Saturday, February 25, 2017

Howl At The Moon

The Violin Monster, who makes Ann Arbor his home when the weather is warm enough to survive as a fiddle-playing street werewolf, passed up going down to New Orleans this week, so he was out and about in his usual spot on Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. He brought some unseasonably warm weather with him after returning from Mexico, where he stayed in a hostel in Mexico City, visited Monte Albán, lurked under a waterfall, performed in formal attire across the street from Palacio de Bellas Artes, and saw statues of a crucified Jesus being lifted off the back of a truck, all the while pondering life's persistent questions: "If the moon could howl, would it howl back?"

Friday, February 24, 2017

Not Nobody

Vanessa Carlton, who became a household name at age 21 when her 2002 debut single "A Thousand Miles" reached the top five on the Billboard charts, is now a 36-year-old mom and still making great music and touring. She played a mix of old favorites and new material as she returned to Ann Arbor to perform at The Ark on Thursday night, Feb. 23, 2017.

Just as when she performed at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor in November 2015, she was once again joined by Skye Steele, a violinist and multi-instrumental technical wizard who takes Carlton's piano tunes to another dimension. Carlton said they began collaborating after a chance meeting about a decade ago at The Bitter End, a popular music club in New York City. They opened Thursday night's show with "A Thousand Miles" before moving into songs such as "Carousel" and "White Houses."

The latter half of the set featured music from Carlton's latest album, "Liberman," including songs such as "Operator" and "Take It Easy" where her evolution as an artist is on fully display. Carlton explained that Liberman was her Jewish grandfather's real last name before it was changed to Lee, and she only learned that in recent years. Carlton's middle name is Lee, which she now jokingly complains is all a lie. Her latest album title pays tribute to the real last name of her grandfather, who was a painter. A reproduction of one of his paintings, featuring a nude model in three different poses, was used as the backdrop for Thursday night's show.

Back in college, about 15 years ago, I had a record-size poster of the cover of "Be Not Nobody," Carlton's debut album, and probably a bit of a crush to go with it. I always thought highly of her as a musician. But now that I see the person she has become all these years later, someone who clearly cares about the world around her and the people in it, and speaks her mind, that's been equally awesome to witness.

Opening the show was Tristen Gaspadarek, a musician originally form the Chicago area who mixed it up between keyboard and guitar and sang impressively about a psychic vampire and a gold star.