Having a Chat with Nightmare and the Cat

L.A.-based rock band Nightmare and the Cat makes music that escapes easy categorization, blending jangly pop, bluesy riffs, and anthemic hooks that soar with lead singer Django Stewart’s powerful vocals. Catch them this Thursday night when they play Gary Baseman’s House Party to celebrate the opening of Gary Baseman: The Door Is Always Open. Stewart speaks below about the band and their unique collaborations with Baseman, who will paint live on stage during their set.

NTC_NYGary272What is the origin of the name “Nightmare and the Cat”?
It is a song by an amazing artist who never got signed and never made it on stage. He disappeared without a trace, and Sam and I just loved the song and his lyrics so much, we named our band after him. I’m hoping that one day we may meet him wherever he may be.

How did you meet Gary Baseman?
We met Gary at our friend Carina Round’s birthday party. She had written a song for one of his characters and Gary came out of nowhere dressed in a giant pink ChouChou costume and asked Claire in our band to dance.

Watch a video of ChouChous dancing:

How did Baseman painting on stage while you play come about?
This was a very natural occurrence. I feel Gary has always been making art while we sing and play. Painting was just a grander medium than the usual little sketchbook. Continue reading

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Dr. L. Subramaniam’s Global Fusion Knows No Borders

It was 1988, I was living in New York. Mira Nair’s award-winning movie Salaam Bombay! had just been released. I remember its strong impact on me and how I was riveted by the poignant and highly effective soundtrack which gave it another dimension. The score was by Dr. L. Subramaniam, the esteemed master of Karnatic (South Indian) violin.

Here’s the trailer for Salaam Bombay! with music by Dr. L. Subramaniam.

Exploring further, I discovered not only Subramaniam’s Indian classical recordings, but also his East/West fusion works and cross-cultural collaborations. The recipient of many awards since a young age, and equally trained in classical Indian and Western music, Dr. L. Subramaniam is a prolific recording artist who has worked with musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Larry Coryell, Stéphane Grappelli, Yehudi Menuhin, Ali Akbar Khan, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Jean-Luc Ponty, Stanley Clarke, Zubin Mehta, and the New York Philharmonic, to name a few. Continue reading

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President’s Greeting: Jan/Feb 2013

Beginning in January, we present a new music series entitled “Journeys and Encounters,” featuring an eclectic line-up of global talents. Though they hail from diverse ethnic backgrounds and artistic traditions, their music-making demonstrates the beauty that emerges from openhearted cross-cultural exchange.

My son Gideon and I in Rwamagana, Rwanda.

In 2012, I journeyed to Rwamagana, in rural Rwanda, and enjoyed firsthand the joy of connecting across cultures. I was visiting Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (the Kinyarwanda-Hebrew name, agahozo–shalom, translates roughly to “a place of peace where tears are dried”). Co-founded by my son Gideon Herscher, it is a residential community for orphans emotionally scarred by the genocide in Rwanda. One evening, Gideon brought his guitar to a gathering and sang a traditional Hebrew lullaby. The young teens listened attentively. Gideon invited them to sing a Rwandan lullaby, which they did at the top of their lungs. Continue reading

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“Persian Lioness” Meets “American Soul/Blues Master”

While working for the Skirball, I long hoped to curate a concert series entirely dedicated to cross-cultural collaborations. This idea was propelled into action when I first heard Scent of Reunion: Love Duets Across Civilizations by Mahsa Vahdat and Mighty Sam McClain. I was moved by the beauty of the songs, their soulful vocals and the unforced rapport between a Persian singer and an American blues artist, each securely anchored in their respective traditions.

The blues has influenced a number of Persian musicians, most notably Mohsen Namjoo, Kiosk, and Rana Farhan (click on the links to see video clips I especially like from each artist). But in the case of Mahsa and Mighty Sam, the encounter takes the form of a musical conversation. For me it works because melancholy, nostalgia, and longing are at the core of both traditional Persian and blues singing. Although stylistically different, it is the emotion conveyed by both singers that makes this musical marriage so fruitful. Mahsa and Mighty Sam explore the connection between their musical heritages with grace and fluidity.

Their collaboration goes beyond two people and in fact spans three continents: Norwegian producer and poet Erik Hillestad met Mahsa on a journey to Iran while working on the album Lullabies From the Axis of Evil. They ended up working on several recordings together and eventually met and befriended Persian poet Mohammad Ebrahim Jafari. The lyrics of Scent of Reunion and the newly released follow-up, A Deeper Tone of Longing, were written by the two poets, in Farsi and English, and set to music composed by Mahsa and Norwegian musicians Sigvart Dagsland and Knut Reiersrud. To give the English lyrics just the right voice, they could not have come up with a better collaborator than Mighty Sam McClain.

The songs on both albums are about love, longing, separation, reunion, and hope. In an interview, Mighty Sam explains how Mahsa’s singing touched him to the core and that he did not need to understand the words to hear and feel her. He chokes up when he reveals the project’s emotional and spiritual meaningfulness for him. In turn, Mahsa explains that both styles of music express sadness and yearning but also hope and aspiration. She discovered through this project that the human heart is one and this oneness is the conduit allowing them to sing so easily together.

Mahsa Vahdat and Mighty Sam McClain live in concert.

Such is the beauty of music, an art form so fluid and universal that it speaks to us across, time, cultures, geography, politics, and language barriers. Music is healing, and in these times, a series based on the notion of connections without boundaries gives us more reason for hope and rejoicing. It is with anticipation that I look forward to the California premiere of Mahsa Vahdat and Mighty Sam McClain’s at the Skirball on Thursday, November 8.

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Like Music to Your Taste Buds

It is a joy to see the Sunset Concerts buffet filled with people enjoying my food and lively conversation.

It is a joy to see the courtyard filled with people enjoying my food and lively conversation. Photo by Jared Steven.

Sunset Concerts 2012 are over, but as a colleague reminded us in pictures, “What a summer it was!”

For me, the pleasure wasn’t only hearing great tunes or watching the showmanship of the artists, but enhancing the fan experience with good food. Each week, as I planned the menu for each of the popular pre-concert buffets, I drew inspiration from the feel of the music, the cultural and culinary heritage of the band, and the fresh summer bounty. It was fun to create something original, with music serving as my muse.

For the Sunset Concerts performance by La Santa Cecilia, among many dishes inspired by the band’s Latin American background, I created lamb shoulder braised with guajillo peppers, cinnamon, and orange. As I greeted guests, many asked me for the recipe. I’m happy to share it now with all of you. Enjoy it year round… and be sure to dine at Zeidler’s Cafe for next year’s season to see what I come up with next! Continue reading

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We Miss You, Sunset Concerts!

It’s Thursday at the Skirball, and you know what that means…Sunset Conc…– Oh, wait…The usual hum of set-up didn’t greet me when I arrived at work this morning. There’s no stage over the lily pond, and not a peep from the courtyard. You mean there won’t be a sound check?!

Sadly, summer is gone, and with it went Sunset Concerts 2012. But what a summer it was! And you know what they say: time flies when you’re having fun. On this first post–Sunset Concerts Thursday, here is a look back at all six shows of the season, highlighting the joy they brought, and will always bring, to our community.

Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga kicked off the season in late July. Visitors danced from the very first note until the band left the stage. Here, Samba and a bandmate start their own synchronized dance. Everywhere one looked, one could see people learning the steps and joining in. Photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga kicked off the season in late July. Visitors danced from the very first note until the band left the stage. Here, Samba and a bandmate start their own synchronized dance. Everywhere one looked, one could see people learning the steps and joining in. Photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Probably one of the most memorable moments of the night: What began as Samba and three ensemble dancers grooving… turned into a party onstage! The concert vibe was incredibly upbeat all night long! Photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

Probably one of the most memorable moments of the night: What began as Samba and three ensemble dancers grooving… turned into a party onstage! The concert vibe was incredibly upbeat all night long! Photo by Bonnie Perkinson.

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Music That Brings Me Closer to Home: La Santa Cecilia

La Santa Cecilia performs this Thursday night as part of the 2012 Sunset Concerts at the Skirball. This is such a great photo of the band! To my eye, the illumination around each member creates a saint-like aura!

La Santa Cecilia performs this Thursday night as part of the 2012 Sunset Concerts at the Skirball. This is such a great photo of the band! To my eye, the illumination around each member creates a saint-like aura!

Ever since I moved to Los Angeles from Sacramento, I’ve tried my best to be independent. But, as much as I hate to admit it to myself and even though I talk to my mom just about every day, I do get homesick and find myself nostalgic for my childhood.

What sparks my fondest memories is the music that I’ve grown up with. As a child, I was exposed to wonderful musicians such as Selena, Marc Anthony, Vicente Fernández, Banda Machos, Chayanne, and my personal favorite, Shakira.

As I’ve gotten older, my taste for Latin music has expanded to other artists such as Carla Morrison, Calle 13, Café Tacuba, Camila, and most recently, La Santa Cecilia, an L.A. favorite that will be taking the stage this Thursday at the Skirball. When I first began my internship here, I knew very little about this band, but once I listened to a few of their tracks, I immediately fell in love. What attracts me most to La Santa Cecilia’s music is their ability to combine different musical genres, not just of Latin culture, to create a type of music that is for everyone.

La Santa Cecilia, named after the patron saint of music, is fairly new to the music industry, but received a lot of popularity after their Latin Grammy nomination for this song, “La Negra.”

I’m so excited that August 23rd is coming up, so I can finally watch the band live! So, to help get everyone ready for this Thursday night’s concert featuring La Santa Cecilia, here’s a quick interview with the talented lead singer, La Marisoul:

A beautiful photo of just one of the vendor booths that enliven Olvera Street in El Pueblo, Los Angeles. © Kevin Stanchfield. As featured on http://dguides.com/losangeles/information/history/.

A beautiful photo of just one of the vendor booths that enliven Olvera Street in El Pueblo, Los Angeles. © Kevin Stanchfield. As featured on http://dguides.com/losangeles/information/history/.

What or who has inspired you to make music?
My biggest inspiration has been my family. Their love of music influenced my early dreams of being a singer/performer. I remember as a kid my mother would sing around the house and teach me her favorite songs. Another fond memory was spending weekends at my grandfather’s shop on Olvera Street in the heart of Los Angeles. There, in the colorful alley ways of Olvera, the sound of mariachi music, trio groups, and norteño bands were never absent and inspired my love for performing. Continue reading

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De Temps Antan Encore

De Temps Antan performs at Sunset Concerts next week, Thursday, August 16. Here’s a clip of them performing “La maison renfoncee.” What joie de vivre, what panache. I want a jacket with crossword puzzles printed on it!

While attending booking conferences, arts presenters are overwhelmed with options. From established to emerging, hundreds of artists a day vie for your attention. It’s easy to get a little jaded in your choices and easier still to overlook opportunities.

A few years ago, after one particularly tiring day at APAP in Manhattan (I had crisscrossed the island a few times for meetings and performances all over town), I was leaving my hotel to meet a college friend for dinner and a few more showcases. As I stepped into the hotel lobby, I suddenly heard terrific, foot-stomping music coming from the hotel bar. I stopped dead in my tracks, listened, and walked in.

I could barely squeeze into the packed lounge. To my surprise, the ruckus came from just three musicians having an awfully good time. Everyone, including the bar staff, was joining in on the bonhomie. The sound was upbeat and decidedly Celtic, but also very French. I had noticed on my way in that this was part of the “Annual Lobby Showcase” of “Quebec roots-trad-folk” put together by Folquébec. Not feeling the least bit jaded, I found myself entranced, clapping away until the end of the band’s set. Continue reading

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A Night Out at Sunset Concerts

These two found a nice spot to dance behind the stage. Photo by Mitch Maher.

These two found a nice spot to dance behind the stage. Photo by Mitch Maher.

Look at these happy people. Smiling, dancing, grooving… enjoying music under the stars. That could be you. Bring a date, or meet someone here—either way, Sunset Concerts at the Skirball is a great night out. The 2012 season kicks off this Thursday night, when Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga take the stage.

And have we mentioned that the concerts are free? And that our galleries (except Noah’s Ark at the Skirball) are also free and open until 10:00 p.m.?

If you like to plan ahead, here are tips on how to attend Sunset Concerts like a pro and how to do it on your budget, from cheapest options to best ways to splurge. Feel free to mix and match!

Find a nice grassy patch to picnic with friends. Photo by John Elder.

Picnic with friends. Photo by John Elder.

THE SUPER SAVER NIGHT WITH FRIENDS
Round up your buddies and get on the bus!
Transportation: Plan your trip with metro.net and go to and from the Skirball for $1.50 each way. Plus no parking fees. Metro Rapic 761 drops off right in front of our main entrance. Just remember to bring your Metro passes. You’ll have to show them to get your tickets into the venue.
Food: Bring a delicious dinner with you from home! You may bring in food, but outside alcoholic beverages are not permitted. For some good ideas on how to jazz up your menu, this oldie but goodie from Mark Bittman is our go-to guide. There is a grassy area on the balcony above the stage that is perfect for picnicking.
Drinks: Cash bar available on site, or bring nonalcoholic drinks from home.
Concert tickets: Admission to the concert is free! Continue reading

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A Little (Late) Night Music… Into the Night Is Back, Featuring Sea Wolf and Geographer!

See Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf at Into the Night: Playtime—on Friday the 13th, no less!

See Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf at Into the Night: Playtime—on Friday the 13th, no less! Photo by Mia Kirby.

Music, especially discovering new music, is one of my greatest passions. My husband and I are music fiends. We have extremely eclectic tastes and appreciate all kinds of musical genres and styles from all over the world. His 160 gigabyte iPod Classic is full. Our iTunes library contains 72 days, 10 hours, and 32 minutes’ worth of music. That’s 25,108 songs.

As much as we enjoy collecting music and listening to recordings, there’s nothing like being at a live show, whether it’s an intimate club gathering, a stadium show, or one of the myriad venue options in between. Aside from the Skirball, some of my favorite small venues are the Bootleg Bar/Theater and the Troubadour. For medium-sized to larger venues, I like the Wiltern, Gibson Amphitheatre, and Greek Theatre.

When I’m at a concert, I get swept up, allowing the emotion and power of the music and lyrics to envelop me. I love feeling the energy between the performers and the audience. My May 22 Facebook status update—which I posted during the Lianne LaHavas show at the Bootleg—said it all: “If there’s something better than music please enlighten me!”

I haven’t tallied up the live shows we’ve attended in the first half of 2012 yet, but we’re off to a pretty good start with acts like Lianne LaHavas, Bahamas, Quantic + Alice Russell, and Robert Glasper Experiment. My better half is especially adept at scouting new sounds for us to check out and will frequently insist that we go out to see a show even after a long workday. He’s got a great track record, and has led me to discover some of my favorite bands. In 2011, we attended more than 100 performances, ranging from solo singer/songwriters in bars and clubs to major productions like the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. (The 2012 PBJF took place just a few weeks ago and Sheila E. totally stole the show with her electrifying performance and beautiful samba dancers!) One weekend last November, we saw Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame at Royce Hall and powerful Pakistani singer Riffat Sultana at the Skirball. We loved both experiences, delighting in the contrast.

With all of the amazing live shows we enjoyed last year, one of the best nights of 2011 was the Skirball’s Into the Night: Music and Magic late-night party. (It was also the night that got me back on coffee!)

Around 1,000 people showed up for a great evening of music, magic, art, and film. The roaming magicians and signature cocktails were big hits, too! For more pictures of last year’s event, scroll down…

Around 1,000 people showed up for a great evening of music, magic, art, and film. The roaming magicians and signature cocktails were big hits, too! For more pictures of last year’s event, scroll down…Photo by Jared Steven.

Excited that DJ Anthony Valadez will be back this year! Here he is last year in a moody haze of lights.

Excited that DJ Anthony Valadez will be back this year! Here he is last year in a moody haze of lights. Photo by Jared Steven.

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