Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Calling All Amateur Astronomers!

Jupiter, the Moon, and Venus, lining up in March 2012
Have you been following the dance of Jupiter and Venus across the night sky over the past few months?  If you have a wanderlust that extends beyond our globe, then you should pay a visit to the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York.  Where can you find them, you ask?  On a clear night, try checking out their free observation sessions across the five boroughs.  The "AAA" boasts several hundred members that participate in and help host frequent observation sessions, as well as exciting astronomy lectures and classes.

At last week's observing session at the High Line in Manhattan (which occurs every Tuesday night from April to October, weather permitting), WGINY was able to glimpse the rings of Saturn, the crescent phase of Venus, and the binary properties of the star, Castor, among other celestial objects, through the surprisingly high-powered telescopes set up by the "amateur" astronomers. Although membership is encouraged to support the organization, any visitor or passerby is warmly invited by AAA members to partake in observing sessions.  If you thought you couldn't see stars in New York City due to ambient light, you'll be shocked by what the AAA can show you, and tell you.  I have attended observing sessions in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and have learned so much (including how to best position my own travel scope...) just from a few moments of discussion with the interesting, knowledgeable astronomy-buffs who host these events.

And, if you want even more ways to seek out stars:
Columbia University Astronomy Outreach: lecture and stargazing sessions every other Friday.
College of Staten Island Observatory: public schedule varies.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dana Parish Shines at "The Living Room."

A few years ago, I was listening to a "Yahoo! Music" station (well, at that time it was "Yahoo! Radio") while working, when suddenly I became captivated by a song from a powerful female vocalist I had never heard of before, Dana Parish.  After doing some research, I found that the song I had heard, "Not My Problem," was part of a debut album Parish had released in 2007, "Uncrushed."  Of course I immediately purchased the album, and it has become one I frequently listen to on replay and suggest to friends.

Whether I'm doing some soul-searching, having an introspective day, initiating a break-up, or finding myself on the receiving end of one, Parish's music is always easy to relate to.  For awhile, I was even quoting from the chorus of one of her songs, "Outta Time," on my personal facebook profile. (I can't seem to find an audio or video copy, but you can listen to a sample on

Parish has since played any number of shows in and around NYC, and WGINY was in attendance at her most recent show, on March 30 at "The Living Room." This was a special show for Parish, as not only was it her birthday that evening, but the show was being recorded for Sirus Radio (air date/time/station not available yet).  Striding in fashionably, and perhaps ironically, late, Parish took the stage and immediately began her show with my favorite facebook-quotable song, "Outta Time."  Standing on stage in a blue sequin shirt and jean skirt, she shone just as brightly as on her debut record.

Dana Parish Shines at "The Living Room"

In March, Parish released a new EP, "Nothin' But a Heartbreak."  Confident and sassy, with a voice that commands attention, and the stage presence to match, this unconventionally beautiful brunette (clearly, I have a thing for brunette singer-songwriters...) must surely know a thing or two about breaking hearts.

At the March 30 show, backed by band members on lead guitar, bass, drums and piano (an actual baby grand piano, not a keyboard!.. played by Andrew Hollander, who co-writes many of Parish's songs), Parish performed the first song off of her EP, "Superman," among others.  "Superman," which recalls a woman taking charge of her love life, is inspiring, and mayhaps hit-worthy.    

There they are! Even got the baby grand in this one.
Large stage... hard to photograph the whole band...

It is hard to describe Parish's varied genre.  She has a rich, full voice, and although the vocal range of her songs seems to stay squarely within her belt-y alto range (which I believe she definitely has the ability to step outside of...),  her songs seem to blend together rock, soul, and even country.  Parish displays a mellow style, with a hint of edginess thrown in at times, and this works well for her.

I don't have many criticisms for Parish, except to say that some of the harmonies that her band members joined in on, not present on her albums, did not seem to do much to improve the live show.  I would love to hear more of these harmonic efforts in the future, as long as they really fit the songs and are not forced.  Parish's voice is so powerful on its own, I'm not sure she even needs the backup...

I hope "Heartbreak" finally propels Parish, who has composed songs for Celine Dion and recent Asian sensation, G.E.M., into mainstream audiences.  She certainly deserves the recognition.  See for yourself at her next NYC live show, an intimate set at Rockwood Music Hall on Wednesday, May 9, at 9pm.

Check out Dana Parish online: