Catching up with an Old Friend

Sunday morning I got to meet up with one of my good friends from high school over breakfast. She and her husband were up in Baltimore for the weekend with their almost 2 year old son. I hadn’t seen her since the year I drove from where I was in college in North Carolina to Boston where my sister was in college and stopped off in Pennsylvania where she was in college to visit on my way. It’s painful to think about how long ago that was. Almost as painful as her telling me her little brother who was a baby when we graduated high school is now himself graduating high school this year. It was great to see her, get to meet her family, and to catch up on life outside of Facebook. For all the annoying things about it, I can say that we probably never would have seen each other again had it not been for Facebook. We lost touch for many years before we reconnected that way. Though I did find some old letters she wrote me a couple years ago when my parents insisted I was no longer allowed to house any of my stuff in their house and I either had to take it or they were going to pitch it. Yes that’s right kids once upon a time if you wanted to correspond with someone you had to write them a letter on actual paper. Anyway it was really good to see her in person again after such a long time. Hopefully we’ll get to do it again before another 14 or so years go by.

Costumes of Downton Abbey at Winterthur Museum

Yesterday I went with a group of my friends to celebrate our friend Heather’s birthday at Winterthur Museum outside of Wilmington, Delaware. They currently have an exhibit of costumes from Downton Abbey. The $20 gets you timed access to the Downton Abbey exhibit plus access to their permanent galleries and a tour of the house, which lasts about an hour. Winterthur itself is a large country estate dating from the 1800s that was previously owned by the duPont family (you know of the Du Pont company). It was made into a museum in the 1950s after Henry Francis duPont donated  to create the museum after he built himself a (40 room!) retirement home on the property next door to it.

This was my second time at the museum. There was an exhibit of costumes from Oscar winning films the last time I was there, so I don’t know if costume exhibits are something they do frequently or if it just happened that was what was there on the two times I was there. There are also some lovely gardens at Winterthur, though yesterday’s pouring rain kept us from getting to enjoy them. At least not much is in bloom at the moment, so it didn’t feel like we were missing out on too much.

The Downton exhibit was really well done. They actually set it up as a comparison between Downton and Winterthur and the differences and similarities in how they operated as English and American estates during the same time period. The costumes were displayed with photos of the scenes where they were worn, sometimes looping video of the scenes they were worn in or lines from the script written on the wall, and information about the costume design or who would have worn a particular outfit and why. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey it is probably something you would really enjoy. The exhibit runs through the end of 2014, so you have plenty of time to get up there and see it if you are interested.

They were also having a Downton Abbey themed tea, which we did. I would definitely say it was not worth the $30, so if you’re going up I would skip it. I’ve done high tea any number of times and this was not nearly as nice. First, it was set up as a buffet instead of you being served your food on pretty little tiered trays, which definitely makes it feel less nice. Second and even worse was the tea itself. All other teas I have been to have involved a large selection of tea choices, which are then served as loose tea. This tea involved literally a pile of tea bags on the table with only about 4 flavors and none of them very exciting. I’m not even sure why they bothered to try and brand the tea as a Downton Abbey tea if they weren’t going to follow through on it. The first item listed on their menu was Mrs. Patmore’s salmon dill sandwiches or something like that, but it was the only thing on the menu that seemed even remotely related. If they were going to give up after the first item, I’m not sure why they bothered. The whole thing was pretty disappointed and definitely not worth the price. Save yourself the money and spend it on a real high teas somewhere else.

After getting back to Baltimore most people had to head home, but a handful of us stuck around and I feel like continued with the theme of the day by playing Clue. I mean a board game set in a large mansion, what could be a more fitting end to the day? In case you were wondering Dr. White (we renamed her because we decided it’s wrong that none of the female characters have professional titles) did it with the candlestick in the kitchen.

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Songs I Love: Are You Okay? by the Dum Dum Girls

“Are You Okay?” comes from the Dum Dum Girls recently released third album. Though they have been around in some form or fashion since 2008, this album is really the first I’m hearing of them. This particular song reminds me a lot of female led musical groups from the 90s like Mazzy Star and The Sundays. I feel like the melancholy guitar paired with the sultry sounding female vocals gives it that same vibe. If you like the music from either of those bands I recommend checking out The Dum Dum Girls.


Songs I Love: Eminence Front by The Who

I tend to write a lot about new music on this blog, but that is not to say that there aren’t a ton of older songs that I also love. During this music series I have going on this week I feel like it’s only fair to step away from new musical discoveries to talk about an older song that I really like. I literally settled on “Eminence Front” by The Who because I heard it on the radio driving home from the gym the other day, and thought to myself this is a really good song. I think it’s probably my favorite song by The Who. So here we are.

I like a lot of music from 1970s for two reasons. One the kinds of music I tend to gravitate too were very popular then, and two it was the music of my parents’ generation. I read an article at some point in the last year based on an academic study regarding musical tastes and it turns out people have almost equal good feelings towards music that was popular during their formative years and music that was popular during their parents formative years presumably because their parents played it a lot. That would totally fit with my feelings towards 70s music since my father stopped listening to new music round about 1985.

Granted “Eminence Front” was actually written in 1982, but like many songs and fashions that appear at the beginning of a new decade it still holds the sensibilities of the previous decade. This song definitely feel much more like a song from the 70s than it does the 80s.

The way this song builds from the beginning is what really makes it outstanding. It starts off with what sounds to me like the steady beat of a cymbals being tapped, then the keyboard comes in creating a steady beat. Then the drums fully kick in and just a couple of beats behind them the guitar follows until they are all working together to create a great instrumental riff. I also really love the way what has been a steady guitar riff changes going into the chorus at the 3:16 mark. It’s a brilliantly written song, and I love it.

Songs I Love: Slow Me Down by Sara Evans

I find it interesting that this is the second Sara Evans song I have featured on this blog given that I don’t consider myself a huge Sara Evans fan. I generally like the songs she has that wind up as singles played on country radio, but they’ve never really inspired me enough to look into her full albums for some reason. There are a couple of things I really love about this song. First I love the plucky musical sounds that begin the song and then recur throughout it. I also really like the juxtaposition of the ideas of hurrying up to slow someone down. I like clever word play. Finally, the song is like 60% chorus, which makes it super easy to learn the lyrics and sing along to. As I have previously mentioned I don’t listen to music in ways that engender me to learning lyrics easily anymore, but singing along to songs is great fun so I like when I come across a song that I find myself knowing the lyrics to without realizing it.

The Oh Hellos

Yesterday I wrote about a fairly new band that I’m enjoying. Today I’m going to talk about The Oh Hellos, who are not a new band but have somehow only recently come to my attention despite the fact that they play exactly the kind of music that I love. Their LP Through the Deep Dark Valley was released in 2012, so it’s a couple of years old at this point. I feel like it should have made its way on to my radar at some point, but it did not until now. It finally entered my consciousness thanks to the Newport Folk Festival, who announced that they will be one of the bands playing there this summer. The Newport Folk Festival always introduces me to some great bands I hadn’t heard of before, and The Oh Hellos are no exception. The Texas band composed of brother and sister Maggie and Tyler Heath play their own take on folk rock and it is delightful. You pretty much will never not get me when you use clapping and stomping as rhythm in your songs. I’m very much looking forward to seeing them live this summer.



Also enjoy this performance from Music City Roots that they end kind of humming my favorite hymn “Come Thou Fount”

Royal Teeth

I recently became aware of the band Royal Teeth mostly through the NPR Music coverage of SXSW. They were mentioned more than once, and Stephen Thompson included their song “Wild” on his Austin 100 playlist. I really liked it a lot, and was intrigued by the descriptions of their live performances so I decided to check out their full album. I really like the whole thing a lot. The Louisiana band’s debut LP Glow was released last August, and it is full of joyous songs.

Based on what I’ve heard about their live performances and the fact that I really like their music I hope Royal Teeth tours near me soon. They don’t have much by the way of tour dates listed on their site at the moment. The closest they’re getting so far is the Firefly Music Festival, which I sadly can’t attend this year because I’ve already booked a conflicting vacation. Hopefully they’ll add more dates soon and one of them will be Baltimore. Hear that Royal Teeth, please come to Baltimore!

Check out the song “Wild” if the little ooh ooh oohs don’t immediately endear you to this song, then there is no hope for you.

Then once you’re hooked on that take a listen to their full album.