SWAG1440 Gender and Race in Popular Music
Friday, November 20, 2009
Playing mostly funk/jazz/blues mixes over the course of the night, the Houston Ross Trio gave a performance that showcased shear skill and technique. The trio consisted of a drummer, bassist, and sax player where each musician is somewhat of a soloist in that each instrument adds a unique sound to the band and is not in competition with the others. Being that the band was so small, in my opinion, the bassist was the most influential in the way in which the overall sound flowed. He used a lot of picking, plucking motions (revealing a staccato dynamic) and occasional reeling, creating the “funkadelic” atmosphere the band appeared to be portraying. The drummer set and maintained the overall tempo of the music, holding mostly at a slow to moderate pace (as one would expect from the “flowetry” of a funk/jazz/bluesy band). On the sax, the only non-minority member of the band maintained a groove of his own, often closing his eyes while blowing into his reefed mouthpiece. The finger work (that I was able to observe) was amazing as the notes he created definitely contributed to the jazz/blues feel the band also gave. The first part of the show appeared to be comprised of original selections, where the band grooved based on the chemistry between them. Lots of improvisations were used and I even heard a few depictions of the 12 bar blues mode. Returning from intermission, the band played more familiar tunes (one Mavin Gaye song and a few others that I am not so sure of the titles or artists), which finally allowed the audience members to engage in the music more, as I will reflect on later. In my opinion, the absence of a vocalist may have been to the disadvantage of the band in the first half of the show because of no true connection being established between the band and audience members. Creating a ‘familiar ground’ in the second half essentially built a connection and made the rest of the night a “less awkward” experience for the band (as I assume the beginning may have been with the lack of audience engagement).
Reflecting back to our entrance of the bar, in walking through the crowd, it was not easy to identify the audiences’ “make-up”, but once we were seated, it was obvious that the difference in the atmosphere of this night may have been in part due to a change in the audience. Once again the audience was comprised of a 99.9 white population and having only 6 ethnic minorities (including my friend and I, the drummer and bassist of the band) but there were a significantly lower number of female to males having maybe a ratio of 1 to 5. Looking further into the audiences’ framework, a subtle change caught my attention. Being that most of the bands that perform at Miller’s are often playing some rendition of funk/jazz mixes, they usually tend to attract more middle-aged listeners (as I have before observed). Tonight however, probably because of the weather, the “older folk” decided to stay in and were replaced by a younger crowd of mostly graduate school students and a few undergrads. In that light, the response from this younger crowd to the funk/jazz/bluesy mixes of the band was not as interactive as I have observed on other occasions. As each song concluded , I noticed that the most response they received from the audience was a vacant applause by maybe 4 or 5 people (except for the one drunk, middle-aged, female “fan” sitting next to the stage saying “I love you” to the bassist). Later on into the night, I did however observe a slight change in the audience response to the band as a few of them began to acknowledge the band’s presence by bobbing of heads and more rounds of applause. For a greater part of the night, the audience members just carried on conversations within their small circles of friends and had little to no interaction with others outside of their “bubble” (except for the ordering of drinks with the bartenders or waitresses). Closer to the end of the night, a few of the young audience members (a white female and 2 male friends) along a strange man who lingered around the bar(black) began to dance next to the stage, as the band played a few contemporary tunes that they were able to identify with.
Returning to the band, the HRT itself was more diverse in comparison to the audience members as far as age, race/ethnicity, physical appearance and even stage presence. On Sax, was a white male about 35 years old dressed in what appeared to be “everyday attire” of a plain,worn, washed out t-shirt and stonewash denim jeans. On bass, was a black male, with a long beard having specks of gray and long dreadlocks that is much known around Charlottesville for playing at the local live music spots. He is an older gentleman, looking to be about 50, wearing a t-shirt that may have been from a music-related event he attended not too long ago (since the letters an animations looked fresh). The drummer, a young black male about 24 years old wore a low-brush cut hair style, with fresh and very “hip” fashions of a color-filled t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, displaying his engagement in youth culture (in opposition to his much older band-mates).
Observing the mannerisms of each other the performers, I saw that there was a slight difference in each of their stage presences. In performing gender, each of the men displayed their masculinity/sexuality in different ways, while maintaining ideal symbols of blackness/whiteness, or the lack thereof. To my surprise, I found that even “older” men hold true to the age-old idea of expressing sexuality through performance. The male bassist held the guitar close to his body, swaying back and forth as he cranked out the “funk” and swung his “ethnically styled” hair. Placing his guitar just low enough to reach, the older ‘gentleman’ further bounced and bobbed, displaying an extreme appreciation for his instrument. He stood clear of being ‘too sensual’ in that he did not caress the guitar nor was he overly aggressive, holding it just enough to sustain ‘control’ and carry no signs of weakness. Then there was the young drummer who crashed the cymbal, boomed the bass (drum), and consistently attacked the snare creating a climactic feel at the end of each bar being played. Although the tempo of the music tended to be moderate to slow, the drummer took advantage of the moments where the music built up to a high point. Throughout the performance, I noticed that the drummer also used his entire body when playing, as opposed to being robotic or inexpressive. He managed to sustain his “cool” composure as though it is expected from him (with the straight-faced /edgy gestures). Through the nod of his head and pump of his torso, it was easy to make the connection between his interpretation of the music and his stage presence. Finally, the sax player was unique in his portrayal of gender and symbols of race. As he played, he lightly held his instrument (which could have been the result of having the strap so tight) almost embracing its essence. With his eyes often closed, he kept a close connection with the sax and skillfully fingered the valves without missing a note. In his performance there was no obvious display of “masculinity” yet no sign of its counter, as he showed no weakness, but created a sense of comfort and calmness.
Overall, the performance encompassed the art of creativity, a blend of lifestyles/cultures, and unity while still displaying symbols of each musicians’ embrace of their sexualities and blackness/whiteness or the lack thereof. Through improvisation and ad-libs, the musicians, were able to perform the music as though it were not rehearsed, but as if it were freely flowing between them as a non-verbal form of communication (call-n-response). Moreover, as each of them held different stage presences, it seemed like the combination of each of their personas allowed their lifestyles to cultivate a sense of unity. The young black male (drums) portraying his engagement in hip hop culture through his attire and masculinity with his ‘tough’ demeanor; the older black male (bass) displayed his connection to his African American heritage through the ethnic hair style he sported and sexuality through his gendered performance; and the almost middle-aged white male (sax) exhibited his sexuality in a way unique to himself, not necessarily characterizing any signs of blackness/whiteness nor masculinity or femininity just encompassing his sexuality and its fluidity. In finalizing thoughts of gendering, it is worth noting the placement of men versus women in the performance atmosphere. The only women I mentioned earlier served as the clichéd ‘fans’ or ‘groupies’ of the male band members on stage. This was the only way in which women were involved in the performance, unfortunately perpetuates the male domineering intentions for the music industry.
The atmosphere was of refinement and mature sophistication. Being the first time for many to have been inside the Rotunda, cameras were quickly pulled out and gatherings forming in front of the many columns and ambulatory colonnade. The most distinct memorable sounds to resonate for the first fifteen minutes remained to be the echo of high heel shoes against the floor, and constant requests for others to snap photos of themselves.
One by one people took their seats at the round tables set with linen and dinner service began. The room filled with quiet chatter, and within thirty minutes Jon Ohmart announced the Academical Village People’s arrival.
That in and of itself was an out of ordinary act for AVP. The Academical Village People is an all male a cappella group that usually runs out onto their stages in a hap hazard and comical manner. In both dorm and Rotunda sings, the group’s signature technique is to wildly run around humping columns screaming and then proceed to line in formation to sing. So to be in a formal setting and have AVP perform meant they had to sacrifice part of their personality. The announcement of their arrival was not something I expected but in retrospect, it would have probably scared us if they had run up the stairs and in and around our tables.
Although in the Rotunda, the boys didn’t disappoint in that they still found girls in the crowd to serenade, and still comically danced around. Although, their usual high energy was absent as the group didn’t have all members in attendance. They usually feed off each other’s energy and have much more space than they did tonight.
Musically, I was skeptical of the acoustic qualities of the dome room, being concave instead of convex, the quality of sound was still better than in most of their venues-being outside. The heavy materials of the Rotunda allowed their unamplified sound to reverberate longer which provided a richer quality.
While AVP is always a blast to watch, and is usually guaranteed for a good laugh, the formal venue of the Rotunda was not fitting. They are much more suited for a more relaxed and probably outdoor setting.
Stepping began with all male a Capella groups. Some examples are The Temptations and The Four Tops who gained popularity in the 50’s the fraternity brothers began copying their steps. The Brothers would try to choreograph the most creative steps while aiming to please women. Some may say that stepping replaced the doo wop sounds and formal/polite clothing of the 50's. Stepping climaxed during the “Black Power” movement and the “Voyage” back to Africa movement. The Fraternities soon began incorporating African ritual dancing. African’s used this dancing during “coming out”/”coming of age” ceremonies. They went on to incorporate gymnastics and even cheerleading.
This event was held at the Student Activities Building (SAB.) The stage was brightly lit while the audience seating area was completely dark. All of the seats were taken so I stood in the back for a while and examined the people around me. There were only minorities there. Everyone was attentive and it seemed like everyone had high expectations because if a stepped messed up, the crowd as a whole would start whispering to one another. I also noticed that within the crowd, the women sat in their social group of other black women, and the men sat in groups of black men. I feel like this makes a statement that they have a strong group mentality and they hold a bond, just as the Fraternities/Sororities they came to watch and celebrate. Almost everyone had business casual attire in respect for this traditional event.
Surprisingly, there was an Asian Sorority that stepped. They performed very well and made each move their own. The crowd cheered with amazement and appreciation that they chose to come and perform something that was historically a “black” activity. They were not looked upon as pretending to be black. This event proved that race is something that should not be valued. They took a part in the culture and tradition. After all, “race is a social construction based on biological distinction.”
I went to the event expecting the same shows I saw throughout high school. I was a part of a Step Team in the tenth grade, so I had an idea of what it would be like. But instead of family members and schoolmates cheering on the steppers, it was their peers and older fraternity brothers and sorority sisters who held the expectations for the performance. Although the crowd was forgiving, the steppers I spoke to revealed that they felt extremely pressured because they had to prove themselves and make sure they upheld the reputation of their graduated Sisters and Brothers. The steppers at this show were very creative. They prepared skits where they acted out the other fraternities/sororities and down-played their organizations. This is traditionally done and no one gets offended. They respect each others' competitive spirits which pushes each group to get more creative the next time around. When they performed impressive steps, the crowd would yell out things such as “Go ahead”, “You better do that” and “Alright, Alright, I see you.” In the end Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated took home the first place titles.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Within the first 10 minutes of the concert R. Kelly had gone through four hit songs, drawing the crowd in from the very beginning of the concert. Audience members sang along with R. Kelly word for word for many of his songs. The audience was full of mostly women, which makes sense considering the tour is called The Ladies Scream Tour.
One advantage to watching the concert on this website is that it offers five different camera angles, which enhances the overall viewing experience. Kelly made use of background dancers during the start of the show while playing his upbeat records, but ditched them once he began to play his slow jams.
During one of his songs R. Kelly began to grind and grab his crotch, while serenading the women in the audience. Kelly’s lyrics and physical actions were clearly an expression and assertion of his masculinity in his relation to the women in the audience, similar to Hedwig’s different expressions of her gender in relation to other characters. Also, R. Kelly’s body signals reminded me of the Courtney Love performance of ‘Doll Parts’ we watched in class. I recall some reactions being negative about Love spreading her legs open on stage while playing the guitar. However, when R. Kelly expressed his sexuality on stage verbally and physically, the women in the audience embraced it. Kelly even asked the audience “who wants to go all the way with me tonight?” while singing ‘It Seems Like You’re Ready’. This wasn’t the worst of it, while singing ‘Keep It On the Down Low’, R. Kelly went into the audience and grabbed a woman by the waist and began to hump her!
Overall I enjoyed watching the concert, but wouldn’t have paid to see it. R. Kelly is definitely a great artist, however I was not impressed with his live vocals. I actually enjoyed the live band more than anything else. I will admit Kelly is a good performer, perhaps a little over the top, but the man knew how to keep the audience two-stepping throughout the concert.
I walked into the packed stadium to the sound of P!nk singing a cover of Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself.” Before even finding my seat and looking at the stage, I could hear the overtly sexual sound of the performer’s voice; rather than singing she mouthed the words with a deep, breathy whisper. And then the stage came into view. I watched as P!nk slowly and sensually crawled across a pink couch on center-stage, lifting a leg here and there, straddling the back of the couch at one point, and quite literally acting out the words of the song. I reached my peak of audience member discomfort when hands that were not those of the performer reach out from within the couch to touch any part of P!nk’s body that was within reach. Perhaps my discomfort stemmed from the non-discreet depictions of masturbation on stage while several hundred people watched, or perhaps it was the seven-year-old sitting next to me, enjoying this all-ages performance. While P!nk truly and confidently claimed her femininity during this number, it was in stark contrast with many other aspects of the show.
The most notable contrast between her extreme femininity and her depiction of the hard-core, masculine-centered rock genre came in her performance of yet another masturbation-themed song, “U and Ur Hand.” The story line of this song follow a woman at a bar who is not interested in the advances of a man and informs him that it will be “just you and your hand tonight.” P!nk abandons her breathy voice and replaces it with an assertive, frank voice, more in like with the masculinity of the rock genre, yet making her feminine strength known by all who listen. Throughout the number, P!nk grabbed her crotch, giving off the tone of mocking the hyper masculinity of the male character in the song. And with each repetition of the phrase, “you and your hand tonight” she raised her arm in a male masturbatory motion, often accompanied by a smirk of feminine superiority, showing her power to withhold sex, thus “forcing” the man to masturbate.
While P!nk does have many ways that she displays both her femininity and associated strength, she also reveals some insecurities about being a female in the male-dominate rock scene. Rock is traditionally associated with masculinity and authenticity. P!nk’s performances mock masculinity and embrace theatrical productions in combination with intimate acoustic numbers. The over-the-top theatrics, complete with elaborate costumes, trapeze artists, and the most impressive stage I have ever seen, come off as a way to prove her fearlessness and show that she, has indeed, made it in the world of music and is now free to indulge in extreme displays excessiveness. I think it is also a way to go above and beyond the performance styles of her peers in the rock genre. Not one to forget her fans or overlook the importance of music for its own sake, P!nk also shared an intimate (if one can be intimate while performing to a stadium audience) set of songs at the stage’s end just in front of the floor of fans. Free from costumes, dancers, the elaborate stage, and prominent props, P!nk played a few songs, obviously more personal songs, while playing her acoustic-electric guitar. P!nk was able to embody both the hard-core style and authenticity of rock while exerting her femininity in one seamless performance.
Official Funhouse Tour Preview Video
Another thing that I immediately noticed was the way in which the guitar was being played and I automatically thought of gender performance. As we discussed in class, one can perform gender in music in various ways: through dress, instrument used, the way in which the instrument is used, one’s voice, etc. Since the guitarist was a male he reifies the idea that a guitar is a masculine/male instrument. Also, he wore a looser strap while performing which is closer to the sexual organs and exerts masculinity; a sense of power. Although the gender performed was not the opposite of the guitarist gender (i.e. him performing femininity), it still reinforces the idea of “this is how a man is suppose to play a guitar.”
Race and gender in music can also be seen while watching the band’s performance. As discussed in class, music genres are male dominated for the most part. This is clearly visible in the Houston Ross Trio seeing that it is an all male band. In addition, their genre, jazz has not only been attributed to males, but to black males in particular. Black males were the originators of jazz. Since the band is composed of two black males and one white male, it can be assumed that jazz is a black male dominated category. However, I should say, that this particular band upholds certain origins of jazz (instruments included).
As far as the demographics of the audience at Miller’s, I would have to say it was predominantly white, with ages ranging from early 20s to early 50s, and they were casually dressed. A majority of the people were there to enjoy nice music and to socialize with friends. Many people stayed to their selective cliques while others mingled with strangers at the bar. This older white woman even kiss a man or two as she made her way through the bar area, demonstrating a drunken action or a more than friendly gesture. Strangers even danced with one another to selections played by the band. Overall, everyone was having a good time.
I noticed from the beginning that the band had little interaction with the audience. This could possibly be attributed to the fact that they did not have a vocalist. Usually a vocalist can emphasize the instruments used with his or her voice and intrigue the audience; creating a connection with the audience through the song’s theme. However, the band did take requests from the audience which presented some interaction, even if it was very little.
On the other hand, the audience’s interaction to the music performed ascended as the night went on. When I first walked into Miller’s, everyone was mellow and one older woman was the only one “extremely” engaged in the performance by making the statement “I love you!” to the guitarist. However, as the song selection changed people began to dance more and shout “Wheeeeew!” from the crowd. I also noticed that when the band played Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” everyone got excited and began to dance with one another in front of the band. And at the end of each song the audience roared and applauded the band’s efforts.
I actually had an interesting time and would not mind going back to hear the House Ross Trio play once again. I have always been a fan of jazz and I found their music relaying and vibrant (especially when they performed I Heard It Through the Grapevine!).
On November 7, 2009 the lovely women of the acapella group Sil’hooettes rushed the stage of McLeod Hall and sang songs that could quiet the most aggressive lion. I attended the Sil’hooettes Fall concert called “Natural Sil’ection.” The theme was about evolution, evolution of budding, singing divas.
The theme of evolution was such an interesting way to add pizzazz to their concert. When the concert started, the lights dimmed and a slideshow immediately started with a slide of each one of the girls. Each slide had a trail of pictures that had each girl depicted as a child and then progressing to a full fledge DIVA. Each one of the girl's names were changed to fit the theme. There was an obvious show of tradition in the group, seen from the slideshow. The new girls in the group had the word “Homer” in front of their names and are dubbed “Homer” until the end of their first year.
The one thing I love about this concert was that it was about the music. From the song ‘sil’ections,’ to the set up of the stage, the concert was about the music. The stage was set up in a very minimalist fashion. There was high tech microphones set up for each musical vocal part (i.e. Bass, tenor, altos and sopranos). The girls were broken down into their musical parts when they entered the stage.
What added the flair and the individuality to this concert was the apparent gender performance of the girls. The women of the Sil’hooettes embraced their femininity to an extreme degree. Claiming to be the “Hottest acapella group at UVA,” they walked on the stage with almost every girl in stiletto hills, skinny jeans, and a sparkly, silver top. During a speech at the beginning of the performance they said they once wore double-breasted jackets but not have shed that look for a more feminine/sexy look of silver and black color pallet.
The girls performed a set of about 12 songs. There was everything from David Guetta to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The girls’ voices were phenomenal. Song after song with a blow of a pitch whistle, the girls hit the beat and sang their hearts out. Each song had a girl that ‘beat boxed’, a girl that had a solo, and a girl for the harmony. The girls’ voices worked together like a well-oiled machine. The girl who had the solo for each song would show such vocal range and variation. It was so pleasant to listen to. The songs were cut down to the essential parts to make it more authentic and real sounding.
The girls had a special guest guy acapella guy group called ‘The Beelzebubs’ that performed in the middle of the concert. These very attractive men rushed the stage and serenaded the audience. It was great that the girls varied the ‘all women concert’ with a little taste of some boy ‘noise’ on stage. Their energy was so high. They sang very funny and very sexualized songs. It was such a fun break in the concert.
The most interesting thing about the concert was the atmosphere that was created by the girls and the audience. The audience was made up of half college kids and half parents. It was interesting to see that all the college kids and alums sat in the mezzanine and the parents sat in the lower level. The crowd was WILD to say the least. Very provocative and sexual statements were yelled at multiple times during the concert everything from “Have my babies” to “I want your body.” There was no regard that there were ‘older’ adults there at all, but it didn’t seem like the parents minded at all.
Girls it was a success. You plucked my heartstrings in ways I couldn’t have imagined. From the funny short film to the raffle gift give away, the girls of the Sil’hooettes gave not just a concert but also a night of pure entertainment. The Sil’hooettes catered to the audience and the audience catered to the Sil’hooettes. It was as though we all sat down to dinner and shared our emotions, fears, and desires. The show was the best ‘SIL’ECTION’ OF MY SATURDAY NIGHT!
1. 24th Chromosome- The mock-umentary that the girls played during the show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXygcIiyPdA
2. Performance- Jazmine Sullivan Performing: "Bust Your Windows" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-TP055CwfM (Note Outfits/ singing abilities)
The genre: metal. The style: metal. Lead singer James Hetfield’s vocals were deep, masculine shouting or power singing over the rest of his band’s guitar, bass, and drum. It was another concert at John Paul Jones Arena, but this one was metallic even in name: it was Metallica.
This was a night when the self-proclaimed freaks came out of Charlottesville—and, surprisingly enough, many of them brought their parents. The parents tried to rock through the opening act, which was Lamb of God, but it was difficult. A Metallica fan, I enjoy some metal recreationally but stay far from Lamb of God, At the concert, it was pushed right into my face—more specifically, into my ears. Lamb of God shouted that the audience should “scream along till your lungs come out,” but if the audience was doing their best to scream along, no one could hear it over Lamb of God’s noise.
After Lamb of God, enter Metallica.
Metal heads and punk rock lovers alike have a tightly interwoven community with an emphasis on their bands; the audience was very dependent on Metallica. They were completely enveloped by the music: jumping, standing, pumping their fists and reacting raucously to whatever lead singer James Hetfield shouted (for instance, his kindly yell, “Sure hope you like the old stuff!”). They responded to whatever drummer Lars Ulrich’s beats; they screamed at any of guitarist Kirk Hammett solos, and they jumped to bassist Robert Trujillo’s rhythm. There was a desperation in their screaming and fist-pumping, and at times, I think it shook up the grandpa seated in front of me.
The entire concert was hypermasculine; most of the audience was white men, and the deep yelling, head thrashing, and utter disregard for traditional beauty was central to the masculine themes of rock. Even the women at the concert had their hair cut in awkward and sharp styles, and piercings obscured their faces. It was a sea of white skin color and black clothing—the friend I went to the concert with was African American, and noted, “the only other black person here works at JPJ.”
The songs were loud. I heard a boy behind me say, half-jokingly (hopefully), “My ears are bleeding.” However, the crowd loved every bass-heavy, scream-laden second of it. The audience pulsed crazily to “Fuel,” which proclaims, “Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire.” It was a strange shout-out to proper grammar that no one else seemed to think out of context. People had been sitting down a little tiredly (those parents were getting worn out), but everyone leapt to their feet at that chorus. Of course, “Enter Sandman” was played right before the encore. Compared to the U2 concert, there were a lot more lighters waved than cell phones—Metallica seems to attract more smokers than the more palatable mainstream bands.
Because this was Metallica’s “Death Magnetic” tour, there were giant coffins suspended from the ceiling of the John Paul Jones arena. These coffins ascended, descended, and came close to the stage. The stage itself looked ratty and low-budget, but it wasn’t until the fire show that I realized why. Metalheads have a fondness for fire that verges on pyromania, and the crowd’s energy shot up with the colorful towers of flames emitting from the stage.
The audience’s energy began to wither halfway through the show, and the deafening music continued. It didn’t seem as successful of a concert because the music outlasted the crowd’s energy. The encore excited the diehard fans, but much of the audience filtered out through the doors, and many UVA students went back home to wash off their eyeliner and continue their Saturday nights. Still, the stream of people leaving the arena seemed to be revved up—not every metal band is as popular as Metallica while still retaining authenticity, and so everyone, from the most authentic rocker to the mainstream Metallica enjoyer, left the concert talking about the show.
PICTURE: Fire shoots out of the Death Magnetic stage.
Before the event began, there was some music playing in the background while a slide show of the sorority was playing. One song in particular caught my attention. Muse’s new song “Uprising” was playing. As I listen to the lyrics, it hits me: this is one of the most empowering songs I’ve ever heard. If this song were a metaphor for fighting cancer – be it as a patient, loved one, doctor, or researcher – then people would be encouraged to battle an illness that can be beat. People find inspiration and power from many things. For me, I found it in this song. Breast cancer will not control us, and we will be victorious. By holding a concert to raise awareness, and advocating early detection and treatment, breast cancer can be curable. But now, let’s get back to the music.
After a brief presentation by the sorority with facts about breast cancer awareness, the musical portion began. The Virginia Belles, an al female a cappella group on Grounds performed two songs, the first of which was “Use Somebody.” This song is performed by Kings of Leon, a boy band. This cross-gender performance, along with the change from alternative to a cappella, had an evident affect on the sound and vibe of the song. The original song has a raw, grainy, rock vibe to it; the Belles performed a more polished and soothing, yet still powerful version of the song. In a way, the vocals in both versions have an inherent passion in them, possibly from the lyrics. The Belles also performed “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You” by James Morrison; however, the sound was not so different between the two versions of this song. In this case, there was again a cross-gender performance, but the original song is pop-rock. The soulful nature of the song, along with the performance of the Belles, created less of a difference between the feel of the original song with the cover.
Continuing with the difference between performances, Tim Be Told sounds completely different live compared to on an album. When I went to the concert, I got more of an alternative vibe from them. It was raw and edgy, the instrumentation felt very real, and the passion in the music was tangible. On the album, the vibe was felt more pop, which is the genre iTunes lists them under. The music still has it’s originality and passion, but it sounds more constricted and polished. I suppose this is jus the nature of a studio recording versus a live performance.
At the live show, they reminded me of Something Corporate, an alternative/pop punk/piano rock band from Orange County California, or Parachute, formerly known as Charlottesville,Va’s very own Sparky’s Flaw. Tim Be Told is also a local band from Charlottesville, Va. After doing a little research, I discovered that Andrew, the lead guitarist, is from California; this may be why I felt that SoCo vibe. Also, according to their MySpace page, they consider themselves soul, pop, rock, gospel and blues. I definitely feel that this fully encompasses all of the musical genres that they draw from. The song topics often have a bluesy, gospel influence. And the feel of the music can definitely be considered pop, to some degree. But I think the raw passion I hear in the band comes from the soul and rock aspects of the music. During the performance, every member of the band had several moments when they could display their talent and show their desire to create music that is meaningful and original.
I think what made the band feel so tangible and not a typical corporate, all for the money, thing was that Tim opened up and shared a few personal stories with the audience that were clearly difficult for him to share. Also, the band played a couple of songs that are currently not in release. These things, plus the sheer and amazing talent, caused a good relationship between the band and the audience. The audience kept giving positive feedback, with screams for special requests and encores. The small and intimate setting of the UVa chapel was also a huge factor in the how the band and audience interacted the overall concert experience. Tim Be Told put on an authentic and musically exquisite concert, minus all the corporate and commercial, superficial and showy fluff that tends to distract from the reason for the concert – the music. Overall, I think the concert was great success. Money and awareness were raised for an excellent cause. And I finally got to experience the best concert I think I have ever attended.
Most people in their “audience” were not actually there to listen to the music: they were either there for the VASST event or there to eat and drink. The demographics of the audience were very diverse, with a large amount of both men and women, as well as many different ethnicities and ages. The people who were visibly listening to the music were mostly white and standing or sitting near the bar rather than in front of the stage. For this reason, perhaps, there was not much interaction between the band and the audience. A few people, five at the most, danced for a couple of the songs; other than this, though, few people seemed to notice the band at all. Left and Right did not receive a negative reaction to their music, but they also did not necessarily move the crowd either. After their set was over, one of the guitarists said jokingly, “Thank you everyone…sorry for bothering you,” which received a few laughs.
I thought this lack of interaction with the audience was shyness or indifference on the part of the band members, but after attending a show tonight at the Tea Bazaar in which Left and Right opened for two other indie rock bands, I could see that they were quite capable of positive interaction with their audience. I found that the difference here was between the venues, the occasion, and who played in the show itself. At Boylan Heights, they were playing by themselves and for an event that was not solely their own, and in a venue that was primarily catering to people looking to eat and drink. At the Tea Bazaar, they were playing for their own event, with bands of a similar sound and genre, and for an audience that was drawn to the music itself. The audience was eagerly standing and dancing in front of the stage rather than sitting across the room at the bar. I also found it interesting that the audience at the second show was far less diverse, consisting of mostly white young people. Although there was still a mix of males and females, there was a muhc higher concentration of males at the Tea Bazaar show.
The differences in demographics between the audience members of each show reminded me of the concept of rock music being associated with music that is more “real”, “authentic” and “masculine.” At Boylan Heights, the show lacked a pure interest in the music and thus lacked any. At the Tea Bazaar, the masculine atmosphere and the “authenticity” of the event itself (purely for music rather than for the VASST event) made the indie-rock show seem more successful and enjoyable for both the band itself and for their audience members. Most of the people who expressed adoration for or a connection with the music (dancing, singing along, etc.) were young males, and many of these males attended the show together. This comparison supports the idea of brotherhood being associated with rock music, even in modern indie-rock genres.
For videos of the Boylan Heights show:
Three friends from my a cappella group are very involved in the music department at the University of Virginia. They are involved in Opera Viva, which is “a student-run organization dedicated to producing and promoting opera in the UVA and Charlottesville communities” (Concert Program). Martha, Caitlin, and Leah are classically trained and knowledgeable in music theory, as they are music majors. Martha, a Soprano 1, aspires to be a professional opera singer someday. Opera Viva planned a gala entitled “A Night of Opera,” in which they performed a scene from six different operas. Though the actual gala on October 22 2009 was supposedly quite fancy and expensive, Opera Viva had an “open” dress rehearsal/run-though the night before their gala, on October 21, 2009. This evening dress rehearsal was open to friends and family, and only cost $3 to enter. Since I had never been to an opera performance of any kind before, I was interested to see how race and gender played a role in opera.
Firstly, at the beginning of each scene, a narrator would emerge and introduced the story behind each opera. However, it was difficult to follow each story as the songs were all in different languages, except for one – Papageno/Papagena Duet-Die Zaubeflote by Mozart. In “A Night of Opera,” each of the six scenes contained from anywhere from two to four featured soloists. It appeared that the cast of approximately twenty college students were all of Anglo-Caucasian descent, except two African-American females. Though each of the six opera scenes contained from anywhere from two to four featured soloists, I found it strange that the two African-American singers were featured in the same opera scene as lead soloists. Therefore, all soloists in the remaining five scenes were white. It would be interesting to go behind-the-scenes to find out exactly how the soloists were picked for each opera. Did the soloists choose what opera scene they wanted to participate in? Or did they audition, specifically for a scene or in general for a solo part?
The musicality of the opera performance displayed a unique presentation in regards to race as well. It was obvious that all of the performers were very trained in voice and music theory. Every singer used a great deal of vibrato, and sang with a lot of dynamics. They projected their voices over the piano accompaniment throughout the Newcomb Ballroom – so loudly it seemed almost unnecessary, and was not completely pleasant to listen to. Though I had never been to an opera performance before, the loud voice projection seemed quite stereotypical of what one would envision an opera singer to sound like. When my friend and featured Soprano Martha sang, it was almost reminiscent of Bessie Smith belting “The St. Louis Blues.” But, unlike Bessie Smith, Martha did not have to sing over a brass band – only a piano playing softly in the background.
Such strong female vocals were juxtaposed with the emotional victim role the female singers/actors played in the scene. The men were also very emotive in their facial expressions and body movements throughout the concert. The lyrics and themes of the music highlighted in “A Night of Opera” all surrounded love. All of the scenes were about human love and the interaction and feelings that arise from the bliss of love as well as the desperation of unrequited or betrayed love. It was interesting that the men were deemed as strong, masculine, and aggressive actors in the music even though they were lamenting about love, which is usually categorized as feminine. In the Opera Viva performance, portraying emotion through music was considered masculine. This play on hegemonic masculinity presents a new way of looking at gender through music.
Demographically the club was ethnically and racially diverse which is typical of the Miami area. The club at least on Saturday nights is twenty-one and over and the crowd the night I was there appeared to be in its early twenties. People were pretty dressed up which is reflective of the glamorous South Beach style.
The famous DJ Prostyle was the DJ for the night and through his music he really made my experience at the club one of the best I have ever had. Prostyle is a Queens, New York native, but he moved to Orlando, Florida when he was thirteen and that is really where his musical career took off. Currently he has a position of the Friday DJ on the popular 106 and Park show on BET. He also has had his music featured on XBOX and has DJed for BET’s Spring Bling which is a fashion show broadcasted by the network. Prostyle is also part of the Heavy Hitters which is a group of DJs that put out extremely popular mixtapes of current Rap and R&B music. DJ Enough is probably the most famous of the Heavy Hitters. Apart from being a DJ that travels across the country entertaining at the most famous clubs and venues Prostyle is the CEO of his own label All Pro Records. Prostyle is Dominican and his Hispanic identity greatly influences his music and the artists he works with. He is a HipHop, Rap and R&B DJ, but frequently his music is infused with Reggaeton and Reggae samples highlighting his roots. He also frequently works closely with artists ranging from Reggaeton’s Daddy Yankee to P Diddy. Prostyle has been attributed by his Heavy Hitter DJ peers as bringing the HipHop music scene to Orlando, Florida which is an enormous accomplishment. Due to his fame and his personality, Prostyle lives a very glamorous life similar to many rappers, making him very recognizable to fans.
When Prostyle was at the turn tables in B.E.D. he really displayed his skills. I think that one of the most important parts to Djing is being perceptive of the people at the venue playing to the environment and what the people want to hear. He really played to the crowd while still playing to the environment of the lounge style venue. Prostyle was well aware of the demographics of the club people in their 20’s and played music which I will go out on a limb and call our “old school” basically songs that were popular when we were of high school age. It allowed the crowd to reminisce and sing along to the songs and it seemed as though everyone knew the lyrics. He also initially played more “chill” or slower songs which contributed to the lounge style atmosphere. An example of this type of song he played was G-Unit’s featuring Joe’s “Wanna Get to Know You”. This skill of preception really connected the audience to the music and grabbed their attention. As the night carried on he picked faster newer songs that encouraged more dancing. An example of this is New Boyz “You’re a Jerk”. As the night went on the club also started to fill up more and he mixed the songs or scratched them a lot more which also increased the energy. Although the physical club did not change the music alone changed the atmosphere from lounge to more of a dancing club. During this time he would switch songs more and repeat popular lines further ampting up the energy. Although many DJs do some of these tactics Prostyles perception of the crowd was extremely in tune so that his mastering of this skill was very apparent. I recall saying throughout that night that “he is such a good DJ” and the people around me agreed. It can be argued that the music makes the party and his music made it one of the best club experiences I have ever had. There was not one person in the club was not, singing, dancing or rocking to the music.
The physical placement of the DJ booth was my one complaint. I enjoy seeing the DJ work when I go the club and the DJ booth was on a 10 foot walled platform in the back of the club next to the bathroom. I feel as though this spatial placement adds to the anonymity of the DJ which I feel is a problem in this art form. I find it also disrespectful to have an artist especially one as famous and accomplished like Prostyle placed in such close proximity to the restroom. It makes it seem as though DJs a merely part of the scenery like speaker rather than a musician. When comparing the spatial placement of the DJ booth in this club and in other similar clubs to the front and center placement of a singer or a rapper at a concert or club, the poor treatment of the DJ becomes apparent. Would a singer be being performing in a non visible section of a club or concert venue, I think not. Is this spatial placement of the DJ stating that they are not real musicians and therefore not deserving of a front and center placement? The front and center placement of these other types of artists allows them visibility, credit and notoriety which I feel is lacking for the DJ. I would like to argue that the DJ is a musician and that this type of spatial placement makes it seem as though they are not. The only advantage I can think of linked to this placement is that it is raised and that the DJ can observe the crowd without the view being obscured which is important to their perception of the crowd. Because of the lack of visibility of Prostyle yet his overall control of the atmosphere, mood of the club and the crowd through his perception it was almost like he was the omnipresent God of the club. In this case Prostyle was the God of the B.E.D.
"BED South Beach Magazine's Club Guide." South Beach Hotels Miami Beach Hotels South Beach USA's Guide. Web. 18 Nov. 2009.
"DJ PROSTYLE on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads." MySpace. Web. 18 Nov. 2009.
"DJ Prostyle on power953.com." Power953.com Homepage on power953.com. Web. 18 Nov. 2009.
There were eleven performance acts and five rounds of bingo. I will not go into depth about every performance, but there were common themes worth noting. Many of the drag queens interacted much more with the audience than the drag kings did. Some of the queens danced on tables and seductively obtained dollar bills from audience members in their ‘breasts’ or via their mouth. They also danced and strutted around in high heels flashing feminine qualities to the audience. Lastly, the queens tended to dance more around tables with many gay men, who danced with them, gave them money, and cheered them on. The music that they danced to was all by famous popular female artists, Paradiso Girls, Christina Millian, and Lady Gaga.
The first act was by a solo drag queen known as Ferosh Roché Dupuis. She has performed at Drag Bingo many times. This year, she wore skimpy outfits, showing off her mid body and legs, a wig, high heels, and makeup, provided by MAC cosmetics. She twisted her body closely to what is expected of a female in a club exemplified through the ‘booty pops’ that very famous feminine move that artists such as Beyonce and Shakira do in their music videos. I noticed that gay men were much more excited about the drag queens, and this was expressed clearly when she performed her sexy floor acts. When she did this, many people screamed with amazement and joy and some people even banged on the tables. She left the room by blowing a kiss, again, a very feminine thing to do. Her sexuality was being expressed here through a drag act.
Other drag queens including the ‘popular witches’ from the “Wicked” theme who wore feminine articles of clothing such as pink dresses, long blonde wigs, high heels, pink headbands, pink scarves, and a wand. They song they danced to was called “Popular” which talks about how to make the ugly witches popular. This was truly an important part of the show because of numerous things. Firstly, many of the gay men got the connection to the show and this act because they were singing along to the words and were very excited. Secondly, the song was slow and mentioned very feminine things to do to make a woman (in the sake of the musical, a witch) feminine such as the how to talk to boys, fix one’s hair, and what shoes to wear. Throughout the song, the popular witches flailed their hair, blew kisses, caressed their breasts, and dolled around; it was very feminine. This relates to Lorber’s main idea of gender bending. The drag performers were ‘gender bending’ by performing characteristics of another gender. They did not conform to their stereotypical gendered norms and characteristics. This also relates to gender performance. The drag performers constructed gender and their individuality through their acts. An example of this is the David Bowie picture we saw in earlier on in class. He was performing a gender and expressing individuality, similar to these performers.
There were also two drag king acts which were not as successful. One was a professional and danced to ‘Crazy Bitch’. He wore a cap and a goutee, adding masculine symbols to him. He tended to dance for the female audience members that were in the front row. The amateur act danced to a George Michal song. He put his hair up, wore sunglasses, a beard, had on tight jeans, and flashed a leather jacket. By observing these two acts, I noticed the way they moved to the music. They walked with limps, occasionally did shoulder shrugs, and bounced their hands up and down to the music like some male rappers do in their live performances. By using ties and pens as cigars to portray the male gender, the objects tell us that gender is definitely constructed socially and culturally. The audience was not as happy with the drag king performances as there were many people talking during them. Significantly less people gave them money as well. This could be because the performers did not interact with the audience like the queens did. Both performers did not wander into the audience beyond the first row. “Culturally”, a gay man told me, “drag kings are not as popular as queens and definitely do not make as much money since many of the audience members are gay men and like the queens better”. Although very impressive, the lack of popularity may be because the sexuality of the drag kings does not appeal as much to the sexuality of the audience.
It is important to note that all the queens are gay men, while for the kings it may not be the case. Drags acts were more popular and sexy where there were feminine clothing pieces and these were appreciated much more by the audience; this could be why the drag kings failed since they did not dress attractively. This is important to note because there are many more things that queens can do to sexualize their body in these drag acts than kings. This truly shows how sexuality and femininity is connected to females and the body. This relates to what we talked about in class about gender and how it is socially constructed and it’s a form of self identity and expression. Gender here is also not something that is stagnant; it has the capability of changing based on the individual’s desire. Thus, these performers, in a sense, ‘gender bent’ to express their sexuality and individualism.
This event shows that the people in the community are open to such individual and unique performances. Additionally, it displays the support for LGBT students at UVA. It’s great to know that people can express themselves through different types of music and in different ways as they see fit.
"Wicked"'s song - "Popular" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY2_HAAoqqA&feature=related
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The Virginia Gentleman gave a rousing performance to nearly eight hundred spectators during their Family Weekend concert. The all-male acapella group sang for over two and a half hours, performing a broad range of songs from five decades. The squeaky-clean performance, combined with their famous bow ties, emanated an image of a classic “old school” singing group. The concert was strongly gendered, as indicated by their song choice, outfits and even their name. Their old school image and song selection contributed to a hetero-normative performance. Both the “old school” and hetero-normative messages are not fully reflective of the group’s membership, creating a minor tension between the group’s stage presence and their lives offstage.
According to a fourth year in the group, the VGs think that they are a “classy, old-school group with an expansive repertoire.” This image is fitting for the oldest acapella group on grounds with a “rich tradition of musical excellence and camaraderie” (http://scs.student.virginia.edu/~vagent/ ). While their name itself alludes to a masculinity of the past, the performance was also gendered in their dress and song choice. For the concert in Old Cabel Hall, a stunning and classic concert hall, they performed in crisp suits and blue and orange bow ties, thus embodying their gentile name. Their attire hearkened back to a time when the University student body was made up of all white, mostly upper class males who attended class in coats and ties. Despite the allusion to U.Va’s past, the group is more diverse then the name and image imply; several members are African American and some members do not fit into the “preppy, old school” stereotype by any stretch of the imagination.
The Virginia Gentlemen sang a range of songs, covering artists such as The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra. Several of the songs included themes of romance with women. Their rendition of “Brandy,” originally by Looking Glass, had the soloist singing lines about a beautiful young woman who would make a good wife. A swoon-worthy version of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” was complete with winks to females in the audience. The concert concluded with the crowd pleasing “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel, a tune about breaking up and making up with the song’s namesake. Overall, the song selection had a hetero-normative connotation, which contributed to the group’s “old school” masculine image. Once more, their image conflicts slightly with their actual membership; even though their songs seem to imply it, not all members consider themselves heterosexual.
The Virginia Gentlemen could be considered cross over artists, since they performed songs from several genres in a different style. Their family weekend show featured acapella arrangements from country, hip-hop, rock, rhythm and blues, pop and rock and roll songs. The audience, made up of students and their families, seemed equally entertained by each song, regardless of its genre. The VGs seem to be able to take a song from every genre and make it sound classy, clean and family-appropriate.
Much like other styles of music discussed in class, U.Va. acapella is a male dominated musical style. Although there are many incredibly talented all-female and co-ed groups on grounds, all-male groups such as the VGs are by far the most popular, regularly selling out concert halls and booking gigs literally around the world. While rock became a male-dominated space in part because of its technical nature, the male domination of U.Va acapella can not be explained in this fashion. Although acapella does demand precise vocal control, it does not include any instrumental knowledge. It is difficult to say why all-male acapella groups draw bigger crowds at the University, but the VG’s concert certainly exemplified this phenomenon. The show included an intermission featuring several songs by an all-female group. Although just as vocally talented, the female group did not earn nearlyas much enthusiasm from the crowd as did the men in bow ties.
The Virginia Gentleman's Family Weekend concert crossed musical generations and genres. The group's attire and song selection established a gendered image that alluded to a masculinity specific to white, upper class, heterosexual males. Although parts of their image refers to the University's past as a white, all-male school for "gentlemen," the VGs are, in actuality a diverse group who continue to be a favorite of hundreds of adoring fans.
Check out the links below for some past performances by the VGs:
"Hey there Delilah"
Another crowd favorite, Angel is the Centerfold
One of my personal favorite performances: LoveStoned
A fact that is not very well known about the novel Moby-Dick is that it has two titles: Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale. It is with this classic novel that a band from San Francisco, California, Or, The Whale, shares its name. The Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar located in downtown Charlottesville at which Or, The Whale performed allowed for a prime setting in order to intimately view and interact with the band. The Bazaar is not a venue that can be categorized as serving one specific crowd of people or looking one particular way; this idea is directly linked to Or, The Whale, in that identical to the Tea Bazaar, they are a band that cannot be tied down and linked to one specific musical genre or viewed as catering to one specific group of people.
Or, The Whale consists of five males and two females; this combination includes more members than the typical band. Along with the higher than average number of members in the band is a higher than average number of instruments utilized by the band: bass, drums, acoustic guitar, banjo, keyboard, electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, and jingle bells. The wide variety of instrumentation within Or, The Whale’s music creates a sound that is extremely high in texture. This wide variety also allows the band to create many different sounds seemingly belonging to several different genres. A tone that is easily heard throughout several of their songs is a twang created by the banjo; the twang and the banjo are usually associated with a “country/folk” vibe and genre. However, Or, The Whale interestingly uses the banjo to also create sounds that are more associated with current rock ‘n’ roll such as rougher, faster, rawer riffs and chords which were heard within the chorus of some of their songs. The voices of the artists of rhythm and blues often have a timbre that can be described as strong and full, yet controlled; one of the lead female vocalists of Or, The Whale’s voice can be described in the exact same manner. She showcased these very qualities of her voice through her frequent use of heavy, forceful notes that in turn reflected a soulful vibe. This vibe allowed the music as a whole to emit a blues flavor. The jumpy, sometimes syncopated rhythmic chords and melodies played by the female keyboardist in the band is reminiscent of some forms of jazz (such as ragtime), adding yet another distinctive dynamic to the music of the band. Or, The Whale’s utilization of several different instruments to play in seemingly contradictory and juxtaposed methods deems their music unclassifiable and unable to fit into a single genre or group of music.
The Charlottesville downtown mall Tea Bazaar is celebrated for several things including its boastful mass of tea options ranging from Indian black teas to aged Asian teas, its wide array of hookah selections that fill the small space with countless aromas, its eclectic, overwhelming décor, and its extremely intimate and cozy set-up. The decorations are the first noticeable aspect about the Tea Bazaar that cannot be placed into a single category. The decorative choice can be described as “worldly.” There are several mirrors along the walls, teapots and rugs from different countries, sculpted figurines of animals typically native to different parts of the world, and a surplus of other decorative items of which their origins are undetermined. A variety of people from different cultures/races, ages, and social groups were present at the Tea Bazaar. The attendees ranged from college-aged students to middle-aged adults. The crowd held Caucasians, African-Americans, Asians, and more; people from different social groups such as alternative or preppy, and more; and almost an equal number of females and males. The Bazaar’s seemingly contradictory atmosphere and contrasting group of attendees marks the venue as unclassifiable in that it is not possible to pin stereotypical molds of people such as “rich, Caucasian punk kids” or “middle-aged, African-American intellectuals” as regulars of The Bazaar. The Tea Bazaar’s unclassifiable nature offers the appeal of a fulfilling experience to people from all different cultures, sectors, ages, and races; this in turn relates to the bands that perform at the Tea Bazaar in that they too, are often unclassifiable in their own respect, such as Or, The Whale.
The unclassifiable genre and listener of Or, The Whale’s music is directly linked to the unclassifiable attendee and appearance of The Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar. Through The Bazaar’s worldly, eclectic décor and design, and its wide variety of offerings, The Bazaar is a venue that almost anyone can enjoy; this is because it is not catered toward one group of people making its classification undeterminable. Through Or, The Whale’s varied use of instrumentation to create textures, riffs, chords, harmonies, and more that are heard within several different forms of music, Or, The Whale, like The Tea Bazaar, is a band that almost anyone can enjoy; because of their relation to several different sectors, their genre is unclassifiable, in turn producing unclassifiable consumers. The pairing of Or, The Whale and the Tea Bazaar is ideal in that the unclassifiable nature and ambiguity of the categorization of both display a symbiotic relationship in which the two feed off each other, reinforcing the idea that there is no single genre or group for either of them to fit in to cleanly.