Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tour Diaries! XIXA Day 9: Show Rocks, Then Laundry Day in The Swiss Alps.

Posted By on Sun, Jul 23, 2017 at 4:01 PM

Day 9 ... I think?

Day off in Thun, Switzerland.
Ferris wheel at festival. - WINSTON WATSON
  • Winston Watson
  • Ferris wheel at festival.

Last night we played an amazing festival in Thun (sounds like "toon"). The show was certainly one for the books. And we most certainly rocked.

Today, we had a great day off
Thun, Switzerland. - WINSTON WATSON
  • Winston Watson
  • Thun, Switzerland.
at a very nice hotel right on the shores of the Thunersee "(tuner say"), or Thun Lake, in Thun, Switzerland.

When you tour at our level, it's better to work the most days you can when you're out here, because if you don't play, you have to pay, as in hotels, meals, etc.

But, a day off in a very beautiful location is really good for morale. So is doing laundry.
More on that, in a later blog.

Doing laundry on tour is very important. But like I said, we'll get around to that later.

Tomorrow we head to Italy where more beautiful scenery, people, and food await we weary troubadours.

Thanks for coming along, and stay tuned.



Oh, the photos do little justice to the experience.

Sorry!

Peace.

-Winston Watson I Switzerland

Thun Lake: So clean you can see the bottom. - WINSTON WATSON
  • Winston Watson
  • Thun Lake: So clean you can see the bottom.
WINSTON WATSON
  • Winston Watson




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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Tour Diaries: XIXA Day 8: 'Gabe Heard and Saw Me Reset My Knee From Across the Room.'

Posted By on Sat, Jul 22, 2017 at 10:47 AM

Day 8

Limitations of the human body and the Road.
The Knee. - XIXA
  • XIXA
  • The Knee.

Touring, although adventurous and fun, can be hard on the human vessel. In any "normal" daily routine, one hopes not to fall ill from any number of things. Out here, it's important to stay as healthy as possible.

To start, you're far from home. Add to that strange food and food-handling practices and there's cause for worry. Then, the sheer physical burden that comes from shlepping your own gear, when you don't have a full crew.

I'm my case, even though my mind thinks I'm a kid, my body has other ideas. I blew my right knee out, doing nothing Rock 'n'  Roll, like stage diving or performing. I simply stood up wrong and dislocated my right knee—um, the most important knee, my bass-drum knee.

Gabriel heard and saw me reset my knee, from across the venue. It was nausea inducing, to be sure.

He was horrified.

It was a reckoning of sorts, I suppose. I'm OK with the body faltering, but when the brain goes?
Kill me, already.

Then, Gregory Houston had the misfortune of making direct contact with 240vac. Dodgy venue power was at fault. (Insidious, hidden, dangerous.)
Gregory Houston, nearly electrocuted. - XIXA
  • XIXA
  • Gregory Houston, nearly electrocuted.

Now, Greg is a big man, that may have saved him, because he fell straight to the ground, had that not happened, he may not have been so lucky.

See, high-voltage electricity doesn't turn you loose, it hangs on.

OK, off we go, 380km to Switzerland.

Stay tuned.

Old-man knee ...

-Winston Watson | Nürnberg, DE

The number 6 just follows us. - XIXA
  • XIXA
  • The number 6 just follows us.

We keep it Smokey. - XIXA
  • XIXA
  • We keep it Smokey.

Go here to read Day 7 of XIXA's tour dairies.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

A Few Thoughts on the New AzMERIT Scores

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 5:30 PM

COURTESY OF PHOTOSPIN
  • Courtesy of PhotoSpin
We've been given a first look at the new AzMERIT results from the tests students took in spring. They haven't been broken down in granular detail, but we know how students scored at each grade level in math and language arts. The numbers look reasonably good. Basically, they're a little better than they were the year before. No question, up is better than down, but does that mean Arizona students have improved in math and language arts? It's not an easy question to answer. Let me throw out a few ideas without trying to arrive at any solid conclusions.

This is the third year the state has given students the AzMERIT test as a replacement for AIMS, and that means it's the second year teachers have been able to teach to the new test. The first year, teachers didn't have much of an idea what the test was like, so when it came to test prep, they were like generals fighting the last war. They had been teaching to the AIMS test for years, and they didn't know how to change their strategies to help their students with AzMERIT. The second year they knew more about how the new test was structured and what kind of questions the students would be asked, so they made an effort at tailoring their test prep to the task. The third year, with the previous year's experience under their belts, they refined their test prep technique a bit more. Which begs the question: do this year's higher scores reflect an improvement in students' achievement or their teachers' test prep proficiency?

Whenever students are taught how to take a specific test, the results are thrown into doubt. Are students learning the concepts behind the test questions, or have they simply become more adept at answering the questions? Our obsession with yearly results on high stakes tests means the results people value so highly don't mean much. Worse, the tests distort students' educational experience by making teachers focus on narrow sections of the curriculum at the expense of equally important areas which aren't on the test. You can't blame teachers for spending an inordinate amount of time on what will be tested, even when they know their overemphasis on the tested material does their students a disservice. Their individual evaluations and the state grades their schools receive hang in the balance. The scores are too damn important to let giving their students a comprehensive education get in the way.

If we want to monitor students to get a sense of how they're doing on their basic math and language skills, a better way is to test student achievement every few years in selected grades — and separate the scores from funding and school grades.

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HoCo Fest Labor Day Weekend Schedule Unveiled Today

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 4:23 PM

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Make your reservations now: Hotel Congress today released the schedule for the annual HOCO Fest running Wednesday through Sunday over Labor Day weekend.

With a lineup of nearly 60 bands, the festival offers everything from local favorites to what are sure to be some diamonds in the rough. HOCO Fest offers not only music, but a series of events focused on food and music.

Lando Chill will take to the stage Wednesday, Aug. 30 to charm the audience with his lyrical hip-hop and mellow vibes touching on themes of race and gender. Chill just released his second album The Boy Who Spoke the Wind in July.

The Mexico Institute of Sound brings a blend of traditional Mexican instrumentals with DJ electronica from Mexico City to Tucson on Friday, Sept. 1. DJ/producer Camilo Lara was tapped to supervise the soundtrack for Pixar’s latest creation, Coco, about a 12-year-old boy and his magical guitar in a Day of the Dead tribute, set to release Nov. 22.

That same day, Tucson’s very own Orkesta Mendoza—led by Sergio Mendoza, who has frequently collaborated with Mexico Institute of Sound—offers pysch rock-infused mambo inspired by legend Pérez Prado. The band is known for its showmanship in crisp matching suits and intricate big band sounds. The show comes on the heels of a months-long European tour.

Lee Fields and The Expressions will travel from New York City to deliver some soul on Sunday, Sept. 3. Sampled by several of today’s hip-hop artists, Fields’ sway is something hips can’t shy away from. A 50-year career hasn’t slowed as the band returns from a European tour.

Community radio KXCI will broadcast live from the station's new satellite studio inside Hotel Congress with an open house Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Check out the station’s new digs and donate your favorite CDs and album to help pack their playlists.

HOCO Fest will also give festival goers a tour of Tucson intoxicants to the first 300
arrivals each day, featuring Arizona wineries, Four Peaks Brewery, mezcal and more.

Two fairs will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Maynard’s plaza with vintage clothing and record vendors.

And if that’s not enough, the after parties will keep you satisfied ’til sunrise with electronic music brought to you by Threshold by Ascetic House.

Check out the full list of artists and events on the site.

Laughing Stock: The Dating Game, Repeatedly

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 12:30 PM

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Chuck Barris may never die. At least the TV game shows that made him millions—The Gong Show, The Treasure Hunt and The Dating Game—seem immortal. In memory, scratchy videos, sequels and knock offs, they continue to resonate with universal human drives—winning, foraging, mating. Are they popular because the beasts are less daunting in a comical light?

Tucson Comedians Bethany Evans and Mo Urban resurrect The Dating Game at The Flycatcher, 430 E. 6th St., at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 30; free. Anyone who’d like to find something funny in dating, i.e. anyone who’s ever had or wanted a date, might want to join the fun. Literally.

“We are still looking to fill a spot,” Evans says. “We especially welcome contestants from our LGBTQ community.” Prospective contestants should get their names in as soon as possible, but plans are for the show to be quarterly; you’ll have another chance. Like washing the car to provoke rain, applying for The Dating Game might even inspire the universe to find you a date, meanwhile. Email your interest to thedatinggametucson@gmail.com

“A lot of contestants are comics,” Evans says, “because those are the people Mo and I know. Comics like to play because of the opportunity to improvise. About half of (the contestants) are regular people we know through work or other networks. We really want a lot of diverse people to play the game, though.”

Evans first hosted a dating game in 2003 at Bumsted’s (R.I.P.) at the suggestion of then owner Barb Shuman. In 2015, again at Shuman’s invitation, she brought the show back for five “episodes’ with partner J. Lugo Miller. Miller co-produces the 2017 iteration, taking charge of sound, sound effects and simple props.

Evans says, “The reboot will follow the original format: one bachelor or bachelorette, questioning 3 unseen contestants, and choosing one for a date, based solely on their answers.”

Recalling the Bumsted’s years, Evans says, “It was a blast, I heard a lot of great stories about people’s experiences with it.” Urban, an early contestant, has even woven her Dating Game turn into her comedy routine.

“My experience was so positive I was sad to see it go,” she says. “It wasn’t so much about finding someone. It was more about just putting myself out there.” And that’s just what you have to do.

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Cinema Clips: Spider Man: Homecoming

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 11:30 AM


The last two Spidey adventures were a bummer.

Things get back on track in a fun way with Spider-Man: Homecoming, a complete overhaul of the Peter Parker character thanks to the effervescent casting of Tom Holland, a fine actor and an impressive athlete (he does most of his own acrobatic stunts).

The film gets a great villain in Vulture, played with snarling glee by Michael Keaton. Director Jon Watts and an admittedly ridiculous number of writers give Vulture an interesting origin. He’s Adrian Toones, a construction salvage worker who had a city contract to clean up the mess in New York City after the events of The Avengers. Some government types take over and kick him off the gig, leaving him pissed and with a bunch of high-tech alien junk in his possession.

Toones constructs some weapons, including an elaborate winged suit, with the alien technology and, voila, Vulture. Parker is a younger incarnation this time out, dealing with typical high school traumas that seem a little trivial after the events of Captain America: Civil War, where he sort of saved the day. He’s gone from stealing Captain America’s shield to worrying about girls, and he’s just a little bored. Enter Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) who has given Parker his Spidey suit with some conditions, like that he can only be a “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man,” concentrating on local problems rather than the really big, worldly ones.

The film is basically one half kick-ass Marvel movie—Watts is no slouch with an action sequence—and one half enjoyable and frothy high school comedy that would make John Hughes proud.

Tour Diaries! XIXA Day 7: Memories of Dylan and Meeting Former Czech President Václav Havel at Gunpoint. Also, Sold Out Show!

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 10:25 AM

Day 7:

Ostrava, Czech Republic to Nürenberg, Germany.

Gabriel at work, with a bunch of our close friends. - XIXA
  • XIXA
  • Gabriel at work, with a bunch of our close friends.

We played the Colours of Ostrava Festival last night to a packed house full of people of all ages.
For me, this was one of those moments when I was glad I became a musician and not a pilot. The first time I came to the Czech Republic was in 1993, with a singer/songwriter with a pretty big following, worldwide.

Václav Havel.
  • Václav Havel.
I met Václav Havel three times, and once was held at gunpoint by his Secret Service men. Havel saw what was happening, and called them off. He gave me a big hug and kissed both my cheeks and said it was good to see me again. The man I was working for looked up from his famous Ray-Bans and cracked a rare, brief smile. Havel was huge fan of my boss's work. Haha. Thanks, dude.

So, yeah, I've been lucky enough to have been to the Czech Republic many times since. This time with XIXA, my T-town homies. It was spectacular. There's something about this country and what has been through that makes me keep coming back.

Ok, enough for now, we just crossed into Germany, where I can understand and speak the language. I need to work on my Czech.

Thanks for coming along.

Stay tuned.

Wir fahr'n, fahr'n, fahr'n auf der Autobahn...

-Winston Watson
I Somewhere in Germany... 

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

In The Flesh: DJ Shadow and Mophono at The Rialto—Masterful Visuals and Sonic History Lessons

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 11:30 AM

DJ Shadow at Rialto Theatre, Tucson, on  Wednesday, July 19. - MARGARET HARSTAD
  • Margaret Harstad
  • DJ Shadow at Rialto Theatre, Tucson, on Wednesday, July 19.

DJ Shadow with Mophono
Rialto Theatre
July 19

Appealing to the psychedelic purple chakra and the primal red root at once, Mophono and DJ Shadow took us on a rollercoaster of the mind, through moody, soul-deep bass, melodic jazz and classic hiphop. All the elements were masterful—the cuts, the breaks, the scratching and the samples. Two turntables and hardly any microphone had us alternately listening hard and pounding our fists in the air. And the themes Shadow tackled were heavy—namely the aural and visual manipulation of time. From his scratch solo right after, "This is a story about being free" to the remixes of each classic Endtroducing track, to his shirt which read "We're never going back," the legendary DJ demonstrated mastery over this key component to our world, both rhythmically and conceptually. The paired, projected visuals were, of course, time-lapse photography. Shadow also played with space, creating aural (paired with visual) topographic maps of oscillating reverberations, ably set in motion by collaborator and opener Mophono, who took us back to the Silver Apples conception of electronic music with spinning magnetic sound. From the atomic beats and melodies to their limitless molecular combinations, Shadow's show tackled nothing less than the act of creation itself.

DJ Shadow at Rialto Theatre in Tucson. - MARGARET HARSTAD
  • Margaret Harstad
  • DJ Shadow at Rialto Theatre in Tucson.

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Staff Pick

The Harry Potter Charity Ball

Strada Company presents a celebration and cosplay party of all things Harry Potter for the benefit of… More

@ Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral Sat., July 29, 6-10 p.m. 160 S. Scott Ave.

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