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Testify - Olivia Dvorak

Submitted by RamonLP4 on August 19, 2011 – 9:33 amNo Comment
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Olivia Dvorak as Poopylungstuffing

 

The Ukulele (or Uke as some affectionately call it) is the kind of instrument that polarizes people.  Some people relegate it to novelty and heap derision on it, while others praise its innocent and simple charms.  Among its fans is Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam who just did an entire record of uke tunes. Houston also has its uke champions and, arguably, the most high profile uke player in Houston is Super Happy Funland’s Olivia Dvorak (who plays as Poopylungstuffing ).  Being a huge fan of the small Hawaiian four-string, Olivia is having a birthday party and Uke Festival this Saturday so we shot her a quick round of questions about the Uke and the festival.

FPH - Why a Uke festival?

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Olivia - It is a Leo Party because it is my Birthday. The SHFL anniversary always corresponds with my business partner Brian’s birthday in March…and I have a Leo Party for my birthday…so I make it a party for all Leos and Leos get special treatment and stuff…so it is not JUST my party, but it is an excuse to have a party.

A uke festival because (it’s mah party) and I am a very uke-centric person. I play the ukulele..I collect ukes…I am one of those You Tube ukulele people with over 800 you tube videos, mostly of me playing ukulele songs. I also perform with the uke solo live as Poopylungstuffing where I wear a funny costume and play standards and originals usually opening up on very slow nights at my venue, but I have done kids parties…..I play the ukulele in the SHFL “house band” Organ Failure….and I have been a ukulele street busker in the past, both in New Orleans and outside Notsuoh. My boyfriend Christopher Daniello is performing in his band at the Leo Party and he is an extremely good uke player in a Hawaiian style band called “The Grass Skirts”…i like the idea of having a “uke festival” I have lumped it in with the Leo Party cause a big chunk of my life revolves around the ukulele….

FPH - What do you think is the appeal of Ukes?

Olivia -I personally like the uke because it is very compatible with my singing voice and much more “user friendly” than the guitar. I “used” to play the guitar before I picked up the uke…There is a sweetness to the uke that the guitar doesn’t often have…Every time I hear the ukulele in a commercial (or in a song in general) my ears perk up…little kids LOOOVE the ukulele…I have been playing the uke to my business partner’s young daughter since she was a small infant…she is still under one, but very excited when i bring out my ukulele….There are a lot of songs that I can play on the uke that would be conciderably more challenging to play on the guitar. It is an instrument that is accessible to more people, while at the same time it is not a “toy” instrument. It has the potential to be accessible and easy to learn for a person who might fancy themselves as “not musically inclined” but there are also enviable “master uke players” with amazing chops.

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FPH - How did you first come across the uke and what first drew you to it?

Olivia -My business partner had an antique banjolele, and the tuning pegs were shot, so it was untunable. I would try and play around with it, but it was too old and needed too much work to be reckoned with, but I was interested as soon as I came upon it. I just couldn’t get it tuned. I was playing guitar back then…THEN in the course of a couple of weeks, perhaps in 2003 or 4 I happened to see 2 uke performers over the course of a very short time. One was Rhonda Roberts opening for Trachtnenburg Family Slide Show at Waldo’s, and then David Ibar of Herman Dune when he played at the old Super Happy Fun Land with Kimya Dawson…I think I acquired my first “proper: ukulele ( an Ovation Applause soprano) less than two weeks later, and I was a non-stop uke player after that. I really wish I could say that I had been playing the uke since I was a kid… I would have loved to have had access when I was younger, but it simply was not on my radar…. Ukuleles have ebbed and flowed in popularity over the years, and when I was younger, they were not very popular. For a long time, at Guitar Center, there was generally only one uke that a person could purchase and I believe it was a $30 Hilo..not a very good uke…Now that the uke is popular, I have noticed that they have a much broader selection of ukes in stock..and that is a fairly new thing.

FPH - Give us a round-up of who is playing and what their super-uke powers are.

Olivia - I am playing (As Poopy Lungstuffing)..my “super uke powers” are in my funny costume and I am also a life-long singer.. I have been in Houston bands since 1991 (when I was 15)… I am not the greatest ukulele player… but it is my main instrument.. (aside from singing)…. I mostly do very old originals with some standards thrown in for good measure. Somehow, mainly due to my internet presence I have managed to obtain a funny little “fan base” of people from around the world.. but I don’t “draw” very well in houston, and seldom play outside my own venue.

The Grass Skirts

The Grass Skirts are a really terrific tight Hawaiian Style band..they do traditional and/or neo traditional songs.. A lot of the originals were written by the ukuleleist in the band Christopher Daniello, who is an excellent songwriter and perhaps the best ukulele player I know. Alot of the songs are funny and catchy and slightly surreal. He plays Tenor uke and does all kinds of cool solos and stuff. They are an excellent example of a band where the ukulele is showcased as a lead instrument. I am not really sure about the other acts on the bill.  I would have to research them, my business partner booked them, and it is my undertanding that they are both ukulele acts.

FPH - The Who had a Uke song, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam just did a Uke album and there is that famous George Harrison live chat where when asked “Any hints for a budding guitarist???”,  he replied, “Yes, buy a ukulele!”  Despite these and other examples, some people still hate ukes. Why do you think people have a hard time taking the instrument seriously?

Olivia -  Yeegads! I can’t imagine someone hating the ukuelele? What is there to hate? It is such a versatile instrument…. I could maybe see some people who are hard-wired to only like the guitar… and the uke is not necc. suitable for every band… Maybe people are annoyed by the accessibility of the uke…that a person does not need excessive amounts of training to become a reasonably competent uke player… Or maybe people think the uke is too “shrill”… but I am not good at figuring on other people’s tastes…

FPH - Can you give us a ukelele’s greatest hits list for people to listen to?

Olivia -Tiny Tim (duh)…”God Bless Tiny Tim” I have the Album cover on my wall. Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain…Asylum Street Spankers have always had a uke in the band…um George Formby is one of my favorites.  The Magnetic Fields are are really great band that has always used the ukulele.

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Super Happy Leo Party and Ukulele Festival 2011 featuring Poopy Lungstuffing, Cowboy Indian Bear, The Grass Skirts,, Organ Failure, The Annoysters, Jacob Kibler Saturday, August 20 @ Super Happy Fun Land, 8pm, Free, All Ages.

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