Summer Concert Series (Fête de la Musique)

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Fête de la musique was something I never knew existed before living in France. People made a big deal of the annual first day of summer music celebration in Dijon. There were concerts set up around the city and promotion weeks in advance. Because of this I assumed it was a French thing, but in fact it is celebrated worldwide.

This past year I celebrated in a French spirit.  As part of Central Park’s SummerStage festival, the French Embassy sponsored two popular French singers to perform for a packed crowd of Francophiles and native Frenchmen alike.

The afternoon began with Émilie Simon and ended with the eccentric M. I honestly had never heard either of them, but was able to convince my equally as French obsessed sister to join me on this musical journey.

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Walking up to the grounds and hearing all of the French-speaking was enough to make me pleased with our decision to attend. Of course the music was good too, if VERY French in style (if you are American and have lived in France or have listened to French pop I think you get what I’m saying). All in all, I loved every minute.M wears extreme costumes, sings with an alluring falsetto and knows how to rock it out on guitar all night long. Apparently the band was cut from the sound system at some point in the night but he continued to play with an enthusiastic crowd singing along (we left before this but my French colleague was there and reported back).

It was so fun to do something a bit different and support music!

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Summer Concert Series (Celebrate Brooklyn!)

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Back in mid June the roomie and I went on another outdoor concert adventure, this time to Brooklyn. The concert was one of some 30 performances in Prospect Park throughout the summer, most of which are free. Starting in the late 70’s, Celebrate Brooklyn! is one of the longest New York City free outdoor performing arts festivals.

On the docket for us was The National, a band I had never seen live before. It was pretty special to see them in Brooklyn since they live in that area surrounding the park.

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Unfortunately, this was a weekday concert and I was pretty exhausted from a long day at work in the humid weather. We soldiered on, however and it was totally worth it. With only two of us it was easy to wiggle our way through the crowd and into a nice spot up close. As the sun set strings of lights dimly lit the concert area creating a perfect New York summer scene.

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Summer Concert Series (Governors Ball)

This summer I’ve been taking advantage of concerts in the city. New York offers many free outdoor concerts through multiple organizations.

Summer also makes way for festival season. Speaking of which I went to Governor’s Ball for the first time. This three-day concert takes place on Randall’s Island in the beginning of summer. My friend and I decided on picking one day out of the three (too old to hang like that for three days straight).

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It was such a fun day. Beautiful weather, a nice setup of stages, awesome music (Jack White, The Strokes, Naked & Famous, Broken Bells to name a few) and great company. I was actually most surprised by how zen the very diverse crowd of drunk people were. Guess that’s festival music lovers for ya 🙂

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My friend was dog-sitting over in Astoria for the weekend so we conveniently were able to walk over the bridge onto the island, which was a fun adventure (except on the way home after a long day  of fun in the sun….ugh).

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Recovery the next day was delicious. I think I like Astoria 🙂

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Istanbul

I have never visited Turkey or the magnificence that is Istanbul. It has been on ‘my list’ ever since I lived in France and heard rave reviews from the many travelers with whom I crossed paths. My good friend, Sissy, on the other hand has not only been to Istanbul, she has fallen in love with the place. Sissy is the lead singer of the group Wax Poetic, a band with its roots in Istanbul. Concerts and various recording sessions have many times taken my friend across the Atlantic to a far away land that has since captured her heart. In fact, I remember one of the first times she returned from a trip and the instant excitement I detected in her voice as we rehashed her experiences. The passion she felt for Istanbul was strong and immediate, a connection that I could relate to from my time spent in France. So when Sissy began fervently posting messages about the current revolution happening in Istanbul, I felt for her longing and knew I had to plead with her cause. Instead of me writing a news-like post here, I decided to share with you the emotionally charged, eloquent words of my friend. She has a beautiful story to tell and an important message to pass along. I understand the longing for a foreign country that feels like home, especially in its time of need. My thoughts are with those struggling in Istanbul and I hope yours will be too. Without further ado…

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“I never thought I would get a tattoo. It was all sophomoric flirtation, mostly to make my parents’ hearts race, until just over a month ago. April 30th ended my band Wax Poetic’s third tour in Istanbul, the week devoted to promoting our most recent album release while simultaneously recording new material. Rapturously cycling from sessions at Babajim Studios, performances at Babylon and Nublu, parties at Minimuzikhol, quick naps in Galata and Chingir, our ambitious artistic pursuits had orbited within a five minute radius of Taksim and Gezi Park.

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On the last day, hoping to finally relax with my best Turkish friend Basak and bandmate Brandon, we boarded a boat tour up the Bosporus. However, with each passing neighborhood the seemingly endless sprawl of Istanbul’s population overwhelmed me with awe. Only when circling back to the port did my thoughts shift into focus, finding solace in the overhead view of the Bosporus bridge—its stretch of grandeur from Europe to Asia a worthy reminder of the only naturally occurring transcontinental city. Feeling a second wind, I realized an internal change had occurred on the European side, so pressing that there was no choice or moment but now to document it. Having yet to set foot in Asia, Brandon and I were led by Basak from the spacious tourist boat to a ferry packed with Turks. Danny Garcia, a man hard-pressed for appointments, could fit the three of us in for something small.

We arrived at Inkstanbul Artcore, and the awning’s bold red and white stripes sent alt-echoes (perhaps intentionally) of the Turkish flag, connecting colors in a constellation along the waterfront. The blue between two continents had allotted us just enough time to decide on “something small”:

Basak suggested “Aşk,” the Turkish word for “love,” embedding the language of the city that now felt like a second home: its sounds, smells, and sights a backdrop in the transfiguration from friendship to family.
Brandon suggested wrist placement, as his first tattoo circles the mark of living, his pulse.
I inserted a treble clef in the place of “ş,” linking the word with why I was in Istanbul in the first place: Ilhan Ersahin was inspired to include me in his band having encountered my life’s devotion to musicality.
Danny’s demeanor was stern, but having impressed upon me the weight of this decision, he led Basak and I to the tattoo room. His tough exterior dissolved as I sat in the chair. After pausing to assure I was calm and ready, he deftly began to tie the principles and letters to one another. His artistry somehow created a font that reflected my person, even having only exchanged a few sentences. A box of newborn kittens were my reward, and while I held one inches from my new ink he shared about his stewardship of the neighborhood strays. It was time for his next customer, so we found a communal cab headed back to Europe.

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From a new vantage point, we closed the circle of the day’s events by crossing the Bosporus Bridge from above. In a similar dance to the nights of my stay in Istanbul, the bridge’s lights began to pulse as sunshine faded to ebony. Our destination was Taksim Square, and upon arrival I asked Basak if I had been there before. “Dozens of times,” she replied, as I noted a budding frenetic energy as the source of its distanced familiarity.

The following morning, I approached the typically accommodating taxi stand with my suitcase but was met instead with empty streets and dozens of patrolling police officers. With no transportation options to the airport, my stay was extended a day because of the national holiday created to control protests. When I was finally able to leave, my thoughts and actions moved past the days in Istanbul, even though my heart had failed to join them. This was all until …
The news of the Turkish Protest Movement leaked into my newsfeed. As a primal reaction I reached out to my family in Istanbul to assure that they were safe. Hearing stories of the police’s revolting brutality, gas infecting the homes of infants and elderly, and the citizens’ (old, young, left, right, gay, straight, secular, religious, radical, indifferent) bravery regardless, I desperately asked if there was anything I could do. Their response: “share share share” …

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This is why articles, photos, and stories of the Turkish citizen’s brave efforts have overtaken my Facebook and Instagram. The revolution is not being televised in their country, and yet social media has emerged to spread the beauty of their cause and severity of their plight. A formally apolitical citizen, I have been inspired because regardless of creed, party affiliation, age, orientation, sex, nationality, or inherent love of Istanbul, their message is about the essence of Democracy. If you prefer a shopping mall or park, have tattoos or not, the basic rights of respect for peaceful protest, the freedom of expression and the exchange of information, and the duty of government and police to protect and honor its public’s interests are causes any real or Facebook friend of mine should be able to get behind. I am urging you to follow the press on this movement, share this post, share articles and photos, sign petitions- do anything you can to bring awareness to the situation in Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is an authoritarian liar, from his suggestion that Twitter is a “menace to society” to his delusion that the thousands crossing the Bosporus Bridge to join the protest were mere hundreds. Let’s show him that his opposition is an uncontrollable number stretching from Europe to Asia to America and back.

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A friend asked today about my tattoo, and I realized its meaning had been given new life beyond my initial intentions.
Basak’s idea has expanded to the principle that care and interest in not only the cultures but also the plight of our brothers and sisters internationally is vital, enriching, and pivotal in understanding the potentially reflective issues occurring domestically. Moving from the debilitating notion of “us” vs. “them, promoting the causes of others, especially as their words and actions assume ours, has the power to affirm an undeniable “we.”
Brandon’s emphasis on the pulse alerts me to how collaborative passions push my heart to beat with intensity. Feeling the heart of this cause in an authenticity that eliminates distance, I will be unable to return to the monotonous cadence of complacency.
My musical and personal efforts moving forward will always be informed by that week in Istanbul and the intense struggle of the studio. Trying take after take in pursuit of artistic perfection, we tirelessly pushed on in a truly taxing labor of love. “Art isn’t easy” Sondheim reminds us. That is why, having completed the session, we all laughed, cried, smiled, and hugged in one of the most profound moments of my life.
Finally love, rooted in music, movements, any source beyond the traditional romantic connotation, can supersede our own or other’s intentions, creating a new breathing force.

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Although Erdoğan touts these past few days as the fleeting act of extremists, the realty of my body’s new mark of permanence reveals a message I’ve always understood. Trees and tattoos are interchangeable and perhaps irrelevant parts of our bodies and stories, as causes and crests are a mere impetus in the collaborative reminder that the fight for more will always be worthwhile. We should make every effort to support our relentless Turkish friends (and others in similar turmoil, for that matter) until the love of the life they are demanding becomes an impossible sound to ignore.”

Only if for a night

Last weekend I went to see Florence and the Machine in concert.  It all went down in Atlantic City, NJ at the Borgata.  It was my first time seeing a show there and I was really impressed.  The acoustics were great and the standing room made for an intimate experience.

My friend Chelsea’s family has a beautiful house in Ocean City where we stayed the night.  On our way down Saturday, we stopped in center city Philadelphia to enjoy the gorgeous weather.  After a nice stroll and yummy food we were Jersey bound, arriving just in time for happy hour margaritas on the deck.

When we arrived in Atlantic City later that evening the sun was setting, making for a great photo.

Then it was time for the concert.  After a less than stellar opening act, Florence came out in a black cape with metallic detailing on the shoulder pads.  As she twirled, jumped and belted her hits, we tried to find the best place to enjoy the show (the beauty of standing room).  Our final choice was right up front and to the side of the stage.  Except for a drunk girl who ran like a maniac through the crowd spilling beer all over us,  our “seats” rocked; room to dance and fully enjoy Florence!

We couldn’t leave the casino without testing our gambling luck.  It’s a good thing that luck was on our side ($7 worth of luck) because the cabs out of AC are a bit pricey.  We managed to barter it down a bit but those drivers really ask a lot for the trip home.

All in all a great weekend activity.  Great music, venue and time with friends.

Rêveries Musicales (Music Musings)

I walked into Rockwood Music Hall last night and was immediately taken by the power of the voice coming from behind a grand piano.  The lights were a dim red and the small saloon-type venue was dark.  Above me I could see plush couches and chairs behind a cast-iron railing.  This balcony seating mixed with the little circular tables scattered on the ground level hugging the stage reminded me of the Moulin Rouge.  From the movies of course, as I have only ever posed in front of and never stepped inside of Paris’ iconic bar.

My friend Sissy had proposed the idea of going to hear Heather Christian sing last night.  Sissy is quite critical of singers and she has every right to be.  She herself studied music at the New School and is making a career being a singer.  I can only imagine the critiques that go through her head when listening to a new song or artist (similar to me after taking my film class at JMU. I literally couldn’t just enjoy a movie without picking apart the technical aspects).  So when she said that Heather’s singing was indescribable and amazing I knew this had to be good stuff.  Based on the number of goosebumps crawling my skin during the entire set, I can attest that this was indeed good stuff!

Heather has an almost soulful vibe with a southern twang (a Mississippi girl).  She has no apologies for performing both high energy sound that features unique quirky sounds (she was like her very own instrument at times) and thought-provoking ballades.  Her lyrics are relatable but what draws you in first is the sound.  I found myself just listening to the way her voice effortlessly carried through the room.  And when those sounds did travel up to my brain and process, I heard the words and was moved (hence the goosebumps formed).  Her guitarist for the night, Gabe (Gabriel Gordon from Wax Poetic) even mentioned that he found himself getting mesmerized and lost in her words while on stage.  So much so that he felt he messed up on his cords (this is so not true by the way–no flaws were noticed).

After the show, when we were discussing the show (normal post show affaire), someone said how great it was to not be able to “place” Heather’s music into a genre or be able to say, “she sounds like so-and-so.”  It is something a musician strives for; individuality and uniqueness in their craft.  So hats off Heather!

**a short video of her show will be on my tumblr later today**

Long weekends are a gift

Thank god for a holiday tomorrow because I need an extra day to relax and catch up after a busy weekend.  Good busy, as it usually is, but busy nonetheless.

It began Friday night with a concert at Nublu.  Since my move up to NYC I have been catching up with an old friend who has been in the city for a few years now.  She is the lead singer of Wax Poetic and so when I found out the group was performing I just had to go hear her.  I invited a few friends whom I knew wouldn’t mind an adventurous night of new music and new venues and headed to the East Village.

Sissy and the band put on a great show and en plus, I think I have found a new place to hit up on the weekends.  Of course it was a late night for this girl–the concert didn’t even begin until 12:30am and in true rocker fashion our party continued long after the last set!  Vive la vie à New York 🙂

Then Saturday we went out to celebrate my uncle’s birthday at Buddakan.  When you’re 20-something and trying to make it in the big city, it’s always nice to have family around to take you out to dinner –and it doesn’t hurt when the restaurant is amazingly chic!  You might be familiar with the spot for its cameo in Sex and the City Movie (rehearsal dinner scene).

It really was a cool place with a quasi VIP style and amazingly delicious food!  It is served family style and comes as it is prepared.  We tried a variety of things and ended with birthday apple cider doughnuts served with the most delicious creme fraîche ice cream.  Wish I had some right now.

Today I spent the afternoon in Brooklyn with some girlfriends.  We ate at a really neat South African themed restaurant.  Spending a Sunday surrounded by friends, drinks, food and reggae music was relaxing– especially knowing that the next day doesn’t mean work.

How did you all spend the weekend? Any good eats devoured or fun venues discovered?

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Well folks, its been a while.  My only excuse in leaving you hanging for so many weeks is that I am enjoying myself.  But this excuse seems a bit selfish especially since I want you all to share in my experiences (thus the idea of this blog).

So what has been going on here in France?
Louis-Auguste recently had the opportunity to play the Saxophone with his jazz group from the Conservatoire at a really cool venue.  Its called La Vapeur and is a jazz bar in Dijon.  The concert fell on his 14th birthday nonetheless so we made sure to fill the seats with his family!

Célénie and I had a day together in Dijon this past weekend.  It’s always nice to spent time with just her.  We dropped Louis-Auguste at a birthday party in the center city and took the 5 hours to shop and look around Dijon.  We went to Sephora, the FNAC (like Best Buy) and a little boutique to get MORE silly bands (she has over 100 already.  This American fad has hit France hard these past months).  We took a break from our shopping to grab a chocolate chaud and crêpes au sucre.  Then after doing the needed grocery shopping we hit a wall and realized 2 hours were still open and we had nothing to do (and it was cold and getting dark).  So crazy Au Pair Beth decided that she wanted to play with toys…where else do you go? Toys R Us! We got there with 10 minutes to spare before closing time.  Plenty of time to jump on a stuffed horse, pass a giant Koosh ball and take a ride on a plastic see-saw.  Afterward we checked out the Piscine Olympic which I frequent but Célénie has never been to.  We even got some VIP treatment when the security guard showed us some special access only pool where you can do SCUBA! Doing BIG things over here in France, that’s for sure 🙂

The twins are eating and sleeping….that’s about it.  They are getting bigger everyday though and we all enjoy having them around.  It’s neat to already be able to see the different personalities between them.  Can’t wait for the summer to teach them to swim (maybe I am getting ahead of myself…)

No Christmas music on the radio?!!??!

I am a proud supporter of all things Christmas–pine tree scented candles (thanks for sending me one Aunt Dawn and Uncle Rick), circling the neighborhoods to see lights (actually found some good ones here already), eating candy canes, decorating my college house from top to bottom in wrapping paper, watching every Christmas movie ever made (watched a French one the other night with the kids)….I could go on but I’ll refrain.

The one thing I absolutely LOVE is when the radio begins playing Christmas music 24/7!  The day after Thanksgiving is like a holiday in itself and I have begun to think of this day as the official date when I can share my Christmas enthusiasm with everyone.  Honestly I begin listening to the tunes and lighting Christmas candles long before this “holiday” (probably around October) but I keep it to myself because I realize not everyone likes to think of Christmas before Thanksgiving as I do…

But here in France my little “holiday” is set back a bit because Christmas songs don’t come on over the radio. OH THE HORROR!!!

Even though the kids told me this sad news I still hope everyday that I will pass over a station playing Christmas tune (perhaps even in English).  Well, prayers were answered and this afternoon my favorite station, Virgin Radio, played Coldplay’s Christmas song.  I was extremely excited to be alone in the car (able to blast the song)driving through the country roads of France listening to Christmas music–just too bad it was raining and not snowing. Can’t have it all 🙂

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So I was driving home tonight after dinner and drinks with my Hungarian friends (I was outnumbered by people who live in a country that frankly I cant place on a map–yet) and I came across a radio station with ENGLISH. Immediately my ears perked up.  It was a commercial for CMT music awards on ABC–interesting advertisement for France.  Intrigued, I kept listening and was even more surprised when I heard a French DJ say the words; Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, Jason Aldean and Taylor Swift!  It was so hilarious with the accent that I just had to share this short story.  I was so happy to end my day with some country tunes on the radio in France (even though it was un peu bizarre comme même)