Music Monday: Trevor Hall Makes Me Feel Glad I’m Alive

Israel and I stood in front of the stage at the Marquee Theater waiting for Matisyahu to come out and play. We still had the opening band to endure and the two teens near us gave fair warning. “Matishyahu is notorious for having really bad opening bands,” they said.

My first impression when Trevor Hall walked onto the stage seemed a confirmation. His appearance lacks color contrast: his very fair skin is not offset by his pale blond hair. Nor was it highlighted by the non-color of his knit reggae headband, a tan that blended right into his hair. I did love the dreads shooting out of that headband and Trevor’s bare feet, but so far, his appearance wasn’t making a huge impression. We were all just excited for Matisyahu to come out.

And then the guy started playing his guitar and singing. And dancing around on his bare feet. And being really joyful as he shared his music. Okay, here’s the thing: it’s totally not cool to describe a musician as joyful. But this dude is the most joyful musician I’ve ever been lucky enough to watch. He makes you glad you’re alive. I love his music. But even more than that, I love to watch him make it.

As Trevor played, everyone in the crowd around us exchanged a bunch of “Who is this guy?” looks. We all loved him — the screams from the audience made it clear it wasn’t just Israel and me who would have paid the same ticket price just for the opening act. That’s why we’re going to see him again in a couple of weeks. He’s coming to The Compound Grill in Phoenix on March 6th.


With so many bands and musicians on the radio all sounding the same, I love the ones who infuse their own unique personality into their music. Trevor definitely has his own unique characteristics — Listen in the video above for the way he starts many lines and notes with this crazy sort of emotional squeak. Squeak? That’s an awful word for what he does but it’s the most accurate description I can think of. I love Trevor’s “squeaking.” Or maybe he’s squawking…? You tell me.

Anyone in Phoenix want to join us at The Compound Grill to watch Trevor? Tickets are only $10 (or $12 at the door).

Need to hear more first? Watch this video about my favorite of his songs, a collaboration with Matisyahu…

The Desire for Stuff. Or, the Excess of Living Rooms

My inner feisty-child is punching at the bricks today. Please excuse me while I release her for another rampage, this time regarding living rooms. And dining rooms.


No, you read me right. Whenever I think about the idea of living rooms — the kind that take space in a home as an addition to a regular family room — I’m like, what the . . . ?

Far as I can tell, it’s mainly an American “need” to have a formal room that shows off fancier furniture that children aren’t allowed to touch unless there is company visiting. And how is that supposed to make for a hospitable visit, anyway, sitting guests straight-backed on the barely-touched formal floral sofa in a room that says, “Speak quietly because for some inexplicable reason this room is special?”

I think the message of that kind of room is supposed to be that the guest is special. But I’d rather my friends consider me their family.

The same goes for those houses that have spacious dining areas in or near the kitchen, plus a separate formal dining room to top it off. This extra room’s purpose is to host a handful of meals a year. Christmas, Thanksgiving. Sometimes Easter and New Year’s Eve. Maybe even a non-holiday meal or two with visitors, where, once again, the guests get to be special as they eat in the subdued and polite atmosphere of the special room.

I like hosting festive holiday meals, but I don’t need a separate room that exists only for that very occasional purpose. While we’re seeing it less with the current economy acting up (or down, rather), it’s interesting how prevalent these extra rooms are in the houses our builders design.

I have a lot of friends who transformed their formal living rooms into fun, casual party spots, filling the space with pool tables. I’m all for that. But if I’m going to buy a home with a space for periodic pool-playing parties, I want that room to be somewhere other than the area opposite my front door.

We’re so used to these extra rooms that few people question the need for them. I don’t blame homeowners. It’s a cultural practice that was handed to us as a common and unconscious display of excess. And there’s just something about the need to display excess that makes me want to barf all over it.

Okay, I have to reveal a little hypocrisy here and admit that I am not totally immune from the temptation for a bit of excess. I have a slightly excessive amount of super cute Victoria’s Secret panties. They do get regular use though. How many formal living rooms can say they get as much wear?

I’m just thinking about the extra costs for a barely used room: the land to make space for it, the resources to build it, the energy to heat and cool it, the furniture to fill it, the time to clean it. Y to the U to the C to the K. I prefer a cozy little house I’ve paid off, instead. The extra time and money could send me off-road cycling or out with my guy for some south Indian dosas. Maybe some of the extra can help fund the education of third world children or the entrepreneuralism of their parents whose living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms are one all-inclusive 5×5 foot space.

Music Monday: The Barrel Of A Gun

Young teen male + movie star infatuation = what I hear in this song, one of my favorites from Guster:
Barrel Of A Gun.

It’s not just the lyrics that communicates this story. It’s also the hopeful, upbeat, and youthful sound, laced around the bang of bongos beating the tension of suppressed, young male hormones.

Since I’m always interested in the instrumentation of songs, I really enjoy the video for Barrel Of a Gun and a chance to see the band members playing their parts in a studio setting. Watch for the typewriter . . .

Right now Guster is in album-recording mode. I love knowing that a band is in the heat of creating its own next new era; is swimming in a new set of influences that will color the music of their next album and tour.

While the band so far has not shared on their Studio Journal what the current influences are (you get a taste for the band’s sense of humor on this blog), they do share specifics about the songs they are recording. Most recently, one of them blogged some of the good and the bad experiences of recording each of their albums so far. Interesting stuff.

The Battle For Hair Control

My mom loved to put me in pigtails when I was little. I hated them. I hated the part-line in the middle that divided my head down from the top of my bangs to the nape of my neck. I hated their curly ends that stuck out from above my ears and made me look like the little girl that I was. Pigtails were so Cindy Brady, and I just wanted to be Marsha.

On picture day in first grade, I got into a fight with Mom about it. She wanted to inflict her baby-pigtail-torture onto the sides of my six-year-old head, forever cementing them to the memories of my classmates. I refused. I told her I was done with pigtails. Grown out of them.

Mom got her way. She was just too big for me and I had no control over the situation. I went to school and got my picture taken with a tail sprouting from each side of me. That day, after school, as I was playing in my front yard with those silly-looking tails flapping around the sides of my head, my best friend’s mother, Vera, pulled up into her driveway in her station wagon. Vera lived next door. She got out of her car and called out, “I like your pig tails, Noell!”

I’m sure my mouth dropped and I doubt I thanked Vera for her compliment because what I felt at that moment was not gratitude. It was rage. I ran into my house and hunted my hair’s dictator, “Mom!”

“What?” she asked, all innocent. As. If.

“You told Vera to tell me she liked my pigtails,” I said.


“You told her to say that so I would keep wearing them!” I have a natural streak of skepticism that shines once in a while and I wasn’t the type to fall so easily for ploys like this.

My mom laughed. She tried not to. But she laughed.

“I did not. I didn’t tell her to say that.” She failed in her attempts to get serious, but the coincidence, along with my six-year-old insistence of taking charge of my own hair, was apparently entertaining to her.

She didn’t realize that this was more than just my hair we were talking about. The hair frames the face, and that means the hair shapes the face. The way a person looks…it all comes down to the hair.

Eventually, I was able to convince my mom to give me more hair control. She let me wear my hair down more often, usually with a barrette on the side. But what I really wanted was a roach clip. Roach clips with earthy strands that dangled with beads and feathers — just right for a gypsy personality like mine — were hot at that time where I lived in L.A. during the late seventies. But it might have been that they’re used to hold your marijuana that kept my parents from letting me wear one.
Later I moved on to the single pony tail that shoots from just one side of the head where you brush all your hair over to the side in a freaky pseudo-sexy early eighties kind of way. Mom didn’t really like that look for me either, so I didn’t get to wear it as often as I wished.
If I could have fulfilled my hair fantasies, though, I would have had full curly hair like Olivia Newton John’s at the end of Grease. Except as a brunette. Instead I just had plain and boring flat stringy hair.
I have fine hair, and fine hair likes to rule its own world and do its own thing. So in that case, my hair and I are the same. I endured a lot of bad hair throughout my life. It was off and on, really, but mostly off. It took me until I was twenty-five years old before I found a hair stylist that could give me hair that I like more often than not.

But my greatest hair triumph came when I was around thirty years old. I discovered a hair style that always looks good, no matter how demanding and stubborn my fine hair decides to be. If it’s not working out, no worries. I can guarantee myself a good hair day if I put it up in pigtails.

Yeah, I said it. Pigtails. Mom was right.

But only sort of right. It’s the technique that makes it work. I still hate the lined part-down-the-middle-of-the-head look. At least on me. I part the front of my hair to the side, then back-brush it at the top of the back to give it some fullness.. And I only center-part it at the very nape of my neck. It’s much more flattering to both my face and the back of my head to have just an inch of a center-parted hair line.
I don’t allow for those curly little piggy-looking tail ends, either. Instead, I wear my tails low, under and just behind my ears. And when they’re long enough I back-brush those tails to give them a ratty sort of splayed-out look that says “I don’t care.” Even though I really do. But like I said, earlier, it’s all about how the hair frames the face and it’s the long wisps that fall down in front of my ears toward my neck that are essential to top it off.

So I guess we both got our way. Mom got me wearing the hairstyle she always liked best on me. And I finally got control of my hair.

Pigtails rule.

Why My Favorite Band Is Better Than Your Favorite Band

I won’t lie. It’s been torture for me to blog three different Music Monday posts without referring to my musical soul-mates, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I could devote every single Monday to sharing the aspects of their music that throw me to the sky and send me flying. But I won’t. Promise.

Here’s the thing. You’ve got these four guys who each play their parts in ways beyond what most band members do. Yet they’ve found this symbiotic place with each other where their separate musical strands, all bold and outrageous, braid together into a beautiful whole.

Co-dependency Instead of Competition

You can probably point to the Chili Peppers‘ unusual writing style as one of the reasons for the unity of such intricate musical parts. To write music, the band usually jams together until they slide into something that’s working. Then Anthony, the leading vocalist and lyric writer, will sit to the side to find meaning and lyrics that work with the music while the rest of the band continues to flesh the piece out. They have a communal song-writing method while other bands usually spend more time writing their parts individually.

Especially In Michigan

The song below is the kind of music that pulls you away from your everyday and makes you feel as if the universe is swimming around you. So if you can, plug into some good speakers (or headphones) and let it fill the room. Below I share some of the reasons the musical quality of this band is so unique . . .

You really should listen to the Chili Peppers songs a number of times, with an ear for the different parts if you want hear all the layers. After getting the overall feel of the song, as well as Anthony’s vocals with all his genuine and uninhibited personality, I like to listen with a focus on individual parts . . .

  • To take in John Frusciante’s legendary lead guitar. He’s up there with Jimi Hendrix in terms of skill and passion, in my opinion.
  • To put your ear to Flea’s bass line. He does more than just provide an underlying anchor to the harmonies and the beat. Flea has often been called one of the world’s greatest bassists.
  • To understand Anthony’s brilliant and poetic lyrics.

The Chili Peppers’ intricacy is the only reason I’m able to listen to this band so often and not get tired of them like I do with other bands. Every listen can be a new experience, depending on what I decide to focus on. Below are a few of the things that amaze me about the song above . . .

John Frusciante’s Guitar

During a recent listen to John’s guitar in this song, I realized he plays differently for each set of verses and each run with the chorus. Seriously — who does that? Just John. In most music you get a slight change or an additional layer to build toward a climax. But in this song, John gave each round of verse and chorus its own sound. That’s love for the music, right there.

I should mention, the guitar solo is actually Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from The Mars Volta.

Anthony Kiedis’s Lyrics

Anthony’s lyrics are deeply personal and autobiographical, often symbolic, and usually infused with multiple meanings. Especially in Michigan may not be as much about the state as it is about Anthony’s sanctuary there from his drug addiction. He grew up with his mother in Michigan until he went to live with his Dad in L.A. at age eleven. His dad immediately introduced the young Anthony to drugs and a crazy wild life. Eventually he stopped using but Michigan is where Anthony returned a number of times to the care of his mother and her rural home in order to detox and come clean again after some bad relapses.

Knowing this, the line means much . . . “Out on the farm we’ll be swimming with the mother duck,” as well as, “Land is full of medicine, I find it when I’m slipping in . . . into Michigan.”

Residents from Michigan will identify with the many references that are particular to the culture and state of Michigan. The oz-like “lions and tigers” most likely came to Anthony because of the Detroit Lions football and the Detroit Tigers baseball teams.

Michigan is shaped like a mittened hand and residents commonly point to a spot on their hand to identify approximately where in the state their hometown is on the mitten. Anthony refers to the mitten and its many lakes when he sings of “a mitten full of fishermen,” and how they’ll be “swimming with the mother duck, deep in the mitten.”

This kind of back-story helps you understand why the Chili Peppers music always feels so intensely soulful, passionate, and human.

Flea’s Bass

Since it’s a little harder to hear Flea’s bass in the song above, I have to share another one with you. I could (and eventually will) write an entire post pointing out the insanely unique musical qualities of this song, Charlie. But for now, please take a little time to enjoy Flea’s bass line, most prominent in the intro and outro, but surfacing throughout, as well . . .

Flea is known for his funk-style slapping technique, which he’s toned down over the years for music with the Chili Peppers in order to not pull too much attention from the other parts. You can watch him play a bass solo in the video below. Pay attention to his hands . . .

Regaining Consciousness

I had a moment this morning I’m not totally conscious of. Awareness just began as my son, Blake, said to me, “Mom, you’re funny when you’re spaced out.”

I saw Blake as he finished his statement, and then I looked around the room to see that each family member was staring at me with interested looks on their faces.

Then Israel said, “Let me tell you what you just did.”

And that’s when he recreated for me the moment I missed while I sat at the breakfast table thinking about something, which slipped from my memory as soon as I noticed everyone watching me.

“You were staring off into space,” Israel explained. “And I asked if you wanted more toast. You didn’t answer but just kept staring off. So I asked again.”

Then Israel imitated me and my spaced out face, with my eyes all bugged out and huge, while the rest of my features were totally blank and relaxed. He showed me what I looked like as forced my face to move in his direction like a zombie, as if hypnotized, and then tried to transition from my own inner world to the reality of my family’s kitchen by stating back to him, in a slow zombie-like monotone statement, “Do I want more toast.”

That’s when Blake commented on my hilarity and I began to retrieve outer-world consciousness again. Hey, at least I correctly switched the “you” to an “I” when I made my hypnotized restatement of Israel’s question. All I can say is I inherited my ability to get totally lost in my head from my mom. It’s a genetic and I can’t help it. I could be a drunk, or an abusive parent. No, I’m just slightly negligent for short periods of time. It sure provides regular entertainment to my children and husband, though.

Music Monday: Dispatch & State Radio

State Radio will be playing in Tuscon this Wednesday night and Israel and I were planning to go until we realized last week that we just couldn’t fit it around our work schedule. I’ve allowed myself some brief moments of sulking whenever I remember how close they will be to where we live, just a two hours drive away.

Let me tell you how we discovered this band. It started with Pandora, of course, and the discovery of a totally different band. I can’t remember which of my stations leaked the song, Open Up, by Dispatch but as soon as the bongo beat and its political message hit my ears I flipped out as I ran to my computer to see who the band was. I hadn’t heard of it.


That is exactly the type of experience that is rare and so amazing and what I look for…finding a new band that I am instantly in love with. As soon as the song ended I paused Pandora, opened a new tab to and broadcasted the song there. Here is that song, by Dispatch, and please forgive this overly compressed version. It’s the only one I can find to share with you but I think you’ll love it anyway…

My next step was to find out who the band is, where they’re from, how many albums they have, etc. It turned out Dispatch was a college indie that disbanded in 2002. The more of their songs I discovered and loved, the more sad I was to know there would be no new releases. I wouldn’t get to watch them grow and mature over time. I’d never see them in concert. Check out the trailer for the documentary that tells the sad story (breaks my heart)…

And then we discovered…

State Radio

Eventually, on the new Dispatch station I created on Pandora, another band pulled Israel’s and my attention: State Radio. I noticed that State Radio sounds extremely similar to Dispatch. The lead singers sounded the same and State Radio also had the deep-thinking, political statement-making themes like Dispatch, the deep-thinking quality being more typical of northeast bands than California ones.

State Radio, though, is more mellow, is comprised of fewer instruments, and is a little less experimental than Dispatch (one cool thing Dispatch was known for was that the band members rotated instruments between song sets during their concerts).

While talking about the bands’ similarities the other night, I speculated to Israel that the two bands had to be related. I looked it up and it turns out that the lead singer of Dispatch is, in fact, the same in State Radio. He actually put the new band together. The happy ending to this story is that we are, in fact, getting to see this indie band grow up to be a big boy, even if we did come late upon the scene.

Here’s Israel’s favorite State Radio song…

And here is one that I love…

Our Christmas Adaptation

My husband’s description of his childhood Christmases sounded to me as Thursdays probably are to most people. Just, meh. He was always excited to see what he got but it didn’t have the same pull for him that it did for me. For me, Christmas was magical like Disneyland and favorite songs and falling in love. That is why we decided to model our own Christmas celebrations after my parents’ tradition.
Growing up we didn’t have much but when it came to Christmas, my siblings and I never felt the impact of our low income. We had huge Christmases. In the morning, my parents lined us up in the hallway, oldest to youngest, and then they let us loose into the living room like search and destroy missiles, paper and bows flying like shrapnel. Sometimes a squeal shrieking louder than my own could pull my attention from my current target to see what another of my four siblings had received. After a quick glance I’d dive back under the tree, looking for a present with my name on it. It was crazy and fun and over in an instant. Well, maybe in five instances. The fall came fast but the high was amazing.

That Was Then, This Is Now

After ten Christmases just like this for my own children, Israel resigned from his full-time career to work our own business at home. That was in 2008. We didn’t have a guaranteed income and for Christmas we were afraid to buy much at all. We made a serious cut in the presents we gave to the kids.

To pro-long the time of gift-unwrapping, so it wouldn’t feel like the most anti-climactic Christmas ever, we decided to try one of Israel’s childhood Christmas traditions…the one in which everyone actually takes the time to see what the others got and to find out who the giver of the gift is…you know, the turn-taking gift circle.

I thought that sounded like the most boring Christmas tradition ever. How can you maintain the high of the search-and-destroy method if you’re just sitting there, trying to fake enthusiasm for other people while they open their presents, meanwhile you can see your own beckoning you under the tree? But I wanted to try it. We had to do something to make the morning last longer than a minute.


I was shocked. It was our best Christmas ever. That’s what my kids said! Not only did they get to have the initial target-launching high at the beginning as they ran to see their Santa gifts, but they also felt gratitude and camaraderie while they watched each other get excited about an awesome new toy. There was none of that impatience I expected. It was a combination of both types of experiences.

This year we adjusted the tradition even more, after my best friend, Tami, told us how her parents did it. At first I thought it was insane, but she told me it prolonged the anticipation and excitement for them as kids, since, with twelve of them, they only got one present each, in addition to their Santa gift. And it’s the anticipation that is the most magical of all of it, right? Well, that and the Christmas lights on the tree.
Just like Tami and her parents, this year we let our kids launch into their Santa gifts (one each) but then we waited until after breakfast to open the presents. It gave them more time to appreciate the “big one” before moving on to the others. Also before breakfast, they pulled down their stockings and really enjoyed those for the first time. Previous to this new tradition, the stockings were always just an after-thought to my kids — and that bugged me.
Not that the children cared but I liked that we also began the day with some actual substantial nutrition instead of candy. And the gift-circle afterward was just as cool as the year before. Check it…


I think we’ve now figured out the recipe for a perfect Christmas morning. It’s a combination of three different family traditions: Search & Destroy, Launch & Pull Back, and finally, the Camaraderie Support Circle . It was my favorite year so far.

* * *
Note to my scrapbooking friends: I think I’m going to use this story (and hopefully get better childhood pictures from my mom) for a scrapbook album that compares my childhood with my kids’ childhoods. I’m also going to reword the last three paragraphs slightly and use them in my 25 Days To Christmas ‘09 album (Ali Edwards’s December Daily Album concept).

Music Monday: A Slightly Stoopid Kind of Mellow

In case you mistook my Jack Johnson rant for a dislike of mellow music, I thought I’d share a great band that is mostly chill but, unlike Jack, has good dynamics. Dynamics in music = variation in volume. Jack starts and stops every song at the same level and doesn’t vary from that level through the entire piece (snore). I can’t stand music like that.

Check out this song, Mellow Mood, by Slightly Stoopid with G-Love.

I love how their two guitars and their voices wrap around each other. They’re so talented that they got signed to a label while they were still in high school. I love the originality of the music and the personality that it expresses.

Here’s another one of my favorites, still on the overall mellow side but with more energy and a huge range of dynamics…

. . . Much love, much respect.

Ringing In The New Year With Childhood Ignorance

Sometimes, as an adult, you forget that your kids don’t automatically know a lot of basic day-to-day things until you tell them. All day we’d been wishing each other a Happy New Year, talking about the coming of 2010 and the fortune cookies we’d be having that evening in order to receive our fortunes…


I ran to the store for some treats just a couple hours before it would close for the night. And then, around dinner time as we were getting close to the celebration evening, Aiden (my 6-yr-old) asked if he could have some of the treats sitting in the grocery bag on the table.

“That’s for tonight,” I told him.

“Oh.” He had an ignorant look on his face, like “tonight” meant nothing special to him.

“Can we watch one of the movies Nana gave us?”

“That’s for tonight, too,” I said. I knew we were going to need something to fill up the long six-hour evening we were planning to have with the children.


Later on we were talking about how tomorrow it would be 2010 and Aiden said something about waking up in the morning and it will be a new year. That’s when I recognized the lack of party-anticipation on his face. He had no idea the evening would be any different from any other evenings when we put him to bed around 8:30.

The year before he had fallen asleep early, before the New Year’s celebration got going. He didn’t remember anything about it. I would never have guessed, though, that after experiencing six new years in his life, he was totally ignorant that we celebrated it. So it was really fun, getting to be the one to enlighten him of the coming evening and everything we would do.

Watching the excitement enter his face as I explained it was much better than the actual minute at midnight when the kids forced out a “Happy New Year,” with their half-closed eyes and mouths and then stumbled their way to their beds where they fell immediately to sleep.


This morning I walked into the kitchen and noticed a new January calendar on the fridge in place of the old December one. I wondered where we got it before I recognized my sister’s digital artwork — it was just like the 2009 calendar she gave us the year before.

“Did Lindsay add an extra January to our calendar?” I asked Trinity, who was standing next to the fridge and who had appointed herself the monthly calendar flipper.

She didn’t answer because she had no idea what I was talking about.

And then I got it. Trinity had flipped the calendar back to the beginning. To January 2009. Of course, there would be no way for her to know that you can’t just reuse the same calendar over and over again until someone explained to her that the numbers and the days change every year. And I wonder if she’ll always remember that moment as the moment she learned how calendars and days work, the same way I remember when my mom explained to me that ellamenapee is not a single letter of the alphabet but five different letters.