Monday, December 31, 2012

My 2012 'best of" music-wise

Top-of-the-list, at the very very top: of course, how could you not guess?  Marillion.

The show at the Fillmore in San Francisco, culmination of too-many-years waiting, and the last date of the North American tour of 2012. The release of Sounds That Can't Be Made.  All wonderful.

I'm looking forward to more in 2013: not least, the Marillion weekend!

Next on the list... Gemini Syndrome.  I saw them for the first time playing at Sacramento's Aftershock festival.

Look out for them in 2013. As an introduction: see Gemini Syndrome's Facebook page, and listen to Pleasure and Pain!

And then... just last week, My Jerusalem. The album, "Preachers", is stunning; my favourite track is Devoe. They are on my list not only to watch for in 2013, but to revisit their back catalogue, as I feel I've missed something important.

Back to Aftershock... next on my list is Beware of Darkness. Another band to be aware of, and listen out for, in 2013.  I love "Howl": watch and listen to the official versions on YouTube:   Debut album coming in 2013!

In 2012, I learned that there is a huge amount of musical talent here in Sacramento. You don't have to travel to New York or Los Angeles to see fresh new talent; there's a wonderful amount here, in this town. Top of my list for those to watch grow next year: Street Urchinz. High energy, happy music!

And there were some big names performing in Sacramento, or rather, in Citrus Heights this summer: Three Dog Night, Lee Ritenour, Commodores, Kool and the Gang, Blondie, America to name just a few.  All top performers, established artists, true musicians.


I mustn't forget to mention Trapt. Loved their show at the Ace of Spades.
... and new-to-me amazing guitarist, with Blondie, Tommy Kessler:
And was there more?  Of course. Have I missed something, someone important? Probably. Check through the rest of this blog, and through all the Flickr portfolio, and please remind me because it was an incredibly full year!
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, and musical New Year!

After the love is gone...

I will write a 2012 retrospective, but first I have to do this.

End of August, 2012, until just-before-Christmas, were pure hell. I have known worse times in my life, for sure, but not many, not so many that I can count on the fingers of one hand. Without including the thumb.

From the totally out-of-the-blue, shocking diagnosis of Bella's osteosarcoma, through seeing the tumour grow--literally, measurably, miserably--day-by-horrible-day, until her last breath, her last heartbeat, she was pure Love. She never cried, never whimpered, never asked for more than we could give. She just loved. She was so very, very, very brave.

I never knew I could feel the loss of a pet, an animal--a dog!--so hard.

Maybe it was because she was so big; bigger than a child, heavier than me, taller, on her hind legs, than any man. Maybe it was because we had such a struggle together for the first year; her so fearful, me so wondering what the heck I'd set myself up for, knowing that a commitment is for a lifetime (ours, or theirs). Maybe it was because she'd been my constant companion for three-and-a-half intense years. Or maybe it was simply that I was her human, and I've never been that for any dog before, not really, even though there have been others that I've loved and lost over the years. And maybe it was that she was 150lb of pure Love.

Part of me wanted to rush right out and find another Great Dane. That was the sad, emotional me that just wanted to hug her one more time. The sensible, logical part that has been through loss before, said wait: there needs to be time to grieve, to mourn... and then time to do things that have been put aside for the past few years. Because there were definitely sacrifices made; whether travel opportunities that were missed, or through the worry when leaving her with others, knowing she might not eat or might become so stressed she'd revert to the fearful animal she once was.

I will wait a while. There is a hole to fill, and I know there are plenty of abandoned animals who need a home to share. There are always Great Danes needing rescue. I guess people don't know what they are taking on when they think it would be cool to have a giant breed in the home. And I don't blame the people who give them up, if they know they are not able to provide the care that's needed.

Bella left a big hole in my life... and I must not, will not, take another, expecting to fit a round peg into a Bella-shaped hole. I will wait a while.

It doesn't get better.

It does get easier, day by day, little by little.

Though short, she lived a full life, even though she arrived in my life as an adult: from playful puppy and mature adult to elderly-canine-greyfaced lady. And she left us with dignity, courage and bravery.

And so much Love. And that Love goes on with us, and never leaves.

Remember: Love is a gift you give yourself.

In memory of Bella:

Jade's story of Bella:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Les Miserables, the movie, a review

There are very few stories that successfully make the transition, impeccably, from classic novel, to stage musical, to cinematic masterpiece... or which even survive translation from one language to another, without losing something of the emotion, craftmanship or passion of the original.

Les Miserables, the movie, does just that. It is stunning, beautiful, and worthy of a standing ovation. Ann Hathaway's starved and bereft portrayal of Fantine is heartbreaking. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean is impeccable, true, and very very moving (and I just knew, just knew he could do it. Oh and by the way, he should have been cast as Reacher too, but that's another story). Samantha Barks as Eponine; perfectly portrayed.

The cinematography is so very, very brave. The poverty and lives of the characters are reflected in dark scenes and shadows, with sunlight, daylight a shocking intrusion. And the close-up, living portrait scenes of the key characters singing are so intimate and painful and beautiful and real that I cried with them all.

Ann Hathaway's "I Dreamed A Dream" is, quite simply, stunning.

I want to go and see it again, right now.

Friday, December 28, 2012

X (the American punk band), Ace of Spades, 27th Dec 2012


Great to see and hear punk still going strong after all these years. Unpretentious, natural, fun: X put on a good show before an appreciative crowd at the Ace of Spades. Exene, hands in pockets or clutching a bottle of beer, singing her heart out. John Doe with a Cohen-esque hat which he quickly discards. Billy Zoom, the pose and a twinkle in his eye. And D. J. Bonebrake smashing those drums...

For more info on the band X:

For Ace of Spades:


My Jerusalem, Ace of Spades, 27th December 2012


My Jerusalem performing at Sacramento's Ace of Spades, December 27th, 2012, supporting X.

I admit that I went to the show with preconceptions gathered not through listening to My Jerusalem, but from reading reviews. Hipsters, I thought, dismissively. Who else would call a band a "collective"? Really? Hipsters... So the reality presented by My Jerusalem opened my ears. And I'm playing Preachers as I edit the photos from the show, and liking it more and more.

Shades of Nick Cave and Depeche Mode. Dark, but not suicidal. Bleak, but warm. The interaction between lead singer Jeff Klein, and bassist Geena Spigarelli, pulled the whole audience into an intimate, musical embrace.

I wish their set had been longer. During the last two songs, I had the impression that Jeff Klein was just getting started. They should have played two sets. Next time?

Often, the Ace of Spades audience doesn't fill the venue until just before the main act arrives on stage. And they miss a treat. Those who arrived late last night, truly missed out.

For My Jerusalem:

For Ace of Spades: