Tag Archives: Music

2Cellos and The Piano Guys at the PAC

This year Pam and I have gone to shows by 2Cellos and The Piano Guys at the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly. Both are acts that rose to fame via YouTube and now are signed to deals with Sony. Both prominently feature cellos, which is predictable with 2Cellos but might be a surprise when you see the name The Piano Guys.

We saw 2Cellos first, on March 21. The tickets had a warning printed on them that the show was a high volume event. I noticed that a substantial portion of the packed house appeared to be elderly and refined, dressed for a classical concert. The opening song was Benedictus, which is hauntingly beautiful and mellow. And in that moment it seemed like a classical concert.

But that only lasted for approximately seven minutes.

And suddenly Benedictus turned to Where the Streets Have No Name (at high volume). It was now a rock show. Here is a YouTube clip of that transition (but you miss the grandeur of the concert hall swelling with the sound.

And it just went on from there. My personal favorites were the AC/DC songs, with Back in Black and Thunderstruck at the top of the list. By this time many of the refined guests had found the exits, appalled at the classic rock.

The banter between Luka and Stjepan was entertaining, filled with double entendres and ironic rock star pandering. It was fun to watch these masterful musicians perform.  I thoroughly enjoyed the concert.

On May 13 we saw The Piano Guys. This was also a very fun show. It featured more interaction with the crowd, more processed backing tracks, and less classic rock, and lower overall volume. Jon and Steven showed a polished showmanship that was enjoyable. I didn’t see anyone walk out of this show. The set was considerably longer than the 2Cellos set.

The percussive elements of The Piano Guys were elaborate and fun.

Each show had its merits. I’m glad I went to both of them. I must say, however, that the classic rock made me smile a bit more than the pop songs and classical music. Cellos are wonderful instruments.

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The Steel Wheels

Last week I saw a band name that caught my eye: The Steel Wheels. I listened to a few live performances of songs from their album Red Wing, and promptly decided I needed to buy the album. The best way I can think to describe their music is to say it sounds old. Not in a bad way, like old folk and old country, good Americana music. Acoustic guitars, an upright bass, a violin, a mandolin, a banjo, vocal harmonies. Good, good stuff.

Here is the first video I saw, Dance Me Around the Room.

I followed it up with Red Wing.

And I had to buy the album.

It turns out the band members are Mennonites. Considering their ties with Harrisonburg, Virginia I suspect I know people they know.

I love finding new bands to listen to.

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A Tip of the Hat to Pomplamoose

This afternoon I became aware of the indie music duo Pomplamoose. The two members are Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn. Conte started something called VideoSongs, the criteria he established were:

  1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
  2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).

Jack has his own Youtube channel, as does Dawn, but their collaborative work is released under the name Pomplamoose (derived from the French word pamplemousse, which means grapefruit). Both members are excellent musicians and vocalists. I find the videos they produce to be quite fascinating. They use many different instruments–and unique techniques and effects–so getting to see video footage of the song being performed is very interesting.

Check out their video for Beat the Horse.

In addition to their original songs, Pomplamoose also has recorded covers of songs from many musical genres. Each cover has considerable originality in it.

Nataly has a beautiful voice, somewhat reminiscent of Norah Jones. On her solo channel at YouTube she has original songs and covers posted. It was through the song Dying to Live that I found out about her and Pomplamoose.

While Jack does not supply many lead vocals on the Pomplamoose tracks, he is certainly capable of doing so. Check out Flavors, which has an abundance of layers (note the acoustic guitar with a sponge tucked under the strings to give it a muted sound that starts around 0:15 on the video, sweet).

When I watch Jack and Nataly’s VideoSongs I feel like a kid in a candy store. I keep re-watching them to pick up all the subtle percussive elements, the overlapped vocals, the unique instruments, and the varied uses of the acoustic guitars. Creatively and musically these two are doing something special.

Bravo, I say, bravo.

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The Music Animation Machine

A few weeks ago I happened to be listening to classical music on YouTube and I stumbled upon a few videos made with the Music Animation Machine. I found the clips to be strangely compelling.

Here are a few samples:

Before I found these videos I would sometimes picture similar animations in my head as I listened to music. So when I saw these videos they really resonated with me.


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Identifying a Song

In 1990 I watched a television program that was a tribute to Greg LeMond winning the Tour de France (I can’t remember at what point it was in the year, so I’m not sure if it was regarding his 1989 win or the 1990 win). After interviewing Greg and other athletes, the program ended with a series of highlights from the Tour de France with a song playing.

When I heard the song the chorus stuck in my head right away. I had no idea who sang it or what it was called. As the years passed the melody of the chorus did not fade. The only lyrics  that stuck with me were “. . . higher and higher.” Not much to work with.

Over time I began to wonder if the song even existed. I suspected Bryan Adams might be the artist, based upon songs that sounded similar to my memory. I thought maybe I had invented the melody that was so familiar yet so far away.

Tonight I watched part of the History Channel WWII in HD series. During a commercial break I engaged in some channel surfing, landing on VH1 during a program of one hit wonders from the 1980s. And I heard my mystery song.

John Parr, St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion). When John Parr busted into the chorus and I heard that melody in real life for the first time in 19 years I was amazed at how accurate my mental recollection of it was. I’m very happy to have identified this song. I estimate I spent roughly 10 hours actively trying to identify it in the past (Googling lyrics, searching Bryan Adams songs, looking up Greg LeMond highlights, etc), not to mention countless hours on nights with insomnia trying to remember lyrics or some other identifying aspect of it. Ah, sweet resolution.

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