Illinois

Storyteller Series / Sufjan Stevens “Casimir Pulaski Day”

Some songs tell stories just as vivid and intricate as any film or TV show. The Storyteller Series highlights those special pieces of music with lyrics that captivate the audience from beginning to end.


Really it’s hard to pick just one of Sufjan Stevens‘s songs to identify as an example of brilliant songwriting.  This is the guy who made a name for himself through his intricate concept albums.  The music world is waiting with bated breath to see what The Age of Adz will bring (check out “I Walked” on Listen Before You Buy).  Because of this though, so many of the songs on his albums weave together and its often hard to separate out individual tracks.  Off of Illinois, “Chicago” gained prominence largely because of it’s use in Little Miss Sunshine.  I also always recall “John Wayne Gacy, Jr” due to it’s morbid subject matter.  But for today’s Storyteller Series I thought I would highlight a particularly touching track for me – “Casimir Pulaski Day.”


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TA Mixtape / Summer Lovin: Dandelions Are Not Your Friends

At the end of last week I got so obsessed with writing this story, I completely ran out of time to post my other gardening mix last week.

My 12-year-old self is so tempted right now

Who didn’t think the dandelion was the best flower ever when they were little?  They were the best for making flower chains and headbands.  You could use them as crayons.  If you held one under your chin the amount that it glowed on your skin predicted how rich you would be.  And it was insanely fun to blow the all the seeds away into the wind.

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America The Beautiful: Ten-Five on The Great Big Lakes

I know I declared my unparalleled love for the Northeast earlier in the week, but Chicago alone might just elevate the Midwest enough to give the East Coast a run for it’s money.  Chicago – home of my alma mater, where you can find a plethora of the most original theatre in the world.  Land of Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork Music Festival.  Wrigley Field.  Deep dish pizza.  Lake Michigan in the summer.  Sometimes I wonder why I left…OH RIGHT, THE RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY IS 19 DEGREES. Seriously. When it hurts to breathe for weeks at a time, palm trees year round are much easier to digest.

Weather and the greatness of Chicago aside, the Midwest is still wonderful.  Ask anyone from Omaha, NE and they will bend your ear about how amazing their city is.  It was a “must-do” to trek out to Madison, WI at least once in college to experience their Halloween celebrations.  Notre Dame football was a huge part of my childhood, and my very first concert was in Cleveland, Ohio.  And who can talk about Ohio without mentioning Cedar Point?

More to the point, however, is who can mention the Midwest without recalling the multiple musical legacies that blossomed there?  Jazz, blues, hip-hop, house.  Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Junior Wells, Etta James, Curtis Mayfield, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Common.  The famous Chess Records. All found their groove in Chicago.

On the opposite end of spectrum, musical theatre loves the Midwest.  There are entire musicals dedicated to Midwestern cities (Chicago and Meet Me In St. Louis) not to mention a slew of songs: “Kansas City” (Oklahoma), “Summer in Ohio” (The Last Five Years), “Ohio” (Wonderful Town), “Iowa Stubborn” and “Gary, Indiana” (both Music Man), “Kansasland” (Curtains) and the list continues.

Yes, despite its deceptive title (it’s much more mid than west) the Midwest has a lot to offer all around.  So sit back an enjoy some sweet grooves…

America The Beautiful: Ten-Five on The Great Big Lakes by TAtunes

Mars Arizona played this past weekend at The Echo for the Grand Ole Echo Kick Off, and can be caught next in Santa Barbara TOMORROW night at the So Ho Music Hall.  Show starts at 7:30pm

In my research I also found this article about the effect of Gordon Lightfoot’s song on the families of those lost in 1975 wreck.  A touching story that shows just how important a role music can play in life.

And how could I forget some good ol’ jazz?  This time, muppet-style.

Bonus points if you can understand what I’m talking about in the title of this post.

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