Genuine Love (NAMM Show 2017)

So lately I’ve been asking myself this question: What are you REALLY passionate about? 

The answer used to be so clear. I love singing and I want to make music until the end of my time (probably will still be singing in my grave). But honestly, self-doubt is one SOB (please excuse my language). Doubt in my vocal capabilities, doubt in my talents, doubt in my ability to excel, etc. It creeps in so suddenly that when I find myself drowning in it, I can’t seem to get out of it so easily.

Originally, this post was going to be another “review” of basically how cool the NAMM Show was this year. Instead I’d rather share all the great insight I learned from attending this year’s show. First off – me attending the NAMM show for the second year in a row has to be some sort of fate. I attended NAMM 2016 thanks to my handy connection with Titan Radio, but now that I no longer work there I wasn’t expecting to make my way into this year’s show. Well this year my parents decided it was time to get our piano tuned again. We got to talking to our tuner, who just so happens to be an exhibitor at NAMM, and he got us passes!

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No, my name is not Emily and that is not how you spell my name (LOL I honestly don’t know how that happened…), but I was super stoked to be at the biggest music trade show in the world. I had a blast at last year’s show and I wanted to inhale all the talent and wonderful musical vibes that filled the Anaheim Convention Center that weekend

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I have a notebook that I bought at last year’s show that I was super excited about because the sides were neon green and I will literally buy anything that is my favorite color. Since then, I’ve taken notes inside of it that include topics from self-help, meditation, yoga, music, and more. I brought it with me to add to the goodness.

Here’s a look inside that notebook, with the most important pieces of information I feel like I got from that weekend.

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“Ask yourself: Are you PASSIONATE? Go home & think… Do you love music? You need to love it to succeed in music.” -Richard Sussman 

That was the first thing I wrote down at the first seminar I attended at NAMM 2017. Holy crap, it was like a slap in the face, and totally ironic and incredibly perfect timing. I loved Mr. Sussman’s seminar for various reasons. First, because he made me realize that NOT EVERYONE need’s a degree to have a successful music career. He outlined this ever so clearly in his Powerpoint. Second, because he also talked about KARMA. Although I probably will get 100 NOs, I will get a YES.

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“WRITE A STORY” -Kevin Bruener, CD Baby

A lot of the times I find myself in extreme musical stump (like now lol). I loved this seminar because the speaker basically called out all the pop songs out there right now that lack real substance. Sometimes, digging deep to find that inspiration is extremely hard, but SOMETHING INTERESTING is bound to have happened/will happen in life that is worth writing about. And this pertains to anything, really. Photography, poetry, song-writing, blogging, teaching, etc.

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“Time goes by whether you do something or not… So do something.” -Bob Taylor

Okay, so blunt, and so obvious. But so true! Bob Taylor’s talk was especially inspiring to me because he wasn’t afraid to tell us how DIFFICULT it was and how LONG it took for him to reach success. He talked about not having electricity in his house cuz they couldn’t pay the bill (more than one month at a time), and how it was seriously a struggle to get Taylor Guitars to where it is now. But he knew he loved his craft and he did something about it. Obviously, it paid off pretty nicely.

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“George’s legacy: Never felt superior to other musicians who didn’t have classical training. Knew when to do nothing.” 

The late Sir George Martin is responsible for producing and engineering so many of The Beatles’ records. Him and the band were like bread and butter together – just perfect. This stood out to me because although he was such a musical genius, he was also so humble. I feel like a lot of us get caught up in the race to be the best, and it really clouds our judgement. Who knows what would have happened if George didn’t say YES to The Beatles … But thank God he did.

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“Hard work fueled by PASSION & education… Can’t stop applying that method after you make it.” -Kenny Aronoff

I’m quite guilty of this. After I have a taste of the satisfaction of a little success, I’ll get bored and quit/ lose all motivation to continue. I can say it happened with performing, guitar, piano, singing, radio, college, etc. But okay that’s enough self-loathing. I’m admitting this now so I can now say that phase of my life is OVER. I pledge to continue educating myself and to continue to perfect my craft every day of my life.

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Now that I’ve joined the sea of people who share the same dream as me, I have to keep reminding myself that nothing is simply handed to anyone. My new journey will include a lot of disappointment, heartbreak, and long nights. But at the same time I know that it will all be worth it in the end. And I guess that’s love, right? It’s enduring that heartbreak with as much grace as you can, because you know that you couldn’t live without it/him/her/them/whatever you love. That being said, I will continue to genuinely love my new crazy journey until it’s over.

 

REVIEW: The King & I at the Pantages Theatre (1/3/2017)

While working at my college’s radio station for three years, I guess you can say I went on a “hiatus” from my musical roots. Don’t get me wrong, I loved discovering new music, immersing myself in every sort of indie, punk, electronic, hip-hop, underground, whatever-you-name-it music there is out there, but there was something always missing. I didn’t realize it until after I graduated – I missed Musical Theater. As an awkward, distressed pre-teen, Musical Theater helped put me on the right track. I find myself coming back to it now, starting the new year by watching a show at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater.

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I spent the last three weeks with my nephew, Johann, who is the epitome of a musical theater geek. Everything we talk about is either about singing and theater (and food), so hanging out with him really stimulated my love for the art again. Since he was in town from San Francisco, I promised him we’d catch a show while he was here. We ended up picking Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, not really knowing what it was about, but excited for the amazing cast and the two incredible leads of the show. Johann, JR (our cousin), Josh (my boyfriend), and I spent the rest of the week talking about what we loved and didn’t love.

king-and-iPhoto courtesy of The Pantages Theater

In short, The King and I is a musical about Anna Leonowens, an English widow, who moves to Bangkok with her son to tutor the King’s many children and wives. The King and Anna butt heads in the beginning, but by the end of the show end up having deep respect for each other. Here’s what we concluded about the performance:

  1. The vocals were flawless. Every song was executed so smoothly, like their vocal chords were made of butter. Being able to sing high notes is one thing, but being able to sing high notes so delicately is another craft in itself. I was particularly impressed by Manna Nichols (Tuptim) and Kavin Panmeechao (Lun Tha) in their song “I Have Dreamed”. What begins as a light song escalades into a powerful duet between two lovers, so masterfully executed by the two performers.
  2. Our favorite scene: The Small House of Uncle Thomas. Johann and I listened to the original soundtrack before watching the show. I remember both of us saying “WHY IS THERE A 14-MINUTE SONG?!”. It turned out to be a 14-minute ballet, featuring the royal singers and dancers of the palace. I found myself chanting “Go, Eliza, go!”, as Lamae Caparas (Eliza) impressively hopped across the stage on one foot about twenty times. The choreography for this particular scene was unique and culturally stimulating.
  3. It’s an oldie, but still a goodie. The first Broadway performance of The King and I was in 1951. Times have changed, perceptions of race and ethnicity have changed, and in turn, the show has changed. For the national tour, changes were made to the production to make the show a lot less racist (for lack of better terms). However, I still wouldn’t suggest bringing a friend along to watch this show if they’re not familiar with musical theater and its early shows. It was Josh’s first show, and he loved the performers, but was still offended by the storyline and racism that it entailed.
  4. I am in love with Laura Michelle Kelly. I got to meet her after the show and the only thing I could muster up was, “You’re so amazing and I want to sing just like you one day.” Her response: “Oh no! You want to sound just like YOU, with your own unique voice!” Okay, best advice ever. But really, watching her on stage is truly inspiring. Even though I was sitting at the back of the theater, I was able to resonate with her character and the compassion she portrayed through playing Anna. img_6226Meeting the talented Laura Michelle Kelly.

I guess you can say I enjoyed watching the show. Although we were worried about the pace of the show (knowing that the songs were all so soothing and relaxing compared to contemporary shows), it was engaging and quirky, and surprisingly upbeat in it’s own way.

For more information about the show and/or the Pantages, check out their website. For tickets to The King and I (which runs until January 21st!), go here.

 

REVIEW: A Night Curated by Gilles Peterson feat. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, BADBADNOTGOOD, Nai Palm, Kamasi Washington, George Clinton and more.

A couple months ago I took my boyfriend on a date to see Hiatus Kaiyote, and then on another date to see BADBADNOTGOOD. Two of the best shows I’ve seen in the past couple of years. A few weeks ago, Josh told me to save September 28th in my calendar because he bought us tickets to a show. When I asked him what kind of show, he just said it was going to be “funky”. So I went with no expectations because I trust in his taste in music and I can never deny a night where funk is involved. Both of us really had no idea it was going to be so much more – basically a compilation of our last two concert dates on steroids.

Gilles Peterson is known for discovering and being a platform for emerging talent. He supports the artists he finds and helps them get discovered. Together with WeTransfer, he put on a sold-out show in Los Angeles at The Theater at Ace Hotel featuring many of the artists that he has supported and believed in.

The night opened up with BADBADNOTGOOD, who themselves are headline material. Featuring Chester Hansen on bass guitar, Alexander Sowinski on drums, Matthew A. Tavares on keys, and the newest member, Leland Whitty on saxophone. What’s so cool about these guys is that they look so absolutely normal. There’s nothing fabulous about them, as in they don’t feel they have to make a statement at all via their clothes and/or hairstyles as most musicians strive to. They put all their energy into their music, and on stage it comes out quite effortlessly. They’re basically the reason why new generations are going to fall in love with jazz again, and know that it’s okay to reinvent music.

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Moments before the show started, I heard whispers of special guests being added to the bill. In addition to BBNG, artists such as Gaslamp Killer, Nai Palm of Hiatus Kaiyote, Bilal + The Sa-Ra Creative Partners, and Kamasi Washington graced the stage. But the big brain behind most of the compositions of the night was Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who led the show with his violin and the 11-piece orchestra.

img_5492Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and the 11-piece orchestra. 

The night was filled with cacophonous goodness. Unforgettable xylophone solos, delicious tenor sax riffs, and percussion heaven… I can go on about what went RIGHT about this show. Bilal’s sweet falsetto put us all at ease. Nai Palm came out and melted our ear drums in the best way possible with her smooth yet powerful voice. Kamasi Washington came out with his saxophone to show his home city what music should sound like. And the crowd went absolutely nuts when the famous George Clinton came out on stage. All while the Miguel and the orchestra kept time and flowed through the night.

img_5493Kamasi Washington with Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and the 11-piece orchestra.

What was so great about the night in general was the crowd that it attracted. There were real music lovers there. Not the snobby kind, but the kind of music appreciators who take in consideration all genres, all styles, and all people while putting together playlists. The people who care about what went into the music and not just the end product. So in a sense, this was a show put on by a curator (and a file exchanging service), for curators.

TRAVEL: Experiencing the Real Bali (Angseri Mountains, Bali 8/14/2016)

The boys and I were talking today, and we agreed that you don’t really experience Balinese culture until you leave the city and stay in the countryside. We had our first two full days away from the craziness of Kuta and Ubud, and we absolutely loved it. 

Our day started off a little later than anticipated. Josh and I woke up around 4AM, and when we tried going back to bed at around 6AM I was having trouble breathing. The strangest thing would happen when I would fall asleep but not be breathing. Then I would jolt myself awake to consciously breathe again. Finally by around 9:30AM we all woke up, surprised by how long we all slept. Our Indonesian mama brought out banana crepes and tea for our breakfast. We thanked her and made small talk. She told us to be “hati-hati”, meaning careful, because it was raining. As we were leaving, she taught us “da-da”, which means goodbye. As we said goodbye to everyone else at the house, they all laughed because Josh’s poncho had a giant hole in it. Mama came over to help him fix it right before we left. 

We drove about an hour through a little rain, a lot of potholes, and up chilly mountain to get to Pura Ulun Danu Beratan. Once again, our GPS almost took us the wrong way through a mud road. We decided to turn back and found the real entrance. The fee to get in was 30,000 IDR. Right when we entered, we heard music. Alvin joked that we were actually paying to get into a music festival instead of a temple, and that Kygo was headlining. We entered and found a group of young boys all performing traditional Balinese music and dance. The rhythmic patterns were much more intricate than the ones we heard the night before, but you could still hear the similarities. All the instruments the boys were using were the same as the ones the women were using the night before with gongs, cymbals, and bamboo. They incorporated dancing and chanting into their routine also. 

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The rest of the temple was filled with tourists, like many of the other temples we’ve visited are. Part of the temple lies on a lake, which is closed off to visitors. The weather was overcast and the clouds were close to us since we were so high up in the mountain. It added to the mystical feelings, and made it seem like we were in a temple on a lake near the sky. We walked along the lake through the rest of the temple and saw some deer on our way out. They seemed to not mind the tourists taking photos of them because they would come right up next to the fence to say hello to everyone. 

From there we drove to the Organic Farm Cafe, which was over more crazy hills and potholes. Instead of following our GPS, we followed signs until we found the restaurant instead. We were greeted by a friendly barking dog who immediately wanted us to pet its belly. We sat down in the small cafe area which was built on the front porch of the building in the middle of farmland. We tried the most delicious basil chips that were cooked fresh at the restaurant, and had lemongrass infused water as we waited for our food. Our food came out, and we were all fully satisfied with our organic meals. Alvin enjoyed his omelette while Josh and I enjoyed our mozzarella sandwiches. We know, it’s not Balinese food, but after reading about the history of the Organic Farm we were happy to support the cause. The owners of the Organic Farm, who are an Indonesian and Dutch couple, are working at keeping farming alive and prosperous for all farmers in the mountains of Indonesia. 

We later went to the Air Panas Hot Springs that was five minutes away from the cafe. We paid 35,000 IDR to get in. We walked to the hot springs, but Josh and I were a little turned off by the water being lukewarm and brown. The nice worked offered us a private room, which was also not very hot. Finally, he showed us another private area that had hot water that we were happy delving ourselves in. We relaxed next to a statue of Ganesha for about 15 minutes in our little confined hot spring pool. 
On our way home, the boys and I wanted to see the beautiful rice terraces we saw the day before again. We hoped the sun wouldn’t peep through, but the clouds insisted on staying as we drove around at took pictures. We followed a dirt pathway through the terraces that led us in the middle for an even more epic view of them. Josh parked his motorbike and started running through the rice terraces to get the perfect pictures of them. Everywhere we looked and even beyond the distance it seemed that the rice terraces would never end. It really is a genius system of growing organic rice here in Bali. 

As we drove back to our home stay, it started to rain on us again. We put on our ponchos and drove off, laughing at Alvin because he looked like a sumo wrestler as his poncho was blowing in the wind. We made it back just before dinner. Indonesian Mama told us she would be right back because she was going to go to the temple to pray first before preparing dinner. She prepared us some home-cooked mi goreng (fried noodles), and was happy to let us eat inside her home. Our Indonesian Papa picked us up some Bintang to go along with our dinner. 


We spent our dinner chatting with Darma (one of their relatives also taking care of us while we are here) and Indonesian Papa about life here in Bali. He explained to us how the land here in the mountains cannot be tainted or tarnished by the tourism industry because it is protected by the government and by the association of farmers. He talked about their organic ways of farming, and how pure Indonesian rice can only be harvested twice a year, unlike GMO rice which is harvested all throughout the year. Instead of using chemicals to keep rats and insects away, they let the local snakes go through the rice terraces to eat them. Turns out they’re actually friendly non-poisonous snakes who are afraid of humans, so no need to worry about them. He explained to us how Balinese people practice the same Hinduism as those in India do, but that they have their own traditions and practices to celebrate and practice reverence to the gods. He said it was a lot of work keeping up with all the celebrations and traditions that they have, but that it’s all worth it because he loves being Balinese and loves his culture. Before we left, he told us that his dream was to meet people from all over the world who come to stay in this home stay, and he hopes to make them all happy with the best service and true Balinese hospitality. 

Going back to what I said in the beginning of this post, you really can’t experience true Balinese culture until you’ve really travelled inwards to central Bali. Don’t get me wrong, the south is beautiful, but you really find the heart of Bali through the people and their culture outside of the tourist areas. Dharma also told us that it’s customary for everyone here to strike up conversations with everyone they pass by on the street, asking how their day is going or how their family is doing. It’s like a complete yin and yang when you compare it to life back home, where following a schedule is important and small-talk can be saved for later. We spent the last two days with a wonderful Indonesian family who took care of us like we were their own family coming to visit for a weekend. They invited us to watch them practice for their ceremonies, eat their traditional food, and taught us how to speak their language. Although Indonesian Mama and Papa didn’t speak much English, I feel like we genuinely got to know them better than we get to known people who we’ve talked to for years. And that’s the Balinese experience. 

INTERVIEW: Tim Martinez on Evening Poison (90s Special) 5/9/16

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I’ve come to learn that our generation of music lovers is extremely nostalgic. We love to look back and remember the songs we grew up with. We remember all the words to all of our favorite songs, no matter how embarrassing it may be. In lieu of Titan Radio’s Music Is So Lame Night #2, this episode of Evening Poison was dedicated to all of my favorite 90s/early 2K jams!

To get a better understanding of the music and era, I spoke with DJ and music enthusiast Tim Martinez, who shared his experience being a DJ in the 90s and how music has changed since then. I asked him why my generation of music lovers is so drawn back to the 90s, and he explained that there’s a sort of warm and real feeling that we get from listening to music made with real instruments, before MIDI became so huge to produce tracks.

I ended this episode with a live Britney Spears cover of her song “Sometimes”, sung and played by yours truly.

Check out the full episode here:

INTERVIEW: Evening Poison feat. The Shakes 5/2/16

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One of the best parts about throwing your own shows is picking what artists play at the event. We added The Shakes to our bill for Radio is so Lame Fest pretty late, but it definitely worked out for the best. The crowd loved their energy, their upbeat sound, and their indie vibes.

The band has been going through changes with members, but one thing’s for sure is that they love recording and playing their music live. Although the band formed a short year and a half ago by Skylar and Sean, they’ve been working hard in the studio to form an identifiable sound that they can call their own.

Check out The Shakes’ sound + the full interview here:

INTERVIEW: JR Santiago on Evening Poison 4/24

Evening Poison with JR Santiago

John Robert (JR) Santiago is a classical music-loving 14-year-old flute player, who is taking big steps towards his dream of being a professional flutist in the future. He will be attending the L.A. County High School of the Arts (LASCHA) this coming fall, majoring in classical flute.

The fact that JR is a classical music enthusiast separates him from his peers. He is aware that a lot of kids his age don’t gravitate towards classical music, which at times makes him feel as bit of an outcast. JR took these feelings, and turned them into motivation to help get him into his dream high school.

The audition process to get into LASCHA isn’t an easy one. Out of thousands of applications, only a hundred or so get chosen to attend the school every school year. With JR’s diligent practice routine, he nailed his audition and is excited to be continuing his education.

To learn more about JR, you can tune into my full interview with him here: