The Things They Listened To

DSCF6934For opening night of my first paid musical theater gig, my sound designer gave me a pile of CD’s. Some of them I had heard him play over the system during tech rehearsals, some I had never heard of. Every one of them was amazing and none of them would I have ever found on my own. Cassandra Wilson, Duncan Sheik, John Zorn, Holly Cole. Coltrane, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello, Jonathon Richman. Loudon Wainwright, Tom Waits.

I was in Arizona at the time, home of the greatest used music store on the planet. For the run of the show, and for the rest of the time that I lived there, I would go to Zia’s every Monday (my dark day) and spend a couple of hours digging around the bins. My classic rock and heavy metal roots branched out to classical, punk, minimalist, new age, cowpunk, classic country, and the downright strange.

Which is half the story of how I later found myself, at age 28, to own over four hundred CD’s and no bed. The other half of the story I’m not telling.

CC and I had a moment recently where we realized  our kids don’t have the experience of finding music that way. When CD’s first came out there used to be one store in the city that sold them, and he’d go in every day off and buy whatever came out that week. They were so new, so expensive, and there was so little available. It’s how he ended up with Israeli dance music in his collection.

Our kids don’t buy CD’s. There’s no store to go to anymore to find gems– you know, the things you missed when they were new and you were listening to something else. Our kids Spotify and listen to what their friends listen to. Fine for finding new popular music. But where do they go for unpopular music?

I haven’t Spotified yet. I play Pandora on the TV when I’m allowed control of the remote. But I love iTunes DJ on my laptop. It has an irony filter. Let’s face it, I’ve got a lot of music that I’m not going to actively seek out to listen to all the time. Before we left for Indiana on our Thanksgiving road trip, this was the playlist it selected for me:

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It inspired me to set up the whole there & back’s worth of discs for our trip.

We started off at 5am with Jethro Tull’s Songs From The Wood. Went on to Chet Atkins, Gin Blossoms, My Chemical Romance, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Act I of Carmen. Right about there is when the kids could hold it in no longer. (It’s also when they were fully awake and out of donuts that hadn’t been squished).

Them: MY GOD! WHAT IS THIS AWFUL MUSIC???

Me: Carmen! Isn’t it awesome?

Them: IT’S HORRIBLE! IT’S THE WORST MUSIC I’VE EVER HEARD!

Me: Maybe you’ll like the other two discs better.

Them: OH GOD!

Me: Wait wait wait, the hook is coming up, hang on.

At which point they all started doing bad kid opera impressions and attempted to get the puggles involved.

I was unfazed. We finished the disc.

Next up was Prince (they knew Let’s Go Crazy and didn’t even notice Darling Nikki), Jonathon Richman (which #1 tried to skip over), Kiss (only #4 liked it), Public Enemy (“Oh My God, what IS this horrible music?”).

When I drove up from Indy to Chicago by myself to retrieve CC for Thanksgiving, I listened to Carmen in its entirety. I cranked it. I sang along, only slightly more in tune than the kids had been. It finished just as I hit full-on holiday rush hour on the loop and segued into Nevermind The Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Perfect timing.

On the way home from Indy to New Jersey, I made excellent time before the sun rose and they slept through Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9,  Elvis The Number One Hits, and Kate Bush’s Aerial– quite possibly the only album that might make you get fired up about doing housework. When they finally woke up, the complaining about my taste in music began again. Styx drew another “what IS this horrible music” from #4.

Shortly after we got home she came up to me excitedly, wanting to play a song for me that she just bought because she’d heard it on Guitar Hero. It was Renegade.

Me: Oh, I love that song! I have that album.

#4: You mean I just paid money to download a song that we already own?

Me: Yep. I played you the album when we went to Indiana and you were all, ‘what IS this horrible music?’, remember?

#4: I hate my life.

I’ve been working on getting all of the CD’s loaded onto the home computer so that we can have the shelf space back for books. I’m not even a quarter of the way done with it and I’m still having second thoughts about it. I haven’t actually gotten rid of anything yet, but stacked them in bins in the garage.

And I’ve discovered where my kids go to find their gems. Because in my house, nothing stays where you put it.

I got in the car that #1 uses last week and Heart’s Dreamboat Annie was blasting at a respectable volume for ten-year-old stock Mitsubishi speakers. Doing laundry, I heard the unmistakable sounds of Live’s Songs From Black Mountain coming through the walls of the music room. #2 has chosen their The Distance to Here as her driving soundtrack. I found a pile of discs that had migrated from the garage: Randy and the Bloody Lovelies, the Fratellis, Queensryche, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Guns N Roses. Not that long ago I heard Rush cranking in the bathroom.

Apparently, I’ve become the used record store for the next generation.

One and Tony Sunday

It’s that time again. That night when most of America tuning in to CBS at 8pm EST is expecting to find. . . Blue Bloods (I had to go look that up, and I’m totally guessing purely based on next week’s schedule) and instead finds the full frontal song-and-dance assault of the Tony Awards.

If this is you, resist the impulse to go channel surfing for the latest public display of ineptitude of reality TV. Stay and watch. I promise, there will be no ineptitude. There are some ridiculously talented people on Broadway- like, sick! The Tony Awards are when they get to play to their largest audience ever. That’s you!

Neil Patrick Harris is hosting again, and he’s actually funny. Last year’s Best Musical winner Book of Mormon is performing, just because they’re awesome. And, at 8:45pm you’ll see Tony-Award-nominee and total badass Josh Young sing the song Jesus Christ Superstar live, with the whole damn Tony-award nominated cast of the eponymous show– if you stay tuned in, which you totally should.

If I ran the Tonys, I would give out some extra awards and they would all go to my show. Here’s my list.

-Hardest-Working, Least-Jaded, Full-Out-Every-Show, Never-Phone-It-In Ensemble.

This production of Jesus Christ Superstar originated at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The majority of this cast is making their Broadway debut. There is nothing green about their performances; their debut-ness (for lack of a better word) shows in their enthusiasm, the way they’re always smiling when they’re at work, and in the way the get maybe a little star struck when they meet people like Ben Vereen, Whoopie Goldberg, and Matthew Broderick. That’s refreshing.

They’re also mostly Canadians. This is truly the hardest working ensemble I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. Their energy is contagious and it’s like that every single show, eight times a week. I am also told they do a pretty great Broadway yell, which happens every Saturday night at the five minute call when they line up at the dressing room windows that face 52nd street and scream at Jersey Boys across the street.

-Best At Making Believers Out Of Agnostics in a Single Song

This would go to Paul Nolan, aka Jesus, for his performance of Gethsemane every night. He sings the crap out of that song. It also has my favorite guitar riff off all time in it, right after the line “I will drink this cup of poison”.

And? He looks totally hot in the loin cloth on the cross.

Yes, I said that.

-Best Band. PERIOD.

There really, really ought to be a Tony for best band. Our guitar player alone is worth the price of admission. And the other guitar player. And the reed player. And the drummer and the bassist and the organ and the french horns and. . . yeah, all of them. It’s a band full of rock stars and they blow me away eight times a week.

-Set Piece That Makes the Rest Of The Crew Happy They’re Not Carpenters

This would go to the diving board, or as I like to call it, the Nordic Track. It’s the ramp that does some pretty complicated automation moves and Jesus rides it during Superstar and it comes out over the first few rows. It’s a pain in the ass. The carpenters do a lot to it every day to make it work right.

-Best Understudy

Jeremy Kushnier, who understudies Judas, Jesus and Pontius Pilate. He may do Mary too, I’m not sure. He’s amazing and he totally owns whatever part he’s thrown into at the last minute. I loves him.

-Hell Yeah I Can Do Judas With No Rehearsal

To Nick Cartell, one of our swings who joined the company in New York. Early in previews when Josh Young was out, Jeremy Kushnier was badly injured in the matinee and couldn’t perform the evening show. Nick had never had even so much as a blocking rehearsal. He went on and knocked it the hell out of the park.

-Best Preshow Workout Partner

Matt Stokes. One of our swings, he warms up next to the sound board every day and has inspired me to work out a little bit while I’m waiting to check mics. We’re thinking of making a workout video and calling it something like “Five Feet of Floor Space: the 20-minute New York Workout”.

Your links this week are internal–did you find them?  Here’s your picture:

Oh, that’s the ramp/diving board/nordic track. I found this photo uncredited online but it must be the work of the incredibly talented Joan Marcus. She’s THE Broadway show photographer and does excellent work. Check out her website here.

CC and I were invited to three Tony parties, but this year we’re heading home to the heathens. We’re doing an at-home Tony watching party with just us, complete with high calorie snacks and lots of shouting back at the TV. Think of it as a Superbowl Party, with jazz hands.

Happy Sunday.

Oh Yes I’m Hot

The town I grew up in got cable when I was eight years old. It consisted of three channels: WTBS-Atlanta, WGN-Chicago, and USA. Plus you got a free month’s trial of HBO and I remember straining to listen through the family room door while my father watched Bo Derek in Ten, which was deemed inappropriate for my sister and I.

I still haven’t seen that movie. But I remember a bunch of the dialogue.

MTV hit the air in 1981 but we didn’t get that in my town. On Friday nights, if we could stay up late, we could catch some videos on USA’s Night Flight  or WTBS’s Night Tracks.

We had the same three channels up until my parents got divorced and I moved to the “city” with my mom and my sister.

And then, holy crap: there was MTV.

Between the summer we moved and the summer my grandma died from cancer, she came to visit us at our new apartment. That was my eighth grade year, highlights of which included seven Jennifers in my class (none of whom would speak to me), my locker number (666), getting mono, and wearing out the grooves on Duran Duran’s Rio and Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil. My sister and I introduced Grandma to MTV, and her favorite video, inexplicably, was Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher. 

This was the first thing to ever indicate to me that old people could be cool. It’s one of the reasons I’m staring down the barrel of 40 with anticipation rather than trepidation.

CC has a theory that you can’t be depressed while listening to Van Halen (and by “Van Halen” I mean everything up to and including MCMLXXXIV and not anything after that). I’ve tested this theory numerous times over the years and it appears to be true. Also, I have found that you cannot drive the speed limit while listening to Van Halen, and it is compulsory to scream sing along.

Grandma loved Hot For Teacher’s itty-bitty Van Halens, the ridiculous four-man choreography performed by a band containing only one member who could actually dance, and even the stripping teachers, but most of all she loved Waldo. Waldo in all his nervous, nerdy glory.

I love Waldo too. I feel like Waldo inside probably more often than not.

Grandma just howled every time Hot For Teacher came on- which at the time was approximately every 22 minutes.

I guess I have an extra reason to not be depressed while listening to Van Halen.

Every time I’m driving by myself, listening to Van Halen, blowing my voice out and shaving twenty minutes off my commute, I think of my grandma.