Saturday, May 30, 2015

Review: Swinging with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

Since I've been a fan of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy for the past twenty years, I've been eager to see them in concert. It seemed that every possible problem prevented me from seeing them in concert. They were even in San Jose last year and I only found out about it on Facebook on the next day! Thus,  I was delighted when I was finally able to purchase great seats for their show in Harrah's South Lake Tahoe performance on May 30, 2015. Of course, once I purchased tickets, BBVD announced that they would even play closer in NAPA, but it was too late.

The show started just past 7:30pm in the South Shore Room of Harrah's Hotel in South Lake Tahoe. I've never been to a concert in Harrah's and was surprised to see multiple bars selling drinks. I had great seats, right near the center  of the stage, so I was very pleased to see the band up close. Finally! However, I had some very enthusiastic band supporters sing right in my left ear and sometimes I heard them better than the band! Thankfully, either the supporters got too drunk to sing or perhaps too tired and left half-way through the show. Thank god for alcohol!

The performance of the band was top notch. Scotty Morris - the band's singer & guitar player - tried to get the audience involved and had some success, especially with "Hey Now".


Their horn section was great and I enjoyed the solos from all of their leading men. The saxophone and the trumpet players were really fantastic! I enjoyed all the energy and the enthusiasm that Big Bad Voodoo Daddy brings!


The played for 90 minutes non-stop (though I was hoping for a full two hours!) I was able to record one of their performances, just for my own benefit of their "Why Me?" song.



Playlist:
  • Diga Diga Doo 
  • Why Me?
  • Devil's Dance
  • 5-10-15 Times (time for the horn section to rest!)
  • Calloway Boogie
  • Hey Now, Hey Now
  • Reefer Man
  • Minnie the Moocher
  • Mambo Swing
  • You and Me and the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight
  • Zig Zaggity Woop Woop

Positives:
  • The horn section, especially the trumpets and saxophones, were fantastic!
  • BBVD played mostly upbeat tunes that had me tapping my feet
  • BBVD played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm
  • Harrah's South Shore Room setting was small and intimate. Perfect!
  • Tickets were reasonably priced
Negatives:
  • The piano (Joshua Levy) was hard to hear over the horn section. It should have been mixed in better (especially since he played so well)
  • BBVD played only for 90 minutes. I was hoping for at least two hours
  • BBVD didn't play some of my favorite tunes  like "Save My Soul" and "Old Man on the Mountain"

I hope to seem them again in the future and hope that the band writes some new songs. I am waiting for another album. Come on guys, get with the program.


Band Members
Touring Members

Friday, May 29, 2015

Fun at South Lake Tahoe

We started our drive to South Lake Tahoe on Friday evening, in order to get an early start on Lake Tahoe's activities (which can get rather crowded later in the day). Although there was some traffic on US-50, the drive was fairly uneventful. We arrived at our 968 Park Hotel right around 11:45pm (as expected). Overall, the drive took about 3 3/4 hours - which was long but tolerable.

The Park Hotel is an inexpensive hotel in South Lake Tahoe - close to the major casino's (like Harrah's) and Lake Tahoe itself. I usually don't like staying in casinos on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, as their rooms always smell of cigarettes (even the non-smoking rooms). Plus, the whole gambling scene is not to my liking.

The only unfortunate part of Park Hotel is its parking. The hotel's parking lot uses narrow spots and I am not very adept at doing so at midnight, in a large Toyota Sienna van.

We were pleasantly surprised by the nice room in this fairly inexpensive hotel (there was even a nice pool!) There is also a nice wine bar in the hotel, but more about that later.
Saturday, May 30, 2015

After waking up around 8:00am, we decided to get breakfast at A Cup of Cherries - a local breakfast eatery. We usually like to eat at nearby Ihop , especially Swedish crepes with lingonberries (my precious), but this time we were adventurous and decided to try a local cafe.


Although it's a small place, we liked the eatery and the variety of items on the menu, including items we've never seen before, like Island pancakes, Tamogoyaki Japanese omelettes, and multi-flavored lattes and cappuccinos.

I decided to try the Tamogoyaki omelette with green peppers, while Inna ordered the French omelette for herself. I also ordered the Butterfinger mocha, while Inna ordered an "Almond Joy" latte. Although I enjoyed my Japanese Tamogoyaki omelette, I think Inna's French omelette was more delicious.

Both the mocha and latte were delicious and Alex enjoyed his "Snicker's" decaf drink. Alex ordered a giant Belgian waffle and enjoyed it!



After breakfast, we drove to Emerald bay for our day hike. We stopped at a couple overlooks to marvel and the beauty outside. There were many tourists here already and the parking lots were already getting crowded.


The lake was clear and calm and the color of the bay was truly Emerald green. The photos don't really show the full scenic beauty of this area.


After a few stops, we parked in the Emerald Bay State Park. Inna planned for us to visit Vikingsholm and then go to D.L. Bliss State Park, but we ended up staying in Emerald Bay the whole time. After waiting a bit to find some parking (come early!), we started our exploration.


From the parking lot, there is a beautiful overlook onto Emerald Bay, which really does look emerald green - but not in my photos!


We decided to walk downhill toward Vikingsholm, and then continue on Rubicon trail afterwards.
Walking downhill was easy but it was a bit steep and Inna was concerned about the return trip uphill.


Once we reached the lake, we decided to visit the Vikingsholm house. To see it, one has to purchase tickets. Tours last about 30 minutes and start 30 minutes past the hour.


Our tour guide explained how Vikingsholm was conceived by Mrs. Lora Josephine Knight, based on Scandinavian designs in Norway, Sweden, and Finland.


She hired a Swedish architect whose job was to integrate all of the Nordic elements in this one house. There was one requirement - no trees were to me cut down to make space for this house. The actual house was built in 1929, using about 200 laborers in about 6 months. There are many original. old growth trees throughout the property.


Most of the furniture in Vikingsholm was imported from Scandinavia, with a Swedish bridal table and Finnish chair prominently displayed. It's all a tasteful mish-mash of furniture from multiple Noric countries.


There are a lot of carvings of dragons - which are a common Norwegian symbol. When we visited Norway's Balestrand, we saw many houses with carved dragons.


Mrs. Knight lived in Vikingsholm for a few months during the summer, where she hosted guests. She had 15 live-in servants who took care of the property. (All of her maids were required to remain single).


Guests who were invited had to abide by a strict schedule, The had to wake up at 07:00, eat breakfast at 08:00, after which they could take a stroll around the territory. Lunch was served around noon, and Mrs Knight recommended a nap afterwards. A formal dinner was scheduled around 6:00pm, after which music and entertainment was provided. Although Mrs. Knight did not play the piano, she had a Steinway installed for guests that did.


One fact that the tour guide missed was that Mrs Knight was one of the main financial backers of Charles Lindbergh's flight of the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic. After he death, Vikingshom passed through a few other owners and was eventually sold to the State of California.


After completing our tour, we decided to walk the Rubicon trail. However, while walking on the trail, we noticed a few kayaks available to rent and decided to try them out.


We rented a two-seater kayak ($35/hour) and rowed around Emerald Bay, stopping briefly at the Fannette Island in the middle. Fannette Island has remnants of an old tea house where Mrs. Knight held afternoon tea (but not much is left of it now).  Since we did not have any footwear while kayaking, we did not explore Fannette Island's interior. It's not overly pleasant to walk bear foot over jagged rocks and tree branches.We circumnavigated Fannette Island a few times (we had a one hour rental) and returned back by 1:30pm.


We decided to explore the Rubicon trail, and walked for a few miles, by the Emerald Bay, We saw a few people camping and relaxing in the water. This is a great location to camp, as the water is clear, and the camp location is well sheltered from Lake Tahoe's winds.


Since it was late, we decided to turn back and return to our van. But first, we had to feed Alex a few snacks, so we got him some ice cream, which helped him on endure the steep walk uphill.

The hike back was a bit tiring, but we made it with a bit of huffing and puffing.


There was a Renaissance Fair going on (and a lot of traffic in the area). We saw lots of interesting costumes, but decided not to stop there. We were not in the right mood, and we've seen it all before.

After resting a bit in our hotel, we went out to dinner at Off The Hook California Sushi Bar. Inna and I shared a couple of delicious rolls - a "Dragon Roll" and a "Roll Called Wanda".


Alex ordered a more normal Teriyaki chicken plate, as he was really hungry!



After dinner, we returned to our hotel room and walked to our scheduled Big Bad Voodoo Daddy show in Harrah's hotel and casino, only a few blocks away.

We had a fabulous time at the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concert (but much more is written in a separate blog post here.)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

After waking up around 8:00am, we decided to get breakfast at A Cup of Cherries once again! Both Alex and Inna really liked it and did not want to take any chances. I ordered a Goat Cheese omelette and Inna ordered the French omelette again. Instead of mocha's and lattes, Inna and I ordered French press coffees, which was great with half-n-half.


Alex ordered a Nutella crepe with bananas. He really liked it. The sugar fix!


From there, we drove to Baldwin beach, to meet with Erik Birkholm of Erik's Birkholm's Water Ski School. Since we arrived there early, we just rested on the beach, which I tried to decide which wetsuit would be needed.


While waiting for the boat, Alex played on the beach.


Although the water seemed warm, I decided to err on the side of extra warmth (which turned out to be a very good idea), as Lake Tahoe's water was 59 degrees Fahrenheit (chilly for us Californians).


Erik's boat arrived right on time at 11:00am and we scrambled aboard. Alex put on two separate wetsuits as the water was cold and was the first to try out water skiing. Erik explained that water skiing is easier than wakeboarding, so he wanted us to learn this first. He showed Alex how to sit in a cannonball posture, with knees bent and arms straight, to prepare for the moment when the boat starts to pull.


Alex practiced the sequence a few times on the boat and then it was time to try it out in the water. Alex was a bit reluctant to get in at first as the water was a bit cold. Finally, he was in the water.


Alex had a few attempts on getting up on water skis but fell. I think the cold water got to him. After a few more tries, he was tired and it was my turn to get wet.


I fell on my first try - the whole cannonball posture was hard to get used to, but I got up on the skis on my second attempt and skied for a long time.

I shot a Gopro video on my third attempt. Here it is:



Inna had a fun time watching Alex and I try water skiing, while she recorded our progress.



After a few water skiing runs, both Alex and I were tired and decided to try rafting. It was a lot of fun to try to hang on, while the boat turned left and right!


Initially, Alex did not want to try rafting. However, after he saw how much fun I was having, he decided to give it a try. He had a blast!


We had a great two hours of water skiing, finishing up at 1:00pm. As we were really hungry after spending all this time on the water, we drove back into South Lake Tahoe for a much needed lunch.

We decided to try the Artemis Mediterranean Grill. Inna ordered a Gyro plate and it was genormous! I ordered a normal Gyro, which was more sensibly sized.


Alex had a "Classic Burger" - as he was ravenous after all that activity.


We enjoyed our lunch, finishing up with a chocolate dessert.


We had a great time in South Lake Tahoe, and hope to visit it again in the near future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 Spring Concert at Dartmouth Middle School

Today, we attended a performance of Dartmouth Middle School's Spring Concert - the last concert before the end of the school year. Alex plays trumpet in the Beginning Band and we were eager to observe his performance. Let's hope all of those additional private lessons paid off!

The Jazz Band kicked off the concert with "What Makes Your Beautiful", arranged by John Berry.

This was followed by "American Patrol" - a Glen Miller tune arranged by Mike Lewis. Finally, the Jazz Band completed its set with "Inspector C" - arranged by Doug Beach and George Shutack.

The Beginning Band took over next, where Alex plays 4th trumpet. The band kicked off the set with "Kinetic Energy" by Larry Clark.


It continued with an arrangement of the Planets - "Jupiter" by Gustav Holst (arranged by Mark Williams). It concluded with "White River Canyon" by John Higgins.

The Choir took over next. It has certainly grown a lot - it seemed that it has more than 100 kids singing (though mostly girls). At the last concert, it was much smaller.


It must be getting very popular. The Choir kicked off with "Safe and Sound" - a song written By Taylor Swift for the "Hunger Games" movie. The choir continued with "If You Could Hear My Voice". The Choir finished with "Hallelujah" - a Leonard Cohen song I heard recently at his concert in San Jose. The Choir did a respectable rendition of the song (though I prefer the grittiness of Leonard's original).


The Concert Band resumed with "Gateway Overture". The band continued with "Come Thou Found of Every Blessing". The band concluded with "Wild Wyatt".

The Symphonic Band finished the concert with 4 tunes (one not specified in the program). The first tune "The Sky" kicked off the performance. It was followed by "Titan Spirit", and then the finale of "Pursuit".

I liked the concert overall but I preferred the pieces from winter's Pops Concert.




The Spring Concert Program

Jazz Band
  1. "What Makes You Beautiful" arranged by John Berry
  2. "American Patrol" arranged by Mike Lewis
  3. "Inspector C" by Douglas Beach and George Shutack
Beginning Band
  1. "Kinetic Energy" by Larry Clark
  2. "Jupiter from the Planets" arranged by Mark Williams
  3. "White River Canyon" by John Higgins
Choir
  1. "Safe and Sound" arranged by Mark Brymer
  2. "If You Could Hear My Voice" by Jim Papoulis
  3. "Hallelujah" arranged by Roger Emerson
Concert Band
  1. "Gateway Overture" by Gary Gackstatter
  2. "Come Thou Found of Every Blessing" by Randall D Standridge
  3. "Wild Wyatt" by Gary P. Gilroy
Symphonic Band
  1. "The Sky" by Gary Gackstatter
  2. "Titan Spirit" arranged by Jay Bocook
  3. "Pursuit" by Matt Conaway

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review: One Man, Two Guvnors (Berkeley Rep)

Today, we went to see "One Man, Two Guvnors" play at the Berkeley Repertory Theater. The play was adapted by Richard Bean, based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni.


While there were many moments of laughter, the humor was a bit crude and juvenile. Donahoe plays Francis Henshall, a dim-witted young man, who finds himself working for two employers at the same time. The antics are reminiscent of the Three Stooges variety.

Dolly had one memorable line in the play:
“I know exactly what he’s after. And if he carries on like this, he’s going to get it.”
While I did laugh a lot, and sitting int he front row certainly had its charms, I really couldn't say that I admired this performance. It was wacky and crude, with too much slapstick.

This NY Times review of the play has an exceptional description of the silliness that goes on. I was going to write my own review but the NY Times' version would be hard for me to beat.

Wikipedia explains the plot as follows:
In 1960s Brighton, an easily confused Francis Henshall becomes separately employed by two men – Roscoe Crabbe, a local gangster and Stanley Stubbers, an upper class criminal. Francis tries to keep the two from meeting, in order to avoid each of them learning that Francis is also working for someone else. However, it turns out that Roscoe is really Rachel Crabbe in disguise, her twin brother Roscoe having been killed by her lover, who is none other than Stanley Stubbers. Mixed in with these chaotic events is Pauline Clench who was originally meant to marry Roscoe but is now set to elope with over-the-top amateur actor Alan Dangle. The play includes two extended passages of improvisation where audience members are recruited into the play.