Specialty Ride Sharing Idea

I’m a little old school when it comes to ride sharing.  I’d rather take public transportation when I can, or walk wherever I am, or take a taxi, or maybe a shuttle service to and from an airport.  I’ve only ever taken Uber (or was it a Lyft?) a few times with others who arranged the ride.  I do have an Uber app, but have never used it, and frankly, embarrassingly, I don’t know how.  I’m sure I could figure it out, but it’s just that the idea is still a little strange to me.  I don’t fully trust these services.  True, they are cheaper, but there have been too many terrifying incidents with rogue drivers.  And for all the honest folks trying to make a living driving their OWN cars, they aren’t compensated very well, which in part accounts for why some drivers went on strike. You might counter with the fact that there are rogue taxi drivers too, but at least, or so it seems anyway, the taxi industry is better regulated and perhaps safer, albeit more expensive than a ride sharing service and less convenient and not as accessible or available. But this post isn’t about ride sharing vs. taxi.  It’s about a novel idea I have, at least I think it is novel, but who knows, maybe someone has already thought of it and put it into practice, however unlikely.  The idea is essentially, this: speciality rides.  Now stay with me.


Let’s say you miss that old 70’s car your parents drove, maybe it was a Chevy Chevette, remember that one? My mom owned a white four speed four door. It had a clutch so tight that I had to stand up and push it down with all my weight to shift.  And let’s say you need a ride, but you want THAT ride, a 70’s Chevette, or, I don’t know, it might be an  AMC Gremlin. There’d be an app for that and it would have car categories and you could order anything, like renting a car, only it’s a ride, but not just any kind of ride. Categories would include 70-80’s Japanese subcompacts – a Datsun B210 or Toyota Tercel.  Or you could pick British roadsters from the 70’s – a Jag, Austin Healy or an MG Midget, the car I learned to drive a stick on.  If you want to ride in style, why not a 70’s Chrysler Imperial, the one that’s as long as a boat or an 80’s Dodge Monaco.  You want a musical car, why not order up a Nissan Note or a Hyundai Sonata? Go ahead, have some fun! And here’s the twist, the driver picks you up, and YOU get to drive! It’s a brilliant idea, don’t you think?


Ibeyi: Soon To Be Superstars

Theatre District, Boston

Theatre District, Boston

Ibeyi means twins in Yoruba and is the name of a twin sister band who trace their roots to Nigeria and Benin through their father, the late great Cuban percussionist who played with Irakere and was best known for work with the Buena Vista Social Club.  The Diaz twins, Naomi and Lisa-Kainde, were born in Paris and spent some formative years in Cuba. They recently launched their music careers with their self-titled debut album. I was fortunate enough to catch their act in Boston, the second to last stop on their first world tour.  A mix of Afro-Cuban fused pop, European electronica and a unique blend all their own, Ibeyi brought down the house last night.

The house where the twins performed happened to be the Royale in Boston, a tiny club that seats or stands less than 1,000 people in the heart of Boston’s Theater District.  Ibeyi sports a sparse stage setup included an Akai synthesizer atop a Roland 700 digital piano for keyboardist Noami and an electronic drum machine, a cajon, a sort of drum box that is sat on and played, and a set of bata drums for percussionist Lisa-Kainde. A video screen hung in the background to project abstract black and white videos of urban scenes to accompany each song.

There was a spacious bar in the back, a small dance floor in the middle in front of the stage where most of the crowd packed and balcony seating all around for those who preferred to chill in the distance. The venue did not appear to be at maximum capacity, but the crowd, mostly Gen. X’ers and Millennials, was nonetheless enthusiastic and welcoming. I attended with my daughter, a recent college graduate, who is a big fan of Ibeyi. I was one of the oldest in the crowd, no doubt.  One funny aside, as the concert was held in the Theatre Distict, and we were running a little late getting there, we hurriedly walked up to get in line with a group of patrons who looked much older than we would have expected for an Ibeyi concert. I asked the ticket taker what band was playing and to my amusement, he said “Kraftwerk”.   We were at the wrong theater and I could not help but laugh at the thought of Mike Meyer’s SNL “Sprockets” routine. Fortunately, Ibeyi was playing right across the street and we got there just a few minutes before they walked on stage. And even though I had never heard Ibeyi’s music before, I liked their sound instantly, something I could never say about Kraftwerk.

It is hard to describe Ibeyi’s music and I am probably not doing them justice, but I can say that they harmonized, vocalized, memorialized with tributes to their late sister and father, and mesmerized with captivating beats, melodies and rhythms.  It was the kind of music that makes you move and sway but also takes you by surprise, especially the percussion work. The tunes were emotional, yet upbeat with a spirit that brought smiles to all in the crowd.  It was a night I won’t soon forget.  And I am betting that as their sound reaches more ears, their popularity will increase.  I predict stardom in the twins’ future!

Here’s their setlist from the Boston concert that I found on setlist.fm. Do yourself a favor and go have a listen!

Noise Pollution Allegation against Spanish Pianist


This BBC headline caught my attention: “Spanish pianist faces jail over noise pollution claims”.  What?  A pianist?  I can understand if it were heavy metal thrashers, or a kid with a guitar and a loud amp.  But a classical pianist? There must be something more to the story.  Turns out that there was a heated dispute between neighbors.  One apparently did not appreciate hearing the other practice 8 hours a day for years.  The article doesn’t give too many details except that the family of the pianist tried to sound proof their apartment. The “music critic” neighbor is suing the pianist to collect damages for prolonged exposure to noise pollution.

Could this pianist be such a bad player to have caused her neighbor so much suffering? What was she playing all those years? I have to confess that I like classical piano music, but there are some composers of it that I do not like, and one happens to be Joaquin Rodrigo, himself a Spaniard and world class pianist.  His music really is pretty out there in terms of accessibility.  I wonder if this budding noise polluter was banging out Rodrigo pieces 8 hours a day?  Another composer I am not in the least fond of is Liszt.  His stuff is virtuosic rubbish in my opinion and  it would be torture for me to be a captive listener for 8 hours a day.

If I were a conflict negotiator for the feuding neighbors, I would suggest that the pianist take requests.  Surely there’s some musical compromise possible here.  Everyone likes a little Chopin, right? I would recommend that the pianist play a Nocturne just before bedtime twice a week and alternate with the meditative and relaxing sounds of Ravel and Debussy on the other nights.  During the day, I would propose Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier which is perfect practice music and quite soothing.  If the complaining neighbor were not a classical music fan, I’d suggest Elton John or Billy Joel; if partial to jazz, Herbie Hancock or Bill Evans might help bring about peace.  Herbie Hancock actually is a peace ambassador to Japan.

I think the feud is all a big misunderstanding.  The two could be best of friends really if they just tried.  The pianist could even offer piano lessons.  Before long, they could be a famous duo playing Schubert: Piano Music for Four Hands.  And wouldn’t that be grand!

PS:  If you hit the links, they take you to Spotify where you can listen to any of the music I referenced here for free.  It’s well worth the minute or so it takes to sign up.  You can keep the free account or upgrade to a paid account.  I do not work for Spotify and am not paid a penny to say any of this.  I’m just a fan.

Song Not Car Star in VW Ad

Volkswagen has a new ad out, you know the one with the dude who makes a good drumstick toss and catch air drumming to an old Rush tune in his new black VW Passat? Well, once again, the song is the star, not the dude, and not the car.  This time, the song is Fly By Night, a slightly undervalued song from the album by the same name.  Rush released Fly By Night in 1975 and it helped launch their career that is still going strong today.  Have you heard their latest album Clockwork Angels?  You should, because it is good, it really is and might be as good as their classic album 2112 and that’s saying a lot.  Why these guys are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is beyond me.

I said Volkswagen has an ad out and once again the song is the star.  Do you remember the other song that stared several years back?  You should if you don’t.  Pink Moon by Nick Drake.  The title track from his third album released in 1973, Pink Moon is dark and pensive as are the rest of the bleak but gorgeous songs on the LP.  It would be his last recording before he died of an overdose.  If you don’t know his music, check him out.  You’ll be glad you did.

London Olympics Opening Ceremony Ok but…

I saw some of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics and later all of the highlights and have to say that I felt like I was at the cinema watching movie trailers with lots of stunts, pyrotechnics and clever moments. I chuckled when David Beckham arrived via boat with the torch and wondered if Posh Spice was on board.  Mr. “bend it like” Beckham handed the torch to a legendary British rower, who ran for a bit before passing the torch on to a group of future Olympic hopefuls.  If I had choreographed the ceremony, I’d have had the rower row in from the Thames with oars shaped as torches adorned with LED lighting.  He would have then passed it off to Beckham for a scissors kick to set off the fireworks and lighting of the rings, which in turn would have  lit the tower.

I’m a concert goer, not a theatre goer, so all the theatrics did not move me as much as the music.  Personally, I would have preferred a live Rolling Stones set, but really who could complain with a Beatle gone solo. Paul McCartney, who, frankly, even with cosmetic adjustments, is beginning to look and sound his age, performed only as he could with a rousing “Hey Jude”.  I wonder if Julian Lennon was in the crowd? I kept waiting for Ringo and George to emerge on stage or parachute down from a “heli”, as Bear Gryls might do, but I guess the Beatles are not getting back together after all.

The soundtrack to the Danny Boyle extravaganza included songs by Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Radiohead and David Bowie among other British bands and musicians, but did not include anything from two of my favorite bands of all time, Genesis and Yes.   The set list should have included the Yes tunes “Roundabout” (because there are so many in London) and “Long Distance Runaround”, for obvious reasons and some perhaps not so.  See my Music For Olympics playlist on Spotify.

I’m just glad the Olympics have finally opened.  Let the games begin!

YES, Boston 2012

Yes, Boston 2012

Yes is one of my favorite bands of all time and I’m thrilled that I finally got the chance to see them live.  And they did not disappoint.  Frankly, I was amazed at how good the aging rockers sounded.  By way of a little personnel history of Yes, bassist Chris Squire formed the band with vocalist Jon Anderson in 1968. Steve Howe joined in 1971, and helped propel the band to commercial success.  In his first year, the band recorded two landmark LPs:  The Yes Album and Fragile. Drummer Alan White replaced Bill Bruford in 1972.  After a string of keyboardists contributed their expertise to the band, including the theatrical organist, Rick Wakeman, Geoffrey Downes joined Yes in 1980 and has played with the band in several configurations and spinoffs over the years including Asia.  Original vocalist Jon Anderson, who in my opinion was the heart and soul of the Yes sound, left, came back, left again, came back, left after an illness, wanted back in, but it never came to pass. To fill his big shoes over the years, Yes experimented with a number of vocalists including Trevor Rabin, Trevor Horn, Benoit David and Jon Davison who sounds eerily like Anderson with a similar stage presence.  The current lineup includes Howe, Squire, White and Davison.  The band’s history is even more complicated than the lineup changes but I won’t get into that.  Suffice it to say that this current configuration of YES sounds great!

When I was in high school, I listened to Yes a lot, even obsessively so if you asked my mom. I owned most of their albums and literally wore out Yessongs (1973), one of the great live progressive rock recordings of the 70’s.  In college, I particularly enjoyed Tales From Topographic Oceans (1974) and Going For The One (1977) and was absolutely delighted to hear 3 selections from these, in my opinion, undervalued Yes albums.

I soured on Yes after what I considered the mediocre records of Tormato (1978) and Drama (1980) and lost interest in the newer sound of Yes, but still occasionally listened to the old stuff.

Fast forward 28 years.  My youngest daughter home from college for the summer told me that Yes was coming to Boston.  She knew I liked the band, and though not a big fan herself, seemed at least curious and receptive to their sound.  My wife is not a progressive rocker, so I bought tickets for myself and my two daughters.

To prepare for what I imagined would be the bulk of the show’s musical content, I bought Yes’ latest CD (mp3 files actually) Fly From Here (2011).  I didn’t initially like it much, but it grew on me after playing it a dozen or so times.  I was struck by how much the vocalist, in this case, Benoit David, sounded like Jon Anderson. When I learned that he was no longer touring with the band, I was a little disappointed and doubtful that Yes could find a suitable replacement.  My concerns, however, were put to rest the moment vocalist Jon Davison hit his first notes on the opening song – “Yours Is No Disgrace.”  It was as if he were lip synching to Jon Anderson’s vocals. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Davison delivered a superior version of Anderson.

The Boston show was a riot.  Procol Harum started off the night.  Lead singer Gary Brooker was a hoot, cracking jokes about their age – these guys, well, at least Gary and Geoff Whitehorn, his soulful Fender Strat playing compatriot, must be pushing 70.  Brooker was saying stuff like the band had downloads of their latest material available, but that he himself did not know how to download anything, that he had a typewriter and kept his money in a shoebox under his bed.  He later invited the audience to dance to a tune written in 4 4 time in a minor key, because the band particularly likes to dance in minor keys.   They saved their signature tune for last: “Whiter Shade of Pale”.  The largely pale and aging crowd went wild, as if awakened from a collective evening nap.

Speaking of the crowd, I was a little disappointed that the venue was only about two-thirds full. I expected Yes to sellout, but I had to remind myself that this is 2012, not 1973.  And there were a fair number of people in the audience who were adults in 1973.  At nearly 50 myself, I was one of the younger members of the audience.  The youngest were quite likely first time Yes listeners, who, like my daughters, were introduced to the band first by their parents.

The acoustics at the Bank of America Pavilion were surprisingly good.  The band sounded absolutely fantastic.  They played songs almost exclusively from their earlier period much to the delight of the seniors in attendance with the exception of “Tempus Fugit” from Drama (1980) and the “Fly From Here” suite (2011).  They even played part of a tune from Tales From Topographic Oceans (1974) which was both a surprise and delight.

The light show left quite a bit to be desired.  My youngest described it as a Windows 2001 screensaver.  But the show truly was about the music so no one seemed to care or notice for that matter.  Some in the crowd provided their own special effects with the aid of hallucinogenic herbs as evidenced by the faint smell of cannabis that wafted through the briny night air courtesy of a pleasant sea breeze.

I kept saying to my daughters, “what a great band”, and they both seemed impressed and somewhat surprised by the beauty of the music.  And it really was a beautiful night.  May Yes live to play another decade!

I’ve provided the set list from the concert below.  If you have Spotify, you can tap on the links to play all the songs.  If you don’t have Spotify yet, what are you waiting for? I think you can still get Spotify with ads for free.

YES set list, Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA  – 7/21/2012

Yes Set List in playlist format

or individually if you prefer:

Yours Is No Disgrace

Tempus Fugit

I’ve Seen All Good People


The Clap

Second Initial

The Ancient/Giants Under the Sun (Giants only with vocal part)

Fly From Here

Wonderous Stories

Heart of the Sunrise


Roundabout (encore)

Put the Olympic Trials on Trial

Olympic Trials.  Why even have them?  The U.S. swimming, gymnastic, diving, and track and field federations surely know who the best athletes are; if they don’t they are incompetent.  I know nothing about swimming, but even I know that Michael Phelps is the fastest swimmer in the world and the holder of 12 gold medals.  Why does he even have to qualify?  What is he doing wasting his time at the trials and risking injury?  He might stub a toe, or get swimmer’s ear.  He should be in London already acclimating to the European chlorine.

And Allyson Felix, the goddess of American track.  She also should have been sent straight to London.  Instead she faced a runoff.  What a insult.  I just say send the fastest people to London.  They’ve all been running, jumping, diving, tumbling and throwing in track meets all year.  The top athletes have already proven themselves.  Whoever has thrown the discus, shot put, javelin and the hammer the farthest this year should represent the U.S. in London.  There’s simply no need for another track meet.  The athletes should be training and saving their energy and strength for the real deal.  It’s true.

I was watching the women’s gymnastics trials last night.  The coaches in the sport know who the best gymnasts are – one of them is Nastia Liukin the reigning all around gold medalist from 2008 who shouldn’t have to qualify.  She still has the right stuff, but fell off the uneven bars and lost her chance to defend her title and bring glory to the team. Like Michael Phelps, she shouldn’t have been put in a position to have to prove herself again.  Which is just as well because now she won’t have to humiliate herself to bad musical accompaniment on the floor exercise.  Warning, this is a rant:

Memo to the U.S. Gymnastics federation:  hire a musical consultant.  The musical accompaniments to the floor routines have been utterly embarrassing.  One routine is set to music that must have been sampled from some sketchy 70’s carnival ride.  Another was pure 80’s German techno pop – it actually may have been a Kraftwerk instrumental.  Each time the gymnast tumbled, I was reminded of the SNL Sprockets skit featuring Mike Myers as Dieter.

On the subject of music, here is a playlist I put together of summer Olympic themed songs, some with explanations.

The Longest Summer – Pat Metheny.  The Olympic games really do seem to go on for three months with a few events too many.  Can’t we do without the steeplechase, an event that is just patently silly?  On the musical side of things, the Longest Summer is an absolutely gorgeous song.

Ring of Life – Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau.  Ring, as in Olympic rings, but also boxing ring, and the gymnastic rings.  The song itself is brilliantly fresh and awe inspiring, like some of the great athletes of the Olympics.

London Blues – Brad Mehldau Trio.  Man what a great sound!  At the Olympics, not everyone wins and many will be singing the London Blues long before the flame dies out, but this blues grooves.

Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Great diving song for the younger competitors anyway.

Even the Losers (get lucky some time) – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Jump – Van Halen.  I hate this song, I really do, but it’s got Olympic energy and there’s a lot of jumping going on – diving, triple jump, hurdles, gymnastics.  Madonna also has a song called Jump, but it’s surprisingly subdued and not Olympic material.

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen.

Swimming Horses – Siouxsie and the Banshees.  This is a nod to the sport I’d like to see:  Water Polo on Horses.

Driver 8 – REM.  Just pretend Michael Stipe is mumbling, diver 8.

If I Had a Hammer – Peter Paul and Mary.  If I had a hammer, I’d throw it.

Hammer – Bob Marley and the Wailers.  What a great song!  Don’t mess with a hammer thrower.

Chemical Chords – Stereolab.  I don’t like to think about this, but let’s hope no athlete has a competitive chemical advantage.  Folks, this is a gloriously good song.  You’ll love it. Promise.

The Real Swing States

A report in the New York Times suggests that there are 9 swing states in play in the U.S. Presidential election – that’s a lot of swinging!  The states are as follows: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virgina.  As a result, these swinging states have gotten a lot of political action lately.  But are they really swing states?

The answer is technically, no. Benny Goodman, the King of Swing was from Chicago.  One could argue that Chicago was the birthplace of swing, although its roots are New Orleans, where all of American music originated. And Count Basie, one of the great Big Band leaders, grew up in New Jersey, paid his dues in Harlem and formed his Count Basie Orchestra in Kansas City.  Therefore, the real swing states are Missouri and Illinois, linked to New Orleans via the mighty Mississippi River.

Of the 9 states, only Nevada could qualify as a true swing state, because it really is the place where all the swingers end up.  Just ask Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.

War On Caterpillars and the Band Heart

Butterfly at Indiana Dunes

In response to a question about the Republican war on women that has created an enormous gender gap problem for the GOP, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said that “if the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars, and mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars”.  Of course this was a terribly insensitive analogy, comparing women to insects, and though it was a genuinely stupid comment, I don’t think it was calculated to offend.  However, the GOP might really have a problem with caterpillars if they continue to dismiss climate change science.

It turns out that warmer summers can cause an infestation of caterpillars who shed their skins and release tiny hairs that are major skin irritants.  On the Isle of Wight, a caterpillar infestation was so bad that people were warned to stay indoors and wear protective body suits and masks when venturing out.  Doctors advised the use of Calamine lotion to combat skin rashes.

But all this talk of caterpillars takes me back in time to one of my all-time favorite albums, Dog and Butterfly by Heart, one of the great rock bands of the 70’s led by sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson.  Dog and Butterfly is a underrated masterpiece  and one that I always had spinning (pun intended) on my turntable as a teen.

Grammy Afterglow

I watched the Grammys for the first time in years, mainly to see Mick Jagger perform.  I was pleasantly surprised to also catch an aging Bob Dylan take the stage though for most of the song, he was drowned out by a slew of adoring and highly caffeinated musicians.

Lady Gaga tried to steal the show coming out on stage inside a plastic egg.  I was reminded of the bass player trapped in a plastic stage prop in This is Spinal Tap who had to be cut out with a chain saw.  Frankly, I thought the Stonehenge prop in Spinal Tap was more convincing then Lady Gaga’s egg.   But as she would say, “be what you want to be, do what you want to do”, no matter how silly.  Silly sells.

Justin Bieber might have been performing at Disney World for a group of tourists wearing Mickey Mouse ears.  I’m no Eminem fan but to see the two perform on the same night really highlighted  Bieber’s amateurish talent.

The highlights for me came when Nora Jones sang Dolly Parton’s song Jolene with John Mayer and some other guy whose name escapes me.  Mick’s performance and tribute to Solomon Burke was spot on.  Berklee graduate bass playing vocalist Esparanza Spalding winning for best new artist over Justin Beiber was another highlight as was her performance with a talented group of high-school all-star jazz players.

Lowlights included Rhiana’s performance with Eminem.  She was off pitch for the whole song as if she couldn’t hear herself.  And Seth Rogen’s joke that he had been getting high with Miley Cyrus backstage was awkward and in poor taste.  Attempting to one-up Rogen, Neal Patrick Harris delivered a similarly demeaning joke about Katy Perry that fell flat.  And what about the jazz and blues awards?  Do they not deserve prime time attention?

Despite the low notes, I enjoyed the variety show.  I’ll be back for another helping next year.