Tag Archives: music

Spring Break

Hello again, everyone! Hey, did you hear that 500 new fairytales were recently released from an archive in Germany? That’s pretty exciting for every lover of the fantastical like me. I just wonder how long it will take for Disney to ruin them ha ha ha.

But anyway, enough of that side note. Spring break is in full swing. I am, as tradition holds, watching Netflix while avoiding the mountain of school work that needs attending to. I’m back home in Tennessee for the week trying to enjoy a little r&r and ma famille. The weather is divine as well, sunny and cool, just as early March should be. We’ve had two fires in the fireplace since I got in Sunday night, and I get to shuffle around the house in sweaters and thick socks. It’s lovely.

It’s actually been a rather eventful past few days. Mom and Dad came down to pick me up in Gainesville on Saturday having dodged then braved storms all the way from Nashville to south Georgia. That night they officially met the lad for the first time. I don’t exactly have a great track record for picking guys that pass muster. I could not have asked for a more different and exponentially better outcome this Saturday past. Both parties enjoyed each other immensely, and we all had a lovely dinner. It was quite adorable because both sides asked the next day what the other thought of them. I was happy to give satisfactory reports all around.

As much as I hate to admit emotional weakness and general gooey-eyedness, I am miss the lad a lot. It’s our first significant amount of time apart since we started up. I’m starting to wonder how we’re going to make it through three months when I leave for Nashville come May. Oh yeah, I’ll be living in Nashville over the summer completing an internship at the Tennessee State Museum working with some photography collections and getting to work on some of the programs done across the state. I’m looking forward to it very much. Although I will be very busy and close to my friends and family again, I will miss Ryan greatly. But what’s that Rochefoucauld quotation, “Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.” I’m banking on that being the case.

Enough of that business, though. I got to spend the entire day yesterday in the studio. I was also on fire. Out of seven plates, only one turned out slightly less than what I wanted. That never happens. I will freely admit I have expended five or six plates just to get one shot perfectly. I have a senior picture shoot with a local student Thursday so I hope the winning streak lasts.

Well, I think I have probably wasted enough time, and I should get onto my Ethics homework. I will leave you with two more things, though. Last Friday Ryan and I spent time listening to and sharing music with each other. The fact that we can do this is very important to me. We both share a love for La Blogothèque‘s Take Away Shows and, because we’re freakishly cute, we both think the Beirut ones are the best. So, as a last bit of gooey-eyedness here they are because they remind me of the lad (and they’re just amazing if you’ve never watched them). Enjoy.

(Okay, no more lovesick puppy nonsense again for a very long while).

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Memphis Day 1: The birth of rock and soul OR how Betsy nearly collapsed from multiple musical nerdgasms

I am a self-admitted music nerd. I gathered many hours at university in music history courses covering everything from the Delta blues to the Beatles. In May my parents and I stopped at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on our way home from graduation. That was a really cool experience, by the way, even with 400 kindergarteners running around the museum. Who takes kindergarteners to a rock museum? Anyway, I decided that in light of our detour there, it seemed appropriate that we finally make the Memphis music trip. Memphis is extremely important in the history of American music, in case you hadn’t heard. The pulsing veins that carry the very lifeblood of three towering genres run straight through the heart of that city and continue to make Memphis a very relevant town in that respect.

My maternal grandmother’s family is from Memphis going back several generations, and much of our family continues to live there to this day. We go to visit my aunt and her family at least once a year usually, but we have never visited any of the multitude of important historical sites in the city. My younger cousin just graduated from high school in May, and we very much wished to see her before she leaves for college next month. We finally decided to be smart and kill two birds with one stone and make the music pilgrimage (at least for me) while seeing our family. Luckily my mother has a cousin with pretty amazing contacts in the Memphis tourism world, and our cousin generously made some phone calls and swung us tickets to Sun Studio, The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Stax, and Graceland, and my aunt, uncle, mom, two of my cousins, and I made a two day mini-vacation out of it.

To be honest, there was only one site I knew I had to see or the entire trip would be a waste: Sun Studio, the famous birthplace of rock and roll. I have read countless pages and watched countless hours of documentary film recounting the stories and importance of that building. Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, discovered and recorded many of artists who became household names and legends in music including Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, oh yeah, and a guy you might have heard of. Um, Elvis Presley ring any bells? While I disparage my home state quite often and am not choosing to continue my life within its borders, I have always been proud of the musical heritage of the state. From the peaks of the Smokies in the east to the rolling hills and rivers of the mid-state to the flat cotton and soy bean fields of the west, music has always risen and permeated everything here and then gone on to touch the world in the most spectacular ways.

I started my personal music pilgrimage at Sun Studio. There’s something in the air around that little building on Union Avenue. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels electric, magical even. As I walked down the alley from the parking lot and passed the images of the founding fathers of rock ‘n roll posted on the side of the building and looked up to see the giant Gibson hanging over the door, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps. As I opened the door everything else melted away, my family, the tourists around me, the sounds of the street outside. I was in the highest spiritual meditation at the altar of my religion’s most holy and ancient of temples.

The tour consisted of a trip into a small gallery containing photographs, memorabilia, and recording artifacts from the golden days. Our tour guide, Eldorado, was fabulous and came complete with slicked back hair, mutton chops, browlines, and rolled up Levis. He told us the story of Sun and Sam Phillips (which I realized I knew just as well as he did and could probably get a job as a tour guide there myself), played some music, and then took us down to the actual studio. It has been kept exactly as Sam had it fitted all those years ago. The only thing that’s changed are the pictures on the walls and most of the instruments. There are still some original pieces in there, though, such as…

...this microphone. This is the one they let you pose with for pictures. We were also told that one woman on a tour chose to lick it. To each her own, I suppose.

Oh, by the way, Howlin’ Wolf is probably my favorite of all the Sun artists from the early days. Here is the insane “Moanin’ at Midnight.”

It was a surreal feeling, standing in that space hearing clips of the recording sessions of the Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins) and the stories of rock’s own creation myth. I almost had a Hesiod moment. Not only had my idols of the early days of rock stood where I was standing creating the Lexington and Concord of popular music, but scads of my modern rock idols like Tom Petty and U2 had also stood there soaking in the history to make their own amazing works at Sun. Yes, Sun is still a working studio. Tours are given during the day and bands, such as our lovely tour guide’s (Eldorado and the Ruckus), record at night. It’s a living, breathing place not just a dusty box of old vinyl memories. I wish I could properly do the place justice, but no amount of images or fluttery descriptions can. Please, please, please, if you love rock and roll, go to Sun Studio on Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee.

My cousin Mols working the mic

Our guide. I'm afraid it was so crowded that this was the best picture I could snap of him. He truly was fantastic, though.

After Sun, we went downtown (and walked down the world renowned Beale St.) to visit the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum which was very well done and told the story of those two genres more specifically as they related to Memphis and Nashville as well. I will say that I did not like the fact that they are set up on a self-guided audio tour system. That’s just a personal preference issue on my part, though. I’m old fashioned and would rather read panels for myself or listen to a guide. I don’t dig wearing a headset. They did have stations where you could stop and listen to songs, though, which was pretty cool. The museum’s main exhibit was actually designed by the Smithsonian (the only one out there that has been other than the actual Smithsonian, by the way) so it was VERY well done. The number and quality of artifacts was jaw-dropping. Everything from Ike Turner’s first piano to Sam the Sham’s motorcycle. I recommend you all go there as well. Right now they have a special exhibit called “The Beatles Hidden Gallery” which showcases Paul Berriff’s photographs from the Beatles last tour in 1966 when they played Memphis. For those who know their Beatles history, this was shortly after Lennon’s misquoted God comment that sparked many a Beatles merch bonfire party across the American South. The pictures in the exhibit are great.

Beale Street (taken standing next to B.B. King's)

The microphone into which Carl Perkins sang and recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" at Sun

Can you guess from the headstock which important bluesman donated that little beauty? I'll give you a hint: his name's there in gold.

The final stop we made on our outing that day was to Stax the record company so famous for producing soul music from Otis Redding to Issac Hayes. Unfortunately, after Stax went under in the mid 70s, the original building was torn down, but thanks to those who realize the importance of preserving history, a new building was built on the original site and a Stax museum was opened in 2003. It really is a lovely museum filled with amazing memorabilia (hello Issac Hayes’ Cadillac!) and music. Unfortunately, though, I became rather violently ill right as we began our tour and we had to rush through, which really did break my heart. I definitely would have lingered much longer if I could. A visit there is also recommended.

The fine folks at Stax didn’t stop at just a museum, however. On site is also Stax Academy and Soulsville Charter School, which give local young people the opportunity to shine and meet their absolute highest potential both musically and academically fostering the continuation of a great legacy that goes so far beyond the gold records. Now how cool is that?

Unfortunately, they don't let you take photos inside the museum, so this will have to do.

Also, on an interesting but completely related side note, as we were walking to the museum door we spied this across the street:

I’m glad to see someone recognized the importance of that place and is doing something with it because it needs some major TLC. Memphis Slim, for those who don’t know, was an incredible blues piano player from Memphis. Here he is playing his own (very, very famous) song “Everyday I Have the Blues.”

So that was day one. Rather than wax poetic or gush anymore since I’m pretty sure I overflowed quite a ways back, I have a better idea for summing up. I will do it quite appropriately with song, one by Frank Turner to be exact. A friend of mine recently turned me on to him, and his song “I Still Believe” seems to fit the nature and themes of this post astonishingly well. I think it also shows how important the people, places, and events I got a brief glimpse of this past week were and how they extended so far beyond Memphis and continue to have this brilliant snowball effect across the world and generations, but I’ll stop there. Listen to Frank (an Englishman, in case you couldn’t tell). He gets it.

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Just a thought: Bands and Wet Plates

I know I just posted  this on my Facebook, and if you read it there, I am sorry to be redundant. However, I would like to pose a query for all my Music City buds (or anyone else in the general southeastish area). Because I am definitely sure that all of you who read my blog are all diverse and eclectic and have interesting connections, I would like to know if any of you know any local bands (country, indie, jazz or whatever) that would be interested in having some wet plate promo images made in a sort of mutual promotional deal. I think it could be a very fun concept to play with, so I thought I would throw that out there to see if I get any bites. If you have any leads, contact our studio at thevacantchairstudio@yahoo.com. Thanks much!

Oh and once again, here is our Flickr photostream with examples of some of The Vacant Chair Photography Studio’s work.

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Yum yum yum

The other day my mom took me to a new Mennonite grocery store that recently opened in our town. The fresh cheeses and breads were enough to sell me, but the aisles of old fashioned candy and dried snacks really impressed me. I now also have formed a troubling crack-like addiction to honey-roasted cashews. It’s very bad, and I don’t see a recovery in my future any time soon.

I am a bit of a foodie geek, and speaking of food, I have found this really awesome podcast called Snacky Tunes. It perfectly combines two of my favorite things good food and indie music. The program is hosted by Brooklyn-based twin brothers Terry D and DJ Never Forget, and they interview expert food enthusiasts and really awesome bands and djs. They also intersperse their broadcasts with nifty music. I love them, and you should too. I think my favorite episode thus far is the one where they interviewed Surfer Blood (love love love those crazy kids). You can find their iTunes page here. Also the other day they released a free playlist of live music from Snacky Tunes episodes. You can find a link to download it on their website here.

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Hope shines in the darkest places

The Voice Project is an amazing humanitarian program to aid the peace movement in Uganda. The project has partnered with women in Northern Uganda who are victims of the violence. These women have come together to support each other and promote peace in their homeland, and they do this through song. The Voice Project is working to promote these songs so their message of peace can spread. The Project also works to help these women start their own businesses so they can support themselves and their cause. It is an amazing effort and these women are truly beautiful. Listen to some of their songs of peace here and consider supporting such a great program.

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Exciting News!

There’s quite a bit of buzz today surrounding the announcement released by the simply awesome Fleet Foxes. Their highly anticipated (and for those impatient like myself, long-awaited) sophomore album, Helplessness Blues, is set to drop May 3. They have also released tour dates. Unfortunately Rochester is not one of them which makes me sad.  Nashvegas is, but I will be in Rochester preparing to graduate, so I’ll miss them at the Ryman. I urge all my Nashville buddies to go see them if you can, and let me know how awesome it was. The rest of the tour dates can be found here.

They have also released a single “Helplessness Blues.” I, naturally, think it’s fabulous. Have a listen.

Update: So it’s a good day for music. About ten minutes after posting this, I discovered that yet another of my favorite artists announced an album release date today. Brett Dennen’s Loverboy drops April 12. See the lovable redhead  make the announcement, himself, here.

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