More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Joseph at Rams Head on Stage June 13, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 9:25 pm

You might recall that I named Joseph’s album I’m Alone, No You’re Not my favorite album of 2016,┬áthat I wrote about how much I love their song SOS (Overboard), or that when I saw them open for Lucius back in December that I said I couldn’t wait to see them headline a show. Ok, let’s be realistic, you remember exactly none of that. But I did in fact say all that right here on this very blog.

Last night I did get the chance to see them as a headliner at Rams Head on Stage in Annapolis. Rams Head on Stage is one of those seated venues that is tables with optional dinner and drink service. Because Baltimore earns its nickname of Smalltimore I wound up seating directly across the table from someone I used to be in a book club with, but haven’t seen or talked to in a couple of years.

The opening act was a band composed of two brothers aptly named The Dupont Brothers. Since Joseph is a band composed of three sisters they joked about it being a brothers and sisters night. The had sort an etherial folk music sound. They reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on who. They were good entertainers and I wouldn’t mind listening to them play live again if I happened to be somewhere they were, but I’m not sure I loved their music enough to keep track of them otherwise.

Joseph was everything I anticipated they would be based on the short set I got to see them play last year. They were super energetic and really commanded the room. Often times I find seated venues, especially ones like this where tables are involved and there’s not really any way for people to stand up to create generally low energy crowds, but they had the crowd super pumped and into the show. Their harmonies as always were amazing. Last time I saw them I said I was disappointed they didn’t play “Blood & Tears”, but I understood because it was such a short set. I started to get a little bit worried that they somehow weren’t going to play it during this show either since they didn’t play it until pretty close to the end of the set list, but they finally did and was probably my favorite part of the night.

Joseph is scheduled to play at the Newport Folk Festival. Normally since I had just seen them I would choose to see someone else that they’re up against instead. In this case, they put on such an amazing show that they cemented a spot in my Newport schedule. They now join the rank of bands who I immediately want to see again as soon as their show is over. I can’t wait to enjoy them with a Newport crowd.

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Neil Diamond’s 50th Anniversary Concert in Baltimore June 11, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 5:00 pm

When I was 11 or 12 (I don’t know the actual age, but I was in 6th grade so it was one of those two) my parents took me to my first concert. It was Neil Diamond. That concert obviously set off a long love of live music. So I couldn’t resist going to see Neil Diamond on his 50th Anniversary Concert Tour.

I also saw him about 11 or 12 years ago at the Verizon Center in DC. He definitely wasn’t as spry as he was even back then. Dude’s 76 though, so I’ll cut him a break. It’s impressive that has enough stamina to get up almost every night and perform for 2+ hours. His voice is still great, so won’t be too concerned with the somewhat lackluster theatrics. That’s never what I’m at a concert for anyway.

At that last concert I was actually surprised by the number of twentysomethings that were in the crowd. The age level was decidedly higher at this show. Granted I’m over a decade older and so would be any of those twentysomethings. I still felt this show skewed older because I didn’t feel like I saw very many people even in my age range. Most everyone I saw was closer to my parents age, which is obviously Neil Diamond’s demographic.

And Neil Diamond does have a following. I heard a number of people around us talking about how many times they had seen him live. And there were definitely some old ladies having some feelings during certain songs and when he flashed up certain pictures of himself in younger years. He used a lot of really great old home movies and concert footage from his career as a backdrop during certain songs, which I thought was really great especially since the tour is celebrating his 50 year career.

He sang most of the songs I wanted to hear and pretty much played all the big hits. I was a little worried that he wasn’t going to play America, which is my favorite Neil Diamond song probably because it’s the first Neil Diamond song I can remember knowing. But it was the final song of the encore. As an American flag image showed up on the screen the crowd went wild because they all knew it was coming. And of course the singalong that was Sweet Caroline was lots of fun. It was a great show to celebrate the long career of an American music icon.

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Outdoors, Friends, Fun: AKA Summer is the Best June 5, 2017

Filed under: Baltimore,Friends,Life — dwhren @ 7:51 am

After a terribly cool, grey, and rainy spring we seem to have finally turned somewhat of a corner and are getting some warmer sunnier weather (of course as I write this it’s supposed to rain and be cooler this week) at least for the past week. It’s been wonderful and has done wonders to improve my mood. Life is just so much more pleasant when the weather is nice enough to do things outside.

The previous weekend there was a 30th birthday party for one of my friends. We got to sit outside on a lovely screened porch and enjoy a firepit out on the patio. I love sitting around a firepit on a summer night.

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The following night one of my friends from college got married at The Elm, which is an event space a few blocks from my house. I was always kind of curious about it, so I’m glad they got married there so I could finally check it out. It was rainy off and on earlier in the day, but it cleared up just in time for them to have their ceremony outside as planned. It was a lovely wedding, and I enjoyed getting to walk there and back. I don’t think I’ll ever go to a wedding closer to the place I’m living than this one.

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On Thursday one of my coworkers and I finally got to try blacksauce kitchen for lunch. I’m a long time lover of their food from the farmers markets and festivals, but I hadn’t yet managed to make it over to the storefront they opened a few months ago. It’s only opened on Thursdays for now and it’s carry out only, so we were waiting for a Thursday when we were both free and the weather was nice enough for us to eat outside. We took our delicious food (blacksauce never disappoints) and ate it on a bench in Sherwood Gardens. It was perfect, at least until the part where we had to go back to work.

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This past Saturday I went down to Georgetown to meet another friend from college who was there for work. We had brunch outside and then wandered around Georgetown for awhile. It was great to catch up with her, and it was nice to walk around Georgetown. It’s been a really long time since I’d been there.

Yesterday my church held its service followed by a potluck brunch outside at the pavilion at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Last year the school that we normally meet at had a water main break and some enterprising person managed to think of and snag the BMI pavilion for our service instead. It worked out so well they decided to do it once every summer. The weather was perfect for it this morning, and it was lovely to sit out and stare at the water and the boats.

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I didn’t get all my steps in earlier in the day, so we went for a walk after dinner. I love that it’s still light enough at 7:30 to go out for a walk. It’s a billion times better than when it gets dark hours earlier in the winter. Everything in this post is why summer is better than winter and why I love it so much.

 

Songs I Love: Ramblin’ Man by The Allman Brothers May 27, 2017

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 4:26 pm

In honor of Gregg Allman’s passing I present you with a story about the song “Ramblin’ Man”. When I was in 7th grade my family moved from Georgia to Massachusetts. During that summer between my 7th and 8th grade years my sister and I took tennis lessons at a local tennis club along with our neighbor, a boy a few years younger than us who had also just moved there but from England.

Our tennis instructor was a college kid who to my young 12 year old self seemed infinitely older. To reconcile my memory of this guy with the college guys I interact with on a daily basis takes some work because he will forever seem so much older in my mind. At any rate for some reason he made it his goal to teach us all the lyrics to the song “Ramblin’ Man”. I don’t know why he decided that should happen. I suppose some high minded idea that this music he himself was probably just coming to learn of in college was far superior to whatever pop music we were wont to go on about at the time. I still have vivid memories of singing the lyrics to that song while playing tennis long before I could have reliably told you I had ever even heard the actual song.

Every time I have heard that song in my life since then though I have thought back to that summer and that tennis instructor who in his own mind was deciding to elevate my musical tastes. I don’t remember your name, but thanks for the memories. And thanks to The Allman Brothers who did indeed create some wonderful music that this guys was not wrong about the fact that I should know it.

 

 

Bon Iver and Hiss Golden Messenger at Merriweather Post Pavilion May 25, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:05 pm

Last night I went with my friends Lindsey and Andrew to see Bon Iver and Hiss Golden Messenger at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I missed Bon Iver the last time he was through these parts a number of years ago, so I was excited to finally get to see him live. I got even more excited when they finally announced that his opener was going to be Hiss Golden Messenger, who I also love.

Even though I love both them and was very happy to be able to see them both, in my mind I found them to be somewhat of an odd musical pairing. Hiss Golden Messenger is kind of Southern jammy guitar rock while Bon Iver is whatever Bon Iver is. Wikipedia offered up the genre of folktronica, which I’m going to go with. I expressed my thoughts about how I felt they were an odd concert fit on Twitter and Hiss Golden Messenger actually responded saying they’re all friends. And ultimately after the concert I decided there’s a lot more common DNA there than I really thought. The auto-tuney, more experimental music especially of more recent Bon Iver kind of overshadowed the guitar of it all, but seeing it all live on stage last night made the guitar stand out more to me.

Hiss Golden Messenger was great. I really enjoyed their set. It felt like the music I needed for where I’ve been lately. Their jammy folk rock is well, my jam. I feel like I’m carrying around 800 lbs of anxiety at all times, and I find Hiss Golden Messenger’s music so soothing to my soul. Just sitting there and listening to them jam out was a kind of bliss. My friend Lindsey said their music is perfect for a super hot, sticky summer day and she’s exactly right. Their song “Saturday Song” was one of the inspirations for the Spotify playlist I have called Chill Summer Songs for exactly that kind of it’s too hot to move summer weather. Having that weather instead of the gray, damp, cool weather we did have was the only thing that would have made it more perfect. They played a good mix of stuff from their new album and older albums. Their attempt to create a sing-along to “Heart Like a Levee” fell very flat. Sorry guys, you’re just really not a sing-along kind of band, but I still love the song even if their sing-along idea didn’t work out for them. As we hopefully finally head into warm summer weather I highly recommend giving them a listen.

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Normally when I got to Merriweather I get lawn seats, but for this concert I decided to spring for pavilion seats. My reasoning was two-fold. One I slightly overestimated how popular Bon Iver was. I don’t think the show sold out, although it was decently full. When Merriweather really sells out, I feel like they way oversell the lawn for the amount of space there is and I hate dealing with that especially if the weather turns out lousy like that one Mumford and Sons concert I was at. So thinking Bon Iver might be a sell out situation, I decided I wanted a seat that was actually mine. The other reason I wanted to be inside the pavilion was because I knew his show would be heavily reliant on lights and you can’t really see that very well from the lawn. I was completely correct on that, so I’m glad I made the choice to sit inside the pavilion.

Bon Iver’s set was very heavy on songs from the new album, 22, A Million. In fact he/they played it pretty much straight through from beginning to end before throwing in a handful of songs from other albums at the end. We still got “Holocene”, “Calgary”, and “Skinny Love” which I was happy about. My favorite was “Skinny Love” in which Justin Vernon stayed out on stage solo with a guitar lit in a single spotlight and played. The crowd, which had stayed seated for the entire concert rose to sing along. It was beautiful, and one of those perfect concert moments I love.

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Isle of Palms Trip 2017 May 15, 2017

Filed under: Travel — dwhren @ 8:24 am

This past week we took what has now become our annual trip to Isle of Palms, SC. This is the third year we’ve gone down there in May. I always have vacation time to use up this time of year, and it’s a good time to take a beach vacation before all the schools let out and the beaches get really busy. Isle of Palms is far enough south that it’s generally been warm enough to go to the beach there even in early May.

We rent a condo at one of the places inside of the Wild Dunes resort. There are a couple of places that have one bedroom condos. There are two sets of condos that I really like because they have screened in porches and if you rent one of the ones on the first level than you can walk right out to the beach from your screened in porch, so I try to find one of those that’s available.

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The screened in porch on our condo.

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View from our screened in porch.

Unlike previous years the weather was pretty much perfect this year. The first year we went there was a freak early tropical storm that brewed up and rained out half our vacation. Last year we had some thunderstorms. This year was great. The first few days were in the high 70s, which was a little chilly for sitting out on the beach, especially since Isle of Palms gets some really strong winds out on the beach. But later in the week it was in the 80s and 90s and it was perfect beach weather.

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Full moon over the ocean.

Everyone keeps asking me what we did on our trip and my answer is I went to the beach. Unless you want to count going out to dinner or the one night we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy as doing something. Other than that spent all my time at the beach. I got up and walked the beach every morning, then sat out there and read or just stared at the water until it was time for lunch. After lunch I went back out for a few more hours until I came back in to get ready to go to dinner.

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The water was really calm while we were there this year, which I think made a big difference in the wildlife I saw. In past years I’ve found lots of sand dollars and other big shells. I found two sand dollars the first day, but nothing after that. There were a lot more people at the beach than there were in the other two years we were there for some reason so it might also be that other people were snatching them up before I found them. It also meant I saw a lot more of various types of sea birds diving for fish because they could easily spot them in the calm waters. I also saw some dolphins one day too.

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As I mentioned, as a barrier island, it gets really windy on Isle of Palms. After trying to use a cheap beach umbrella I bought at the grocery store for the past two years and giving up pretty much every day because it was too windy for the umbrella to handle I decided I was going to go properly prepared this year. There’s a rental company on Isle of Palms that rents beach chairs and umbrellas. I noticed that the umbrellas they rented had no problems standing up to the wind, so I wanted to find a professional grade beach umbrella for myself. I found it slightly painful to shell out $200 for a beach umbrella I’ll only use once a year, but I figured if I was renting one I would spending that much in two years anyway. I’m very happy I spent the money because it worked out perfectly. No more umbrella blowing away or breaking on me in the wind this year. After looking I’m pretty sure that the umbrella I bought is actually the same as the umbrellas they rent aside from the color and branding.

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As usual we had some delicious food while we were there. We went back to our two favorite places: Acme Low Country Kitchen, which is the only place on Isle of Palms itself that we’ve found worth eating at, and Crave which is just over the bridge in Mt. Pleasant. We also tried a new to us place called Graze that I really liked though it’s on the far side of Mt. Pleasant so a bit of a trek to get to. We also went into Charleston for a fancy dinner at the Charleston Grille one night. The final night we tried another new to us place called Opal, which I was not a big fan of.

As usual it was a wonderful, relaxing week at the beach. I wish I could go more often. Both the place we stayed in last year and the place we stayed in this year appear to be on the market, so if anyone has an extra $400,000 lying around they want to give me I’ll take it. Since I don’t think that’s going to happen I’ll just look forward to going back and renting a place again next year.

 

A Good Sheet Cake May 2, 2017

Filed under: Food — dwhren @ 7:25 pm

Sometimes there’s nothing like a good sheet cake. You know the ones that come covered in the sickeningly sweet buttercream icing. The key is to have a really good sheet cake though. There are plenty of garbage sheet cakes out in the world getting your hopes up and then dashing them when you take a bite and realize they’re covered in that oil slick of whipped icing instead of buttercream (that stuff should be outlawed) or the cake is super dry.

There’s a local grocery store in Baltimore called Eddie’s and they make a fantastic sheet cake. We always get one at work for our student worker appreciation lunch. This year’s lunch was this afternoon and I enjoyed the heck out of my piece of cake. I even managed to snag a corner piece, which means more icing for me. I know some people hate it, but I love it.

I know theoretically there are better desserts out there made from less industrial ingredients, but sometimes all I want is a piece of good old buttercream sheet cake. My wedding cake came from a Publix grocery store and was essentially a glorified sheet cake, and I loved it. I’ve been to plenty of weddings with fancy cakes from bakeries that I have found to be far less tasty than my grocery store cake.

I don’t have cause to have good sheet cakes in my life very often, but I always look forward to this at least one day per year when I get to indulge in this horribly delicious treat.