Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ben Folds, The Very Best, and Bridge School Benefit

It's going to be a busy week of music and traveling. First, I'm off to Seattle to see Ben Folds perform tonight with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra at Benaroya Hall! Then tomorrow morning I'm catching a flight to San Francisco to meet up with my dad. We're going to the Bridge School Benefit concerts in Mountain View on the weekend, a gift from my sister and I to celebrate his 60th birthday. He's a big Neil Young fan, though I'm pretty sure this will be the first time seeing him live. In between, I'll also be taking him to see The Very Best in San Francisco and see some sights including the new Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio. Busy, busy, busy.

With Someone Else's Money - You Don't Know Me [originally by Ben Folds featuring Regina Spektor]
You all know I'm a huge fan of Mr. Folds and this will be the third time I've seen him live, but the first time with a full orchestra backing him up! The music of Ben Folds (and Ben Folds Five) has long been fodder for college a cappella groups, so the only problem he had when assembling the album of covers released earlier this year as Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! was whittling down the deluge of submissions. The tracklist spans his solo and BF5 works, but leans heavily on the slower ballads. Ben himself contributes a cappella arrangements of his own Boxing and Effington. I would've loved to hear a cappella arrangements of the more rock-based numbers, though I'm sure it's just a youtube search away. This cover of the single from Way to Normal was arranged and performed by With Someone Else's Money from the University of Georgia. By the way, a demo of Levi Johnston's Blues from the forthcoming Ben Folds/Nick Hornby album debuted just over a week ago on the Huffington Post.

The Very Best - Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa [samples Vampire Weekend]
From last year's free mixtape, Esau Mwamwaya and producer team Radioclit completely reworked Vampire Weekend's Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa into a relentlessly upbeat but not cloying dance number. Delivering on the promise of that mixtape (which urged on the last track to "watch out" for the forthcoming album), The Very Best's Warm Heart of Africa was released earlier this month to universal critical acclaim. When I found out I'd be in San Francisco, I naturally scoped out the concert listings and was thrilled to discover one of The Very Best's few tour dates would coincide with my trip. Should be a blast!

It's an eclectic lineup this year with ska, hard rock, folk, and, uh, Adam Sandler on the bill. I'm curious to see how the different artists approach their setlists since past performers typically, as a tradition though not a rule, do acoustic sets. This will be my first Bridge School Benefit experience... but hopefully not my last!

Shannon Butcher - Just a Girl [originally by No Doubt]
Mississauga-born jazz singer Shannon Butcher's 2008 debut album Words We Both Could Say ranges from covers of Blondie, Tears for Fears, Glen Campbell, and this wonderful fast-paced rendition of No Doubt's Just a Girl that sounds completely natural as a modern jazz standard.

Pivot - Woman [originally by Wolfmother]
Wolfmother is expected to play an acoustic set at the Bridge School Benefit. We already got a taste of how this would sound when they played a 4-song set at the SPIN offices including a cover of Neil Young's Don't Let it Bring You Down (watch it here). Their upcoming sophomore album Cosmic Egg (guitarist/vocalist Andrew Stockdale is the only member of the original trio, now a foursome) is due to be released next week. Apparently a (studio?) recording of Don't Let It Bring You Down will be available on the Japanese edition of the album. This instrumental cover of their hit Woman by fellow Australian band Pivot is nearly unrecognizable, but a lot of fun.

Coldplay & Buena Vista Social Club - Clocks
I actually like this Latin reworking of Clocks better than the original. It's from the Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba album. A follow-up was released fairly recently called Rhythms del Mundo: Classics, which is chockfull of covers featuring the likes of The Killers, Amy Winehouse, Kaiser Chiefs, and Rodrigo y Gabriela. For the most part, they are previously recorded covers with new backing orchestration from a group of all-star Afro-Cubano musicians including members of the Buena Vista Social Club. I haven't given the CD a real thorough listen yet, but I did enjoy the last album.

Jets Overhead - Mr. Soul [originally by Neil Young]
Victoria band Jets Overhead was late addition to the Bridge School Benefit. They contributed this cover to the Neil Young double tribute album Borrowed Tunes II.

M. Ward, Conor Oberst & Jim James - Girl from the North Country [originally by Bob Dylan]
Before they dubbed themselves Monsters of Folk (along with Bright Eyes' Mike Mogis), the trio of M. Ward, Conor Oberst, and Jim James all toured together, playing triple bills that would include solo sets then all three of them together. This live cover is from Mojo's Dylan Covered compilation.

Sheryl Crow - Mother Nature's Son [originally by The Beatles]
Sheryl Crow was not exactly on my concert bucket list, but I will inadvertently be seeing her for the second time in just over a month. Judging from her performance at Ambleside Park last month alongside Sarah McLachlan and Neil Young, I know more of her songs than I'd care to admit, though I do unabashedly love her cover of Mother Nature's Son from the all-Beatles cover soundtrack to I Am Sam.

Neil Young - Imagine [originally by John Lennon]
I'll admit I was slow getting into Neil Young. I mean, his back catalogue is daunting even for people I consider big Neil Young fans. As a covers enthusiast, I just couldn't help being exposed regularly to his songwriting since everyone seems to have recorded a Neil Young cover at some point, a fact that especially holds true for any Canadian artist. But it's probably my best friend's occasional playing of Harvest Moon on his guitar that really opened my ears after years of listening indifferently to the frequently repeated Neil Young tunes on the local classic rock station.

Well, that's it for blogging for the next week, though you can follow me on Twitter and I'm sure I'll be updating that. I may even live tweet the concerts on the weekend since Google provides free wireless internet for all of Mountain View... Anyway, it's 3:37am and I've got a train to catch in a few hours. I can never sleep before these big trips and last-minute blogging sure doesn't help!

1 comment:

Rene said...

I thought Shannon Butcher's cover of "Just A Girl" was just amazing. It's cool to listen to such a different take on the No Doubt song.

Unfortunately, when I tried to add info about her cover version on the Wikipedia page for the "Just A Girl" song, it kept on getting erased by some editor.

Apparently this person felt that Shannon wasn't "notable" enough as an artist to be included on that page, yet he was more than willing to include a cover by another artist. :(