Saturday, November 22, 2014

Bits & Pieces

1. Today's list is also known as another distraction from my domestic responsibilities. It's not like my fortress of solitude is messy, maybe there is a pair shoes over there that should go back in the closet, or a load laundry that probably needs to be done,  or I guess I should empty the entire dishwasher instead of just pulling out a fork whenever I need one, but Whoa Nelly, where is my motivation today? Not here. Not here.  So let's make a list of random things. List making is always a true sign of productivity. 

2. May I be the first to wish you  glad tidings for this upcoming week of holidays:  Happy Pie Day,  Happy Evacuation Day, and Merry  Old Thanksgiving to you and yours. Did I totally trick you by throwing in a non food based holiday there? I guess there are other things in life to celebrate then just food.  

3. This week's hummus trial went horrible. How bad can chickpeas and garlic stink, you ask? Super bad. Holy yikes. The only thing I can think of is that I let the dried chickpeas soak too long. But I guess if I want to look at it through poetic eyes, I kind of love how in the world of fast food and 30 minute meals, this hummus is teaching me patience.

4. I am pretty sure that my excuse of " Oh, I watch a lot of end of the world/apocalypse films, I AM prepared," will only get me out of emergency preparedness activities for so much longer.

5. I love the music scene and community out here in DC.  It definitely and honestly was on the list of reasons to move back when I was making that decision early this year.  And what a time to move back! There seems to be an excited effort to document and preserve, not only the music but also the communities that have formed up around and because of it. There are several institutions in the area starting and growing archives, tons of programs going on, and a heavy hand of articles are being published about many different aspects of life on the HiFi  here in the Nation's Capital.  One such article was this WaPo piece about the release of local band Fuguzi's first demo tape.  I happen to really respect this band and have for many years, but what I really love about the article was that it mentioned that an entire movement or community grew out of fans passing this demo tape from one person to another. No flashy marketing campaign, no radio payola going down , but simply the genuine love of music and sharing music.

6. Speaking of articles about music, this one is a little old, but I was going through all my older bookmarked articles and I still love it. It starts out with the question about when and how should a parent expose their children to music. Now, obvs, I don't have any little folk of my own, but I love, love, love, how the article suggests acquainting music with times of comfort for even the littlest of ears: "Passing along cultural treasures needn't be a formal process of sitting your son down for a lesson on the masters; it's best and most effectively done through osmosis, by making great music the wallpaper in a loving home. Incorporate it quietly, subtly, into everyday moments in which your son receives comfort; bedtime, downtime, feeding time, strolls around the block."   What a great gift it is to show and help kids learn from an early age the comforting powers of music.

7. Tis the season to be freaked out by mechanical deer at stores. I'm not kidding. I must of jumped back about three feet today. Now, I am usually down with woodland creatures and all, but not in aisle 4 (it was a holiday display, that I thought was static and then started to move).  At least I don't live by the creepy inflatable snowman any more. 

8. A little bit ago I helped out with a cooking class. The name of that night's class was "Beyond Pumpkin Pie." Pretty clever, right? I came up with it. It was suppose to be about putting modern twists on classic Thanksgiving dishes. However, I realized pretty early on in the class that most people really don't want to tweak or change the Thanksgiving menu that they have been eating their entire lives. Which, I guess I understand, memories and food, etc. But, well, I felt pretty much like the Charlie Brown teacher up there talking about things that people might not care about. But. But. If you guys haven't tried mixing and swirling your white and sweet potatoes together in one dish, wacka wow. So good. This Baked Masted Potatoes and Yams with Garlic and Parmesan recipe is amazing.  Not healthy at all, but super tasty. 

9. Need more reasons to visit DC other than history around every corner,  world class museums and ME? Well, I got a couple more bullet points to your list:  a cat cafe (!!) and a cupcake ATM, both coming to DC next year. Hashtag: God Bless America. 

10. Last week I feel down the rabbit hole of watching Harvard Sailing Team's comedy sketches. May I present you with a Hipster's Thanksgiving:

The Hipster Playlist is pretty funny too.  They're funny because they are true.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday Inspirations

"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive."
--James Baldwin

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Crowding Out the Loneliness

A couple of weeks ago I saw punk rock legend Henry Rollins speak at the National Museum of Natural History. Here is where I really want to put some joke about of course it was at the Natural History Museum, because there are dinosaurs there and Henry is so old, or how a whole Hall full of minerals is so rock n'roll. Get it, minerals, rocks, rock n'roll. But if I have to explain the joke, well then, um, *cough* awkward silence. 

Thankfully, I didn't go to a museum after hours to audition for a stand up comedy gig. Now,  Henry Rollins is one of those types who I don't agree with %100 of everything he says, but man, can he ever talk about music.  He is an internationally known musician, spoken word artist, photographer, activist, columnist, radio and television host (he is the one on the History Channel in the black t-shirt), but here in DC, where he grew up, he is still a hometown kid. His public persona can often times come off as intense or aggressive, or many people just always equate punk rock with rowdiness, but as he talked with us folk, he was funny and engaging, and there were a couple of moments, when he was talking about his younger years in DC that you could hear the slightest bit of a lump in this throat.  I loved how he talked about music as community and a saving grace and an element of change.  But there is something else that he said that has stayed in my head all these days later. He recalled when he was young, he would play records up in his room to crowd out the loneliness. 

My life is pretty good, in the midst of all the everythings in the world, I have very, very little to complain about. I have a job that allows me to support myself, I have food in my cupboards, my lungs, legs, eyes and ears all work, every single day.  I live in an amazing area that provides so many opportunities. I have a family that unconditionally supports and loves me even though often times they have no idea what I'm talking about. I have friends who encourage and inspire me to be a better person, and let me rattle on about pie and tambourines way past what is socially acceptable. But every now and then, loneliness pushes its way onto my calendar.  Such a rude and inconvenient house guest. 

So when Mr. Rollins mentioned how music crowds out the loneliness, I totally wanted to jump up in the sold out auditorium and shout AMEN.  Not all loneliness can be solved by standing in a crowded room. Often times, in lonely times, what is needed is connection; to know that you aren't the only weirdo kid or that the unknowns of life don't have to be so scary, and that there is purpose in both the happiness and the pain in life.  Connection is finding your own personal story within the stories of others, and knowing that they all matter. We all matter.  And in music, I have found all that throughout the years, I still find all that. 

So on those days where loneliness comes calling, I know I can turn up the volume, and be like, "nope, can't you hear loneliness, I can't hear you. Go away." Plan B on those same type of days: call a friend to talk me out of watching that Lifetime made for tv movie. Friends, don't let friends walk down that dark road. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Song of the Week: Samantha Crain

I saw Samantha Crain this last weekend as an opener for the Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit (more on them when I get caught up with my Adventures in Audio. Spoiler Alert: SO GOOD).  It was definitely a night of women who rock.

Samantha Crain started the night off in the best possible way. She walked onto the stage alone with just a guitar in hand, and when the Oklahoma native started to sing her songs,  her delicate, strong, lovely voice filled the entire auditorium.  Before many of the songs, she shared with us the stories of those songs, stories of her life and times, trips to big cities and fortune cookies. It was the simplest of music, one voice, one instrument, one microphone, one brave soul spilling and singing mighty melodies and strumming guitar strings worn by the living of life. But sometimes the simplest things can right the world as much as the biggest army. 

I saw her play a solo set, but she is also pretty rad with some friends:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Song of the Week: Duke Ellington

I'm on a quest to make the perfect homemade hummus, you know, the kind that takes 2 days to make. I'm just like a knight of old searching for the holy grail. My latest batch was the perfect creamy texture, like velvet, but I think I added a touch too much tahini, and maybe a touch too less of garlic (more garlic, more garlic!). I still ate the stuff, it was still good, but it could be better.  Good thing that hummus is super cheap to make, because I see a road full of good, better, best tries.  But I did discover the best soundtrack to listen to get that smooth texture: Duke Ellington: In a Magenta Haze.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Inspirations

We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down. 

--Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bits & Pieces

** Today I was suppose to be in KC to run the KC Marathon as part of a team relay.  I had to pull out of the race due to a lot of reasons, and I thought I was OK with it all until  all my would be team mates started to post finish line pictures.  And a couple of these fine people are some of my favorite people back home, who made all the difference to me last year, and honestly, I let them down and I think that is what hurts the most. Failure and disappointments are part of life, this is breaking news to no one. We can beat up ourselves all our lives for these lackluster moments, but that just leaves us all beat up.  I know that we shouldn't dwell on our faults until they eat us live, but today I was weirdly glad that failure--especially when it is caused by our own choices--does hurt a little. Hopefully it kicks in the --let's not do this thing again-part of our natural defenses. 

** Whenever the little shop at work doesn't sell peanut butter M&Ms, I'm like, why are you even open?

** So. E.bola. Right? Now, I don't want to make light of deadly diseases, but the news coverage has been out of control.  Oh wait, that should be "news."  I feel all cable news is basically more parts entertainment and fear mongering than exactly facts. But, I mean, 1 person in the US has died of it. How many people in this country have died this year from heart attacks, or gun violence, or cancer, or basically any other thing? A whole lot more (exact scientific numbers there for you folks).  I hope we can contain this disease (throughout the world, not just in these states of ours), and I do think it is a very serious thing, but aren't there other epidemics that we should be worrying about a whole lot more? Also, a huge part of me wants to shout "I watch the Walking Dead, I am totally prepared for this. First, get me a sheriff's hat, and second, we need to start to stockpile chocolate pudding . . "

** In other TV news, the other day, an episode of the Golden Girls came on where Sophia was getting married and due to a mix up by Rose, the entire wedding audience was made up of Elvis impersonators.  Obviously, my first thought was: how can I make this part of my mythical wedding? Maybe that is why I haven't gotten married. My wedding would end the world. So it's like I'm saving the world by staying single. You're welcome.  Also, I have to watch a couple episodes of the Golden Girls, after watching the Walking Dead to calm my nerves a little bit so I can sleep. Every part of this is worth it. 

** I just walked to the store, for the second time today (shopping lists are for suckers), just so I wouldn't have to give up my parking place at my apartment building. Big city living, y'all.  

** The Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series? Glee! Amazement! Joy! Who's a fly over state now? BBQ stained-Show Me State-Charlie Parker style-jazz hands all around! 

** "Cinderella never asked for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress." --Kiera Cass. 

** Anytime I can turn a serious work meeting into a discussion about punk rock, I consider my work on the planet one step closer to being complete. 

** I nearly tripped on the sidewalk because I was staring at this beautiful tree on my way to the market this morning. Oh burning bush-tree, tell me what I should do with my life! Unless the 'doing' involves wandering around the desert for another hundred years. That gets preeety old after awhile. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adventures in Audio #6: Route 29 Revue at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:

I have been delaying this post for a while now, wow, for  almost a month.  It’s hard to talk about one of your favorite things, when that favorite thing has a bad day.  This concert really wasn’t my favorite of the year. Don’t get me wrong, the lineup was great, and all the bands sounded good. But the day just felt off. Maybe it was because it raining and my shoes got wet and never really got dry, or maybe the set times for the bands seemed incredibly short, or maybe even with my dazzling personality I couldn’t talk anyone into going with me, or maybe because the concession booth milkshakes were $8 (whiskey tango foxtrot!), or just maybe with my old bones,  a full day festival, especially by yourself, leads to a little bit of burn out. By the time the last band, Trampled by Turtles, came on, I was pretty much done.  And that is such a sad thing to say, because I love seeing this band. But they seemed a little rush in their set and then it was over.  It was like everyone involved was just pushing through until those last minutes when we could all declare the day was done . But they played, “Victory,” “Alone,” and “Wait So Long,” and that is really all I ask from our Minnesota friends.
It’s a good thing that I didn’t give myself a deadline for this 50 venues challenge. After coming home from this concert a little, well, unfilled, I felt like I needed a little bit of a break to make sure that seeing live music is still one of my favorite things and not just a chore.  And now my heart and fan girl squeals are all rested, I am getting ready to shake my tail feathers a little more.

And though I may be a little down on the experience itself, I still highly recommend all the bands:
Hurray for the Riff Raff:


The Devil Makes Three

Iron & Wine

Trampled By Turtles

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Song of the Week: Benjamin Booker

Yesterday was a holiday here in the States. Well, it wasn't a holiday, holiday, with parties and decorations and greeting cards, it was Columbus Day, the day we celebrate the work of the movie director Chris Columbus and watch The Goonies on repeat for 3 days straight. Or something like that. Anyway. I had the day off, and wow, did I ever wake up in a cranky mood.  The whole weekend was full of frustration because my completely unrealistic expectations (especially of people) weren't met. I know, I know. Welcome to life.

And isn't waking up in a bad mood the worst? Aren't you suppose to wake up refreshed with a clean new slate, ready to take on the day? C'mon orange juice commercials, don't lie to me now. So after tossing and turning and gnashing my teeth a bit, I  found my iPod on the nightstand (pro tip: always, always, have music within an arm's reach) and sought refuge in music.  The first song that came one was a Tom Waits song, and I hit that big old next button the second that song came on. Nope. That song was too fitting. Salt in the wound, man, salt in the wound. The next song however was perfect:  "Have You Seen My Son," by Benjamin Booker.  This song got me to put my feet on the floor, jump out of bed, shake off the dust of a wasted weekend, have a blurry eyed, pajama wearing dance party, and then get on with the rest of the day/life. This was the song I needed, and holy moly, what a song it was.

I've have become such a huge fangirl of Benjamin Booker's self titled album that came out earlier this year, easily one of my favorite albums of 2014. It's bluesy and grungy, and raw and just perfect. And the songs are so beautifully layered. At first listen all you hear is an assault of sound and energy, but as you keep listening, there seems to so much more in all the songs, lots of roots of truth in there.  It's one of those albums that makes you hopeful and excited for all the new music that is being created in the world.

He is electrifying all plugged in, but even acoustic he is still fantastic and full of grit:

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Inspiration

"We don't learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right."

--Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hey You Guys!

Oh hey, hello! I’m so glad you’re here. Don’t mind me as I dust off a few cobwebs and shoo off some tumbleweeds around here.   I have been thinking about blogging a lot lately. And not just I should probably blog so my mom will stop asking me about why I haven’t blog.  But I’ve been thinking about the whole phenomenon of blogging and social media . I’ve been questioning if the day of personal blogs have come and gone in the shadow of lucrative commercial for-profit blogs and social media that allows us to and maybe even pressures us to condense our complex stories into short status updates, tweets and links.  I’ve been thinking about the desire to connect with people, but without all the constant and sometimes fanatical need and again, pressure, to always be connected to people.  And down to the root of it all, I have been pondering (picture me longingly gazing out of a window onto a field of flowers, that’s pondering, right?) about how I want to tell and share my story. 
 One of my favorite quotes that often gets kicked around in my old noggin is" Happiness is only real when shared" (Christopher McCandless). There is a lot of power in sharing our stories and our happiness. And I don’t think that happiness is always those typical easily identifiable photo shoot moments, like birthday parties or vacations or chocolate cake. Ummm. Chocolate cake.   Happiness can be moments of much needed honesty, or bravery, or overcoming. Happiness isn’t always shinny and new, but it’s often a little worn and has well-earned scars from the sadness or disappointments, or battles that had to be dealt with and fought before happiness was a possibility.  And when thinking about sharing my happiness, I, for at least right now, come back to blogging.*  So I thought I would take this long weekend to pen some new posts, and see how this whole writing my history because I AM a victor thing goes.**
* I am a frequent soap box ranter on the idea that there are many different platforms to tell our stories:  words, music, poetry, painting, dance, photography, heck even a perfect apple pie can be a thing of art and say so much about the creator/baker. I believe that we are given talents as vehicles for sharing our stories.  So, even though, right now,  I feel  that writing and blogging may be the right platform for me right now, I know it’s not for everyone in every phase of life, but I do hope that you all are telling and sharing and preserving your stories in whatever way you feel is right. I will always be one of your best fans (but not the creepy kind of fan that they make lifetime movies about, I promise).

 **I went through a couple of drafts of this post, one was super wordy and focused on the idea that history is really no longer just written by the victors, but on a more rag and bone level, it is written by people that actually write it, as in those that have or take the time and means to write it.  And in a lofty and dreamy, but still pretty realistic way, we are all victors, even if that just means surviving until tomorrow.  That draft kinda got out of control and a little too preachy, so it got left in the drafts folder. However, when I was writing that last sentence I apparently thought that victor thing was still in this posted mess of words.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bits & Pieces

** Holy Moly, the September Dooms have hit this gentlewoman and her gentle family pretty hard this year.  I think that in some moments of feeling vulnerable, the internet isn't the best place to hang around (learn this the hard way, ouch), but other times it is good to remember that the interwebs can help us connect and support each other.  And while listing little random things doesn't solve, or even chip away at all the hard things in the world, somethings you just have to take a breathe and remember and hope that life is all hard things.

** I am continuing my status of being a trendsetter by  finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy, only a million weeks after it came out.  It is all about being fashionably late, right? It may seem like just another super fun summer movie (which it is!), but there is a lot of truth in it: be nice to trees because they will one day save your life from an evil pie maker (Lee Pace makes a disturbingly good bad guy) and awesome mix tapes and dance offs will save us all, and the entire galaxy, one day. Also, my sharp little eyes did see the Missouri flag in the opening scene of the movie (a nod to the director's childhood home state). See y'all alien abductions do happen in the Show Me State. 

** The other day I went to the grocery store. Not the good grocery with the good food, but the cheap grocery store with the cheap crap food. Some times you just want cheap crap food. I noticed the security officer, actually it was pretty hard to miss him, he was riding around in one of the clunky store scooters. At first I thought maybe he was just returning it to the front of the store, but I am pretty sure that he was patrolling the store via the cart. Clearly,  this is cutting edge crime fighting.

** I've been fighting insomnia a lot lately, and I have discovered many options in this great battle of wits.  One, sit on the kitchen floor, eat cold pizza and read by the glow of my electronic devices and microwave clock light (which is like, whoa, bright), or two, take some advice from my sister; when she can't fall asleep or fall back asleep, she gets up and does something productive and somehow this tricks the brain into re-setting itself. So that's the reason why I was mopping the floor at 5:30 am on a Saturday. I'm pretty sure that is what the people call, "winning at adulthood."

** On the other side of adulthood, there are some days that I feel I should get a certificate just for keeping myself alive. 

**  I don't know where my desk at work came from, but an important person must of had it at one point, and obviously, I am continuing its important ownership,  since I award myself the VIP award almost everyday. My desk is big and heavy and it has a panic button, just above where my right knees falls. You guys, I have a panic button. Logically, I know that it is not still live or hooked up, but for the first couple of weeks of work, I debated whether to push it or not, and then one day I did, and nothing happened. Security didn't come up, alarms didn't ring, no superheroes swooped in and saved me for piles of work. But wouldn't it be grand if there was some dramatic action to take whenever I was in a panic? Hello, I am in a PANIC, people, send help (or pancakes). 

**I do not like the cafeteria at work. It’s in the basement, so it’s dark and always so, so cold. The food is way overpriced for its quality, can only be called “decent” in taste and I never know what I want to eat so I will just wander around aimlessly and then get soup.  Unless it is Mediterranean Day, then I will go down and get all the hummus and all the pita chips and all the Kalamata olives.  But the food folks always put the hummus in the salad bar, so if you have to pay for it by weight, and even if I try to be fugal with my scoops of the food of life, I still end paying like $8 dollars for like a 1/2 cup of the stuff. Hummus is some heavy stuff. And then I weep, wail, and gnash my teeth at the cashier: why are you doing this to me?  Ok, not really, I just hand over my money and vow to never eat there again. and then fret about it on the internet. 

** Let's end on a super high note: Motivational Posters via Parks & Rec's Andy Dwyer:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Adventures in Audio #5B: Ryan Adams @ 9:30 Club

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:
(See earlier post for a little history of the 9:30 Club)

Gah. I love seeing Ryan Adams live.  He is and will be a favorite, forever and always. 
This show caused a lot of heartache in the area. Ryan Adams has been selling out larger venues across the country, but for his newest album release party, he came to DC to a club that has 1,200 maximum capacity. That may sound big, but this show was considered a more intimate setting.  It sold out in about 5 seconds.  And that is the dead truth, not hyperbole, not being overly dramatic for effect.  5 seconds. Poof.  By more luck than I probably deserve in life, I was able to snag one of those golden tickets.  
And it was a golden night indeed. Ryan sounded really good, his band sounded good, his hair was epic and he told us stories, invisible lasers, dingo invasion and smiley faces wearing cowboy hats were all  mentioned. He would get all these bright ideas on stage, for merch, or jokes, or whatever got caught up there in that head of his.  At one moment during his set, he just stopped and said, “So many ideas.”  And that was my best and favorite take away from the night: so many ideas. So many ideas of music, why I love it, why it is part of my life, why it is one of the best parts of me.  
 He can be super chatty at shows, his banter can be random, sometimes he might seem a little unfocused with the playlist at hand (so many ideas) and I love it all. I think it adds to a feeling of authenticity, up there on stage, he is him, him is he.  And randomness can beautiful and celebrated over polished and perfect. And that authenticity also comes through in his music, it can be raw and quiet,  it will frequently shred your heart to pieces, yet still be so cathartic, and be that voice to that time in life or those feelings that you thought didn’t even have words.
So many ideas.
Ryan Adams @ 9:30 Club, Washington DC, September 8, 2014

My Wrecking Ball from Ryan Adams' self titled new (fantastic) album:

Adventures in Audio #5A: Bleachers @ 9:30 Club

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:

Why the ABC action up there in the title? I saw 2 completely different shows at the same venue, so the logical part of my brain only wants to mark off 1 venue off my 50 different venues list. The non-logical side of my brain is thinking about pie and tambourines.
The 9:30 Club has been an anchor in the DC music community since it opened its doors in 1980. The original location of the club was 930 F St. NW and the opening time was 9:30, so there you go, a double whamming in the clever name.  The first band to play? Oh, that would be The Tiny Desk Unit, featuring Bob Boilennow host of the All Songs Considered and the Tiny Desk Concerts at NPR (DC music history, yo). The original club was a much smaller, downstairs club, therefore a true underground  club, both in geography and point of view. It strove to be the cutting edge of music, whatever the genre, whatever the band, it just had to be good.
The 9:30 moved to it’s current and larger location on V street just  off the U street corridor, in 1996 and to this day is nationally now for being one of the best live music clubs in the country, both by fans and bands. 
There are a lot of music venues in the DC area, all with their own personality and grit, but every time I walk through those 9:30 doors, no matter what band is playing, I feel like I’m part of something. And maybe that sparkly romantic idea comes from  the 9:30 being  the club that I’ve been to the most times , or the place that I’ve seen some pretty amazing bands, or heard the songs that I needed to hear at that moment in life, or maybe it is just standing on my little spot of ground, usually to the left of the stage, with my heart tight in anticipation of the music, that just feels so familiar and comfortable and unabashedly happy. I have come to terms that I will never be that suave  hipster that has  a whatever stance and nonchalant too cool for school attitude at shows. Nope, never. I will also be the one with wide eyes.    
On the shows!
So here is something that I don’t normally do, that I have probably done only a couple times in my life. I bought a ticket for a show because of one song that I heard on the -regular all commercial-radio, you know the kind of stations that don’t even give out tote bags.  The song was “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers. This song was on pretty heavy rotation on Kansas City radio before I moved out here and I loved the catchy sound of it, a perfect summer anthem. Then, fast forward to a weekend a week or two after I moved back to the coast of the east;  I as driving to the beach, listening to that radio station that actually does have tote bags (NPR) and they had an interview with Jack Antonoff, the singer and mastermind behind Bleachers, you might also have heard of him from his Grammy winning band Fun.  In this interview he talked about this song, his own experiences with therapy and how most of us carry around this feeling about wanting to get better, whether that be in an emotional way, or just being better at life.  To quote from the interview ( I suddenly feel like I am writing a research paper):
I found myself with a feeling every morning when I woke up and every night before I went to bed. And now I know that that feeling is I want to get better, but I didn't know what it was at the time. And I talked about it and I thought about it and I kind of realized that maybe it's something that we all feel. You know, maybe the idea of, like, getting better is ridiculous but wanting to be better is kind of the best that we can do as human beings. I knew that that was for everyone. That's something we could all sing together. But then it occurred to me that the only way this statement could have weight and matter enough for someone else to want to yell it back at me in their car or at a show is for me to just spell out all the horrible things that have happened to me in my life and how I found a way to move on.
 So somewhere between here and the coastline, I decided that I needed to see this band.  And then I heard they were coming to DC (hooray!), but . . . I heard this after the show had already sold out (Boo).  And then in a feat of mercy, a second show was added and it was at that second show, which was actually the first show, since it was on the night prior to the original show,  that I stood there on the upstairs balcony and let my heart burst open.
Bleachers have only one album out, so they played for just about an hour (thank you for not making me run to catch the last train home!), but each and every song was like this massive explosion of joy.  I may have come to hear one song, but I left loving all them. The music may have been a little bit more poppy, more dancey (?) than a lot of the bands that I usually see, but one of side effects of this little music challenge is making more of an effect to see a more variety of music, and has help my heart grow three sizes (just like the Grinch!).  
 One thing that really stood out to me during the show was that the band seemed so happy to be in that moment, like ridiculously happy. Jack repeatedly thanked the audience for coming, and with the smiles on all their faces and sweat dripping from each song, you knew that they meant every single one of those words of gratitude.  And hopefully they felt our gratitude right back.
I adore sing-a-longs, when all the voices from the band and all the voices from the audiences meld into this huge choir of truth. That’s just awesome. And that one song that I came to hear, “I Wanna Get Better,”  was indeed played , and the place just about busted open when the crowd joined in the chorus, and a thousand or so people all raising their voices and roaring  the words “I Wanna Get Better,”  it was like a beautiful therapy session.

Bleachers @ 9:30 Club, Washington DC, September 2, 2014


Monday, August 18, 2014

Adventures in Audio #4: Hot August Music Festival

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:

The Baltimore, MD area Hot August Music Festival tuned 22 this year and has grown from being held in a backyard barn into a must anticipated hootenanny that  fills the Oregon Ridge Park with multigenerational and genre smashing music fans.  And I, being of part of that crowd, sweating under the  warm August  sun and hollering under the night sky, had a great time, but maybe it didn’t click entirely why until the drive home.
On that drive, I was listening to Jazz Inspired on whatever public radio station I could get to come in on the BW Parkway. Host Judy Carmichael was interviewing musician  Gene Casey and asked him how and why we can get kids involved in with jazz.  And to paraphrase, Gene first said that kids like to dance, all kids love to dance, they just can't help it. And second, in our insecure world, with so much upheaval, kids and most people are attracted to and seek things that have roots, something that is rooted in tradition and rooted in real. So much of popular entertainment these days is artificial, disposable and shallow, reality tv is the prime example of this, that there is almost a hunger for deeper things. I just love everything about that idea, and this very real need to seek music that has deep roots. 
All Roots music, whether it be jazz or folk or bluegrass, has the old soul feeling, traditions that have been playing long before you or I were born.  And in which much of our modern American music is built upon, even that newfangled rock and roll. Many of us fight and claw away at finding the next new thing, to stay on the edge of the everything shiny, and beat those hipsters at their own game,  but as  our hands reach and grasp forward to the future and what’s next, our feet, and maybe some bits of our hearts, are planted in the past, to the music that feels  solid beneath our feet, that grounds and anchors us during the storms in our own lives, and also connects us to all the other souls, past and present, that have also sought shelter in the shadow of  gritty vocals, and the 12 bar blues.
And that is why I had such a great time at the music festival on Saturday. My life has had it share of upheaval lately, and I need some roots.  At its heart, Hot August, is a roots festival, this year it was very heavy handed towards bluegrass, but it is also not afraid to be progressive . Roots music, although built on a foundation on tradition, is not about staying the past. It is not about exclusively playing and covering the songs and artists of yester years. It is adding new voices and stories, to be nourished from those roots, but growing in our own crooked ways.

A few of my favorite festival highlights:
This was the first time that I have seen the Baltimore based Bosley play, but I do believe that I had a huge smile on my face during the entire set. With a nod to soul music and crooners of years gone by,  singer and band leader Bosley Brown not only howled,  through a pretty ferocious set list in a good, cool cat, daddy-o fashion , but he also had blue suede shoes and was not afraid to use them . . . to dance, jump and jive his way across the stage.  The energy of the band was electric and contiguous. And you have to get it up to the band who, with the exception of the backup singers, were in full suits, at high noon, in August, in the Mid-Atlantic. They didn’t sweat, they shined.

Houndmouth hailing from the Indiana-Kentucky line is just about the perfect storm of a band for me; their music will break your heart into a million pieces in the most beautiful way possible.  Raw and intense storytelling  vocals shared between all members of the band and backed by the music itself, that dances on the line between quiet and folksome and shaking your wild soul.

At many festivals, bands, even headliners, will have shortened sets, some just 45 minutes. This is to maximize the amount of bands you can pack into a day. But such short sets can lead some groups to speed through their time, giving their audience a condensed analogy of their music. But for the Hot August Festival , the wise organizers gave all the bands pretty hefty play times, ranging from 90 to 120 minutes. This allows the bands, the time to not only develop a relationship with the audience, but also play a large numbers of their songs , or in the case of the relatively new Houndmouth, ALL their songs, and a few new ones and a cover or two. I was so impressed by their set that I found myself actually taking notes, jotting down a snip of a lyric or two that struck me, or noting that I need to send this song or that song to a friend because I know it would become their new favorite song.  Caring and sharing, that is what the music community is all about. 

Nickel Creek
The members of Nickel Creek have been making sweet music off and one together for 25 years, exploding on the music scene as a trio of preteens.  A family band from the start, brother and sister, Sara and Sean Watkins, and Chris Thile, whose father played standup bass in the early years, grew up mixing traditional music with the excitement and creativity of their youth   In 2003, they won a Grammy for best contemporary folk album, and in 2007 they decided to venture off separately and work on new musical projects.  Seeing them reunited once again makes you feel that you are part of some great family reunion. 

The chemistry on stage was so gracefully and comfortable.  I also noticed how they used the stage and the space on that stage, playing close together one minute, far apart the next, playing off the energy of each other. Talented way beyond what you think should be allowed, they also drew the audience in with their charm, wit and undeniable joy.  At one point, you start to think that maybe Chris Thile sold his soul to devil, for when he plays that mandolin of his, he becomes so engaged and entranced that you have to believe that you are witnessing something supernatural.  

There was a moment in the middle of the set that they lost power. They stepped off stage and played completely acoustic for a song, and the large crowd fell silent in awe.

Old Crow Medicine Show
I recommend seeing Old Crow to everyone, everyone.  Even to those folks who, I or they, think they aren’t into the bluegrass-old timey country-dueling fiddles-thing.  Their shows are so fun and before you know it, you are down and clapping your hands raw, and  throwing around words and phrases like 'hootenanny' and 'burning down the barn.' 

They’ve grown a bit since I’ve seen them last, adding a new, very enthusiastic , band member, a drum set and a piano, so I don’t know if they can still be referred to as a that little string band, especially, now that they are the newest members of the Grand Old Opry.  No, they aren’t that little band anymore, but there is still a sense of authenticity with them, and it all goes back to the feeling of being rooted in something deeper.  

Their music and especially seeing them live reminds me of my  forefathers who came to this country long ago with little or nothing to their names. Their lives were humble and at many times very bleak, but during the darkness moments or even in joyous ones, they would pull out their simple music instruments, their banjos and fiddles and if they had nothing, they would stomp their feet in perfect time and rhyme.  And their voices would ring out with songs of their old lives and countries and their new lives and new hopes.  And some of that same blood still sloshes through my veins, and it still aches to find solace and joy in music and to be part of and join my own voice into a story that is bigger than I am. 

This song is not from their newest album, but it is a song that I played 567849 times as I drove my life back to Virginia this spring. I also love the random tourist in the white shirt in the back of the video. He's like, "What is happening? I got no time for this, I'm leaving. Wait, they're good. I'll stay, I guess."

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. But the bitter sweetness of music festivals is that you know that in a day or two, this festival will become just another notch in all bands’ touring schedules and the sweaty and goofy grinned crowd will just blend into the blur of all the other crowds, but for one split second, that one last meaningful smile and wave as they leave the stage, you know, maybe just for that instant, that we are all in this together.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Adventures in Audio #3: Justin Trawick and The Common Good at the US Botanical Garden

Continuing on my quest to catch live music at 50 different venues:

One of the wonderful things about summer in DC, or really all year around in DC, is that there are frequent opportunities for fantastic culture and entertainment, and many times these opportunities are of little cost or free. A little bit ago,  I stopped by the U.S. Botanical  Garden after work , kicked off my workin' shoes and sat in the grass on a lovely mild summer evening  and was treated to the bluegrass sounds of local crooners Justin Trawick and The Common Good. 

The U.S. Botanical Gardens was originally the brain child of our horticulture loving  Founding Fathers, namely George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison who proposed a national garden to grow and showcase a wide variety of plants for the good of the American people. And though it took a bit to be established, our nation's Botanical Garden has been open to the public since 1850 and at its current location, across the street from the U.S. Capitol since 1933. In fact, the Garden is considered to be part of the Capitol Complex, because the House of the People, need a nice garden too.  Not only are there beautiful and wild plants that parade our captivating and complex natural world, but  the Garden also hosts an array of events, from cooking and canning classes to concerts.

 It is a popular pastime  to think about what our Founding Fathers would think about our modern times. And most of all that is just guessing, but their establishment of the Botanical Garden is a testament  that they wanted the American people to be a curious, smart people, engaged with the world around us, thorns, blossoms and all. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bits & Pieces

**Langhorne Slim and Seth Avett singing one of my favorite songs together? That's like a million angel high fives (30 Rock reference, like I even have to explain).

**During the slower time in August at work, some people will bring their dogs into the office.  I love this. These furry faces are so happy to see you and act like you are the most amazing person ever if you pet them, and then you start to think, hey, I AM pretty amazing.  And I think they legitimately bring down stress levels in the office. They are all well behaved canines, it’s not like we have packs of wild animals roaming the halls. Well, ok, we do, but those aren’t dogs, those are summer interns.

**I rotate the food blogs that I read pretty regularly since it seems like these type of blogs get stuck in trendy ruts, oh look, another donut recipe.  Either that or I find myself spending too much money on over indulgent ingredients.  But taking a more simple approach to online feasts of plenty  has yielded some fantastic recipe finds:

This burrito bowl from The First Mess, is sure to stay on heavy rotation at the (oh heck, I haven’t named my new evil genius pad/lair,yet). It may seem simple, grilled veg+ beans and  rice, but it is the cilantro lime dressing that bumps it up to a wow. I had some sauce left over so I marinated some chickpeas in it and then roasted them, super good. 
I made these life changing crackers from My New Roots, to take with me to work to snack on for  little bursts of focused energy throughout  my long days. Sure, you spend a little extra time at the bulk food bins at the grocery getting all the nuts and seeds, but I found it worth it. I made the rosemary/garlic  option, and not only did they fill my apartment with wonderful  herby smells, but they are just super good, especially with hummus and  smashed avocado.

**I am so hip and high tech now that I often Skype with family and friends. It makes me feel like I’m living in the second Back to Future movie with all our video phones and what not. I’m still waiting on my hover board, (and flying car—thanks for the LIES George Jetson).  I often get asked about the print that is on the wall behind the onscreen me:

I fell in love with the print when I first it on Wit and Whistle. Unfortunately,  shortly after discovering it, the letterpress shop closed out. However, a little while ago I discovered that the same company still sells on Etsy under the name Church of Type. Undead score! After ordering, the print came quick, the quality is fantastic and I am pretty sure it ups the cool points of my little old flat, like tenfold. It's been very dramatic getting things up on my walls and I am super happy this made the cut. It fits my classy, yet still eclectic POV.

And lets face it, I am an apocalypse girl and have been since days of yore, watching Mad Max with my Dad and having Sunday School teachers try to scare me into being good with terrifying stories of the end of the days.  And it is not even the gruesomeness of zombies or mass destruction that interests me, but all the ethical questions that arise when civilization breaks down.  I could write a whole lot of about this kind of stuff, but then people will remind me its not very lady like to talk of such things, and others will remind me that no1curr. But then I’ll just cross those suckers off the list of people the will benefit from my solar powered days of destruction pie shop. I’ve gots dreams people, dreams.  

**I started to make my own cleaning supplies.  Wow, I should’ve had a more exciting lead in. Cleaning! Supplies! Boom! Pop! Bam!  I don’t know exactly why I decided to be all Holly Hobby lately, maybe I am bored, or more earth friendly or my super sensitive skin has been freaking out or that I am cheap. Maybe a combo of all those things.  I use the recipes/formulas from I Heart Organizing, (scroll about half way down the post), and have found them to work very well.   Tips of the trade: I usually only use the essential oils for my once a month deep cleaning days, and not for my day to day clean ups, since those little bottles can be expensive. I got the oils and castile soap all at Wegmans, which I found to be just as good quality wise, and a little cheaper than buying them online. However, essential oils are the newest or at least most popular MLM thing going right now, so at this very second one of your Facebook friends is probably updating their status about how life changing essential oils are, so if you want to join the cult, there is always that route.

** My new favorite Instagram account to follow is that of the author Jasper Fforde. He lives in Wales (my land of dreams!)  and his gorgeous photos make me melt into  a pool of jealousy and envy. Seriously, having a beach cottage in Northern Wales and eating sticky toffee pudding every day is on my for real retirement plan. 

**Favorite auto correct of the week: in a text this week I started to type “loneliness” (so emo, I know) and  auto correct filled in “looney salts,” and I kept it, because, hey, maybe my phone has a way better version of my current story than I do.

Last two are reasons why I love DC and DC loves me:

**Ryan Adams, who I have testified about here, is having his record release party for his new album here in DC at the 9:30 Club! I am very excited about this. I’ve been keeping my eye on his tour schedule and holding my breath, rocking back and forth in the corner telling myself that he has to come to DC, he has to come to DC. And sometimes the Universe answers ridiculous prayers. And then sometimes it don’t , like when you insist to the moon and all the stars that the only thing that will make a bad day better would be if someone would  bring you pistachio gelato. And you wait and wait, and then give up and go get your own gelato, only to be disappointed that Target gelato tastes nothing like the gelato from that lovely little place just across the bridge in Florence, Italy. Actually, it's kind of gross. Anyone what a container of gelato and bitterness?  So moral of the story: do pray for good music, don’t pray for frozen treats.  

**Native Foods Cafe, a vegan fast-casual restaurant, has just announced that their first location on the East Coast is going to be in DC opening up at the end of September! My eating habits (which are usually too boring to talk about) are becoming more and more in the plant based realm, which usually requires doing a little menu research before going out to eat, which usually is no big deal, especially in a foodie town like DC. But having a new place that doesn’t require homework before stepping into the door?  Sweet heavens to Betsy.