Monday, October 31, 2011

Dogen instructed,
An ignorant person thinks and speaks of senseless things. There is an aged nun working for this temple. It seems that she is now ashamed of her humble situation, so she tends to talk to others about how she used to be a lady of the upper class. Even if people believe her, there is not any merit in it. It is entirely meaningless.  
I think everyone tends to hold such sentiments like hers. However, such sentiments clearly show a lack of bodhi-mind. One should reform this kind of mentality and become more compassionate. 
Also there is a certain lay monk who completely lacks bodhi-mind. Since he is a close friend, I would like to tell him to pray to the buddhas and gods to arouse bodhi-mind. But he will definitely get angry and it may cost us our friendship. However, unless he arouses bodhi-mind, it is useless just to be close friends (Shobogenzo Zuimonki, Book 4, Chapter 9).
Bodhi means awareness.  Bodhi-mind  is the mind seeking awareness or the Way.  This can also be interpreted as the mind that is aware, the mind that aspires to live in accordance with reality instead of being pulled by egocentric desires that are contrary to it.

Zen Master Dogen contrasted bodhi-mind with hinayana mind, which means the attitude of practicing only for the sake of self emancipation or of escaping from samsara by one’s own effort. Most people in the world are being dragged about by the hinayana mind, he taught, discriminating good from evil, distinguishing right from wrong, seeking after what is good while discarding what is bad.  In the spirit of a bodhisattva, we should instead vow to save all living beings.  In Shobogenzo Hotsubodaishin (Arousing Bodhi-mind), Dogen said, “To arouse bodhi-mind is to vow and work for the salvation of all living-beings before saving oneself.”

The great Buddhist patriarch Nagarjuna said that bodhi-mind is the mind that solely sees the impermanence of this world of constant appearance and disappearance.   

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Austra, The Earl, Atlanta

Last concert of Rocktober 2011, and the fifth one of this week alone.  By my count, I've seen 49 different bands since September 20th (counting two separate performances at different venues by Yellow Ostrich as two, not one, act), not including all of those hard-working and deserving but largely anonymous bands working the various stages at the East Atlanta Strut and L5P Halloween Parade.  Tomorrow is Halloween - time to finally conclude Rocktober and get back on with my so-called life.

One of the themes that's run through this series of concerts has been bands dominated by powerful female singers, from Glasser back on September 20th, and continuing on through Thao, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, Saint Vincent, and Atlanta's Featureless Ghost.  Many of these bands, particularly Glasser and Zola Jesus, set the warmth and femininity of their vocals against colder electronic instrumentation.  Tonight's show, featuring artists Austra and Grimes, continued that trend,and may have been one of the best shows of Rocktober.

Pictures soon.

The opening act this evening was Black Lodge, an Atlanta band named for that extradimensional epicenter of evil in Twin Peaks, who provided a goth variation on the theme.  The quartet features two bassists, keyboards and drums.  They're a new band and looked quite, quite young as they employed ominous synth lines and deep, minimalistic bass for a sound that helps the band live up to the gloomy connotations of its name.  Do I even need to even tell you that they all dressed in black?  Did I mention tomorrow is Halloween?

Grimes, the avant-pop solo project of Montreal singer, keyboardist, and artist Claire Boucher, is on tour with Austra and followed Black Lodge.

Grimes draws upon a diverse collection of influences as she experiments with loops and a stratospheric falsetto (she says she listened to Mariah Carey's Heartbreaker to learn how to sing over four octaves).  She performed solo, except for a dancer (Duffy) who worked the crowd.  But the dance beat was the driving force in her music, and just because she works in a pop format doesn't mean she has to stop being interesting and intelligent.  There's an eerie, supernatural undercurrent to her songs and the moody instrumentation surrounding them.

Like Zola Jesus, Katie Stelmanis, co-founder and lead singer of Toronto's Austra, had studied as an opera singer before migrating to rock. She took piano and violin lessons and, as a child, sang with the Canadian Opera Company. Later, after years of private lessons, she was set to study opera in college, but deep down inside, Ms. Stelmanis says she knew she didn’t want to move to Montreal but stay in Toronto and make "classical music with really fucked up, distorted, crazy shit on there." This realization eventually led her to abandon school, discover electronica, and form Austra, which now includes Dorian Wolf on bass and Maya Postepski on percussion.

The songs are guided by Stelmanis' haunting voice and orchestrated entirely with sleek analog synths. It's a throbbing, beat-heavy mix of stylish, emotionally remote synth-pop that's both unsettling and alluring, but always danceable.

Tonight, her operatic background was evident in the intensity and strength of her singing.  There's a point somewhere around the 2:45 minute mark in her song The Beat and the Pulse where her voice goes into a sort of overdrive.  In concert, she spent most of her time singing with that kind of intensity, and actually seemed to have to hold herself back during the earlier part of the song for dramatic effect before she returned to her normal stride.  She was that good.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Ra Ra Riot, The Earl, Atlanta

It's almost the end of Rocktober, which has seemed to last a short eternity - sometimes time seems to go fast and we feel that our lives are rushing past us, and other times it seems to go slower. Right now, Rocktober feels like it's lasted for months and months, and last September's Bumbershoot and MFNW feel like a year ago.  I like it when time goes slow.

Tonight's Rocktober show was Ra Ra Riot, Delicate Steve and Yellow Ostrich at The Earl.  Alert readers will recall that we saw Yellow Ostrich earlier this Rocktober (although it seems like so much longer ago), opening for The Antlers at the misbegotten Masquerade, where they were almost drowned out by the racket coming from upstairs.  This evening was Atlanta's chance to redeem itself for such poor hospitality, and my chance to actually hear Yellow Ostrich perform, rather than just see them perform.

As before, Alex Schaaf made prodigious use of repeaters, layering vocal tracks over each other until he created virtual choirs of his lone voice, while his bassist and one-man horn section, Jon Natchez, did about the same.

New Jersey's Delicate Steve performed between opener Yellow Ostrich and headliner Ra Ra Riot. Delicate Steve plays instrumental rock somewhere between jam-band improvisation and spaced-out psychedelia, with some tribal drumming and surf guitar thrown in the mix for good measure.  He had a five-piece band with him, including a second guitar, a bassist, a multi-instrumental keyboardist, and a standing drummer (something I'm seeing more and more of this year).

Near the end of the set, Delicate Steve had Jon Natchez of Yellow Ostrich join them on stage to add some baritone sax to the eclectic, anything-goes sound

The evening's headliners were Ra Ra Riot, who recently appeared on the Jimmy Fallon tee-vee show.

So we were all familiar with their songs and their sound, and those of us close to the stage could see the set list and thought we knew what to expect.

What no one saw coming and nobody expected was the band to come on stage dressed in their Halloween costumes.  They performed in costume for their entire set.

Speaking of Halloween, there was also this guy from last night.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Night Videos: St. Vincent

Sold out.  But this time (unlike TuneYards and Beirut) I got my tickets first.

I know I've posted this video here before, but the scene at the 0:55-minute mark still breaks my heart every time I watch it (it might be the teddy bear).

Here's the same song, acoustic version:

And one more for good measure:

Update:  Here are the pics from the show.

Cate Le Bon:

Welsh singer/guitarist opened with a solo set of folksy vocals accompanied by her electric guitar.  She said it was her first time in Atlanta.

St. Vincent:

Annie Clark brought both glamour and gusto to The Earl, providing her own lighting to the normally dark club, the better to watch her sing and shred some guitar.  She played Cruel fairly early in her set and Year of the Tiger late, and just about everything else in between.  The crowd was even larger than the Wednesday night turnout for Blind Pilot.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's not that there aren't any good shows in town tonight.  Beirut and Basia Bulat are playing this evening over at Variety Playhouse. Meanwhile, Celebration, Arbouretum, and The Back Pockets are at The Earl, and Anika is at The Basement.

It's just that there are no good shows for me.  My heart was set on seeing Beirut, and after I got turned away from TuneYards over at The Basement a couple weeks ago, I went on line to buy tickets for Beirut only to find that they were already sold out as well.  I've already been to The Earl twice in the past two days,   thus ruling out the Celebration/Back Pockets show, and I can't quite get up the enthusiasm to go take my chances at The Basement again.

So it looks like it's a quiet night tonight at home.  This is not a bad thing, and I get to post some of the pictures, such as they are, from the past two nights at The Earl, starting with Tuesday night's performance by  Atlanta's Featureless Ghost.  

Featureless Ghost are a duo that plays good, danceable electro-pop behind some strong vocals.  They're a very good band and I hope to hear more from them soon.

Pittsburgh's Xanopticon was just one guy and his laptop.  He reminded me of late-90s Autechre, all rhythm and broken beats but no soul or humanity.  In other words, not my thing, and after five minutes, I was ready to move on to something else.  However, that small portion of the audience who seemed to like it, seemed to like it a lot.

Zola Jesus, on the other hand, pretty much lived up to the hype.  She took to the stage barefoot and wearing a loose, white toga-like affair.  With her white hair and pale skin, the white robe made her look like a cross between The Anti-Goth and Gandalf's daughter.

She was a study in contradictions - she has a big, operatic voice, but according to the show's "official" flyer (as opposed to my attempt), she's only 4' 11" and weighs a mere 90 pounds.  And tiny though she may be, she made no attempt as compensating, taking to the stage barefoot as she did.

Continuing this contradictions theme, she reportedly dropped her opera training due to anxiety and the competitive nature of the art, suggesting stage-fright issues, and she spent almost her entire time on stage as far out of the lights as she could, instead standing in front of the spot light and performing in silhouette most of the evening.  Yet, she also kept walking out to the edge of the stage to tower above the crowd, and even wandered through the audience while still singing, weaving through and brushing against almost every member as if she needed tactile proof of their (or her own) existence.

She was accomapanied by a drummer and three keyboardists, one of whom spent an equal amount of time on percussion.  And when she got her voice going, she was a one-woman force of nature.  It was truly something to hear.

The next evening, Cory Chisel started things off on a much gentler, folky note (and apparently putting his back-up singer to sleep in the process).

I enjoyed Blind Pilot last month at MFNW, and was impressed by the enthusiasm of their young, Portland fan base.  I had no idea that they were so popular in Atlanta, too.  The Earl was at capacity (the show might have sold out for all I knew), and the audience clearly adored the band.  

It was Blind Pilot's third time in Atlanta, and I think they were as surprised as anybody by the audience's enthusiasm.  Someone in the audience blew bubbles toward the stage throughout the set, giving the evening a strange but welcome champagne vibe.  For their last song before their encore, they asked everyone to be quiet, and they came off stage into the audience for an unamplified sing-along, the audience harmonizing surprisingly well (in a Twitter message this morning, drummer Ryan Dobrowski wrote, "Atlanta! You were SO much fun last night. Some of the best group singing I've ever heard. Thank you!").  

For the encore, singer and guitarist Israel Nebeker performed one solo acoustic song, and then the band was joined on stage by Cory Chisel to finish out the night.

So, five bands in two evenings, including two stand-out  performances (Zola Jesus and Blind Pilot), and even the one band that I didn't care for was at least interesting.  There are three more days left to Rocktober, and I will get to see St. Vincent, Austra, Grimes, Ra Ra Riot, Cate Le Bon, Delicate Steve, and Yellow Ostrich, all, amazingly, at The Earl on three consecutive nights.  

So tonight's rest and relaxation are probably warranted.