Explore New York: National Native American Heritage Month

Ganondagan State Historic Site, Photo courtesy of NYS Dept. of Economic Development/Photographer: Darren McGee

November marks National Native American Heritage Month, also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The now annual, month-long celebration – a time to commemorate and learn about the culture and history of the many Indigenous people in the United States — started as American Indian Day and has its roots in Upstate New York. 

In 1915, Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian who later became the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y, commenced his proposal for a national American Indian Day. Now Native American Heritage Month, 30 days is not long enough to learn of the many cultures and rich histories of the Indigenous tribes of Upstate New York. Luckily, there are many cultural centers, museums, and community epicenters you can visit to expand your knowledge of Indigenous histories year-round.

Take a road trip to one (or all) of the five cultural centers highlighted here:

Iroquois Museum
324 Caverns Road
Howes Cave, NY 12092

Iroquois Museum
Photo Credit: Stephanie Shultes, Iroquois Museum

In Howes Cave, New York, between the towns of Schoharie and Cobleskill, and only 1.2 miles from Howe Caverns, you’ll find the Iroquois Museum. In fact, the museum’s architecture is in the style of the Iroquois Longhouse. Open Thursday through Sunday, there’s ample time to make a weekend trip to the museum and absorb the Iroquois art, history, and culture. The museum offers virtual field trips and tours, educational programs, online database, digitized collections, events, and more! There are plenty of opportunities to learn online if you can’t visit the Iroquois Museum in-person. 

Seneca-Iroquois National Museum
82 West Hetzel Street
Salamanca, NY 14779

Seneca Iroquois Museum
Photo Credit: Onöhsagwë:De’ Cultural Center

Open Monday – Friday, visitors will have to plan a weekday excursion to the Seneca-Iroquois National Museum. Next to the Alleghany River and 20 mins from the Pennsylvania border, the museum is now housed in the newly constructed Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center. The Seneca-Iroquois National Museum features many artifacts and pieces from “the Six Hodinöhsö:ni’ Nations – Seneca, Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Tuscarora- Or also known as the Iroquois.” Guests can learn the history of each nation, join in person events (such as finger weaving), or support local artists with a visit to the shop. With 11 exhibits and art collections including pottery, basketry, carvings and more, there is a lot of history to explore!

Ganondagan State Historic Site
7000 County Road 41
Victor, NY 14564

Ganondagan State Historic Site
Photo Credit: John Rozell, NYS OPRHP

A short 24 minute drive from the city of Rochester, Ganondagan is one-of-a kind for New York State, it’s the only Native American themed historic site. 569 acres marks the original site of a 17th Century Seneca town. Today, you’ll find a Seneca Bark Longhouse, the newly constructed Seneca Art & Culture Center, and hiking trails where you can go on self-guided tours. Ganondagan offers plenty of education outreach programs, community events, and group & guided tours so visitors can learn the history of “Seneca and Hodinöhsö:ni’ (Iroquois) culture and values, while learning about the important history of Ganondagan.” Open Wednesday – Saturday, a visit to the Ganondagan State Historic Site is a perfect weekend outing. The hiking trails are open to the public year-round, but the Bark Longhouse is closed as of October 31st.
Enlarge Photo (1/20)

Akwesasne Cultural Center and Museum
321 State Route 37
Hogansburg, NY 13655

A mere six minutes from the Seaway International Bridge crossing into Cornwall, Canada, you’ll find the Akwesasne Cultural Center in Hogansburg, NY! The Cultural Center houses both a museum and a library offering visitors plenty of exhibits and displays to learn about the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. Stop by the museum on the lower floor for a self-guided tour or call ahead for a guide. There you’ll see art, photography, and ethnographic pieces highlighting the Mohawk heritage. Go upstairs and visit the library which offers the community resources! The library’s specialty focuses on Mohawk and Iroquois history and culture, but you’ll also find materials on several Indigenous cultures. 

Shako:wi Cultural Center
5 Territory Rd
Oneida, NY 13421

Shakowi Cultural Center
Photo Credit: Oneida Indian Nation

Between Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY and International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY, you’ll find the Oneida Nation’s Shako:wi Cultural Center. The center “explore[s] the depths of Oneida tradition and culture…[and] helps guests experience thousands of years of Oneida history.” Open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, visitors can learn about the history of lacrosse, take in the art exhibits, and see “Oneida Industries,” a panoramic display created by Dr. Arthur C. Parker! The Shako:wi Cultural Center also offers outreach programs to community schools and admission is free. Can’t stop by in person? The Oneida Indian Nation website linked above offers plenty of digital educational resources on lore, traditions, language, and more. 

Upstate New York Travel: Leaf Peeping at Its Best

A Brief Guide to Western and Central New York Foliage

You can also view the article & more travel bits at AAA

Fall is here, and so is a beautiful skyline of amber and yellow trees. Part of the beauty of living in Upstate New York is that we are surrounded by countless places where leaf peepers (people who travel to enjoy the sight of leaves changing colors) can enjoy the picturesque fall foliage

From the Erie Canal to the Finger Lakes region, there is no shortage of beautiful destinations New Yorkers can visit for short day trips or overnight stays. Enjoy this brief guide to just a few picturesque destinations in the Upstate New York region where leaf peepers can take in the breathtaking views of nature at its finest.


Parks: Letchworth State Park, Mendon Ponds, Ellison Park, Durand Eastman 

Special visual treat: Finger Lakes region (Canandaigua, Keuka and Honeoye, to name a few areas) 

The Rochester region includes many beautiful local parks that allow nature lovers to explore their backyard. Also, take a short drive to Ontario County and you’ll find Bristol Mountain Ski Resort, which offers fall sky rides from Sept. 12 to Oct. 12. The 15- to 20-minute ride through the Bristol summit provides visitors the opportunity to experience the colorful foliage transition before snow and skiers hit the slopes. 

After a picturesque ride up to the summit, you disembark and have the option to take a moment and enjoy the incredible view from up top, then hike down via trails, or ride back down in the chairlift and witness the breathtaking views of Bristol. 

For another special treat, visit the Finger Lakes region for grand views surrounding the lakes.


Parks: Allegany State Park, Knox Farm State Park, Devil’s Hole, Chestnut Ridge Park 

Special visual treat: Niagara Falls State Park 

Buffalo’s proximity to Niagara Falls – and its branching Niagara River, creeks and lakes – make it a prime spot for many state parks with scenic waterways and trails. A visit to Niagara Falls State Park’s Goat Island is worth it! On the U.S. side of the Falls, Goat Island offers views of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian border and the American and Bridal Veil Falls. There are walking paths on the island where you can view the changing trees on the island. For even more landscapes, travel north of the Falls and you’ll find Devil’s Hole State Park. Though the name may be frightening, its views are peaceful. You can view the Devil’s Hole Rapids or take a walk on one of the park’s many trails along with the water and scenic outlooks.


Parks: Highland Forest, Great Lakes State Park, Chittenango Falls State Park, Clark Reservation State Park 

Special visual treat: Boat tour along Skaneateles – learn more at Midlakesnavigation.com.

Like Rochester, Syracuse is close to the Finger Lakes and has several local and state parks where peepers can take in the changing colors up close. All of the state parks offer beautiful hiking trails. Green Lakes State Park offers nearly 2,000 acres for leaf peepers to enjoy while Highland Forest, an Onondaga County park, offers countless trails, mountain biking and horseback rides. 

However, for a special treat, visit Skaneateles Lake, where you can take a cruise on the calm waters. Boat tours like Mid-Lakes Navigation offer guided sightseeing tours of the lake.


Of course, we’d be remiss to not mention the Adirondacks! To the north of Syracuse, the Adirondack region stretches an impressive 6 million acres. From Saranac Lake to Lake Placid to the Canadian border, there are boundless destinations in the region. 

You can enjoy leaf peeping on scenic drives or while cycling, kayaking or hiking through the breathtaking region. Want a more adventurous way to enjoy fall? Hot air balloon rides are available in the Lake George region. Feel safer with your feet on the ground? You can take the Adirondack Railroad! Visit the station in Utica or Thendara to start your journey through the region’s beautiful forest and waterways. 

When Should You Go Leaf Peeping?

The peak time for fall foliage in Upstate New York, when the leaves will be their most vibrant, is typically the last two weeks of September into the first week of October.

Travel to Cape Cod

A Picturesque Seaside Escape Just a Drive Away 

You can also view the article & more travel bits at AAA

Whether you’re a traveling family or couple or just flying solo, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, offers an array of experiences for every kind of traveler! Are you looking to relax on the beach? Explore nature? Enjoy a night on the town? Cape Cod has it all. 

“But is it safe to travel right now?” may be a question on many travelers’ minds. However, many businesses have implemented safety measures to ensure patron’s safety. And the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce outlines the latest safety guidelines for anyone who desires to visit their fair Cape. 

Become One with Sand 

Cape Cod boasts 559.6 miles of coastline! Several sprawling beaches await you. Picturesque lighthouses, dunes, boardwalks and a wildlife sanctuary all grace the Cape’s coast. And, dependent on which part of the Cape you visit, you’ll be able to see the beach and sea life just beyond your front door! 

Enjoy Nature 

If you’d like to see the Cape at your own pace, bike, paddleboard or kayak rentals are available. You can choose to explore solo or have a guided tour. The Cape also hosts several family-safe bike trails away from major roads. 

Whale or Seal Watching 

There are ports throughout the Cape where you can launch your on-the-sea adventure! From the middle of the Cape, Barnstable, to the very end (called the fish’s tail), Provincetown, many a sea crew offer the unique opportunity to see the Cape’s sea life up close! 

Please Your Inner Foodie  

Outdoor dining is everywhere on the Cape. Delicatessens, bakeries, ice cream shops and more are sprinkled throughout the Cape, and you’ll find more than tasty seafood. Every town has its “must-taste” location, but a tradition in Provincetown is to visit the Lobster Pot. Fresh seafood, Portuguese specialties, steaks and more await you. 

Introducing AAA Travel with Pride!

A new AAA Group Travel program

Portrait by me

You can also view the article & more travel bits at AAA

AAA Travel Sales Manager Christopher Goerss, who launched the new program, is excited to announce its first trip: the international, adventure destination, Costa Rica! We asked Christopher about his first group travel tour.

The travel dates for this exciting excursion, titled Pure Vida, are slated for January 13 – 22, 2022. Travelers will spend ten glorious days in Costa Rica, visiting several cities before their grand finale in the coastal province of Guanacaste. Christopher, and a local tour guide, will accompany the travelers for a tailored tourist experience.

By creating Travel with Pride, Christopher is fulfilling two of his travel dreams. He can share his joy of travel and start an inclusive travel group where acceptance and a supportive community can grow. Christopher shared his desires, excitement, and hopes for this new AAA group travel experience.

“It’s an adventure package, it’s very active, there’s are a lot of exploring, and Costa Rica is an accepting space for the LGBTQ+ community. There’s a lot of interactive activities to help build and foster the group,” Christopher explained.

As a group travel package, Pure Vida offers travelers experiences and amenities that would take the individual traveler longer to research and plan, but in this case, all the work is done for them! This excursion includes nine destinations and stays at five hotels as the group traverses across Costa Rica. 

“I think this is an awesome package! It includes your roundtrip airfare and the ten-day tour: multiple meals, experiences, and excursions. Transportation to and from the airport and the hotels as well; actually, transportation throughout the vacation,” Christopher said. 

The all-encompassing package does not include just two items Christopher highly recommends to future travelers eyeing this terrific experience:

  • Travel insurance
  • Spending money 

“Traveling internationally, you will need travel insurance to cover any health or medical concerns. This trip is an active one; we will be touring the rainforest, and there’s an opportunity to go water rafting. You don’t want to be stuck without the additional insurance in case of an emergency, he explained.

And as for that spending money, Christopher reminds travelers that they will have free time during the trip to explore local sights! He suggests a small budget to cover any souvenirs or extra meals that may entice you.

Get to Know Your AAA Travel Mate & Expert

Christopher joined AAA three years ago, and Travel with Pride was in his sights from the beginning, “I love supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and I feel we are at a point in time when it’s ok to be you, and it’s ok to be seen. So, to be able to bring people together is what it’s all about for me!” 

Also passionate about the arts and culture, Christopher caught the “travel bug” young as he moved a lot in his youth. He loved the opportunity to meet different people and cultures. His favorite destination is the Southwest (New Mexico to be precise), and the Albuquerque Balloon Festival is his favorite travel memory! “Being able to experience other cultures opened my eyes to the beauty of exploring and traveling. To be able to offer similar experiences to others is so fulfilling.”

AAA Honors African American History in Rochester Area

Rochester has a rich African American history

You can also view the article & more travel bits at AAA

Rochester has a rich African American history. A stop on the Underground Railroad, Rochester was home to freedom seekers, abolitionists, politicians, community leaders and others who contributed to the flight to freedom.  

Important figures like Frederick Douglass, Rev. Thomas James, Myron Holley, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Jacobs all have ties to helping slaves escape to freedom and spreading the abolitionist message from Rochester. 

Though many of the original buildings and structures may no longer stand, markers point to the significance of the many culturally significant sites in the city of Rochester and surrounding areas. 

Here are a few locations you can still see in person:

Mount Hope Cemetery – 791 Mt Hope Ave., Rochester, NY 14620
The sprawling 196-acre Mount Hope Cemetery was established in 1838 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

Many important figures of the abolitionist movement are interred at Mt. Hope. To name a few: Rev. Thomas James (former slave, James became the reverend of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, a stop on the Underground Railroad), Frederick Douglass (one of the leading voices on the abolition of slavery, Douglass has several sites that Rochester tourists can visit), Myron Holley (known as one of the influential politicians who funded the Erie Canal, Myron was a vocal abolitionist who published his newspaper Rochester Freeman in 1839) and his daughter Susan “Sallie” Holley (who dedicated her life to educating African Americans). 

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church – 42 Favor Street, Rochester, NY 14608 
Rebuilt over the years, the church still stands. Douglass printed his newspaper, The North Star (1847-1859), in the basement. Also, the church was a stop on the Underground Railroad; the pulpit included a trap door that led to the Genesee River. 

Central Church – 50 N Plymouth Ave, Rochester, NY 14614
Frederick Douglass passed on February 10, 1895, in Washington, D.C. (where he lived the last years of his life). Douglass’ Rochester memorial service was held at Central Church on February 26, 1895. From Central Church, his coffin, and mourners, were escorted to Mount Hope Cemetery. The building was expanded and is now The Hochstein School. 

The Talman Building – 25 East Main Street, Rochester, NY 14614 
This location, where Douglass moved his printing of The North Star, still stands. The important building also served as the Anti-Slavery Office and Reading Room. Many notable people graced the halls of The Talman including Harriet Jacobs (who went on to write Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl) and her brother John S. Jacobs. 

Kelsey’s Landing Maplewood Park – 89 Maplewood Dr, Rochester, NY 14615 
After runaway slaves made their way from point-to-point, house-to-house on their road to freedom, they embarked on a ship to Canada from Kelsey’s Landing. On the Genesee River, the northbound waterway can be visited today in Maplewood Park. Kelsey’s Landing was the last stop of the Underground Railroad in Rochester. 

Album Review: Frigs’ Basic Behavior

This is one band I’m excited to see live when possible; their sound is kinetic, chaotic, melancholic…and amazing! Check out up-and-coming band: Frigs!

Image by Chelsee Ivan

For Blurt Magazine:
Label: Arts & Crafts
Release Date: February 23, 2018

Toronto post-punk quartet Frigs—formerly Dirty Frigs—created a charged debut LP that is unapologetically jagged and intensely electrifying. Only on a first name basis through press releases, following their 2016 EP #Slush#, Frigs—Bria (vocals and guitar), Duncan (guitar), Kris (drums), and Lucas (bass)—return and hit hard on Basic Behaviour. The loud quartet combines noise rock with punk as Bria’s gritty vocals range from growls and shouts to sultry calm. Her vocal styling amps up the already raw music of gnarling guitar, bass, and Kris’ primal drums.

Inspiration of post-punk bands of the past is indeed felt; but, Frigs are simultaneously creating a sound all their own thanks to Bria’s unique melodies and the riotous music. Anxiety, depression, feeling of hopelessness are all themes within the lyrics on Basic Behaviour. Singles “Talking Pictures” and “II” are indeed standout tracks that easily catch your ears for their jangly guitar and haunting melodies. Holding back from no difficult issues, Bria takes on rape and assault with “Chest”: angered by the Brock Turner case that made US headlines, the case inspired her lyrics such as: “yeah, they watch me/stay asleep as you spoil me.”

“Solid State,” a tongue-in-cheek title for a song that touches on mental instability, is another mentionable track. The rolling guitars, plus interjections of guitar wails, and with Bria’s soft vocals-for the first time- hide beneath the wall of sound. “Gemini” is unique as the only track that does not scream of ferocity; the quiet song includes only Bria and a soft keyboard.

All of Basic Behaviour illustrates Frigs’ artistic, Avant-punk abilities, but the third song, “Waste,” is a fun epicenter of their possibilities. The 5-minute track undergoes 4 tempo changes as it starts out with a slow, growling bass, flat guitar plucks, a simple slap on the snare, and Bria’s dragging, slurring vocals. Then after 2.5 minutes, it transitions to a slightly faster tempo as Bria repeats “do you want to talk about it, it’s a waste;” the song picks up and moves even faster with the same lyrics. One last shift occurs as the music ends, and Bria screams into the mic and closes the track with “I am a fortune-teller, baby,” before fading into a rambling.

A raw and solid debut, Basic Behaviour translates anguish into an intense yet catchy album. 

DOWNLOAD: “Talking Pictures,” “II,” “Waste”

I think Frigs needs an official video for “Talking Pictures,” just sayin…listen to this blistering track!

Album Review: Joakim’s Samurai – Proof Positive Electronic Music Can Be Unique

To the naysayers who believe that electronic music is all the same, or “not real music” (just read a few comments on youtube videos…sigh) they’re not listening to the right artists. Joakim is indeed an artist in every sense of the word, from the eclectic sounds he creates down to the cover art for his latest album, Samurai, which is an eye catching photo of him in white makeup akin to the Japanese performance threatre, Butoh. Read more below!

For Blurt Magazine:
Label: Because Music
Release Date: March 17, 2017

French producer and DJ, Joakim Bouaziz, has released his eighth studio album, Samurai, and it defies genre labeling. It is best described as 70s jazz-funk meets 80s electronica. Almost an entirely instrumental affair, Samurai feels more like a Ronin as the album drifts rudderlessly along Joakim’s sonic stream-of-consciousness. Eclectic does not quite pin down how “out there” Samurai can become at times. For instance, “Time is Wrong” is a quiet song with simple Rhodes-reminiscent keys accompanied by Joakim’s warbled vocals that sound as if he’s singing through a fan underwater. He takes a song, that could become a very lovely ballad, and adds a weird little twist. This tendency of Joakim’s encompasses the entire album.

Playing with kinetic sounds that jitter and bounce, Joakim adds sirens, horns, and piano to create delicate music. He will then add his vocals that sound otherworldly, making very few songs sound alike. In “Late Night New City,” for instance, you can hear elements of 70s jazz-funk as a saxophone soars above the fun drum beat. “Numb” sounds like it could be on the soundtrack to an 80s flick as Devo-esque keys and android-like vocals take us back to a time when artists were experimenting with all of the electronic sounds they could create. And that is precisely what Joakim does on Samurai, play and experiment with sounds.

Opening with the recording of a plane taking off, “In The Beginning” literally launches the album. “Late Night” begins with the sounds of riding in a commuter train; Joakims incorporates police sirens, raindrops, wind, and radio static into the songs. And, as diverse as these sounds are, a jazz inspiration is felt throughout. Title track “Samurai” is perhaps the most mundane on the album, with its catchy beat, circling effects, and percussion; and, as such, it sounds the most “normal.” But for Joakim, normal is still well-crafted. The great track includes horns that add a nice layer to the song, and here Joakim’s vocals are not altered as he quietly and effortlessly lifts his voice just above a whisper. 

When Joakim does sing elsewhere on the album, it’s rarely from the beginning to end of a track. “Not Because You’re Sad” and “Mind Bent” include indecipherable whispers and vocalizations that commence several seconds into the track and rest behind the music. In fact, for “Sad,” Joakim added the detail of splitting his vocals so that listeners will mostly hear him from the right speaker. Such a small detail proves the intricacies of his music crafting.

Closing track, “Hope/Patience,” is an appropriate title to leave listeners with (or perhaps we should’ve taken off from here). This album may not prove to be everyone’s cup of tea and may require a bit of hope and patience to listen to Samurai. Joakim has made an album that is simultaneously familiar yet unique and sets you on a creative sonic journey.

DOWNLOAD: “Samurai,” “Not Because You’re Sad”

Watch the beautiful official video for one of my favorite tracks on the LP, “Samurai.”

Phantogram Live: More Than Just An Optical Illusion

Bringing magic to their fans’ eyes and ears, duo Phantogram brought a spectacular show to Rochester, NY. I’m ready to see them again!

For Blurt Magazine:

Seven years have quickly passed since Phantogram’s debut album Eyelid Movies; the 2010 release attracted media attention and garnered fans for their ability to balance pop, hip-hop, electronica and dreamy shoegaze all into one. The New York duo, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, have come a long way since their formative days. After their catchy music caught the ears of industry veterans, they’ve collaborated with acts such as hip-hop maven Big Boi and the eccentric alt-rock group Flaming Lips; further proof of their sonic chameleon abilities.

Perhaps this independent band is on the cusp of transcending the label “independent”; until then, Phantogram continues to tour extensively and made a stop in Rochester, NY while promoting their aptly named third LP,Three. Joining a long night of music, Phantogram was one of five bands performing at Main Street Armory. The roster included a mixture of alternative, pop, folk-rock with bands such as Bleeker, Judah & the Lion and headliner Grouplove; but, this biased BLURTer set her sights solely on Phantogram.

A sizable venue, Main Street Armory was the perfect venue for an indoor, winter festival. Able to hold a large audience concert-goers either milled in front of the stage or flowing about the outskirts drinking or smoking profusely while scores of music goers assured their spot centerstage. Billed to perform before the last act Phantogram played a slightly shorter set, and had one hour to command the stage; they did just that.

Touring with Nicholas Shelestak on effects and keys, and Chris Carhart on drums, Phantogram’s sonic elixir enchanted their fans as the audience cheered, danced, and jumped along to the music. Every song they performed sounded great as Barthel threw her hands in the air to pump up the audience during songs and fans happily joined her. Playing songs from their three LPs and EP Nightlife, Barthel and Carter played mostly high octane tracks to the delight of the crowd.

Opening with older songs first, Phantogram didn’t waste time getting the audience excited with the danceable “Black Out Days,” “Don’t Move” and “Fall in Love.” Early hits “When I’m Small” and their first big single “Mouthful of Diamonds” were met with loud cheers and hands thrown into the air. A multi instrumental band, Barthel switched between her keyboard and bass, while Carter played guitar and effects. Even the slightly mellower, ballad-esque “The Answer” from Three, sung by both Carter and Barthel was a thrilling performance as the bridge of the song gives way to an explosion of guitar and drums; the drumming was exciting to see live as Carhart feverishly and methodically banged on his set.

An exciting band, Phantogram sounded flawless live. Only room for improvement, if only they were not part of a music festival this night and could’ve played a longer set.


Black Out Days
Don’t Move
Fall in Love
Same Old Blues
When I’m Small
Mouthful of Diamonds
Howling at the Moon
You’re Mine
Cruel World
You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

Roisin Murphy Live in Toronto!

The fan girl in me was psyched! A long time fan of Moloko, I missed the opportunity to see Roisin Murphy live 8 years ago. So here we were, almost a decade later, and the talented singer herself was touring again! I made sure not to miss this show and, as expected from the experienced musician, Roisin Murphy did not disappoint!

For Blurt Magazine:

Touring in support of her 2016 album, Take Her up To Monto, UK songstress Roisin Murphy has come and gone, and it was like a living reverie. Her exceptional musical career began in 1993 with Moloko, a captivating band that merged dance, electronica, and jazz to create several catchy, acclaimed releases before disbanding in 2003. In addition to their well-crafted music, lead singer Roisin Murphy’s artsy, quirky, strange, and infectious stage presence, combined with her powerful yet simultaneously genteel vocals, did not go unnoticed. Murphy has since brought her unique style to her solo efforts and, like her fashion sense, has morphed each release into a different sonic landscape, continually forging a unique sound all her own.


Murphy’s first album, 2005’s Ruby Blue, was carefully constructed by layering a cacophony of sounds to create an organic, jazz-inspired dance album, whereas her 2007 sophomore release, Overpowered, took on a pop-dance trajectory, dripping in electronica and bursting in great songs. It laid out a welcoming mat in preparation for her subsequent strong albums. Then she didn’t release an LP for eight years. Murphy worked on projects with others and released a few singles before suddenly returning in 2015 with Hairless Toys, which was quickly followed by this year’s Take Her up To Monto. In true Murphy custom, these releases were nothing like her earlier albums. Minimal, delicate, yet still fun and polished, Murphy has unveiled her ability to be transformative.

And so it was on the touring for Monto: the rare occurrence of Murphy in North America. On her first solo tour in Canada, the Toronto audience loved every moment; the delighted fans sang nearly every song, and they appeared to be enthralled, utterly delighted in Murphy’s presence.

For the two hour show at the Phoenix, Murphy included fan favorites from her Moloko days in between material from her more recent releases. The band opened with the first track on the latest album: “Mastermind” is a great opener, as the lilting keys gave way to Murphy’s off-kilter vocals that transitioned between speaking and singing. Yet just when you thought the evening would be highlighting her new songs, the band leapt into the upbeat Moloko single “Forever More” and fans cheered and sang along. Murphy was a treat for the eyes as well as our ears as she changed headdresses, masks, costumes, and accessories throughout the evening. Another treat for fans was the presence of Eddie Stevens, the keyboardist, producer, and composer who has collaborated with Murphy since the Moloko days. It is his tradition to grace the stage shoeless, and he danced in bare feet as he effortlessly controlled multiple devices.

Murphy herself danced, stomped and sashayed about the stage in between singing to the audience and the occasional fondling of her bandmates (everyone laughed at her antics). Making sure she interacted with her fans, Murphy often approached the edge of the stage and reached out to shake hands; one lucky gentleman who stood near center stage was the frequent receiver of her attention as she would lay on the speakers, stretch her arm, and hold his hand while she sang. A photographer’s dream, Murphy’s artful display clearly dazzled the fans. At one point she wore a beautiful, large, white gown and accessorized it with a miner’s helmet that had a flashing strobe light. She switched between multiple head pieces: from a mask with two faces to one with a Pinocchio nose to a crimped, black ball reminiscent to a ‘60s sci-fi helmet to a piece with flowing, red streamers and a red/white bobble at the top of her head. After close inspection you could see it was actually a sideways Ronald McDonald head.

And during these many visual phases, she and the band played on, effortlessly. A quintessential Murphy song to perform, “Sing it Back,” was performed before the encores, reworked but still as catchy as the original studio version, and as Murphy sang the words “sing it back to me,” the concert hall erupted into the next line and commenced an organic call-and-answer moment.

Though her mic this evening could’ve been better—when she chatted with the audience between songs, she could not be heard too clearly—the crowd did not seem to care. Fans knew all of the songs old and new, with perhaps the exception of closer “Pure Pleasure Seeker” from Moloko’s 2000 album, although select fans were clearly familiar with this high octane track.

Now that the two hours of singing and dancing was officially over, the audience cheered and applauded loudly while Murphy again made her way to the front of the stage. This time she walked the entire edge to shake hands one last time, and as she climbed over a speaker to reach the fans at the far right corner, people rushed forward enthusiastically. Murphy took her time, and strongly held as many hands as she could before leaving the stage for the final time. What a strong grip.

Forever More
Dirty Monkey
Dear Miami
Tight Sweater
In sintesi
Tatty Narja
Gone Fishing
Evil Eyes
House of Glass
Ten Miles High
Sing It Back

Pure Pleasure Seeker