Finding Bliss (and not) in Music

I have chased down many a show over the years in pursuit of something approximating bliss or satisfaction. 20150916_205807There have been moments, rare moments, where this feeling almost resides. I have been enraptured by the likes of The Grateful Dead, Stereolab and Sufjan Stevens. (Video here.)Screenshot (7) I have also been fortunate enough to happen across these moments, such as the choral chanting in Tant Kyi Taung Pagoda, Myanmar. (Video here.)Screenshot (14)However in my long and winding pursuit, I have been as equally disappointed by all of those those mentioned above, finding boredom and ennui instead. bushwick5It’s not astonishing to realize that it is the sound and not the event, the journey as they say, even if it’s a recording on a drive going nowhere. (Video here.)Screenshot (16)

Christmas in the Room*

No travel bags, no shopping malls, no candy canes, no Santa ClausIMG_3333No traffic jams, no ice and storm, far in the house the fire is warm

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Oh, I can’t see the day when we’ll die but I don’t care to think of silenceIMAG2066For now I hear you laughing, the greatest joy is like the sunrise20141222_155453I’ll come to you, I’ll sing to you like it’s Christmas in the room

IMAG2060I’ll dance with you, I’ll laugh with you like it’s Christmas in the room.

(Christmas in the Room, Sufjan Stevens)

Top Ten Concerts

Yes, I admit this is both anal and childish, but I like to remember the places where my thoughts worked best – even if I didn’t remember much of it at show’s end.

10. Ravi Shankar, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto (1983) Beautiful hall, incredible music. Ravi Shankar performs at Paleo festival, Switzerland in 2005

9. Emmylou Harris, The Boot Saloon, Toronto (1992) A honky-tonk night.Musician Emmylou Harris performs during a concert celebrating musician Pete Seeger's 90th birthday in New York8. Tragically Hip, Cleveland Flats, Cleveland (1995) Canada’s greats, straight & full-on.20140504_2316477. Guided by Voices, Fillmore West, San Francisco (2002) The club is open.GBV Philly 6. Jane’s Addiction, Key Arena, Seattle (1995) Farrell and Navarro in summer dresses. perry-farrell-of-jane-s-addiction 5. Low, The Aquarium, Fargo (2012) Three full sets.Phone 061 4. My Bloody Valentine, Roseland Ballroom, New York (2008) Ears are still ringing. IMAG3757

3. Noel Hill & Tony MacMahon, Mother Red Cap’s, Dublin (1994) The pure drop in a tavern.

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2. Sufjan Stevens, Bowery Ballroom, New York (2013) The end of the world – December 21, 2112 – with a few hundred others. IMAG2066 1. Grateful Dead, Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma (1985) Full moon, at a zoo.Grateful_Dead-Greek_85-1 (walstib)

Tibet House Benefit 2014

The 2014 Tibet House Benefit, at Carnegie Hall last night, continues to be a musical highlight of the year.Nico+Muhly+2014+Tibet+House+Benefit+Concert+CBs62C81Ez4lHighlights included the enchanting music of Phillip Glass (accompanied by Nico Muhly & Tim Fain), surprise guest Sufjan Stevens offering two of his Planetarium songs, and New Order front-manned by the raw, seemingly ageless Iggy Pop. Tom Chapman, Iggy Pop, Bernard SumnerNot even Patti Smith could ruin the night with her ego and histrionics, grabbing poor Mr. Glass at the end, dragging him into her spotlight.478016707The good news is that, this time, she didn’t spit on the floor. M_TibetHouseBenefit2014

It is a privilege to attend this event. Thank you, Mr. Glass.

Sufjan Stevens – Bowery Ballroom, 12/21/12

Sufjan Stevens played out the apocalypse at the Bowery Ballroom in New York last night. And I feel pretty good. IMAG2059It was a remarkably lovely show with Santa balloons, noisemakers and crazy costumes – a real X-Mess as Sufjan wrote on his shirt – but it was the music….my goodness, the music, that transfixed. He played many different things, many of them Christmas songs, some of them not, like one of the encores: To Be Alone With You. (Click for live clip of the song here.)IMAG2053Sufjan Stevens is a remarkable presence with a profound sense of who he is, his mind working too fast, his talent radiating out, almost embarrassed about it…but not that at all.

Sufjan Stevens as the Christmas Unicorn.

Sufjan Stevens as the Christmas Unicorn.

Sufjan Stevens as the Christmas Unicorn

Sufjan Stevens as the Christmas Unicorn

I’m the Christmas Unicorn! You’re the Christmas Unicorn too!
It’s a simple thing. It’s a wonderful thing. It doesn’t have to be a world full of guns, floods and death. It really can be something else. We just have to put on our damn balloon suits. That’s it.

Christmas unicorns and confetti for everyone.

Christmas unicorns and confetti for everyone.

And nominate Sufjan Stevens for President of the Inter-StellarCollective.

December 21, 2012…and all is well.

Okay, it’s been a pretty windy day, rainy too…but I don’t think that qualifies as the world coming to end. And so…now what? We went through the seven stages of accepting this world’s end, and the planet’s still here. Newfoundlabrador2010 094What are we going to do now? There are so many battles remaining to fight: getting rid of guns, taxing fairly, bringing peace to Syria, Congo, Palestine, Afghanistan, dealing with our collapsing planet, being honest and decent to one another. I mean, really, are we up for this? Or is to be same old same old? I would like to suggest some things to get us on the right track. Not only is Sufjan Stevens’ voice delicate; so are his words. Listen to Seven Swans.sufjanAnd will I be a part of what you’ve made?/ And I am throwing all my thoughts away./ And I’m destroying every bet I’ve made/ And I am joining all my thoughts to you/ And I’m preparing every part for you

The Partridge Family: Season One is worth watching too. Yes,The Partridge Family. No one gives better moral advice than Shirley Jones. partridgePeople aren’t as different as we think. We may have different beliefs, but we’re all pretty much alike.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is a fascinating examination of free will and morals, and it’s only 796 pages.You’ve got the time. brothersLove children especially, for they too are sinless like the angels; they live to soften and purify our hearts and, as it were, to guide us.

And finally, if you’re in New York this week, think about attending Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace event in Times Square. It is on every night 11:47-12:00 midnight until December 30.imagineWhat better way to spend the apocalypse?

Sufjan Stevens on Christmas Tour

Sufjan Stevens began his month-long Christmas tour last night at the Union Transfer in Philadelphia.The Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Pageant On Ice is a night of scattered merriment, featuring a Wheel of Fortune style carousel of songs – “The Wheel of Christmas!” – for audience sing-a-longs and a haphazardly wardrobed Yuletide band. While much of the performance had a wild and unrehearsed aspect, Sufjan Steven’s musical talent remains a wonder to behold. Sufjan Stevens might claim to be just goofing around on stage – “How much more stupid can I look?” He asked when he strapped a unicorn horn to his head. – but once he settled into a ‘serious’ song, his prodigious talent hypnotized the boisterous audience again and again. His voice fragile, his notes tenuous, almost lost, he sounds like he is calling us from another world.

Sufjan Stevens concludes his tour in New York on December 21 & 22. Tickets go on sale two days before the performance to avoid ticket brokers from taking advantage of the $20 ticket price. I hope to get back in.