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If trees could sing


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In recognition of the many species of trees in Nashville’s Centennial Park and the role they play in our everyday lives, the Nature Conservancy has sponsored a series of short videos featuring some of the country’s top musical performers talking about their favorite tree. Ben Folds is fond of the sweetgum, a tree native to North Carolina, and he recorded a tribute to the species with many interesting factoids about it.

“Native Americans used sweetgum sap to treat their wounds, and when it hardened, they used it for chewing gum,” Folds said of the tree that can grow to over a hundred feet tall and which turns brilliant shades of red and yellow in the fall.

“Who doesn’t have a favorite tree?” (more…)

PopUp Brooklyn

popup-dinner-image-smBen Folds has been announced as the headliner for this summer’s PopUp Brooklyn do-it-yourself picnic dinner and fundraising event for the Prospect Park Alliance, a community effort to preserve and improve the storied greenspace in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. Advance pre-sale tickets for the June 28 event sold out in April but others can ask to be placed on the guest list and purchase tickets ($35 per person).

The concept behind the pop-up dinners is simple. At a predetermined time (5 pm) and at a secret location (announced to ticket holders two hours prior), revelers dressed in white gather to set up tables, enjoy dinner and wine they bring themselves, then music and revelry. After the event, everyone pitches in to clean up and remove their trash, leaving no trace of where they were in the park. (more…)

Cool Comedy – Hot Cuisine

cchcLive music from Ben Folds will be on the menu along with exquisite cuisine from top Las Vegas chefs at this year’s Cool Comedy – Hot Cuisine event Thursday, June 5 at the House of Blues in Mandalay Bay. The 26th annual event, in Las Vegas for the first time, is a benefit for the Scleroderma Research Foundation and is hosted by raunchy comedian Bob Saget, the star of TV’s Full House and How I Met Your Mother. The event features stand-up from Saget and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, along with fine wines and outstanding cuisine from celebrity chefs Susan Feniger, Rick Moonen and Mary Sue Milliken of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. The event seeks to raise $600,000 for research to help find a cure for the chronic disorder; tickets for the event are $150 for the entertainment only and $500 for dinner and the show. More information is on the Foundation’s website.

Folds to “superjam” at Bonnaroo

superjam2014_200The annual Manchester, Tennessee Bonnaroo Festival has announced its schedule for the 2014 gathering, and included are two Superjam sessions, always favorites of the festival. This year the Friday night Superjam is being headed up by guitar great Derek Trucks and will feature special guest Ben Folds. Superjams include a variety of jam-band and related artists and the Friday night session includes Trucks’ wife and blues-band musical partner Susan Tedeschi, Chaka Khan, Taj Mahal and a host of other prominent players. The Bonnaroo Festival’s website describes the Superjam as

“…the most highly anticipated Bonnaroo concert tradition and the festival’s signature event. A diverse set of superstar musicians unite for a one-time-only collaborative performance. The Superjam is always a wild show full of surprises where neither the fans nor the artists really know where it’s headed.”

and if there’s anyone who can craft a wild show full of surprises, it’s Folds. Superjam takes place at That Tent on Friday night, June 13 at midnight (early morning hours of Saturday). Full information on the festival, including tickets and details on the dozens of performances, can be found at the Bonnaroo website.

The Magical Archive

Ben gave the Armchair a nice shout-out during his show at the Gilmore Piano Festival in Kalamazoo, Mich., Saturday night (April 26) and talked about how the Magical Armchair mailing list was instrumental in charting the course of Ben Folds Five in the early days. They first became aware of the existence of the mailing list at one of their earliest shows when I brought them stacks of printed-out copies of the list messages (since none of them had e-mail or were even on the Internet at the time). Soon thereafter, they did get online, as did their manager, and started subscribing and reading posts from fans. The band members didn’t post, though their road manager at the time did once in a while. Eventually, other methods of fan communication augmented and diminished the importance of the Armchair mailing list, though it is still in service today. Better yet, the archives of the mailing list still exist and can provide a lot of insight into the development and early success of Ben Folds Five.

You can access the first several years of the Magical Armchair at the archive page of the old Ben Folds Five site. These archives run from 1995 through 1999, when the list was migrated to Topica. Topica maintains its own archive, which is only accessible to list members. Note that many of the links and e-mail addresses contained in the archival material have changed or gone offline.