Monday, November 23, 2015


For this year's San Francisco Olympians Festival, whose sub-theme was mythology and deities related to The Wine-Dark Sea, I thought about how many artists have found inspiration in the sea, and decided to put together a playlist of ocean-themed music. Each night of the festival, I posted a video on Facebook and Twitter and tagged it #Oceansongs. Now that the festival is over, I thought I'd post the whole playlist here so that it's preserved and accessible in a slightly less ephemeral medium.

The first year of the Olympians Festival (2010), when I served as box-office manager, I themed my outfit to each night's play. I am trying to figure out what it says about me and my growth (?) over the last five-plus years that I've switched from curating outfits to curating playlists.

One. "Fuor del mar" by Mozart from Idomeneo. Starting off with an old-school classic! ""Saved from the sea, I have an even more fearsome sea raging in my breast, and Neptune does not cease to threaten me." Also, Idomeneo is all about fathers and sons, and so was the Olympians show that night, Triton.

Two. "Surfer Girl," by the Beach Boys. The Olympians Festival show that night was "Bevy of Beauties," a series of short plays about minor sea goddesses and nymphs, so a love song to a beach bunny felt appropriate.

Three. "Under the Sea," from The Little Mermaid. I'm no Disney fangirl, but being a child of the '90s, I couldn't forgive myself if I made an ocean-themed playlist and neglected to include Howard Ashman's clever maritime rhymes.

Four. "The Shipwreck Coast," by the Lucksmiths. This song has no particular connection to that evening's Olympians Festival show, but I love this band and will take any opportunity to promote them, and as Australian indie pop, they bring some musical and geographical diversity to the playlist.

Five. "The Mariner's Revenge Song," by the Decemberists. The show that night was "The Crew" so I posted the sea chantey to end all sea chanteys. I previously wrote about why I think this song is so brilliantly written and constructed (in the context of explaining why I don't think the Decemberists' rock opera The Hazards of Love is so brilliant).

Six. "Seafarer," by Tennis. The show that night, Allison Page's Jasons, was a comic, pop-culture-crazed interpretation of the story of Jason and the Argonauts -- who definitely broke a lot of female hearts as they sailed the seas. Thus, this love song to a sailor.

Seven. "The Tide is High," by Blondie. Because Medea (subject of that evening's show) is not the kinda girl who gives up ju-ust like tha-at. Oh no-o-o-o! Also, this video is amazing. Debbie Harry can't dance, and yet she seems like the essence of timeless cool. The backup dancers move gracefully, and yet they seem tacky and cheesy. One could ponder this paradox for hours.

Eight. "Sloop John B," by the Beach Boys. The show that night was about the ship, the Argo, itself, so here's my favorite song about a boat. This was also the day after the Paris attacks, when everyone I knew was feeling gloomy and hopeless, and it is in such moments that we need the piercing, transcendent beauty of the Beach Boys' a capella harmonies.

Nine. "La Mer," by Charles Trenet. That evening, I was playing a French woman in Delphin: Christian Teen Dolphin-Sex Beach Party, so I had to post a classic French chanson.

Ten. "Never Let Me Go," by Florence + the Machine. One of the Olympians Festival shows that night was based on the sorceress Circe, so Florence's witchy, mystical persona seemed to fit.

Eleven. "The Island," by the Decemberists. This was the night of the staged reading of my own Tethys, or You'll Not Feel the Drowning -- whose spooky subtitle is taken from a lyric in this Decemberists prog-rock opus.

Twelve. "Octopus's Garden," by the Beatles. Another obvious choice for the playlist. I posted it the day of the staged reading of Meg O'Connor's play Pontos, or High Tide, because I have fond memories of singing Beatles songs with Meg and her husband.

Thirteen. "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," by Otis Redding. A special bonus song posted the day after the Festival ended, to make this a baker's dozen, to include Redding's bittersweet and thoughtful tribute to the San Francisco Bay, to thank everyone who participated in and attended this year's San Francisco Olympians Festival.

By the way, the subjects for next year's Olympians Festival have already been announced, and they are underworld and chthonic deities, including a week of Egyptian gods. Which means I'm already thinking about next year's playlist. Hashtag #Deathsongs.

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