Calgary is one of the absolutely best cities to be in during the summer. Not just because of the (mostly) nice weather, and not just because our general populace is receiving tons of greatly needed vitamin D from the big yellow thing in the sky "they" call the sun, thereby increasing happy-making chemicals in our bodies. I will assert that Calgary's summer greatness is primarily due to one simple phenomenon: music concerts.
Calgary has a rich musical culture. We seem to get everyone from major headliners playing stadium shows (Queen, Arcade Fire, Cher), to Indie Music power houses (Modest Mouse, The Weakerthans, Neko Case), to brand new baby bands clawing their way out of obscurity (your best friend's brother's band with the weird name you can never remember). But one thing is vitally true - if you want to hear it, Calgary will have it....most likely during the summer.
Folk Festival kicks off tonight ( where I'll be after I leave the Saddletowne Library) and I have packed my backpack full of festival going essentials: bug spray, sunscreen, sunglasses, rain coat, ipod, towel, and a book. Yes, you read that correctly. I bring books with me to music festivals. This is maybe not so much a novelty as you would expect - waiting happens a lot at concerts. In particular, I like to read biographies and autobiographies. I don't want a book that I get so engrossed in I won't want to put it down, but I do want to keep myself in the feel of my surroundings - trees, birds, people, sun, grass. Sometimes books of poetry written by musicians (afterall, lyrics are just poetry put to music). I'm also fond of reading short story collections as well. But the books I read at concerts have to be three things: brief, interesting, and somehow musically inclined (whatever you take that to mean).
Here are some book recommendations for you or the concert go-er in your life. As always, you can pick them up here at Saddletowne.
1. Stranger Music: Selected poems and songs
by Leonard Cohen
A prolific collection of some of Cohen's most beautiful, honest, and simple wordsmithing. Truly wonderful poems to ponder in the sun, while waiting to discover your next favourite band.
2. This is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
by David J. Levitin
An interesting, thought-provoking exploration on our relationship with music, and how music shapes our every day lives - both positively and negatively. If you're interested in the technical, brain-related data of music, this is your book.
3. Love is a Mix-Tape
By Rob Sheffield
Before I wanted to work in a library, I wanted to write for Rolling Stone. No joke. Rob Sheffield is, in essence, the marriage of my two loves: books and music. Sheffield recalls his tragic first marriage through the mix tapes he and his wife made throughout their marriage (and her life). From washing the dishes, to folding laundry - they made mix tapes for everything. This book will make you want to take out your tape deck and craft someone a musical interpretation of your soul. For any occasion.
4. Take Another Little Piece of My Heart: A Groupie Grows Up
by Pamela Des Barres
A sequel to her first book, I'm With the Band, this is the more mature, down-to-earth Pamela Des Barres. Accounting her life after groupie-hood, Des Barres writes about marriage, motherhood, and inspiration. But don't worry, there's still plenty of Rock N' Roll gossip to recount at your next dinner party.
5. Honky Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics
by Loretta Lynn
Chances are, if you've made it to the bottom of this blog, you have enough of an interest in music to have read (or seen) Coal Miner's Daughter. This book, dare I say it, is even better. Here, Loretta Lynn explains her artistic process song by song. With beautiful photos, heartbreaking honesty, and a glorious sense of humour, Loretta Lynn tells the stories behind her lyrics, as life was happening to her. This ain't your mom's autobiography.