Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vancouver musicians raise funds for jail house rock

My story on the Rock Lottery benefit at Waldorf hotel is in this week's WE.

Vancouver musicians raise funds for jailhouse rock

Three organizations from Vancouver’s creative community and more than 20 local musicians are redefining what it means to make beautiful music together. They are joining forces to participate in a Rock Lottery showcase Jan. 29 at the Waldorf Hotel.

The event randomly groups musicians (including members of Tyranahorse, Pugs and Crows, Painted Birds and more) into bands and gives them just 24 hours to come up with a 15-minute original set. The money will go towards funding a Girls Rock Camp-inspired program at a local women’s prison.
Instruments of Change founder Laura Barron, who is behind this initiative, hopes to illustrate why a rehabilitative system is better than a punitive one by emphasizing the empowerment of — hell yeah! — rocking out.

This is the first I’m hearing about Instruments of Change. Can you tell me about it?

It’s a non-profit that uses the arts as a tool to create social change. I’ve been a volunteer at the women’s prison and have been hoping to start a music program there for some time. I’m a professional musician, a classical flutist, and I’ve done a lot of community engagement work. I’ve also been a volunteer at the Girls Rock Camp in Portland, Oregon, where it originated. I was so incredibly inspired by the Girls Rock! movie, and I happened to be teaching at the University of Oregon at the time, so I spent a week coaching a band of young girls. I thought it would be a great model for the women [in the prison] as well.

Why would Girls Rock Camp work in a woman’s prison?

I’ve seen the positive impact it has on young women and it’s the same kind of change that would benefit these women: empowerment and developing cooperative skills, leadership, creativity. It’s is an intense experience. It’s one whole week and often the girls have never played an instrument before.
What we’re going to do is a 10-week pilot program, for a whole evening once per week. We’ll do writing workshops, so they’ll do both the lyrics and the music themselves. We’ll do instrument instruction and at the end of the 10 weeks they’ll perform their songs for their whole community at the facility.

The concept of a rock lottery is really cool. How did you convince the musicians to come on board?

It’s kind of three-fold. There’s another organization in town, the Association of Very Good Ideas. One of the women involved had done a rock lottery in Montreal and wanted to make one happen here. They approached Girls Rock Camp [at the same time as I did] and it was this great instant partnership.
There’s this big team of 12 of us from three different organizations doing all of the planning and getting all of the musicians together. Most of us are involved in the music world in some way or another, so we had a good network to ask.

The Rock Lottery benefit is Jan. 29 at the Waldorf, 8pm. $10 minimum donation. Tickets from Red Cat Records, Zulu Records and Info: or

Friday, January 13, 2012

Joyful Noise

My review of Joyful Noise is online at

Starring Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah
Directed by Todd Graff

Do you love a honey-dripping drawl and sassy, senseless sayings? Joyful Noise! Do you like your matriarchs busty and bold, and your young'uns earnest and quick with a harmony? Can I get a Joyful Noise? Have you always hoped Glee would crank up the God and turn down the gay? Joyful Noise!

Beyond the brilliant casting of country icon and geriatric human Barbie Dolly Parton opposite hip hop’s rubanesque royal, Queen Latifah, there’s not that much to praise in writer/director Todd Graff’s formulaic and familiar gospel comedy Joyful Noise.

Strict, single, working mom Vi Rose Hill (Latifah) is made choir master over privileged, plasticized grandma G.G. Sparrow (Parton). But as the town’s businesses buckle under the recession, the choir’s very existence is threatened unless they can win regionals (ugh, Glee!). They can only win if they ditch the Traditionals and modernize, much to Vi Rose’s chagrin. The friction between the two women intensifies when G.G.’s bad boy grandson, Randy (Jeremy Jordan), blows back into town and falls for Vi Rose’s goody-two-shoes daughter, choir star Olivia (Keke Palmer).

We know Randy’s “bad” because he breaks a flower pot busting into his grandma’s home and accidentally lets drop an excited “bitch” bomb in church after Olivia’s singing gets his giblets revved up. Vi Rose warns her daughter to keep her distance, but Randy worms his way into their home when he’s able to form a connection with her son, Walter (Dexter Darden), who has Aspererger’s. This relationship proves to be Joyful Noise’s main highlight: Jordan and Darden have a nice, natural chemistry, and their characters’ interactions have charm and heart to spare. Jordan and Palmer have a spark as the star-crossed lovers, but can’t navigate the character assassination in the final act when they’re forced apart, only to, inevitably, be reunited 20 minutes later.

The plot twists, such as they are, are buoyed by a cast that can actually sing. A few engaging gospel numbers — including the rousing finale — almost make the mash-up craze tolerable. A little more divine intervention like that and Joyful Noise might have genuinely lived up to its name. — Andrea Warner