Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ben Folds vs. the Music Snob

I saw Ben Folds with the Houston Symphony a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to write about it until now.

It was awesome and aggravating. Ben Folds is hands-down one of the most talented AND entertaining artists out there right now. There are times when I listen to some of his songs that I feel more Joyful and just downright worshipful than just about any great Smitty moment that I have ever had. And Ben isn't even a Christian. If you find that strange just know that every time you sing "All Creatures of our God and King" know that Ralph Vaughan Williams, a professing Atheist, wrote the melody to that.

Back to the Point.

The guy had the entire crowd singing harmony as an integral part of the songs. Not just harmony but counterpoint. Plus, if I am not mistaken I think he arranged all the orchestral parts himself. Now, I really wish I could have gotten my hands on some of those scores because I think that some of them just sounded muddy and with a little help from some good-ole-fashioned orchestration 101 it could have rocked a little harder in a few parts. Of course that might have been the duller-than-dudu-on-a-stick conductor's fault. I'm SURE he gave it his all in the rehearsals. Besides a little muddiness in the timbres, it was downright impressive. Ben Folds played sang like a free man and the people there were filled to the brim with light by the end.

It was the collision of the two worlds that built a home for my frustration. Well, not a home, more like a fort. You know the ones you used to make in your living room with blankets and...

Anywho, the Orchestra was just stuck up. It really pissed me off. I can't STAND that attitude. The concert-mistress (first violinist, closest to the piano and conductor) was unfortunately juxtaposed to the animated and crazy Ben Folds most of the night on the screen. Her expression resembled a constipated grandmaw who's dog fluffy had just been taken from her because she was so constipated that she couldn't get off the pot to feed the dog anymore. Yeah, something like that.

I just wanted to jump down there and say,

"Excuse me, do you love music? THEN ACT LIKE IT. Just because you are not knee deep in the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Lenny Bernstein winking approvingly at you from the podium as you throw your whole body into glorious scales and arpeggios, ooo-ing and awwww-ing all the rich old farts the Houston Symphony Guild can keep out of the grave, doesn't mean that you can't enjoy yourself while playing with a friggin talented musician in a different genre, ESPECIALLY one who packs out YOUR symphony house which in turn fills YOUR paycheck with extra zeros. So, if you don't want to be here and you can't get the cobb out of your stuck-up arse then get the flippidy-flap of my flippidy-flap stage."

They were thankless. Granted, at one point he did throw his bench at the 120,000-dollar piano, but hey, it was just the cushiony part of the bench and it just bounced off the keys. If it was really a throw, then it was a careful and calculated throw. I've seen WAAAY more damage done in a Bartok piano concerto performance.

He topped it all off by telling his adoring, rowdy fans that they should all make a habit of seeing the symphony play and if they don't it might go away and leave a HUGE void in our society. Pretty cool.

The only other thing that aggravated me more that night was that I missed the first few songs, one of which was "We're Sill Fighting" a song about him and his son. We missed it because the elevator going to the third floor took, no lie, 4 1/2 minutes to get to the top. I could have crawled, backwards, drunk, blind, and paralyzed from the dormant booger in my left nostril down, to the third floor faster. I told the elevator attendant that she could really get some good naptime in between floors if she got sleepy. She didn't find that funny. She was old, and sitting down. I think she had had her fill of smart-mouth whippersnappers for the night.

All in all it was an awesome night, and THE greatest b-day present. I needed that concert.


Anonymous said...

That sounds amazing. Ben Folds is near the top of my list of favorites, but I have yet to see him live.

Seth Ward said...

It was really cool. He totally jammed. Doesn't he live in Nashville?

Stephen said...

Yes, he lives in Nashville and owns a studio down on Music Row.

The Nashville Chamber Orchestra, whose motto is "Music Without Boundaries", had their Annual Thanksgiving concert Friday and Saturday at the new symphony hall here. It was completely sold out both nights. They played 7 songs with a Gospel choir, 2 with a Pipe and Drums Corp, and then about 7 or 8 songs each with Wynonna and Donna Summer. It was a great concert.

Seth Ward said...

sheesh. What a concert that must have been.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I have heard rumors that he lives in a small condo/apartment in nashville somewhere. I think him and I should hang out. don't you?

Seth Ward said...

They had this meet and greet thing after the concert that cost 60 bucks. It was too expensive for me to be his friend. Maybe you could get a discount or something.

Shaun Groves said...

I know his next door neighbor. She about peed herself she said when he rang the doorbell one day and asked to borrow the ladder.

Correction: Grew up in the Church, so who knows where He stands spiritually. He's been exposed for sure. And he knows enough about Christianity to lampoon it pretty accurately at times.

Seth, my guess would be that his long time collaborator John Painter (of Flemming and John) had a hand in those arrangements. I dog his work, personally...enough to have him work on Sad Song from my White Flag record...not orchestral arranging but his doo-dads and guitars.

There was a point on that record when we couldn't find a cheap piano room (I was almost out of budget) to record in. A friend who knows John Painter called him up to ask if he knew of any. He offered Ben' Ben's piano. HUh? WHAT?? (I peed myself at this point).

Didn't work out. Ben came back from vacation and cancelled my reservation so he could work a little in there. CRAP! So close.


Seth Ward said...

Dang. Ben's piano. So close.

We were sitting the second balcony so the sound might have been muddied by the time it got up there. It was mostly stuff that the rock band took care of in the original recordings that aggrivated me. I know what cellos and violins can do from yelling it out of stuffy players and what doublings can really make certain "rockish" things sort of bling. I just kept wanting a more "Rock" sound coming out of the instruments which is really mostly attack and clarity. There was a whole lot of good stuff as well in my opinion.

Also, Ben really had to drag the orchestra along quite a bit. Again- the conductor.

All of this is only because I am a bit of an orchestrating nerdola.

I really liked what Painter did on Sad Song.

Allison said...

Me again.

Ben's not a secular Christian. And I'm sure Jesusland gives you why he's not.

There's actually this huge thing out there about him being Jewish. But that's not true either. His brother married a Jewish woman... so half of his family's Jewish. (That and he does a great rendition of Hava Nagilia.) So an article came out a couple months back about how Ben's not a denominational Christian essentially. He doesn't really feel like claiming one.

You can tell he's got some Christian in him just talking to him.

Anyway. As for Nashville, that person should have gotten on the Folds mailing list because there was an exclusive Nashville show in Ben's studio in October that I flew in there for....

And normally you don't have to pay to meet Ben, besides your ticket price. I mean, I've met him seven times now.

Seth Ward said...

Very cool. You could almost say that Ben represents the collective conscience of about 90 percent of college Christians and younger today.

I like it that it isn't bitchy at the same time. It is just real. I don't get off on music that is always critical. I think that gets boring. blah blah blah blah.

Just say something and let me figure out the rest.

Ya know?