Women of Influence: Musicians

Madonna’s Like a Virgin album was one of the first cassettes I had. I remember choreographing and performing countless “shows” with my sister and our friends that we’d then force our parents to watch repeatedly. Madonna was the first female singer I adored closely followed by Cyndi Lauper and Pat Benetar. These women opened up a whole new world to me and made me daydream of being a star. Every kid should have that.

“You must be my Lucky Star, ’cause you shine on me wherever you are, I just think of you and I start to glow, and I need your light, and baby you know”


My first listen to Joni Mitchell was on vinyl. A beat up LP of Blue that I rescued from the thrift store stacks. I remember how her voice moved through me, how I felt like she was singing truths about my own life even though I was only 19 or 20 and had barely begun to really live. She sang of feelings I held in my heart and dreams I kept close. I’d spend hours lying on my bed replaying her records. You would have thought it was 1972 not 1992.

This song, “A Case of You,” has been covered by many artists but my loyalty will always lie with Joni’s original version.

“Part of you pours out of me in these lines from time to time. . . oh you are in my blood like holy wine, and you taste so bitter but you’re so sweet, oh I could drink a case of you. . . and still be on my feet”


It was back when MTV actually showed videos and you’d wait for hours for your favorite video to air. It was before the age of the internet, before everything was one Google search away, and I was sitting on the couch waiting to see Tori Amos. I’d never seen or heard anyone like her. She was quirky and raw and I listened to Little Earthquakes on repeat. To this day, some twenty years later, I can still sing the entire album from start to finish. She made sense to me then, as if all the poems and journal entries I’d filled blank books with were not crazy, that I was not crazy for feeling all the feelings and writing about them.

“I got something to say you know but nothing comes, yes I know what you think of me, you never shut up, yeah I can hear that but what if I’m a mermaid in these jeans of his with her name still on it, hey but I don’t care ’cause sometimes, I said sometimes, I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years”


I was a music junkie in my late teens and early 20’s. Jenny Two Times and I spent hours upon hours at the record store,  driving around Silicon Valley singing at the top of our lungs with not much else to do except work our shifts at Michaels, go to junior college classes, meet up with friends at the coffee shop, and go to concerts.  It was 1993 and I was 20 years old. My father had just died and I was full of confusing and conflicting feelings. And then I found Liz Phair. I’d never heard a woman sing like that- with an imperfect voice, unapologetically bare and sometimes crass. She was edgy and angry and a tough chick. In her music I found an outlet for the anger and grief churning inside me.

“And I want a boyfriend, I want a boyfriend, I want all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas, and I can feel it in my bones, I’m gonna spend another year alone, it’s fuck and run, fuck and run, even when I was seventeen”


It was my second year at UC Santa Cruz as a Women’s Studies major and I was taking a Women’s Poetry class. In our section (a small group discussion) one of the lone boys in the class pulled out an acoustic guitar and sang “Both Hands” when it was his turn to share a poem that made him love poetry.  And that? Was my first introduction to Ani DiFranco. It was love at first listen. Her songs were rebellious and tough, tender and honest. They gave voice to many of my own thoughts, ones I didn’t think I was powerful enough to share. Listening to her made me feel brave and her music became the soundtrack to my year.

“I am writing graffiti on your body, I am drawing the story of how hard we tried, I am watching your chest rise and fall like the tides of my life, and the rest of it all, and your bones have been my bed frame, and your flesh has been my pillow, I am waiting for sleep to offer up the deep with both hands”

I tried to fit in when I first moved to Santa Cruz for college. I wore the Birkenstocks. I didn’t shave for a winter. I smoked weed. But none of those things stuck; I just felt like I was trying on a persona of an earthy girl. But then one rainy winter afternoon as I attempted to study in a coffee shop, I heard Billie Holiday. Her voice broke with emotion as hippies and hapless skaters and fellow students sat around sipping coffee and I was changed. I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra but this was the first I’d heard Billie. Jazz was a staple in all the local cafes and I quickly devoured her music, listening to it on repeat much to the annoyance of my housemate. I discovered Ella Fitzgerald too and together, us three, we sang our hearts out. This was right before the movie Swingers came out when everyone got the Big Band craze. It wasn’t long until I was donning vintage dresses, going to jazz shows, and learning to swing dance.

“Good morning heartache, you old gloomy sight. good morning heartache thought we said goodbye last night, I turned and tossed ’til it seemed you had gone,but here you are with the dawn”


Who are your musical influences?


Music Must: Listen Up

As I’ve said (and will probably keep saying), I have many favorite memories of our wedding. But a big one was having The Local Strangers play. They not only learned a new song for our ceremony (Joshua Radin’s “Today”) for when we all walked down the aisle, they played their cover of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” as we exited, AND played a set of their music for the cocktail reception. We missed the majority of it since we were off taking more photos but from our guests we’ve only heard rave reviews. I imagined as much would happen since these two are AMAZING. We danced our first dance to their song “Letter to My Lover” which is just the most fitting & perfect song for us.

Aubrey & Matt being awesome.

Today their first full-length album is out and I’m so excited for them. They are so gracious, humble, generous, and incredibly talented. I’m lucky to know them and we’re all blessed to get to listen to their beautiful music. Do yourself a favor and buy their album!

Big thanks to Aubrey & Matt for lending their voices to our special day and huge congratulations on this monumental accomplishment.

Strumming: Fulfilling a Life-long Dream

Long time readers might recall that back in July of ’09 I bought an acoustic guitar from a vacating tenant and named her Etta. She sat, rarely touched, in my apartment for years. So sad! Months ago I purchased a Group On type deal for four guitar lessons and then promptly forgot I’d bought it.

So much for fulfilling my life-long dream of being a musician.

An email alerted me that the deal was about to expire. The timing could not have been worse for me to start because it was smack in the middle of all the packing and house buying and moving but I didn’t want to waste the deal. I was nervous at first, like I am whenever I start something new that I am not sure I will be good at, but now I’ve come to look forward to Monday’s at 5:30.  I’ve had four lessons so far and just signed up for more because I’m hooked. It’s fun! And I like that I can see from week to week that I am improving.

This rocker type dude who is probably younger than me is my teacher. We meet in this old house that’s been converted into music rooms. At any given time there are multiple lessons going on so it’s a cacophony of instruments being played at all different levels. My teacher is perpetually running over on time. I don’t think we’ve ever started or ended on time. After the 3rd time it happened I wondered if I was cut out to be a musician because I’m so type A. But apparently my perfectionism comes in handy when learning though because I correct myself before he does and I am able to pick up off notes readily. It also helps that I am double jointed in my fingers because I can stretch into complicated chords. After my fourth lesson, my teacher gave me props and basically said that I show a lot of promise.

I might have beamed a little.

I have learned the beginnings of songs like: Back in Black, Wild Thing, and now am on to House of the Rising Son.We’re getting into chords and I am geeking out over it. It’s so cool!

I don’t have aspirations of being a singer/songwriter. I’m just hoping to get good enough to be able to learn some songs that I can bust out for sing-a-longs or at the holidays with family and friends. I’ve always wanted to play guitar and it feels good to be committed to learning, to have something to practice, to challenge myself at something that takes dedication.

The running joke is this photo will be my album cover which will be a album of cover songs. I’m taking requests starting now but let’s stick with some simpler riffs, please. I’m still a beginner!

Thanks for the music, Etta James

I heard the news today that one of my music idols, Etta James, passed away.

I’m so grateful to her for the music she made. Her legacy will live on through her songs. Personally, I will never forget the time I saw her live. It was almost 3 years ago to the day actually. I’m reposting that story here in her memory.


Jan. 29th, 2009

Let me just state for the record that I adore Etta James. I L-O-V-E her. Many of you might know her for her famous song, “At Last”, which you’ve probably danced to at one or twelve weddings  or heard in a movie. But that’s not even her best song in my opinion. She’s got sass and attitude along with her amazing voice and her undeniable presence. If I could be any singer, I’d probably want to be her. She’s like Mae West meets B.B. King.

She is, in a word, a legend.

Last night I went to go see her (third row, center, HELLO!) and I walked away traumatized by the experience. It wasn’t the scantily clad whorebags talking loudly in front of us that did it (though seriously, shut your pie holes). Nor was it the lady with the cane sitting next to me rocking the entire row with her “dancing” who, by the way, smelled like a strange mixture of drugstore perfume, dog shampoo and Chinese food. It wasn’t even the young guy behind us wearing the Obama hope shirt that kept yelling out like he was Her Biggest Fan (we GET IT dude!). It certainly wasn’t my “date” for the evening, the always gracious, amusing and charming  Dave2 from Blogography. Oh no. It was none of these. It was Etta James herself.

For one hour, she played a total of six song which means we basically paid $10 a song. That’s okay, honestly, because she is a phenomenal singer and besides, the woman is 81. Remember that. It’s an important fact. During the first song everyone was pumped, hooting and hollering, as she came out on her scooter.  She broke out into song and started gesturing- fondling her breasts, motioning to her crotch, rubbing on herself. I look at Dave and we’re like woah! but we’re laughing and enjoying it with the rest of the crowd. It makes sense because the song is a bit racy. But then then next song starts and she starts making kissing noises into the mic and then wags her tongue at it and again with the sexual gestures and I’m like um, what is going on?! And for the next two songs, the same thing.

I started to wonder if she was an oversexed 81 year old or I was just a prudish 35 year old. I mean, I’m all for getting some into your senior years but what is WITH the sexual gestures? Even when the song isn’t actually sexual? It started to feel dirty and wrong. She could be my grandmother! She’s on a scooter! She’s touching her vagina on stage!

Then she announced she was going to sing “At Last” so the crowd went predictably wild. She said something about someone and how they can fuck themselves. Turns out, Etta was ripping into Beyonce. She seemed pretty pissed at her singing her song at the Inauguration Ball and probably, I’m guessing, portraying her in the recent film, Cadillac Records. There was a lot of “fuck her” over and over. I will say though that that was the first song of the night where she did not fondle herself- a welcome relief to my bleeding eyes.

I’m still a little agape at the whole experience.

I still love her but maybe if I were to be her, I’d keep the sexual overtones to one song. And I wouldn’t pretend hump a chair.


*Note: I clearly had her age wrong since she was 73 when she passed away. She wasn’t 81 but rather 70 when we saw her.


Here’s my favorite song of hers:

Music Love, Local Edition

It wouldn’t be nice of me to keep these two Seattle gems to myself so here you go:

Alessandra Rose opened for Kris Orlowski last night at the Columbia City Theater and OH MY HELL I adore her voice. It’s like Patsy Cline meets Charity from The Head and The Heart (another local great).

If you love this song as much as I do, you can download it for FREE. There is a link there under the video on You Tube.

Speaking of Kris Orlowski, he’s the next big thing in Seattle. Check it out now so you can say you knew him when (and also if you enjoy awesomeness).

Again, if you’re loving on Kris, there is a free download on his site.


Last month I announced on Facebook that I needed to see the following musicians in concert: Alexi Murdoch, Joshua Radin, Gossip, Allison Weiss, Adele, William Fitzsimmons, Cake, Gossip and The Decemberists.

And then promptly discovered that  five of them were on tour. Hooray! I thought.

Supple and I got tickets to The Decemberists show a couple of weeks ago and while we were in the last row in the last balcony, the show was epic in its awesomeness. Their new album is different from their previous stuff and while I like the old stuff, I love, love, love  The King is Dead.

I discovered that Joshua Radin and Alexi Murdoch were performing right before my biggest fundraising event of the year. This meant that it broke two of my own rules. Rule 1 does not allow for me to make any major plans, particularly involving a monetary commitment, the two weeks prior to any major fundraiser. I know myself and my work load and I would inevitably be working a 12 hour day, too exhausted or busy to break away to see the show and then I’d waste money (I hate wasting money). Rule 2 states that  I cannot buy a ticket to a concert on a work night especially if it is at certain venues who are notorious for starting the headliner after two opening acts (that’s excessive!) at 11pm. Because that means I am already up past my bedtime before they go on. Re: I am too old for that shit. This rule can only be broken if said musician is playing at a short list of approved venues who allow a person to experience a show in a civilized manner (I’m looking at you Paramount and The Triple Door. Wink. Wave.)

So I did not buy tickets to Alexi or Joshua. Alexi is now sold out. If there are still tickets to the Joshua on the day of and my work load permits, I might cave. I snatched up tickets to see William Fitzsimmons which is on a work night but since it is at a civilized venue, the rule is moot.

And then there is Adele.

I love Adele. Like I can sing all of her album, 19, and on first listen to her latest album, 21, I can safely say my adoration of her is off the charts. She gets into my soul. She’s a modern-day Etta James except she’s white, British and probably not going to end up molesting herself on stage from her Rascal. I tried desperately to get tickets to see Adele. I was at my computer clicking refresh minutes before the clock struck 10am only to be given a message repeatedly that the wait time was 15 minutes. And it kept telling me that for 40 minutes. And then it was sold out. WTF?! I was monumentally disappointed and expressed my feelings all over the internet (because isn’t that what the internet is for?). I didn’t know anyone locally who snagged tickets to the show. I even tried to get tickets at any West Coast show of hers thinking I could make a trip out of it but nooooooooooo. They were all sold out too.

Then I got wind that they’ve move the show to a bigger venue and were selling more tickets this past Saturday at 10am. I decided standing out in the cold at the venue box office was the way to go this time because I NEED to see her live. I got there 30 minutes before it opened. I had my phone charged and ready so that I could simultaneously attempt to get tickets on-line while standing in line. Look, I am a freak for Adele. I can’t really think of another artist I would go to these lengths to see. I mean it fucking started to SNOW while we were in line. Many of us couldn’t feel our feet as we waited endlessly for a chance to get a seat. There were about 20 people ahead of me and unfortunately we were forced to use the automated ticket kiosk rather than work with a human because the box office was not open on Saturday (this we learned a mere 5 minutes before ticket-buying time so we were all scrambling to round the corner to the kiosk and hope no one cut in line). The kiosk only allows you to buy one ticket at a time. ONE TICKET! Which meant the line moved veeerrry slowly. The average time per person at the kiosk was 5 minutes.

I am an impatient person who loves Adele. This was not pretty, my friends.

After about 5 people got tickets some lady in line announced that they were sold out. I was deflated but the people in line kept trying. A few of them actually got tickets which means that woman that announced there were no tickets and walked away is shit out of luck and inept at using a 21st century ticket machine. I thought maybe I had a chance. And then the on-line site let me in. I was euphoric! Except, when I put in the number of tickets (2) it informed me that that combo of tickets was not available. What the hell? So I put in 1 ticket. And that’s when I heard more rumblings around me that there were no tickets being given out via the kiosk. When I got the message that that combo of tickets was not available and I was requesting ONE ticket, I realized that I had failed to get tickets AGAIN. It was, in fact, sold out. In under 30 minutes.

Dejected, frozen to the bone, and pissed off, I walked back to my car.

I decided a poor substitute is to invite my Adele-loving friends over on the night of her show for drinks. We can listen to her albums and cry into our cocktails.

Who is coming over?


Supple texted me, “Do you want to go see The Barber of Seville with me tomorrow night?”

I replied, “Sure!”

Then I thought to myself, “What exactly IS The Barber of Seville?”**

I googled it and was all, “Uh oh. It’s opera.”

Let me explain.

Despite my love of theater and music, I just don’t love them together. Yes, yes, I grew up loving The Sound of Music and Grease (though I prefer the uber-cheesy Grease 2) and was required to sit through multiple viewings of Oliver (my Mom’s favorite). In high school my mom, sister and I would go to the theater on final dress rehearsal night wherein I was subjected to the likes of Jesus Christ, Superstar and My Fair Lady.

I just don’t get why they have to SING when they could be talking. Oh right! BECAUSE IT IS MUSICAL THEATER.

I can stomach musical theater in small doses. But the opera? That takes it to a whole other level. THEY SING EVERYTHING. And they sing it repeatedly. And it’s in a language I don’t speak. And it goes on for a very long time.

I think opera could seriously benefit from an editor.

At last night’s performance, there was an older lady sitting a row ahead of us and four seats to our left. Not 20 minutes into the performance her head was thrown back and she was sawing logs. Occasionally she’d jolt herself awake, grab her theater binoculars, and pretend she hadn’t just been fast asleep. Nobody bought it. But I found it entertaining. She might have been my favorite part of the show. That and the cocktails. (And of course, Supple’s company.)

At the intermission, Supple asked, “So what do you think?” And I replied, “I remembered I don’t like opera.”

I wish I liked opera. Liking opera sounds so cultured. But alas, I am not that girl. You can take me to the theater, an author reading, a poetry slam, a dance performance, to hear classical music or hip hop or indie folk or jazz but you can’t take me to the opera.

Feel free to judge me.

**If you think you aren’t familiar with opera, The Barber of Seville, you probably know it without knowing you know it. There was a Bugs Bunny adaptation called The Rabbit of Seville that is widely known. I recognized a lot of the music because I had seen that cartoon as a kid.


So That Happened

My sister, Dokey, and I were walking (somewhat illegally) down the street on our way to see Sufjan Stevens at The Paramount Saturday night. Part of the road was blocked off for construction so there was no sidewalk. We were headed in the same direction as the traffic and when the light changed a bus starts headed towards us so we picked up the pace. We were walk/running and I started to panic and Dokey was all “well hurry up!” and I laughed saying, “I feel like we’re in Stand By Me and I’m the fat kid and you’re Gordie.” I was SO Vern in that moment.

You kinda had to be there.

The show was good- definitely more a performance art piece and at points, a sensory overload but still, it was Sufjan which is a good thing in my book.


We carved our first pumpkin together. And by we I mean Mr. Darcy carved it. I pulled out the guts and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Our First Pumpkin


On the fly I decided to dress as Velma for the office Halloween party. I had the skirt and the shoes and glasses. Luckily I found the turtleneck and socks (which fell down all day long) at Goodwill on my way home from work the night before. I also scored a small ceramic dog which Mr. Darcy painted up with black spots and a collar to look more like a miniature Scooby.

Velma Dinkley of Scooby Doo

I am on the F.U.N. Team at work which means we plan parties and happy hours. We created a “haunted hallway” in the office with fake ghosts and spider webs and even a fog machine. Unfortunately with the door closed and curtains hung we were trapping the smoke in that area which set off the fire alarm FOR THE ENTIRE BUILDING. Everyone was forced to evacuate and wait for the firemen to come certify the building was safe for re-entry. Luckily it wasn’t raining but I’m pretty sure the rest of the agencies in the building weren’t too happy with us.



Two months ago I balked at the idea of holding half-handstand for 60 seconds and yesterday I managed to hold it, entirely unassisted, for 30 seconds before caving. I have, please note, held plank and forearm plank for an entire minute during these past 60 days. When I stop and think about it, I am rather proud of myself. I hope someday to be able to hold half-handstand for a full minute. Maybe even someday do a full handstand.

I went ahead and invested in my very own high quality yoga mat and meditation bolster. I’m serious about my practice and now with my daily mediation, I want to create a welcoming space to devote myself to. I’ve taken to getting up earlier to do some yoga before settling down for my meditation every morning and am already starting to feel the benefits. It’s a peaceful way to start my day and I am grateful for it.

Show Time

Thanks to One N Jen’s awesome ticket buying skills we had sixth row seats for the Ray LaMontagne & David Gray show on Sunday.

It looked a little something like this:

He always stands on the right side. Note to concert-goers: don't sit on the far right side if you want to actually see him.

David Gray: A Real Life Bobblehead

I’ve seen Ray LaMontagne before and while he’s quiet – he says “thank you” or “thank you very much” but that’s it, no musician banter or chit-chat with the audience- he pours his soul out through the songs. It was a boot stompin’, chair dancing, rockin’ set. Then David Gray came on with colored lights and a bassist with facial expressions that made me think that was what his “sexy time” face looked like and, well, that was all I could think about whenever I saw him fondling his bass. I was surprised how many David Gray songs I knew. I used to listen to his album White Ladder years ago. It took me back to a time when I was still in my 20’s and depressed. (Man, I’m glad I’m not in that place anymore.) David puts on a really great show- he’s got a ton of energy and really takes over the stage. And yes, he bops his head around like a real life bobblehead or a mix of Joe Cocker and Stevie Wonder.

There were two middle-aged ladies sitting in front of us who were clearly very into David Gray. One lady had her cell phone out the ENTIRE concert. She essentially experienced the show THROUGH the phone. She was calling some people and holding the phone up during a couple of songs. The real kicker though, the part I found fascinating, was that she took video of practically every song. BUT! She would still be swaying her side-to-side chair dance (only one rhythm for this lady) while holding the camera so her video was all wonky. Hell, half the time it wasn’t even aimed at the stage. She moved it around so much I’m pretty sure watching those videos back could be used as a torture device on her enemies. I get taking photos or videos during a show but there’s also a part of me that missing the time before such devices were common and readily available. Like when we went to a show and actually had lighters to hold up instead of the lighter app on our iPhone. Like when we didn’t have a distraction from the show itself- live tweeting it, photo documenting it, recording a garbled version of your favorite song. Are our memories totally digitalized now?

{End old lady rant.}

There’s always that one (or 10) person who has to yell out to the musician, isn’t there? Someone inevitably will cry out, “PLAY FREE BIRD!” Some will chuckle, others will roll their eyes. I don’t really get the yelling out because most of the time the musician can’t hear you or you are annoying other concert-goers. But I suppose people like to be involved. . . and some are just regular old loudmouths. It’s just that people usually yell out stupid stuff. I did that once. I was 13 and at a Richard Marx concert (oh yes, yes I was) at Great America. I mustered up courage and yelled out, “I LOVE YOU RICHARD!” And then he played “Hold Onto the Nights” and I probably got a little teary and swoony.

Look, I wasn’t always cool, okay?