I also have fond memories of the Gorge at George, including Tool frontman Maynard James-Keenan strutting onto stage at dusk in a full-length dress and brunette wig. Also, there I saw Snoop Dogg and Jack Johnson.
The Zoo's first 2011 Wednesday evening concert is July 13. I am not familiar with Plena Libre's Puerto Rican Afro-Caribbean sound, but I hear they are terrific. Swing by Trader Joe's beforehand, grab some snacks and blanket, and show up ready to dance like a hippie banshee with a lawnful of kids, families, and good cheer.
With that in mind: Eleven Songs in summer 2010 that got our little family dancing.
1. July 2010. It became evident in the opening ten seconds of Caravan Palace's zoo show that their performance was not going to be extraneous to anything, including the elephant with the elephantine dangling appendage watching from his home in back. Jolie Coquine is electrofied gypsy-jazz at its danciest. Raw joy with the scat vocals of delicious frontwoman Sonia Fernandez sounding Nancy Sinatra-sexy and Billie Holiday-soulful. We danced, and everyone danced, and the animals that could dance, did.
2. Did Vampire Weekend's Holiday get played way too much in 2010? So I hear. Guess what? I rarely (voluntarily) listen to the radio*, so I have no idea what sort of masochistic captive audience lets themself be subjected to it on overload. I like to listen on my own terms, which is why I don't listen to radio. Which can be silly, in a hermit-crab kinda way - in 2003, I accidentally tuned in to a California hits station and discovered a song that was catchy. Hmm, this is fun, I unfortunately said aloud, and then discovered that the rest of the world had already been listening to Hoobastank's The Reason all summer long, sixteen times a day on every Top 40 station in the country. Oh well. I also discovered The Simpsons in Season Ten. So, Holiday: bouncy, cheerful guitars that sound like they're on vacation. Like what Jimmy Buffett might sound like if he rolled out of his cabana, borrowed a Strokes guitarist, and drank coffee instead of margaritas.
3. Story Told. M.I.A. (Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam) bangs her Roland 505 sequencer with the effervescent energy of Jack White on his six-string. Deadpan recitations about information displacement and media reporting in the digital age slog their way across occasional strands of actual singing and roll in and out of background chants and Middle Eastern bleeps, sirens and electronic growls. Chills as she keeps circling back to the reverberating chorus:
All I ever wanted was my story to be told
All I ever wanted was my story to be told
I want M.I.A. and Saul Williams to duet.
4. Crown on the Ground. Sleigh Bells may be a one-trick pony, but they are a pony with the growl of a wart hog.* Fuzzed up group shout-outs about not liking popular kids, or something like that. I would guess they are fans of Winona Ryder's third-best film ever, Heathers. Band members obviously did not have a good high school experience. Whenever I play it loud, I think a speaker cone is broken. Terrible production, crazily catchy; ironic wink coupled with huge hippopotamus smile. The lyrics are ridiculous and buried under miles of blown-amp guitar shots. The beats are big and the adrenaline is redline. You will dance. You will.
*do wart hogs growl? I like to think so.
5. Scott Pilgrim 16-bit by Camilo Diaz Pino. Blurbly, old Nintendo game-channeling instrumental that Magdelana emphatically loves every time I play it. Does it withstand the power of a thousand listens? I doubt it. But that's what's great about making conscious choices with playlist choices: it will always be a delightful soundtrack addition to a year in our life. And its incessant, repetitive bleeping is shadowed by Magdelana's simple declaration I like this. I really, really like this song.
Also, we double-heart Michael Cera, although Becca still refers to him as George Michael.
6. All rock & roll since 1964 can be traced back to the Fab Four. Some bands wear that debt in subtle fashion (Radiohead, Badly Drawn Boy); others in blatant adulation (Elliott Smith, Oasis). The phrase Beatlesque Pop is like saying "Stalinesque Authoritarianism." Overkill and overstatement. At some point, all pop music sounds a little like the Beatles. It's always interesting to try and pinpoint a band's other reference points. I have rarely heard such barefaced tribute to an idol as OK Go's End Love, a song that ostensibly has nothing to do with Prince, but sounds exactly like him, like an outtake from Sign O' The Times.
Okay, not exactly. But it is very Prince-like. I suppose any song that is sexy and danceable goes back to him at some point too.
7. Los Cuatro Muleros*. Josephine Foster and the Victor Herrero Band romp through three minutes of furious handclaps, castanets, and guitars like operatic Spanish bullfighters. I have no idea what she is singing in her soprano tremolo, but it is spirited, melancholy, and toetappingly irresistible. I really need to learn Spanish. Tal vez mañana.
8. Khaira Arby's Khaira. Malian vocalist with a voice that gently melds a butterfly and a water buffalo.
9. Delicate Steve's Butterfly. A sweet, simple, complex instrumental that feels simultaneously electro and organic. Deceptively layered. Like an onion, or Eminem.
10. Radiowave. Germany Germany. I have a special place in my heart for substanceless techno and Eurodance. My dancing has occasionally* been described with words such as spastic, dangerous, and arrhythmic. Thank you to you who have used these words to compliment me. I accept your compliments. Generally, when these compliments are paid to me, it is directly inspired by the beautiful emptiness of a track such as this playing at Geiger-counter levels. My moves are impressive to Becca. Ask her.
11. Caravan Palace's La Caravane: more gypsy swing that has got our family this close from selling our possessions on eBay and moving to the streets of Paris to hang out with street musicians and bebop our way from one croissant shop the next and just feel that rhythm. Sexy guitars. Sexy voices. Sexy beats. Sexy everything. Umbrella-ed with Joy.
Honorable mention: the first five seconds of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance. I don't even care about the rest of the song. I'm not even sure I've heard the entire song. But her "Ra ra, ah ah ah roma, roma-ma gaga, oh la-la" opening is UNBELIEVABLE. I could hum it all day. Unfortunately, I have done so, and have got Becca and Magdelana growling it out too.
Ra ra, ah ah ah roma. That is songwriting.
Dance. It inspires smiling. Do re mi fa, so long.