My Summertime Jams

BelleBrigadeTN038Summer is coming to an end, and with it some of my favorite things about being in Los Angeles at this time of year, like the outdoor summer concerts that take advantage of the clear, crisp nights of the city. The best part about a majority of these concerts is that they are inexpensive and often free! What most attracts me to these summertime music events is reaffirmed each time I attend one: that music has the profound ability to bring people from all different backgrounds and ages together. It builds a sense of community, which is no easy task in a city as extensive as Los Angeles. Music reminds us to celebrate our lives, the people around us, and the beautiful city we are given the opportunity to live in. While there are many free summer offerings all over Los Angeles, each one offers a unique type of experience from the other.

Last year, as part of my Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship at the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, I was able to watch a Grand Performances: Lunch Box Noon Concert featuring the pop-folk band The Belle Brigade. The downtown Los Angeles atmosphere, with its tall, gleaming buildings that enclosed the outdoor concert, provided a feeling of togetherness and acted as an oasis to the chaotic and constant flux of its metropolitan surroundings. Set up next to an outdoor fountain, the small amphitheater allowed audience members to congregate in a more intimate space, where children, teens, and adults alike could sing along and dance all while enjoying their lunch boxes, which were handed out to audience members prior to the show. Set appropriately at noon, the performance took advantage of the perpetual sunshine this city is known for.

BelleBrigade_Sunset Concerts_SkirballIt was awesome to see my summer music experience come full-circle, when, while working as the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Intern at the Skirball this summer, The Belle Brigade kicked off their Sunset Concerts series on July 25. As this was my first Sunset Concerts experience, I really did not know what to expect from this outdoor, all-ages music event. Unsurprisingly, in a similar way to their performance at last year’s Grand Performances concert, The Belle Brigade was able to make audience members dance and smile with their infectious melodies and catchy lyrics. The warm, starry night enveloped the attendees, providing a comforting and carefree vibe. The Taper courtyard filled with people of all backgrounds and ages: a family with four kids, racing each other from the parking lot to the venue; a young couple with their own picnic; and even local band Harriet, Continue reading

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Sunset Concerts at the Skirball Week 6: Dendê & Band

Dende2The Skirball’s Sunset Concerts—FREE Thursday night performances of the best in American and world music—finish up this week with Dendê & Band, rhythm-heavy Afro-Brazilian music led by master percussionist and composer Dendê Macêdo. Throughout the season, SkirBlog has featured a preview of the week’s upcoming performer written by a member of our Programs department. Read about this year’s final performance below, then make your way here on Thursday to watch the show in our magnificent outdoor courtyard. Dendê & Band, this Thursday, August 29, at 8:00 p.m.

When I walked into New York’s famed S.O.B.’s (Sounds of Brazil) and first saw Dendê & Band, I immediately knew that the mixture of African percussion and Brazilian melodies would make for a perfect addition to Sunset Concerts. Bahia-born bandleader Dendê currently splits his time between the Brazilian state and New York City, and along the way he has collaborated with some of the world’s great musicians, including David Byrne, Zakir Hussain, and Vinicius Cantuária. He has been performing since he was a young teenager, and while he leads a number of combos with slightly different focuses, all his music is about percussion and has been a hit from the Kennedy Center to Lincoln Center and at festivals around the world.

As a bandleader, Dendê exudes the charisma to create deep audience connections and his music easily cajoles even the most reticent onto the dance floor. The sound is a wonderful mixture of traditional Brazilian melodies and Afrobeat with added flavors of reggae, merengue, and other tropical sounds that will sweep you onto your feet. Time Out New York says the music “ought to delight fans of Afrobeat and psych-tinged funk.” Rest assured, when Dendê & Band start playing, you will be out of your seat and on the dance floor.

Watch the official video for “Cafézinho” by Dendê & Band:

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Sunset Concerts at the Skirball Week 5: Maria Muldaur and The Campbell Brothers

Muldaur-Cover-courtesy-of-F

Courtesy of Folklore Productions

The Skirball’s Sunset Concerts—FREE Thursday night performances of the best in American and world music—continue this week with a world-premiere collaboration between Maria Muldaur, singer of the megahit “Midnight at the Oasis,” and the rock gospel ensemble The Campbell Brothers. Each week, SkirBlog will feature a preview of the upcoming performer written by a member of our Programs department. Read about the band, view photos and videos … then make your way here on Thursday to watch the show in our magnificent outdoor courtyard. Maria Muldaur and The Campbell Brothers, this Thursday, August 22, at 8:00 p.m.

Nearly anyone familiar with American folk music from the 1960s will think fondly of Maria Muldaur. Since her early days in Jim Kweskin’s Jug Band, Muldaur has been a major voice in American music. She is best-known for “Midnight at the Oasis,” but throughout her career Muldaur has worked with some of the most important names in music including Bob Dylan, John Sebastian, and The Grateful Dead. She has always approached traditional Americana with complete reverence, even when sounds like country and western music were out of fashion, so it comes as little surprise that in recent years she has become one of the leading female voices singing the blues. Continue reading

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Sunset Concerts at the Skirball Week 4: Mamak Khadem and Ensemble

The Skirball’s Sunset Concerts—FREE Thursday night performances of the best in American and world music—continue this week with beloved Iranian singer Mamak Khadem, accompanied by an ensemble of world-class musicians. Each week, SkirBlog will feature a preview of the upcoming performer written by a member of our Programs department. Read about the band, view photos and videos … then make your way here on Thursday to watch the show in our magnificent outdoor courtyard. Mamak Khadem and Ensemble, this Thursday, August 15, at 8:00 p.m. Mamak-Khadem-179

Persian vocalist and musician Mamak Khadem is one of my favorite performers in Los Angeles. Her distinctive, passionate voice is stunning and clear—it truly opens my heart. Aside from her voice, what I love about Mamak is her versatility and her ability to connect different cultures and music traditions to create something new and unique. Throughout her career, Mamak’s work has primarily focused on reimagining Persian music and poetry and revitalizing it for the next generation of Iranians, as well as introducing new art forms to a cross-cultural audience.

Mamak-Khadem-230While she has performed several times at the Skirball—whether as a member of Axiom of Choice, as a solo artist with her own ensemble, or as a guest of another artist—each time Mamak performs she brings something new and invigorating to the stage. I’m excited that she has developed a special concert of upbeat dance music, blending Iranian, Armenian, and Greek traditions, for the Skirball’s Sunset Concert series on August 15.

Along with her soaring vocals, Mamak employs rhythmically entrancing percussion and some very cool Middle Eastern instruments in her music. My favorite is the zurna, a wind instrument that to me sounds like a magic horn. Continue reading

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Sunset Concerts Math

Sunset Concerts math - titleSunset Concerts Math - equation 1Sunset Concerts Math - equation 2Sunset Concerts Math - equation 3Thank you, Erik Shveima, for sharing your “Sunset Concerts Math” with us. We hope our SkirBlog readers come see for yourselves how these equations add up. Click here for tips on how to make Sunset Concerts a great night out! And we hope to see you tonight for Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars!

Erik Shveima is a Los Angeles–based artist with a fondness for illustrated blogs, so much so that he is responsible for two: Mixed Media Daily and, most recently, Or Best Offer.

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Sunset Concerts at the Skirball Week 3: Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars

The Skirball’s Sunset Concerts—FREE Thursday night performances of the best in American and world music—continue this week with West African band Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. Each week, SkirBlog will feature a preview of the upcoming performer written by a member of our Programs department. Read about the band, view photos and videos … then make your way here on Thursday to watch the show in our magnificent outdoor courtyard. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, this Thursday, August 8, at 8:00 p.m. slras_14_by_jay_dickman-lan

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars are a West African band who formed out of the ashes of war and violence during Sierra Leone’s civil war. On the band’s website, co-founder Reuben M. Koroma writes, “We try to bring out sensitive issues that are affecting the world. It is all of our responsibility that the masses are suffering. We bring our positive messages into the world so we can expect a positive change in the world. And, most importantly, bring about peace.”

Upon first hearing Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, I was impressed by their adept musicianship, and moved by their story of perseverance and the positive message of their music. They have devoted themselves deeply to causes such as stopping political violence Continue reading

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Sunset Concerts at the Skirball Week 2: Shye Ben-Tzur

The Skirball’s Sunset Concerts—FREE Thursday night performances of the best in American and world music—continue this week with acclaimed composer and musician Shye Ben-Tzur. Each week, SkirBlog will feature a preview of the upcoming performer written by a member of our Programs department. Read about the band, view photos and videos … then make your way here on Thursday to watch the show in our magnificent outdoor courtyard. Shye Ben-Tzur, this Thursday, August 1, at 8:00 p.m.

Skirball_Sunset Concerts_Shye-and-band-performingAmong my music-loving, concert-going friends, we can trace our fanaticism to a handful of shared seminal moments in our youth: going to impromptu garage shows in high school, waiting in line at a venue to secure a good view of the stage, staying out late to talk to bands. Yet rarely do these moments add up to a life’s calling, much less a cultural and spiritual journey that literally takes you thousands of miles away from home—such as in the case of Shye Ben-Tzur.

Ben-Tzur’s origin story reads like a modern retelling of an ancient epic: Continue reading

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Kicking Off Sunset Concerts with The Belle Brigade!

Summertime at the Skirball means Sunset Concerts—FREE Thursday night performances of the best in American and world music! To celebrate, each week a different member of the Skirball’s Program Department will preview the upcoming performer, giving a little insight as to how and why they were perfect for this year’s series. Read about the band, view photos, watch videos … then make your way here each Thursday to see the band live and in person in our magnificent outdoor courtyard. First up: indie band The Belle Brigade, this Thursday, July 25, at 8:00 p.m.

The Belle Brigade. Photo by John Peets.

The Belle Brigade. Photo by John Peets.

I saw The Belle Brigade for the first time in April 2011, when they opened for k.d. lang at the Troubadour. I hadn’t heard of them before then, but the buzz began in the line to enter the venue. We happened to be standing next to some of their family friends who were excited to see the performance. These enthusiastic, proud friends talked up the band’s folky pop, Fleetwood Mac sound and gorgeous harmonies—reminiscent of the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. I admit to being somewhat skeptical, despite sibling bandleaders Barbara and Ethan Gruska’s impressive musical lineage: their father, Jay Gruska, is an accomplished songwriter and their grandfather is legendary composer John Williams.

Once inside, my husband and I rushed to the front—we made it to third row, center stage—to position ourselves for k.d.’s set, still more than hour away. When The Belle Brigade took the stage, I thought, “Okay, let’s see what these guys can do.” Continue reading

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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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