Monday, May 28, 2007

'Cause I love my guitar*

Live music just does it for me. The only thing better than seeing one of your favorite acts playing an all-stops-out show is seeing one of your favorite acts playing an all-stops-out show with great friends. I've made some of my most favorite memories in just such circumstances and got a chance to wax nostalgic about a few of them this past weekend with a friend I hardly see anymore. During this great conversation we were having, he and I both agreed that being surprised by an unknown opening act or seeing an impromptu performance can be just as exhilerating and gratifying (and sometimes moreso) as the big anticipated concert. Case in point. One of the best guitarists I've ever heard was a busker on the corner of North Michigan Ave and Monroe in Chicago. I stood in the cold for 20 minutes just to hear him play and he never missed a beat, despite the bitter March wind that was whipping off the Lake that afternoon.

This line of thought reminded me of a website I stumbled onto a few weeks ago -- a French blog called La Blogothèque that is dedicated to capturing what they call "Takeaway Shows" to film and releasing them on the web. Essentially they contact bands/musicians who are touring through Paris, and then follow them around the city as they perform a few songs for whomever they happen across. There are some really great bands that have been a part of this little phenomenon (The Arcade Fire entry is both chaotic and fascinating; Andrew Bird's is understated and charming; Sufjan Stevens' is quirky and dizzying.), but far and away, my favorite is The Shins.

Click below for 23 minutes of truly great music. It's worth it to go back to read the text at the link above, as well.

I wonder if the French folks who heard The Shins playing that day had any idea what they were witnessing?

This video captures why I chose to learn to play the guitar over the piano. The portability, as well as the range and versatility of the instrument make it ideal for the kind of music I like to make. I'm reminded of what I love about guitar, even this morning when the fingers of my left hand are raw from too much playing yesterday.

For me, with summer always comes the thought of lightening up and eating lovely fresh produce from the Farmer's Market and friends' gardens. This year, I've jumped headlong into the adventure of caring for a wee garden of my own -- a risky prospect given that I have had, in the past, a terrifically black thumb. No matter! We're going with "the triumph of hope over experience" perspective here. And to that end, I've turned my back deck into what is at the moment a lush and verdant container garden, with overflowing pots of basil, oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary and such. A few tomato plants and some jalepenos have made their way into the mix, as well as some flowers and coleus. It's really lovely. I find myself feeling oddly excited about harvesting my own tomatoes in the coming months, if I can manage to keep them alive in the interim.

So in anticipation of my future tomato bounty and upon requests for it, I'm going to share my favorite summer pasta recipe here. It's quick, easy and light (only 335 cals and 9.8 g of fat per serving) but best, tastes divine and is improved even more by a nice salad, a glass of crisp wine and good company, shared al fresco.

Greek Spaghetti with tomatoes and feta

2 teaspoons olive oil
Small bunch (1/8 c) fresh oregano, chopped roughly
Small bunch (1/8 c) fresh basil, chiffonaded
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 c. diced fresh tomatoes
1/2 c. sliced green onion
1/4 c. choppped fresh parsley, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 c. hot cooked thin spaghetti (cooked in lightly salted water)
1 c. (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese, divided
Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oregano, basil and garlic; sauté 30 seconds (don't let this go too long else you'll scorch the garlic and it will taste bitter). Add tomato, onion, 2 tablespoons parsley, and juice. Cook 2 minutes or until heated.

Combine tomato mixture, spaghetti and 3/4 c. cheese; toss gently. Top with remaining cheese and parsley and sprinkle with pepper.

Yield: 4 servings (Serving size: 1 1/4 c.)


I'd like to see you out one night
Dressed up like a race car driver
You'd push the engine all the way
Then I know I'd love you
But if I see you out somewhere
You might think that I don't care
'Cause I love my guitar
I love my guitar
We always stay up late at night
Up in my bedroom
Sometimes we get carried away
Banging the wall, banging the floor
Burning both ends of the midnight oil

-- Jump, Little Children "My Guitar" (Magazine)

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