Singing Truth to Power | Peter Yarrow & Noel Paul Stookey @ TOCAP

Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey (TO Civic Arts Plaza)If you haven’t figured it out by now, we don’t only go to theatre. We go to concerts — folk, jazz, classical, eclectic. But my first musical taste — the first artists that I truly said were my favorite — were Peter, Paul, and Mary (FB). I still have fond memories of going to see them at the Hollywood Bowl in the 1980s and the Universal Amphetheatre in the 1990s. We last saw them in Los Angeles shortly before Mary got sick, in the early 2000s. After Mary’s passing, we saw them mostly as solos: a solo concert by Peter at UJ (AJU) back in 2009, and Noel Paul’s regular appearances at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (first in 2011, and most recently in 2015). Our understanding of the folk community has broadened to all the artists from the era that begat PP&M, and we’ve seen and grown to understand the traditions and the music better. But at the heart of it all — the seed that started it — was Peter, Paul, and Mary.

So when I saw that this year’s appearance of Noel Paul Stookey (FB) in Southern California was a much larger concert that he typically does, and it was together with Peter Yarrow (FB), I naturally had to get tickets — without even waiting for Goldstar. It is for a group such as this and artists such as this that we braved the storm that some groups named “Lucifer” to get out to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza (FB) [where we normally go for Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB)] for the first concert in a tour of Peter and Paul. I was looking forward to seeing Noel Paul again, possibly seeing if Peter had actually released a new album, and getting some good commentary on the election.

I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed. The show, on the whole, was wonderful. The music was something that wrapped you in a warm embrace; the PP&M audience is a family that loves each other through shared music and shared values. There were just a few off notes, but on the whole it was worth braving the storm.

Before I go further, here’s the all important song list. Unless indicated by links, all songs are either from PP&M albums or Paul’s solo albums; I have links for some new ones.

Act I:

  1. Weave Me The Sunshine
  2. Inch by Inch (The Garden Song)
  3. Puff the Magic Dragon
  4. Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)
  5. Medley:  This Little Light of Mine ⫽ Down By The Riverside ⫽ I Woke Up This Mornin’ With My Mind Set On Freedom ⫽ Oh, Freedom
  6. Don’t Laugh at Me
  7. Where Have All The Flowers Gone?
  8. Have You Been to Jail for Justice?
  9. Light One Candle

Act II:

  1. America the Beautiful (Noel Paul)
  2. Impeachable (Noel Paul)
  3. One and Many (Noel Paul)
  4. The Children Are Listening (Peter)
  5. Lift Us Up (Peter)
  6. The Kid
  7. Leaving on a Jet Plane
  8. If I Had a Hammer
  9. Blowin’ in the Wind
  10. This Land is Your Land
  11. Goodnight Irene

Now, some impressions of the show:

  • It pains me to say it, but I think Peter is starting to lose it at little. The passion is still there 120%. The heart and soul and spirit are strong. The voice is just slightly diminished. However, the recall is a bit worse than when we last saw him in 2009. There were points where he had trouble with lyrics, and there was much more verbal hesitation in his patter. It is an unfortunately common situation as we get older; still, it is a bit of sadness to see.
  • Tom Paxton likes to say that it is OK to look back, as long as you don’t stare. There were times during this concert that the nostalgic aspects overwhelmed. Perhaps I’ve gotten used to Tom’s concerts and Noel Paul’s concerts where there is always new material. All the joint material was older material; one got the feeling that they were playing for the nostalgia (and the audience was there for that). This got better in the solo songs in the second act that touched on more topical material.
  • As both noted from the stage, Mary’s voice was there even though the body wasn’t. For me, it was loudest during “Have You Been to Jail for Justice?”, but I’m sure others heard them in her head at various points. It is a voice that is missed, especially with our current administration. You know Mary would be out there being in 45’s face.
  • One could easily see how each artist came to their political stridency from different places. Peter is clearly from the Jewish Wobbly tradition. Noel Paul comes from the true Christian side: love for one’s fellow man, doing right for those who are unable to speak for themselves. I’m not Christian, but Noel’s Christian passion is “walking the walk”, and is what I view as admirable Christianity. The important message is that we can all come with our passion to improve the world from different places — the important thing is to have and nurture that passion, and to do something based on that passion, even if it is just sitting and singing to power.
  • The most powerful portion of the show was the top of Act II: the solo sections. It made the clear impression that our children are learning from what is going on in Washington that bullying and other forms of idiocy are acceptable. We need to combine together as multiple candles creating a large flame to speak to power — to say that this is not OK, that this is not America. It is our responsibility to speak up, to fight unjust leaders and those that abuse power. This is why folk music is still relevant today.
  • Of course, it was great to hear Noel Paul do his extra verses of America The Beautiful. It was even nicer to hear the rarely done 4th verse of This Land is Your Land.
  • The PP&M audience is definitely getting older. Getting in and out of the parking lot was dealing with a bunch of moss-backed old-farts. We normally don’t have that traffic backup at the Kavli when we go to Cabrillo shows.

All in all, however, it was a great show. I look forward to the next time Noel Paul is in town, and to Tom Paxton’s upcoming show at McCabes.

 🎸 🎸 🎸

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Sunday brings the in-theatre broadcast of the Broadway musical Allegiance – A New Musical (recorded on Broadway) at the AMC Promenade. The last weekend in February brings Finding Neverland at the Hollywood Pantages (FB). March quiets down a bit — at least as currently scheduled — with the MRJ Man of the Year dinner,  Fun Home at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) at the beginning of the month, Martha, a one-woman play on the life of Martha Graham (a good preparation for our May VPAC show of her dance group), at the Whitefire Theatre (FB) in the middle, and An American in Paris at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) at the end of the month. April starts with Cats Paw at Actors Co-op (FB) and a concert with Tom Paxton and the DonJuans at McCabes Guitar Shop (FB) (shifting Cats Paws to an afternoon matinee that day). The next day brings the Colburn Orchestra at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The next weekend is currently open (and will likely stay that way). Mid-April brings Doc Severinsen and his Big Band at Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) on April 13, followed by Animaniacs Live at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) over the weekend. That will be followed on the penultimate weekend of April with Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.

As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.

P.S.: Mostly so I can find it later, here’s my predictions of what will go on tour and where they will end up. The Hollywood Pantages (FB) announced their 2017-2018 season (which was the rest of 2018, after Hamilton took over the last 5 months of 2017) on February 7th. You can find my reaction to it here. Now we just need to see what the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) will do.



A New Years Stew: Buildings, Books, and Booms; Music, Medicine, and Mattel

Observation StewIt’s the first weekend of the new year, and as is traditional, it’s time to clear out the accumulated news chum from the week — the chum that couldn’t be used to create a coherent themed chum post of 3 or more articles. So let’s see what is in this week’s stew:

  • Saved! The first news chum item was to be about where I live now, but that became its own article. So let’s talk about where I used to live: North Hills.  At the corner of Devonshire and Sepulveda is a shopping center we used to frequent (especially when Hughes was still there). Today, the Hughes Ralphs has closed, and so has Mission Hills Bowl, and rumors are circulating about redevelopment of the center. This week, some good news came out of this: the bulk of the center appears to be saved, and the Mission Hills Bowl building will remain.  The Googie designed Bowling Alley by LA architect Martin Stern Jr. will be saved as part of a new commercial development that will include a mix of retail, restaurants, medical office, gym, warehouse, and bank uses spread over one and two story buildings.
  • Booking It. When Borders and Barnes and Noble took off, the prediction was that they would kill the small bookstore. They almost did, but the bookstores hung on. Now Borders is gone, and B&N is on the ropes, being killed by Amazon. What is still surviving? The small independent used bookstore. In fact, used bookstores are making a comeback. The reason isn’t surprising, when you think about it. It costs more to ship used books than to just sell them locally. Here’s the quote that BoingBoing used from the original article: “Used bookstores, with their quintessential quirkiness, eclectic inventory and cheap prices, find themselves in the catbird seat as the pendulum eases back toward print. In many cities, that’s a de facto position: They’re the only book outlets left… And it’s a business with good economics. Used bookstores can beat Amazon and other online booksellers on price, offering shoppers both a browsing experience and a money-saving one. Also, profit margins on used books are better than new ones — so good that many indies are adding used sections.”
  • Travelling? Good News and Bad News. Traveling in the new year? You need to watch out if you live in Alaska, California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington, Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, Minnesota or American Samoa. Your state is bumping into (or has gone past) the RealID deadline, and your state IDs may not be acceptable to TSA or the DOD. About the only good news here is that California got granted an exemption. I have no idea what this means: in particular, it could mean that everyone in the state needs to be issued a new ID. Ouch!
  • New Album from Paul Stookey. As you have likely figured out, I love folk music… and my first love was Peter, Paul, and Mary. Thank’s to Noel Paul’s Facebook account, I just learned that Noel Paul Stookey issued a new album in September 2015. I’ve already grabbed my copy, it is it like one of his recent concerts (i.e., very good).
  • Going Boom. Here’s a fun article: The history of the Toy Chemistry Set. What started out as a kit for the academic world became something to encourage men to become scientists (why would women care about chemistry), and then got neutered as society became worried about safety and homemade bombs.
  • More Problems from Inflammation. The inflamatory response is turning out to be the culprit is more and more problems. We’ve seen articles in the past linking it to arthritis and migraines. Here’s an article showing the link between depression and inflammation. Quite an interesting read, and it shows why we might not need to monkey with brain chemicals to address depression.
  • Deaths of Note. We’ve had a number of notable deaths at the end of the year, such as Wayne Rodgers and Natalie Cole. Here’s one you may have missed: Ruby Cavanaugh, namesake of Ruby’s Diners.
  • Sign of the Times? Mattel, owners of the American Girl line of dolls, has introduced a diabetic kit for their dolls, allowing girls with diabetes to have a doll that is just like them. While I applaud the production of the kit, what does it say about the prevalence of diabetes in our society that this needs to be a thing?



Such a Simple Song

Noel Paul Stookeyuserpic=folk-artistsAs I just wrote, this has been a crazy week, and next week doesn’t look much better. Luckily, I had a great stress relief valve last night: a concert at McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. Last night’s artist was Noel Paul Stookey, who is perhaps best known as the “Paul” in “Peter, Paul and Mary”.

Although I’ve been a fan of PP&M since I was in my teen, I’ve tended to favor Peter Yarrow over the other performers. But the last time I saw Peter solo (at AJU), his performance was rambling and wandering. I also discovered that Noel Paul was giving concerts at McCabes. We went last year, and we just loved the show, the music, the humor, and the man. So when Noel Paul showed on the schedule, I just went and ordered tickets.

Last night was a great show. Many of the songs were from Paul’s new album, “One and Many“, but there were a few old favorites (and lots of great stories). Here’s the playlist:

Act I Act II
Such a Simple Song
Music from the Heart
The Love of It All
Start a Revolution
One and Many
Cue the Moon
The Wedding Song
April Fool
Love Rules!
Virtual Party
Nukes are Nuts (new)
The Connection
Our Lives are Connected
Cabin Fever Waltz
Jean Claude
Una Famila de Corazon (new/instrumental)
American the Beautiful
This Land is Your Land/In These Times
If I Had a Hammer

In all, it was just a great show. Of course, I added an album to the iPod. Once of these days, I’ll get all my new music digested…

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  Today brings the Southern California Renaissance Faire. May brings “The Lion in Winter” at The Colony Theatre (FB), and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at REP East (FB), as well as “Hairspray” at Nobel Middle School. I may also be scheduling “Porgy and Bess” at the Ahmanson. June is mostly open pending scheduling of an MRJ meeting, but I will try to fit in as much of the Hollywood Fringe Festival as I can. July will be busy: “Ghost” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/5, “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at REP East (FB) the weekend of 7/12, “Once” at the Pantages (FB) on 7/19, “Bye Bye Birdie” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on 7/26, and “Family Planning” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on 8/2. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.


Peter, Solo

This evening, we went to an event at the American Jewish University: An Evening with Peter Yarrow (while we were at this evening, our daughter was seeing TMBG at UCLA). This was a very different event: family oriented, and much less a concert as a dialogue. This was part of AJU’s Festival of Jewish Books.

As I said before, this wasn’t a PP&M concert (even if M was still alive). It was Peter reaching out and talking to the children; it was Peter relating what happened at Mary’s memorial service; and most importantly, it was Peter talking about his cause, Operation Respect, built around the song “Don’t Laugh at Me”. His premise (and it is a valid one) is that if we can teach children to not tease and taunt and bully and hate each other, perhaps we can raise adults that don’t do the same. He has built a whole curriculum around this theory, and it is being taught in school around the world, as well as in concerts like this (any fee he received went directly to this program). In particular, he talked about his efforts to have the program in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Given the nature of the concert, the songs were for the children, ranging from The Fox, Day is Done, Puff, and other songs in his new songbooks. Every song was sung along by the audience. It was just a nice, gentle evening.


Musings on a Celebrity Death

As I reported yesterday, Mary Travers has died. Now, normally celebrity deaths don’t phase me. Michael Jackson. Puhleeze. But Mary Travers. That has, and she wasn’t even my favorite of the trio (I’m a Peter Yarrow fan).

My parents weren’t PP&M folks. In fact, I don’t recall them playing much music at home (it wasn’t until I was older that my dad got into Jolson, although he always had cast albums and Sinatra… he just didn’t play them). My brother, however, was into playing guitar (this was the 1960s), and he was into PP&M. As for me, I don’t have much memory of what music I was into during my elementary years. Personal music wasn’t as vital to elementary school kids in the early 1960s: full-on stereos were expensive, teen things, and your parents had the expensive hi-fis. Kids? We had AM radios, so I guess I was just listening to 93KHJ.

After my brother died in 1970, I inherited his records and stereo. It was then I discovered his PP&M collection, and they rapidly grew to be my favorites. All through Jr. High and High School, if you asked who my favorite band was, it was Peter, Paul, and Mary. While others got into disco, I was into folk music. Perhaps this is why I was never a dancer in high school. You can’t really dance to Peter, Paul and Mary. After their breakup, I focused on Peter Yarrow and collected his solo albums.

In college, I was still a PP&M fan, although gravitating to more original cast albums and other folk music. After PP&M got back together, I remember getting their new albums. I went to PP&M concerts whenever I could. I remember going with my girlfriend of the time to a PP&M concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I remember seeing PP&M with my wife at the Universal Amphitheatre and the Greek Theatre. I remember Noel Paul singing “Don’t Do ‘Da Dope”. I remember Mary talking about her Republican Son-In-Law, and how she would just agitate him. I remember Peter singing “Puff the Magic Dragon”, and Mary emphasizing “Blowin in the Wind”.

As Mary got sick, their concerts got less and less. I think they were last out in Los Angeles in 2006, but as the concert was in Orange County, we couldn’t make it. They were last in LA proper in 2003 or 2004. We saw folks like Tom Paxton more frequently, and learned about different avenues in folks (as well as getting into Swing via BBVD). But PP&M were always special.

So Mary’s death has taken away one piece of my childhood. Peter and Noel Paul will likely resume touring, probably with some guest artists (as they did with Tom Paxton). The songs will be familiar, but one voice will be missing. I hope Mary’s spirit lives on, and that we will always remember that insatiable urging for justice and doing the right thing for all people that PP&M sang about, even for the people that don’t have the voice to always be heard. In Mary’s memory, I listened to all PP&M and Mary’s Solo albums (I have 3 of 5) all day.


Gone To Flowers, Ev’ry One

Sigh. Another death of a childhood icon. Mary Travers has died at the age of 72, of cancer.

Since I was very young, I’ve been a Peter, Paul, and Mary fan. Going back to the 1960s. I followed them through the separation years (especially Peter Yarrow), and have all their albums. Mary came down with cancer a few years ago, and the touring became infrequent. They stopped touring as a trio this year. Recently, according to Tom Paxton’s site, Tom did a concert in DC with Peter and Noel Paul. As you know, I just was at a Tom Paxton concern on Sunday night.

A great singing voice has gone silent, and a trio is no more. My condolences to Peter, Noel Paul, their families (and Mary’s family), and all in the folk world.

LA Times: Remembrance, Obituary
NY Times: Obituary
Rolling Stone: Obituary


Mary Travers is in Remission / Musings on Folk Music

AP is reporting that Mary Travers‘ leukemia is in remission after a April bone marrow transplant (although the picture in that article is horrible). As a result of this improvement, Peter, Paul, and Mary will be doing a holiday concert Dec. 9 in Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall. The recovery has been documented on the PP&M Website, and they have started actually scheduling a spring tour (although, alas, no dates yet in Southern California).

I’m pleased to see this news about Mary. It’s hard to see the musical groups you enjoyed in your youth getting older. The members of PP&M are in their late 60s and 70s. I’m sure Tom Paxton (who also has no Southern California shows scheduled) is similarly aged. Mick Jagger gets Modern Maturity.

Perhaps this is why I’m more into Broadway of late. It seems more timeless.


Tired of the Rain/Anti-Garden Song

OK. I’m tired of this rain. It looks like once things calm down, I’m going to have to go out and clean the gutters once again. I’m containually checking the ceiling to see if the leak has started up (it only starts up when enough water comes in at a particular angle, which tells me it is most likely in the area underneath the plenum return on the roof). To make things worse, supposedly this storm will be around until early next week. East coast folks: You can stop laughing now. Yes, folks in Southern California get annoyed when the sun goes away.

Last night we had a delightful Shabbat evening with the Schwartz family. While over there, I picked up a song parody I just have to share. Many folks may be familiar with “The Garden Song“, written by Dave Mallet. It was recorded by many folks, including Noel Paul Stookey and Peter, Paul, and Mary. It’s the one that goes:

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below till the rains comes tumbling down

Well, it turns out there is also an “Anti-Garden Song” (link has music), with lyrics by Eric Kilburn:

Slug by slug, weed by weed,
My garden’s got me really teed
All the insects love to feed upon my tomato plants
Sunburned face, scratched-up knees
My kitchen’s choked with zucchinis
I’m shopping at the A & P next time I get a chance.

The crabgrass grows, the ragweed thrives,
The broccoli has long since died.
The only things left still alive are some radishes and beans.
My carrot plants are dead and gone,
Hear the rabbits sing a happy song
Until you’ve weeded all day long you don’t know what boredom means


You get up early, work till late
Watch moles and mice get overweight
They eat their dinners on a plate from the hard work you have done
As ye sow so shall ye reap,
But I smell like a compost heap
I’m gonna get that lousy creep who said gardening was fun


Today is mostly a home day, except were going down to Long Beach this evening with  ellipticcurve to see Once On This Island. Tomorrow is Dim Sum and Gaming!