Archive for the ‘music’ Category

In July of 2007 I went up to see Xanadu on Broadway with Aaron during the show’s preview period. The jukebox musical was clever and the music was great, as expected. It featured Cheyenne Jackson, who had been the understudy until the main male lead had a tragic rollerskating accident during rehearsals. 30 Rock’s other star Jane Krakowski was in the workshop productions in its early stages.

After the show a Bear in a trenchcoat approached me just outside the theater doors and asked, “So, what did you think of the show?” His question was so pointed it was clear he wasn’t hitting on me. This guy was looking for feedback. I wished I had a more eloquent response, but all I could say on the spot was, “It was a lot of fun, I liked it.” It turns out the Bear was a producer of the show and was surveying the crowd for feedback.

That encounter stuck with me years later. My only musical theater experience was in high school with time-tested scripts like Annie and Oklahoma. It seems obvious now, but I had no idea the production of a new show was an evolving thing. The script, musical numbers and blocking change over time. You long-time musical fans may say “well duh” but I thought the fact that a producer might change a show based on feedback on the street fascinated me.

Then came “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway. Before it was even in production comic book nerds were hysterical with rage, including myself. Spider-Man doesn’t sing for one thing. He cracks jokes, but never exhibited any penchant for song in the comics. But the musical wasn’t for comic fans, it was designed to sell very expensive tickets.

It turned out to be the most expensive musical ever produced, with the longest running preview period due to excessive technical difficulties and numerous stunt-related injuries. There’s a fascinating book written by one of the co-writers of the show that is a page-turner and documents the hubris involved with the show. I didn’t see it, but learned that the writers created a new villainess that was never in the comics. Totally unnecessary in a universe rich with existing options. Plus it was just too ambitious. When the stunts worked, they were fantastic. But when they didn’t, it was awkward at best, but too often dangerous to for the cast.

Dazzler

Art by Chris A. Tsuda

Between Xanadu and Spider-Man, I was like, why didn’t they do a musical about Marvel’s answer to disco in the 1980s, the Dazzler? She is a some-time X-Man with the mutant ability to convert sound energy into light. She is still featured in comics today, and was one of the first to publicly come out as a mutant. Stories were one of the first to focus on the personal life of the hero, and the comics were also the first to be released exclusively in comic shops rather than on the magazine racks at the local convenience store. As you might imagine, the character has a gay fan base and is a popular subject for cosplay.

Dazzler wasn’t always a hero. Her first dream was to be a star, but villains and thugs kept interrupting her big breaks. Eventually she had to make a choice – one that we all face on a daily basis: am I a hero or a star?

Now isn’t that a compelling story? Wouldn’t theater gays go nuts over such a theme, that also involves disco and flashy lights? I think so.

So I did some research. One superfan recently did a Dazzler music video. Back in the 80s, Bo Derek was set to play her, with an insane script idea starring Cher as the Witch Queen, Donna Summer as the Queen of Fire, KISS, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and The Village People. I applaud their creativity, but I think we gotta scale it back a bit.

So I started writing a script. Yeah I know I’m not a script writer. The most I do are these here blog posts and achingly dry press releases for the federal government. But I had two years of un- and under-employment and looking for jobs only takes up so much time. Plus I had this idea in my head, an idea that was like a pustulent zit that had to be popped desperately, or else it would just sit there and fester. And the idea wouldn’t go away.

The idea is based on the earliest Dazzler comics where the simple theme was her trying to make it big in spite of interruptions by supervillains. It’s about expectations, or the failure to reach them. It was a theme I was – and am – very familiar with. Perhaps this script is therapy. But I’d also like to see it work, if only on a small stage.

In the fall I learned about a theatrical reading of a Batman graphic novel. A reading is when you read from a script without a lot of props or blocking. They did a great job, and I got in touch with the director. Sadly we haven’t gotten together about it yet, but I think he’s one guy who could help me out, if only for suggestions.

I met with a producer friend of mine for some advice. His main tip was that unless this show is satire, I definitely had to get in touch with Marvel for permission, or it is all for nothing. His other advice was that NYC is filled with aspiring writers, and what was I thinking that I could also do such a thing? That was disappointing from a person I had initially introduced to showbiz. But I had asked for advice and for him to read my script, which I’m not sure he’s done yet. Not many have, although one theater critic and Dazzler fan has and gave me some constructive advice that I plan to implement.

I reached out to Marvel Comics’ licensing team, which was surprisingly easy to do. I got a swift response: “Hi Mr. B: We are not interested in licensing out our character for this musical. Thank you.” At least they got back to me quickly. Not sure what to do about that just yet. The show is definitely not satire, and is in fact is heavily based on the early Dazzler comics. Dazzler wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dazzler was an aspiring disco star, and a show without music wouldn’t be right. So I delved into the music from the year the comic was conceived. Much of that music was played at the roller rink where I spent a lot of time when I was nine years old, and I have an eidedic memory for lyrics, especially from when I was a kid. 1979 was a fantastic year for music, many of the songs having to do with light. Perfect for a musical about a person who can transform sound into light. Many cringe at the thought of a jukebox musical, but these songs are appropriately woven into the plot. I’ve even written one original song for The Eleven O’clock Number.

I’ve done a lot of research into script writing, and plan on taking a class once I get my finances back in order. DC has a remarkably thriving theater scene, and there are opportunities for small stage productions. I even have a local 80s cover band I’m in touch with to perform the music. “Glitterlust” seems an appropriate name for a house band doing music for Dazzler.

For the most part I’ve kept this idea to myself for many years. It’s a crazy idea, and putting it out there has been interesting. I’m mostly met with bewilderment and sometimes doubt even from close friends, which has been a little hurtful. But from what I understand rejection and roadblocks are part of the business and I’m going to keep trying. Is it a hobby or a dream? I’m not sure yet. But just like Dazzler it is yet to be determined whether I’m going to be a hero or a star.

Thanks for all the congrats on the new job. The first week has been mostly admin stuff and lots of forms. Forms for health insurance and nice stuff like that. It’s already clear I’m going to be a busy bee, but hopefully I’ll have time to blog more often now that my brain is clear to write about topics other than the horrors of 26 months of un-or under-employment. Blogmistress Kiri is also getting back on the bandwagon as well.

In the 80s and 90s I was never really a huge fan of Kate Bush. Her music was always in the background of my awareness despite releasing tons of music videos during that time. I liked her collaboration with Peter Gabriel and that was about it.

My Computer” was another collaboration she did with Prince in 1997 that started to pique my interest in her music a little more. It was an interesting song about being lonely despite a high download speed with your AOL dialup. The song wasn’t that catchy but I was starting to get the impression she sang about deeply personal situations and my interest grew.

Maxwell did a touching soul cover of “This Woman’s Work,” which my purist Kate Bush fan friend Doug decried as an abomination to the meaning of the song and everything Kate Bush. I liked it anyway, and looked that song up to understand what it meant. Still not clear on the meaning but the song is a testament to the human condition, or something.

Then for some reason lately I’ve been on a major Kate Bush roll. I think it was the first time I really listened to the lyrics from “Wuthering Heights” that started my fanaticism. I was like, “What the hell is this song about?” Then thanks to the Internets I was able to read the lyrics in earnest and I was like “OMFG SHE’S SINGING FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF A GHOST!” based on the novel of the same name. That’s pretty creative. After a good workout you might find me screeching out the words when there’s nobody at home. “HEATHCLIFF! IT’S ME KATHY I’VE COME HOME!”

One of her more recent releases, “Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe” is about a dog running away from home. Maybe it’s about something else but I have yet to find the deeper meanings to this one. Still, writing about a dog’s romp through the woods is pretty trippy too.

During the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony NBC cut out “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” due to broadcast time restraints. Curse NBC for this crime. The song is about understanding the opposite sex, but presented in a sport venue the song takes on a different meaning. It might ask: do you understand the struggle and pain of sport, either victory or defeat? Kate did not perform the song live but the video montage of the athletes was a powerful interpretation of the music.

The touching video for “Moments of Pleasure” drew me in, and again I looked up the lyrics. It may have been written during a time when her cretive friends were dying during the AIDS casualties in the 90s. Makes me tear up every time. “Cloudbusting,” about a mad scientist. “Rubberband Girl” about getting back up again to recover. “The Man with the Child in His Eyes,” “Wow, “Love and Anger,” and “The Sensual World.” The list seems to grow every day for me and I’m a giddy fan.

But despite her recent series of shows in London she’s unlikely to perform in the States. I hear she doesn’t like to travel overseas, and right now it’s unlikely I have a budget that would support a trip across the pond should she perform again. I’m caught up on seeing all my favorite 80s and 90s artists live, but Kate Bush is a glaring and painful omission from this list. I’m too late to this game, but I will continue to hope she tours again soon.

Heeey! Sorry for the long absence, I was in a K~hole all last week. The national news was not pretty as you all know and personal news fit with that theme as well. I finally did get a notification about the one job I was waiting to hear about (negative) and there was a 2nd phone interview that I was looking forward to with another organization that was cancelled. Back to square one. This is getting ridiculous.

Anyhow, on a good note Prince was in Portland tonight. Of course I had to go. He had his 3rdEyeGirl backup band, a bare-bones affair with just a bass, guitar and drummer. The venue was smaller and the band was an intimate fit for the setting. But if you’re a longtime Prince fan you know his music comes with a lot of keyboards and background vocals, which were mostly absent with this setup. Still, the song lineup fit well, which I think went like this:

O+(->Let’s Go Crazy
Endorphinmachine
Screwdriver
She’s Always In My Hair
Dolphin
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
Guitar
Plectrum Electrum
Fixurlifeup
Colonized Mind
Bambi w/ Joshua Welton (cowbell)
2Y2D w/ Joshua Welton (cowbell, vox)
Cause And Effect
Sign O’ The Times
Forever In My Life
Purple Rain

Some dude with a cowbell. OK. And “Dolphin”? That was weird but I’ve never heard it live so it was fun. Anyway, he did offer a some old tunes, but the most alarming thing to me was the flat response from the audience. Flat as a pancake. Portland, I think you smoke too much weed. For a minute there I actually felt sorry for Prince. I mean, how do you not know the words to “She’s Always In My Hair,” “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man,” and “Bambi”? They were rocking out to his new tracks but I counted maybe two people up by the stage who were going nuts to his old stuff. The audience was not really familiar with Prince but were there anyway for some unknown reason. Maybe it was the 8pm Gresham/Beaverton crowd and the 11pm show will rock out more, but it’s clear that while Portland does indie well, it does not know the funk.

After being home in Wisconsin for a week I headed up to Minneapolis to the 2nd Annual Benefit 2 Celebrate Life concert with Sean Woolgatherer. I went to the first one last year and had a great time, and this show didn’t disappoint either. The show was held at First Avenue, where Purple Rain was filmed, and held as a fundraiser for the American Heart Association.

This year featured performances by Andre Cymone, a former protege of Prince. I was looking forward to hearing The Dance Electric, his biggest hit from that era. Sean took a nice video of the performance:

Lookin’ good at 54 Andre!

The other headliner for the show was Princess, a Prince tribute band featuring Maya Rudolph of SNL. Their coverage of tracks from 1999 and earlier tunes were eerily flawless:

It’s clear that Maya and Gretchen listened to a lot of Prince. They had every word down to the erotic screams and gasps. Review of the show, photos and setlist is here. It was good to get my R&B and funk fix in after a long hiatus. There are lots of alternative rock concerts in Portland but not a lot of funk that I know of.

It’s back to the grind in Portland, although the weather has been hitting the low 60s lately which is nice. No job leads during my absence but a volunteer job I interviewed for will start in April. It’s working the front desk at an LGBT homeless support center that does good work. Should be interesting and something to do.

I took a two-day rest in Wisconsin with the family after the long drive from Cleveland in a day. Then I was ready to get through southern Minnesota and South Dakota. It turns out South Dakota was a much larger state than I expected. Much of it looked like this:

Pretty in a way, but monotonous after a while. But I started to see herds of pronghorn antelope, and my first wild coyote.
I made it as far as Oacoma, SD on the first night and was greeted by this lovely sign:

I wondered how many places in DC would benefit from similar signage. Then I did a quick drive through Badlands National Park, which was a geologic lesson in erosion:
Badlands National Park
I saw two bighorn sheep in the Badlands, but it is hard to stop quickly with a big truck so you’ll have to take my word for it.

I did make it to the Corn Palace but the place is no longer completely constructed of corn. These days it’s just a facade of corn. Inside there was a sound check for some country music star, but that was about as interesting as it got. I swore off cheesy/kitchy stops after that, but was hungry by the time I got to Wall Drug so stopped there anyway. The locals were not impressed by the big city boy who just rolled into town:
Horses at Wall Drug
I overheard the waitress at the cafe speaking Russian, which I thought was odd since she looked Native American. Turns out she was a Kazak exhange student and I chatted with her in Russian and Kazak, which made her day.

I honestly thought I could make it to Wyoming that night, but that was the first of my overestimations of where I’d end up each night. Fortunately I wasn’t on too tight a schedule so it wasn’t a big deal. I did make it to Mount Rushmore for the first time, and it was impressive:
Mount Rushmore
At this point I must have gone through my iPod playlist at least once, and some songs seemed fitting for the journey by that time:

Kylie Minogue – Get Outta My Way (slow drivers)
Alison Krauss & Union Station – Crazy As Me
Madonna – I’ll Remember
Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone
Prince – Mountains (performed by Khari Cabral & Chantae Cann)

I was tired of all the Wall Drug signs and bikers biking slow around Sturgis, so made a break for it to get out of South Dakota once and for all. You would think Harley dudes and other motorcyclists would be tearing around at breakneck speed, but that’s not the case. They’re an aging population and ride quite conservatively and are a pain to drive behind, especially in a large truck. I made it to Gillette, Wyoming that evening.

FREE DONNA SUMMERFrom my August 2009 blog post when I saw Donna Summer perform live at Coney Island:

“It was a nice weekend jam-packed with gayness, starting off with the Donna Summer concert at Coney Island with Joe and Jeff on Thursday. The crowd was HUGE, and we had arrived late because I had to have some Nathan’s hot dogs and cotton candy beforehand. I heard at least six songs I recognized, and her voice was still good and the band was tight even though we couldn’t see much from where we struggled for a view.”

I’ll admit I missed the whole Donna Summer gay identity disco thing by about 10 years, but her songs were still playing in the bars here and there when I came out, and I do remember hearing her music on the radio when I was a wee jimbo.

Legendary DC Go-Go artist Chuck Brown passed on this week as well. Last night there was an impromptu memorial outside the Howard Theatre that spread out onto adjacent streets and went late into the night:
Chuck Brown Way
You may remember his hit with the Soul Searchers, “Bustin’ Loose.”

Oh jeez I almost forgot it’s Syttende Mai today. Gratulerer med dagen, Norge. Happy National Day, Norway.

We played rugby on Saturday out in Frederick, Maryland. The pitch was between the city and the mountains and it was very scenic. But with woodticks. Both the Blue side and Red side played the same opposing side, which was really nice of them to play two matches as it gave those of us on the Red side time to play. The Blues are our starting side and the Red side is the 2nd team with old men and gimps like me. The Blues beat Frederick 22-12, then the Reds played the same team but lost 21-15 although it was a good match.

Here’s me with Miss Gertrude Pumpernickel before the Red side match.
Frederick May 12
Gertrude is the prettiest girl on the pitch!

I don’t normally go out after a match as I’m usually kind of ornery and not very well socialized on a rugby day, but it was the only day I could meet up with Butterfly Guy Doug who was in town for a conference. We met up at DuPont Italian Kitchen, then went to Cobalt. You know I always like how Cobalt has done something nice to their place every time you go there. I’m glad we’re through the particle board stage and dance boxes painted flat black era. Now that we can open our windows in the gay bars they’re getting nicer interiors.

It was good to finally meet Doug after linking to him for so long. He is an entomologist and knows a lot about butterflies and one day wishes to rediscover the giant Madagascar earwig, which is presumed extinct.

Anyway, after that we went to Rich Morel’s Hot Sauce, which is off the chain! Hot Sauce is coming to DC again on the 23rd of June, but was originally held in Baltimore. It’s sort of like Blowoff but with faster-paced music. I ended up staying out much longer than I expected, but I had fun.

The weekend at Darth Jersey’s dacha was fun. We went for a hike on the Delaware & Raritan towpath along a historic canal. It’s much like our Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and towpath and trail in DC. I wonder: one is a state park while the our towpath is a national park. Is the C&O Federal mainly due to its proximity to DC, or does it have some greater historical value? These are the things us bureaucrats in DC think about…

Anyway, the birding was great and I spotted three warblers I hadn’t seen before: the American redstart, yellow-rumped and a possible black-and-white warbler. They are fairly common birds, it’s just that I hadn’t seen them in the wild yet.

Darth Jersey doesn’t post pictures of his beloved on his blog because he says it’s “too technical”, so I have posted a nice picture of their naughty dog Boomer, who eventually peed on my pillow. You can tell he’s naughty even from the photo.

We went to see The Avengers. It was fun. I especially liked the part where Hulk beat the snot out of Loki:

On Saturday we went to Asbury Park, which is considered part of the Jersey Shore. It was just like how they depict people on that MTV show:

And for a moment I pumped my fist too, but now I feel unctuous from parroting their behavior. I still feel like I can’t get all that hair product, tanning oil and sweat off my chakra.

Fun tunes Friday featuring Sam Sparro, whose last hit was “Black and Gold

I like his ’stache.

The shadowbox animation for this new(ish) Kate Bush tune adds a lot to the music:

And here’s a shout-out to BrettCajun, who has a New Attitude:

fDeluxe (which consists of several members from The Family) performing “Gaslight” on Twin Cities Public television:

The Family originally recorded “Nothing Compares 2 U” with a male voice of lead singer St. Paul. The song was written by Prince, as were most of the tracks on their album. The other vocalist is Susannah Melvoin, Wendy’s twin sister.

Beardy rugby player David “The Wolfman” Williams for Coke Zero:

Did anyone catch Bradley Cooper’s sweet ’stache at the Oscars?