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REVIEW: Sufjan Stevens presents the Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice @ Aladdin Theater (Portland, OR – 12/6/12)

7th Dec 12 (Fri) 5 comments

FYI… PHOTOS of the SHOW at the BOTTOM

Sufjan's 2012 hristmas Sing-a-long Tour

I hate Christmas music.  There are a few rare instances where it doesn’t make me cringe.  Over the Rhine’s Darkest Night of the Year and Monk’s How Like A Winter are rare exceptions.  One of my favorite artists, Sufjan Stevens, has put out Christmas EPs each year for his closest group of friends, and then they eventually make their way out to the public via now two EP boxsets (Songs For Christmas & Silver and Gold).  While some of the more standard Christmasy songs from Sufjan make me cringe (it’s not his fault), he finds a way to have some experimentation and wild unique new songs that makes the boxsets fully enjoyable… even for a bah-humbug like me.  And the boxsets also include cool arts and crafts…

Sheila Saputo (aka Rosie Thomas)

Despite my dislike of Chrtistmas songs, when I found out that Sufjan was bringing his 2012 Christmas Sing-a-Long tour (the Surfjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice) through Portland’s Aladdin Theater, I knew I needed to go.

His opener / tour co-hort is Sheila Saputo… the quirky comedic alter ego of singer-songwriter Rosie Thomassee her trailer here.

Sheila put on a 20 minute set of fairly ridiculous, self-depricating humor.. partially eating a carrot throughout the set, making balloon “animals” (term used very loosely), and spelling out the important aspects of the acronym CAROLS: Carnal Treasures, Armageddon, etc (see photos at the bottom).

At 8:45pm, Sufjan and his band hit the stage (including the de-frocked Sheila Saputo/Rosie Thomas in a snowman suit).  They started things off in front of the stage curtain with a gentle acappella version of “Christmas Time Is Here,” then… curtains up and behold the majesty of the Wheel of Christmas!!!

The set was obviously going to be full of Christmas songs.  Some on their setlist and some chosen “randomly.”  For many of the Wheel of Christmas Sing-a-Long tunes, they brought up members of the audience to spin for the selection.  Near the end, some rigging of the wheel had to be done to fit in some we hadn’t done yet.  I think we hit everything on the Wheel except for “Silent Night.”

They also threw in a few non-Christmas tunes throughout the set and at the encore…

Setlist: 2 hrs 10 mins

  • Christmas Time Is Here (acappella) [Vince Guaraldi]
  • Christmas Woman
  • Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance!
  • Do You Hear What I Hear?
  • Justice Delivers Its Death*
  • Joy to the World (Wheel of Christmas Sing-A-Long)
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Wheel)
  • A Holly Jolly Christmas (Wheel)
  • Jingle Bells (Wheel)
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Wheel)
  • Vito’s Ordination Song*
  • Put the Lights on the Tree
  • How Shall I Fitly Greet Thee?
  • I Am Santa’s Helper
  • “Frosty” (improv rock, chant, Rosie cutting santa up with plastic chainsaw)
  • Sister Winter*
  • Ah Holy Jesus
  • The Child with the Star on His Head*
  • Sleigh Ride (Wheel, noted as “Slay Ride”)
  • O Holy Night (Wheel)
  • We Need a Little Christmas (Wheel)
  • Auld Lang Syne* (Wheel)
  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (Wheel)
  • For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti*
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  • That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!*
  • Christmas Unicorn*
  • Encore: Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois*
  • Futile Devices*
  • Chicago*
  • Come On! Feel the Illinoise!*
    *
    personal favorites from the night

I truly hate most Christmas music, but this was a FUUUUUUUUUUUUUN show!  Sufjan and his band make the music fun, the original tunes (even if Christmasy) are spectacles of greatness or touching, gentler tunes, and the overall party factor of this tour is truly astounding.  I’d hate to have been on the clean-up crew… confetti, streamers, popped balloons, and random blow-up animals and santas…

many more photos below

The Appropriate Linkage:

Check out more tour dates below.

Next show for me… Charlie Hunter @ Mississippi Studios (12/7) and Antibalas @ Hawthorne (12/8).

~Dan – np: John ZornRimbaud
John Zorn - Rimbaud

SUFJAN STEVENS CHRISTMAS SING-A-LONG PHOTOS
all pictures (cc) 2012 Daniel Temmesfeld,
you may use freely under a creative commons attribution

(click for larger)

Sufjan Stevens Fall 2012 Tour Dates

  • Fri Nov 23, 2012 – Philadelphia PA Union Transfer
  • Sat Nov 24, 2012 – Washington DC 9:30 Club
  • Sun Nov 25, 2012 – Saxapahaw NC The Haw River Ballroom
  • Mon Nov 26, 2012 – Athens GA The Georgia Theatre
  • Tue Nov 27, 2012 – Chattanooga TN Track 29
  • Wed Nov 28, 2012 – Oxford MS The Lyric Oxford
  • Fri Nov 30, 2012 – Dallas TX Granada Theater
  • Sat Dec 01, 2012 – Austin TX Emo’s East
  • Mon Dec 03, 2012 – Tucson AZ Rialto Theatre
  • Tue Dec 04, 2012 – Los Angeles CA The Fonda Theatre (formerly The Music Box)
  • Wed Dec 05, 2012 – San Francisco CA Great American Music Hall
  • Thu Dec 06, 2012 – Portland OR Aladdin Theater
  • Sat Dec 08, 2012 – Seattle WA Neptune Theatre
  • Sun Dec 09, 2012 – Missoula MT Wilma Theatre
  • Wed Dec 12, 2012 – Minneapolis MN Mill City Nights (Formerly The Brick)
  • Thu Dec 13, 2012 – Milwaukee WI Turner Hall
  • Fri Dec 14, 2012 – Indianapolis IN Deluxe @ Old National Centre
  • Sat Dec 15, 2012 – Chicago IL Metro
  • Sun Dec 16, 2012 – Cleveland OH Beachland Ballroom
  • Tue Dec 18, 2012 – Buffalo NY Asbury Hall @ Babeville
  • Wed Dec 19, 2012 – Providence RI Fete
  • Thu Dec 20, 2012 – Boston MA Royale
  • Fri Dec 21, 2012 – New York NY Bowery Ballroom
  • Sat Dec 22, 2012 – New York NY Bowery Ballroom
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Sufjan Stevens’ Silver & Gold (Xmas EP #’s 6-10)

2nd Oct 12 (Tue) Leave a comment

Update: the stop-motion Lego video is at the bottom.

Pre-order his upcoming Silver and Gold (Christmas EP boxset #2) on 5 CDs or 58 mp3.  The 5-vinyl set appears to be sold out (via bandcamp).

“Happy Holidays! On November 13, 2012, Asthmatic Kitty Records will release (another!) Christmas box-set extravaganza by the implacable singer/songwriter Sufjan StevensSilver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10, a compilation of 5 EPs recorded between 2006 and 2010.

Expanding on the tradition of the first box-set (Songs for Christmas, Vols. 1-5 from 2006), Silver & Gold is a generous document of five more years of holly-jolly jubilee — Christmas caroling, sleigh-bell-ringing, collaborative songwriting — undertaken by Sufjan and his various musical cohorts. Originally intended as gifts for family and friends, these musical snapshots have been re-mixed and re-assembled for the public in an exquisitely-designed gift box containing all the Yuletide pleasures money can buy: Christmas stickers, temporary tattoos, lyric sheets and chord charts, a paper ornament, an apocalyptic pull-out poster, photos, illustrations, and extensive liner notes—a veritable Christmas feast for the eyes and ears.

The album features collaborations with a running line-up of friends and musical peers, including Aaron and Bryce Dessner (The National), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Cat Martino (Sufjan’s right-hand woman on all things Age of Adz), Sebastian Krueger (Inlets), Gabriel Kahane, Vesper Stamper, and members of Danielson (Daniel, Elin, Lilly, and Ida). Sufjan’s own indelible aesthetic and his tireless oblique strategies (in vain pursuit of the perfect Christmas song) maintain the album’s center of gravity, resulting in an abundant compilation (nearly 60 tracks) that investigates the canon of devotional hymns and holiday pop songs with reckless abandon (totaling nearly three hours of music).

Silver & Gold surpasses its predecessor both in style and scope by taking a wider stance and embracing a more liberal ethos. The box-set sails through musical fashions as various as ornaments on a Christmas tree (covering songs from John Dowland to Johnny Marks). The folksy old-world renaissance of Gloria (Vol. 6) gives way to bi-polar impertinence on I Am Santa’s Helper (Vol. 7). Christmas Infinity Voyage (Vol. 8) looks to the cosmos (and the drum machine) for inspiration, while Let It Snow (Vol. 9) and Christmas Unicorn (Vol.10) show a giddy return to form, unselfconsciously reveling in all the bubble-gum show tunes from the 1950s and 60s (“A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” to name a few).

There are also 18 original songs intermixed throughout (some of them co-written or wholly composed by guest collaborators). Sufjan’s contribution to the Christmas canon exhibits an ever-expanding canopy of approaches: there’s the moody and affectionate Christmas ballad (“Happy Karma Christmas”), an ecclesiastical take on the Burl Ives classic “Silver & Gold” (re-titled here as “Justice Delivers Its Gift”), the rowdy, garage-rock, rumble-in-the-snow-bank (“Mr. Frosty Man”) and the psychedelic pop-anthem (“Christmas Unicorn”) that attempts to reconcile new age magic, fantasy fiction, and the commodification of Christmas with expository deftness.

Silver & Gold is more than just another Christmas album, but an ongoing exercise in theme and variation, an annual tradition that offers this songwriter a chance to experiment with fashion and technique without taking himself too seriously. Sufjan’s playful (yet purposeful) expedition through the superficial landscape of sugar plum fairies and marshmallow fluff has produced an exuberant musical account of “all things Christmas” in the pursuit of the sublime. What distinguishes this project from the glut of Christmas albums saturating the market today are Sufjan’s unguarded enthusiasm for the genre itself (the sense of freedom he shows in celebrating with reverence and rebellion) and the belief that Christmas music contains a multiplicity of sacred and secular significance (from Baby Jesus to Babes in Toyland) that is ultimately ours for the taking. It’s safe to say that no one has taken it further than Sufjan, for better and for worse.

Thanks for listening and may all your Christmas dreams come true.

Silver & Gold will be available in digital download, a CD box-set available November 13th, with a limited edition of 2000 vinyl box-sets available later this year or early 2013.

A special edition of the vinyl boxset, which will include some extra surprises, is available to US/Canada/EU for pre-order:

http://sufjanstevens.bandcamp.com/album/silver-gold

The CD Boxset includes: (price not listed yet)

1. Five CD EPs

2. Christmas stickers

3. Temporary tattoos  (non-toxic & safe for children)

4. A paper ornament (self-assembly with directions)

5. An apocalyptic pull-out poster

6. Song lyrics and chord charts (sing along with your friends and enemies)

7. Hallucinogenic photographs and psychedelic graphic design (by Sufjan Stevens, drug-free since 1975)

8. Extensive liner notes (introductory salutations and an essay on the Christmas tree by Sufjan Stevens, and a few theological words on the End Times by Pastor Vito Aiuto)

The vinyl boxset includes: ($120 + S/H)

1. Five EPs on 6 vinyl discs

2. Christmas stickers

3. Temporary tattoos

4. A paper ornament

5. A 40-page Christmas songbook with vocal and piano reductions

6. A Christmas coloring book

7. Hallucinogenic photographs and psychedelic graphic design

8. Extensive liner notes

Whoa!

Sufjan Stevens Lego Movie

~Dan – np: Carla Kihlstedt & Matthias BossiNiagara Falling: Tales for the Stage, III

Ellery – Down, Down, Down EP

25th Nov 09 (Wed) Leave a comment

My favorite husband-and-wife songwriting duo from Cincinnati is at it again… the holiday EP Down, Down, Down from Ellery is out.  This time it’s pay what you want (min $4).  Available for streaming at bandcamp, too.  I generally abhor Christmas music, but this one is pretty darn good.  The first two songs are brand new originals, the 3rd song is from their holiday EP a couple years ago, and then they do two classics…

http://ellery.bandcamp.com/album/down-down-down-a-holiday-ep

Down, Down, Down
Going Gone
December Days
O Come Emmanuel
Silent Night (instrumental)

They also have a streaming only sample from their forthcoming album… “Blame Me“…

Find out more about this great band…

http://www.ellerymusic.com/

http://www.myspace.com/ellerymusic

~Dan – np: The FramesThe Roads Outgrown

Astral Inter Planet Space Captain Christmas Infinity Voyage

22nd Dec 08 (Mon) 3 comments

OK, so before the main thrust of this post, here’s a short word from Jack Black

With that being said, I think “piracy” might only relate to something that’s supposed to be sold and someone steals it?  I dunno… regardless… since 2001, indie quirky folkster Sufjan Stevens has made “Songs for Christmas” EPs and distributed them to friends and family.  In the fall of 2006, his record label Asthmatic Kitty released the first five volumes in a kick ass EP boxset (for a really great price – – 5 EPs for $14.99):

Since then, he’s done three more volumes… for friends and family.  Well, Volumes 6 & 7 haven’t made their way onto the internets, yet*… but Songs for Christmas, Volume VIII: Astral Inter Planet Space Captain Christmas Infinity Voyage has been made available by one of Sufjan’s friends and/or family.  So… I guess we’re all included in his friend’s list this year.  Click the picture/tracklist below to go to another blogger’s post who has download links at the ready:

01. Angels We Have Heard On High
02. Do You See What I See
03. It Came Upon A Midnight Clear
04. Christmas In The Room
05. Good King Wenceslas
06. Joy To The World
07. The Child With The Star On His Head

(external links)

* By “yet,” I mean… if you find Vol 6 or 7, tell me, yo! :)

And, kids… just like when Volumes 1-3 got leaked in early 2006… when the official product comes out, you gotta support the artists (with your wallet, not your mouse button)!  I know I’ll buy it if it comes out… but until then, enjoy it as a Christmas present from Sufjan’s friend and/or family who likes to re-gift.

Happy Festivus tomorrow!

~Dan – np: Medeski Martin & Wood play John Zorn‘s Masada Book Two: Zaebos

Ellery, Ric Hordinski & Free Holiday Music

8th Dec 08 (Mon) 1 comment

As mentioned around Thanksgiving, Ric Hordinski (guitarist extraordinaire from Cincinnati) is having his annual holiday show with pop duo Ellery (Dec 12th @ Ric’s Monastery Studio in Cincinnati).

Well, same as last year, Ellery is giving away their holiday EP for free.  It’s called December Days.  Last year’s was a 3 song EP.  This year has an additional fourth track, the brand new collaboration with Ric Hordinski called “We Can Dream Tonight.”

Get it here: http://www.ellerymusic.com/downloads/decemberdaysep2008.zip

It’s free, yo!

~Dan – np: Ty TaborBalance

Latest: Noctaluca, Puscifer/Lustmord, David Bazan’s Xmas

20th Oct 08 (Mon) 3 comments

In order of awesomeness…

Noctaluca, one of my favorite Cincinnati-based rock bands (and quite frankly, one of my favorite rock bands regardless of local flavor) just put out their newest CD, Still the Wicked Rest.  I ordered it the same time as their Live DVD, and somehow thought that the new CD was just a live thing, too.  Well, when it showed up, I was all like, “hmmm… this looks like a legitimate studio CD.”  And, well, it is a new studio CD.  And it’s awesome.  Think two-guitar hard rock (with a sound that’s equal parts Led Zeppelin & early Alice in Chains) with a strong singer-songwriter core, powerful vocals, and lyrics for the Rage Against the Machine set…

Noctaluca is fronted by singer-songwriter Jason Ludwig.  His solo debut, PeLL MeLL, was one of my Top 10 from 2003.  Right after he got a lot of local acclaim for this, he ditched gigging by his name and started gigging his new band, Noctaluca.  In 2003, I snagged a copy of of the “Monkey Moon” radio single they had at a table at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards.  This was the only recorded Noctaluca until 2006’s long-awaited Towering the Sum.  Towering the Sum was in a good group of favorite local CDs that year, as well as being in my Top 10 vocal CDs in 2006, too.  All this to say that I LIKE NOCTALUCA.  Being surprised with a new studio CD is well, awesomes…

And they start the new Still the Wicked Rest CD off with a re-recording of “Monkey Moon“… natch.  It deserved to make its way onto an official CD… finally.

Check ’em out!
http://www.noctaluca.com/
http://www.myspace.com/noctaluca

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Next up in awesomeness… getting endless mileage out of the same songs, there’s a new download-only dub mix of Puscifer songs by the dark & ambient Lustmord.  Puscifer is Maynard James Keenan (from Tool & A Perfect Circle).  Lustmord has had his hand at remixing the Melvins, Puscifer music previously releases, as well as maybe A Perfect Circle song(s).  My mind fails me, and I’m too lazy to check at this point. :)  The new album is 53 minutes, 8 songs… and fits in with the Puscifer album as well as a darker dub sound.  I’d recommend it if you like Maynard’s music, Lustmord’s music, dark dub, or remixes…

It’s available only at Puscifer’s store for now:
https://store.puscifer.com/

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Next up in awesomeness… still awesome, but it is Christmas music (of which I usually don’t like); so it gets last billing.  David Bazan of Pedro the Lion put out another holiday-themed 7″ vinyl – a split of melancholy Jingle Bells & All I Want for Christmas.  This was the first one since I’ve lived on the West Coast.  The East Coast people got a 3 hour jump on the overnight email he sent out, and they snatched them all up… except for a few on Suicide Squeeze‘s website.  I scored one… but barely.

A 1,000 quantity pressing may not be enough, bro.

~Dan – np: TeslaForever More

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