Friday, September 7, 2012

Men Who Sing and the Babies They Inspire

Those of you who popped over to Steven Rubio's Online Life on my recommendation a few days ago might've noticed he does a thing called "Music Friday"s. His expertise in, enthusiasm for, and insight into music is something I could never to aspire to but, within my comparatively narrow scope of experience, I am an appreciative fan girl and loyal to the musicians I have come to respect and enjoy. In that vein, I've decided that Fridays on this blog will be devoted to concert t-shirts since I often pass over concert shirts in favour of more general interest ones.

My musical taste is eclectic and often a product of a specific context. I spent my teenage years in Saskatoon and I attribute my penchant for New Country to that. I was also a fan of a short-lived show called "RollerGames" (although I misremember the name as "Rock 'n' Roller Derby" - Wiki tells me that the show was originally marketed as "Rock and Rollergames") which always had a half-time show. These half-time shows introduced me to Warrant Exposé, and Lita Ford (the Ford video is actual "RollerGames" footage :) ). Without a word of a lie, these three acts comprised my entire concept of "rock music" until I started university. 

Recognizing huge gaps in my audio experience, I often turn to Steven and other online friends for my musical education. Just as often, I explore new audiophile frontiers around Vancouver which, in recent years especially, has begun fostering a sound and vibe of its own. New Folk, indie sounds, classic rock with a twist... Vancouver is the only city I can think of where one wouldn't bat an eye to a band breaking out a punk accordion, heavy metal banjo, or electronica Nina Simone covers. Again, correct me if I'm wrong: my backyard is what I know best.

But beyond my envy of talented musicians (just watched Scorcese's The Last Waltz beginning-to-end the other night and the multi-instrument abilities of all the members of The Band are especially stunning in perspective of today's overproduced Top 40 darlings) my most visceral love is for male vocals and harmonies. Part of this is probably due to childhood exposure. My father's pretty much tone deaf but boy does he ever THINK he can sing. Meanwhile, Mom never claimed to be able to sing but she likes music and when she first immigrated to North America, movie musicals were extremely popular. Thus, with me being their first born and neither one of them confident in their English fluency, my parents plopped me in front of our first television set and restricted my viewing to Sesame Street, various sitcoms, CBC's The National, and a LOT of classic musicals where every leading man proved his worth to his lady love through large ensemble numbers or intimate solos (and the occasional sword fight). They might not have been swoon-worthy, Hollywood pretty boys all the time but these men could SING. Gene Kelly STILL ranks in my top ten of dreamiest hotties.

Today's t-shirt is from the most recent Straight No Chaser concert in Vancouver. My high school schoolmate, Shauna, was visiting Vancouver for a friend's wedding and we attended the concert at the Vogue Theatre the night after she arrived. This was the third time I got to see the men of Indiana University revel in the fame spawned by their 1998 viral video . Huge multi-national tours, a recording contract, several albums now... it all started with a reunion video posted to YouTube. Amazing.  A cappella groups have always struck me as being especially impressive in their innovative use of voice and harmony. Throw in a humourous and endearing stage presence and I'm all over that. 

I was first introduced to their music around Christmas (appropriate, that timing) of 2009 by a co-worker named Julie Anne at my previous school. In the spring of 2010, I splurged for my birthday on tickets to the first Glee Live tour which only visited four cities. The closest one to Vancouver? Los Angeles. By happy circumstance, Straight No Chaser was performing in San Diego the day after the Glee concert (which, by the way, was a LOT of fun and silliness - the video below is easily my most popular YouTube upload with almost 200K views)

Joining me on this whirlwind music-based SoCal adventure was my friend Lesley and, besides getting to high-five both Cory Monteith and Mark Salling ("never gonna wash these hands again!" she exclaimed <-- didn't last), she can proudly lay claim to being a truly successful California driver, doing all the mechanical maneuvering necessary to (a) find my uncle's house despite Google Maps best efforts to get us lost (b) find parking near Universal Studios and (c) get us from LA to San Diego in 80% of the time Yahoo Maps said it would take.

Sidetrip story: While we were visiting, we managed to touch base with my brother as well and he took us out one night to the Santa Monica pier and introduced us to Pinkberry. Mmmm... frozen yogurt with toppings! Happily, one has since opened in the Vancouver area.

One of the real treats about Straight No Chaser concerts is that the guys always set up a table at the end of the night and the audience can get autographs from all ten members on CDs, shirts, posters... At the San Diego show, I was able to get a second CD signed for Julie-Anne AND her nearly-due first baby (Sophie) as a thank-you for showing me that first Straight No Chaser video six months before.

In February the next year, Straight No Chaser performed in Vancouver. The jokes about touring Canada in the winter abounded. This time, I attended the show with a fellow Vancouver-based SNC fan, Beth, and once again, I lined up for autographs. This time, I had my second copy (a special Christmas CD and DVD set) signed to super-driver Lesley, who had since moved to Kingston, Ontario, and HER first baby (Katherine, born in April 2011).

This year, I finally broke down and bought a concert tee at the show and, to keep the tradition going, Beth was expecting this time. Baby Kasper got his own copy of the Six Pack Vol. 2 EP in his Welcome to Life! basket.  Hmm... I wonder if Shauna's feeling nervous at all...

I seem to have mislaid my most recent videos of Straight No Chaser so I've posted one of the ones I took at the Vogue in 2011. That's another thing that I love about their concerts. Because their fame is a direct result of social media and viral videos, they actively encourage their fans to film and post videos of their performances.

This is entitled "Poisoned Billy Jean" because mash-ups are just THAT cool:

To sign off today, I found this last video by rather random search engine chance. The Streetnix were the first a cappella group I became familiar with as a teenager in Saskatoon. Before Wide Mouth Mason, The Sheepdogs or Shannon Tweed put The City of Bridges on the map, they were our superstars. (Tony was my favourite.)