Thursday, September 29, 2011

Song of the Week: Marcus Foster

I have been happily listening to the same song 17 times a day (which is already posted on this blog somewhere, I let you guess which one it is) for a week now, so I haven’t been in the mood to listen to anything new.   But one of my indie folky friends has been rambling on about Marcus Foster for a while now.  Facebook, blog posts, tweets, and today I even got an email.  So today I listened.  Shame on me for waiting so long. His album, Nameless Path, was released this week, but in the UK, which is not here. Hopefully, it will magically pop up on iTunes, here in 'Merica, soon.  Maybe I'll check again in 5 minutes. 

I was broken, for a long time, but It's over now

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Egads.  Has anyone else had a Come to Jesus week? And it is only Tuesday.  I mean Wednesday? Non-Monday or Friday days get a little blurry sometimes.

Hopefully this weekend I can catch my breathe and start recounting stories that involve people making me Indian food, hanging out in a synagogue in Chinatown, new art, lots of new music and as always, random pictures from my Zuzu my iPhone.

I hope you're having a week worthy of pulling out the hot pants.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Urban Camping

This weekend I was suppose to go camping in the Shenandoah mountains.
But then it rained. A lot.
And I got sick. A lot
So we decided to stay home.
But we still roasted marshmallows.
And we still ate s'mores.

A Karate Kid movie marathon may or may not have also been involved.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Words: Wisdom

Near Raleigh, North Carolina 2007

 You're a Genius all the time 
--Jack Kerouac

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sounds: Flogging Molly

I also saw Flogging Molly play this past weekend. They play traditional Irish music, with fiddles, tin whistles, accordions, mandolins, banjos, and BAM electric guitars. The lead vocalist, Dave King founded the band after arriving to California from Ireland. Their songs are filled with tales of Irish history, (Oliver Cromwell boo!), drinking, religious guilt, family, working and dreaming of a better life. . . .and pirates. You know, what you would except a good Irish band to sing about. Flogging Molly is probably one of my favorite bands to see live. I have said a million times before that the Irish have a special connection with music, it is in the blood.

Flogging Molly has 7 members, who pretty much line up across the stage. So getting a total band picture is usually impossible, but I did get a couple of shots that almost got everyone:

Well, everyone except the accordion player, so to be fair, here he is:

But my best view was of Dennis Casey at the electric guitar:
His guitar was loud. Or maybe I was hugging the speaker.  But this guy could not stand still for more than 2 seconds, which is a good thing because who pays money to watch people stand still.  But for picture taking purposes it tends to be a little tricky, especially when a lot of time is spent mid air.   So, please join me in a new game called, "Find the flying guitar player in the blurry picture." It's all the rage.

I never did get a clear picture of him in the air, so I guess the moral of the story is that I need a camera with a faster shutter speed? I was also thinking, man, I have taken a lot of pictures at shows lately. Am I turning into one of those people? You know those people who spend so much time on their phones/fancy tech toys, updating their Facebook statuses, etc that they forget to see and enjoy the world around them.  But like most things in life, it is all about balance. To document my super fun awesome life as it comes, but not live just to blog about it.  Maybe that is the real moral of the story.

post script: If you have never heard of Flogging Molly, take a listen to the song that made me a fan:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sounds: The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers are a band that I am pretty sure that I can talk anyone into listening to. They are definitely folk influenced, but still have enough of a rock n’ roll edge that it isn’t all about kumbaya.  They formed in 2000 in North Carolina and have been touring and recording pretty steadily since then, and they are fantastic live.  The energy and humble presence of brothers Scott (banjo) and Seth (guitar) is magnetic, you can’t take your eyes off of them, or stop from smiling. Joe Kwon who plays the cello is amazing, I don’t think that I could carry the cello let alone move around the stage like he does.  He plays while standing, while holding up the cello. Talk about upper body strength. The group is rounded out by Bob Crawford (who didn’t play this show) on upright bass and Jacob Edwards on drums.

This weekend the Brothers Avett headlined the HFS Festival (Hfstival) in Columbia, MD.  It was lovely. The only downside was that since it was music festival, the band had a relatively short set time.  And no encores. I can think of at least 5 other songs that I was hoping they would play. In fact, I would not have complained if they played every song that they ever wrote.  I would have stayed. But one of the pros of seeing them at this small festival was that I was able to get prime real estate, if off center, for seeing the show, jumping all around, stomping my feet, clapping my hands and singing at the top of little lungs. 

A highlight (among many) was the 2 brothers alone on stage singing "Murder in the City"
Take a listen:

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Made This: Blueberry Basil Preserves

I have a habit of cooking really late at night. It's pretty ridiculous.  An old roommate of mine loves to tell the story of finding me in the kitchen peeling potatoes at 3 o'clock in the morning. I figure that if I can't sleep I might as well be productive. But not the balance my checkbook or fold laundry kind of productive, but the make a huge mess in the kitchen kind of productive. 
Last night at 11:07pm I decided to make Blueberry Basil Preserves. It wasn’t entirely an out of the blue thought; a borrowed canner from a friend had been sitting on the breakfast table for over a week, (I have pretty wild and crazy friends that own canners and stuff) and I had 3 pounds of blueberries waiting patiently in the fridge. I think somewhere in the maze of my mind I rationalized that making jam would be a strategic move to stop Monday morning from coming so quickly. (Spoiler alert: Monday morning still came quickly).
I have never made jam, jellies or preservers before. I haven’t canned anything before.  I even had to google how to use the canner, which to me just looked like a huge pot. I would say that I like a challenge, but in reality, it wasn’t that complicated; chop, stir, boil, stir some more and a nice hot bath, for the jars of preserves, not yourself, but hey, whatever floats your boat.   
One of the benefits of cooking is the relative immediate satisfaction. To say, Hey I made this! And brag about it, hypothetically, on a blog.  Unless it turns out crummy, then you just have to cover it with ice cream or bury it in the trash and hope no one asks.  But with these preserves, I had to wait 12-24 hours for them to cool. Oh, new recipe anticipation! I dreamt about my little blueberry jars last night, when I finally got to bed.  Wait, does that clock say 2:17 AM. Yikes. In addition to the canning and clean up I also felt the needed to watch a music documentary which led to a guest appearance by Joe Strummer in my dreams. I was giving him a jar or jam.  Awkward since he died in 2002 and awesome because I was giving Joe Strummer a jar of jam. I thought jam about all day at work. What if the jars didn’t seal? (They did!) What was I going to taste test them with? (Biscuits!) Why do people hit reply all, when it is clearly not a reply all situation? (mystery of the universe!)

Biscuits + Blueberry Basil Preserves + Brie = one genius of a dinner. The preserves actually turned out really good; you can taste the fresh from the garden basil but it isn't too strong and balances out the blueberry beautifully. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sneak Peak

I saw some amazing bands this weekend and can't wait to inundate you with pictures. But since Monday is coming faster than I can mark things off my weekend to do list, here are just some teasers for now:

Flogging Molly

The Avett Brothers

And they played my song!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Good Job!

Two thumbs way up for anyone that stayed with me through a week long Boston travel log. For your award you receive:

Words of Wisdom:
"Survival is your strength not your shame." - T.S. Elliott

And a look at the very elusive sweet potato tater tot:
These things are harder to find than the abominable snowman during a blizzard. But tonight, victory was mine. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sounds: The Low Anthem and William Elliott Whitmore

I am not 18 anymore.
Shocker, right? I usually love the fact that people think I am way younger than I really am, but some days it really hits me. I am old.

These days usually come in the form of weekday shows, shows as in going to see bands plays. I always feel awkward calling them concerts. It’s not like I am going to see Barry Manilow.

This week I went and saw Barry Manilow. Just kidding, I went and saw William Elliott Whitmore and The Low Anthem at the 9:30 Club in DC.

For downtown shows during the week, I will usually just stay at work late and then take the train to the venue.  I will have to admit there is something wonderfully freeing about changing out the ill-fitting business suit and into jeans and a t-shirt in the work restroom. It is like stripping off a costume and coming back to my true self.

But sometimes my true self is a little tired, especially after a 10 hour day. I was dragging yesterday and wondering if I was really in the mood for mellow folk music.

Then Mr. Whitmore came on stage, and the answer was yes. Yes, this is exactly the type of music that I needed.

William Elliott Whitmore
I have mentioned William Elliott Whitmore before and will probably keep mentioning him. He is singer/songwriter from Iowa that has this wonderful protesting the man/big tent revival preacher quality to him. He sings with such passion and pain, that more than once the entire room was moved to silence.   It is just him up there, alone with his banjo, guitar and a drum and a kick petal. And he sings with his eyes close.  This, yes, does cut down on your ability to do complicated choreography, but it also displays this feeling that you are spilling your entire soul out there on stage.  After every couple songs, he we would stop, stand up, and go to the audience and shake a couple hands, ask how we were doing and take song requests. There are benefits to going to small shows.

It was definitely a hipster crowd. Without joking even a little bit, half the crowd was in skinny jeans and plaid shirts. It was a little odd, like a weird hipster alien invasion.  Between sets I couldn’t help but listen in on the conversation of the couple standing behind me.  It was obviously their first date, which was a little sweet in that awkward kind of way, until they started talking about the death penalty. I know that this is DC and everyone wants to prove how much of a wonk they are, but c’mon. Don’t talk about the death penalty on the first date. Really. Don't do it.  It can only lead to yelling. Which is did last night; good thing the house music was really loud.

The Low Anthem
The Low Anthem is a band from Rhode Island and their music is just beautiful. I don’t understand why this show didn’t sell out.  I am having a hard time describing their music, without using the word beautiful again, so let’s go with indie folk.  Imagine yourself lying in the grass in a field of wildflowers by a stream, looking up at the stars at night. Yeah, I would go with that too. They have toured with both Mumford & Sons,The Avett Brothers and Iron & Wine,  as well as graced the stages of many of the world best music festivals such as Bonnaroo and Glastonbury.

The four piece band rotates among a variety of instruments, and I do mean a variety: acoustic and electric guitars, stand-up bass, electric bass, banjo, clarinet, horns, dulcimer, keyboard, drums, harmonica, and even a saw. Yep, as in I am going to cut down a tree, saw.  There were a couple of instruments that I still have no idea what they were. But I love the idea that you can make music, beautiful music out of almost everything.  Ben, the lead vocalist has amazing range, from super high, to a Tom Waits growl.

A few weeks ago, the band released a statement that after the current tour they are going to take a long break while releasing 2 new albums. There was also the implication that after this tour and new albums, they aren’t going to be playing any of the old stuff. For this reason alone, I am glad that I went to the show. They played a long set with all the songs being in chronological order.  We all waited with baited breathe for the song, “This G-d Damn House.” At the end of the song, with instruction from the band, everyone in the room calls some else in the room on their cell phone on speakerphone. The feedback between all the phones creates this effect that sounds almost like crickets chirping. I made a recording of it last night, but couldn't upload it, so here is another recording. It is the entire song, the chirping starts about minute 4. At first it sounds pretty Star Treky, but wait for it, it is pretty wild to hear live.

I had to leave before the end of their encore to catch the last train home. It always amazes me the large amount of people still on the subway after midnight. Where are all these people coming from, where are they going?

So here is to a great show. The next day, in a sleep deprived daze trying to type memos and fill in spreadsheets, the faded remains of the club stamp on my hand was a happy reminder of a life outside of the office.

It made me feel 18 again. Or, maybe 21.

Good-bye Boston!

Last Boston post! Well, unless you want to hear about the random guy that came up to me on the train last night and started to talk about Boston.  Out of the blue. And I wasn’t wearing an I heart Boston shirt or anything. Magnetic personality? What.

I am not a souvenir type of person. I take a bunch of pictures and always come back with fun stories, but I really don’t buy too much. Well, other than cheese and chocolate. I buy a lot of those.  I just don’t want to buy stuff to buy stuff.   I want them to have meaning, a good story behind them, that years from now when I see them, I think of those stories and not just some tourist shop. This is much to the sadness of family and friends who watch with longing eyes as I unpack my bags.  I do usually send postcards, which I think is a quaint little tradition. And for the record, I still stand by the fact that I mailed a whole pile of postcards from the famous Post Office in Dublin last year, and if no one got them, well, blame, uh the English? Ninjas? English Ninjas?

I have awesome friends that bring me back stuff from all around the world, and I need to be better about returning the favor. Please remind me of this when I leave for France later on this year. 

But I did pick up a couple of things this trip (and sent some postcards!). Things for myself, I just assume that I can talk everyone into going to Boston so they can buy their own stuff.

The first time I visited Boston I brought a Boston Fire Department shirt that the BFD sell to raise money for their charities. It quickly became one of my favorite shirts, which also means that while it has the soft well-worn and well-loved feel to it, it is also pretty faded. This trip I passed the table again and I stopped and brought a new shirt without a second thought.  But it is not just about fashion. These are the people that keep us safe, that run towards danger when we run away from it. We need to support them as much as they support us.

This print is of the 1908 Boston Red Sox logo. It will probably be framed and hung in the house somewhere, but I have had a devilish urge to display it at work in my cubicle. I know that the moment I do, my boss would, after 3 years, finally figure out where I sit in the office. He is a huge Yankees fan.

In case you missed it:  Boston I, Boston II, Boston III, Boston IV

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Faraway Adventure: Boston IV

Random pictures from around the city:

 Because of the line of work I am in, I have gotten used to people yelling at me. So when I was walking through the Public Gardens and heard yelling, I thought nothing of it. But then I realized that it wasn't yelling, it was cadence. Recruits were running through city.

 The Haymarket, which people mistake for a farmer's market. It's not. It is a place to buy cheap produce that wholesale markets are trying to get rid of before their next shipment.

 Memorial made of dog tags dedicated to soldiers who have died in the latest Gulf Wars.

Instead of falling down the rabbit hole, you can just take the T to Wonderland.

In case you missed it:  Boston I, Boston II, Boston IIIGood-bye Boston

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Faraway Adventures: Boston III

Are you tired of Boston stories yet? Choose your own adventure time: If no, continue reading, if yes, come back on Saturday, it will all be over then.
Also, sorry for the typeface/spacing issues. I have tried to fix it, but it just seems happy this way.

It is a shame that people don’t like to hear my punk rock stories, they’re my best ones. Well, except for the alien invasion story, but only certain people get to hear that one.
It would take too long to go into how and why I got into any type of music, but let’s just say that the kid with pink hair and doc martin boots will always be a part of who I am. And that I am grateful for, she’s pretty tough.  Just think of me as a token friend that you can bring up cocktail parties, oh I have punk rock friend who also bakes pies.
The Concert.
But first behold, Fenway Park:

The first band was  the Street Dogs. Fun fact: Mike, the singer was the original singer of the Dropkick Murphys and vocals can be heard on their first album, Do or Die. Street Dogs was formed in 2002, but I didn't see them live until 2004, Kansas City in that club that is behind Kelly's in Westport. Not that anyone knows what I am taking about. 

Rick Barton, the original Dropkick Murphy’s guitar player (first 2 albums), joined them on stage.
The second band was the legendary Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Their set brought back such memories. Remember when ska was all the rage in the late 1990s?  It actually originates in Jamaica in 1950s, but all you really need to know about it is that it is dance music.  I used to go the ska concerts all the time and dance my little heart out. It was fun watching the crowd for the Bosstones set. You can tell who listened to old ska, and who just came in during the third wave. It is all in how you dance.  The band may have looked a little older, I mean most of them have been playing together since the 1980s, but maybe because of that, it was ridiculously great. They still rocked it in the plaid.

 The first time that I saw the MMB was during Warped Tour in Lawrence, KS in 1997. It was at nice grassy park. It was so hot that day, and I was so dehydrated that for most of their set I just laid on the grass in the back and listened. When they played a song I liked, I stood up and clapped, and then went back to lying on the grass.  I have since seen them many times since in well hydrated states of being.  
 And after the MMB I sat down. It takes forever to break the stage down after a ska band.  So let’s continue with a little history:
Because I am a nerd I keep fliers and ticket stubs from all the concerts that I have ever been to. Last night I was trying to remember when the first time that I saw the Dropkick Murphys, so I consulted my archives (don’t call it a scrapbook):
1998. Wow. They weren’t even the opening band, and their name is misspelled.  And they looked like this:
I remember this show. It was pouring outside, and the venue, which was actually an independent movie theater ,was a horrible place to see a band, but as I would find out in a latter show, was pretty easy to sneak into. DKM’s first album had been released earlier in the year, and while they were gaining popularity due to being on the first Hellcat complication cd, they were still pretty unknown, especially out West.   But I still remember thinking, wow, those DKM boys, they have heart.

The were 4 members back then; vocals, guitar, bass, drums. 13 years and 9 albums later, there are 7 members that rotate between vocals, guitars (electric and acoustic), bass, drums, bagpipes, tin whistle, accordion, piano, banjo, mandolin, harmonica and probably other instruments I can't think of. Though they will also be a punk band at heart, they infuse a lot of not only Celtic instruments and sounds but also the art of storytelling through song.
Ok, they finally got the stage set up, back to the show.   DKM knows how to make an entrance. They always play the same four songs before they come on to build up excitement. So I knew that when Foggy Dew started playing that we were minutes away. Then the spotlight shines on the Green Monster, and if you squint, you could see the band walk across the famous left field wall and down the stadium steps and then on the field and then they are on stage HOORAY!
 I took a few pictures, just to prove that I was there for posterity and still not stuck in the bathroom, but then I put the camera away and just enjoyed the show. Plus the darker it gets the snarkier my zoom becomes. Sadly, a lot of the crowd didn’t follow suit and spent a great deal of the night taking pictures of themselves, to I assume, post on Facebook. Oh the youth of today, I shake my fist at you!
Behold a Rock n' Roll Rainbow! 

This one l like to call--Guitar: Inferred. In reality, the flash went bizarro.

 One of the things that I love and appreciate about the Dropkick Murphys, and is that even after selling out every single show for the last several years, and having a song featured in a Martin Scorsese film*, they still seem humbled by their success. The warm interaction with the crowd is still there, the heart is still there.
 Fantastic show. The majority of songs came from their newest album, but they did pull songs from all their albums, including an acoustic set. And if you were you wondering if it possible to play the banjo and the harmonica at the same time, the answer is yes. I saw it with my own eyes.  Mike from the Street Dogs, and the whole Bosstones crew joined them on stage for a ramshackle of an encore.
As absolutely corny as it sounds, I am pretty happy that I have been able to witness their journey from opening band in small clubs to playing before 9000+ people at Fenway Park.  I use to think that along with death and taxes, Dropkick Murphys touring was a sure thing. But I know that sooner rather than later the band will decide that they probably want to see their children grow up and stop touring, so I am sure to take in every show.
*The featured song was "I'm Shipping Up to Boston," and it was in the movie, The Departed. The lyrics are actually a unpublished Woody Gurthie piece. Guthrie's daughter, Nora, came to DKM and offered it to them, hoping to introduce her father's work to a new generation. 

In case you missed it:  Boston I, Boston II, Boston IV, Good-bye Boston