Thursday, April 23, 2009

I am Mother Earth and this is the Earth Worm Disco!

I am so proud to say that I am a part of a wonderful kids music project by a fabulous singer/songwriter named Shira a.k.a. ShirLaLa. She just released a sneak peak of one of the songs from the forthcoming album. The tack is called "Earth Worm Disco" and I'm on the track as Mother Earth. So take a moment and check it out. Have fun and "shake it, with all your might!"

Earth Worm Disco!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

BAM Café. Either you were there or you missed it!

BAM Café is one of those shows that I know about a year in advance, but I still feel like I’m running up into it. I can’t speak for all artists, but when I book shows at venues like BAM I want to do new songs or some clever covers that no one would expect. Seems like that would be easy enough, but those long lead-time shows always sneak up on me.

I managed to squeeze out one new song, but I know for many people in the café much of the music was new because they hadn’t seen me in a long time or ever before.

Leading up to the show I really wanted to write something new, but songwriting for me is not an exact science or really a science at all. It’s often all spirit. So I have to wait for spirit to move. I keep writing while I’m waiting for spirit to move, but as songwriters we are sometimes just writing knowing full well that what we are writing at that moment will not see the stage anytime soon or ever. There is a thing that happens when you know it’s right. I’ll break down the new songs in context of the show.

I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to have programs for the show. I didn’t want them to tell exactly what I was going to play, but to reflect the different movements of the show. When I finally got that together it was the day of the show. At that point I knew my programs were going to be very simple, but it was really just a reference for the people. It read as follows:

The Band
Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe

The Work

The Set
The Blues
The Funk
The SolaRoc

The Players
Shelley Nicole
Jerome Jordan
Ganessa James
Shawn Banks
Achuziam Maha
Kiki Hawkins
Jeff Jeudy
V. Jeffery Smith
Dexter Taylor

The day of the show was gorgeous! It was about 75 degrees. The spring energy was wizzing around. I left the house and went to make copies of the program in Park Slope. I had great timing because the bus was coming up the street as I walked out of the house.

I got to the stationary shop, which was giving me Tea Party flashbacks because we used to copy all of our flyers there before it because dirt cheap to make nice 4 color flyers at Overnight Prints and the like.

After waiting for my programs I left the shop and headed back to the bus. On my way I walked by a clothing and accessories shop that was having a moving sale. I was stopped dead in my tracks by a cape on a mannequin outside the store. It was gorgeous! It was hand painted with stars on the front by the buttons, two dancing women on the back and a killer hood. When I see things like that I often wonder what past era I lived in because that cape harkened back to a lost time. Well I guess I am a witch after all and any good witch worth her salt needs a hot cape!

I looked at the cape and then looked at the price and knew I couldn’t do it. But as I was walking away I saw the moving sale sign. So then I had to go in and see how much it really cost. I’m not going to tell you the price, but I am going to tell you that it was 75% off! What?! Now you all knew you can’t walk away from something that’s 75% off that is calling you from jump. Then I started doing the calculations in my head. You know how it is. You start thinking about your bank accounts and how you can move things around so nothing bounces or around this time of year we start thinking about when that income tax check is coming in. You know what I’m saying. Lol. I paced in the store for a while, tried on the cape, put it back on the mannequin, walked around a bit more, talked to the saleswomen, told her about my show that night and she sold me, but I was ready. Also there was another woman eyeing my cape and I couldn’t let her walk out with it. LOL! So I went back outside, took the cape of the mannequin, bagged it up and took it home. I rarely do that kind of stuff for myself. It’s a one of a kind piece so I’m very happy about it.

I got lucky with the bus again. It was coming right as I approached the stop. I headed home and finished getting ready for the evening. I called Gaetano earlier in the day and asked if he could meet me at BAM at 7:00pm instead of 7:30pm. He was cool with that. I don’t live far from BAM so at about 6:15pm or 6:20pm headed over.

When I get off the train at Lafayette Avenue, I exited the station and headed down the street to BAM. I was feeling good. There were a lot of people out front. Seems there was a show at the Opera House as well with Sonic Youth, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin and Merce Cunningham @ 90 (dance company). I made my way upstairs to the café and met Paul who, with his crew, was doing sound for the evening. Paul informed me that my friend Mabili had left flowers for Achuziam and me. That was nice. Soon Gaetano and Scott arrived and we were ready to start putting my face on.

Little by little band members started to arrive. I think Dexter was first and told me he had never been to the café. That was wild since he’s lived in Brooklyn as long as I’ve known him, which is a long time. Paul, the soundman, told me that we might get a short sound check when the Opera House let out for intermission, but we had to make it really quick. So that’s what we did. It turned out to be a little sneak peak of the show and many of the people who were at the Opera House decided to come back to my show after theirs let out. That was cool.

After sound check I went back upstairs to finish getting myself together. We ended up starting the set late because the Opera House show didn’t get out until about 9:30pm or 9:35pm. So as soon as it was over we jumped right in.

I started the set with an a cappella prison song called “Black Woman.” I have to thank Chaney Sims for that. She is a singer and friend of mine who sings the blues. One night I heard her sing a song called “Go Down Hannah” and it blew me away. Right at that moment I knew that’s how I wanted to open the set. Not with that song, but with something that was quiet and powerful. So with my shaker in my hand, no shoes on my feet, I opened the show with a vocal libation. As soon as that ended Jeff started right in with a new song called “Out of My Mind.” I put my shoes on, took off my jacket and the rest of the show was on.

I had written “Out of My Mind” or so I thought sometime last year. I visited it for a hot second when Jeff and I were working out another new song called “I am American.” As the date of the BAM show was approaching I revisited it again. We tried it at one rehearsal, but it felt like it was missing some glue as Ganessa put it. So I want back to the drawing board, rewrote some of the lyrics, sent out the rehearsal recording to the band and asked for feedback. When we got back to rehearsal the next week Jerome came back with musical examples of Massive Attack, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Kendricks and we used their inspiration to create some glue for the song. I love that!

Next I called up Dexter (guitar), Jeff (guitar), Jerome (guitar) and V. Jeffery (horn) to do another blues joint that’s kind of new to the people called “Gut Bucket.” When you have 90 minutes to play it gives you an opportunity to open up and showcase people. So I gave all the guys a solo on that song. It was really fantastic and fun. From there we stayed in the Bayou with an up tempo blues version of “Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers. I have to say that’s one of my favorites.

We soon left the swap and hit the folks with a cover of “I’m a Woman (I’m a Backbone) by Rufus feat. Chaka Khan and went into what is now becoming a blaKbüshe classic “blaK Girls.” We got sexy with “Give it to Me” and then brought things to the political side of the show with “Can’t Blame a Tree.” Jerome did a killer solo on that song! Wow! Then we moved straight from “Can’t Blame a Tree” into “Box,” but not before Matsu did a crazy drum solo. Again all I can say is wow! During “Box” I was playing bass and I noticed that people were looking up at the ceiling. I didn’t know what was going on so I looked up and saw that the sculptures of bodies hanging from the ceiling were bouncing from the vibration of the bass and it looked like they were dancing. Wild! Then we moved along to the next newest song, “I am American.”

This is one of those songs that only the chorus was floating in my head for some time, and it just floated and floated. Then Barack Obama won the presidency and it all came rushing through. I tell you people, it’s all spirit. So at the show I pulled out my picture of President Obama with PROGRESS on the bottom of it because we made progress last week with him lifting the ban on travel to Cuba. It’s about time! He also visited Trinidad last week. Now when was that last time a U.S. President visited Trinidad? I just love that guy!

We closed the show with “Go Head & Rise,” which included Jerome jumping on the speaker while playing. It was dy-no-mite! We got a standing O. I kind of feel like that part was a blur because when I came off stage Tom said, you’re getting a standing O! I looked back, but I was in a daze. Jeff and I came back and did a two-song encore with “Blackbird” by the Beatles and then the down tempo, grimy version of “Long Train Running” so the whole crew joined in.

It was a beautiful night. I could see that the room was packed, but I later found out that the room was to capacity and there was a line downstairs. Some people couldn’t get into the show, which on one hand is great, but on the other hand really sucks because I would have loved for everyone who was downstairs to be let up.

I think the quote of the night goes to a new friend who came to the show and had never seen me perform before. When we first met I was very unassuming. I am usually like that so it’s sometimes a shocker to people when they see the show. So after everything was over she came over and said “Bitch, you didn’t tell me you were a star!” She was dead serious, and I was cracking up! I supposed I should think of myself that way all the time. Not a diva, but a Star.

I had a lot of friends old and new in the house. I almost did the Romper Room magic mirror shout out to folks, but then I realized that that was going to date me big time! HA! So I opted out of that. But I have to give a special shout to Rob Fields who I later found out was twittering parts of the show while he was there. Thanks Rob. That’s how I can stay off of Twitter and still be on it and in the loop at the same time. *wink*

Till the next show...Be good to yourself.