon!
i’m walking along gerard street east … and i mean EAST, like way out there in the east end near Pape, when something in the window of a convenience store catches my eye…. do you see it?
fuck. me. hard.
that clearly doesn’t belong there, someone slipped it into the shop window without the owners noticing! this is WICKED AWESOME, and like most street art, you have to know what it’s referencing to get the joke.
in case that went right over your head, watch this video:
Ungh. so many greased-up butterfaces looking like they just escaped from a ukranian brothel.
only thing is, in the stencil she’s drilling a safe…. but in the video, she’s not. is this the artist’s way of saying this place should be robbed?
You laughed as I covered you over with leaves; face, breast, hips, and thighs. You smiled when I said the leaves were just the color of your eyes.
one day i will sing this song with somebody that i love.
click the images to hear some tunnnnnes.
the above band has been a personal fav for almost two years. must see them live soon!
i blogged about this song last week, it’s just too amazing not to mention twice.
how often have i blogged about this? A LOT.
i blogged about this video years ago, it’s still pretty epic.
it’s overplayed, brandon flowers is a douche, and cougars dance to this at dive bars in skirts so short you can see their tampon string. which i guess makes it okay again.
yeah yeah, you get the idea.