Back To the Future?

Years are passing, and our kids are growing up. The Milkshake project is fulfilling its original purpose, which was to write and record songs that reflected our kids’ journey through childhood. 12 years have passed, and Mikel and I have watched as our babies have turned into our almost teen friends. So it seemed fitting to now revisit our catalog of adult tunes as we release the fifth and probably final Milkshake CD. Mikel and I decided we’d see if the music we had written years before Milkshake, for our adult alt-rock band Love Riot, would still sound great. We gathered some of our favorite musicians and booked a show at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore. Thinking it would be especially fitting to have a date around Valentines Day, on February 10th at 2 PM we invited old and new friends to come hear us perform.

After a few rehearsals and many changes, we set up on the Creative Alliance stage, and decorated the theatre with candles, flowers, chocolates and Sweet Tarts.  I was excited about these old tunes, and to sing love songs again. Some of Milkshake’s songs are, as The Washington Post says “…more like love letters from a parent to child.”  But most are simply describing the world from a kid’s point of view, and singing love songs from an adult point of view would be refreshing. I added a favorite Donna Summers song, “On the Radio,” a new song called “Disaster,” and then even some Milkshake songs that work on an adult level while still being love songs (“Enemies,” “One of a Kind”), which of course, was our theme.

The band was a mix of old and new, featuring Love Riot violinist Willem Elsevier (who also played on the latest Milkshake CD), and Milkshake drummer Tom Moon, bassist Cord Neal and keyboardist Brian Simms. We added acoustic guitarist extraordinaire and good friend Howard Markman of Palookaville, and even my husband guitarist Miles Anderson, who joined us on a couple songs. To round it all out in almost retrospective then-now fashion, Mikel’s son Eric played drums on a song called “One of a Kind,” and my daughter Jesse performed her original song “One Day“. The show would be a perfect blend of Love Riot/Milkshake creativity.

New friends Bumper Jacksons opened with a short and incredibly captivating set, playing their blend of swing, jazz and Americana. We took the stage and it was as if we had simply taken a short break, and despite initial nerves, I was just as at home, tutu-less with my guitar, chatting and singing to an adult audience as if it were 12 years ago.  Yes, the band was different, but they brought a new intuition and musicality to the old songs, and capability to the set in general. I know it might sound totally ridiculous but love permeated the air in the room that afternoon. Old friends we hadn’t seen in years came out and it was very much like a gathering of good friends and good music. Everyone wanted to stay long after the show was over, and the good folks at the Creative Alliance had a hard time kicking people out.

Afterwards, we all said it was so much fun, we should do it again.  Perhaps we will 🙂

Special thanks to good friend and photographer Steve Parke for these pictures.  And big thanks to the Creative Alliance – what a great place for the arts!, and the musicians and friends who made the afternoon so memorable. xoxo

Radio, Radio!

I’ve always been envious of DJs: What fun it must be to spin music and chat all day, taking the occasional phone call from all sorts of people. I love visiting radio stations, too, giving unpredictable answers to unexpected questions, talking about a new record or show my band is doing. I never know exactly how it’s going to go, as every DJ I meet is so very different.

Recently, I got a chance to both be a DJ and to talk with one within a couple weeks of each other, and both were exceptionally good times.

“Lisa the DJ” was asked to create an hour-long special for WXOJ’s Hilltown Family Variety Show, 103.5 FM in Northhampton, MA. My show would air on Saturday & Sunday, February 16th and 17th, right after Valentine’s Day, and since my theme was love and social consciousness, the timing was perfect. Little did I realize how much work it would involve. Gathering the right songs seemed the easy part. Putting it all together in a way that made sense, writing a script and making it all fit neatly into 58 minutes was no small task. Luckily, I had great helpers. My daughter Jesse would say yes or no to some songs – like when I asked, “Do you think kids of all ages would be okay with Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’?”

“NO, Mom!  That’ll scare them!  Especially the burning flesh part!  It’s horrific!” she said. I was impressed she knew the lyrics so well (not to mention the word “horrific”). In our family, racism isn’t tolerated, and the school she attends teaches her the same thing.

So I settled with “God Bless the Child” instead.

When I asked my husband if he thought Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” was a good social consciousness song, I received an emphatic “YES!”  That went into my playlist. Happily, Milkshake had some great ones to use, including our new anti-bullying song Let ’em Know and the look-outside-yourself gem More Than Me.

When it was time to put it all together and record the show, I headed down to our favorite studio, Invisible Sound, and handed everything to Dave Nachodsky. We started with my read of a little Danish story called Frog In Love.  It fit perfectly with my theme of love and social consciousness, since frog falls in love with a duck and, despite the naysayers, they manage to become a couple: “A frog and a duck.  Green and White.  Love knows no boundaries.” The read took all of 5 minutes, and then we worked outward from there.  Some songs had to be cut, like Ella Fitzgerald’s version of “Night and Day,” and Pink’s “Glitter in the Air,” along with my story of watching Pink swinging above us as she sang at the Grammy Awards a couple years ago. It was breathtaking, but I didn’t have time to share it on the show. In the end, I think we put together a thought-provoking show for growing musical ears and minds. You can hear it when it’s been added to the podcast list: Hilltown Family Variety Show

Alex Cortright, Mikel & Lisa

Alex Cortright, Mikel & Lisa

On the other side of the radio mic, Mikel and I headed down to WRNR in Annapolis, MD to play a few love songs and chat about our Valentine Concert Matinee at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore.  We chatted with DJ Alex Cortright about the good old days of Love Riot, and our wonderful time with Milkshake. Alex was excited to spin an unreleased song we wrote and recorded toward the end of Love Riot, a song I wrote for my dad called One of These Days. To my surprise, it didn’t sound old or dated, and it reminded me of what a wonderful band Love Riot was.

The Valentine’s Concert wasn’t a Milkshake thing.  It was more a Love Riot thing, pumped up and expanded. We did some old songs from the Love Riot catalog, along with a couple new ones and some favorite covers. Look for pics and more about the show in my next post.

Guitars, bass and…tuba!!

Adrian Cox warms up before tracking “Fish”

On Sunday, June 10th the music got deeper – or should I say lower – as our buddy Adrian Cox came in with his tuba to play on an eclectic little song called “Fish”.  Adrian is a bass player extraordinaire who just happens to play tuba once in a while.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I think the tuba is one of the more unusual horn instruments, and probably one of the most difficult to play.  After watching Adrian blow into that horn with all the air he could muster, reaching these almost off-the-radar (and probably off the staff) notes, I have profound new respect for both instrument and player.

Things were in strumming mode as Shep, Mikel and our good friend Howard Markman laid guitar tracks on June 13th.

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Howard Markman with his acoustic

Howard Markman is one of my favorite acoustic guitarists.  He’s intuitive and brilliant and has released a wonderful bunch of CDs of original music.  Although it’s not categorized as “Kid Music,” my daughter loves his tunes.  Mikel, Cord and I recently performed some of our own original “adult music” with Howard at a songwriter’s show here in Baltimore. Our kids were there and it was great fun. Check out Howard’s music by visiting his site.  We asked Howard to add his great picking to a song called “Workin’ Kid Blues” and two instrumentals Mikel had written that are absolutely beautiful. Although we’ve never included instrumentals on our CDs, in this case I think they’ll be refreshing amuse bouche in between all those songs.

 

photos by good friend and photographer Bill Auth.