Archive | February 2014

The Singular Edition

Courtesy of Asico Photo Blog

Courtesy of Asico Photo Blog

Almost two weeks ago, I treated myself to the Sharon Jones and Dap Kings concert. For some reason in the past year, I have taken myself out of the habit of going places alone. This is a thing that I have never shied away from. This behavior has not been a really successful practice: *cough* Stevie Wonder *cough*. Starting in college if there was something I really wanted to do and no one else was interested, I went anyway. I think it comes from two things: 1) I was raised as an only child and so I am completely comfortable spending vast amounts of time alone and 2) I grew up pretty broke and sheltered, so I always felt like I missed out on a lot and needed to catch up.

I still remember a friendship ended in college on my first adventure alone.  I wanted to go to the ballet. Oh, hilariously I have been me for a very long time, and none of the crew wanted to go. The group had voted to spend a girls night in and I wasn’t having it. The rule was the majority decides on weekend activities. So I snuck out to the performance and my “friend” caught me. She was so incredulous that I attempted to hide and go to something as “stupid” as the ballet that the friendship never recovered.

However, this bold act started me on a path to some really great experiences. One of my favorite New Year Eves was the result of my going out alone when everyone else was afraid of a little snow. I accidentally crashed a private party that included party favors, a DJ, a buffet and open bar. Score! The one drawback of going out alone when crazy stuff happens, you have no one to corroborate your story. My terrible experience at the Essence Festival can be co-signed by one of my best friends. So sadly, no one can acknowledge the ridiculousness I witnessed at this concert. Basically I watched a White middle-aged, upper middle class, farmer’s market attending type threesome form right before my eyes. I watched a nice Volvo driving (okay I cannot confirm this but I know it’s true) couple join a good lady friend. I watched the couple make out uncomfortably (well, for me) all while the lady covertly stroked the lady friend’s hair. I saw the man go get snacks while the two middle aged middle school teachers make out (also uncomfortable for me). I observed that by the end of the night with encouragement from the double agent, the man cozy up, kissing and fondling, both women. All of this occurred with only one eyewitness, a random man sitting next to me who I will never see again.

This distraction withstanding, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. I still don’t like the open seating of the Lincoln Theater. It means I need to get to the venue 30 – 45 minutes early for complete boredom just to get a great seat. Once my overwhelming boredom ended, the show started with Valerie June. I have her CD after hearing her interviewed on NPR’s Tell Me More. I cannot figure out if I like it or not. There are three songs that I absolutely love and her voice is a true wonder. This was true of the concert as well, which was pretty true to the CD. I have never been a huge fan of bluegrass and the album has clear bluegrass, gospel and folk influences. I notice the stronger the individual influence determines my like for the song. The gospel and folk tinged songs. I love. The bluegrass, not so much. I also noticed that the songs I liked the most weren’t crowd favorites. So I was my own little island there. I still want me a sugar daddy to take me away from work, so the rousing rendition of Workin Woman Blues gave me all my life.

Finally after more boredom, where I got to watch the threesome come together and my right-hand neighbor order a t-shirt online, the Dap Kings arrived. The lull between acts at concerts are the worst thing about attending concerts alone. You have no one to chat with and are really concerned with conserving battery power. The Dap Kings started with spotlighting the backup singers before Sharon Jones, bald, defiant and energetic, graced the stage. She has been battling cancer for the last year and this was her second time on stage since treatment. She was a bit smaller, in size and presence, than usual but I happily danced along to all my favorite songs and the new stuff. At the end she led the crowd through a series of dances from the 60’s and 70’s, which was so much fun. Her commitment to her fans which was rewarded by roses from the crowd, made going out alone a great idea.

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The Questioning Edition

Question_bridge_02_web_0Last weekend I attended the Corcoran Gallery’s exhibit called Question Bridge: Black Males. I will admit as woman I don’t always understand the male point of view. The interesting thing about the exhibit was that I learned that men often don’t understand each other’s points of view either. The exhibit is more of a documentary where Black men and a few boys ask questions that are answered by other Black men. Some of the responses were heartfelt, such as Andrew Young’s response of how he knew that he met the love of his life. Some responses were heartbreaking, such as when a gentleman shared that his brother died of cancer because he refused to see a doctor. Some were puzzling, as with the man who stated that he believes the n-word will change for the better just as Samaritan did. All were fascinating.

They interviewed men from every age group, socio-economic status, geographic region and education level. They interviewed men in prison, doctors, teenagers, rappers, actors. A very huge cross section. I couldn’t tell how long the interviews lasted. It could have been hours. We sat transfixed for two hours, losing track of time, listening and processing. I think the key to the interviews is that we are not a monolith. Black men are not a homogenous group that is easy to pinpoint and stereotype, despite what others may think. I could see the simple things that divides the group: if you grew in the suburbs vs. the projects, if you grew up pre-civil rights era or during the crack-infested 80’s, if you attended an ivy league college or the school of hard knocks.

I do believe I learned something. It is not something easily identifiable such as I learned that Montpelier is the capital of Vermont. I learned how men articulate themselves, what gets under their skins, what they say and what they are afraid to say. I realized that each of the men interviewed had something to say even if what they said isn’t something I completely understood or agreed with. I don’t “get” prison culture but neither did some of the subjects. I don’t comprehend the respectability politics that is laid at single mothers’ feet when it takes two to make children. And again neither did the other subjects. Lately, mainly because of some really vocal members of “Black Twitter” I had grown weary of hearing any opinions on any subject. The vitriol and rancor spewed on topics as simple as Valentine’s Day especially from Black men exhausted me. But through this exhibit, I remembered that we, “the Blacks” are not a singular community and for every Negative Neal there’s a Positive Paul and that’s a good lesson.

The Grooving Edition

Courtesy of Billboard

Courtesy of Billboard

So if you watched the totally fun New Girl with the majestic wonderful unicorn that is Prince, you heard a funky groove called People Pleaser by Andy Allo. The worst thing about the awesome episode is that the lookieloos who don’t understand the quirkiness of New Girl watched the show for the first time and complained the entire time. Stupid twitter! I mean the episode gave us many Princeisms including his love of pancakes, ethnically ambiguous woman and dressing up those women in witchlike outfits. What wasn’t to love?

So two Sundays ago I went to see Andy Allo at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis. It was a $15 show and that spot is one of the few in the metro area that I haven’t been to. So I figured why not. I hate picking seats for a venue that I haven’t been to but we ended up with good seats. My main quibble with the show was that Andy was there with just her guitar and another guitarist. I hoped for a full band as I prefer full bands, lol. We only needed two more people! The thing I liked when listening to her stuff was the arrangements. I definitely missed that aspect in her live show with the limited accompaniment. In the albums, I can hear strong connection to Maceo Parker first along with others.

I really enjoyed the set. She had no opening act and proceeded to sing for 90 minutes, which was surprisingly long. She has a very sweet is the best way to describe it voice and I amazingly found the entire set very soothing. I realized that I could happily sit there forever and I wasn’t sure why. I think it was I am only shallowly familiar with her work and didn’t sit there anxiously awaiting some song or another that I just had to hear. As a Prince protégé, I easily heard his influence in her vocal approach. I could listen, chat with our concert loving tablemate and snack on my crab dip in pure bliss. It was a nice feeling. I would certainly see her again. I don’t know where she can find it in this highly segmented music landscape but I wish her success. But then of course then I can’t see her for $15. I can deal with that I guess.