The Day the Music Survived

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Yesterday, when the news was announced that the legendary entertainer, guitar god, sex symbol, and one-of-a-kind musician we all knew as Prince died, I cried quietly at my desk at work. I was overwhelmed…saddened…then numb. The number 57 (his age) circled around and around in my head, and every time, I thought, Too young. Much too young. My good friends, who are well aware of my Prince fanaticism, reached out to me and offered long-distance hugs, condolences, and memories.

I’m well aware that I didn’t actually know Prince and thus, the emotional roller coaster I’m describing could be laughable or seem melodramatic to some. Trust me, it’s weird for me to say that I had such an emotional reaction over the death of someone I never actually met. But here’s the thing: I ritualistically bathed in his music, and his tunes often served as the soundtrack for important and joyful moments of my life. Cases in point…

When I bought my first house in Phoenix, Arizona, at the age of 22, I stripped down to my skivvies, blasted the Purple Rain soundtrack, and danced my booty off in every single room of the house, because that was the most joyful way I could think of to christen my new home and celebrate my own sense of personal achievement.

When my friend, Nikki, and I found out Prince was playing 21 nights in Los Angeles a few years ago, tickets were only $15, and I was going to be visiting her in San Diego one of the weekends he was playing, we promptly scheduled a road trip. We drove to The Forum blasting Prince records, bought knockoff T-shirts outside the venue, and snuck in our phones to document the experience. I’d never seen a true entertainer live until that night. The guitar licks. The costumes. The dancing. The sex appeal. And special guest Sheila E! Nikki and I were both electric the rest of the weekend.

Prince live

Of course, when I made it public that I went to a Prince show, my good friend and badass saxophonist, Dr. Dan Puccio, was thoroughly offended I’d gone without him. So, we planned our own road trip a few weeks later. Again, Prince did not disappoint. The show a completely different set than what I’d seen a few weeks prior and hummed with the same indescribable energy. The diehard fans, Dan and me included, refused to leave The Forum, even when the lights came up, and there may have been a few epic rounds of The Wave. Our persistence paid off. We were privy to five encores, each more incredible than the last, and for one, Prince rode out on a bicycle and said, “Oh, you’re still here. Mind if I sing a few more?” Surreal and magical, my friends.

ControversyPrince’s “Controversy” was the song I performed my very first feather fan dance to when I moonlighted as a burlesque performer, something that saved my life. As Prince sang about all the silly things we find risqué and controversial, I performed a striptease for the very first time. In that moment, I wasn’t just taking off clothes—I was shedding a history of body dysmorphia and the choking memories of a teenage tango with anorexia. I was proving to both the audience and myself that I was fabulous and confident and beautiful, without apology. If there was ever a performer who encouraged you to embrace your weird and wild little self, it was Prince, so “Controversy” was the perfect soundtrack for that moment of personal transcendence and self-discovery.

A few years ago, I saw Prince at the Marquee in Tempe, an abandoned movie theater turned standing room only rock venue, and I was 40 feet away from the master. To this day, it’s most electric concert experience I’ve ever had. I danced, I cried, I swooned to guitar riffs from the gods, I drank the purple Kool-Aid and begged for more. I shared this crazy, once-in-a-lifetime, musical lovefest with everyone there. I’ve never felt a more palpable, concrete level of community at a show before. There was something lovely in the air that night, something that bound us together, something like compassion and love and understanding.

There have been Prince viewing parties (Purple Rain is by far the best film he made, but Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge are pretty fantastic in their own way, too), late night (and maybe a little tipsy) jam sessions during which I belted out “Little Red Corvette,” countless dance performances, priceless vinyl acquired, midnight trysts to Prince playlists, and karaoke sing-a-longs in falsetto.

The common denominator of all of these experiences is joy. Pure, fundamental, ultimate joy. That’s what his persona, his confidence, and his music provided me—and so many others.

And that’s why yesterday was so hard. One of the purveyors of joy in my life moved on, transcended, transformed, became something else, something intangible. And in his wake, there was a loss. A big, gaping blackhole of sadness. How do you crawl out of something like that?

Luckily, about halfway through the day, my mourning changed. Instead of dwelling on death, conspiracy theories, and loss, I began to reminisce. I thought about that first night in my new house, the concerts and memories I’ve shared with friends, the music that never fails to move me. And there it was. The joy. Bubbling up under my sternum, turning my lips up into a smile.

Prince recordsLast night, I celebrated Prince’s legacy in the only way I knew how—I watched Purple Rain, stripped down to my skivvies, and danced as hard as I could to every single musical performance. And I was reminded that though his bodily form is gone, Prince can play live in my living room any night I want. He will continue his Purple Reign by gracing silver screens and turntables, belting through earbuds and sound systems, continuing to fill us all with longing, funk, and happiness.

Good night, sweet Prince. Thank you for leaving your indelible mark on my life and proving to everyone you can crush it while being anything and anyone you want to be.

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Postmodern Jukebox’s Show is a Reminder of the Good in This World

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Yesterday, I spent an embarrassing amount of time practicing deep breathing and convincing myself that everything was going to be okay and it was irrational to let my anxiety take hold. You see, my boyfriend and I had tickets to see the incredible Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ) at the House of Blues in San Diego. And even though I was ridiculously excited to see PMJ live, I was also a little terrified.

In light of the horrific attacks in Paris and San Bernardino in recent weeks, I’ve been on edge in public, heavily crowded places. It’s safe to say my anxiety has gotten the best of me a number of times. I find myself regularly scouting exits, determining how I’d escape in case of an emergency. My talent for imagining worst case scenarios shifts into overdrive. When this happens, I instruct myself to down a rationality cocktail—calm down, think clearly, turn off the newscasts, live in the moment.

That last part of the cocktail, live in the moment (and sometimes “live your damn life, Tiffany!”), is the most important ingredient. It’s generally what gets me out of the house and out into the world. Because you can’t live behind closed doors paralyzed by fear, especially when people and music and performance and the bustle of city life are the things that make you happy.

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Because I’ll take any excuse to wear this gorgeous vintage dress from Bad Madge – and red lipstick, of course!

So, I put on my vintage, sequined, 1950s-style frock, hooked my arm in my boyfriend’s, and strolled the few blocks downtown to the House of Blues, where a line for the show wrapped around half the city block. The show had sold out. And I wasn’t the least bit surprised.

If you haven’t heard of PMJ yet, I’m about to introduce you to your new obsession. The brainchild of the incomparable Scott Bradlee, PMJ is an antidote to the over-produced, Auto-Tune-dependent, repetitive music that you generally hear on the radio. It’s also a time machine. PMJ takes Top 40-style hits, changes up their arrangements so they sound like something from yesteryear, and then pairs dynamite singers with dynamite musicians (and sometimes dancers, too!) to bring the re-envisioned song to life. Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine” morphs into a New Orleans soul song. Ariana Grande’s “Love Me Harder” turns into a James Bond theme. Maroon 5’s “Maps” gets a vintage 1970s soul makeover. Rihanna’s “Umbrella” transforms into a Singin’ in the Rain-style tune—with tap dancers and umbrellas! Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty to Me” becomes a vintage klezmer—with a rap in Yiddish.

Often, I like PMJ’s covers more than the originals. And it’s not just the gimmick of this concept, the novelty of the act. The songs are thoughtfully crafted and brilliantly executed. And holy crap, the talent involved in this project is off the charts! PMJ works regularly with dozens of insanely gifted and dedicated musicians, and their videos (which premiere on a weekly basis) and concerts feature a revolving door of talent.

Last night, Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart, Ariana Savalas, Joey Cook, Maiya Sykes, Blake Lewis, and Sarah Reich opened the show with Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” performed in the style of the roaring 20s. I was immediately smiling from ear to ear. The anxiety that had sat in my gut all day drained out of my body. And I danced, because I couldn’t keep still. The music and the energy were so infectious.

During their individual performances, Casey wowed us with his luscious man bun, gravelly vocals, phenomenal upright bass-playing skills, and, of course, his New Orleans-style take on Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One.”

Haley flirted with us through a swanky version of Britney Spears’s “Oops, I Did It Again,” and then completely slayed a cover of “Creep,” the PMJ video I believe she’s most known for.

Ariana won me over with her hilarious antics (this woman is the definition of a modern burlesque performer—humor, sex appeal, pipes, character), not to mention that Jessica Rabbit-inspired performance of “No Diggity.”

Joey delivered the damn cutest rendition of “Hey There, Delilah,” complete with ukulele and accordion accompaniment (and yes, she played both). Her performance reminded us all what it feels like to fall in love the first time.

Maiya took us to church singing “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” and then catapulted Adele’s new single, “Hello,” into another stratosphere.

Blake attacked “Radioactive” with gorgeous vocals, beat-boxing, and enough dapper flair to inspire us all to go out and buy a pageboy cap.

And then there was my dance/girl crush, Sarah Reich, who is giving voice to the art of tap dancing and making it relevant again. She is a consummate performer, making the most difficult steps look easy and flawless, a huge smile on her face at all times. And when you can match a drummer beat for beat (yeah, she can and she proved it during the show), you know you’ve got one hell of a tapper on your hands.

Scott Bradlee took the stage halfway through the show to thank us for supporting PMJ and promised they’re just getting started. He asked if he could play a little piano for us, requested artist suggestions from the audience, and performed an impromptu piano mashup of Michael Jackson, Queen, Billy Joel, Elvis Presley, and MC Hammer.

And I can’t fail to mention the infamous Tambourine Guy, Tim Kubart, who intermittently exploded onstage, tambourines rattling, and performed with the exuberance and joy commonly reserved for “hyperactive” kids—a joy I feel like we’re told to abandon as soon as we reach a certain age, because it’s silly or inappropriate somehow. Personally, I think we need to bring that joy back. I’m happy Tim and his irresistible energy are an integral part of PMJ’s show.

The full cast brought it home with a cover of “Such Great Heights,” and the song swelled in the House of Blues as if these six singers were, in fact, a full chorus. Scott came out onstage and attempted shuffle stomps alongside Sarah. Casey whispered something to Haley between verses and she laughed. The whole crowd swayed and danced.

And I can’t remember the last time I felt that happy.

I didn’t realize how deeply I needed last night’s PMJ concert until I was slow dancing with my boyfriend to their encore, a sweet, simple version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” happy tears streaming down my cheeks. After weeks of being on edge and sinking slowly into a state-of-the-world-inspired depression, my heart was light. I felt joy bubbling up in my chest. There was suddenly a place for this holiday season in my heart, which is usually “the most wonderful time of the year,” but has seemed overshadowed by sadness recently.

Last night, PMJ was a beacon of hope for me—and probably many others in the audience—an important reminder that the human spirit, the good in this world, going out to live your life, and the unity inspired by music are far more powerful than fear.

Celebrating 20 Years of Queer

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On Tuesday night, I stepped into a time machine and traveled back 20 years along with 1,400 of my closest friends and an iconic band led by a sultry singer with pink hair.

Twenty years ago, I was 10 years old, bumbling through that awkward space of not-quite-pre-teen but already boy crazy and very much feeling like the other. In sixth grade, the division begins. Concepts like popularity take shape. Boys start to have opinions about when you should start shaving your legs (true story). The things you love are suddenly categorized into “cool” and “not cool at all.” If you are not among the pretty girls who are up on the latest trends, you start to feel a little…queer.

For us strange girls who didn’t quite fit in, a band like Garbage, fronted by the incomparable Shirley Manson, was a godsend.

Garbage sounded different than anything else on the radio at the time (and intentionally so). Duke Erikson, Steve Marker, and Butch Vig blended trip hop beats with electronica and classic pop (and countless other styles and influences) to create a truly funky backdrop for Shirley Manson’s grungy, moody, resonant vocals. Of course, the combination worked, catapulting singles like “Stupid Girl” and “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” into heavy pop culture rotation.

And Shirley Manson was the complete opposite of popular girl Cher from the cult teen movie Clueless, whom everyone was trying to emulate at the time. Manson was a much-needed counter balance, someone who could advocate for girls who didn’t relate to bubble gum and brands. Quite frankly, she was the bad ass female figure we needed in the media at the time to understand that everyone didn’t need to look like the epitome of popularity.

What I remember most from the early days of listening to Garbage as a kid are the lyrics. Shirley Manson seemed to be saying a lot of the things I was thinking (You pretend you’re high/You pretend you’re bored/You pretend you’re anything/Just to be adored), and I was a little shocked and awed that someone would say those things out loud. Oh, the sweet, innocent thought patterns of a 10-year-old.

And then, of course, Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet came out in 1996, along with a wicked soundtrack that includes the infamous Garbage track “#1 Crush.” Between Leonardo DiCaprio’s adorable mug and that song, so many of my girl friends and I started pining for our first boyfriends and, dare I say it, deep kisses, sweaty bodies, and “die for you” kind of love. I’m pretty sure that moment in time represented a sexual awakening for many of us, which had been started, of course, by David Bowie in Labyrinth years earlier, whether or not we were fully aware of it.

But back to Garbage. That first self-titled album was everywhere, peeking out of backpacks and gifted at birthday parties. You were likely to see pink spinning inside any “queer” guy or girl’s Discman. Kids experimenting with alternative style would offer flashes of Manson’s bad girl flare—dark eyeliner here, short skirts there. And, of course, there were the pink feathers.

And thank God for all of that. Because for me, this band has always represented the other, the outsider, the girl or guy on the fringes—without apology. And that’s pretty fucking special.

Garbage’s tour, which I attended on Tuesday night, is called 20 Years of Queer, and I honestly can’t think of a better name or representation of the experience. San Diego was Garbage’s first tour stop, and they played Humphrey’s by the Bay, a beautiful open-air venue on Shelter Island.

Before the concert began, my boyfriend and I looked around the audience and felt like we were surrounded by “our people,” individuals who clearly remember 1995 and 1996 and who undoubtedly bought this album on CD—or hell, maybe cassette?—and played it ad naseum.

A white cloth hung in front of the stage and before the music began, pop culture images and behind-the-scenes footage of Garbage from the mid-90s were projected on it. A clip of Princess Diana giving an interview. Shirley Manson putting on makeup in a dressing room God knows where. Courtroom footage from the O.J. Simpson trial. The band backstage, flipping off what was probably a gigantic hand-held video camera. Then “Supervixen” began and we watched Garbage traipse about the stage behind the scrim, illuminated by pink light, their shadows teasing us with their almost-presence.

When the white cloth fell, we all screamed, and we were officially back in 1995, reliving a slice of our past with a band who helped us shape it.

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It’s been 20 years, but Garbage certainly doesn’t play like it. Manson continues to be a hell of a performer, circling the stage with seemingly pissed off intention, making jokes between songs in her thick, Scottish brogue, belting out the lyrics that need to be belted, working a pink boa, and let’s not forget about the rad pink hair. And it wasn’t just Manson living the rock star life onstage. Her bandmates played with zeal and finesse and such a beautiful level of musicianship. I felt like I was listening to the original record, the music was so precise and amazing.

We all sang along as Garbage performed their entire self-titled album, punctuated with rarities and B-sides like “Driving Lesson,” “Girl Don’t Come,” and “#1 Crush.”

And personally, during the concert, I remembered why I’m so happy to label myself as a girl who’s a lot left of center, a girl on the edge, a girl who relates to Garbage’s music and Shirley Manson’s realness.

Garbage lovers, this concert is more than a concert. It’s a celebration of self-recognition. If you’re like me—regardless of where you were 20 years ago, how old you were, how you were navigating your life in that moment—Garbage helped you realize that you were different—and that that was more than okay.

And wouldn’t you know it, it still is.

Crushworthy: Butch Walker

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Chances are good you already have a crush on Butch Walker, even if you’ve never heard him play live. That’s because this 80s hair metal guitar god turned guitarist/vocalist for an alt-rock band turned solo artist who wrote the best torch song of all time has also produced for the likes of Weezer, Pink, The Donnas, American Hi-Fi, Fall Out Boy, and The All American Rejects—to name a few. This is good shit, people. Butch knows how to write a hell of a song.

But for me, personally, the crush stems from his tattooed arms, his voice that can gravel scream one second and then whisper the next with the same level of emotion and commitment, his lyrics, which are more honest than most dreams—even the ones that come from the deepest part of your subconscious. Or maybe it’s because on Friday night in Scottsdale, Arizona, Butch reveled in both the stupidly mundane story of how he tore his meniscus and the truly not mundane story of how he lost his virginity at 15 to the leopard print legging wearing keyboard player in his band. Yeah, that might be it…

When I accepted my new job four weeks ago, I had a condition; my boss had to allow me to work a half day my first Friday in the office so I could fly back to Arizona to see Butch Walker live in my home state. My (for all intents and purposes) big sister, Rachel, got me a ticket to the show months and months ago to celebrate my birthday, and come hell or high water, I wasn’t going to miss it. Luckily, my new manager is rad, completely understood, and Friday night, Rachel and I rolled up to Livewire to see one of my rock star boyfriends in action.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t my first Butch Walker show. Years ago, Rachel and I drove to L.A. to see Butch perform the entirety of Sycamore Meadows at The Hotel Café, which was a beautiful albeit somber show to match the vulnerability and emotional resonance of the album. For me, it was worth every mocking milepost of the boring drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles.

But this was different. Instead of a full album in sequential order, I would get to see Butch creating his own impromptu-ish set list and calling the shots—and taking a number of shots of whiskey during the show, which only made my lady crush grow exponentially throughout the evening.

And now we fan girl.

Butch opened the night with “Joan,” one of my all-time favorite songs of his—because it’s rock and emotion and piano and yes…it was hauntingly, achingly perfect. After a few more songs at the piano, Butch moved to acoustic guitar and I almost peed myself when I heard the opening chords of “Don’t Move.” And we won’t even discuss what happened to my musical heart when Butch took a lovely guitar solo and then proceeded to sing a sample of BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone.”

Then, it was time to get electric. As the amps popped and sizzled to life, we were introduced to Butch Walker the rocker, who likes his music loud, his denim vest ripped, and his audience screaming for more. I got a taste of the boy from Cartersville, Georgia, who got his start shredding guitar and growing long, luscious locks perfect for the glam rock era. There was the stirring and uncompromisingly sexy single “Bed on Fire,” Butch’s psychologist-recommended confessional trip through “She Likes Hair Bands,” and even a guitar-drenched cover of Tove Lo’s “Talkin’ Body.”

As if all of that wasn’t swoonworthy enough, Butch let us know that he’d crafted the set list around his late father’s favorite songs and he was playing them as a kind of tribute to a man who had always supported him. (Are you “aww-ing” yet?)

Two of those songs, “Love Ain’t Enough” (the first song Butch wrote for Southgang, reworked to be something “Leonard Cohen would play”) and “Freak of the Week” (from the Marvelous 3 days and sung by a local business owner(?)) were songs Rachel had never heard Butch play live before. And the girl’s been to some Butch Walker shows.

And guys, this was essentially a one man show. Sure, backup singers drifted onstage for a couple songs (and were so talented and lovely) and someone offstage shook a tambourine to the beat here and there, but Butch played piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and even his own percussion. How the man is able to play two sets of rhythm simultaneously will always be beyond me. And he never missed a beat or hit a sour note. This stuff is in his blood.

Really, the magnetic firebomb of attraction that is Butch Walker boils down to this: there is nothing sexier than watching someone play an instrument, perform to an audience, share what they’ve created, and love every second of it (I know this by virtue of building a life with a musician myself—is it obvious I have a type?).

And you can tell Butch loves this, lives for this. He told us so a couple of times throughout the show, but he was simply reinforcing that which we could already see—that music is an extension of him, that it’s all that exists when he’s onstage, music and storytelling—and that there’s no other option for him in this crazy, elusive ride called life than to make music and fucking rock.

If you don’t have a crush on Butch after reading all of that, well…you’re a lost cause. Conversely, if you’re starting to feel the pitter-patter of giddiness in your chest, here’s some kindling to fuel the music crush fire:

For My Dad: “These Are the Days of Our Lives”

Photo by flickr user "Yola Simon."

Photo by flickr user “Yola Simon.”

My dad and I are experts at creating memories together.

I remember the echo of composite leather against concrete as my dad taught me the rules of basketball and how to throw a perfect lay-up when I was in grade school.

I remember sitting on barstools at our house on Kings Avenue in Paradise Valley eating—wait for it—Fritos and Miracle Whip.

I remember my dad sitting me down to have a hard conversation about one of my college boyfriends, because he saw an unbalanced relationship (he was right) and wanted more for me.

I remember driving down to the University of Arizona with him, because he wanted to be my moral support when I auditioned for their musical theater program.

I remember my dad calling me in one Halloween to watch a snippet of Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was much too young to see Dr. Frankenfurter gallivanting around in stockings and a garter belt. He flipped the channel before things got too risqué, laughing all the while.

But my best memories with my dad involve cassette tapes and an old red and white Ford truck. In my dad’s Ford, classic rock was king and his collection of cassettes sacred. I grew up singing along to the likes of Lynard Skynard, The Eagles, The Cars, and, most importantly, Queen. (Is it any wonder that I gravitated to musical theater with those theatrical, fantastical influences?)

Even as a kid, I knew there was something special about Freddie Mercury. The voice that could hit the craziest of notes with so much power. The alter ego that allowed Freddie to strut around on stage like a peacock. The lyrics, which made no sense to me as a kid (I’m still not sure if I know what’s going on in Bohemian Rhapsody—but I do know every word!) and yet I sensed intuitively they were damn good.

That was over 15 years ago. A lot has changed since I was a kid. I’m no longer a tomboy and kind of hate Miracle Whip. My dad is retired and the Ford is long gone. We both have lower back issues, which keep us from shooting hoops. Time has undoubtedly past; we’ve undoubtedly changed.

It can be hard to schedule time together, but where there’s a great daddy-daughter relationship, there’s a way. This past weekend, I took my dad to see the Phoenix Symphony playing the music of Queen, hoping to appeal to yesteryear and at the same time, make another memory.

And we did. Because there’s something about the music of Freddie Mercury and the connection two people can share through a mutual love of music.

By the third song of the set, “I Want It All,” wailed by Brody Dolyniuk (one hell of an impressive singer) and backed by a rock band and the symphony, we were singing along, clapping our hands, and smiling. We snapped our fingers through “Under Pressure.” We howled along with “Fat Bottomed Girls.” We got misty-eyed during “Who Wants to Live Forever.” We took bets on which songs would be in the encore (“We Will Rock You” and “We are the Champions”)—and we were right.

During the final song, we swayed together in a side hug to the beat and I wished we had lighters in our fingers. When the last note sounded through the theater, we raised our free hands to the sky, smiling—and I could’ve sworn that just for a second we were a little girl and her dad in a Ford truck singing beautiful songs into the night.

Photo licenseFreddie Mercury

Press Record

Photo by flickr user "Leo Reynolds." Titled RECord button.

Photo by flickr user “Leo Reynolds.” Titled RECord button.

Confession: I’m a singer who’s always hated the way her voice sounds when recorded. There. I said it. One of my dirty little insecurities.

Despite growing up in choir, singing in musicals, crooning into a mic as a burlesque performer, and singing backup in a band, I’ve never been able to shake the fear of hearing myself played back. Live gigs—let’s do it! Recordings—where’s the whiskey?

When my good friend, Nate Rosswog, asked me to record with him, I doubt he heard the snippy little voices in my head saying, “You know, if you do this, you’re going to have to listen to yourself. Over. And over. And over.” Instead, he heard me say, “Absolutely! That sounds great!”

The night of the recording, I made sure I was armed with loads of caffeine-free hot tea. I drove over humming to warm up my vocal chords. I chatted in the kitchen with my friend and pro musician, Teneia, while Nate laid down the piano track I’d sing to.

And then it was time. I stepped into the closet (urban sound booth!), positioned myself in front of the mic, slipped the headphones over my ears, and hoped no one could hear my pounding heartbeat on the other sides of the cables.

I told Ben—friend, musician, and sound engineer—that I was nervous and he half-jokingly asked if I’d like some whiskey. I have to admit, it was a tempting offer, but I chose adrenaline and breathing instead.

This was the first time I’ve recorded and truly been able to hear myself during the process (live recordings are an entirely different beast and more of what I’m used to). Just speaking into the mic to Ben before he hit record made that all of kinds of apparent.

I gave myself a pep talk. I wasn’t allowed to ask Ben to stop the recording every 10 seconds. Deep breath.

But something magical happened when the music started.  Familiar notes swam through the headphones and put me at ease. I had this. Instead of getting caught up in my insecurity, I just sang. I didn’t let myself second guess my talent. I connected with the lyrics of the song. I played with delivery and timing and runs.

I let go.

Two takes  and two false starts later, my vocals were done. I kept the headphones on and listened to the playback and for the first time, I didn’t think it sounded half bad. In that moment, I started to appreciate the fact that my voice doesn’t sound like anyone else’s. It’s mine. And that’s something.

In the spirit of fearlessness, here’s the track (complete with some beautiful harmonies by Nate). This one is for all the Sia fans out there—and anyone who has ever needed a little vote of confidence.

Nate, Ben, and Teneia, thanks for having confidence in me.

 

Photo licensing – RECord button

Crushworthy: Diego’s Umbrella

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So, I went to a concert this past Friday night at Crescent Ballroom, and it was a show I’ve been looking forward to for months, because MarchFourth Marching Band was the headliner. I’ve written about M4 before, and I was jonesing hard for some music from band geeks who’ve run away to join the circus…but as May 2nd approached, I realized that I was even more excited to see Diego’s Umbrella, the opening act.

That night, I officially morphed into a complete and utter Diego’s Umbrella fangirl. And I think you should all follow suit. Why? Well…

Diego’s Umbrella exemplifies gypsy rock, the kind of music that makes you stomp your feet and ache to adorn yourself with long skirts and layer after layer of scarves. Feast your eyes and ears on this…

The band is also the ultimate conglomeration of misfit toys, who fit perfectly together to create amazing music and a live experience that leaves fans laughing, out of breath, and vibrating. Their collective stage presence makes me want to crush them all with a group hug – and then drink whiskey with them. Individually…

The lead singer is one of my favorite frontmen onstage. He mixes the beautiful flamboyance of a flamenco dancer with a rocker mentality; the combination is soulful and sexy but with some grit. His posturing is beautiful and unexpected, which makes him fun to watch. I miss his long hair (which became its own character onstage with him when I first saw them last year), but the scruff and the smile he’s rocking right now totally make up for it. And the voice. Yes. Fucking gypsy pied piper.

The electric guitarist (labeled Token Ecuadorian on their website) can not only shred but sing. And boy does he have some pipes! I think he was only half-joking when he said he was doped up on weight loss drugs and every third person in the audience looked like Jesus. And I have to give him some mad props for accessorizing well. The cane was boss. And sir, that red flower you wore on your lapel…I own the same one.

From their FB page. Apparently, this is what happens when bass and beats collide on Cinco de Mayo.

From their FB page. Apparently, this is what happens when bass and beats collide on Cinco de Mayo.

The violinist (or was that a fiddle of some sort?) seems like the introvert of the group, but I also firmly believe you have to watch out for the quiet ones. He may not have been as animated as the rest of the crew, but his playing spoke for him. And when he really got into it, you could see it. There were smiles and grit teeth and getting low with other members of the band.

The drummer, who rocks a curly mohawk (totally swoonworthy, ladies) had an stuffed Animal (yes, from The Muppets) hanging out of his drum kit during their set. And he definitely also had a marching band kit that (wait for it!) lights up and is adorned with a sticker that reads, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.” Pretty sure he was wearing a cut-off tux jacket with tails, too. Personality and talent for miles.

And then there’s the bass player, who is ridiculously talented and a real life Muppet – and I say that as a compliment with all the love and respect in the world. Seriously, I have never watched someone with better comedic timing and physicality onstage while keeping perfect time and slaying a bass line. And for the record, it speaks volumes that he asked my name and had a conversation with me at the merch table after their set. Thanks for being personable and valuing connection.

Diego’s Umbrella, I was the girl who lost her shit when “Pants!” started. I love your music. I loved your show. Proper Cowboy is on replay in my car. Please come back to Phoenix soon.

So…why are you still here, readers? Go to the band’s website, get yourself acquainted with the beauty of gypsy rock, buy some Diego swag, and catch their next show. I know I will.