Saturday, November 17, 2007

Notes on a musical journey (not mine though)

When you've been following a band from very early in its career, there's an odd sense of ownership you feel about it. Even though you don't know the artists personally, you still feel that because you heard them ply their trade from a time when it was (arguably) free of artifice. It's special to you because you 'knew'  them before most of the world did.

I've felt this way about Howie Day in the past and I definitely feel that way about Rodrigo y Gabriela now. I first heard Rodrigo y Gabriela on that fount of indie music in the Northwest, KEXP in July 2006. The track was a fabulous cover version of Stairway to Heaven. I, however, didn't pay the duo much attention.

In December '06, I heard an original by them (Tamacun, if you must know) on another radio station. I was instantly hooked. I bought their full-length debut album. It's called Rodrigo y Gabriela (duh).

Rodrigo and Gabriela make up the band. Just the two of them. They play acoustic guitars in what may be loosely called the flamenco style. But it's not really flamenco. Their playing is frenetic. But they churn out surprisingly good melodies. Genres? I'm not sure they ever learnt what that meant.

It's at times hard  to realize that it's just two people on acoustic guitars who are creating so much of a ruckus. Also, they use their guitar boxes as percussion pretty well. Figures, considering they got their start busking on the streets of Dublin. Their dueling styles makes it seem like they are doing a complicated dance, one leading with the other content to play second fiddle. Then they change it around.

The love affair with their music continued. Stairway to Heaven on MP3 was followed by Wish you Were Here that I saw on YouTube. Their original Diablo Rojo is on my playlist all the time. But that live show was ever-elusive.

I somehow learnt of their show in December '06 the day after it took place. In April, they played in Seattle again. I had sufficient notice, but the show got sold out while I was on vacation in India. They then played at Bumbershoot which I didn't go to. I watched as they played bigger venues, selling them out at higher and higher prices.

Then, this October, my chance came. On October 31st, Rodrigo y Gabriela played The Paramount, tickets costing almost thrice what they did last year in a venue that was at least two and a half times the capacity. The auditorium was packed, a sold-out show again.

Were they worth the interest? Absolutely. Dressed in their Halloween best, they took the hall (normally host to musicals and the like) by the scruff of its neck and gave it a thorough shaking. If you can believe it, in addition to a lighter-fueled Wish You Were Here and crowd favorite Stairway to Heaven, they did a version of Metallica's And Justice for all. All acoustic, with a small bit of distortion to help. It was un-effing-believable.

My love affair with them may end if their sophomore effort isn't great. But for now, let the guitars rule.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

On the 545 - II

The world looks different now. From the window of a bus. From the streets in downtown as I'm walking through them to transfer buses. On the short walk home from the bus stop. It's not a good or bad thing, it's just... different. But different is good. It gives you perspective.

On a clear day from the bus on Highway 99, you can see both Mount Rainier and the Olympics. Downtown looks pretty and buzzing during the day, but at street level on late evenings, all sorts of shady-looking people and hobos mill about, making you unconsciously draw your messenger bag (with old, wheezing company laptop) closer to yourself. The thought that exclusive restaurants are less than a block away from this place makes you wonder about inequities and how urban centers seem to emphasize them.

You realize how cold it actually is outside and are thankful for the extra layer you put on in the morning. You learn that Seattle isn't as bad a place for non-drivers as you thought it was.

You learn that letting go of the car for the commute has meant more self-discipline, but gives you a smidgen of control (rather, the feeling of it).

After all, reading/dozing/daydreaming on the bus with attendant cochlear damage is better than driving/twiddling thumbs/daydreaming with attendant gas bill and environmental damage.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hold your noses

Pardon my mixed metaphors, but please hold your noses as the British press finishes slobbering over Lewis Hamilton.

Unlike CAR, I decided to wait till the dust died down to comment on the end of the Formula1 season. It was magical in many ways - a dream end-run for Raikkonen culminating in him winning the championship. The showing up of the smug rookie. Importantly, it was in so many ways a redemption of the talent of the perennial bridesmaid Kimi - in danger of adding more wins to his impressive and (then) championship-deprived kitty. And yes, I am on my way to being right.

All that is however in the past now. Raikkonen has his championship. Lewis Hamilton was and is the best-performing rookie F1 has seen in a while. And lest we forget, the BBC and the whole of the British press is there to remind of us that. Two weeks after the championship has ended, sample the BBC F1 page headlines as of 31st October, 10 days after the championship was over:

Hamilton 'may be negative for F1'

Motorsport boss Max Mosley says Lewis Hamilton could have a similarly negative effect on Formula One to Michael Schumacher if his success continues.

Please, comparisons with Schumacher? Schumacher nursed and built an ailing Ferrari team into a formidable racing unit. So did Alonso, once at Renault and again at McLaren. It'd be interesting to see where Hamilton will be if Alonso leaves McLaren. Or where Hamilton would be in a team that didn't have McLaren's capability in the first place. 

F1's new star - and it's not the champ

Lewis Hamilton has made a huge impact inside and outside F1

Hamilton's maiden season

How Lewis Hamilton came close to winning the F1 world title

But he didn't win it, right?

Hamilton a credit to the sport - Walker

Right. And Alonso and Hamilton will now do a Yeh Dosti... jig.

Inside Sport: Hamilton's debut season

In-depth interview: Lewis Hamilton

Oh, who actually won the championship, after changing cars, shifting to a different brand of tires and going to a different team? Add the fact that he was coming from behind and that he won the most number of races despite not finishing two races because of reliability, and you have:

Raikkonen the playboy king

F1's new champion is a maverick off the track and formidable on it

Riight. One article on a deserving new champion, with a qualifier on his personality off the track. Read the article: while balanced, it praises Hamilton so much. Ironic, considering it's a profile of the champion and not the rookie wannabe who almost was.

The rest of the British press, yes, but I expect better of  the Beeb. They have an 'international version' page there for a reason, innit?