More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Dawes at The Sound Garden August 24, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture,Uncategorized — dwhren @ 7:58 am

Yesterday I got to see Dawes play a short set at The Sound Garden, which is a record store in Baltimore. They are doing as short tour playing some record stores promoting their forthcoming album, We’re All Gonna Die, due out on September 16. If you pre-ordered a copy of the album from Sound Garden you got a wristband to see the performance.

It was serendipitous that I even found out about it. I don’t go to Sound Garden all that often, so I didn’t see any in-store promotions they were doing for it. In fact wandering around Fells Point this week I was astonished at how much had changed since I last spent any time down there. I need to get out of Hampden more often. Anyway, I saw a tweet from WRNR, which is a radio station in Annapolis saying listen to win tickets to some private event they were hosting with Dawes. Seeing that made me think Dawes must be doing something in Maryland because it seemed doubtful that they were coming just for a radio event. I was surprised since they had just opened for Brandi Carlile and Old Crow Medicine Show at Merriweather in July, sadly while I was away at the Newport Folk Festival, so I wasn’t expecting them to be back in these parts any time soon. I decided to check their tour page though and see what was up. That’s where I stumbled upon the information about this show. I of course pre-ordered my CD, so I could go.

Obviously it was a very intimate show given that it was taking place in a record store. I managed to get pretty close, which I was happy about because had I been in the back I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to see anything between the racks and tall people. They played for about a half hour. I wish it was longer, but it was about what I was expecting for a “free” show in a record store. They played a nice mix of stuff from the new album and older stuff. I’ll definitely be looking forward to hopefully getting to see them play more of the new stuff when they start really touring to support the album.

After the performance they stuck around to do a signing. There were some promotional posters they were giving out that you could have signed seeing as how there wasn’t actually an album to sign yet. I was amused when I heard the guy in line front of me tell them that he had seen them play at Bonnaroo and then heard the guy behind me scoff and say Bonnaroo? I saw them at Newport. That made me laugh because yeah my feelings exactly guy.

It was a fun little break for my Tuesday night. There’s always something special about getting to see one of your favorite bands in a non-standard venue, and this was definitely that.

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Songs I Love: SOS (Overboard) by Joseph August 23, 2016

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 8:03 am

Joseph is a band made up of three sisters Natalie, Allison, and Meegan Closner. The band is named after their grandfather Jo who hailed from a town called Joseph. They are set to release their second album, I’m Alone, No You’re Not, this Friday. Their first album was self-released and I don’t think I ever heard anything from it. They are now signed with ATO Records.

I’ve been enjoying “White Flag”, which is the first single off the album and a song that has gotten quite a bit of air play on non-commercial radio over the past few months. NPR Music has the full album up this week as part of their First Listen series, and while I still love “White Flag”, I fell completely in love with SOS (Overboard). The whole album is fantastic, and I can’t wait to make it mine but this song is the one that I’m over the moon about.

 

Code Switch Podcast August 17, 2016

Filed under: Podcasts — dwhren @ 7:40 am

As I’ve said in this space before, I need another podcast like I need a hole in my head. I already can’t keep up with what I’m already listening to. NPR really needs to stop putting out podcasts that I really want to listen to. Even though I’m already way over my listening capacity I couldn’t help but add NPR’s Code Switch podcast into my rotation. It even has the honor of being something I generally listen to on the day that it comes out.

The podcast which is about race and identity is hosted by a rotating cast of people from NPR’s Code Switch team. They all bring a unique perspective based on their own race and experiences. There are often interviews with other people that are part of the podcast as well.

They of course have episodes on what anyone would probably identify as the biggest race issues facing our nation today like police shootings and Black Lives Matter, but they also look at a variety of topics relevant to how race affects people’s every day lives such as the most recent one where they explored having a name that is commonly mispronounced. There have also been episodes about race in relation to pop culture talking about the recent OJ documentary and another episode on feelings about representation on TV shows. One of favorite episodes so far has been one in which they talked to journalists of color on the idea of being objective especially in the face of covering some very recently racially charged stories like police shootings and the Donald Trump campaign.

It’s a great podcast and I would highly encourage everyone to listen to it. No matter what your race and background there is always something to be learned about others who share different experiences from you. New episodes drop on Wednesdays. Check it out.

 

Escape Room Fun August 15, 2016

Filed under: Friends,Random — dwhren @ 7:40 am

I’ve been curious about these Escape Rooms since I first heard of them a year or so ago. Yesterday I finally got to find out what it was all about when a group of friends and I went for someone’s birthday yesterday. If you’re not familiar with the Escape Room concept, there is basically some sort of themed room that usually up to 10 people get “locked” into and have an hour to figure out how to get out. There are lots of locks in the room and you have to use clues you find behind the locks in order to unlock the final key to get out of the room. Basically it’s a race against the clock to win the game and escape.

I wasn’t really quite sure what to expect, but I was excited to try it out. These things seem to be popping up all over the place these days, but the one we went to was called Escape This Live in Catonsville. They have three different rooms there. We did the easiest one they have called Queen Anne’s Revenge and it was a pirate themed room. Even though it’s the easiest one there, it was still rated moderate difficulty and we were told that only 24% of people who do it make it out within the hour.

The first thing I found out was that they don’t really lock you in the room, at least at this one so no worries for the claustrophobic.  You could technically get out whenever you want. There were two doors. The main door that you enter the room through is left unlocked the whole time. There was a second locked door that was the one you needed find the key for and open in order to win.

There was a short 1 minute video intro with a sort of starting clue and then the timer started. Again I don’t know if this is typical of how all of these places work, but at least at this one you were left with a walkie talkie and could contact the people who work there to get up to 3 clues throughout the hour. They obviously had cameras in the room watching us because every time we asked for a clue one would pop up on the video screen related to the puzzle we were obviously working on at the time, so they could obviously see what we were doing while we were in there.

We did actually manage to make it out with only 1:34 left on the clock. It was really harrowing there at the end. We still had three locks left with less than 5 minutes and had been working on one for at least ten minutes. Once we got that one finally open we got the other two lickety split and got the door open just in time. It made the end really exciting. It was fun no matter what, but I’m glad we managed to get out. It would have been disappointing to get so close and fail.

It would be interesting to try another one now that I’m familiar with the concept to see if I would be any better at it knowing some of the way things were set up in this one. Also having done it, I do think it’s probably the most fun with a large group of your own friends so that you buy out the room. I feel like there could be a weird dynamic trying to do it with people you don’t already know. I would definitely do it again.

 

eShakti Dresses August 10, 2016

Filed under: Random,Simple Pleasures — dwhren @ 8:03 am

It’s summer dress season, which means I’ve been wearing all the cute dresses I’ve bought from eShakti. As such I’ve thought about writing a post on them multiple times this summer, but because of the state of the world every time I thought about it something would happen that would make writing about dresses seem too trivial. Earlier this week I was having a Twitter conversation with some friends about eShakti dresses which revived my thought about writing this post.

First of all eShakti has some awesomely cute dress designs. I always get compliments on the dresses I own from there whenever I wear them. That’s not really what makes them so great through. I get plenty of compliments on other dresses I have that I’ve bought elsewhere, but despite their cuteness none of those dresses are as great as my eShakti dresses.

There are several things that set eShakti dresses apart. First they are all custom made so you can order the dresses with alterations than just the normal style displayed on the page. Some alterations are free and others cost a little bit extra money. Granted I’ve never actually opted for any of these alterations, but I appreciate the fact that they exist and are something I could choose if I wanted.

What’s really great though are the things that just come standard in most of the dresses. Aside from a few styles where they just really wouldn’t work it is standard for eShakti dresses to come with pockets in them. Pockets in dresses are, to go back to the early 00s for a second, the bomb. I love dresses with pockets in them and curse all the dresses, skirts, and pants for that matter that come pocketless. Second all their sleeveless dresses come with snap hooks for putting your bra strap in to keep them from slipping out from under the dress strap. It’s so nice not to have to worry about having to constantly be shoving your bra strap back up. It’s such a nice little touch and just seems so thoughtful about how woman actually wear clothes.

I’m not going to lie and say that eShakti dresses are cheap because they surely are not. You do have to shell out some money for them, although you can get some sales that will make it less painful. However I think they are totally worth it. Plus the price keeps me in check. If they were cheaper I’d probably own way more of them.

 

Hudson River Valley Weekend August 8, 2016

Filed under: Friends,Travel — dwhren @ 7:44 am

This past weekend I went up to the Hudson River Valley to visit one of my friends from college. She moved up there about a year ago to teach at West Point. It’s not as nice as the couple years she was living near me in Maryland while in grad school, but definitely better than when she was in Georgia or Washington State. I can at least make it to New York for a weekend visit fairly easily.

I took a half day off work on Friday and drove up there arriving around 5. After I got up there we drove over to West Point and Kristen gave me a quick tour of the campus. It’s incredibly beautiful, and she confirmed that the views from her office are amazing. I’m still trying to wrap my head a little around the fact that the Hudson River Valley is so close to New York City. It seems like it’s in another world.

We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant in one of the towns around there. I’m not sure exactly where we were at that point. We ended the night watching commercials with a little bit of Olympic opening ceremonies mixed in. Seriously NBC that was complete garbage.

Saturday we headed to Olana, which is the house built by Frederick Church. If you’re not familiar with him, he was the most famous of the painters from the Hudson River Valley School. Based on what our tour guide told us he seemed like quite the interesting man. The fact that he made enough money as an artist to build this incredible house sort of speaks for itself. The house has lots of Persian influences, but he really pulled design elements from all over. The house is built on the top of this hill overlooking the Hudson River. It’s an incredible view. The house itself is gorgeous too. If you’re ever in the area I would highly recommend checking it out.

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Olana

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View from Olana

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View from Frederick Church’s studio in Olana. That decoration in the window is actually black paper that he cut and was then placed between a pane of amber glass and a pane of clear glass. It’s pretty impressive.

We drove into Hudson for lunch and wound up at a French place called La Perche for lunch. Everything on the menu sounded amazing and I went back and forth trying to decide what I wanted, but we eventually both wound up with the burger. Sadly it did not leave room for one of the yummy looking pastries for dessert.

Our next stop was Hyde Park and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Presidential Library and Museum. The grounds hold both the house he lived in for pretty much his whole life as well as the library and museum. We knew that based on the time we were arriving we were most likely only going to be able to do one or the other. Luckily we didn’t actually have to decide because all the house tours were sold out for the rest of the day. I think the museum would have been my first choice anyway, so I wasn’t really disappointed. We got to walk around the grounds and see the outside of the house and his gravesite anyway. I don’t think I learned that much more than I already knew about FDR, but I enjoyed the museum nonetheless. I didn’t like it quite as much as LBJ’s, which is the only other presidential library I’ve been too. I’m still very glad we went though.

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FDR’s house

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Side of FDR’s house

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Grave of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt

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FDR Presidential Library and Museum

On our way into Hyde Park we drove past a Dairy Queen. I love me some Dairy Queen, but there really aren’t any around Baltimore. The only ones around here are inside mall food courts and they’re not exactly convenient to where I live, so I pretty much never eat it. We both commented on it on the way in, so decided it was mandatory to stop and get some ice cream on the way out. Of course eating ice cream at 5:30 didn’t make us very hungry for dinner. Kristen wound up cooking us some fish, risotto, and green beans that we ate close to 9 in the middle of watching some more Olympics.

Sunday morning we had breakfast at a place called Fiddlestix. I somehow refrained from ordering the Heath Bar waffles or the Oreo french toast. I still kind of regret it, though not as much as I probably would have regretted it if I had actually eaten them. I wound up with fruit salad and regular french toast.

Kristen suggested several options for activities for the morning before I headed back to Baltimore. I decided against the official West Point tour. Although I would like to do it at some point, much of the tour is actually on a bus. I’m glad I looked up info about it and found that out because it is actually what made me decide against it. Since I was going to be spending most of the rest of the day in the car I wanted to do something a little more active. I also decided against going to Washington Irving’s house, which is also something I’d be interested in the future, because it had time entry. I didn’t feel like being beholden to a schedule. So my final decision was to go walk around in Bear Mountain State Park. Part of the Appalachian Trail runs through the park, though we didn’t really walk any of it. There’s a little zoo of injured animals that they rehabilitate. We walked around that and then down a little trail down to the river. It was a nice little park, and I’m happy I got in some exercise before getting back in the car. I headed straight from the park back to Baltimore.

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View of the Hudson River from Bear Mountain State Park

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View of the Hudson River from Bear Mountain State Park

It was a great weekend. It was wonderful to catch up with Kristen and see where she’s living and working now. I also enjoyed exploring around the Hudson River Valley area. It’s somewhere I’ve never been before. It’s incredibly beautiful and extremely different than the city life I live. I’m not sure it’s somewhere I’d want to live myself, but I very much enjoyed visiting there.

 

Garbage at Rams Head Live August 3, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture,Uncategorized — dwhren @ 7:20 am

It took me 20 years to see Garbage live, but then I managed to see them twice in one year. After I saw them play at the 9:30 Club in DC last fall I knew if I got the opportunity I would definitely see them again, so I jumped on tickets as soon as I saw they were going to be playing in Baltimore at Rams Head Live. Of course by the time the concert rolled around months later my desire to go at that exact moment was not great. The show was on a Sunday night and as an introvert I tend to not want to do things on Sunday nights because it’s my time to get mentally ready for the forthcoming work week. Plus I wasn’t going to the show with anyone. I don’t mind going to Rams Head alone, but it means I don’t have that extra bit of motivation from someone else to go. Of course I had already paid for the ticket and didn’t have a real reason not to go. Plus I knew once I got there I would have a good time. So I went and of course was glad I did.

I was a little afraid once I got down there that the show as actually not going to happen thanks to a power outage. I wasn’t that surprised when I got the venue and they said they had no power because I tried to park in a parking garage near there and couldn’t get in because there was no power to the ticket machine or gates. Getting back out of the garage and finding somewhere else to park was a bit tricky since the entrance is up a long, steep, curvy ramp. I finally got someone who works there to move some pylons for me so I could get into one of the exit lanes and didn’t have to back all the way down.

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Staring a darkened stage during the power outage.

I don’t know how long the power was actually out for, but it came back on about 20 minutes after I got there. They just wound up cutting the opening band’s set pretty much in half with Garbage still taking the stage at 9:15. It’s a little too bad about the opening, Kristin Kontrol, because I was actually quite enjoying them. Though I did spend their whole set trying to figure out if their lead singer was actually only wearing a large windbreaker over pantyhose, which is what it looked like. I hadn’t really listened to any of their music prior to the show, but I had seen that the lead singer used to be in the Dum Dum Girls, whose music I enjoyed. I also really liked Kristin Kontrol too. Like Torres at the 9:30 Club show last fall, I thought Kristin Kontrol was a perfect opening act for Garbage. Their musical stylings though not the same are very complementary and both bands are fronted by some very dynamic female vocalists. I would definitely go see them again all on their own.

I’m glad the show went on because Garbage of course was excellent again. According to Shirley Manson in 21 years of touring this is the first time they’ve ever had a power failure at a show. So yay for firsts I guess. I still am in complete love with Shirley Manson, which was made even greater by her saying the first time she had ever heard of Baltimore was from reading an Anne Tyler novel and also talking about Baltimore in relation to Edgar Allen Poe. Literary references, be still my beating heart. She is just so much fun to watch on stage too. Their normal drummer, Butch Vig, apparently has to sit this tour out due to some sinus infection he can’t shake, but the person filling in for him whose name is escaping me did a good job.

When I saw them last fall they were doing a special tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their first album, which of course contains all the songs I really want to hear them play. I wasn’t sure how this show was going to be compared to that one since they have a new album out. I thought I might not get to hear all of my favorite songs in favor of them playing more of their new music. While they did obviously play some stuff off the new album, they also still got to all the hits I wanted to hear which made me happy. By the time the encore rolled around the only song I wanted to hear that they hadn’t played yet was “#1 Crush”. It was the song they ended their set with last time, so I figured there was a pretty good chance I was going to get it in the encore, and I did so I left a very happy girl.

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Staring a darkened stage during the power outage.

 

 
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