Friday, November 20, 2009


With the holiday season now full swing, I was thinking to myself about how much I enjoy Thanksgiving. Of course, when I was a young kid, I never considered Thanksgiving to be one of my favorite holidays. I appreciate it much more now, however. There is something about watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, listening to Alice's Restaurant, watching football, and lounging around with the family.

That doesn't necessarily mean I don't enjoy Christmas any less, however. Halloween is also really is Easter.

A student asked me a couple of days ago what my favorite holiday was and I really had to think about it. I enjoy them all, really.

What about you? What is your favorite holiday? And why?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Community Service

Having just recently started a committee here at the high school with a few other teachers, I am interested in getting some student feedback on the new community service requirement.

Being a teacher and someone who believes in the importance of a tight-knit community built upon teamwork, I am really excited that Norton now requires this. I think too many students grow up in towns where they really don't get involved and appreciate where they come from. I think the community service requirement will give students an opportunity to not just help out organizations and businesses in need, but will also foster a connection with the town itself. It may even give students some ideas as to what they might want to do (or not do) after college?

I'm curious to see how students feel about the number of hours required and what types of projects you have been or see yourself getting involved with. Are you excited at the chance to do something for a group or organization in need? Maybe you want to work with the elderly...or work with animals...or do something to make the town or school look better? Have you already completed the number of hours required? Have you found something you really enjoyed doing that you have kept doing it past the number of required hours?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A New Year

A new school year has just begun at Norton High School. Whenever September rolls around, there is a mix of emotions. For me, I am always sad to see the summer go. For my money, there is no more pleasant a place to be in the summer than New England.

I had the good fortune of finishing up my graduate courses in July so I had some free time to relax and travel in August. Some of the highlights were the obvious trip to Woodstock, a few days in Maine, a weekend in the Berkshires, and plenty of time down the Cape.

While I am sad to see the end of summer, I am definately feeling refreshed and am really excited for this school year...perhaps more than any other. I am teaching some courses that I really enjoy teaching. I seem to have a great group of students from what I can tell so far. In addition, I have the opportunity to advise the Class of 2010 through their senior year. Working with the class for the past 2 years has been great. I feel privileged to be able to help them through their final days of high school. I am excited to be able to plan trips, class night, and most importantly, graduation. They might find it hard to believe, but I am (almost) as excited as they are to navigate through this very exciting year in their lives.

I am expecting a good year. What are you excited about?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

40th Anniversary weekend

Last weekend (August 15th and 16th) marked the 40th anniversary of what is considered to be one of the finest moments of the 1960s counterculture. It is also considered to be the most famous concert in American History. For 3 days, America's youth came together for 3 days of peace and music, just as the promoters had advertised. Being the music and history fan that I am, this event has always been (obviously) of particular interest to me. I wasn't going to let the 40th anniversary weekend go by without trying to be a part of the anniversary festivities in some way.

While I had visited Bethel Woods Center for the Arts and the new museum last summer, we decided to make the journey there once again this summer for what I figured would be a special weekend. I also decided to invite my father up for the trek since the 60s really is his generation. We had absolutely beautiful weather for the event. The weekend featured a concert with 8 bands who either played the original Woodstock festival or have members who have a link to Woodstock. The event also featured a craft fair with all types of local artists who sold some really neat stuff. On Sunday, we made another stop off at the Bethel Woods museum. If you haven't been there, it really is a special place. The museum includes information not just about the significance of Woodstock, but also gives you a great backdrop to the turmoil of the 1960s. We had great weather to go along with the beauty of upstate New York. In addition, I have to say that the vibe of the weekend was just terrific. I have never been to an event where there were so many friendly, easy-going people. Everybody really understood the significance of Woodstock and seemed genuinely pleased to be a part of it.

Below is a USA Today review of the concert along with a few photos I took from the event:

Woodstock at 40: Everywhere a song and a celebration
By John W. Barry, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal

BETHEL, N.Y. — Playing an electric guitar that seemed as charged and as amped as the sold-out crowd of 15,000, 15-year-old Conrad Oberg of Florida opened the 40th anniversary Woodstock concert at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Saturday by playing the instrumental version of The Star-Spangled Banner that Jimi Hendrix made famous in August 1969.

The crowd of mostly Baby Boomers stood for the national anthem, raised their arms and flashed peace signs with their fingers — a symbol of hope and defiance that has remained timeless for more than four decades.

Bethel Woods sits on the original Woodstock Music & Art Fair site in Sullivan County and launched a weekend of anniversary events Friday with two performances by festival veteran Richie Havens.

Big Brother and the Holding Company, members of which backed Janis Joplin at Woodstock, delivered a set that included riveting renditions of Down on Me, Piece of My Heart, Summertime and a singalong with the crowd on Me and Bobby McGee.

Another Woodstock veteran, Country Joe McDonald, served as master of ceremonies for the concert and introduced Big Brother, then returned later to read the names of local soldiers who died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. McDonald, a U.S. service veteran himself, then delivered his Woodstock anthem, the I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag.

And just as he did at Woodstock — famously captured in the Woodstock documentary — McDonald opened the song by asking the crowd to spell out an expletive: "Give me an F." And just like in the movie, members of the crowd stood up, clapped their hands and sang along, putting particular emphasis on the lyrics, "Whoopee/We're all gonna die."

"It reminded me of the days when we were really protesting this sort of thing," said Paul Salzberg, 57, of Lake Huntington, N.Y.

Country Joe, in between Canned Heat and Ten Years After, played the 1960s protest anthem For What It's Worth, Woody Guthrie's This Land is Your Land and Coming Into Los Angeles, which Arlo Guthrie performed at Woodstock.

One of the big showstoppers of the day, a song that spanned the 40-year chasm separating Aug. 15, 1969 from Aug. 15, 2009, was Canned Heat's performance of Goin' Up the Country, which played during the opening of the Woodstock documentary.

"It was fabulous," said Jean Hannigan, 46, of Beacon, N.Y., who hopped to the beat. She wore flowers in her hair, peace-sign earrings, a shirt with a peace sign and sunglasses with heart-shaped lenses. "Awesome. Beautiful."

Asked why she turned out for the event, she said, "I was 6 when this happened, and I'm 46 and I'm here. This is the greatest ever."

At the beginning of the show, Sam Yasgur, son of Max Yasgur, who owned the farm land on which Woodstock was held, spoke to the crowd: "He would have been overjoyed that four decades later, you and hundreds of thousands of others continue to have fun and music, and nothing but fun and music, on this beautiful site. "

A mellow tailgate scene was underway in the parking lots hours in advance of the opening performance, and streams of people walked the roads on the perimeter of Bethel Woods.
Several dozen gathered at the iconic Woodstock monument at the corner of West Shore and Hurd roads, near where the stage sat during Woodstock.

Concertgoers spread out on blankets and relaxed in lawn chairs that Bethel Woods rented for $5 each. Some in the crowd seemed oblivious to the music, playing with children on a large field over a ridge from the concert pavilion, or simply taking in what seemed like an endless view of rolling fields.

Michael Lang, one of the promoters who staged the 1969 event, introduced his 8-year-old twin sons the site and took them to The Museum at Bethel Woods.

"I spent a lot of my heart and soul here," he said.

Interest in the anniversary has been "unbelievable," Lang said. "You know why I think this one is so big — because of what's going on in the world and the country. Because of Obama being in the White House, the similarities in the times and the wars, it's resonating pretty strongly for people."

Hours before he was scheduled to close the concert, Levon Helm, who played Woodstock with The Band, recalled, "The first time we came, it was just another gig.

"This many years later, it's an event — it's a historic event. I'm happy to get to play."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Woodstock at 40

Woodstock At 40

Associated Press

Forty years after Richie Havens sang and strummed for a sea of people at Woodstock, he still gets asked about it and he still gets requests to sing "Freedom."

He's not surprised.

"Everything in my life, and so many others', is attached to that train," Havens said.

The young hippies who watched the sun come up with The Who in 1969 are now eligible for early bird specials. Many of the bands are broken up or missing members who died. But Woodstock remains one of those events — like the moon landing earlier that summer — that continues to define the 1960s in the popular imagination.

Consider the bumper crop of Woodstock nostalgia marking the 40th anniversary. There's a new director's cut DVD of the concert movie, a remastered concert CD, director Ang Lee's rock 'n' roll comedy "Taking Woodstock" and a memoir by promoter Michael Lang. There are also performances scheduled by Woodstock veterans at the old site, now home to a '60s museum and an outdoor concert pavilion.

The Woodstock legend stems from big names such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin playing at a show where everything went wrong but turned out right.

The town of Woodstock didn't want the concert and promoters were bounced from another site at the 11th hour. Lang settled on a hay field in Bethel owned by a kindly dairy farmer named Max Yasgur. The concert did come off Aug. 15-18, 1969, but barely. Fences were torn down, tickets became useless. More than 400,000 people converged on this rural corner 80 miles northwest of New York City, freezing traffic for miles. Then the rains doused everything.
It should have been a disaster. But Americans tuning in to the evening news that weekend saw smiling, dancing, muddy kids. By the time the concert movie came out months later, Woodstock was a symbol of the happy, hippie side of the '60s spirit.

It still is.

Baby boomers are the "Woodstock Generation" — not the "Monterey Generation" or the "Altamont Generation." Bethel's onsite museum has logged more than 70,000 visitors since last summer, a fair number of them college students born well after Woodstock. A roadside monument there regularly logs visitors from around the planet.

"It's almost a pilgrimage," said Wade Lawrence, director of the Museum at Bethel Woods. "It's like going to a high school reunion, or it's like visiting a grave site of a loved one."

From Lollapalooza to All Points West, there have been plenty of big festivals focused on youth culture. The continent-hopping Live Aid shows of 1985 did that and more, enlisting top names such as U2 and Madonna to fight hunger in Africa. None have the cultural cachet of Woodstock. Who would ever ask a Generation X-er: "Were you really at Live Aid?"

People who went to Woodstock say the crowd set it apart as much as the music. The trippy anarchy of Woodstock has become legend: lots of nudity, casual sex, dirty (and muddy) dancing, open drug use. The stage announcer famously warned people to steer clear of the brown acid.
Many who were there recall Woodstock as an oasis of good vibes during a time of unrest over the Vietnam War. Ilene Marder, then an 18-year-old who hitched from the Bronx, saw people feeding one another and respecting one another. She knew she found her tribe.

"The music was nice, but it was being with so many people who looked like us, who looked like me," said Marder, who later moved to Woodstock some 50 miles away. "I remember telling myself 'Don't forget this! Don't forget they way you feel right now!'"

Former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten remembers hearing buzz that something special was up at the nearby hotel where the band was staying. The scale of the event sunk in when the band choppered in over the mass of people. While artists like Joe Cocker and Santana boosted their careers at Woodstock, the Dead were notoriously flat.

Jerry Garcia, the band's late guitarist, told interviewers that his guitar was being hit with bouncing blue balls of electricity — the kind that comes from bad wiring, not strong psychedelics. Constanten said he wasn't as bothered as his band mates.

"Actually, I had a wonderful time. The guitarists were not. Because of electrical problems, they were getting shocks from their strings and all," he said. "Aversion therapy like that, no one needs."

Constanten contends the music and spirit of Woodstock was not a revelation to the people there. But it was to the millions who saw the movie and listened to the album.
As they say now, Woodstock went viral.

"This juggernaut of a music scene burst in their awareness," he said. "It didn't feel different to us. It was their response."

Woodstock has been resurrected a couple of times since then, at least in name.

Promoters staged a 25th-anniversary concert near Woodstock in 1994 that was a musical success. But a 30th-anniversary performance at a former Air Force Base in Rome, N.Y., ended in disaster after crowds lit bonfires and looted on the last night. The unrelenting heat and $4 bottles of water taxed any vestiges of Woodstock spirit.

Yasgur's old farm, meanwhile, has gone establishment in recent years. Local cable TV billionaire Alan Gerry quietly snapped up the land in the 1990s and started a not-for-profit foundation to run a museum and concert space. The gently sloping hill that provided a natural amphitheater in 1969 is nicely tended and fenced in.

Concerts are regularly scheduled over the hill from the original stage at a modern, 4,800-seat amphitheater.

Constanten and Havens are among the 1969 performers returning to the site on the 40th anniversary weekend. Havens will play a solo show that Friday, a day before a larger show featuring other Woodstock veterans such as Levon Helm, formerly of The Band, Ten Years After and Canned Heat. Though long separated from the Dead, Constanten said he'll play the band's songs that weekend.

No electric shocks are expected under the multimillion-dollar pavilion, and probably no generation-defining magic either.

"Then is then," Constanten said, "and now is now."

Monday, August 10, 2009

40th Anniversary Week

This upcoming weekend marks the official 40th anniversary weekend. With that date looming, there have been dozens of articles written in the past few weeks. Here is one from the AP today:

40 years later, Woodstock, or at least its legend, rocks on
[10 August 2009]
By Glenn Gamboa
Newsday (MCT)

NEW YORK — The mythology of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair overtook its reality years ago.

Mountain’s Leslie West jokes, “If you count all the people now that say they were there, there had to be 10 million people there, not just 400,000.”

The magic of those three days of peace, love and music from the biggest and brightest stars of the time can never be recaptured because it was something unique.

All the massive festivals that have followed, all the attempts to link music with politics, all the plans to create “the next Woodstock” fall a little short because they lack the element of surprise.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” says Martin Perry, a business consultant from Massapequa, N.Y., who went to Woodstock more for the experience than the music. “Who could have expected all of that ahead of time?”

Perry says he attended other festivals shortly after Woodstock hoping for a repeat performance and was disappointed. “People were not as friendly,” he says. “The experience was much more brutal. Woodstock was really a singular moment.”

That may be why people get nervous about anything that might tarnish the Woodstock legacy.
Woodstock promoter Michael Lang recently dropped plans to celebrate the original festival’s 40th anniversary this year with a free concert in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, after he wasn’t able to find enough sponsors. (Considering the problems of Woodstock ‘99 in Rome, N.Y., which reportedly lost more than $10 million and ended in riots, fires and looting after four days of blistering heat and $4-a-bottle waters, the Woodstock plan of regular anniversary festivals every five years has been put on hold since 1999.)

It is a testament, actually, to how cherished the Woodstock Experience still is that so many are still eager to tap into that “singular moment.”

A walk through any bookstore this summer will find more than a dozen new books about the event. There will be a new Ang Lee movie, “Taking Woodstock,” about preparations for the festival, as well as a new VH1 documentary “Woodstock: Now and Then” from Barbara Kopple.

And, of course, there’s the music. Sony Legacy has a new 10-CD boxed set called “The Woodstock Experience,” while Rhino Records is offering the six-CD “Woodstock — 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm,” which will include 38 previously unreleased tracks and the entire festival set list.

But it doesn’t stop there. You could put your Woodstock coffee mug on some Woodstock coasters made from the vinyl albums of Woodstock artists, while you fold some Woodstock psychedelic origami and put together a thousand-piece Woodstock puzzle, while wearing some Woodstock T-shirts, naturally.

Cocooning in that moment becomes important, since it didn’t last very long. What Woodstock succeeded in creating was idyllic, but it was also short-lived.

“It was a high point,” says Jim Henke, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s vice president of exhibitions and curatorial affairs. “For a moment, it was the center of pop culture. It showed a huge number of young people rebelling against the social norms of the time, and it showed the hippie movement to be as big as it was. And it all went off pretty smoothly. Then came Altamont, and that sent almost the opposite message.”

The violence at the Altamont concert, along with the substance-abuse deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison shortly after that, quickly overturned the “sex and drugs and rock and roll” idealism that Woodstock had built. Reality had overtaken the myth.
Slowly but surely, the balance began to shift again. Henke says all the attention that the anniversaries bring to the original Woodstock add to its importance, as does the recently rereleased “Woodstock” documentary.

“For many people, when that movie came out, that was the introduction for many people to that ethos, that lifestyle,” he says. “It all helps spread the word.”

And for artists like Mountain’s West, who became a star after performing at the festival and plans to return this week to play the 40th anniversary show at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Woodstock’s positive aspects will always outweigh whatever negatives that followed it.

“I’m really looking forward to the show,” says West, who plans to wed his fiancee, Jenni Maurer, onstage at the end of the band’s Woodstock set. “It’s such a beautiful place.”

West, like a lot of people whose lives were changed by the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, see the potential.

For three days, 40 years ago, 400,000 people joined together to show that the hippie ideals of peace and love and mutual respect could not only work, but could lead to an unforgettably good time. Since then, we have seen numerous examples of how this could break down. But it happened once. Maybe it could happen again.

Maybe that is the true legacy of Woodstock.

One of the Fab Four

Last week I had the opportunity to see Paul McCartney at Fenway Park. Again, the Beatles did not perform at the Woodstock festival, yet their music was arguably the most popular of the 60s counterculture.

Some people may question whether going to see a man who is 67 years old perform a concert is actually worthwhile. I can answer that with a resounding yes! Even at this stage in his life, McCartney still puts on one of the best concerts you could ever wish to see. He performed Beatles classics and plenty of his Wings and solo material. Getting the chance to see a Beatle live in person is a chance we won't have for much longer.
Here is a review from the Boston Globe as well as a few photos I snapped:

McCartney brings the whole package

The whole evening could have gone like this, and the entire stadium of cheering fans probably would have been tickled and content to sing along.

“Baby, you can drive my car.’’

“Hey, Jude, don’t make it bad.’’

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.’’

Instead, last night Paul McCartney kicked off the first of his two concerts at Fenway Park with a nearly flawless performance that played heavily to audience favorites while allowing him to stretch out as an artist who is obviously still vital and relevant.

Given his deep catalog, there was a lot of ground to cover, and McCartney balanced it beautifully in a 2 1/2-hour show with more than 30 songs that spanned his work as a solo artist and with the Beatles and Wings, right up to his latest project, the Fireman.

The Beatles’ legacy was alive and well in the set list (“Let It Be,’’ “The Long and Winding Road,’’ “Get Back’’), but McCartney made a point of giving his late band members their due. A photo montage of George Harrison unfolded behind McCartney as he played “Something’’ on a ukulele Harrison gave him. He later ignited a singalong of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,’’ complete with a sea of fingers flashing the peace sign.

McCartney couldn’t have picked a better time to be out on the road. In early September, the Beatles’ remastered catalog will be released, along with the anticipated arrival of the video game “The Beatles: Rock Band,’’ which fans got a sneak preview of during “Got to Get You Into My Life.’’

McCartney is not an ostentatious performer, but he’s a lovable ham. A few songs in, he removed his buttoned-up jacket to reveal a white Oxford shirt with red suspenders. On two occasions, he rallied the ladies to scream by casually mentioning how the Beatles could never hear themselves in the old days because of the deafening shrieks. You have to hand it to him: This guy knows he’s beloved and loves his fans right back.

Aside from a pop of pyrotechnics onstage and glittering fireworks in the sky during “Live and Let Die,’’ McCartney kept the focus squarely on his playing.

His taut, muscular band disappeared for a pair of songs, allowing McCartney to fingerpick a crisp and lovely version of “Blackbird’’ and “Here Today,’’ which he explained he wrote after Lennon died as an imaginary conversation they never had. “Everyone’s gone and left me alone with you,’’ McCartney remarked. “But it’s OK. I kind of like it.’’

MGMT had the unenviable task of opening, but the Brooklyn band, whose praises McCartney has sung in recent months, held its own. Amid the psychedelic, electro-pop confections, there were glimmers of the Beatles’ early, jangly songcraft, not to mention guitarist Andrew VanWyngarden’s mop of hair that resembled McCartney’s circa ’64.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A non-Woodstock Legend

Although I have only been posting concert reviews of Woodstock performers, the man I saw this week could very easily have performed 40 years ago in Bethel, NY. He was certainly just as famous as any of the Woodstock performers, if not more so. You would have trouble finding somebody today who has never heard a Bob Dylan song. The man was never a politician, war veteran, or president, yet you can point to him as having a large impact on our nation's history and popular culture.

Bob Dylan performed with John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson at McCoy Stadium this past Tuesday. While Nelson and Mellencamp are legends in their own right, Bob Dylan carries a certain special quality. He has written some of the best protest music in our nation's history. He was on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, spoke out against Vietnam, and was open to discussing his fears of a possible nuclear war. He is without a doubt one of the most important, ground-breaking performers in our history.

For most people, Dylan's lyrics were always more important than the way he delivered them. Many people can't stomach the voice of Dylan. I think he is definately an acquired taste. I can remember hearing Bob Dylan songs when I was younger and thinking "how can anybody listen to this?" As years went by, I really did find myself paying more attention to what Dylan was saying in his music. As even more time went by, I found myself starting to enjoy the music.

These days, Bob Dylan doesn't sound like he used to. After over 40 years of singing, his voice is much deeper. He growls a bit. Yet somehow, the legacy and mystery of Dylan keeps people coming to see his concerts and buying his albums. I talked to a few younger attendees of the show who came because they simply wanted to see the legend in person before he retired. This past year in my classroom, I had a few students start to admit they had come to enjoy Dylan. One student, in fact, felt so compelled that he went out and bought Bob's new album. I don't expect everyone to enjoy Dylan. As I said earlier, he was an acquired taste for me. However, it is important that we look to the messages of the songs and how Dylan impacted his generation with those messages.

Here is a review from Tuesday night's show along with a few pictures I took:

Review: Legends night at McCoy


PAWTUCKET - It was an off-the-wall triple Tuesday night at McCoy Stadium, as Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp brought their summer ballpark tour to town.The biggest threat of the night, other than a broken hip onstage, was the ominous clouds that looked ready to burst at any moment. After a day of forecasts that contained phrases like "flood warning" and "build an ark," it was not an auspicious start. However, the rain held off for the most part, and the show went on for the near-capacity crowd that ranged in age from 17 to 70.
The mix of performers seemed to be a good one, as each was greeted enthusiastically by the audience and returned the favor by delivering the goods.
Nelson, in his mid-70s and with his graying red mane flowing freely, delivered a low-key, loose set that concentrated mostly on the hits, such as "Georgia on My Mind," "Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys," "Always on My Mind," and "On the Road Again." The Texas native did seem to want to sneak some religion in, though, tossing off a medley of "Will the Circle be Unbroken" and "I'll Fly Away." For good measure, there were also a couple of Hank tunes.
Lifting things a notch was Mellencamp, whose set rocked hard and included a handful of hits, as well as a few more mordant tunes from his recent albums. This band was loud: the kick drum was so punishing that it throbbed inside my chest. A few mid-set acoustic tunes helped ease that, and other than a few lost violin parts, the sound and mix were very good, especially for a ballpark. And, as if on cue, it started to mist a little during "Rain on the Scarecrow."The stage was set up in the centerfield stands, with a section cordoned off in front so thousands could stand and get a closer look. The rest sat in the stands, further away, but appreciating a little shelter from the partial roof.

As is de rigueur for outdoor concerts, both Willie and Mellencamp did a lot of pointing to the crowd and urged them to sing along and even take over the vocals of some of their biggest hits.
Dylan did no pointing. But he did seem to be in high spirits. Under a white, wide-brimmed hat and a blue suit, Dylan came out clutching a guitar. He played and sang the opener, "Cats in the Well," with a little Elvis leg shake, and later, at the keyboard, was bopping all night.The band was so good it not only blew your socks off, it took the hair off the top of your toes. They were lovingly gentle on tunes like "Po' Boy," but ripped it up on others, like "Highway 61" and "Jolene," the only track played from Dylan's excellent new CD "Together Through Time."
The quality of Dylan's singing is always an issue, and at the start of his set Tuesday all that came out was a gruff sort of growl. It got better, and by the time he hit "Masters of War," it became the Voice of Doom, spitting out lines like "And I'll stand o'er your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead." On "Summer Days" and "Ain't Talkin'" the "voice of a generation" was rough, but somehow right.
Anyone unsatisfied or taken by surprise by Dylan's lack of vocal acuity these days can't complain: Simply logging on to YouTube before buying tickets and putting in "Dylan live 2009," they would have heard what they were in for. It's a far cry from the mid-'70s, when he was one of the best singers in rock, but it's an instrument that's still serviceable in the way he uses it.
Neither the 70-year-old guy next to me who almost didn't recognize "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" thanks to the bluesy shuffle that briskly carried it along, nor the 'tweens who were dancing at the back of the crowd to a torrid "All Along the Watchtower" seemed to mind. Like everyone else, they came to see the man who wrote these songs and continues to pen sui generis gems even as dotage nears, and who changed history: An artist now trying to survive like the rest of us, still sounding his clarion croak for the world to hear.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Another Woodstock legend...

I had the chance to see Joe Cocker on Cape Cod this past week. One of the greatest voices in rock history, Cocker used the Woodstock stage in 1969 to really cement himself into the mainstream music world. His unique, powerful voice combined with odd stage movements made Cocker one of the standout performers at Woodstock. His version of "With a Little Help From My Friends" has become a true anthem of Woodstock and the 60s.
Although Joe is now 65 and has aged quite a bit physically since Woodstock, his voice is still very much intact. Below are some pictures of the show along with a review...

MUSIC REVIEW: At age 65, Cocker is still a rocker

The Patriot Ledger
Posted Jul 03, 2009 @ 02:02 PM

Any worries that Joe Cocker’s live show might be, like his recent albums, a bit ballad-heavy, were incredibly unfounded. Thursday night’s 90-minute barnburner was every bit as rocking and vibrant as his classic “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” live album from 39 years ago – except his current band is probably better.

Cocker delivered every notable song from “Mad Dogs” and a stunning cross-section of his career since then. At 65, he may be a few pounds heavier, and gulping water between songs instead of something stronger, but he’s every bit as mesmerizing a rocker as he ever was.

Cocker, dressed in a black suit and black shirt, made a fantastic entrance. As his eight-piece band unveiled the familiar funky lines to “Hitchcock Railway,” he strode down the aisle of the big tent, packed with one of its few sellout crowds this season. After a rollicking romp through that tune, Cocker shed his suit coat and careened through a vintage-quality “Feelin’ Alright.” There’s no other way to say it, but the audience of 2,300 went wild, and the gruff-voiced man from Sheffield had them right in his pocket the rest of the way. A good estimate would be half-a-dozen spontaneous standing ovations as the night wore on, as Cocker kept pushing the envelope on a truly bravura performance.

Cocker’s band deserves special note, as they really played the music with muscle and verve. Bassist Oneida James was a revelation with her visceral foundations all night long, and drummer Jack Bruno was equally potent. Guitarist Gene Black could be subtle or fiery as the occasion demanded, and pianist Nick Milo and saxophonist/percussionist Norbert Fimple displayed wonderful versatility. Hammond B-3 organist Mike Finnigan really hit the pocket, reprising some of those classic lines made famous by original Cocker band member Chris Stainton. And backup singers Nicki Tillman and Tyonee Reed were practically flawless in harmonizing with Cocker. James, Black, and Finnigan also provided harmony vocals, so Cocker had a real choir behind him.

After those first two bombshells from the past, Cocker unleashed a sizzling take on “The Letter.” It seemed like Cocker was trying to exhaust his fans early, and the next song only downshifted a little. “When the Night Comes,” a latter-day Cocker gem, rode a more mid-tempo groove, but the singer still managed to accentuate it with a joyful jump in the air at its finish.

That was the opening sprint, and then Cocker brought the sound way down for a quiet rendition of “Up Where We Belong,” the ballad from “An Officer and a Gentleman,” with Tillman deftly filling the role Jennifer Warnes did on the hit. A throbbing charge through “Shelter Me” got temperatures rising again, but then Cocker sang “You Are So Beautiful” with just Milo’s piano providing lovely accompaniment.

James’ funky bass was the crucible that turned the Beatles’ “Come Together” into something hot and steamy, and brand-new, and last night’s version was even better than the one on Cocker’s latest album, “Hymn for My Soul.” But then Cocker immediately topped that with “Now That the Magic Has Gone,” one of the best soul torch songs of the past couple decades. The song’s sweeping dynamics fit Cocker’s vocal power like a glove, and Black’s stiletto guitar solo was mind-bending.

During “You Can Leave Your Hat On” one besotted female fan strode onstage to embrace Cocker, who smiled at her, and never missed a beat as he continued to sing with her clinging on until security arrived.

Cocker’s homestretch would be daunting for a singer in their 20s, but he pulled it off with style and inhuman energy. “Unchain My Heart” was just a roaring march through the blues, while “With a Little Help from My Friends” simply drove the all-ages crowd bonkers.

“Delta Lady,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” and a pounding, B-3-focused “Cry Me a River” were all slammed out like it was 1969.

For his finale, Cocker did a scaled down, gospel-feeling take on John Fogerty’s “Long as I Can See The Light,” from the latest album.

Welsh singer/songwriter Paul Freeman opened with an appealing 30-minute set. Freeman’s own “Walking on a Tightrope” was lively rock, while his cover of the Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle with Care” had the whole tent clapping along gleefully.

Monday, June 22, 2009

40th Anniversary of Woodstock

Being the music and history lover that I am, I am excited about this summer being the 40th anniversary of what most people consider to be the pinnacle of the 1960s era of activism. The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival took place in Bethel, NY from August 15-17th, 1969. Appropriately dubbed "3 days of peace and music", Woodstock is widely regarded as the most famous musical gathering in our nation's history. The biggest artists of the time gathered in upstate New York in an event which, despite its logistical problems, was a peaceful gathering. During the 1960s, musicians really seemed to represent the voice and conscience of the counterculture. You can learn much about what was going on in the United States by reading and listening to the lyrics of artists such as Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell, and many others.

The signs of the 40th anniversary are everywhere this year. In fact, a student of mine brought me in a Woodstock "coozie" from Target. Apparently Target has a big display of Woodstock items and apparel to coincide with the anniversary. This summer also includes a re-release of the original documentary and album, a 40th anniversary concert in Bethel, as well as a full-length Hollywood feature film.

Over the course of this summer, I'll be attending several concerts (including the anniversary show) which feature some of the original Woodstock artists. I'll be updating the blog with pictures, reviews, and opinions on my travels over the next couple months. I feel pretty fortunate to be living during this time period where many of the artists who gave a voice and soundtrack to a generation are still alive and performing.

To begin, here are a few photos from the Crosby, Stills, and Nash concert I attended this past weekend along with a review from the Boston Herald:

CSN perform in perfect harmony
By Brett Milano / Music Review

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Early in his show on Sunday with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, David Crosby explained why he hadn’t told any political jokes yet.

“The problem is,” he said, “that with Bush out of office we’ve lost half of our best material.”

That’s one possible reason Crosby, Stills & Nash were feeling upbeat. In any case, the veteran trio is apparently feeling a second (or third or fourth) wind. Their harmonies were solid over two long sets, which hasn’t always been the case (after some health problems, Stills’ high register is back from the dead).

They seemed comfortable with each other, a change from recent years when Stills and Crosby/Nash seemed in different orbits.

And yes, there were still plenty of political songs, from Crosby’s Woodstock-era “Long Time Gone” to Nash’s 9/11-inspired “In Your Name.”

To some extent, a CSN show is always about the reassuringly familiar. Much of their 1969 debut album got played as always, and the night closed with the usual singalong on “Teach Your Children.”

But Sunday’s set had a few surprises. For one thing, it opened with a long stretch of acoustic material, which CSN usually save for the middle. There were catalog surprises, including a pair of Buffalo Springfield gems (“Bluebird” and “Rock & Roll Woman”) that Stills hasn’t performed regularly in decades. And there were a half-dozen songs from an all-covers album that the group plans to record with producer Rick Rubin later this year.

Cover songs may seem a bizarre move for a group that’s known largely for its songwriting. Some of Sunday’s choices - Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country,” The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” - have been done to death already. But these oldies served to return the group to its acoustic-trio roots, and fit in surprisingly well after the first album’s “Helplessly Hoping” and “You Don’t Have to Cry.”

The group’s enthusiasm for these cover songs seemed high (Crosby shouted “Surprise!” after every one) and the best-performed of them all, the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band,” was also the best-received song of the night. With apologies to the current Dead, it was nice to hear it done by a group that can actually sing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thoughts on Service Learning for 2009

As some of you may know, I have been on a committee over the past couple of years to investigate the future of service-learning at Norton High School. The main idea of service-learning is that you integrate some type of service into the classroom learning process. The large project that I have worked on over the past 2 years has been the historical tour of Norton for the 3rd grade. My students research and learn about their local history. They then take their knowledge to the streets of Norton and guide the elementary school students around town. Thats have your learning and your service. I really think this is a great idea.

Here are links to some local newspapers who have covered our activities this year...

The million dollar question in regards to service-learning is how to we officially integrate it into Norton High? Should there be a requirement for all students? Should all teachers have to complete a service-learning project over the course of the year? Should we simply just encourage it and count the hours towards the community service requirement?

I truly believe in the concept of service-learning. I think it can be one of the most rewarding high school experiences. If you ask any of my students who have done it over the past 2 years, I think they will certainly agree.

Any suggestions or comments? How do we bring about more service-learning?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Service Learning - Tour of Norton

Here are some photos from the recent service-learning project we completed with the L.G. Nourse School. I had 6 students complete the project with approximately 60 3rd graders from the Nourse. Thanks to the entire staff over at L.G. for making the trip a success. (and thanks to mother nature for the great weather we had!)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Freedom Trail

Its that time of year already! As I stated earlier, I really think this school year has gone by quickly. With the end of the year comes one of my favorite trips to the Freedom Trail in Boston. I still remember walking the trail when I was a high school student. It really is neat to have so much local history within driving distance. Being one of the oldest cities in America means that Boston is loaded with historical places. I think everyone should walk the Freedom Trail at least once to appreciate the many heroes which helped establish our nation.

Our tour this year went really well. Despite cloudy skies, the rain held off for us. The tour guides were enthusiastic and presented many interesting facts. I learn something new every year. Thanks to Mrs. Young and Ms. Mays for coming along to help out.

Here are some photos from our day...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Still here...

I am still here. I thought I was long overdue for a has been nearly 2 months since my last. For those who have me as a teacher, you know I am enrolled in a graduate program this year. I am currently in the toughest stretch right now so my free time is endangered for the moment.

But, I did want to check in with a thought. Have you noticed that the older you get, the faster time moves? I thought this week about how we are just a few weeks away from the start of term 4. Yes...I said TERM 4! This year has really been moving quickly...and I feel like the older I get, the quicker time flies.

Anybody have a similar experience to share regarding the inevitable passage of time? Can you believe how quickly the school year is passing...or is it just me??

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I've never really been that consistent with making New Year's resolutions. Some years I have made one, other years I haven't. However, this year I do have one.

One item on my list is to be better about exercising. My students know that I'm going through a graduate program this year. As a result, my free time has been even more limited than usual. That has resulted in less time for exercise. I love to bike and run. Those activities have taken a hit in the past 5 months. One resolution is to get back on track with that. I feel so much better (both physically and mentally) when I get in some physical activity. I need to be sure to get some type of exercise 4-5 times a week. That may even mean getting out of bed earlier in the morning.

Do you have a resolution this year?