Music & Movies

Inspiration from Stevie Nicks and the 24 Karat Gold Tour

It’s midnight-thirty and I have a passel of kids home for spring break, but I’m going to write this because it’s exactly what Stevie Nicks would do. I know this because she told me so.

She’s on tour with her solo songs, things she wrote outside of the Fleetwood Mac sets, so the stories behind the lyrics were a prominent part of her concert.

She’s an inspiration without even having to try. She’s 68, still touring (in heels!) and her voice is as distinctive and true as anything you’ve heard in a recording from any of the last five decades.

You could be inspired by her stories of unabashedly calling up Tom Petty or Prince to collaborate or play a song she just wrote (or, in the case of “Stand Back,” rewrote based on “Little Red Corvette.”)

Or you could take her “Follow your dreams” speeches — and there were several mixed into her concert material — at face value.

But here’s the story I found to say it best.

Stevie is a struggling young artist working two jobs, as a waitress and a house cleaner. She writes songs as she can, and finally gets enough attention in the industry to record her first album.

The album comes out and is released to the world, the culmination of her dreams, hard work and distinctive voice.

And she remains a waitress and a house cleaner.

Nothing really happens. The album goes nowhere. Her label drops her.

But here’s the thing. Artists make art. So she kept right on going, kept writing, kept singing. From looking at snow covered hills from a rich person’s house to inspire her to write “Landslide,” to trying to honor the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in “New Orleans,” she held tight to the things that spoke to her, and retold them in song.

Then one day, Fleetwood Mac called.

It’s possible (and, in fact, quite probable) that your first efforts at your passion will move invisibly through time, impacting only you.

But you are the most important person. Without you, that art never existed in the first place.

The only opportunity that is lost is the art you never make at all.

Based on all the things I felt moved to create after tonight, I’m going to be doing some collaborating after the release of my next series (15 days until Forbidden Dance, y’all.) And also telling a few more stories about the inspiration for the stories. And asking other authors to do the same. It’s important.

Sometimes the best way to inspire people to follow their dreams is simply to follow yours.

On Cory Monteith and being a Gleek

I’m not a television watcher whatsoever. I’m often clueless about major TV events. I never saw a single episode of Survivor or The Office or even Friends.

But Glee had such an intense online push that even a small-screen luddite like me had to notice. It showed up in my Facebook sidebar, on banner ads, invading my web space. Finally, I clicked.

And I was hooked. The concept was amazing and the pilot spot-on perfect. I was reminded of my own days teaching high school and admiring the amazing talent that sometimes came through my doors.

Cory Monteith played a character that fit him. He did not come to the show with mega-singing chops. He was everyman, and watching him perform with a talent like Lea Michele made us all feel as though any of us could hold our own on stage.

Learning that someone like Cory died so young breaks my heart. I’ve enjoyed reliving some of my favorite Gleek days, in particularly this one below. I remember how hard I cried my head off during this episode when Cory’s character Finn has been told he will be a father, and he sings to this sonogram.

Today, watching it again, I realize how full-circle my Glee fandom has come. Fans of my upcoming book Forever Innocent voted Finn as the name of the baby in the story, which features a young high school father much like Cory’s character, trying to do the right thing by his girlfriend and his son, but messes up spectacularly. This song and this moment was just perfect, so I share it with you all one more time.

Farewell, Cory.

Just for All You HSM Fans

High School Musical 2 posterYesterday I logged into my accounts with my web site hosting service, making sure everything was up to date. I clicked on my site stats and laughed right out loud. Almost half of the people who click over to my blog via search engines get here by Googling “High School Musical!”

Since there are so many of you, I’ll make it worth your while. I really am a huge fan of both movies as well as Zac, Vanessa, Lucas, Corbin, and Ashley (yes, we hard core fans know them by their first names!)  I’ve posted my favorite pictures and here’s a link to my personal fave scene–the part of High School Musical 2 where they sing “Every Day.” It includes clips from the movie–it’s a promo version.

My favorite bit of trivia about the second movie is the extreme conditions in which they filmed “Every Day.” The temperature and high winds were bitterly cold, which you can see by the flapping of the background in the scene. They all wore huge coats between takes. I feel terrible for Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale, who had to endure the weather in their summer outfits. The boys at least all got to wear jackets!

highschoolmusical2.jpgA truly excellent web site for fans who need the latest news and star sightings is High School Musical Go on over there now–they’ve got lots more than I do!

(Still laughing…the average visitor to my site is probably about age 13.)

High School Musical Mania

Okay, I admit it. I’m in LOOOOOOVE.
Gabriella. Troy. Sharpay. Ryan. All of it!

Yes, I have “High School Musical 2 Premiere” written on my calendar (August. 17!)

And I preordered the sound track for the sequel. $10 on I-tunes, comes with bonus calendar and digital album of images. Whoop!

But best of all, last weekend I went to the theater version of High School Musical at Zach Scott.
The show was wonderful. It took about two scenes to adjust to the difference in characters and feel from the movie, but after that, the live musical cleared up a number of plot and character flubs from the movie (like the mildly creepy Sharpay and Ryan sibling relationship).

And the romance between Gabriella and Troy is considerably less Disney-fied. The basketball “Keep Your Head in the Game” scene is unbelievably choreographed and pulled off. The addition of the school broadcaster to help the audience understand the scene locations (the set itself changes very little) was brilliant.

If you are a fan of the movie and thought there was *some little something* missing–let me assure you, the Zach Scott version does not disappoint!
Overall, the theater version serves up a more cohesive story and a lot more comedy. Both Emily and Elizabeth loved it. But I think I enjoyed it the most, leaving the theater feeling very excited and upbeat!
So go see if it you can! And don’t call me on Aug. 17 (unless you’re coming over to watch HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2!)

With my kids!

I can’t wait!

Lessons from Zoom

Wiggly feet kicked against the back of seats. Popcorn cascaded from little hands to dust the carpeted floor. The movie was ten minutes late starting, and the house was packed.

Not because it was a great movie. Because it was free.

Every summer the girls and I partake of the Free Family Fun Movie Festivals. They occur at many theaters around town–we go to Westgate every Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday at 10 a.m. They show two movies each week, a G and a PG.

Today we saw Zoom. Despite a good cast (Chevy Case, Courtney Cox, Tim Allen) the movie was dismal. Poor plotting, hitching pace, dropped storylines, ridiculous characterizations. Wretched.

But girls like the big screen and it helps break up our long days together. Watching the movie as I work on the third draft of my novel, however, was a lesson in what not to do. Single story arcs don’t work. People want complexity. Flat characters are not believeable. They must have dimension. If you have a surprise along the way, it must be clever so that if you watch the movie again, you see it was there all along.
Zoom did none of these, but watching it made me see where my novel also sagged or relied upon cliche.

I try to avoid bad examples as I write, throwing down any book that falters lest I accidentally mimic style or other errors. But wiling away a summer day in an air conditioned theater with two girls already sick of each other and mama, it was a nice lesson in how not to screw up my book.

Austin City Limits, Days 2 and 3

Saturday we decided it was TOO DANG HOT to arrive early, so we got to ACL about 3:30 when the day became manageable. The crowds were obscene. You couldn’t plow through any section of the park without weaving through a throng.

Los Lobos put on a decent show–a mix of old favorites with some of their new songs. We lay in the blanket in the sun, happy and pleased to be outside and listening. We had discovered Charlie Sexton via the Itunes ACL download giveaway and his live performance was also outstanding. Kurt liked Calexico; I was only lukewarm on the sound, which is sometimes described as alternative country, but I found to be sort of jazzy mariachi, at least in the sets they played Saturday.

We met up with Ivy at the South Austin Jug Band show, although she disliked the music and the lack of jugs. I love SAJB, so we were grooving within good sight of the band at the small stage. We made a brief stop by Explosions in the Sky before unanimously declaring their mix too painful to endure. James had joined us by then, and we immediately made our way to the bar tent to plunk down $4 for beer and $6 for wine.

We all started at Massive Attack, but Ivy and James couldn’t handle them either, so they made off for Willie Nelson. Kurt and I managed a few more songs and took off ourselves, fired up for Day 3, since Day 2 had been so much more manageable.

Then came the rain. We arrived on Sunday at 4 p.m. to find Rebecca STILL in the line for KT Tunstall’s autograph. (She later was threatened with arrest after failing to get an autograph for Muse and refusing to leave–go Becca!) The ground had dried up from the noon showers and the sky held most of the day. We saw a solid show from Matisyau and a surprise delight with the highly entertaining antics of White Ghost Shivers and their x-rated lyrics. Hooray for the Banana Song!

We all sat around listening to the Flaming Lips as we waited to split again–Rebecca, Ivy, and James to Muse and me and Kurt to the Bodeans. I have to say the Bodeans ROCKED! I remarked to Kurt a number of times that people around us during the festival didn’t seem to be having fun. They were like, enduring, like they were just managing the crowds and heat and shuffled from one show to the other like zombies. But during the Bodeans, everyone laughed and danced, like a music festival should be! I so have to get one of their albums now.

Tom Petty was about what I expected–solid, low key, a mix of popular songs and things I didn’t know. He talked and sang sort of softly, a subtlety you find in his music, and I found that this did not translate well to a huge open field with tens of thousands of people. Crowds around us kept shouting “turn it up!” but obviously it wasn’t possible. People singing around us were drowning out the music from the stage, and one song we couldn’t hear even when everyone got quiet. So as the rain began half an hour into the concert, about 2/3 of the crowd bailed. I caught a blurry rain-enhanced image of the night stage.

The good part of that was we got out our ponchos and moved up where we could hear him more clearly. Bad part: had to wait 45 minutes before he came on again.

So, looking back over the three days–Los Lonely Boys were definitely the best show. The Bodeans a close second (they SOOO deserved a bigger stage). I definitely plan to catch White Ghost Shivers locally some time as they were just so fun, and I’m never ever going to a day at ACL without my handy pool blanket that wicks water away and folds up into a tiny bundle. We didn’t have it the first day and sitting in grass is icky–witness my 25 ant bites!

ACL Music Festival, Day 1

I never get tired of Los Lonely Boys. This ACL was my fourth time to see them live and I still love their guitar antics, their trading instruments, playing on their backs, and one handed. I got their new album a week ago to prepare for the concert and all I can say is “Oye Mamacita!”

Gnarls Barkley was a surpisingly fun show. Everyone on stage wore white lab coats at the beginning but we all expected they’d shed them before long. He was mid-afternoon and the only time I actually thought I might faint from the heat was during his show. He teased the crowd, as if expecting few knew what he looked like, saying, “Gnarls Barkley couldn’t make it but we’re here to cover his songs!”

When we first arrived, as Asleep at the Wheel was playing, the park was empty. You could walk right up to the stages and be in the front row, weaving between people chillin’ out in lawn chairs. By about 5, though, they place was packed as you’d expect, and the park was a human obstacle course.

They did have more grass, and the misting stations were awesome. We dropped by several other shows–Terri Hendrix, Mishka, Guster, and Stars. Itunes gave out cards with a pass for 30 songs from various artists at the festival. I downloaded them last night. Our favorite band name (although not their music) has been I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.

Shawn Oh Shawn Mullins

Last night I went to see Shawn Mullins at the Cactus on campus. I have been a fan of his for a long long time, since Soul’s Core in 1998 when “Lullaby” was a hit, followed by “Shimmer.” He’s a narrative song writer with a husky voice. He likes to talk in his songs as much as sing, but we let him get away with it.

He seems to have endured some hard livin’ since the pictures and interviews of Soul’s Core. It showed on his face and in his posture and demeanor. I had never seen him perform live, although he comes through Austin fairly often. He did not disappoint me, his control of his songs and his voice and his guitar showing the polish of a seasoned performer. Yet he had a down to earth attitude, first by saying his new single “Beautiful Wreck” was going to be made into a video, which meant the label was going to push it. And that the video was only going to cost $10,000, which was cool with him, because it could be a $500,000 video and he still had to pay for it. When he talks to you, you settle in a bit, absorbing his calmness, the reverberation of his voice, into you.

The Cactus is a small venue–a low stage backed by red velvet curtains with rows of chairs on two sides. Members of the crowd could talk back and forth with Shawn and his opening singer/songwriter Clay Cook. He told the stories behind some of the songs, lightly and with wry humor. He was laid back, calm, toned down. He smiled a slow lazy grin at times, his eyes small under a knit cap he wore for the first set.

Clay was on stage singing backup vocals and accompanying on guitar or keyboard for most of the show. He was hammy, loud and full of jokes, long black hair forever in his face and eyes. Pushing it back or tossing his head while playing became his primary gestures. Shawn never cut him off or joined in for the humor, just eventually started the next song with level strength.

If you haven’t heard him, visit his site and listen. I think “Beautiful Wreck” is probably going to hit. He’s playing again tonight at Cactus at 9:00 if you want to hear him yourself. $14 at the door.

I’m going to go listen to some more of the new CD, just released, which I picked up last night. My day has been frantic and frustrating and difficult. Shawn Mullins always managed to mellow me out. I’m going to let him for a while.