Thursday, August 14, 2008

Inspiration

I find that as I get older it's a lot harder to get myself out the door at night and a lot easier to choose the internet or a Netflix movie as my evening's entertainment. Like most bad habits, it feels good in the moment and sort of empty and pointless at the end of it. When I actually make the effort to go out of the house and experience something that my amazing city has to offer, I rarely regret it. Maybe since I don't do it that often I tend to be a bit picky about it.

Take last night, for instance. While SURFING THE NET a couple of nights ago I saw that an artist I'm quite fond of was playing at the new Yoshi's in San Francisco. I impulsively pulled out my credit card and got two tickets for the next night.

Juana Molina's music was introduced to me by my friend Sonya Hunter, the songwriter. Molina's albums are a strange blend of folk, indie and electronica. Very mysterious and at times slightly uncomfortable – her vocals are childlike and right on the edges of in-tune. Somehow when mixed with her guitar, her synths and the odd polyrhythms she creates it lands between playful and creepy. I love it.


But back to the evening. Tom and I finished our NETFLIX MOVIE (the sad truth), then headed over to Yoshi’s on Fillmore Street. First let me say that the new Yoshi’s has got to be among the very top venues in the city. It seats about 500 people, but feels small and intimate, all the seats are great. You sit at small 4-top tables that are arranged in a semi-circle around the stage with about 4 or 5 tiers. The lighting is beautiful, the d├ęcor modern and sleek. They serve sushi appetizers in the concert hall, but there’s also a separate restaurant if you want to make a whole evening of it.

At about 8:15 Juana Molina came onstage with very little fanfare. I loved her dress – which was navy blue tailored top and skirt that looked sort of like a high-fashion school uniform. She looked super young, but I looked her up last night online and found out she’s about 40.

She plays acoustic guitar but also has a synth and a mixer with her on stage, as well as loop contraptions. I’m not at all familiar with live looping techniques, but she is obviously a master. I can tell you what it’s like musically, though. It starts out simply – one line, because, of course, she’s up there solo and playing everything herself. So she usually starts out with a simple guitar riff or a keyboard line (when she plays the keyboard, she almost always uses very electronic sounds and simple lines) and she sings. Throughout the songs she builds the parts, using the loop recorders to add part after part. Some people might think that this is cheating, or that it isn’t “live”, but it absolutely is. She plays every part and records it in the moment, adding layers of vocals, guitar, synth and percussion. It is absolutely transporting.

This is Juana's basic set-up, but this picture is not from Yoshi's show last night.

Tom and I both loved it even more when we closed our eyes, because then you stopped thinking about how she was doing it and then just got swept into the music and the moment, and it was at times glorious.

If I have any complaints at all about Molina, I think it would be that as a performance style it seems less fascinating to watch than if she were working with other musicians or even if she was able to let go a little more in her body. The nature of what she’s doing requires so much focus on the various recording and looping instruments that she rarely seems carried away by the music (even though, as I said, the music was completely transporting). But it might also just be her style. Her humor and persona seem very dry and detached, but compelling. It turns out she used to be a famous comedic television actress in Argentina. At first I thought she was she and quiet, but in very little time it was obvious that she is very funny and very comfortable.

The evening was pretty short. We were home by about 10 PM. And I felt all the energy and joy and excitement pushing me towards creativity that is the inevitable result of hearing great live music.

So, why do I resist?



Monica Song Lyric:

PAJARO SIN ALAS

I’m a bird that doesn’t fly
When I go, is it earth or is it sky?
(Pajaro sin alas, pez que no nada)
I’m a fish that doesn’t swim
When I sink, am I out or am I in?


I’m a rose without a garden
I’m a brush without an artist
Almost done before I started
Almost done before I started

I’m a bird that doesn’t fly
When I go, is it earth or is it sky?
(Pajaro sin alas, pez que no nada)
I’m a fish that doesn’t swim
When I sink, am I out or am I in?


I’m afraid I haven’t tried it
I’m the maid, I’m not the bride
I Always tried to justify it
Always tried to justify it

I’m a bird that doesn’t fly
When I go, is it earth or is it sky?
(Pajaro sin alas, pez que no nada)
I’m a fish that doesn’t swim
When I sink, am I out or am I in?


I’m a king without a nation
I’m a house with no foundation
I’m a flashy imitation
I’m a flashy imitation

I’m a bird that doesn’t fly
When I go, is it earth or is it sky?
(Pajaro sin alas, pez que no nada)
I’m a fish that doesn’t swim
When I sink, am I out or am I in?

I’m a song without a player
I’m a card without a wager
I’m a minor not a major
I’m a minor not a major

I’m a bird that doesn’t fly
When I go, is it earth or is it sky?
(Pajaro sin alas, pez que no nada)
I’m a fish that doesn’t swim
When I sink, am I out or am I in?


I’m a rose without a garden
I’m a brush without an artist
Almost done before I started
Almost done before I started

4 comments:

Christel said...

Hey Monica, welcome back into the blogsphere. It's good to have you back :-)

Yoshi's sounds like a great venue for Blame Sally's next CD release party...

Margrit said...

oooh Yoshi's sounds so nice--sushi & music!

& I know what you mean about the DVD void--tastes great going down, but leaves you hungry... (for rock).

xo
margrit

ps--blog on, sister!!

Monisha said...

I know what you mean about staying in and watching Netflix rather than going out about town and enjoying the arts available to us in this marvelous city. It's nice to go out, isn't it? And perhaps, being picky is easier on the wallet than if one went out every night...

linda said...

I think Juana Molina is amazing. I heard about that show and wished I was magically there.