Climb the Totem of Life with Cirque du Soleil [Review]

Cirque du Soleil: Totem | October 28 – December 18, 2011 | AT&T Park– Parking Lot A | San Francisco

I had been looking forward to last Wednesday night for a few weeks. I had heard all the ‘hoopla’ and now it was my turn to be counted among the millions of wowed viewers. As I walked down 2nd Street to the Grand Chapiteau just south of AT&T Park in San Francisco and readied myself for a night of Totem, I realized that I was hopelessly excited to check out the company’s 31st show. I mean, Cirque du Soleil is a household name with an extraordinary track record of amazing its audiences. In fact, the Montreal-based spectacular celebrated its 27th year of enchantment this past June. And this was my first Cirque ever.

Unicycles & Bowls. Photo by Daniel Desmarais

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eventseekr Shuffle: Punch It or Hug It? A Playlist of Lovely Assault

“For one human being to love another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks … Love is like the measles. The older you get it, the worse the attack.” –Rainer Maria Rilke

Love and War are two words that change lives. Sweethearts swoon and entire countries are swept up by the ravishment of warfare. My choice of the word Love over Peace is quite intentional, as I’m a firm believer in the notion that the latter is in no way the antonym to the despair that is War. Peace is merely the middle ground: safety. Creation and community are needed in order to properly balance out the scale, therefore Love fits the bill quite nicely. But I advise all to be careful with quickly labeling Love and War as two entities working in opposition. The famous Hellenic War delineates otherwise, showing how love may beget war. In contrast, one can only hope that the converse is just as likely.

I aimed to create a playlist which highlights both of these aspects of human nature while also making room for the grey areas that lie between anger and adoration. There is a certain tension involved in love – a push and pull that can turn into frustration or worse. Some of these songs come purely from the heart while others were written with an antagonistic slant; some are literal in their relevance while others are more abstract, and nearly all of them convey a sense of anxiety. That being said, let’s leave the boggy waters of semantics behind and let the playlist speak its case.

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Little Red Toddies and Big Dickels to Keep You Warm [Live Review]

Little Red / Yalls / Bleeding Knees Club / Oona | Saturday, November 5th | Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco

It was Saturday night after a bout of rain when a couple of friends and I strolled up to Rickshaw Stop. I was ready for my dose of feel-good rock in the form of Australian quintet, Little Red.

Little Red. Photo courtesy of Tell All Your Friends PR.

The group is currently touring their latest album, Midnight Remember. Unfortunately, the ‘Stop’s doors weren’t open yet. I guess we got a little overzealous. We did what any respectable concert attendee would in said case and had a drink down the street. The city streets had a chill that made the inside of the venue feel like a paradise once we got there. As far as concert spots go, the Eden parallel is not too far from the truth. One can rock out by the stage with the bartender only a hop away. There are also two upstairs balcony areas furnished with benches and couches. Yes, couches. Needless to say, we spent a big part of the evening lounging in the warmth, enjoying the atmosphere and sipping our specialty drinks of the evening: Little Red Toddies (add a bit of grenadine) and Big Dickels. The namesake of the toddy was obvious, while I was left wondering if the latter was dubbed so in honor of the first performer, Bleeding Knees Club.

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Little Red’s Dominic speaks of Wall Street and Hare Krishnas [Interview]

I recently got the chance to set up a chat with the lead singer of the fun Australian rock quintet Little Red. The group boasts success in their home country with their first EP, Listen to Little Red, meeting good national reviews upon release in June 2008. It was named album of the week on Triple J. It was subsequently snatched up by UK label Lucky Number Records for its Northern Hemisphere debut. The latest album, Midnight Remember (Liberation Records, September 2010), has enjoyed a warm welcome over the past year as it went gold in the Outback. The ‘Red men are now touring their most recent musical fruition. Needless to say, I was rather excited to talk with Dominic Byrne, the lead singer and one of two guitarists. So I “gave him a bell” last Tuesday. The band was in New York for a couple CMJ performances where Paste Magazine named them one of the “10 Great Bands” at the festival. Well done, Aussies.

Little Red. Photo by Angelo Kehagias. From left to right: Adrian Beltram (guitar, vocals) Dominic Byrne (vocals, guitar) Quang Dinh (bass, vocals) Taka Honda (drums) Tom Hartney (percussion, vocals).

Dominic picks up his cell phone on the streets of the Big Apple and away we go.

You all started in 2005 or 2007? I found a couple dates.

I’m not sure. It was either ’05 or ’06. It’s starting to get a little bit fuzzy. Yeah, it was one of those. I don’t know. I actually seriously don’t know.

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Emil & Friends’ Lo & Behold [Album Review]

Take a bite out of the psychedelic beat-fruit that is Lo & Behold. Released October 11 with Cantora Records, the folky electro-pop-with-a-dash-of-rock-and-disco album follows Emil & Friends’ August 2010 release of EP Downed Economy. The EP clearly laid the foundation for the producer/mixer/musician/singer’s sound in his latest work. Although I enjoy Economy, I find the latest record to be more focused, more energetic and full of a rich resonance – a je ne sais quoi that is perhaps partly due to the mystery that enshrouds the man behind the music.

Emil & Friends. Photo by Betsy Blundell, courtesy of Cantora Records.

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BRAIDS with Painted Palms and Pepper Rabbit [Review]

Tuesday, September 27. San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill. A night of musical reverence.

Encased in a Bay Area Indian Summer sultriness, the aptly named bar/live music venue at the foot of Potrero Hill hosts a night of performances by Painted Palms, Pepper Rabbit and BRAIDS. (Read an interview with BRAIDS’ Raphaelle Standel-Preston here.) Outside, the heat mixes with the fog in the air and the quiet of the neighborhood, adding a sense of mystery to the evening. I even feel as though I’m intruding on a well-kept secret as I approach the door and encounter a couple of BRAIDS members having a curbside chat, a fitting preview of the bar’s comfortable atmosphere. An air of relaxation reigns as the crowd begins to funnel into the room’s soft blue and red lighting, making for a full audience. And it’s not even the middle of the week! That’s what we call “winning.”

Painted Palms. Photo courtesy of Secretly Canadian.

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BRAIDS – Raphaelle Standel-Preston [Interview]

BRAIDS, like so many unshakable memories, has its foundations set in high school. Now working out of Montreal, the members all met in Calgary, some through participation in jazz combos, others in the theatre, during piano lessons and even on a trip to Europe. The pieces slowly fell into place for a musical team anchored in friendship. Raphaelle Standel-Preston, the woman behind the vocals and guitar of this experimental indie pop group,  broke her leg as a teenager and decided to snatch up the axe. Music lovers are thankful. The rest of the family includes Austin Tufts as drummer/vocalist, Taylor Smith who plays multiple instruments and sings, and Katie Lee who offers up her keyboard tickling as well as her voice. That’s right, everyone sings. To say that the group is harmonious may be a bad joke on my part, but the statement speaks on multiple levels. The band is currently on tour throughout Canada and the States with such groups as Pepper Rabbit and Painted Palms, and will then move on to Europe. Praise follows the quartet on their tour for their debut album, Native Speaker, as it captures audiences and critics alike with a smooth sound that is far from boring or mundane.

Braids. Photo courtesy of Tell All Your Friends PR.

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