Music and Entertainment

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As you may have seen my co-writer  Nathan, and I had a wonderful experience this weekend listening to the band Mistake at Lettere Caffe in Trastevere. They were awesome and everything you’d want to set the bar high for our posts. From now on though we will publish a weekly guide to what’s going on around Rome. I hope this provides an insight into how true Romans live and spend their free time.

MOVIES

Though most movie theaters here show movies in Italian there are a few around that will show big name American movies! For example this coming week you can visit the Nuovo Olimpia on Via in Lucina 16/g off Via del Corso near Via Frattina to see the Oscar nominated film Lincoln starring Daniel Day Lewis. Seeing as how I was so busy packing before we left I didn’t get to see this however now I have the chance to in ROME!

OPERA

If movies aren’t your thing then try an Italian Opera this week with Il Naso- The Nose written in the 1920’s by Dimitri Shostakovich following the story of a self-important St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own. You’ll find this comedy at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Piazza Beniamino Gigli (Esquilino) with showings Tuesday 1/29, 8pm; Thursday 1/31, 8pm; Saturday 2/2 6pm; and Sunday 2/3, 4:30pm.

MUSIC

Personally I’ve been to one opera in my life and that was plenty, but I’m always up for listening to live music in a variety of venues and styles. Rome is known for its Jazz music that levels with that of famous American artists and one great place to check this out is Big Mama in Trastevere. Sometimes known as Rome’s house of blues they have nightly music showcasing international and Italian blues and jazz acts. You’ll pay about 10 € for a Big Mama card that lasts several months. Shows start at 10pm but get there early for good seats, and they do accept reservations. Located off of Vicolo San Francesco a Ripa, 18 you can find a listening for all sets at www.bigmama.it in both English and Italian.

For this week at Big Mama

Thursday 1/31- Daniele Bazzani “solo guitar”

Friday 2/1- Anonima Armonisti “Anonymous Harmonists” A cappella music group.

Saturday 2/2- JJ Janis is Alive where Gianna Chilla will rock out with influence from Janis Joplin.

However as I learned last night occasionally the starter band is more impressive than the actual listed band so never be afraid to just drop in a place for a while before the main show because you might find the next up and coming names.

Some other venues to check into include:

Charity Café- Located in the Monti neighborhood this cocktail bar, wine bar and tea room, hosts jazz jam sessions on Thursday nights after 9:30 pm, jazz ensembles Friday and Saturday, and spins jazz recordings the rest of the week. The address is as follows, Via Painsperna, 68 and they are open Monday-Saturday 6pm- 2am.

We plan to check out as many café venues as possible, as well as dance clubs, concerts, and sporting events so look forward to what’s coming up in this great city.

Via Dei Fori Imperiali

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It was another rainy and overcast afternoon as we began our walk down Via Dei Fori Imperiali.

Along its wide street and sidewalks, vendors and taxis attempt to catch the eye of a tourist while the locals dodge the hordes of people feverishly snapping pictures.  Running from the Colosseum to the north, Palazzo Venezia to the south, and straight through the Fora’s infinite collection of ruins—this is the heart of Rome.  Despite the pine trees, street lights, and green spaces that offer some relief from the surrounding monumentality, the street cannot revoke its connection to the Fascist dictator that created it.  Previously renamed Via dell’Impero by the not so subtle Mussolini, the street is lined with Fascist propaganda that glorifies the Roman Empire and declares for its resurgence to power.  As we pass the statue of Trajan and the stone maps that inscribe the once colossal boundaries of the empire, it becomes clear that Fori Imperiali was a tool of disillusionment.  Like many other instances, the Fascist regime made its mark on the heart of Rome.  It is hard to believe the street was previously covered by one of Rome’s densest neighborhoods, monasteries, and buildings that dated back to the Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance periods.  Besides the displacement of some of the poorest families, the recently unearthed ruins were again buried for the construction of a street that now creates an unrelenting rift between the Fora.  Today, infuriated archeologists are still uncovering lost again artifacts beneath the road, and there is a push for the road to be removed due to the harmful vibrations and exhaust from dense traffic.  As we wait for the light to turn green, masses of tour buses, taxis, cars, and weaving motorcycles swiftly pass and create a tunnel of endless movement.  Is it possible to re-route an artery that has become entangled in Roman daily life?  Transforming it into a pedestrian zone would be a step in the right direction, but what about a pedestrian bridge that actually reveals and reconnects the lost ruins of the underground Fora?

More streets to come,

Amy Shell + Tyler Yamamoto

Honest Mistake

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It’s becoming apparent that the journey to find live music in Rome is a short one. The high density of life and culture offers exciting sights and sounds with every turn, echoing nightly an almost audible buzz throughout the cobble stone streets. Saturday night Caty and I, along with a handful of fellow Sooners, took a brisk jaunt north up Viale di Trastevere to the Lettere Caffe. Known throughout the week for their local art exhibitions, small library, book readings, and slam poetry events, on the weekends Lettere turns into a standing-room-only venue for local musicians of all genres. I had done a light google search pre-jaunt to verify the venue location and to get the skinny on the evenings entertainment, so after we snaked our way to the back of the room, took our seats, and ordered our respective beverages, we comfortably sat under a red neon glow and waited for the band voxX to take the stage.

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One beer later – for some reason it had come as a surprise to me that the band was running late. The web site said 22:00, the waitress said 22:30, but my clock said 22:45.

“Oh yeah, we’re in Italy. A world where there is no translation for the word ‘schedule’.”

Fortunately we were having fun waiting, sipping our drinks, and watching the locals stare at us. After the place had really begun to fill up, a commotion near the stage caught my attention. Band members emerged from the crowd to take up their instruments, an acoustic guitar and upright bass, while the drummer sat atop his cajon. Then, to our surprise, a young red headed gal clad in 1940’s pin-girl style took her place front and center behind a microphone that looked to come from the same era as her garb. This was not voxX. We had no idea who this was.

“Wait, whaaat?” “What’s going on? This isn’t right!” “Oh. Right. Still in Italy.”

Within seconds of the first song I looked over to Caty and she mouthed to me “This. Is. Awesome!” Once again, the rigid Americans had successfully stumbled into greatness. Like so many times before, the mild frustrations with Italy not being America had proven to be better than we could have imagined. Kind of like Gandalf The Grey – Italians are never late, nor are they early. They arrive precisely when they mean to.

The group continued to impress with their broad sound. The dynamic flexibility of the band provided a great foundation for the singer to build on. She easily ramped up and down with both melody and energy, adding an impressive richness and dimension to each song. The group performed an array of tunes that varied in tempo and time signature, which always makes for a more intriguing performance. The set was comprised of a nice blend of covers and what I assume to be originals. Early on we heard an excellent rendition of Blondie’s Heart Of Glass, as well as the Massive Attack song (known widely as the House theme song) Teardrop. It’s always refreshing to hear a band put their own spin on a well known tune and have it work, and these guys continually nailed it. The fun, lighthearted, acoustic tones were at the perfect volume. One could easily focus on the performance and hear the intricacies of each instrument, or turn to their group and have conversation with their friends.

To close out the set the band performed Florence + The Machine’s Dog Days Are Over. The intro of the song seemed to be extended due to some confusion on the singer’s part. It looked like maybe she was trying to find the lyrics in her folder but was having trouble locating them. Her eventual decision to wing it was a good one, seeing that she totally killed it. She had little to no trouble hitting the highs and performed a seemingly difficult song without a hitch. The final applause was warm and accepting and carried on as the band began to vacate the stage. Seeing multiple Italians struggle to carry an upright bass over their heads through the crowded room and out the door was equally as entertaining as the performance itself. The band voxX proceeded to set up and begin performing, but we had heard enough within the first minute or two. It was clear at that point that the mystery band had stolen the show and our assignment to find quality entertainment was complete.

As Caty finished paying (thanks for that, btw) we began to make out way out. Fortunately between us and the door stood the plaid-dress-wearing singer from the first act. I awkwardly asked her if we could take a picture with her and if we could get her name. We were successful with the picture but I failed with her name, immediately forgetting after I shook her hand. Classic. Caty later informed me that it was Alicia. Got ’em! I did, however, remember the name of her group. In an almost poetic conclusion to our night, we were informed that her band’s name was Mistake. A name ripe with irony given our experience leading up to that moment. She was kind and sweet and graciously met us on our linguistically challenged level. From the conversation we also learned that this was Mistake’s first time at the Lettere, and from what I gathered, one of their first shows inside of Rome. I gave her my e-mail address (again, awkwardly) and asked her to let me know the next time they were in the area. We walked home filled with a sense of victory after our first true hunt for entertainment yielded success. And as I mulled over the night’s events, I think I slowly began to understand the true beauty of the old adage “When in Rome.”

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P.S. Alicia, if you’re reading this, and if that is actually your name, sorry for my terrible memory. I tried to find information on your band online but was unable to find anything! Feel free to post a link to your site in the comments of this blog! Caty and I would love to know more!

P.P.S. Holla holla to my main man, Minh Tran…my main Minh…for the pictures and for joining us!