First Night Monterey’s 2010 strong music options ramp up an already incomparable local tradition.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
It’s a quarter-to-three on Dec. 31 and you, your sweetie, and your three kids are at Macy’s Furniture at Del Monte Center, waiting for a shuttle bus. Your youngest son, 5, is dashing at nearby pigeons. Your 10-year-old son wants to go to GameStop. Your daughter, 13, says it’s imperative she pop into Banana Republic.
But you remind them to pin on their buttons, as the shuttle bus rolls up, and promise that they will really enjoy First Night Monterey. That’s the conclusion you came to a couple of weeks ago when you ran into Ellen Martin, executive director of First Night Monterey.
“First Night is a culmination of our [year-long] outreach programs,” she had said, referring to Next Peace, Mi Vida, Art Works and art camp at Archer Park.
She said the nine-hour event would be, as always, family-friendly and alcohol-free.
“First Night was started in Boston 30-plus years ago,” she said. They’re everywhere now. This will be [Monterey’s] 18th celebration.
She told you about the music component, which sounded particularly strong this year, including a worldly ethnic music line-up at Golden State Theatre via Jayson Fann of Spirit Garden. That sealed it. I’m buying admission buttons, you said, and we are going.
“We’re here,” your sweetie says. The Monterey transit plaza. That was fast.
You all exit the bus. The weather is TBD, but First Night will proceed regardless as most venues are indoors. You hold your youngest boy’s hand and lead the way to city hall’s Colton Lawn. You hear the sage voice of former Monterey Mayor Dan Albert reverberating through speakers as he emcees the opening ceremony. Then you remember something.
“Let’s go inside the Monterey Museum of Art,” you say. It’s the last opportunity to buy a raffle ticket for their Miniatures Show raffle. Inside, the Monterey Bay Belles barbershop group fills the museum with swooping a cappella song. Minutes later you emerge and hear drums. Lots of them. It’s the taiko drummers of Shinsho Mugen Daiko, banging out their choreographed polyrhythms. It reminds you of the drum circle at Burning Man.
Kids are getting their faces painted. Your littlest wants his done in the guise of a robot tiger. There are period actors in Middle Ages garb roaming around from the Society for Creative Anachronism. You thought the word was “anarchism.”
“Let’s roll,” your older son says. There is consensus. Music from multiple venues and art from art collective Salinas 411 (including Artistas Unidos) accompany your stroll down Alvarado. The First Night venues are denoted with signs. A map you can pick up at kiosks at Pacific, Alvarado or the Conference Center will help orient the way.
Your daughter wants to see the Chinese Lion Dancers at Alvarado Galleria. You do too, but tell her that they – and many others – will perform multiple times. First, you and your sweetie want to relax to the soothing strains of the MPC String Ensemble at the Center for Spiritual Living and the Carmel Strings at the Conference Center’s Colton Room – a little calm before the storm.
Your eldest two do fine through the concerts, but the youngest squirms for more stimuli. That comes in the form of the 5:30pm twilight parade. It starts at Portola Plaza and wends up Alvarado, a teaming flow of dancers and musicians, magicians and puppets. It’s like the Yellow Submarine come to life.
You all go to see local Senegalese drummer Abdoulaye Diallo on the Wells Fargo stage, drumming up a frenetic, primal sound.
Monterey Sports Center occupies a spot at Alvarado and Franklin. Your older son asks if they offer parkour classes. They don’t. He loses interest and dashes off, tripping and falling. He gets up and heads for one of the Rock Star game consoles brought in by Best Buy. He slings the “guitar” over his shoulder and rocks out to Green Day, which you actually like.
“They remind me of Husker Du,” you tell him. “And I liked Green Day’s 1994 album.”
“They’re that old?” he says casually.
The night air is tinged with a refreshing chill. And the kids are ready for dinner. After some minutes arguing over the various options in front of Rabobank, where the Wharf Rats are conjuring Led Zepplin, you sample from Chinese, Greek and Mexican vendors.
Dinner down, you decide to split up. While your sweetie takes the boys to Peter Meuses’ Mobile Recording Studio truck to record an impromptu song, you and your daughter head back to the Conference Center to catch the Black Irish Band. They don’t disappoint, doing swirling, folksy songs that straddle Celtic melodic tradition and American West rugged individualism. Then your daughter grabs your hand to race over to Rabobank to catch MC Lars’ set of cerebral raps and thumping beats.
You all reconvene outside of Golden State Theatre, the little one, tiger-faced, is buoyed from the novelty of being out late. There, Jayson Fann has programmed a line-up of 100 musicians and dancers derived from his Big Sur Spirit Garden Global Dance Initiative.
Hey! There’s Jayson now, carrying equipment inside. He looks busy, but stops to chat anyway.
“We’ve got DiFranco dancing and the Sambahemians playing. There are three African [performers],” he says, his arms straining under a big amp. “Danjuma does African high-life and Afrobeat. He’s really a legend. The finale, Iyeoka Okoawo is an amazing performer. She was a second place World Poetry Slam finalist. She’s a TED fellow. Has amazing videos. She’s about to blow up.”
“Oh, I know her,” says your daughter. “Her ‘The Yellow Brick Road Song’ is an Outkast/Cee-Lo-sounding funk/rap rave-up. And ‘This Time Around’ opens like a faerie symphony, then drops into a Sade/Everything But the Girl torch song. We can’t miss this.”
“My Nigerian parents used to listen to Felah Kuti and classical music,” says a sinewy voice. It’s her. Iyeoka. She’s beautiful. “I listened to hip-hop and gospel, and picked up the violin. Our tribe is Ishan and we have some beautiful songs that come from our village. We’ll be performing the first seven tracks from [the album] Say Yes. Danjuma’s band is backing me up.”
Say no more, Iyeoka, you say, mispronouncing her name. You go inside the sumptuous venue. This is how you want to end 2010, you tell your sweetie. Besides, your feet are tired. Behind you, you hear a crash. Jayson curses.
You realize you didn’t see the flamboyant Chinese Lion Dancers, salsa masters Mambo Tropical (another finale act), the Resolution Sculpture Board Game or country songstress Heather Waters. The Multiple Stages Dilemma, you call it. It’s endemic at Carmel Bach Festival and Outside Lands. Oh well. You’ll just have to wait until First Night Monterey 2011.