Visit to NPR Headquarters plus a Tiny Desk Concert

The posts on this blog tend to fall in a dozen or so categories of things that generally make me happy. Today’s post is so great it fits into 6 of them. A super, awesome big thanks to my friend Janel for making it happen. We met a few years ago at one of the American Library Association conferences. We generally only see each other when we happen to be at the same conference, but keep in touch via ye olde Facebook and Twitter.

Janel is a librarian at NPR. If you pay any attention to NPR then you are probably aware that their Washington, D.C. headquarters recently moved into a new building. Yesterday they had a friends and family open house to show off the building, and Janel kindly invited me down to check it out. As luck would have it I had already planned on taking the day off work to use up some vacation time, so I jumped at the chance.

My husband kindly drove me to the train station in Baltimore and I took the commuter train down to DC. The new NPR building is conveniently within walking distance of Union Station, so I didn’t even have to deal with the Metro when I got down there.

NPR Headquarters
NPR Headquarters

As part of the open house they had a little tour set up whereby you got a passport that you could get stamped at different areas in the building, which you could then turn in to be entered into a raffle for various prizes. I didn’t wind up taking pictures of much of the building, but there are plenty of photos out there that are professional and better than anything I would take with my phone if you want to see more.

One of the things they are touting about the new building is how green it is. They have a green roof. You can see part of it along with some of their satellites in the picture below. If you look closely you can kind of see the mounds, which are where trees are planted on top of the columns in the building. I never thought of trees being planted on green roofs, only plants and grasses, but I guess they do it. I of course did my part to ruin it by accidentally littering on the green roof. We were eating lunch out on the terrace and it was really windy. One of my napkins got away from me and onto a part of the roof that was fenced off so I couldn’t retrieve it. Can’t take me anywhere.

Green roof and satellites
Green roof and satellites

They also have a couple of bee hives, which are full of I believe 20,000 bees that will hopefully pollinate the vegetation on the roof. Eventually they will hopefully make some honey as well. NPR honey!

The NPR Bees. You can totally follow them on Twitter at NPRBees.
The NPR Bees. You can totally follow them on Twitter at NPRBees.

The highlight of the tour for me was getting to attend a Tiny Desk Concert (If you have no idea what I’m talking about see here and here). Obviously if you’ve ever read this blog before you know I love music, and I am a big fan of NPR music in many of its incarnations. The one NPR station I’m a member of is WXPN, which is an NPR music station. (Though I do tell my husband during every pledge drive that we should give some money to WYPR as we listen every morning. We’re stealing our radio!) As such, I of course love the Tiny Desk Concerts. Janel’s desk happens to be right near the Tiny Desk space in the new building. (The librarians’ desks are all spread around the building. I didn’t think to ask why at the time.) She tweeted about it after they moved in, and I jokingly said something about needing to figure out a reason I needed to come hang out at her desk during one. Because she’s awesome Janel took me seriously and look here I am at the Bob Boilen’s desk, aka the Tiny Desk!

Proof I was at the Tiny Desk!
Proof I was at the Tiny Desk!

Although it would have been awesome to see a band I love perform, it turns out that the band booked for the day was a band I had never heard of, the Brooklyn band Hem. I wound up really liking them though, which was even better since part of the joy of Tiny Desk Concerts is discovering new artists to love. It will probably be several weeks before the concert goes live on the site, but I’ll definitely post it here when it does.

Hem performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Hem performs a Tiny Desk Concert.

In addition, to getting to tour the building and attending a Tiny Desk Concert it of course was great to be able to catch up with Janel for a few hours since I haven’t seen her in person in about a year. Hopefully we’ll see each other again before another year goes by.

My trip home was a little adventurous. I miscalculated how much time I would need to get back to the train. I thought there was no way I would make the 2:20 train home when the Tiny Desk Concert was over so I stayed around to check out the new NPR store in the lobby of the building where you can go buy your NPR swag. Turns out if I had left immediately I would have made it as I missed the train by only 4 minutes. Thus I had to hang out at Union Station for an hour before the next train. That wouldn’t have been a big deal except for the line of severe storms that rolled in right as the 3:30 train was leaving. This would have been an instance where ignorance would have been bliss. The storms themselves never seemed that bad where we were. It was obviously raining hard and we got a little bit of thunder and lightning, but it wasn’t anything I would have thought twice about except for the fact that I was checking Twitter and the entire train ride was nothing but news sources posting tornado warnings for places our train had just rolled through, the scariest one being for BWI airport minutes after we left that station. As I didn’t have a radar to track the storm in conjunction with how the train was moving I had no idea where we were in relation to the tornados or if one was going to break out right by us. Obviously there would have been nowhere to take shelter and being on a train car was not really where I wanted to be in that kind of situation. Thus it was a rather nerve wracking and anxiety inducing ride home. I made it safely though, and I’m glad I got to make the trip down for the afternoon.

Of Monsters and Men with Half Moon Run and HAIM at Merriweather Post Pavilion

I went to see Of Monsters and Men in concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night with my friends Lindsey and Laura. First I would like to thank Mother Nature for giving us a beautiful night sandwiched in between the crazy storms of Monday and the equally crazy storms being predicted for tonight. I’ve done the concert in the rain (and hail!) thing at Merriweather before and it’s not something I particularly care to do again. We had lawn seats, and it was still rather muddy in some spots from the previous day’s rain, but we found a spot that wasn’t too horrible to sit in. I wore flip flops though so my feet were absolutely disgusting from walking around the lawn to get to it. All in all it was a great night weather wise though.

I had never heard of the first opening band, Half Moon Run before but I quite enjoyed them. They’re an up-and-coming Canadian band who I do expect to hear more from in the next few years. They have a really mellow kind of electronic sounding rock vibe going on. Some of their songs had some really great drum tracks going on in them that I really enjoyed. I’ll definitely be listening to more of them in the future. I always like it when opening acts I’ve never heard of wind up being bands I want to hear more from.

The second opening act was HAIM. One thing I learned last night is that I have been pronouncing their name wrong in my head. I don’t know that I had ever heard anyone say their name out loud before they did at the concert last night. Turns out it is not pronounced Haim as in Corey Haim, which is how I was saying it. Instead it is pronounced Hi-Em. The band is made of three sisters, whose last name is Haim, plus a non-related drummer. I had heard a lot of buzz about them in the past year, and listened to their EP on Spotify a few times, but hadn’t really spent a lot of time investigating this band. I also know they have opened for a lot of other bands I really like over the last year, so I should have realized that I would like them a lot. I will definitely look forward to getting a full length album from them at some point. It was a apparently was a big night for percussion in the opening acts at this show as HAIM was also really into drums. I will say this is the first time I have ever seen the lead singer of a band play the guitar and a drum simultaneously. Ok, well not really simultaneously as that would be fairly impossible, but in alternating fashion during the same song I guess. She had one drum set off to her side and held one drum stick to beat on it in between playing the guitar. All 4 members of the band played the drums at some point, and their set ended with what essentially was a drum line of all four of them just playing the drums. The one bad thing about their set was that one of the singers mics was not set up properly. It was feeding into the speakers inside the pavilion, but not to the ones out on the lawn. It wasn’t that noticeable while she was just singing backup, but when she took over solo or was just trying to talk to the audience between songs we couldn’t really hear her. Luckily that wasn’t very often. Again I look forward to seeing and hearing more from HAIM in the future.

This was the third time I’ve seen Of Monsters and Men perform live in the past year or so. I saw them for the first time at the Fillmore, a little club in Silver Spring, Maryland. Then I saw them at The Newport Folk Festival last summer. As their venues have gotten bigger I have gotten farther away from them. At the Fillmore I was pretty much right up by the stage. They played a second tier festival stage at Newport, so it still wasn’t that big. At Merriweather, especially with my preference for lawn tickets there, they were significantly far away from where I was. Despite the increasing size of their venues, they still put on a good performance and get the audience involved in the show. Not every band that has a good command of the audience in a small space can translate that well once they move into bigger venues. The production values of their performance have definitely gone way up since I first saw them last April, but they were still good about getting the audience into singing and clapping along not just letting the fancy new lighting and set designs do the work for them. You can definitely tell they are more well known now and that they know it. The first two times I saw them, they coached the audience with the chorus lyrics to “Mountain Sound” and had us sing along with them as kind of a call and response. That didn’t happen at this show, and it didn’t need to as that song has now had plenty of radio play as the second single off their album. As they are still working off of that single album, they played it in its entirety along with a couple of new songs and one cover. They still put on a great show, and I will happily see them in concert again, but think I’ll wait until they have some new music out before I pay to see them again.

Here’s a video of them playing Little Talks at last night’s show that someone threw up on YouTube.

Visit with the Arizona Family

Sorry things have been a little quiet around these parts. I spent last Thursday through Monday in Arizona visiting my parents, sister, brother-in-law and nieces. Then I came home with a cold, which was happily short lived. It’s kind of weird that all my family lives in Arizona now. It makes it both easier and harder to visit them because yes they’re all in the one place now so I only have to travel once to see everyone, but on the other hand it is not easy to get to Arizona. It’s expensive and you pretty much have to allot an entire day of travel on either end whereas when my parents were in Florida I could easily fly down after work and not waste a vacation day flying. The same goes for many of the places my sister has lived previously such as Boston and Chicago or Pittsburgh where I could just drive. And of course since they’re all there now and there’s the kids the burden is always on me to be the one traveling. I guess they’re worth it though. I mean look at these cuties.

2013-05-31 08.18.07

Though this one looks all sweet and innocent she apparently saved up her terrible twos until she turned 4. There were a lot of temper tantrums being thrown while I was there and I gather this isn’t an anomaly at the moment. The one good thing about it is that it meant I didn’t have to play Barbies with her non-stop the entire time I was there as she had lost all her Barbie privileges.

2013-05-31 08.17.39

Friday while her mommy was working and her daddy stayed home with the baby, Katelyn, her grandma, and Aunt Danielle took a trip to the Children’s Museum. The section where you can pretend to drive the emergency vehicles was still her favorite.

2013-05-31 11.52.43 2013-05-31 10.55.53 2013-05-31 10.52.15We also spent a lot of time swimming in their pool since it’s the desert and hot out. Though it’s so hot out that even with the pool water being 88 degrees the water felt chilly because it was almost 20 degrees cooler than the air. I don’t have any pictures of pool time, but I wish I had gotten one of the baby holding a squirt gun and looking like she was about to shoot it at people.

Monday morning before I left I spent some time watching Jaclyn while her mommy was working, her sister was at school, and her daddy was running errands. She’s a little goof. She can totally walk around while holding on the edge of furniture, but unlike most babies who have reached that stage she has zero interest in you helping her walk. If you try and hold her up and help her walk she just lifts up her legs or gets noodle legs. She totally knows whats going on with the camera. When I went to take this picture she was lying down on the floor with her face on the pillow. She saw me get the camera, sat up, and gave me this big cheese face.

2013-05-31 08.17.34

We of course spent some time reading books. What kind of librarian aunt would I be if we didn’t do that?

2013-06-03 08.29.56

Hey let me out of this baby jail!
Hey let me out of this baby jail!

I probably wont’ see them again until Christmas, which is the major drawback of them all living so far away. I’ll just have to keep in touch with them the old fashioned way…you know, via Skype.