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Pink Martini Delivers an Around-the-World Happy Hour
Saturday, August 28, 2021


China Forbes didn’t hesitate to give her version of a Yelp review from the stage of the Sun Valley Pavilion Thursday night.

“Last time we played Sun Valley they lost my luggage so I bought a dress at Sun Valley. This time I went shopping for the fun of it and I got some earrings in Hailey at the Red Door. Then I bought a dress at Maude’s Coffee Shop. Since when do you buy a dress at a coffee shop!?”

The long feather-shaped silver earrings caught the glint of the spotlight and Forbes’ trademark red dress added to the color of a concert celebrating the Sun Valley Museum of Art’s 50th anniversary on a lovely summer evening.

A sea of faces filled the 1,750-seat Pavilion with another thousand or so spilling out onto the Pavilion lawn as the 10-piece band performed song in French and many of the 24 other languages they sing.

“Pink Martini first came here in 1997 to perform at a Wine Auction picnic and they’ve been here twice since,” said Kristine Bretall, the Museum’s director of Performing Arts. “We had them for the first time when they were a baby band. Now they’re world-class stars and we put them No. 1 on our list to be the house band celebrating our Golden Anniversary.”

Pink Martini was just three years old, having been established in 1994, when the band first played Sun Valley. Its founder Thomas Lauderdale was a politician-in-training preparing himself for a run at office when he became disenchanted with the lackluster music at the political fundraisers he was attending in his hometown of Portland, Ore.

He founded his “little orchestra” to provide more beautiful, inclusive music for such causes as civil rights, cleaning up the Willamette River and—yes—affordable housing. His former Harvard classmate China Forbes joined a year later, and the band now includes four percussion musicians playing a variety of interesting percussion instruments, a trumpeter and trombonist, a bass player and guitar player, a violinist and Lauderdale on piano.

“We both turned 50 during the pandemic,” Forbes said of herself and Lauderdale as she launched into the song “Let’s Be Friends,” which she wrote during the pandemic. “If you turn 50 during the pandemic, you’re 50 for life.”

Pink Martini showed they know how to play to a Sun Valley audience as they told stories about her Corgi and Lauderdale’s “enormous yellow lab,” who fell for each other. They played songs with upbeat Middle Eastern flavors and songs about autumn breezes.

And they sang “Sympathique,” which was the first song Lauderdale and Forbes wrote together and has become a song for striking French workers, because of its phrase “I don’t want to work.”

The band has played around the world, appearing on stages in Turkey, Greece, Northern Africa, Asia and South America, as well as the usual venues in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United States where they’ve played at the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center, the Sydney Opera House and Royal Albert Hall.

Their concert at the Pavilion was no less special inducing people to waltz across the Pavilion terrace as Forbes sang “Que Sera Sera”

“It’s a great night to dress up,” said Laurie Yeager as she watched a woman descend the Pavilion stairs in a pink tutu.

“This band plays fabulous music and I love China’s voice,” said Laurie’s husband Don Yeager, who has attended all the Pink Martini concerts. “They’re talented people who travel all over the world. And it’s happy music—it makes us dance and jump for joy.”

Kurt Nelson, district ranger for the Ketchum Ranger District, has attended three of the four concerts Pink Martini has performed in Sun Valley.

“They’re awesome—huge awesome,” he said. “And so wide ranging in the songs they sing, the music they play. I love that they sing in so many languages.”

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