As many of you know, I have a lot of Thoughts about Music, but I rarely get past the “that would be a good idea for a blog” stage. I’m always pushing my creative energies and time commitments to their absolute limit, especially these days, so sitting down to write something presentable for pleasure rarely gets to the top of the list.
But sometimes something has been on my mind so much that it just sort of bursts out in what should have been a short comment on Facebook, and in the spirit of “the world is wide enough,” here’s a quick overview (hopefully to be followed by some more in-depth analysis) of why this history-nerd theater-geek music snob (like so many others) is over the moon about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway phenomenon Hamilton.
I love musical theater. I even dabble in writing musical theater from time to time. But I don’t always like musicals. There are a lot of them that, even if I can appreciate them from a composition/craft standpoint, I just don’t enjoy listening to. And there are plenty that I straight-up dislike. I closet my theater-geekiness a lot for that reason.
But Mandy and I saw Hamilton in New York and we got the cast album and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it (I forced myself to go to something else so I didn’t burn out, so Miranda’s first Broadway effort, In The Heights, has been looping in my car all week instead). Hamilton is, of course, a groundbreaking work of genius like everyone says it is. More importantly to me, though, is that much like the original concept album of Jesus Christ Superstar (with Ian Gillan from Deep Purple as Jesus and Joe Cocker’s band as the bulk of the orchestra, one of my favorite records of all time), the Hamilton album functions as an actual stand-alone musical listening experience, and not an embarrassingly-produced souvenir from a Broadway show.
I was unsurprised to find out that Superstar had been a huge influence on Miranda while writing Hamilton; the recontextualization of well known historical/mythological figures both musically and in their physical representation as well as the narration of the story by the antagonist pointed to it. I’ve been majorly influenced by Superstar too, but that tends to manifest itself in music and drama that sounds and feels like Superstar. Hamilton is something else.
It’s a reminder of what great musical storytelling can be both onstage and off, and why I like taking part in it, and why I don’t like what I don’t like when theater writers try to be “hip” and “edgy” and wind up coming off as pompous and cringe-inducing. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work is self-aware without being self-important, and winds up being straight-up important to culture and art and I couldn’t be happier that we have a writer and a creative team that not only can but is willing to do this kind of work, and that we have a culture that is receptive to it.
I’m hoping this show will be a signpost for the future of the form, rather than a one-in-a-million shot. Even though the show, as a piece, feels like a one-in-a-million shot. Time will tell.
Immigrants. They get the job done.
Happy 4th of July, everyone! I’m on a rainy visit back home to Pennsylvania (and it’s been raining quite steadily in Ithaca), but it hasn’t slowed down the music at all.
After a flurry of gigs to promote Ten Square Miles, the Ego Band is taking a quick breather while drummer Will Sigel hits the road with Dreamt (check out their terrific new record, Comfort Road). We’ll be back at it in August, but my music schedule is as busy as ever in the meantime.
Just this past weekend, I could be seen around Ithaca playing keys with Thru Spectrums:
Well, I’m happy. In the three weeks or so since the release of Ten Square Miles, I’ve been getting great feedback (I know my mother really likes it, that’s for sure).
Then there was our release show at The Dock on Friday, May 8th, which was a rousing success. In addition to a stellar opening performance by The Rumble Scene (who will soon be leaving Ithaca to take up residence in Nashville), the Ego Band was joined by a number of special guests, including Alan Rose (dramatic introduction), Harry Nichols (vocals), Carly Browning (vocals), Sam Shuhan (bass), and the return of our stalwart slide guitarist Will Gelder.
Ten Square Miles Record Release Show Setlist:
Songs by Lupowitz except where noted
Turn On Your Love Light (Intro) [Scott/Malone]
Land of Peace and Love
The Haunt [Lupowitz/Goldman]
Green Street Blues
Asylum/No Quarter [Lupowitz, Page/Plant/Jones]
Jayne in a Bubble with the Devil Inside
Indian Summer, Hillview Place
Dance in the Fountain
Ithaca [Rose] >
City on the Hill
Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End [Lennon/McCartney]
Her Majesty (Drew Serafini) [Lennon/McCartney]
Trampled Under Foot [Page/Plant/Jones]
So as you can see, a fun night, and I’ll hope to get some video circulating in the near future (a number of great audience clips surfaced on Facebook after the show, just have to take some time to edit them).
And hey, we’ll be at Ithaca Festival this Sunday for the first time! Can’t wait to hit the big outdoor stage (that will be shared by such excellent local artists as Stone Cold Miracle, Big Mean Sound Machine, Sophistafunk, and many, many more).
Then I’m looking forward to a busy June with the Ego Band, Thru Spectrums, and Julia Felice. I’m also plotting to spread the reach of the Ego Band, so if you non-Ithacans would like us to bring this little rock and roll circus to your town, hit us up.
Thanks as always for the support, everyone. This record was — this band is — a labor of love that has blossomed in really wonderful, inspiring ways, and I’m looking forward to making more music soon!
The Ego Band emerged from a nearly three-month hiatus last night to raise money for the Tompkins County SPCA (we’re a band that loves puppies and kitties) at Rogues’ Harbor Inn. This is definitely the way to get back together: tight spaces, high energy, and an appreciative crowd.
Songs by Lupowitz except where noted.
Long Tall Sally (Penniman/Johnson/Blackwell)
Care of You
D’Yer Mak’er (Page/Plant/Jones/Bonham)
Jayne in a Bubble with the Devil Inside
Verses and Choruses
Use Me (Withers)
Land of Peace and Love
The Weight (Robertson)
Lensful of Molly
Wild Horses (Jagger/Richards)
You Can Call Me Al (Simon)
Trampled Under Foot (Page/Plant/Jones)
The Haunt (Lupowitz/Goldman)
Sympathy for the Devil (Jagger/Richards)
Spilling Down All Over the Place
The Letter (Thompson)
I Will Survive (Perren/Fekaris)
Our next performance is also a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation along with Thru Spectrums and Spacetrain. And our record release show will be announced soon… looking forward to it!