Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eugene Gives Amos Lee and Crew a “Theatre Feel” at the McDonald

Amos Lee and Vusi at the McDonald Theatre, January 22nd, 2011

Wintery Oregon air was nowhere to be found inside the McDonald Theatre Saturday night when opening artist Vusi took the stage with warm South African soul music.  His solo performance included just an acoustic guitar and a mic (sometimes a soapbox), but his mix of upbeat, socially aware tunes packed more than your average one-man-show punch.  If anyone was in a poor mood when they arrived, they were certainly smiling by the time Vusi’s set was done.  And after his first song, crowds here to see Amos Lee cleared from the lounge and entryways to hear his message.  Vusi, an activist/poet who still lives in his native country and has close ties with Nelson Mandela and Dave Matthews, really found a connection with the Eugene crowd, and was a perfect introduction to the main act.

Once Amos Lee and his band entered, girls went wild.  I overheard a female fan declare “I want to make out with his voice” and male fans got agitated when other concert go-ers blocked their view of the stage.  Everyone was ecstatic and men and women, young and old were swaying, clapping, and singing along.  Fairly impressive for an artist who’s currently releasing his fourth studio album. 

Lee was joined by an ensemble of seven, featuring two backup vocalists, a keyboardist, and a pedal steel player.  The set was a mixture of a solo acoustic sound which resembled his latest album, Mission Bell, as well as a full band sound with everyone on stage grooving together, keeping the audience amped up.

A few songs into the night Lee proclaimed to have a “shattered voice” after asking the crowd how he sounded.  Apparently the Portland show from the previous night had taken its toll on the band, who did not seem nor sound affected.  When I asked Andy, the pedal steel player, how the show felt in comparison to Portland, he said that “every show has its charm, and tonight’s was great; more of a theatre feel than a club feel.”  Sometimes that’s bound to happen at the McDonald Theatre, I guess.

The audience wasn’t fazed by the comparison, nor was Lee when an attendee shouted loud enough to be heard over the music “don’t touch me!”  Lee comedically carried the theme throughout the rest of the show with fans following suit shouting an additional “touch me!” here and there.

The band briefly left the stage to let Lee perform “Out of the Cold”, a song on Mission Bell he wrote after playing for wounded American troops.  When they returned they brought Vusi with them who sang “Jesus” and did the song wonderful, blues justice.  The encore featured a guitar-less Lee, who, with his glasses and plaid, had a very Robert Downey Jr. effect.

After a flawlessly executed performance there should be no doubt as to Lee’s talents and loyal fan base, and hopefully sales of Mission Bell, which releases January 25th, will attest to that.

Friday, January 21, 2011

That Which By Any Other Name

The other day while at work, I came across a patient’s name that I had never seen before.  Not just at my work, I mean I’d never heard of the name in general.  For the sake of HIPAA policies and that there might only be one of this person in the world, I can’t actually disclose his name, but when pronouncing it I had a choice to make: pronounce it exactly as it looked or pronounce it more…well, ethnic.  Our office sees patients all the time from various countries, so I made my best attempt at pronouncing his name Spanishly.  Well unfortunately this patient wasn’t Spanish, and I chose the wrong path.  I needed to go the phonetic route.  His mom politely corrected me with a twinge of “not again” in her voice.

Well lady, I’m sure your kid’s name means a hell of a lot to you, but it makes me feel like a real asshole when I say someone’s name wrong.  Especially when their parent, who chose this name above all names for their beloved child, is a witness to my misspeak.  This got me thinking about all the names I come across in a single day that are ridiculous, and how often I look like a jerk when I botch them.  Someone needs to tell these people to get real; your kid is going to hate their name as much as I hate saying “Hoo-ball” out loud as if it’s a real moniker.

Like some of my previous blogs, I’ve come up with a few simple guidelines to follow when naming your child, and have jotted them down on a stone tablet and gifted them to you, my readers, so that you may not be blind, but now see.  And I agree with baby-naming websites and books when they say: write down the potential baby name and have a person/persons close to you give their opinion.  It will give you wonderful insight to how the real world may embrace, or not, your child.  Don’t believe naysayers when they tell you that this will only make you dislike your baby name because someone you know will know a Jenny back from high school that they loathed more than all creatures and will forever hate all people with Jennifer derived names and therefore you couldn’t possibly be thinking of naming your son Jenny!  (I do hate all people with Jennifer derived names.)

Rule #1: Don’t get too creative
Yes, your new baby should be the most important thing in your world, and I know you just can’t seem to find the words to describe your joy.  (By the way, don’t name her Joy.)  But don’t attempt to make up for this when naming your kid.  Before you fill out that birth certificate, write the name out and ask someone to read it to you.  If they’re a decently intelligent human being and they get a quizzical look in their eye and attempt 3 pronunciations in one breath, don’t name your kid that word!  Just think of the little tyke going through life with that name: every first day of class, every trip to the doctor, every interview.  By the time he turns 18 he’s going to legally change his name to a number and be formally known as it he’s so sick of his birth name!  Likewise, don’t take a normal name and try and get too jiggy with switching up the letters.  Jimmy is spelled J-I-M-M-Y, not Jhimme.  And if I see another version of Kiley besides Kylee, Kaileigh, or Kyyylei I’m going to explode.  If your child’s name is the most difficult thing he/she learns how to spell by the 4th grade, let’s not.  That means none of their friends can spell it either.  And if you haven’t heeded my advice and you find yourself correcting people constantly and getting angrier each time, back off.  It’s not our fault that Tania looks like Tuh-nee-ya and not Tawnya.

Rule #2: Don’t get any ideas from All Dogs Go to Heaven
Have you ever been somewhere when a human being has been introduced to an animal and they have the same name?  I have, and it’s super embarrassing.  For that person, and for the pet-owner.  The example that comes to mind I can’t mention because a close friend of mine just named her daughter the most common Labrador Retriever name in the universe.  So we’ll skip that one but let’s review the others: Max, Ollie, Duke, Jackson, Abby, Maggie, or Jake.  Your son or daughter is a person, and shouldn’t come running when the neighbor’s kitty is being called in the house.  So before naming Baby #2 do what I did just now: look up the most popular pet names for the year and stay as far away from any of them as possible.  Unless you want to name your kid Spike, because that would be awesome.

Rule # 3: Don’t choose their career path
Some of you may not be as Gentleman’s Club savvy as I am, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: strippers use fake names.  Granted their real names are often used by other strippers but that’s just the endless cycle of trash in America and we’ll talk about that at a later time.  Even if you’ve never visited a classy joint like The Silver Dollar, I’m sure you’re still familiar with common dancer names like Candy, Ginger, Jade, Jasmine, and Crystal. These names are also often used by southern white gold diggers.  It’s difficult for a woman to command respect when named after a baked good or semiprecious gem.  So, unless you want to become a grandmother at 40 or be financially responsible for your daughter until your death at 95, please reconsider.  Additionally, and this is really super top secret information, many names that were ΓΌber popular in 2002 are now extremely common stripper names.  Names like Amber, Taylor, Veronica, Desiree, and Lily are all windin’, grindin’ up on the pole at this very moment.  So send in a scout, whether it’s either parent or your creepy brother-in-law Rick, and be sure you have a solid list of names to avoid until you throw Rick’s next bachelor party. 

Rule #4: Don’t be too unoriginal
If you’re dead set on naming your offspring Ann or Michael, perhaps to acknowledge a fallen family member, remember that your child is their own person, and paying homage to you great grandma on your father’s stepmother’s side may sound sweet and cuddly, but your child will be walking home with B-‘s on his Matthew J’s or Elizabeth K’s report card until he reaches college.  I can’t remember how many John’s there were in my 2nd grade class but I do remember thinking that it would suck to have to differentiate yourself constantly to your own teacher let alone hope they didn’t get the wrong John when you saw John B. shoot a spitwad at Mary T.  The only way your child can pull off a name like that is if you have a ridiculously cool last name like Blankenship, Trueblood, or Huxtable.  Then teach him from an early age to sign his name P.T. Anderson or Bond, James Bond.  (On the contrary, if you have a freakishly wild/embarrassing last name, choosing a more moderate first name may be in order.)

Rule #5: Think of their last name when picking their first.  
I grew up with a guy whose last name was Hull.  He was dead-set on naming his children Lucy Hull and Titus Hull.  Hilarious when you’re 17 and joking, unfortunate when you’re signing Julia Guglia for the rest of your life.  The name Amanda may sound soothing on its own, but stick Loving (knew a girl with that name) after it and you’ve got a disaster on your hands!  This is a rule my parents should have studied when choosing my name.  Besides naming me 2 and a half decades behind 1985, they also felt I would be a strong enough female to walk through 4 years of high school with the initials BJ.  And learning from my parent’s mistakes I’ve had to accept the fact that naming my future son Jack Purvis will ultimately turn him into a child molester.  Speaking of which I went to high school with a kid name John Kanoff whose uncle’s name was Jack.  No effing joke!  Other real life examples: Paige Turner and Summer Lovin.  How cruel parents can be…

There are probably a zillion other baby naming rules that I could think of, and honestly I will probably break a few of them when naming my own children.  But if you feel the way I do that your name can make or break you, bring you fame or bring you shame, then it’s very important to take into consideration your child’s future and what he or she may be content with throughout the 80 or so years of their life.  Yes, Brenda is a very suitable name for a 50-something stay at home mom, but it’s been a struggle the last 25 years and I still have 25 more to go!  And yes mom, I agree that being fifty with a name like Tiffany might be more obnoxious.  But I doubt there was NO grey area between Brenda and Tiffany.  The truth is no matter how hard you try your kid will inevitably hate the name you gave them.  Therefore I have decided that at age 5, 13, and 21 all children should be legally required to rename themselves.  Which would have probably landed me the names My Pretty Ballerina, Mrs. Timberlake, and Sparkles the Tranny.  And thinking about that makes me appreciate my dull name just a little bit more.