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Archive for the ‘Happy Birthday’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CLAIRO-“Bags” (2019).

It seems like 2019 is the year of lo-fi women.  There’s a lot of great songs but great artists mining the same field of guitar-based, quietly sung catchy songs.

Clairo’s “Bags” is the latest of this style of song.

There’s a shoegaze vibe to the song both in the woozy guitars and Clairo’s distant vocals.  The melody is catchy but the big hook comes from what I assumed was a whispery, vibratoed synth line, but which a live video tells me is actually a guitar line.  It’s 11 notes long and meanders in a rather compelling way.

I’m curious what the rest of the album will sound like.

[READ: August 2019] The Fifty Year Sword

I’ve really enjoyed Mark Z. Danielewski’s meta fictional books. He makes the book itself, not just the words, part of the story.

This book is a novella.  Even though it’s nearly 300 pages, most of the right pages are blank and the left pages are mostly written in a poem-fashion with lots of white space.

(It’s a huge waste of paper, because the book would still work of text was on left and right, but whatever).

Neverthless, the design is really pretty.

This story has a design element that means there are a lot of colors in the book.

The conceit is that there are five orphans telling this story. Each is designated by a different colored quotation mark.  The orphans interrupt each other constantly (which is what gives the pages the look of poetry). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 14, 2018] Letters to Cleo

When Letters to Cleo first put out Aurora Gory Alice back in 1993  I was really excited about them.  They were punky and fast but they were poppy and intriguing.  The chorus of “Here & Now” is somehow really catchy and impossible to sing.  I lived in Boston, they were based in Boston.  They were getting much buzz in the Boston Phoenix and on WFNX (“Here & Now” was inescapable–it was even used on Melrose Place).  And their name was weird and mentioned my childhood dog (Cleo).  I also thought their album title was funny so I bought a copy on Cherry Disc records (one of dozens of CDs I bought on an indie label only to later find out the major label pressing aided like five more songs and a gold chain or something).

Their second album had an even weirder name Wholesale Meats and Fish but was equally as strong, if not stronger.  Their third album was the amazing Go!–it added so much depth to their songwriting and was really just fantastic.

Then they appeared in 1999’s movie 10 Things I Hate About You.  They had songs on the soundtrack and were filmed playing “I Want You To Want Me” over the closing credits.

Wikipedia says that “the band then recorded 13 new original songs for the Kids’ WB cartoon, Generation O!, which aired from 2000 to 2001″ and which I’ve never heard of.

Then they broke up. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 6, 2018] Judas Priest

My friend Al told me he was going to this double bill of Deep Purple and Judas Priest.  I had just seen Judas Priest back in March and didn’t really feel like I needed to see them again (there was one song I ‘d wanted to hear which they didn’t play, but otherwise the set was great).

Then my friend Armando clarified something I’d often wondered about PNC.  He said that if you bought lawn tickets to a PNC show, you could get an upgrade to a really good seat for $20.  It didn’t happen for all shows, but any show that hadn’t sold out was fair game.  This seemed like a great opportunity to test this theory.   Then I received an email from Live Nation the next day that gave me $20 off my next concert.  Well, the lawn seats to this show were $20.  So I had to pay the stupid fees.  But that meant I bought my lawn ticket for $8.  A couple days before the show I was able to upgrade my ticket to row K (as in 11 rows from the stage) for $20.  So great seats for $28!

I realized that since both K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton were no longer in the band and since the drummer was a revolving door for most of the band’s history, the only two “original” members were Halford and bassist Ian Hill (and technically Halford isn’t original, but he is the real thing).

Like last time, there was a large red curtain at the front of the stage. This time, I was able to catch footage of it as it was pulled away. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 3, 2017] Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

I have been a fan of Courtney Barnett’s since I first saw her on a Tiny Desk Concert about 3 years ago.  Bob and Robin from All Songs Considered have raved about her and her live show.  I was really bummed to have found out about her last Philly show a little too late.

So she has been high on my list of artists to see.

I really like a bunch of Kurt Vile songs, although I don’t listen to him all that much (but “Pretty Pimpin'” is amazing).  When they got together for this album/tour, it kind of made sense.  Although I found that I was a little disappointed that Courtney played more like Kurt than Kurt played like Courtney.  The album is kind of slacker folkie and not indie rocking.  Although the good spirit and fun that they clearly had quickly won me over.

I knew the backing band was the Sea Lice, with a somewhat revolving cast.  I was hoping to get Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney on drums, but instead we had Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint, who was terrific, Rob Laakso (from Kurt’s Violators) on bass and Katie Harkin (Sky Larkin) on keyboards (with wonderful backing vocals). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 6, 2017] Alvvays

Sarah and I were really excited to see Alvvays.

But holy cow were we surprised that they sold out!  (And good for them).

I had no idea that people even knew that much about them.  But the sold out crowd were huge fans as people were singing along left and right.

I joked with Sarah that between their two albums, they had a total of 60 minutes of music, so their set couldn’t be all that long.   I had imagined that they would play all nineteen of their released songs, but that was not to be (they left out one slow song from the new album and three songs from their debut).

I was also pretty excited that Nap Eyes fans seemed to be quite short.  But by the time Alvvays came on, some of the taller fans pushed forward.  This didn’t hinder us too much, but it was still a little disappointing to have to weave around them. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 4, 2016] Strand of Oaks

2016-12-04-23-07-54I had gotten a notification  that Strand of Oaks was adding a 3rd show at Boot & Saddle because the other two sold out.  I really liked Heal a lot and thought that a chance to see the band in a small setting would be great.

I had no idea that the “band” would be only Tim Showalter (naturally) with opening act Jason Anderson.  I thought the show might be really loud, but it wasn’t.  They both played electric guitars, but not at ear splitting volume.  They played perfectly off of each other–waves and waves of guitars layered wonderfully (with occasional keyboards as atmospheric background).  There were no drums or percussion and the whole set was like an electrified folk show.

There’s a new Strand of Oaks album coming out soon, and this was a chance for him to play some new songs.  So his setlist was a mix of new songs and a few of the more recognizable songs from Heal.

I initially thought I’d be late for the show and that I’d never get close (150 person capacity seemed like it might be packed tight).  But no, I was able to get up nice and close to the stage.  Anderson started playing some gentle guitar sounds, then–and this is what I love about Boot & Saddle–I heard someone saying excuse me, and Showalter himself was making his way through the crowd to the stage right next to me.  So that was pretty cool. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 7, 2016] Pearl Jam

2016-08-07 18.26.10After the excitement of seeing Pearl Jam at the Wells Fargo Center, we were psyched out of our minds to go to Fenway.  I didn’t realize that Fenway has a regular concert series.  I’d assumed that Pearl Jam were the first band to play there–they weren’t–but that didn’t detract in any way from the coolness of the venue.

Neither of us are baseball fans, although when I lived in Boston two decades ago, I did attend a couple of games at Fenway because it is a landmark (and when I was a kid I loved baseball, so duh).  But we knew that the venue would make the show even more special.

We’d have loved to have gone to both shows, but unlike some people, we couldn’t get tickets for both nights.  However, through a small piece of luck, I won tickets to a screening of Friday night’s show on Saturday night.  What?  Well, each night is filmed.  So the film crew filmed Friday night, then edited the footage together and had it ready on the next night as a really nicely edited package at the House of Blues (across the street from Fenway) on Saturday night.

It seemed kind of dumb to go to a music venue to watch a movie.  And Sarah and I were skeptical about going.  But we did and we had a  great time.  I’ve watched live DVDs and it’s always an okay thing to do–fun, but never like you were really there. But this was different. Having a group of some 600 people in a club–with bars and good lighting and excellent sound–it made it feel (almost) like a real concert.  And even though we laughed at the people who were clapping and cheering (as if the band were actually there), and taking videos of the screen (my battery died or I would have grabbed a few screen shots too), we were caught up in the excitement on several occasions as well. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 4, 2016] Wilco

2016-06-04 20.49.02After Richard Thompson’s half set, I walked a round the grounds a bit and grew to really appreciate the venue.  I also got a  pretzel which was pretty good.

Then Wilco came out and they were even more amazing than I anticipated.  They played for 2 and a half hours–33 songs–two encores.  It was awesome.

When I walked through the gates someone handed me a Wilco baseball card.   How cool!  Turns out that this is a Mann Center tradition during the summer, so I stand to get a few more.

I have to complain about the audience for a moment though.  I sat on an aisle seat and I had to stand up to let people past me not less than 20 times.  Between people coming late (and I can’t complain about that as I was late to the opener), but then going back to get drinks or whatever half a dozen times–and different people each time.  This was made more irritating by the people in front of me who were doing the same thing.  The girl in front of me got there just as the band went on and then left for three songs, came back with a beer for her partner and then left for two more songs.  WTF?  The amount of traffic was infuriating–it was really hard to get into a constant groove.

But the band overcame that (and clearly when I see them again I need to get in a closer section where the real fans are). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 21, 2015] Guster        

2015-11-21 21.05.07We saw Guster just seven months ago in Philly.  And when I saw that they were playing again in New jersey (to a theater I’d never been to but at which a ton of great bands have played), I bought us some tickets.

It’s funny how many times we have seen them, and I’ve never considered them a favorite band or anything.  But I like all of their albums, I really like most of their songs, they put on a great show, they usually play cheap venues, and they are a whole lotta fun.  And yup, I’d see them again if they came back.  Maybe they are my favorite band.

What was especially great is that they played a very different set list from the show we saw just a few months ago.  Even though it may have technically been the same tour–it’s a little unclear, but it sounded like this may have been a three week jaunt.  But the stage had the same look as the last time–complete with blankets and other crocheted items strewn about the stage. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 7, 2014] Mimicking Birds

I was excited to get tickets for Modest Mouse, a band I have liked for years but had never seen.  And I was pleased to see that Mimicking Birds was opening.  They’re a band I knew a little (I liked one song and had listened to their albums online).  I liked their newer album more than the first, which was a little generic folkie to me.

We had just come home from vacation, and I had the 45 min drive to Sayreville ahead of me.  So I called the theater and they told me Mimicking Birds would go on at 8:15.  Last time, they estimated very early, so I left late, figured I’d get there at 8:15 and waltz in to see my friend Jay who I haven’t seen since we left the same job almost 2 years ago.

Well, a little detour on the way down delayed me somewhat, but nothing prepared me for the huge line waiting outside the place.  It seems that will-call is the more sensible way to go than actually bringing your tickets, as you don’t have to wait in line–weird.  So, I wound up missing half of their set and then spent the first song I heard looking for Jay.  When we finally met, I was able to hear the very end of their set, including singing a happy birthday to the bassist. (more…)

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