A Cultural Smorgasbord

It was a happy accident that I experienced a cultural smorgasbord within a four-day timespan in March…

Every year, I like to try a new art form. This year, the Groupon gods sent me a water marbling (or ebru) class, which was taught at the Turkish Cultural Center. I’d never heard of water marbling. I invited my art partner in crime Mary along; this was our fourth birthday list art escapade.

Our teacher was Turkish and just lovely. She buys all of her art supplies from Turkey, including special paper, brushes, and paints. I can’t quite explain the process; it was like magic. There were about 10 of us in the class and we rotated among three work stations. We stood in front of a pan of water that was treated with something special for 24 hours. We then picked a few colors, dipped the brush into the paint, and kind of “flicked” the paint onto the water, circles of color floating in the water mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we decided that we were done, we gently laid a piece of paper on top of the pan of colored water, slid the paper off, and voila, the paint ended up on the paper!

We each made two pieces and I was pretty happy with the results…but I mistakenly left one in the classroom and I have misplaced the other one! Search online for “ebru painting” sometime and you will see what a beautiful art form it is.

A couple of days later, I went on a tour of a local mosque, the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, thanks to the organization of my friend Anya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walked into the mosque not knowing anything about Islam. Our tour guide was wonderful and spent more than the allotted time with us, telling us about the history of Islam and the history of the mosque. She explained the main tenets of the religion and answered our many questions. I left with the message that Muslims want the chance to explain their religion to others; they want to be a part of the community just as other religions are. I highly recommend taking a tour at your local mosque if you are like me and didn’t know anything about Islam.

A few hours after I left the mosque, I was attending a performance by Kodo, a group of Japanese taiko drummers. I’ve been interested in taiko drumming ever since I took a class last year.

I was expecting a few hours of loud, powerful (but beautiful) banging on gigantic drums. Silly me. It was a few hours of drumming on many different types of drums, plus bell ringing, plus beautiful and sometimes humorous choreography.

In the aftermath of this smorgasbord, I felt grateful to live in a city that offers so many opportunities to experience other cultures. For someone who loves to travel but can’t always afford it, I cherish the fact that I can have such experiences without leaving home.

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Bargain Shopping and Beer

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than bargain shopping and drinking beer?

I grew up going to garage sales, flea markets, antique markets, you name it. So I was elated to finally make it to the Cambridge Antique Market.

Cambridge Antique Market

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allen and I spent a couple of hours perusing five floors of goodies. Vintage clothing, lots of china, old books and board games. Furniture and appliances. A little bit of everything.

We both walked away with one CD; he found a Death Cab for Cutie album for me, and I found a Patti Smith album for him.

Down the road is a craft brewery that we hadn’t been to yet = Somerville Brewing Company. I ordered a flight of its core beers, and Allen ordered a pint of the Trekker Trippel. I’ve tried a few of the beers before and they make me happy.

Slumbrew flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have about six weeks left until the birthday and nine things left to do. I got this.

Theater for All

When I came across reduced tickets to a production of Billy Elliot the Musical, I immediately bought them—not only because I love the film and musical, but also because it was being produced by a theater company that I hadn’t been acquainted with yet.

Wheelock Family Theatre is on the campus of Wheelock College. The company has been producing family-friendly theater since 1981. The night that my friend and I went, the large auditorium was almost full. It was great to see children in the audience as well as on the stage. I didn’t get involved with theater until I was in high school, but I danced and sang when I was a youngster, and both were wonderful experiences.

The performance was great. I’m sure that the young man who played the lead will be on Broadway someday. He acted, sang, and danced beautifully. I appreciated the nontraditional casting of some characters and the open captioning for audience members with hearing difficulties.

If you haven’t seen the film or musical, I highly recommend both. It’s a classic story of  love and strife among family members, overcoming obstacles, and following your dreams. I also highly recommend this theater company because of its honorable mission.

Lamplighter and Lilypad

I went to a new brewery and a new (to me) music venue the other day.

Lamplighter Brewing Company is a hip little spot in Cambridge. A small taproom is connected to its brewery. And there is a “cafe” within the taproom. Genius! You can get good coffee and good beer in the same place.

I was meeting a friend at the brewery before we headed to the aforementioned music venue, so I opted to try one beer vs. a flight. I enjoyed a lovely IPA called Lucid Nonsense and ate a breakfast sandwich that was prepared at the cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend and I walked 20 minutes to nearby Lilypad, a performance/community space that I have heard about for years but never stepped foot into. Our former colleague’s band, Steve Thomas and REAL INCOGNITO, was playing that day.

Lilypad, Cambridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lilypad is a nice, intimate event space. We had a fun time grooving along to the band’s jazz/funk/reggae beat. A bonus was the sound engineer’s super-friendly dog who walked around and visited everyone during the concert.

Steve Thomas and REAL INCOGNITO

Steve Thomas and REAL INCOGNITO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up: I see a musical at a theater I’ve never been to!

A Glimpse of the Roadie Life

One of my favorite pastimes is seeing live music. I’ve often wondered what life would be like as a roadie. Different towns every night, sometimes the same songs played every night.

Well, I had a glimpse of the roadie life last month, when I saw Guster play four nights in a row.

I’ve never been to a concert four nights in a row before. By the third night, it was starting to feel like a job…but a very good job!

This was a special event, as Guster is celebrating their 25th anniversary and the venue at which they played (Paradise Rock Club) is celebrating its 40th. Guster chose this venue because they played there a lot when they were starting out, opening for bands such as Rusted Root.

Guster chose opening bands for the four-day revelry that they had a long history with, which was nice. I only knew of one: Steven Page, formerly of Barenaked Ladies. It was great to see Steven, whose voice has not aged a day. I was a big BNL fan in college but stopped following them after Steven went down the wrong path for a while. I haven’t listened to BNL in years, so I surprised myself by remembering the lyrics to the few BNL songs he played. And I lost my shit when I heard the first few chords of one of my most favorite songs ever: “Didn’t Mean to Break Your Heart.” It’s one of those songs that you play on repeat when you’re going through a breakup.

Anyhoo, on to Guster.

First Night:

I had a great spot by the stage for Steven Page’s set. But then I had to go to the bathroom and was meeting a friend who was running late, so I lost my spot. This meant that I didn’t see 95% of Guster’s set. We walked around and around but could never even see a sliver of the stage. One tall guy took pity on us for the last couple of songs and let us stand in front of him.

Guster, Steven Page

Steven Page joined Guster on stage during the encore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Night: I was determined to get a good spot for Night #2. I nabbed a perfect spot in the balcony. A band from Northampton, MA, called And the Kids opened. They rocked it.

Each night, Guster did something a little different. I can’t tell you what they did the first night…but on the second night, they invited a cellist and violinist to perform on a few songs and they were a great addition.

Guster

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Night: This was my favorite night because they brought out a wheel and determined the set list from wheel spins. This meant that a few lucky fans were invited on stage to sing karaoke style, Guster played half of a song at twice the tempo, and Brian sang the theme song to Cheers. The Bogmen opened and they were fun and rowdy.

I also met Brian for the third time before this show. Everyone who bought a four-day pass was invited to a meet and greet an hour before the third or fourth night’s show. Unfortunately, we weren’t let in until 40 minutes before the start of the show, so I wasn’t sure if I would have time to talk with any of them. But I did manage to say a quick hello to Brian and give him a gift that I had brought for him and the other guys.

Guster

Brian explains how the wheel works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Night: I secured a spot in the balcony again and stood next to a lovely couple with a teenage son whom I had been chatting with in line outside. They mentioned a few other Guster concerts they’d been to, and I kept saying, “I was there, too!” I felt a sense of community with these complete strangers because of these shared experiences we had years ago.

Wesley Stace opened, and I would love to know how Guster initially crossed paths with this British bloke. His lyrics were witty and I appreciated that he shared his vinyl purchases from earlier that day with the crowd.

I could tell that Guster was a little tired that night, but the audience didn’t care. After all, the lads had been running themselves ragged for four days: on top of the shows, they did an interview at the WGBH studio at the Boston Public Library, and they invited fans to bowl with them in Somerville and ice skate with them at City Hall Plaza.

The special guests that night were some brass players who performed on a few songs. They were also a great addition.

Guster

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guster ended the four-day hoopla with a fan favorite, an acoustic version of their song “Jesus on the Radio.”

There was a Guster Museum set up in the front bar all four nights. I spent a few minutes looking at the mementos on the third night as I left the show. I loved seeing the Guster Gazette, a printed newsletter that I have a few copies of somewhere, and a copy of a letter that Guster sent out to promoters when they were first starting out. AND a piece of paper with a bunch of potential band names = wow, some of them were terrible. I planned to look more closely as I left on the fourth night, but the museum was already packed up when I walked through.

Guster

Guster Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, it was an unforgettable experience and I hope that I’m a merch girl for a band in my next life.

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