The Queen of Disco

Disco Ball Closeup – Photo by Paul Zoetemeijer on Unsplash

Last dance
Last chance, for love
Yes, it’s my last chance
For romance, tonight

Disco lives again! Anne and I attended Summer, the Donna Summer musical. This show was on regular rotation with our Fox Theater Broadway Musical Series. Donna Summer was the proported and eventually the self proclaimed Queen of Disco. This bio-musical tells her story, set to her musical sound track.

Bad girls
Talking about the sad girls
Sad girls
Talking about bad girls, yeah

Disco has earned a lot of derision, but it was also our courting music. Regularly on weekends, we would find ourselves dancing together to disco tunes in Grand Avenue nightclubs, adjacent to Michigan State University. Sweaty nights, full of glitz, glam and love. Most of the bars had no cover. The beer was cheap and the house’s only profit was derived from thirst quenching gulps, after sets of songs.

She works hard for the money
So hard for it, honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right

Disco eventually died and unfortunately, so did Donna Summer, in 2012. We’re both now too old to go clubbing anymore, but we still like to dance together. Not that we are all that good at dancing. You never know when your last dance will be. That’s why you should always dance every dance as if it was your last.

Lookin’ for some hot stuff, baby this evenin’
I need some hot stuff, baby tonight
I want some hot stuff, baby this evenin’
Gotta have some hot stuff
Gotta have some love tonight

Rock Band

Duck Room

Sunday night, we braved the elements and journeyed over to Blueberry Hill for an evening of Rock Band. Not to be confused with School of Rock, which is what it really is. The actor Jack Black first burst upon the movie scene with his captivating performance in the John Cusack vehicle, High Fidelity, but he really stole the show when he starred as a ne’er-do-well faux substitute teacher, who channels his passion for rock-and-roll and finds salvation, all the while dispensing a truly novel education. It is this educational experience that STL Rock Band attempts to duplicate. Our next-door neighbors Ethan and Gracie are both participants in this program. Hence our attendance.

The venue at the rock-and-roll bar Blueberry Hill was its downstairs black-box concert space called the Duck Room. Like the rest of this iconic U-City bar, the Duck Room is outfitted with lots of owner Joe Edwards’ eclectic memorabilia. In this place though there is only one theme, ducks, but I suspect that its name is really more derived from the “look out” connotation for that word, then with waterfowl. This was my first time in the Duck Room, although while dinning above it, I have felt its rumbling pulse before. Earplugs would have been a welcomed addition to this visit.

I have described Blueberry Hill as a rock-and-roll bar, but years ago, on a similar wintery night, our then 5-year-old son Dan cast aspersions upon the place and called it a cowboy bar. This occasion involved his visiting grandparents, my in-laws. I had just pulled up to the door with the intent of dropping off my carload of passengers, when Dan asked/announce in his little, yet booming voice, “You’re not taking me to another cowboy bar are you?” Both Anne and I were mortified. We later deciphered that his misinterpretation of our intentions was due to another one of Joe Edwards’s collections. Just inside the door was a display case full of Howdy Doody memorabilia.

For many of the bands it was a good thing that Simon Cowell and his buzzer were not present. Think elementary school recital, but with amplified electronic instrumentation. Some soloists turned to more volume, as a substitute for more talent, like up to eleven. Still, as the night wore on, the succession of rock bands increased in both age and musicality.

Of special note to us, Gracie was up first, with her all girl group, Girl Chat. Their set concluded with the seasonal Chuck Berry tune, Run, Run Rudolph, which was a nice touch, seeing that they were playing on the same stage that Berry had graced on many occasions and up to the last year of his life. Like him, Gracie played guitar. We took a break upstairs for dinner and then it was Ethan’s turn on stage. Fat Doug was the name of his group and Ethan acquitted himself well on both keys and bass. Then it was back out into the snow. It had been both an enjoyable and educational evening. Rock-on!

Country Music

Country Music Cajun Style

Anne and I have been watching the PBS documentary series, Country Music, which is produced by Ken Burns, the most distinguished of our high school alumnus. He graduated the year before us. We’ve watched the first four episodes and plan on tuning in again, when the series starts back up tomorrow. I’ve never been as big a fan of country music as with other musical genres. I guess that I’m just too much the city boy, but I do like the stories that they tell. From the country classics to the silly one off songs, there is something quintessentially American about their stories. In typical Burns fashion, he has segmented the bigger story into episodes that encapsulate the musical genre’s successive periods. Beginning with old sepia tone photos that are brought to life again with a panning camera, and which by episode four film has supplanted. I found the series playlist on Spotify and am listening to it while I write this post, except when Patsy Cline’s Crazy comes on and Anne demands a dance. One criticism of the series is that it is too personality driven, especially in the later yet unseen episodes. Even with sixteen hours of storytelling, not everyone’s favorite singer will get their due. Next time that we’re in Nashville, it would be nice to visit one of Broadway’s honkytonks again.

The Festival of Nations

Brazilian Samba Dancer

The Festival of Nations is always held at this time of year in Tower Grove Park. In the past, the weather has been abominable, usually both hot and humid. Not this year though. You couldn’t ask for better weather than today’s. Anne and I bicycled to the festival, thus avoiding its chronic parking problems. We arrived early enough to beat most of the crowd. We filled up on Jamaican BBQ rib tips that came with a side of cabbage. Properly fueled, we toured the arts and crafts booths. We saw a few things that we could have bought, but in the end, we came up empty-handed. After all of this tough shopping, we replenished ourselves with Nepalese samosas. There may not have been any heat or humidity, but there was still plenty of humanity and as the crowd closed in, we grabbed some lawn space and watched a few of the many musical acts that the festival hosts.

The first act that we saw was a Mexican mariachi band. They had all of the little kids in the audience up and dancing when they played the popular song, Baby Shark Dance, which of course Anne knew all about. Next up was a Filipino dance group. This group seemed representative of many of the performers that we’ve seen over the nineteen years that we have been going to this festival. Focused on maintaining cultural heritage amid America’s melting pot, it featured mainly children, mainly girls, who have been taught some of the ways from the old country. I especially liked what I call the candle dance. I would look it up on the festival’s website, but as you can imagine, it is being slammed now. In this dance two young women, each hold two red candles, with a third balanced on their heads. The question arose as to whether those were real candles or faux LED candles? Zooming in on one, I could see the melting candle wax which then begged the question, after each performance, do they have to pick wax out of their hair? The final act that we saw is the pictured Brazilian samba dancers. The high energy lead dancer stole the show. After them, with feet that had gone to sleep, I unsteadily got to my feet again and we stumbled back to our bikes.

With all of the rancor that is daily being spewed forth from the #RacistInChief, this day’s interlude offered a welcome relief. It felt like a balm, to see so many people, of so many nationalities, celebrating together. People of every race and ethnicity cooking and eating together, singing and dancing together and most importantly talking and being together. Love can conquer hate. So, let’s do it!