Thursday, June 24, 2010


Yeah... it's the blog that occasionally rises out of the mist then disappears again. Or maybe it's the blogger herself who's doing that. Perhaps I am mythical. :)

Got a concert review for you, but first a quick note - my poem "Cover" (which comes from "Chasing Angels," my manuscript about a fictional rock musician) is up at Hamilton Stone Review. Go take a peek if you are so inclined! Fellow blogger Jessie Carty has a couple of poems in the same issue.

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So I was fortunate enough to have a ticket to see legitimate guitar god Jeff Beck in Indy the other night. I'd never seen him before, though I've seen videos and so had pretty high expectations of the performance. I left Bloomington in a rush just ahead of a storm rolling in - managed to outrun it, which kind of set the tone for the night. When I got into the venue I made a quick pit stop and was highly, highly amused to note that there was a line out into the lobby area for the men's room, and no line to speak of for the women's room. Yes, it was just that testosterone-laden a crowd. It's been a long time since I was at a show with that kind of audience; Springsteen crowds tend to be pretty gender-balanced.

The opening act was a singer-songwriter type with an acoustic guitar and a small keyboard, accompanied by a second guitarist. She was pretty and had a nice voice, with a pleasant Lilith Fair-ish vibe, but ultimately fairly uninspiring. And really, a crowd full of middle-aged electric-guitar geeks (I seriously overheard at least two conversations going into great technical detail about some piece of equipment or other - guitars, amps, etc.) just was not her crowd.

Finally Jeff Beck and his band (Narada Michael Walden on drums, Rhonda Smith on bass, and Jason Rebello on keyboards) took the stage. The first number was seriously rocking, and the energy in the venue increased a thousandfold. The drums kicked in and I realized it had been way too long since I'd been to a good loud concert. Sometimes, a girl just needs to rock!

The venue had folding chairs set up, and I had mixed feelings about the seated thing. The seats were narrow and close together, and it was hot & crowded. When Beck & band took the stage everyone leaped up and stood for the first couple of songs, and that felt really good, but being 5 foot 1 I can't see much in a situation like that (I was back in about the 15th row, which isn't too far back, but at my height it doesn't take much). Throughout the evening a lot of songs elicited standing ovations - it was like church up in there with all the stand up sit down stand up sit down!); when people were sitting I could see the stage nicely, but it is really hard for me to listen to music like that and just sit still. Standing up allows me to experience the music physically, with my whole body.

So we got everything from screaming rock to blues to jazz to standards: an incredibly diverse setlist. Beck's versions of some tunes, like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," verged on - I hate to say it - "smooth jazz." That is not a compliment. But he made even those tame tunes come alive with his sheer virtuosity. When he coaxes notes like that out of his white Stratocaster, all is forgiven. "Rainbow" a real showcase for his absolute control of tone and dynamics, and the audience seemed particularly taken with it. I will admit I preferred the more rocking tunes myself. There was one song (I'm not good at titles when there are no lyrics to remind me) with a heavy, heavy bass that sounded almost Led Zeppelin-esque, and I really loved that one.

His band was wonderful. The keyboards were necessary for the more orchestral arrangements; for other songs, he could very well have managed with only the guitar/bass/drums trio. Narada Michael Walden was fantastic, very musical (something I don't always get from drummers), and his presence was buoyant, a radiant energy behind the drum kit. Rhonda Smith, who played with Prince for a number of years, was incredibly funky and soulful and versatile on the bass and occasional vocals. I love how Jeff Beck uses the bass; though I never saw his previous touring band in person, I've seen video and the bassist from that band, Tal Wilkenfeld, is also absolutely brilliant. (Look her up. I think she's playing with Herbie Hancock now.)

Oftentimes Beck would be completely absorbed in his playing, standing sideways to the audience in order to better communicate with his band. He was all about the music, not so much the showmanship - which is absolutely fine. He spoke several times to introduce songs, but not at length, and kind of awkwardly; you got the feeling he mostly just wanted to shut up and play.

During the show he played two different white Stratocasters. The Strat is so integral to his sound, the way it sustains and sings and soars. So when he strapped on a black Les Paul for a song during the encore, the audience reacted with surprise and interest. He introduced it as a tribute to the great Les Paul, who died not long ago and with whom Beck had a longtime friendship, and played "How High the Moon." It was fascinating to hear the radical difference in tone and feel between the LP and the Strat, how he played it like it was a different instrument entirely - much more staccato, with notes that popped and crackled instead of soaring and searing. A lot of fun to hear this, and he seemed to enjoy the change of pace.

All in all he played about an hour and a half, including his interpretations of "People Get Ready" and the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" among many others. Not a Springsteenian marathon show, but not half bad for a guy just a couple days from his 66th birthday, and certainly enough to be satisfying. When I finally made my way out of the venue, the sky was strobing with distant lightning, flickering like busted neon among the tall buildings of downtown Indianapolis. All the way home I was accompanied by near-constant, distant lightning and a hazy, hazy moon. It seemed perfectly appropriate, though I couldn't tell you why.

I'll leave you with a video taken by someone else at the show. The still photos above are mine; I took some videos, and you can find them on my YouTube account, but the audio on them is pretty atrocious (my camera's just not built for audio). Enjoy!

Thursday, June 03, 2010


I've been awakened between 5 and 6 am by thunderstorms the past two mornings. This morning there was so much lightning I almost had a flashback to the strobelights and mirrorballs of the disco era.

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Just sent in the final proofs for my poem forthcoming in New Madrid. Their staff has been absolutely wonderful to work with; I've had quite a bit of communication from them (mainly from Assistant Managing Editor, Jacque Day) since the initial acceptance, including the opportunity to proofread my contributor's note and my line in the table of contents. I've known exactly where they were in the process all along, I know what day they plan on sending the files to the printer, and I know when to expect the issue in the mail (late July). The level of TLC they've provided has been way above & beyond the call of editorial duty. They'll begin taking submissions again in mid-August, and if you have work that seems right for them, give 'em a try.

Also just had a poem accepted by Hamilton Stone Review - the email arrived on my birthday, which was kind of lovely. It's been a good submission year for me so far. I think I'm getting better at picking where to send.

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Finally, I just came across this poem by Stephen Dunn, which I had not read before although it was published back in 1987. It wrecked me a little bit, in a good way. Just gorgeous stuff:

...often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it...

Seriously. Go read "Sweetness" and see if it doesn't give you a bit of a shiver.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Welcome to June. How in the hell did that happen??

I spent a few days up at my mom's for Memorial Day weekend and to celebrate the beginning of the one-year countdown to my fiftieth birthday. Fiftieth. How in the hell did THAT happen?? (I mean, it doesn't happen until next year, but... you get the idea.)

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Does anyone have any personal experience (or know anyone who has) with the Colrain Manuscript Conference? I can't possibly afford it, but it looks like the sort of thing that would fit nicely into a grant application next year. Yeah, I'm thinking ahead.

AWP would be another great way to use some grant funds, but I don't know of any grants that would get the money to me in time for that.

Of course, right now I'd like a grant to just go and hang out on the beach (preferably one without any nasty oil globs washing up on it... sigh) for a week or two. A winning lottery ticket would do the trick. :)

Seriously, though, I am curious about the Colrain thing, so any thoughts on that would be most welcome. Feel free to backchannel if you don't want to post a comment in public. Thanks!