February 21, 2012

Coming Soon: Laurie Berkner Band

The energy from the kids is so immediate and so sincere. Play a song for them, and if they're into it, they're jumping up and down. They're so happy they're screaming for the song. Playing in cover bands, it takes a couple hours for everyone to get drunk enough to get into it and respond.
-Laurie Berkner

We're hitting the home stretch for the 2011-12 season, and the performers keeps hitting the stage; consistently impressing the audience in exciting ways. Now, it may seem when presented with the task of maintaining the constant flow of talent to grace the historic stage at The Paramount, it would be fairly easy. While it seems like a no-brainer, I have been told that getting an act to appear onstage isn't necessarily child's play... yet in this case, I think this is precisely the case.

Perhaps The Laurie Berkner Band is not a familiar name to you. Then again, perhaps you are someone who has, you know, been around children in the past decade or so. If so, chances are that you've heard the music (and likely have caught yourself humming some of it to yourself). Since the late 1990s, they aren't just a popular children's musical act, they are THE musical act.

Te centerpiece of the group is Laurie Berkner, herself. She's carved a niche for herself in the subgenre of music known as "kinder rock." No, I'm not making that up. Heck, ask any parent, and they'll tell you that the genre runs deep. That's right, folks. Children's songs extend much further than "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (A Wimoweh, wimoweh...) Her popularity is so vast that People Magazine anointed her as "The Queen of Children's Music." Indeed. Compared to her, The Wiggles are but mere jesters. But it was not always the case for Ms. Berkner...

Although Laurie has been a professional musician for twenty years, but didn't find her true calling until after some stints with cover bands. She released her first children's album in 1997, and the nest year formed her own independent record company. That's a heck of a way to break onto the children's music scene, and her status has only steadily grown from there.

Imbibing her songs with an uptempo beat and earnest lyrics, Laurie brings her songs to life with band members Adam Bernstein, Bob Golden and Susie Lampert. Together, hey have an uncanny knack of bringing a smile to your face.

Any doubts should be erased by watching the following clip. A word of warning, though. This song will stay in your head long after you see this.

So... "what do you think of that!?" (kick!)
See? I told ya. You're now gonna be hearing this song in your head for the next few days. You're welcome.

In addition to her musical gifts, Berkner also has written two children's books, appeared on television, and sold hundreds of thousands of DVDs. She's more than just the queen of children's music; she's a one-woman media empress. So, to all you parents out there: If you haven't let your little ones partake of any other music than "Old MacDonald" or "Bingo," then you owe it to them to round them up and mosey on down to The Paramount. Laurie's sound is that unique blend of folk music and kinder rock that provides a sense of wonder for all ages.

The Laurie Berkner Band will teach your kid how to rock and roll on Sunday, March 4th at 1:00 p.m.

February 7, 2012

Coming Soon: Pilobolus

And now for something a little bit different.

Up next on stage is an exceptional group of rhythmic performers, yet they aren't a musical act. They are talented assembly of artists, but they carry neither a paint brush or pencil. They are the inimitable, the astonishing Pilobolus. If you've never heard of them, you may be lifting up that rock you're presenting living under and asking... Pill-lob-o-who?

Sure, it sounds bizarre. Don't judge a group by its name; judge them by what they do.

And oh my, what they can do!

Pilobolus is a modern dance company that simply defies belief in their fusion of choreography and athleticism. Founded four decades ago, they are a diverse troupe that have broken through and pioneered a form of dance engaging the body, heart and mind. Winners of numerous accolades around the world, the have showcased in front of countless global audiences, and were even featured a few years ago during the Oscars. Their blend of dance and fluidity must be seen to be believed. In addition, they also can put on a heck of a shadow puppet show. For instance, take a look at this sequence from an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

Never one to rest on their laurels, Pilobolus continues to break ground. They recently teamed up with the musical act OK Go to make a unique and amazing music video. Shot looking up at the dancers through a glass floor, it makes for a surreal but beautifully choreographed experience. The kaleidoscopic exhibition is for OK Go's song "All Is Not Lost."

Pretty incredible, huh? The bottom of so many feet have never looked so friggin' awesome.

For their efforts, Pilobolus and OK Go have been nominated for a Grammy. Oh, but that's not all. There's a more intereactive experience to be had at www.allisnotlo.st, where they have collaborated with Google to create a customized and video/experience that will continue to amaze.

Pilobolus may have a funny name, but have established themselves as the crown jewel of modern dance artistry. Soon, this company with an emphasis on creativity and elegance will be grooving their way onto The Paramount for two days of breathtaking exhibition. Come for the joy, wonder at the display of innovation, and marvel at the human form.

Don't hesitate. Through clarity, what we may initially deem as odd can be revealed to possess immense beauty, much like life itself...

Pilobolus will be shape-shifting up on Paramount's stage February 17th and the 18th.

February 1, 2012

Coming Soon: Good vs. Evil

Cooking is a holistic process of planning, preparing, dining and sharing food. I place food at the center of our humanity, as it nourishes not only our physical bodies but also our emotional and spiritual lives. Food is truly a cultural phenomenon that informs our traditions and our relationship with the earth. I genuinely believe that food connects us all.
-Eric Ripert

Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.
-Anthony Bourdain

There have been such delightful feasts thus far at The Paramount this season. In fact, it's been a veritable smörgåsbord of talent, each a memorable show that also whets our appetite for more. Well, fear not, my fellow Paramount subscribers and devotees; another course is about to be presented. It looks to be a unique experience served up onstage in the heart of Austin. The participants are two of the more prominent culinary voices in society today: Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert, a yin and yang in foodie circles. Unconventional as the idea may seem, the prospect of this duo has me salivating. It certainly sounds like an interesting dish, does it not?

When one thinks of Texas (in the gastronomical sense), I imagine the initial thoughts are limited to merely steaks or barbecue. While I suppose profiling our state as a land of beef isn't completely without merit, we Texans are capable of cooking and eating more than red meat. For those that don't know, the size and history of our state has provided a diverse variety of cultures to cultivate our culinary tastes. At long last, we're beginning to break through the mold of briskets, rib eyes and fajitas. Heck, we in the Lone Star state are even hosting a season of Top Chef. Ok, wait... while that doesn't quite validate our credentials, it does expose a broader view of food in a land where everything's bigger.

So if you're a Texan whose palate is limited to Whataburger value meals, you may just be asking yourself... who the heck are these guys?

Well, when it comes to accolades, it's hard to think of anyone more honored in the food-mosphere than Eric Ripert. He's a chef, author, television personality, as well as the living embodiment of modern French cuisine. Author of four cookbooks, Ripert also is a recipient of the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor. On television, he's a regular guest judge on "Top Chef” and hosts “Avec Eric,” an Emmy-winning PBS series.

Oh yeah, and he cooks too. Ripert is the chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City. The restaurant has earned the very highest ratings from The Michelin Guide, the Zagat Guide, and has held a four-star review from The New York Times for over two decades. A man with a reputation for some of the finest seafood in the world, it's safe to say you'll never catch him at your local neighborhood Long John Silver's.

Eric Ripert's accolades are without question and full of merit. Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand, is a whole other brand of awesome...

I'll be 100% honest. I'm not one to idolize anyone, but Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorite people on Earth. Sure, he's acerbic, but beneath his outwardly cynical veneer is a worldliness and refreshingly rough and tumble approach to life itself. He is a chef, author and television personality (and nemesis of Rachel Ray and Paula Deen).

A graduate of the CIA (that's the Culinary Institute of America, not the Central Intelligence Agency), Bourdain was an executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York City, where he specialized in classic French dishes. He wrote about his experiences at the restaurant in his professional memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. A visceral and eye-opening look behind the kitchen door, the book introduced us all to his sardonic wit and gift for prose.

After making his splash on the New York bestseller list with Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain appeared on The Food Network (don't hold that against him) with his show "A Cook's Tour." He then jumped ship to The Travel Channel where he has established himself as the host of "No Reservations," a program that allows Anthony to showcase different cultures and the foods that help define people across the globe. He has continued to author bestselling books and is now also a writer and consultant for the HBO series "Treme."

An outspoken author and food critic, Bourdain's most admirable trait is the sense that he plows through existence as a man with little to no fear. He possesses a lust for life that would make Iggy Pop proud. For Anthony, food is clearly one of the highest forms of artistry, imbibed with the spirit of whoever prepared it. The most important ingredient is the heart and soul of the cook; the end result isn't just the presentation of a dish, but a sharing of a story. When viewed in that light, Bourdain's voice is enlightening and occasionally a thing of beauty.

While these two may be a yin and yang of culinary points of view, the wealth of experience and observations they hold is mind-boggling to ponder. Think of the stories these two must have heard, think of the savory details they could share, not to mention the recipes they've encountered. Now, who wouldn't want to sit at a table with these two? I could happily eat, sit and listen to these guys talk for hours on end.

Now is our chance to do so, and without the hinderance of a full belly. After all, we Texans have a big appetite for storytelling also. Variety may well be the spice of life, and these two guys have a wealth in their pantries.

Hungry for more? Good vs. Evil with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert will give you something to digest on Wednesday, February 8th at 8:00 pm.