Sunday, July 26, 2009

More Fun Than a Body Deserves (Especially THIS Body)...

This weekend, I got to see a bunch of great musical performers in two different shows---and genres.

Since I never do anything the right way round, I'll go in reverse chronological order...

This afternoon, I went to the Village Players Theatre in Oak Park to attend the 10th Annual Season of Concern benefit, where my friend Stephen, the Executive Director of SOC, was going to be performing. It was produced by his friend Karen Bronson (who was wearing a killer stylish pair of pink and white pumps!), and consisted of two sets of songs written by William Finn and Richard Rodgers. I always liked Richard Rodgers because of the "Sound of Music" and "South Pacific," and because his daughter Mary wrote the novel and screenplay for one of my favorite all-time Disney movies EVER, Freaky Friday (it started my lifelong crush on Jodie Foster--which is improbable for many reasons, I realize, but I wanted so bad to BE Annabel Andrews it wasn't funny. She lived near the ocean, got to play field hockey, AND her mom drove a cool red VW convertible!). William Finn I only knew because of the songs of his that we used to perform when I was in Chicago Gay Men's Chorus (most of them were from "Falsettos," although we did once perform "Sailing" from "A New Brain"). But the list of performers looked impressive, so I was excited to attend.

I'd never heard Karen or Stephen sing before, but I knew they were talented. I didn't realize HOW talented until I heard Stephen sing "Stupid Things I Would Not Do" (a Finn song). The sense of timing that's required to perform the song with all of its bits of shtick would reduce a lesser performer to a slobbering mess. But he handled it so smoothly and infused every word with its full humorous power.

Karen has a beautiful and smooth voice that's just a joy to listen to, and when she sang one of the last songs in the set "When The World Stopped Turning," it cut right through me. (It seems that Finn wrote it when his mother was dying, so it hit really close to home. Especially the last few lines, where "quietly one day in late May, the world stopped turning." My mother died in late May last year, so of course I thought the song was about me. Me, me ME!! Everything is about me.)

Everyone on the stage was marvelously talented, and they obviously loved the songs they sang, and it's impossible not to watch somebody do that and not love it right along with them. Of course, they made it easy...

And on Saturday, went to the Lincoln Street Festival to watch my friends and favorite local band, The Handcuffs. I first saw them when we played our first public gig as The Joans at The Flesh Hungry Dog Show in May 2007, and they were on the same bill. I was taken with their retro, 1960s mod look and their eclectic musical style. Singer Chloe F. Orwell is a petite powerhouse with a silky but strong voice, and can rock a psychedelic print dress and purple go-go boots like nobody else in the world. The drummer, Brad Elvis, has a musical pedigree that's longer than the Windsor line: a member of The Elvis Brothers during the 80s and early 90s, Big Hello in the late 90s (with Chloe) and is also the touring drummer for The Romantics. (Yes, the "Talking In Your Sleep" Romantics.) Guitar/keyboardist Ellis Clark (who plays both instruments during the same song at time) and bass player Emily Togni (who also has a great set of pipes) round out the ensemble. Their music has appeared in "Gossip Girl" (if you've heard the song "I Just Wanna Be Free Man," then you've heard them), "The Hills" and on Margaret Cho's VH1 reality show.

The weather was beautiful Saturday and they played a terrific set. They played a longer set than usual, which meant more fun for us! God was truly smiling on us this weekend--even the rain stayed away until we'd had our fun! And to top it off, I got great parking spots for both events--and I didn't even get a ticket for my expired meter on Saturday. (Granted, it was only 10 minutes over, but I've seen the meter maggots swoop in like vultures the second that flag goes it's always iffy.)

The Handcuffs will be playing again next Saturday (August 1) at Halsted Market Days at 2:00 PM. Anybody want to join me?

They'll also be playing with The Joans at our CD release party on Friday, September 4 at Schuba's. (Yes, it's a holiday weekend, but you can still leave town on Saturday and have plenty of fun! And if you buy our CD the night before, you'll have something to play in the car!) More details later...

Have a great week! (I still hope to have the Unwanted Advice column back on Friday.)


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