Photos: Songwriters’ Serenade

Kim DiVine, Kristy Hanson, J. C. Hyke (who is the voice of Principal Damocles on Miraculous Ladybug), and an electric mandolin.

;o)

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Travel Thursday: Lindsey Stirling on Jimmy Kimmel

I always give myself 15 minutes to walk to the bus stop for the ride downtown, even though it takes less than ten. (If you’ve followed this blog for a while—yeah right, welcome—you’ll know my fave Shakespeare quote is “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”) But thanks to my favorite app, I see that the bus that runs on my street and takes me to the light-rail station is coming in 5, so I do that instead, and thankfully there was enough of a break in the traffic to let me run across while it was about a block away. I do so love living on the edge. . .
The great thing about the light-rail, besides everything, is that it has a perfectly moderated air conditioning setting, whereas most buses will put it on freezing in the mistaken impression this is the way to go when it’s searing outside. And no matter how many times I’ve told them they don’t need to do that, some people are just allergic to logic.
Since I took the rules spelled out on the Jimmy Kimmel ticket email a lot more seriously than most people, as I saw when I got there later, I took as little as possible with me: no backpack, no water bottle, and definitely no headphones, so no music on the long rides on the train and subway. And they said no shorts! In this 95-degree heat my legs were very confused. (And there were a lot of people in shorts that were allowed in, dammit!) Stopped off at Olvera Street for my usual bean and cheese burrito, followed by a softie vanilla; after that I was ready for anything, including the boring non-musical subway ride that left me at Hollywood and Highland.
The irony did not elude me that I was in the place where I first saw Lindsey Stirling—The Dolby Theater—and I’m about to watch her again right across the street. I hope she plays her Christmas show somewhere else, though not too far away.

Finally I find the right line on the sidewalk and stand between an older couple from Texas and a younger couple from North Carolina; kinda felt weird being the local. It was at this point that one of the employees came by and said we might not get in if enough of the “special” people in the other line came and filled up all the seats. My back was already hurting and I truly felt like giving up, but stuck through another half hour until they moved us up and in; many people after me made it, so thanks a lot for the drama, dude! I regret giving you that fist bump.
You don’t get to put your phone on silent or airplane mode; nope, if you don’t turn it completely off you don’t get in. Then we waited on the stairs leading into the studio, moving another step every time the people in front were slowly told where to sit, off in pairs like we were heading into Noah’s Ark. Turns out the only other person there not in a couple was a girl from China standing next to me, so after a cheery “Hello!” to me—I shoulda remembered to say “Ni Hao!”—she led the way as we were escorted to the very back row. I didn’t mind, though my knees would have preferred not to do all the stairs. The guy doing the talking, a rugged lumberjack type named Linc, then came to the front to run the rules by us, and did a pretty good job with the humor, enough that I thought he might be the warmup. When he said, “Don’t do the El Lay thing, where nothing impresses you,” I realized I’d have to act excited after all, dammit. After he was done everyone rushed to the restroom, which is downstairs—great, more stairs—and are right next to the green rooms. I looked for Kit or Drew for a quick hello, but the glaring security guards kept me from lingering.
Once I climbed the damned stairs back up to the studio, the actual warmup guy was there, a balding big guy who thought he was Rickles, and was almost as good. Being from Michigan, he couldn’t stop heckling the guy from Ohio, and was all gaga for the girl from Virginia who was in the clip about finding North Korea on a map; he named her Queen of the Day and gave her a crown, in fact.
On to the show. Since I don’t watch the series he’s in, had no idea who Milo Ventimiglia was. Have to disagree about his name winning Scrabble, as it has too many vowels. And I didn’t know he was a fellow Bruin until I just now looked up how to spell his name. BTW, after Kimmel’s monologue, while the crew was setting up the desk and chairs behind him, he talked to one guy in the audience who just moved here from Massachusetts to attend UCLA, so it was a beautiful non-Trojan day.
After him was another celeb stranger to me, Jenny Slate, who turned out to be a pretty funny comedian, in that offbeat-sorta-weird coocoo cloudlander kinda way; she’s like a wannabe Zoe Deschanel. Her love for chicken fingers and beer ruins any potential romance with this guy, though.
Okay, on to the important part. Because I was in the last row, I had to wait for everyone else to stream out back toward where we entered, because on the west side of the old lobby was the stage where Lindsey would play. Those in front got to stand right in front of the stage, whereas by the time I got there I was in the very back, behind a pillar, plus there was a camera rig in front of me. I got occasional glimpses of Lindsey and Rooty, could see Kit most of the time, but didn’t glimpse the drum set at all. I did spot Adina once, if that makes up for it.
So there goes “Love’s Just A Feeling,” with all the musicians playing extraordinarily well; they brought it, for sure. Unfortunately the audience didn’t seem to know what to make of it; they were faking it as well as they could, but seemed confused as to whether they liked it or not, or were possibly stunned to see a violinist dancing. Because the crowd energy wasn’t at the level needed, the stage manager informed everyone that the song would be done again, which was fine with me. And then we got the bonus of the full version of “The Arena,” with the same video stuff as the concert playing behind her, and that seemed to be a bigger crowd pleaser. For once I forgot to notice which violin she was using, though I was too far away to tell if it was Excalibur or Bushwhacker anyway.
There were two guys standing in front of me, and during the first try they just stood there like they’d rather be anywhere else, even though everyone around them was at least faking the enjoyment. But when “Love’s” played again they were feeling it, clapping along, tapping their feet. By the time “The Arena” came along they were fully into it, as was most of the crowd around me; whereas before they might have faked the woo-hoos for the camera, this time it was totally genuine. And with Kimmel’s close-to-two-million-viewers nightly average, it’ll be interesting to see if Lindsey gets an uptick in sales and social media follows.
I got to say hi to Drew after, but he was too busy breaking down the skins to hang out.
Looking back, I was surprised at how quickly and smoothly the show went, especially in comparison to other shows. Sitcoms that film in front of a live studio audience take at least four hours for 20 minutes of screen time, while dramas sometimes need eight days! We were done in less than two hours—no idea as to exact times, as my phone was off—almost real time, and it’s a testament that only a few hours later it was airing on the East Coast; they must have been editing as they went along. I know there’s a ton of work that needs to be done beforehand, but they made it look so easy, so kudos to everyone. It felt like we spent more time in line than in the actual show, which for all I know is entirely possible.
With all that done, I debated where to eat. The McD’s fries are always there, and In-N-Out isn’t far away, though always full. I haven’t eaten at Mel’s in a long time, mostly because the price doesn’t equal the flavor, but then I remembered how much I love the Orange Freeze there and set out eagerly. As is my wont in this place, I sat at the counter, ignoring the mini juke boxes while I caught up on the world via my phone. It took longer to be served than for them to make my delicious treat, and they added more whipped cream than I remember, but no complaints here. As usual I took the cherry off and placed it on the napkin, this time leaving it there, not daring to ask anyone if they wanted it, not since the infamous “taking my cherry” debacle of 2009.
Uneventful ride home, the best kind.
And now as I write this I’m watching the show on TV, and now I understand why they put me in the back row (on the other hand, the guy sitting next to me was much better looking). It’s pretty intriguing to see the differences. I remember everything that was shown, but there were also some parts that were edited out. The concert was actually better on TV; as I mentioned, I was stuck in the back behind a pillar. (I promised Drew I’d yell out his name, but he couldn’t hear me from back there.) So while it was nowhere near as good as a full concert, especially one where I sat in the fifth row, it was a pretty interesting experience to see Lindsey with my eyes instead of a TV or computer monitor. It was my day off, and nothing is sore or achy the next day, so no downsides at all.
Now point me to where I can get tickets for the Christmas show, Lindsey. . .

;o)

Moonlit Kit Video Shoot Photos

So last Saturday I found myself heading to what eventually turned out to be a small horse ranch near Vasquez Rocks, north of Los Angeles. There was a small stage, a rickety gazebo, and a few horses along with some fans and friends of the band who’d come to help shoot the video for Moonlit Kit’s new song, Simple Ways.
I volunteered mostly because I thought it’d be fun, and because I haven’t been on a shoot in a long time, but also because Kit Nolan is Lindsey Stirling‘s keyboardist/guitarist whom I’d briefly met at her concert last year. Seemed like a cool guy, and I liked the song, so why not? I didn’t expect Lindsey’s drummer Drew Steen to show up as well, but that just made for all the more fun.

Okay, on to the visual beauty:

This band has both flair and flare.

Director Christine likes close-ups

Too many jokes to settle on just one.

Daniel often has to duck under the bass.

Drew chillin’ with Kit’s replacement should Moonlit Kit hit it big.

Kelly doing her strut to the stage.

Violin Bass Guitar.

Kit showing off the heroic chin.

Gazebo decorations.

Ryan into his jam.

Tyler workin’ the bun.

;o)

Movie Reviews: Lindsey Stirling’s Brave Enough

Overview
It took me a full month—every second of the You Tube Red free trial—and about a dozen viewings, but I finally managed to get my thoughts and feels organized while trying to be objective about this amazing human being that I truly love—like a little sister, let’s be clear—for herself as much as her music.
Some of the personal stuff has already been covered in her book, but most is new, as the entire timeframe of this documentary was after the book came out. Starting on her 30th birthday, which she appropriately points out is a time for looking ahead as well as reflection, it weaves its way through the American portion of the Brave Enough tour, with plenty of concert footage from the Dolby Theater show that I attended (thankfully I did not make the final cut of any of the scenes; you’re welcome).

Writing
Documentaries like these are notoriously difficult to figure out as far as how much is written and how much is simply “talk to the camera.” There was obviously some kind of framework before it started, but it’s never firm. For instance, various topics might have been on the table, but it’s completely possible that their order was not known until it was assembled in the editing room.
Though the movie is about the recent tour, I do like when they venture into the past, such as Drew talking about how they started in 400-seat venues, then moved on to 800 when those sold out, then on and on and on to where she’s now selling out the Dolby and Red Rocks and the like; he seems amusingly shocked to realize he’s playing in the same place they hold the Academy Awards. Less happy was the footage from “America’s Got Talent,” even if it was part of her motivation to succeed. I really hope that part of the story gets put to rest, as I never again want to hear the words “Piers” and “Morgan” together, not even on the tombstone when she does Moon Trance.

Directing
In the live concert scenes, it’s hard to measure how much directing is going on. It’s probably not a live edit, instead having all the cameras record everything for editing later. The rest of the time it’s basically “stick a camera in the person’s face, ask a question, and let them talk.” Feels like the editor is at least as important as the directors and cinematographer here.
The topics are well interwoven with the concert footage, sometimes thematically, for instance her explanation of how she became anorexic leading into Shatter Me. Even more so was the moments with Gavi, both heartening and heartbreaking, providing the impetus for his tribute songs.
Only now am I remembering that the directors actually came out on stage at the Dolby show to announce the taping—to those who weren’t at the meet-and-greet—and asked us not to mind all the cameras swirling around on and in front of the stage, as well as the big crane on the left side of the auditorium.

Acting
Lindsey can be a bit of a ham, which might qualify as acting, but basically it’s her—and others—opening up to the camera to a sometimes astonishing degree. At times it’s hard to reconcile how this sweetest of all humans can turn a switch and become such an entertainer on stage, with a swagger she’d never show in real life.

Cinematography
The concert sequences are the main point here, and it definitely helps that they did a runthrough on a non-concert day for the cameras; having been at the show that was featured, I can attest that there were a lot of cameras around, including on the stage, but this was so much better.
Editing takes a big role here from the very start, with video of her as a child and then a similar pose or look in the present, usually with the violin involved. Lindsey has mentioned that the production cost a lot of money, and when I see the picture quality I can believe a lot of it went into renting the best hi-def cameras around. This was shown best in the colorful costumes the dancers and Lindsey–and the special surprise guest–wear in Hold My Heart.

Music
If you watch the closing credits, as I always do, you’ll see a lot of unknown songs, definitely not her own, that must have been part of the background soundtrack. They were very hard to notice, but I don’t mind that I didn’t hear them, that’s not why I’m here.
Like the picture quality above, the sound is amazing, but of course none of that would matter if the songs weren’t worthy. From the high energy of Roundtable Rival to the soft strains of Gavi’s Song, from the deep whir that is the dubstep of Crystalize to the multiple layers of the Bollywood-inspired Mirage, everything sounds perfect to my admittedly untuned ear. But the highlight had to be Hold My Heart, if only for the appearance of ZZ Ward as the only live singer of the night.

“Feel”
While there’s plenty of heartbreak and tough times in this work, it does not overshadow the positivity and optimism that inhabits the main character of this reality play. There are so many moments that are about human connection, stuff you would think are part of everyday life but really aren’t as much as they should be, like when her mom surprises her at the first show, and the moments with her dad and Gavi’s mom. Then you get a snippet of Luna Latte sitting there patiently, watching her practice or rehearse, and it’s so damn cute it perfectly encapsulates her personality.
There’s a lot packed in here; even on the last viewing before writing this I was seeing new stuff.
But as great as this was, and it holds up to multiple viewings, I have no doubt that fans like me are hoping eagerly for a full concert DVD.

8.5/10

;o)

A Year With Lindsey Stirling

In late April of last year my old musical buddy Meiko sent an email about her latest album being made with the help of a platform called PledgeMusic—first time I’d heard of it. After I signed up for that I noticed on the side it gives you recommendations for other artists, and one of those was Anna Nalick; been years, but yeah, sign me up! Then amongst others I checked out but didn’t like came a recommendation for someone I’d never heard of, Lindsey Stirling.
So I clicked on that, and it looked promising, since I love violin. At the time the artwork hadn’t been shown, so I had no idea what this was going to be about. I liked the title of the sample track, Crystalize, so I clicked on it and. . . it didn’t work. So I bookmarked the page for later, since I was in the middle of preparing for two weeks of photography in Jordan. So: packing, equipment check, visa, doctor checkup, etc.
Didn’t think much about it until after the trip to Jordan, where I found myself in a hotel room in Paris on May 28, with a two-day stopover before coming home to El Lay. As some of you know by now, I’m not a fan of this place—the only reason I’d come here on my own is if the Louvre had a yard sale—so I decided to see if I could sleep during the day and stay up all night for a very good reason.

It worked! I had no jetlag when I got back home.
More importantly, as soon as I got to my desktop in my living room, before answering all the emails and stuff, I went over to pledge Lindsey’s new album, and the rest is. . . herstory?

;o)