Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Braving Hurricane Barry, I put in my 9 hours’ morning work yesterday and took off at 3pm to go see Jonathan and Southwind’s last performance in the state before they left at 11pm for the rest of their national tour.

The neighborhood was in the middle of flooding but I took advantage of sneaking out between storm bands (no pun intended) to get on the interstate..

It was at least a 3 hour drive upstate, pounding rain and – thank You God – for a friend recommending audio books, so it was me and Brené Brown and her recent book on “Braving the Wilderness” (how à propos!), white-knuckling it up to Millbrook, AL. I had a mission, to see my kid, his band, the competition with other bands, to make good on a promise to get there and to deliver two corn dogs and a large hot fudge milk shake into the hands of said kid.

He reinforced a couple of times (despite my texts to move things up) that it would have to be AFTER the show (which would be circa 10pm) lest he barf up Sonic on the pristine football field and cost his team points.

Because they had the “home state advantage,” Southwind went last. But preceding them were several truly awesome drum corps, competing for a title.

One was Southern Knights, an all-age drum corps (and I saw young as 10, old as 70s) which rocked the stadium kicking off the competition.

In the middle were bands from Atlanta, the Carolinas, Florida, Louisiana and Michigan.

I would like to point out that I was most impressed with the Louisiana Stars from Lafayette, LA – which happened to be from just a hair north of Barry’s landfall, so these kids were safe and sound inland but probably internally freaking out how their families, pets and homes were faring during the storm which made landfall while they practiced here.

Louisiana Stars – God bless those in the path of Hurricane Barry.

The band from Kalamazoo, MI won, Legends, with their extraordinary drill team posing as Sirens of the Sea en masse, along with a dramatic story line about life in the sea with the gods and goddesses.

The Sirens did a creative wave number to the sound of my beloved sea waves, their long hair sweeping to and fro, emulating the waves of the beckoning sea

This drill team evidently was taught to seduce and interact with the audience with their hair-flips, alluring smiles and seductive beckonings. a perfect opening that wowed and wooed the judges.

With Southwind hosting, their last-on-program/late performance was stellar, nonetheless – and, compared to last week’s dress rehearsal (see previous post), the musicians were phenomenally precise, more artistic, theatrical and in the groove. I am excited for the rest of their tour and am confident they will rock the rest of the country!

Southwind’s precision

They handled the “cages” more expertly tonight…intentional in trapping their prey and skillfully orchestrating the profound exhilaration of freedom

Packing up for the next destination

Drilling the Drill Team – they rocked!!

That semi holds a place for each instrument, supply and uniform

The cages waiting to be loaded. What cage are you captive in?

Each member gets a medallion at the end of their home-state show, depending on how many years they’ve participated. This is Jonathan’s second year.

A competition well-performed

Southwind Mom’s Truck

Thank You, God, for children and their pursuits, for infusing them with talents, skills and interests that contribute to our world’s arts, sciences and teaching them all manner of What Life’s About.

God, please bless Southwind and all the kids this summer who are devoting themselves to greater purposes which ultimately make us better people and make the world a better place. May they go on to serve You in whatever capacity You deem appropriate.

(Here, Jonathan’s brother with Down syndrome pipes up, “Mama, you tired of Southwind?” Mama answers, “No, David, I’m tired FROM Southwind last night, not tired OF Southwind!”) David says, “We’re tired from rains and storms,” to which mama says, “Yes, David, and why we’re going to bed early tonight….”

Night night co-musers!

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Marching with the band in the Christmas parade has been a lifelong dream of our child with Down syndrome. That is all he ever wanted to do.

Music has been his passion since he was in the womb (he would kick harder when his favorite songs were on). It was a music therapist who helped ease him out of a coma in the PICU after he flat-lined.

And now, in middle school, it is the promise of being able to go to band practice that keeps him focused on his studies in the morning.

And keeps him from shenanigans like running into the girls’ locker room when they’re changing.

Besides girls, he has taken a particular liking to all things percussion. When we first asked if he could march, the answer wasn’t no, but it wasn’t yes, either.

Would he do what he was supposed to do? Would he be able to make the three-mile trek along the parade route, orthopedic inserts and all? How many chaperones might he need? What if he got distracted and became bewildered, tried to run or plopped down on the pavement and refused to budge (as he is sometimes prone to do)?

Once we secured answers to all these questions, the answer was finally ‘yes.’ He was ecstatic and talked nothing but parade for the last month. He diligently practiced various instruments at home each night and faithfully counted out the rhythm of various Christmas songs.

We often overheard him in his room, pretending to be in band class, talking (as best his speech impediment allowed) to his imaginary band mates: “Ready? Okay…(tap tap tap tap) one, two, three, four…stop – try that again, this time, faster…”

But last week the band director’s pregnancy took a turn rendering her unable to lead the band in the parade – and the middle school band was removed from the parade lineup. We didn’t have the heart to tell our son – not yet.

On a whim, we emailed the high school music director who oversees our eldest son in the high school marching band. Explaining the situation, we asked if we might include him – we were already signed up to chaperone the high school band on the parade, anyway. The answer was YES!


The percussionists readily took him under their wing and put him to work – here, warming up on the snare. She was teaching him both technique and rhythm while we waited for the parade to begin.


Drumming up some fun on the quads. Somebody forgot the apparatus that holds the quads while marching, so the band director enlisted Daddy to make a run back to the high school right-quick to find it in the band room, then battle the traffic and barricades back in time to save the parade. Close call, but mission accomplished!


Bass drums aren’t easy to pick up!


Lined up and ready to roll…big brother was playing the baritone horn in front of the tubas, somewhere in the sea of Santa hats.


…and baby brother was supposed to be throwing candy to the crowd as we passed, but I counted no fewer than 12 wrappers in the bottom of the Radio Flyer at the end of the night.


Our ears are still ringing from being by the drum line. When we had to slow or pause on the route, I noticed it was impossible NOT to move your body to the beat – so we did some dancing in the street!

Fortunately, there is no picture of me wearing my reindeer headdress, although I was spotted and called out to by several parade-goers, some of whom were administrators where I work….not sure how that affects my chance at a promotion.

He got a tummy ache about halfway through and had to retire to the wagon, but he kept playing until the bitter end.


He got a BIG surprise when Santa himself jumped off of the fire truck and came right over to give him a big hug – the jolly old guy wouldn’t stand still, but the joy he brought was immeasurable.


And he was given a new pair of drumsticks!

Isn’t this what Christmas is all about?

Thanks, God, for the joy You brought to the world through Your Son, Jesus Christ. As we celebrate this time of His birth, we thank You for glimpses of that joy in the faces and lives of Your precious children. May we, as adults, ensure that our children know the gift of joy You have provided through Him. May all our hopes and dreams come true through Your perfect will.

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I would like to take this opportunity to do my very first public music review of a song. As this site’s title contains the name of a Fairly Popular Band named Muse (hence random and unexpected hits to this blog of late), the alignment of their latest release being my favorite song concurrent with the blog title is sheer coincidence.

Heck, I didn’t even know Muse was Muse when I created this blog, although I was vaguely familiar with one of their songs (Uprising).

Like me, Muse hails from the South of their country (more or less), not far from the Sea. But these blokes were still romping in diapers while I was romping the English beaches of Cornwall. Because my Mom made me and said I’d thank her someday, I was the only one wearing a top on the beach since I was from the States, which did little to support my other transparently futile efforts to try to fit in while I lived there, such as adopting a miserably facsimile of an accent. Today I thank my mother.

I like Muse for what everybody else on the planet likes them for – the somewhat universal messages we can relate to, their edgy stance, their Police-like composition (including the techno-beat stuff – do we dig it or not? yeah, we’ll probably be hearing this stuff when our kids realize they’re old only because it suddenly gets branded as “oldies”).

I absolutely don’t expect Matt, Chris & Dominic to view this blather since these dudes are pretty busy, so I’m going to go ahead and catapult my impressions upon the universe at large. Nevertheless, I’ll preview my conclusion with – THIS ROCKS!!! On to the other truths from my perspective:

First, it’s a little to polished. I don’t know what that vocal instrumental is in the middle of it (all that hoo-whoo-hoo-hoo-whoo-hoo-ooo) – they would have done better to put something else to fill the slow gap. This passage is embarrassing and I have to turn down my radio when it comes on; what would my fellow commuter-neighbors think? I have to roll up the windows just prior to this caterwauling, like my mother admonished me to lock my doors when we anxiously sped through “bad neighborhoods” on the west side of Chicago in the 70’s.

Second, dump the scooping. This is insulting to people who’ve had formal musical training. Way too much throughout – thus, it comes off as insincere in the delivery and detracts from the passion. Leave the compulsive scooping to the likes of Gretchen Wilson, k? (And please take those damned Christmas lights down at least by Robert E. Lee’s birthday).

Third, the last lines needed to come second, or somewhere sooner – the fervent “I need to love” at the end make me (and probably everyone else) hot – I wanted to feel this make my insides clench sooner, not at the end when you’re about to leave me high and dry. This last bit is awesome, and there all abandon gives way to sheer basics – I want this through the whole song, not sitting upright with my legs crossed and my shirt buttoned to the collar until that last refrain. Like stripping your clothes off only to have the baby cry and you have to get up and get back to the drag of the day. Er, something like that.

That’s mostly the vocal stuff. As for drums, bass and techno, that is supposed to be polished, and it came off as such – great work in the background! When you have the backdrop polished, you can go where you want with the vocals, more or less. Loosen up, Matt. You may have been trying too hard to please the contract people. Let ‘er rip, sweetie. Makes me look forward to the next output, hoping the musical equivalent of editors are out to lunch when you record again.

I don’t know what the spar is between Beck & Bellamy, but in my humble opinion, it’s mostly for naught. Life is so much bigger. Make it so in the music. Be grateful the dude is using your music. Be cautious in using your position to make a stand – Somebody may change your heart sometime, somewhere along the way. Stay humble and leave the politics to politicians. Focus on your God-given talent.

In all, it’s my favorite song right now, but only because that last part of the song nearly makes me run off the road. And the video makes me want to blow smoke rings on the ‘L’ again, a là “In the Air Tonight,” a là my short-clipped childhood. Everyone should learn to jump turnstiles in subways (after they pay). But the apostle-like halo needs to go – there are other visual ways to capture illumination of leadership. Or whatever the effect was supposed to be. Maybe it was the pinkish background. Just heard men in pink get fewer dates, validating my gut feeling that men in pink make me nervous and doubtful.

And the SWAT team in the video reminds me of work, minus the weapons, hoses and masks. Nice to see other people storming around instead of me and my code team for once. Lets me let go of the image of me leading 4 grown male gorillas in taking an aggressor down today. You hold the hips, let me stack his ankles, you two get his shoulders and keep the head safe…follow my cues…sprawl your legs apart like me to keep your balance…brace yourselves and just let him scream…let it go…you’re safe now….let it out…let all the Madness out. .There, now…isn’t the world a better place?

Lastly, let the lady flick her ash at the end, already – how did it get that long and not drop into her lap and singe her miniskirt?

Final review? Thumbs up. I’m a tough critic and am quick to find fault. But I’m also the first to crank it up, baby. With all the windows down.

I need to love….come and rescue me.

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Hey, God…

What makes a song a favorite song? Is it the memories invoked, or the longings provoked? The identification experienced, or the inspirations evoked?

Some of my favorite songs over time have led me to dream bigger, run faster, consider the unconsiderable, to be good, to be naughty, to swell big, to shrink small, to sing loudly, to weep quietly. And to reminisce both fondly and with bittersweetened regret tainted with shamed relish. Today a fun song (not my current favorite) inspired me to perfect my ability to spit gum out the passenger window as I was driving. Aim high, calculate the trajectory, assess the traffic patterns and have a backup plan in case it lands in the back seat and starts to melt into the upholstery.

Usually I can identify what it is about a song that makes it my favorite, but not this time. Like I prefer to wait and see what the tide brings in rather than rush up to it and lose the overall effect of the moment, allowing the song to wash over at will without pursuing it, seems to help maintain its allure.

In this day of instant gratification, can a song be a favorite if it can be summoned and experienced upon command? I remember having to wait to hear a favorite song, played at the will of another. The anticipation and subsequent joy of experiencing it allowed for heightened savoring and insight, just as awaiting the treasure of the tide rather than pursuing it up close. It is better to stay seated and allow the water to rush in and see what it does to your senses…whether soothingly warm or sharply chilled, if it respects your boundaries or overcomes you, and if it deposits a treasure, or hurries back out of your realm without leaving an imprint. Do your feet sink a little further, or was it not strong enough to alter what was?

Just as I prefer not to peer too closely into the wave to see what it has stirred up out of the sea until it is sure it wants to present it as a gift to the shore, I would rather not listen too closely to the lyrics, lest they not be exactly aligned with my expectations, or one line be askew of an otherwise perfect song. Therein spoils the beauty of the experience, and diminishes the point at which two creative forces brush up against one another.

This is akin to my disdain for music videos…how to ruin a perfectly good song with the images of someone else’s idea of what the song means. Someone else defines it for me, as if I were devoid of my own imagination, as if I had no need to dream. Someone else’s dream came true, and they got a piece of the pie in the process. And my notion of the song is inextricably altered, forever, prisoner to another’s ideas.

Have greed and control overrun our natural ability to imagine?

How does one reconcile what seems like wisdom in waiting and ways of the past, with the ways du jour? It is indeed fun to rush up and see what the tide has brought in, but in doing so, the song loses its mystique and allure. The draw is in the unanswered haunting that beckons me to wait and see. I love this song right now because I don’t hear it as much as I think I would like, and I long to know and hear more.

But I don’t, and I will myself not to pursue it.

I will wait in my beach chair and see what the tide brings. In the meantime, doing so allows me to savor, to dream, to imagine, to relish, unspoiled, to relax in knowing that not satisfying my inclination to pursue will yield even greater returns as the tide wills. And it will forever remain my own music video, in my head.

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