More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Newport Folk Festival 2013 Day 2 July 31, 2013

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:16 am

Saturday was definitely the highlight of the Newport Folk Festival both due to the weather and the music. It was a sunny day, with fairly low humidity, a nice breeze, and temperatures in the high 70s or low 80s. Pretty perfect if you ask me.

The first thing I did on Saturday morning was check out what was going on in the Sennheiser-Paste Ruins and Sound Lounge. Basically inside some of the ruins of the fort there’s a little area where bands would go in and play short sets. The area was sponsored by Paste Magazine and Sennheiser headphones. You could grab a pair to borrow and listen better to the music, though I didn’t and could hear just fine. Saturday morning I saw Frank Turner do an acoustic set in there, which was fantastic. I would have loved to see some of the other bands play in there, but there’s only so much time and I wanted to catch as many people as possible.

The Paste-Sennheiser Ruins space.

The Paste-Sennheiser Ruins space.

Unlike Friday I did not stay put in front of the main stage. Paul and I set up shop there and I left him there all day as he doesn’t care that much about music and was only at the festival to humor me. He was happy to sit there and mess around on his tablet and phone listening to whoever was on the main stage while I was running around between stages seeing as much music as I possibly could. I didn’t see much of him on Saturday. Though when I returned at one point I found him taking a nap like this. 2013-07-27 14.23.13

One of the really nice things about the Newport Folk Festival is that it is fairly compact so it’s easy to run between stages and catch as much music as you can, whereas it was almost impossible to see overlapping sets at Firefly because it took too long to walk between the various stages.

And before we get into the music one more thing I love about Newport is how family friendly it is and that there are people there of all ages ranging from the tiniest of babies to people who are old enough to have been there at the first festival 54 years ago. I love seeing all the little kids dancing around and the babies in their giant protective headphones. So adorable. Newport is helping to bring the next generation up with some great music and I love it.

First up on the main stage on Saturday was Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. They performed a series of videos that they posted on YouTube called “The Van Sessions” in which they covered songs while playing in a van. For some reason the 17th video in the series, a cover of Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That” went viral.

I was only really familiar with that series of videos and didn’t really know of their actual music, but I quite enjoyed it.

After their set was over I ran around to the Quad stage to catch the last half of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s set. The New Orleans based band had the crowd up and moving. Though most of their music isn’t something I would sit and listen to they were a lot of fun live. You can listen to their set from NPR Music.

I stuck around the Quad stage for The Lone Bellow. I managed to sneak up close to the side of the stage and be under the tent in the shade, so it was perfect.

2013-07-27 12.53.58

The Lone Bellow was by far the best set I saw during the entire festival. I had seen them twice before saw I knew they put on a good show, but this was even better than I had seen before. I had been planning on leaving their set early to see Frank Turner’s full set since I had seen them live before and aside from the short set of his I saw earlier in the morning had never seen him live. After I saw what was happening though there was no way I was leaving The Lone Bellow early. They had the huge crowd totally into it. People were up and dancing and clapping. They sang one song that they said was a waltz and had people waltzing in the aisles. They are hugely high energy dancing around the stage, telling stories, and having tons of fun while they’re playing. They even finished out the set with “Teach Me to Know” and Zach Williams their lead singer decided to go down into the crowd and finish off there. The rest of the band followed, but you could tell it totally wasn’t planned which made it even more special. I knew there was no way any other band was going to play a more perfect set during the festival and I was right.

Watch The Lone Bellow set courtesy of NPR Music.

After The Lone Bellow finished I hot-footed it back over to the main stage for Frank Turner. I had heard that he was great live as well and was really looking forward to seeing him. He did not disappoint either. He had the crowd participating as well and was quite amusing. I wish I had been able to see his whole set live. At least I can go back and watch what I missed thanks to NPR Music. 

Once Frank Turner was done I went back over to the Quad stage to see the last half of Shovels & Rope. I saw them earlier in the week pretty much standing right up against the stage, so this set where I was standing at the back of a large crowd wasn’t nearly as good for me, but I’m sure for the people who were much closer in and who were there for the whole thing it was great. You can listen to their set via NPR Music. 

After Shovels & Rope I saw maybe the first 3 or 4 songs of Father John Misty’s set. The small portion of the set I saw was just plain odd and from tweets that I saw about it, it seems to have only gotten weirder after I left. I like a lot of his music, but I can’t say that he’s someone I’m very interested in as a person. Father John Misty is the persona of Joshua Tillman. He puts out a very hippy/cult leader kind of vibe. I found all his commentary kind of off-putting because at least to me it sounded like he was saying folk music had sold out and was bashing the festival in which case I wanted to be like no one forced you to come here and play. He was entertaining, but in an uncomfortable way. Aside from some microphones being thrown about I’m not sure what else happened after I left, but it sounds like the whole thing was very strange.

I left Father John Misty early because I wanted to see Jason Isbell on the Harbor stage. Isbell is a former member of the Drive-by-Truckers. I enjoy some, but not all of their music. He left the band a number of years ago and has been flying solo since. I actually much prefer his solo work. He did play a mix of songs from his solo career and songs he wrote when he was with The Drive-By-Truckers. He made a joke about people wandering up to the stage and wondering who this white dude covering Drive-By-Truckers’ songs was. There wasn’t anything particularly special about his set, just some really great music that I’m glad I got to hear live.

Next up I saw most of Colin Meloy’s set. He is the lead singer of The Decemberists, but also has a solo career. He was playing solo at the festival, but some of the other members of The Decemberists are part of a band called Black Prairie who were playing the festival on Sunday and were already there so they popped up on stage and played a couple of Decemberists songs which the crowd went wild for. You can see his set here. 

I left Colin Meloy a little bit early to get back to the main stage in time to see Saturday’s headliner, The Avett Brothers. They of course were fantastic, full of energy. The crowd was singing and dancing along the whole time. I would expect nothing less. You can watch their set courtesy of NPR Music.  

Stay tuned for the final day of my Newport Folk Festival coverage, and if you missed it check out my recap of Day 1.

 

Newport Folk Festival 2013 Day 1 July 30, 2013

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:23 am

For the second year in a row my husband and I headed up to Rhode Island for the Newport Folk Festival. As I mentioned last year his sister lives up there, so we have a place to stay while we’re there. She also kindly shuttles us to and from the Jamestown ferry each day, which is by far the best way to get to and from the festival unless you have your own private boat, which sadly we don’t. It’s a huge travesty that I own neither a boat nor a lake house.

This year the festival expanded from 2 days to 2 and 3/4 days with the festival also running on Friday though starting later in the day than on Saturday and Sunday. We flew into Providence on Friday morning arriving around noon and then went straight from the airport to the ferry. It worked out perfectly as we arrived at the festival about a half hour before the music started.

One of the other changes they made this year was blocking off an area in front of the main stage for standing and dancing only. Though I never entered that space I applaud the decision. Newport is a really chill festival where you can go park your stuff for the day in front of the main stage and then leave it to run around to all the other stages. In the past what that meant was that the front of the main stage could be littered with empty chairs and blankets, which makes it less enjoyable for the people who want to get right up next to the stage and dance and I imagine less enjoyable for the performers whose immediate audience is lawn furniture. The area was pretty much full the entire time, and it made for a better time all around I think.

2013-07-27 10.41.17

Unfortunately what did not work out perfectly was the weather. All the weather forecasters were telling us that the rain in the morning was going to move out in the afternoon, instead it did the exact opposite of that. When we arrived the rain was a fine mist or light drizzle on and off so I figured it was ending and it would clear up for the later acts. Ha, was I wrong. We saw the first act relatively dry, but then it was a pouring relentless rain for the rest of the day. Not exactly enjoyable outdoor concert weather. I came prepared with rain gear but even wearing a hooded waterproof jacket with a poncho over it plus holding an umbrella I was fairly soaked by the time we left.

The gloomy looking weather before it started pouring rain.

The gloomy looking weather before it started pouring rain.

Despite the crappy weather, the music was great. We spent the whole day just sitting at the main stage listening to the bands there. I had thought about going to one of the other stages to hear Phosphorescent, but the rain made me not want to move so I didn’t. NPR Music was recording many of the sets and are putting archives of a bunch of them on their site, and that is one of them so at least I can go back and listen. I’ll be referring you to their links for any of the shows I’m talking about in case you want to listen.

Our view of the Fort Stage on Friday.

Our view of the Fort Stage on Friday.

First up on the main stage Friday was Kingsley Flood. I had not ever heard of them prior to the announcement that they were part of the Newport Folk Festival lineup, but I enjoyed listening to them on the Spotify playlist I made of bands playing the festival. It turns out they were my favorite act on Friday, though a smidge of that might be related to the fact that they were the only band we saw play without being pelted by rain. I really like their music, and they put on a great high energy show. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes and ears on them in the future.

Kingsley Flood set from NPR Music. 

Next up was JD McPherson. Though he was born in the late 70s he plays old school 1950s rock and roll, which I feel like is making a bit of a comeback as Alabama Shakes also has a lot of those influences in their music. I’ve been digging his stuff for awhile and enjoyed getting to see him play live.

JD McPherson set from NPR Music. 

The final act we saw on Friday was Feist. I suspect I would have enjoyed the Feist set a lot more had I not already been sitting in the pouring rain for 2 hours. By the time she took the stage I was cold and wet and ready to leave. I was determined to at least make it through her set though. She definitely was very high energy and was trying to get the crowd into it, but I unfortunately was more focused on how miserable I was than her music. If I had been watching her at any other point I suspect I would have thought she was fantastic. It does not appear that an archive of her set is up on NPR’s site.

We originally planning on staying for Old Crow Medicine Show as well, who were the headliners for Friday, but I barely managed to stay through Feist so we bailed before their set. I’ve seen them live before and they’re lots of fun, but I was ready to leave so we cut Friday a little early.

Stay tuned for Days 2 and 3 of the Newport Folk Festival.

 

Brandi Carlile with The Lone Bellow and Justin Townes Earle at Wolf Trap July 26, 2013

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 7:44 am

As I have previously mentioned I adore Wolf Trap. It is my favorite concert venue. When I saw this concert on their schedule I really wanted to go because I love Wolf Trap and I love all three of these musical acts. However, as I have also mentioned Wolf Trap is a pain to get to from Baltimore on a weeknight and given that I had already seen Brandi Carlile last fall and was going to Newport Folk Festival 2 days later where both The Lone Bellow and Justin Townes Earle are playing I didn’t feel like I could justify a trip down there especially after deciding to go to the Steve Martin and Edie Brickell concert. So I just tried to put it out of my mind. Then one day a few weeks ago I came home from the gym and opened up my email to see that I had an email from my husband with the subject Brandi Carlile tickets.

His company has box seats and Wolf Trap and they are one of the many cultural and sporting events you can enter a lottery for tickets to. Knowing how much I would love this concert he apparently entered the lottery and won us tickets because he is the best husband ever. Even better, along with the tickets themselves we also got passes to go to Wolf Trap’s Encore Circle which is their reception area for their big donors where they have hors d’oeuvres and drinks prior to the show. Plus we got a parking pass for the VIP parking lot right in front of the entrance, which also meant we didn’t have to sit in the traffic jam of cars trying to leave either. So we got to spend the evening hobnobbing among the elite.

The Lone Bellow were up first. They sadly only had time to play 5 songs. They were just as full of energy and as wonderful as they were the last time I saw them. I really wish they had been able to play longer. I will get to see them in Newport on Saturday though, so I won’t be too sad about their short set last night. I’m obviously not the only one in love with them given how long the line still was for them signing merchandise even after Justin Townes Earle’s set 45 minutes later. When I walked by coming back from the bathroom there was a little girl probably about 5 that looked like she was standing there by herself talking to them (her father was off to the side taking pictures). I overheard her telling them that she just graduated from kindergarten. It was the cutest thing ever.

I had never seen Justin Townes Earle live before last night, though I do enjoy his music. He was like your socially awkward cousin scheduled to perform between two fantastic, high energy acts. The music was great, but I can’t say much for his actual performance. Really the only word I can use for it is awkward. He would talk between songs but turn away from the mic in the middle of what he was saying. There wasn’t any real flow to the set either. As I said I enjoyed the music, but I won’t bother seeing him live again.

Brandi Carlile however was nothing but pure joy. I didn’t think I could love a performance by her any more than I did when I saw her last November, but I think I just might have. She said that Wolf Trap is one of her favorite places in the entire world to play. It’s one of my favorite places too Brandi. It’s one of mine too. Words can not express how wonderful and joyful I find Brandi Carlile live. If you have the chance to see her run do not walk. Of course anyone who has pieces of wood set up on the floor and miced to amplify the sounds of stomping in their songs has my heart right away. The music was all fantastic and there was so much dancing, and stories, and ah just so much fun.

Here’s the opening number from last night, “Hard Way Home”.

Brandi has more than enough songs of her own to sing, but she sang 3 covers. You know I love when bands sing cover songs when they perform live. Sometimes it happens because bands don’t have enough of their own music to play as happened the last time I saw The Lone Bellow when they fully admitted they were contracted to play for 90 minutes but only have one album so covers it was. Other times it’s because people have a song of someone else’s that they love to sing/play and they can share it with the audience that way. That’s how I felt about the covers last night. Brandi sang Radiohead’s “Creep” solo, then with the full band played Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, which was so good. Finally the song she sang during the encore was Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”.

Speaking of encores, at Tuesday night’s show I kind of decided that I’m over the encore thing and don’t want to stand their and clap for a band to come back out on stage. We all know they’re coming back out and encores really aren’t encores anymore they’re just part of the show. So my new rule is that encores should be eliminated unless they’re really and truly encores, which means they would happen rarely. Last night I made an addendum to that rule already, which is that you’re allowed to script an encore onto your set only if you provide a small, adorable child to run around the stage while you’re doing the ridiculous exercise of going off and waiting some amount of time before coming back out. That happened last night. I have no idea who this kid belonged to. I assume she is the daughter of one of the crew members or the band members, but right after the band went off this little girl in a dress who was probably about 2 years old ran out on the stage and stayed out there kind of running around until the band came back out and one of the twins scooped her up and took her off. It was adorable.

It was such a wonderful night and I’m so glad I got to go.

 

Dawes with Shovels and Rope at Rams Head Live July 25, 2013

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 9:53 am

Last night was the first concert in the insane concert week I made for myself in which I attend 5 concerts in a span of 6 days with three of those days being full days at the Newport Folk Festival. It was also the first concert I have ever been to by myself. I really wanted to see Dawes and Shovels and Rope and couldn’t find anyone to go with me, so I figured why not go alone. I do plenty of other things by myself why should a concert be any different. It’s not like I spend a whole lot of time talking to my friends when we’re at concerts anyway. I’m really glad I went because it was a great show.

I was actually surprised by the age of the audience. It was definitely the oldest crowd I have ever seen at Rams Head Live. Usually the standing room only venues seem to draw a younger crowd at least in my experience, but the age of this audience was firmly my age or older many of them significantly older. It does give me hope since I’m at the age where I’m starting to feel like a creeper at some of these shows given how much older I am than the other people there. My saving grace being that I’m a woman. There were some twentysomethings in the crowd, but they were definitely outnumbered. I was in love with the parents and their two teenage sons standing right up against the stage in front of me. I couldn’t decide if the parents would have gotten the kids into the music or the other way around, but the fact that they were all there together rocking out made me really happy. I’m not sure why bands that were established in 2008 and 2009 would draw such an older crowd, but I’ll roll with it.

Shovels and Rope is an alt country band from Charleston, South Carolina entirely composed of husband and wife Michael Trent and Carey Ann Hearst. This was my first time seeing them live and they were great. They’ll be playing Newport Folk Fest later this week, but sadly I’ll probably have to set aside seeing them again in favor of seeing someone I haven’t seen before. Saturday is a traffic jam of great music. The concert started out with Carey Ann playing drums, tambourine and keyboard.

2013-07-23 20.01.36Then about halfway through they completely switched.

2013-07-23 20.18.39

Despite my immense love of music I have zero musical talent so I am always impressed with people who play multiple musical instruments. At times it felt like one of the most pornographic concerts I’ve been to. Stay with me here. I can’t remember what song it was now, but they were singing into the same mic, looking into each other’s eyes, and looking like they were going to start making out at any moment. It was a very intimate experience.

Dawes was fantastic as well. They opened up with “From a Window Seat”, which was the first single off their new album. They played a good mix of music off the new album and their older hits. And of course “When My Time Comes” was fabulous with the crowd singing along as expected. In the final chorus the band stopped playing and Taylor flipped the mic out towards the crowd while we all sang it. I love those experiences at concerts. I was slightly worried that they weren’t going to play my favorite song, which is “If I Wanted Someone” when it didn’t make the main set, but it was the first song in their encore so that made me happy. They invited Shovels and Rope back out on stage for the final song. I always love when bands that tour together play together some during their sets. They finished up with a great cover of The Traveling Wilbury’s “The End of the Line”. It was a wonderful show and I’m very glad I went.

2013-07-23 23.02.57

 

Wake Me Up by Avicii July 23, 2013

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 12:59 pm

I am totally loving this new single “Wake Me Up” by Avicii. It’s like a folk/electronica mix. I know it sounds odd, but just go with me here. DJ and remixer Avicii has created a great folky, Mumfordium sounding beat to back vocals by Aloe Blacc. Then at certain points that beat just bursts wide open into a powerful electronic jam. It’s my favorite thing in music ever, the slow burn that breaks into a musical free for all. Excuse me while I go listen to this and dance around in my chair about 50 more times.

 

 

The Charmery July 20, 2013

Filed under: Baltimore,Food — dwhren @ 1:43 pm

Today is the grand opening of a new ice cream parlor in my neighborhood, The Charmery. It’s been a long time since Hampden has had a dedicated ice cream place. When I first moved here there was one, but shut down soon after. Thus, I was very excited to hear that this place was going to be opening this summer. It was built in a space formerly occupied by a pharmacy. If you watch the tv show Veep you will have seen it during season 1. It’s where they buy the pregnancy test for Selina. They filmed it after the pharmacy was closed but before the inventory was moved out.

2013-07-20 13.16.40

The space is obviously very different now. It’s now set up well like an ice cream parlor. There’s the ice cream case and the counter where you pay. There was a handful of tables to sit at as well as some cushioned window seats along both of the large windows. They have some typical ice cream flavors in addition to some very Maryland inspired ones. The one that keeps getting mentioned in the press I’m seeing about The Charmery is the Old Bay caramel. I tried it, but ultimately didn’t choose to get it for my cone. I thought it was a little too sweet, but think I’ll try it as a milkshake next time I’m there. Other Maryland inspired flavor include Berger Cookies and Cream and Lemon Stick. Berger cookies are a locally baked good that is a shortbreadish type cookie topped with a thick fudge frosting. It’s the frosting that really makes the cookie. Instead of cookies and cream with Oreos they’re doing it with Berger cookies. It’s not an unheard of thing around these parts. I have a pint of Berger cookie ice cream from Taharka Bros. in my freezer right now and have made it homemade as well. Lemon sticks are a Baltimore treat typically found at the Flower Mart festival in the spring though you can find them at other festivals as well. It’s a half a lemon with a peppermint stick in it. I have no idea what the ice cream tastes like, but it’s obviously based on this Baltimore festival staple.

I ultimately decided on the pistachio toffee ice cream. It was delicious.

2013-07-20 13.07.56

Welcome to the neighborhood, Charmery. I’m happy you’re here even if my waistline and my wallet might not be.

 

Barenaked Ladies with Guster and Ben Folds Five at Merriweather Post Pavilion July 16, 2013

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Polar Bears,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 12:49 pm

Last night I went with my friends Tracie, Kevin, and Alison to see the Barenaked Ladies, Ben Folds Five, and Guster in concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion for Tracie’s birthday. I’m actually not a huge fan of any of these bands, but there is nothing I like better during the summer than sitting outside and listening to some live music, so when Tracie suggested doing this for her birthday I was in. I feel like I should love these bands. I was totally with my people last night, i.e. the middle aged. I’m pretty sure most of the people there had to hire a baby sitter to go to the concert. Most concerts I go to I feel like I’m way older than everyone or way younger than anyone there, probably because even though based on my age 90s music should be my jam it wasn’t and isn’t. 70s music absolutely, 80s music yes please, 90s music no thank you. This evidenced by the fact that instead of seeing current bands when I was in high school these are the bands I went to see in concert 10,000 Maniacs, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Van Halen. All great bands and all touring with new music at the time, but still not really of the 90s.

Despite my general disinterest in their music, I have in fact seen all three of these bands live in the past and they all put on a great show. Even if I’m not a big fan of the music if I find it tolerable, which I do for all of these bands, then a fantastic live show will outweigh my feelings on the music. Even though I am not likely to sit around and listen to most of the songs by these bands, and know only their radio hits, I still find them greatly enjoyable live. It was a good time despite the oppressive heat, which all 3 bands improvised songs about. I was hoping it would get better once the sun went down, but instead it just got more humid and with no breeze it was kind of stifling even then.

The concert actually started with a short 15-20 minute set by British comedian-singer Boothby Graffoe. I’m pretty sure my husband must have commissioned this song to be written for me.

If you knew how many times we had the conversation “I want a polar bear for a pet”/”No you don’t he would eat you” you would probably be astounded.

Guster was the real first act of the night. I kind of followed them a bit back when I was in college when I feel like they were really big in the college music scene. Most of the music I know of theirs is from that time period back in the late 90s. They played a lot of it last night as well as when Alison and I saw them a few summers ago, so I guess they themselves consider that stuff their biggest hits.

Last night was the third time I’ve seen Ben Folds/Ben Folds Five live. I saw Ben Folds solo with Tori Amos on their Lotta Pianos tour, then saw Ben Folds Five as part of the Virgin Mobile FreeFestival last October. Tracie was pointing out that the crowd at that concert didn’t really care about Ben Folds Five at all. I pointed out that of course they didn’t because most of the people at that concert were like half our age. She was then horrified to figure out that yes kids in their latter years of high school are in fact half our age. I appreciate Ben’s sense of humor and the way he messes around and makes stuff up during live shows. Between the ridiculous humidity and his playing he managed to break 2 piano strings during the show. One was during the first song, but I guess he knows how to work around those missing notes since I didn’t notice anything amiss during the rest of the show. I also finally put my finger on something regarding Ben Folds/Ben Folds Five. I like their jauntier songs, but don’t really care for the slow ones. I kind of figured this out by watching Ben and realizing that he stands up while he’s playing during the faster songs and realized that he was standing during all the songs I really like. So there you go.

Here’s Ben goofing around some last night.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Barenaked Ladies in concert. The first and only time was way back in the day in 1998 when they were just breaking big in the U.S. I saw them as part of the H.O.R.D.E festival, which Wikipedia informs me was in its 8th and final year that summer. I remember them putting on a good show, and have always heard that they are great live but in the 15 years since then I’ve always thought eh I don’t really like their music that much when I’ve seen them tour near me. After last night’s show I’m kind of sad that I have missed out on some really fantastic live shows in those years. The Barenaked Ladies are everything I like in a concert. They do a good mix of their hits and new stuff (which I actually kind of liked so I should probably go listen to the free digital copy of their new album I got free with my ticket but wrote off and never listened to based on my feelings for the rest of their music I know), they do covers, they improvise, they tell stories, they dance around. There is nothing not to love about their show. There’s also nothing better than being in a big crowd of people singing along to a hit song, which of course happened several times last night. I would definitely go see them again in the future.

This was my favorite thing they did last night. Cover medley!