The Return

Well, if this coronavirus scare is good for one thing, it’s forcing me to stay at home, sitting at my computer being bored and introspective to the point of reviving this blog. *dusts off WordPress dashboard*

To quickly summarize the last half a year in a nutshell: I started writing more for Hoodline (some recent stories I’m proud of can be found here and here), watched every Bon Appetit Test Kitchen video in existence and have expanded my home cooking repertoire by at least 2 recipes, and joined an all-women community orchestra in Oakland! It’s been a joy having weekly access to percussion instruments and the opportunity to play really cool pieces with epic chime parts like this one.

One of the pieces for our winter concert was Appalachian Spring, but as one might expect, the show was cancelled (thanks, coronavirus). So in honor of this famous piece I still haven’t played in concert, I wanted to share some other versions of Appalachian Spring.

A really impressive choreographed version by the UMD Symphony Orchestra:

1987 Cadets ripped from a VHS tape (good lord, that crowd reaction at 10:15):

Blast! (remember Blast!? The 2000s vibes are strong in this video):

EDIT: The musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra playing their parts from home during quarantine. Amazing.

And, just for funsies, a different “spring” (YouTube suggested this video to me, and I won’t lie, it’s exactly the kind of content I want to see):

Death by time signature!

DCI & The Power of the Crowd

This post inspired by /r/happycrowds, my new favorite subreddit. And also drum corps, because it’s one of my favorite things of all things.

Like most other people on the internet today, I have now seen a video of 1,000 Italians performing the Foo Fighters song “Learn to Fly” in unison: an unexpectedly awesome thing to witness.

Image from Stereogum
I especially liked the grid of drum sets.

The video reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a couple months ago, about how we both get overly emotional when sharing an experience with a big crowd or group. It could be any situation, like the Giants winning the World Series or the day that San Francisco turned into Gotham City for a 5-year-old kid named Miles, or in my friend’s case, simply reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with his classmates in elementary school. It sounds weird, but I totally got what he meant: it’s about having something in common with all the people around you—citizens, fans, friends, or strangers—and that one shared thing is all that matters, at that moment. It’s a feeling of unity and cohesiveness and all-around warm fuzzies.

There is nothing that embodies this feeling more to me than drum corps, so excuse me while I geek out for a bit.

Rookie year, 2006

DCI (Drum Corps International) is what some people call “marching band on steroids.” I guess it’s necessary to compare it to band, but with a level of athleticism that rivals marathon runners and way sicker choreography. The people I’ve met through drum corps are easily the most talented, hard-working, and dedicated people I know. Even with full school schedules and part-time jobs, drum corps performers pursue the perfect show with the kind of insane devotion you see from kids who get full-ride scholarships to Berklee, or professional athletes who get paid to compete (except, the young adults in drum corps—and their families—pay $3500 out of pocket each season to do what they do). In return, they get to embark on a cross-country tour each summer, sleeping on buses and gym floors surrounded by an extended family of 150 people, performing for sold-out crowds in pro football stadiums.

I got to be a part of this activity for 3 years. Some people do it for a lot longer. But once you’re 21, you “age out” of being a drum corps performer, and suddenly that’s it: you never get to do it again. And the older I get, the more I admire how much blood, sweat, and tears a group of 15-to-21-year-olds can put into an 11-minute field show. It’s exhilarating just to watch, let alone be a part of it.

At any given DCI event, the crowd will be filled with alumni, proud family members, and hopeful band kids. Everyone has their favorite corps (after all, it is a competition), but there are always those shows that make you jump to your feet regardless of who you’re cheering for. The performers hype up the crowd, the crowd hypes up the performers. I’ve been lucky enough to experience it from both sides, and let me tell you, my eyes get misty and my heart swells up just the same regardless of whether I’m on the field or in the stands. How awesome is it that an activity like this can make people react so strongly?

FAVORITE EXAMPLES, in varying degrees of video quality:

SCV ’04. The Vanguard yell at 1:10 gives me goosebumps EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. This was the first year I went to a DCI show. After that, I was hooked.

Phantom ’08. Whenever I watch this video, it makes me cry happy tears while fist pumping and yelling “I AM SPARTACUS” along with the crowd (2008 was Phantom Regiment’s first true championship).

Troopers ’13. Like Vanguard’s bottle dance, the Troopers’ sunburst is a classic old-skool DCI move – it’s too bad you can’t see the crowd when they do it in this video, but I guarantee you they’re going nuts.

DCI to me is what baseball or football or soccer is to some people: score-checking, forum-reading, and live-streaming (the Periscope app has been especially revolutionary). This post is appropriately timed because DCI Finals are next weekend in Indy, and if you’ve been keeping up, it’s been an incredible season. Additions to shows will be happening right up until finals night, and the corps in the first place slot has been changing daily. I can’t wait to see what happens, but most of all I can’t wait to see the energy at finals night. I won’t be there in person, sadly, but I’m going to try to go to the annual theater showing and get my face blasted off along with a bunch of other “strangers” who have the same love for the activity as me.

Thank you Foo Fighters and Italian musicians and drum corps performers/crowds everywhere, for reminding me of the pure physical and emotional power of music. I hope there will always be things that make me feel this way.

Utah weekend by the numbers

790 miles traveled in 1 day

526 / 9 minutes/hours of Beatles listened to, nonstop

456 Beatles songs on my iPod

at least 5 attempts to obtain the Past Masters albums

10 drum corps watched

8th time seeing OK Go in concert

Thursday. Let me just say that marathoning the 13 U.S. Beatles’ albums in order was probably the best way to spend all day in a car (and the only reason I’ll listen to Revolution #9 in its entirety). It’s hard to listen to the entire Beatles catalog because so many of their singles are not included on the albums…and as mentioned above, it was impossible to stream Past Masters using a phone. But to make up for it, we also listened to plenty of Live at the BBC and Anthologies 1 & 2. I realized during this marathon that Let It Be might actually be my favorite Beatles album??? (the Naked version, that is). The things you learn on the road….

Thursday night, Lauren, Jocelyn, and I reunited at Jocelyn’s apartment in Provo and promptly sat down to catch up on drum corps. The 2014 show that I’ve been hyping all season is Bluecoats’ Tilt (watch the closer and awesome crowd hype/BLOO). Congrats to Bluecoats on their silver medal and to BD for a world record high score! I love this activity so much.

Friday. We spent the day around Provo and the night in Salt Lake City for OK Go! First off, the State Room in SLC is AWESOME: spacious but intimate (especially because OK Go only uses like 1/4 of the stage), and a good mix of seating and standing space. Really cool venue! And the show was one of my favorites of all time. I love all the visual effects on this tour, from the double screens to crazy optical illusions. OK Go puts on a great show. :) My favorite song of the set was “The One Moment,” which they played during the encore. Oh, and listening to the new EP yesterday, I realized that I can’t hear “The Writing’s On the Wall” without envisioning huge bursts of confetti raining down on me, which makes me so, so happy.

I only spent one full day in Utah (seems to be the norm, at least the last 3 times I’ve visited!), but I couldn’t have asked for a better time. Especially reuniting with my favorite OK Go show buddies:

4457_577294307354_8078243_nOur first OK Go concert together: San Diego, 2009.

  IMG_20140808_230321501_1Salt Lake City, 2014.

OK Go fans for life!!

dci and listography

Not going to lie, I haven’t been keeping up with drum corps at all this season, except the occasional score-check and facebook posts from my friends on tour. And I’m not going to lie about this either, the only show I’ve watched is Cavies’ (“Mad World”), because their repertoire is just too relevant to my interests: Mad World, Harrison’s Dream(!), Dismantling Utopia, and Smile (YA, THE SAME SONG I’M ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT):

Random note: Yesterday at Urban Outfitters (I know, right?) I saw this cool book called Music Listography, which is basically High Fidelity and my itunes playlists combined. Lists include: Guilty Pleasure Songs (e.g. “Love Story” – Taylor Swift), Road Trip Songs (“Six Days on the Road” – Flying Burrito Brothers), Favorite TV Theme Songs (TAXI!), etc. But alas, the book was more than I wanted to pay, so I’ve decided to make my own. I always have more spiral notebooks than I know what to do with anyway. My listography book will include: Favorite Guitar Hero Songs, Totally Awesome 80’s, Favorite Musicals, and Favorite Record Stores, just to name a few. Yay for new (and ongoing) projects.


Favorite Vocal Duos, GO!
-Bob Dylan and Joan Baez (early-mid 60s)
-Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris
-Lennon and McCartney

I’m writing this in kind of a hurry, but I’m definitely planning on revisiting it later (videos, perhaps?). This is prime material for quick blog entries…I guess I’m running out of excuses for the lack of entries lately.
Anyway, more later…feel free to make your own lists and post them!