Saturday, September 22, 2007

Just bring your beret and some perfume!

I'm heading off to Paris next weekend with my friends Carolyn and Corinne. Carolyn and I have both just turned 40 and have writer-ly aspirations. We were both a bit bummed about our 40th birthdays- mostly because we had envisioned creating some huge extravaganza and I couldn't because I was broke and depressed (see housing woes) and she couldn't because her daughter has a birthday at the same time as her and, well, you know, kids steal the show. Plus, neither of us were able to get it together to plan a big event.

We decided to treat ourselves to a weekend away. So where do two American expat women with writerly ambitions go for a weekend away? Paris of course!

Her sweet husband (and my friend) Vinz agreed to watch after the kids for a weekend. (He also made some half hearted remark about booking us a suite at the Ritz but I'm still waiting for the reservation!) Corinne has had a trying summer as well, so we decided to make it a girls weekend away. Corinne's a photographer so she can follow her muse as well...

Here's the itinerary for next weekend:
Arrive in Paris. Drink wine, drink coffee, sit in cafes, write in journals, walk around and look at beautiful paris. Eat in fabulous restaurants. Drink wine. Shop for cheese and pate. Listen to jazz in nightclubs. Drink wine. Eat in fabulous restaurants. Hang out in cafes and write. Reluctantly return to Amsterdam.

We are entertaining suggestions for restaurants and cafes that we must see! Please feel free to send advice!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Funky music scene in Amsterdam

Thursday night, I was invited by my friend Celeste's husband, Eoghan, to go to Paradiso and see "The Ex" and Getachew, a Dutch punk rock band playing with an Ethiopian saxophonist from the 60s. Paradiso is an amazing club set in an old church. There are stained glass windows behind the stage and balconies lining the theatre. They have excellent acoustics and beer is 2 euro 20 cents (much cheaper than a similar US venue, I think).

It was a great evening but the band ended at 10:30pm. After the show, Eoghan took off with his friends and my friend Jen and I decided to hang out see what the next band was like.
The dj was spinning some very cool Indian lounge music and mixing it up with some really great Arabic music. We had heard that the next band was Shantel and his Bucovar Orkestar. I really like Balkan beat music and we had already paid to see The Ex and enjoyed it so why the hell not?

As Shantel hit the stage in his trackie suit and knit hop hop hat, he started noodling around on the keyborad. Then the Drummer took the stage with slicked back long thin hair, a red sateen vest reminiscent of the ones I wore in "Show choir" and a cheesy goatee. The trombone player, accordionist, and the rest of the horns took the stage and suddenly BAM! the party started... and what a party it was. At one point as Shantel poured vodka over us and we jumped up and down in the air chanting "Disco Disco something something" "Hup Hup Hup!" - Jen screamed in my ear - "THIS IS LIKE BEING AT THE FUNKIEST FUNNEST WEDDING EVER!"

For your enjoyment, I paste the review of his latest album and I encourage you to get out there and see this band if you ever get a chance!

Crazy eclectic mix of mutant funk, Romanian ballads, Balkan brass and freestyle electronica: Shanelt and the Bucovina Orkestar.

Follow up to the hugely successfull "Bucovina Club" - curated and hosted by Frankfurter Shantel - who's forsaken his old downtempo weedhop stylings for the manic music of the Balkans. The record's a sort of imaginary soundtrack to a defunct but amazing, vodka-fuelled, gypsy-rave all-nighter club, the Bucovina, that used to take place under the portals of an elegant old Frankfurt theatre.The album transports the mood of the Bucovina Club nights, which gives the audience the right feeling for a sweatdriven dancenight. These featured 15 tracks are the ultimate drenching floorfillers in the small hours when hundreds of dance-hungry people are still going strong.

On Bucovina Club 2, 5 of the 15 tracks are exclusive original recordings and 5 are exclusive mixes. SHANTEL’s own tracks featuring stars of the Gypsy and Balkan music scene: BOBAN MARKOVIC and his son MARKO, JONY ILIEV, VESNA PETKOVIC, the all-star line-up BUCOVINA CLUB ORKESTAR, the exclusive remixes feature MAHALA RAI BANDA, FANFARE CIOCARLIA, SANDY LOPICIC ORKESTAR & French-Romanian actress RONA HARTNER (of TONY GATLIF’s movie Gadjo Dilo) while the other tracks present a host of famous artists and some newcomers such as: DR. NELLE KARAJLIC, BALKAN BEAT BOX, SLONOVSKI BAL and GORAN BREGOVIC. SHANTEL’s crazily eclectic mix of Clubsounds, Future Funk, Roma Ballads, Balkan Brass and Freestyle Electronica is already legendary across the dancefloors of Europe. Digital teams up with analogue, beat embraces melody, tango goes lyrical – and it ain’t over til even the samovar sings. There’s no denying SHANTEL’s former life as a producer of Downtempo and Electronica – it’s an experience that has taught him to fly in the face of convention by treating local Eastern European and Balkan music in the same way as HipHop or all kinds of club music and making them just as much an integral part of today’s youth and pop culture.

There’s nothing clichéd about this new wave of music – and not a bobble-hatted world music purist in sight. Bucovina Club is pure, naked euphoria and brings together all ages and nationalities. Not in a politically correct, happy-clappy multiculturalists way – but by placing a direct and visceral punch that really gets people moving. The parties take up where the ecstatic raves of the House and Techno generation left off. This atmosphere is transferred into the second BUCOVINA CLUB CD. SHANTEL and his Bucovina Club is in great demand, not only at European festivals and Clubs. The big names of the Gypsy music scene jamed with him or have had their recordings produced by him or remixed by him: TARAF DE HAIDOUKS, MAHALA RAI BANDA, KOCANI ORKESTAR, ZDOB SI ZDUB, BOBAN MARKOVIC ORKESTAR, FRANK LONDON’S KLEZMER BRASS ALLSTARS, SANDY LOPICIC ORKESTAR, just to name a few.

On the Electric Gypsyland tour he played 30 festivals from France to Morocco and La Reunion, and he has taken his Bucovina Club to such in-clubs as the Nouveau Casino and Favela Chic (Paris), Futuro Flamenco/Nottinghill Arts Club (London), P.P.C. (Graz), the MTV Festival in Bucharest's biggest disco, the legendary Transmusicales in Rennes, to Tel-Aviv, the Balkan Fever Festival (Vienna) and even to such temples of high culture as the State Theatres of Vienna, Hamburg and Stuttgart, the Hebbel Theater in Berlin and the Vienna Festival. A large number of cities have now regular Club evenings like Zurich (Xtra), Nuremberg (K 4) and, of course, hometown Frankfurt (Schauspiel). Even vast crowds have been drawn into the world of the Bucovina Club: as the closing act of the Station-to-Station-Festivals in Florence, on the biggest square in Czernowitz (Bucovina) and at the summer open air events in Frankfurt. SHANTEL’s Bucovina Club has put the Balkans firmly on the map of contemporary pop culture, throwing overboard the stereotypes and clichés, putting a whole new slant on the way we think about the “wild east” and Gypsy culture. Bucovina Club is a heady mix of electronic club music and vibrant Roma music.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The show!

The show last night was wonderful! It was an interesting experience going to a Dutch rock concert... people openly smoke marijuana and get wasted on beer and noone cares. I haven't smelled so much pot since my last grateful dead show! Anyway, I had to sit alone but I still had a fabulous time. I splurged and bought tickets as close to the stage as I could find. They had some fabulous video screens so you could see closeups and Sting was as beautiful as ever.

Sadly, after the show was over, I went to the bar in the arena to get a drink and they were playing their final concert in 1984 and you could tell how much they had aged. But they sounded good if not as tight and falsetto-y as the 80s.

Here's the play list:

Message in a bottle
Synchronicity 2
Walking on the moon
Voices/World is Running Down
Don't stand so close to me
Driven to Tears
Hole in my life
Truth hits everybody
Every little thing she does is magic
De Doo Doo Doo
Invisible sun
Walking in their footsteps
One World
Can't Stand Losing You
Encore: King of Pain
So Lonely
Every Breath You take
Next To You

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My 40th birthday with Sting and the Police

My 40th birthday happened in August. Unfortunately for me, it occurred simultaneously with my giant housing disaster. I was panicked and anxiety ridden about trying to find a new place to live and the fact that I had to come up with more than a months salary to put down a deposit to live and was losing my deposit from the apartment I was currently in. Instead of renting the beer bike with my good Dutch friends here and having a riotous day of drunken debauchery, I had a small gathering with a few people in my apartment where I drank a bit too much wine on an empty stomach and tried to keep the anxiety at bay. My dream party - flying to New York City, partying with Brian and Kevin, Bernice, Alec, my sister, and other assorted friends and then going to see the Police on their reunion tour was not to happen.

So tonight, I'm going to do what I really really wanted to do - I'm going to go see the Police in concert. Unfortunately, I'm basically going alone because noone I knew wanted to go with me and another friend bought tickets to the event and never called to see if I was interested. But I don't mind. It'll be me and Sting singing to each other, making eye contact, and falling in love all over again like we did when I was 15.

Yes, I'm still bitter that my parents never let me go to the Police's final concert tour in Greensboro, NC because I was too young! I've seen Sting in concert a number of times but Sting's solo persona is a bit too blandly romantic for me. I prefer the sunbleached punk rock bassist with the sexy mouth from Zenyatta Mondatta, Outlandos d'Amour, and Regatta de Blanc. Synchronicity and Ghosts in the Machine are not my favorite albums but my favorite song comes from Ghosts in the Machine --"Every Little Thing She does is Magic" - coincidentally, those lyrics were presented to me by Gene Matthews my freshman year in high school when he attempted to tell me that he was in love with me.

I still remember listening to the first album of their's I ever bought - "Regatta de Blanc". I had to do a poetry project for my Junior year's advanced English class. I chose the song "Message in a bottle"and I attempted to paste photos that reflected my lonely outcast teenage angst feelings onto a wine bottle. In particular, I clearly remember photos from Iceland of a man that looked like Sting sitting in a lonely thermal pool in the mountains.

I sang "So Lonely" into my college boyfriend, Nick Leoncavallo's answering machine when he was away on a trip. I have consoled myself with "Can't Stand Losing" when life hasn't gone my way and cried to "the Bed's too big without you" when I have been heart broken. I analyzed "Wrapped around your finger" and told everyone it was written in Iambic Pentameter like the pretentious English major to be I was. I listened to "King of Pain" late at night in my bedroom. I danced riotously to "De doo doo doo, de daa daa daa" and wanted to be the subject of "Don't stand so close to me" with my English professor in college.

I can't imagine my life without the Police so here's to my 40th and here's to tonight.

Monday, September 03, 2007

My horoscope today

You are riding the career train to success. You have sufficient energy and determination, but today something can muck it all up. A coworker, perhaps, has unwittingly interfered by tampering with the tracks causing you to derail. Don't worry if you are thrown off course; it's not permanent. But then again, nothing is.

For those of you who know my current difficulties with my job... this is ironic.