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For nearly fourteen years I was able to keep up this daily blog of books and music.

About a year ago I got a promotion and that changed everything.  I no longer had the time to post everything I wanted to.  Heck, I didn’t even seem to have the time to read all the short stories I wanted to.  Amusingly (or not), just before this new position, I had gotten a print subscription to the New Yorker.  This now means that I (like many others) have a two-foot stack of New Yorker magazines that I haven’t even looked at yet.

For a few weeks I was limiting myself to only the concerts that I went to because that was a little easier to write about.  Although back in the good old days, I used to include photo and links, and I pretty much have neither now. And I’m several shows behind as well.

So I’m still reading books and I think I may try to post some thoughts about them from time to time.  I’d also like to think I have time to write about my concerts, but even those are proving to be challenging.

So let’s consider the blog on hiatus more or less, with occasional posts about things I’ve read or listened to.

The good thing is that I like the new position and wouldn’t change it for the world. I guess I never realized how much down time my old position gave me!

[DID NOT ATTEND: November 5, 2022] Dry Cleaning / The Spirit of the Beehive / Nourished By Time

Dry Cleaning are a kind of trendy British band.  They are of the spoken deadpan vocal/wild guitar noise variety.  I don’t love them, but I think their music is really interesting.  I thought they’d be fun to see live once.

But we had a family emergency and it wasn’t time to go to a show.  So, I didn’t really mind missing this one. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 20, 2023] Oxymorrons

My son and I saw Oxymorrons open for grandson about a year ago.  No opening band has made such an impact o me. They were intense and fun and catchy and crazy and just all around wonderful.

So when they announced this mini tour and that it would hit the Foundry, I knew that he and I would have to check them out again.  But I was sure the tint Foundry stage wouldn’t be big enough to keep them in.

I was also sure that the show would sell out and we’d be in for a massive thrashing mosh pit.  That’s why we stayed to the side the whole night (he wasn’t in the mood for slam dancing).

This meant we were right next to guitarist Jafe Paulino.  I suggested that the stage was too small for them and he laughed and said he’d be hopping over those guardrails in no time.

When they came out, drummer Matty Mayz, (I had forgotten how much fun he was) had his laptop set up and he got the intro pumping as the frontmen, Demi “Deee” and his brother Kami “KI” came bouncing up on stage.

Deee and KI were great at engaging the audience.  They are excellent at getting everyone hyped up. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 20, 2023] Pinkshift

I was really excited for the show–the Melanated Punk Mini Tour featuring Oxymorrons and The OBGMs.  At the last minute, Pinkshift was added to the bill, which made things even better!

I’ve seen Pinkshift three times.  Each show is really intense, because this band does not hold back.

This set felt a little different.  First because they were playing songs mostly from their new album.  I hadn’t heard the new album yet but it turns out I’d heard many of the songs live before.

Pinkshift is officially a trio now.  Although they do have a bassist of tour with them, the main trio was made up with pretty cool eye makeup.

This was the closest I’d been to the band so I really got to see drummer Myron Houngbedji in action.  He was, frankly, amazing.  In fact, a few times, someone in the audience shouted something like My man on the drums is really bringing it! Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 20, 2023] THE OBGMs

I was really excited for the show–the Melanated Punk Mini Tour featuring Oxymorrons and The OBGMs (who I didn’t know but after listening to them, I realized how good they were.  At the last minute, Pinkshift was added to the bill, which made things even better!

The show was listed as starting at 7:30 (which on a Friday night usually means a lot of traffic).  Bu then Pinkshift said the fun started at 7, so my son and I left stupidly early to avoid traffic and arrived earlier than ever only to find out that the show did not start at 7.

And that’s fine.  It’s nice to be early.  Also, that Pinkshift wasn’t the first band.

The OBGMs (The oOohh Baby Gimme Mores) are from Toronto.  They came out and proceeded to tear the roof off of the place.

After playing a weird riff that sounded like a wild version of Black Sabbath, the whole band started bashing out “Cash” from their new album The Ends.

Dreadlocked lead singer Densil McFarlane also played guitar as he pogoed and screamed the lyrics.  Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 14, 2023] Teddy Thompson

This was my eleventh time seeing Richard Thompson.  For a while we had been seeing him pretty regularly and then his habits changed.

I had been seeing him every chance I could, but I took a little time off from his tours, hoping that he would perhaps come back with an electric tour.  Sadly for me, he did in fact come around with an electric trio tour in 2018, but it coincided with a hike that we were scheduled to go on, so I had to miss it.

Back in 2020, he introduced a new component to his show, his new partner Zara Philips has been singing with him on many songs (often Richard & Linda Thompson songs, but sometimes adding backing vocals to Richard’s songs.

For a while it felt like Richard was playing the same basic songs at all of his shows, although as I look at his setlists I see that he always mixes in a few new songs every tour.  Indeed, in 2020, he threw in a whole bunch of songs that I hadn’t heard him play before.

I was super excited that he opened with Gethsemane, an older song (I can’t believe that album is 20 years old!) that I like a lot.  He sounded great and his guitar playing was, of course, outstanding.

During the pandemic, Richard released some online albums.  He played If I could Live My Life again from Bloody Noses (which he had played back in 2020, just before the shutdown).

He jokes about the age of the audience and said he would play a song from a Fairport Convention album.  He described the origins of Genesis Hall, and that it was a protest song, which I didn’t know.  He had played it before but not for more than seven or so years, so it was good to hear it again.

Richard recently played a few nights of all request shows in New York City, which I’d love to attend (al though I suspect people probably just request all the popular songs anyhow).   But I wonder if it makes him want to mix up his setlists at all.  Whatever the case it was great to hear him plat “Turning of the Tide” a song that I love and haven’t heard him play live for a long long time.

Then he played “Beeswing.”  I don’t think there’s been a show where he hasn’t played the song and yet this time it really hit me how beautiful it was.  And I was marveling about how Richard Thompson, creator of the song was merely thirty or forty feet away from us playing this song and how amazing it was to be so close to someone so creative.  I had a real moment.  (I’m going to assume it came from talking about how wild it must have been for my young kids to go to concerts and see their favorite bands up close like that, something I never got to do as a a little kid). Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 14, 2023] Teddy Thompson

This was our first experience with Outpost in the Burbs, a fun venue in Montclair.  The venue is actually in a church (I think it might be outside in the summer).  This Richard Thompson show was sold out.  But the tickets were first come / first seated.  In a church.  So, in a series of pews.

We arrived in what we thought was plenty of time, but we couldn’t find parking and wound up pretty far away, so by the time we got into the church, it was almost 8PM.  We walked in and the lights went down.  Luckily there were announcements to be had (which we missed), as we were sent looking for a seat.  We were told there were seats in the balcony, so we trudged up the stairs to the (very full) balcony.  We headed back down, having seen seats across the room.  We headed over there only to discover that these seats (strangely empty) ere positioned directly behind two massive speaker cabinets which entirely blocked the stage–thus, why they were empty.  Really they should not have even been available.

Luckily, right next to them was a pew bench against the wall that had a mostly unobstructed view of Teddy as he came out on stage.  If he backed away from the mic I couldn’t see him at all, but he didn’t do that very often so it was fine. In fact, it was actually quiet comfortable.  The bench had a cushion, and I was in the corner, so I had a corner edge to lean against.  And, plenty of leg room!

And, it must be said, the acoustics were outstanding, even in this weird eave.

I saw Teddy Thompson open for his father about ten years ago in Princeton.  He played songs from his then new album and sang some songs with his father. Continue Reading »

[ATTENDED: January 12, 2023] They Might Be Giants [rescheduled from March 13, 2020, September 8, 2020, April 15, 2021, March 22, 2022 and June 16, 2022]

After five failed attempts, They Might Be Giants FINALLY got to play Union Transfer.

It was only mildly anti-climactic that they played Union Transfer the night before with a show that was billed as an entirely different show but which, when setlists were compared, turned out to be almost exactly the same.

January 11 (left): note the similarly-named show title which implied something different.  From the venue:

We assume that means songs from their latest album, ‘Book’ and some ‘Flood’ “faves”, and a bunch of horns on stage. How many horns? We can’t say for sure…Maybe 5, maybe 100!?

It felt a little cheaty that this day-ahead show got the same (more or less) show as us.  But hey, who cares, at least we didn’t splurge for the second day.  Because I’d have been a little cheesed to get the same show two nights in a row, no matter how good it was.  And it was really good!

So I saw They Might Be Giants about twenty-five years ago in Boston.  I don’t remember a lot from the show, but it was the Factory Showroom tour and they played a lot of my favorite songs as well.

I haven’t seen them live since then, even though I know they put on a good show.  I’m not sure why it neve happened.  Possibly because when I try to see them a pandemic occurs.

We arrived a little later than intended, had to stand on a huge line (there was no opening act), although everyone at a TMBG show is friendly, and then wound up on the side lower balcony in Union Transfer–where I’ve never stood before.  It was actually kind of nice-we were above most of the heads and still felt a part of the mass of people.

The band also was giving out “paper crowns” that said THEY on them.  John F:  “Be sure to grab one so you can sell it later.”

The Johns came out at 8 as promised and jumped right into “Letterbox” from Flood.  But it’s not the first song from Flood.  So clearly, they weren’t going to play the album in order.  They never said they were going to, just that they were going to play the whole album.  Aha! Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK:

[READ: December 25, 2022] “A Present for Big Saint Nick”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

Like we always do at this time: the Short Story Advent Calendar is back for 2022. We had such a great time last year working with our first-ever guest editor, the one and only Alberto Manguel. This year, however, we’re bringing things back to basics. No overarching theme or format, just 25 top-class short stories, selected in-house, by some of the best writers in North America and beyond. It’s December 25. To officially conclude the 2022 Short Story Advent Calendar, we present a story about presents and surprises from the one and only Kurt Vonnegut. As always, thank you so much for reading. We hope you enjoyed it, and we’ll see you next year.

This story appears in Vonnegut’s collection Bagombo Snuff Box.  I read it a long time ago and then again a couple of years ago.

It’s an actual Christmas story, but wow is it dark (and funny). Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK:

[READ: December 24, 2022] “An Exciting Christmas Eve; Or, My Lecture on Dynamite”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

Like we always do at this time: the Short Story Advent Calendar is back for 2022. We had such a great time last year working with our first-ever guest editor, the one and only Alberto Manguel. This year, however, we’re bringing things back to basics. No overarching theme or format, just 25 top-class short stories, selected in-house, by some of the best writers in North America and beyond. It’s December 24. Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, passed away in 1930. His Holmes story “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” appeared in the 2016 Short Story Advent Calendar, among other places.

This story was so surprising.  It was really funny.  But it was also technically interesting and rather suspenseful.  In short, a great story from the guy who brought s Sherlock Holmes.

Otto von Spee seeks a boring life.  He is a scientist and wants nothing more than do his work in peace.  He compares his own life to a fellow from his own school Leopold Waldenich, a scientist who professed to be a seeker of adventure.

And yet, while Waldenich studied, seeking excitement, not much happened to him.  But during those same years in school, Otto damaged his eyesight studying poisonous gas, got food poisoning, was thrown out a window during a lecture for voicing an opinion that a hotheaded student disagreed with and nearly drowned twice. Continue Reading »

SOUNDTRACK:

[READ: December 23, 2022] “Olive Oyl”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

Like we always do at this time: the Short Story Advent Calendar is back for 2022. We had such a great time last year working with our first-ever guest editor, the one and only Alberto Manguel. This year, however, we’re bringing things back to basics. No overarching theme or format, just 25 top-class short stories, selected in-house, by some of the best writers in North America and beyond. It’s December 23. Lucy Ellmann, author of Ducks, Newburyport, can count beads with the best of them.

I loved Ducks Newburyport, which was huge and hard to read and fun and funny.  This story is short and easy to read and very peculiar.  

It is a short story about Olive Oyl.  Yes, the woman from the Popeye cartoons. Continue Reading »