More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Fleetwood Mac in Atlantic City January 26, 2015

Filed under: Concerts,Music — dwhren @ 7:56 am

Before I really get into this blog post I have a confession to make. I’m not entirely sure I own any music by Fleetwood Mac. If I do it’s no more than few random singles. I certainly have never bought a Fleetwood Mac album. I’m sure my parents must have owned an album or two when I was a kid, but I’ve personally never owned one. Part of this is because Fleetwood Mac was largely done recording new music or at least anything the majority of people were paying attention to when I was still a small child. Fleetwood Mac has always been a part of my life because they’ve had tons of hits existing out in the ether that are still constantly played on the radio. They’ve been pervasive throughout my life without me giving much actual thought to them.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I think I actually started thinking about them rather than just having their music live in the background of my life when Glee did their episode based on the album Rumors. I remember deciding to actually listen to the entire Rumors album on Spotify because of that and thinking that it is, as I had always heard, a really great album. Then  a few years ago when I watched the Sound City documentary, which they were heavily featured in, and I became even more interested.

At some point last year they announced their new tour and that for the first time in 17 years Christine McVie would be touring with them. That on top of the fact that Mick Fleetwood was (maybe still is, I don’t know) battling cancer made me realize that if I wanted to see them live, now would be the time do it. Baltimore, which is sandwiched between DC and Philly rarely gets big shows of it’s own (or even the better little shows). They announced a DC date at the time that I couldn’t go to because it was during the same time we were going to be Austin, so I opted for tickets to the Philly date instead.

The concert in Philly was on a Wednesday night, which was not ideal but I went for it. Then that week rolled around and the thought of going up there in the middle of the work week was making me feel exhausted. Plus that day was an insane rain storm around here that I suspected correctly would make traffic a nightmare. Had we actually gone we probably would have missed half the show sitting in traffic trying to get up there. I saw somehow that they had added a date in Atlantic City on a Saturday that was still in presale for AmEx holders, which we are. I checked to see if I tickets were available, which they were, and put up the Philly tickets for sale on StubHub figuring if they sold I would buy the Atlantic City tickets instead. Everything worked out as I hoped, and I figured we could go up and stay in Atlantic City for the night instead of having to drive up to Philly and back on weeknight. At some point after that they added an additional DC show for January that we could have gone to, but at that point I figured it was just better to stick with the plan we had. In addition to that, I think that Boardwalk Hall was actually a much nicer place to the show than the Verizon Center in DC or the Wells Fargo Center in Philly would have been.

We didn’t actually wind up staying in Atlantic City proper because all the casino hotels were between $300 and $400 for the night and I wasn’t willing to pay that much. Plus Atlantic City casinos as it turns out are more spread out than I would have expected. Pretty much except for one casino we would have had to drive from the hotel to Boardwalk Hall anyway, so I figured we could stay a few miles out of town for much cheaper and it would be fine.

I was a little nervous about the concert as I worry about larger arena shows. I find that once bands start playing larger venues they start relying more on theatrics and cool stage tricks to entertain the audience rather than focusing on the music (hi U2 I’m very much looking at you). I couldn’t give a crap about all of that. I want to hear the music and hopefully have the band engage the audience by talking to them and telling stories about their songs. They did have a screen on the back of the stage that played videos to coordinate with the songs, but it wasn’t anything over the top. It was in the background as it should have been, and for me sitting on the side of the stage that screen was really only in the side of my vision anyway.  The show really was all about the music, and they did just enough storytelling about the writing of a few of their songs to make me happy.

My other concern was their age. Let’s face it sometimes aging rockers just can’t put on a show like they used to. They can’t hit the notes anymore, and it’s just very obvious that they aren’t on the top of their game anymore. I mean I could definitely tell that I wasn’t seeing Fleetwood Mac in their heyday, but for their age they really put on a hell of a show. They’re still very active on stage and the only song that didn’t seem quite right to me was “Rhiannon”. I’m not sure what the deal was. It was almost like Steve Nicks was in the wrong key, but then also singing the notes down when she should have been going up. I don’t know. Something just felt very off to me with it.

It also seems like time may have taken it’s toll on Lindsey Buckingham’s hands. It wasn’t really noticeable at all in his playing, but prior to singing “Big Love” he told the story about writing it and the whole time he was shaking out his hand and flexing it seemingly trying to prepare it and psych himself up for the amount of picking on the guitar that he does during that song.

They played for almost three hours and it’s a sign just how ubiquitous their music has been throughout my life that despite never really having listened to any of their albums, there were only 2 songs they played that I didn’t know. I was excited to see them play “Tusk”. For some reason that has become a popular song for other bands to cover in recent years, so I have seen several other bands play it live. I was happy to finally see Fleetwood Mac be the ones playing it for me.

I really just enjoyed hearing them play almost everything they did though. It was one of those nights where when every song started I was screaming YES! in my head. They have so much good music, and it was great to hear them play it and for them to still putting on a great show with it after 40 years.

I do think that the encore was the oddest one I have ever seen though. Each of the band members got a chance to shine with essentially a solo song, so it didn’t surprise me that Mick Fleetwood took a drum solo during their first encore song, “World Turning”, with all the other band members temporarily leaving the stage. However I did feel like it went on for far too long for my taste anyway. After that they played “Don’t Stop”, which seemed like the perfect song to end on and I thought at that point they would be done, but then Stevie and Lindsey came back out alone and sang “Silver Springs”. After they left the stage I figured that was it again and was thinking to myself they should have reversed those songs, but then Christine McVie came out and did “Songbird” solo on the piano. After that Stevie came out and told the story about how Christine came back to the band followed by Mick coming out alone and talking to us. Then that was it. So the encore was essentially two songs with the full band at the beginning, one of which had a big drum solo in the middle followed by 2 solo songs without the full band on stage and then the audience being talked to for 10 minutes. It was just kind of odd to me.

That being said though, the whole concert was even more than I had hoped for, so I’m really glad I went. Often seeing concerts I really like just makes me want to go see the band live again as soon as possible, but in this case I feel like this concert was the highlight and anything else would have diminishing returns. At this point they’re just working off their old music and playing the hits. You can look at the set list for any show on this tour and read the reviews and see they’re saying the same thing from the stage night after night, so I don’t think I would really get anything new out of seeing them again. Seeing them again would definitely not have the same joy as getting to hear all the songs that have been so pervasive throughout my life played live for the first time, so I’ll just consider this one crossed off my bucket list. If you’ve never seen them in concert though or if it’s been a really long time I would suggest going yourself if you get the chance though because Fleetwood Mac still has it even after all these years.

 

Tucson Trip January 24, 2015

Filed under: Family,Travel — dwhren @ 9:54 am

Sorry to my poor neglected blog. Work has been crazy busy and outside of work life has been very stressful over the past few weeks about things I’m not going to get into here both because I don’t want to and because it certainly is not something that was making me happy, which is what I’m supposed to be sticking to write about here.

Something that did make me happy recently was a trip to Tucson to see my family. I was just out there for Christmas, and I wish that the timing had worked out slightly differently, but I went back again for an extended long Martin Luther King weekend. In the past when my grandmother was still alive and my parents still lived in Florida we went there for Christmas every year and Uncle Dan (my dad’s brother) and my great-aunt Ann (my grandmother’s sister) would always come as well. They both have family where they live, so now that it is less convenient and my grandma is no longer there it makes sense that they stay home for Christmas. It means though that I haven’t seen my great-aunt since my grandma’s funeral 2 years ago.

She and my uncle planned a trip out to Tucson to spend a few weeks in January with my parents and sister who live out there now. Aside from the fact that it would have been nice to space out my trips to Arizona a little more since I don’t get to see my family very often and that January is not a great time for me to take off work because it’s the beginning of the semester, I decided I really wanted to go. I knew that if I didn’t and just heard about all my family together hanging out without me I would be sad.

Traveling to Tucson from Baltimore is a big pain. It’s pretty much an all day affair. It’s a five and half hour flight out there followed by an almost 2 hour drive from Phoenix airport to Tucson. Actually flying into Tucson involves a layover and is usually hundreds of dollars more expensive, and the Tucson airport is still about 45 minutes from where they live. This trip was about as good as I could ask for though as my flight into Phoenix arrived 45 minutes early and my flight home arrived 20 minutes early.

It was really great to see everyone. There was lots of card playing as is the custom with my family. I didn’t keep good track, but I’m pretty sure I came home with a few extra dollars in my pocket from that. My dad was sick for the last 3 days of my trip, so I didn’t get to spend much time with him while I was there, which was unfortunate.

Beautiful sunset over the mountains

Beautiful sunset over the mountains

It was also of course great to spend time with my nieces, who are growing up to fast, and who I don’t get to see nearly enough.

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We went to the zoo on MLK Day. The Tucson zoo is pretty small, and I’m not the biggest fan of zoos, but it’s perfect for them. We got to see the baby elephant, feed giraffes, and ride a camel.

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After the zoo we went to lunch at Chick-fil-A, which was insane. I’m pretty sure everyone in Tucson was trying to eat lunch in that Chick-fil-A. I have never been in a fast food restaurant that was that insane. The line snaked through the restaurant the entire time we were there.

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Now that our trip together to San Diego in June is not going to happen, I’m not sure when I’ll get to see them again. Sadly, probably next Christmas. A year is way too long when they’re that young. I wish they lived closer so I could see them more often.

 

The Life and Songs of EmmyLou Harris January 12, 2015

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:36 am

Saturday night I dragged my husband down to DC to DAR Constitution Hall for The Life and Songs of EmmyLou Harris concert. I follow Sara Watkins on Twitter and saw her tweet a presale code for this concert, which at the time was the first I had heard about it. I looked up what it was and almost fell out of my chair looking at the insane lineup of legendary musicians who were going to be playing. I immediately put that presale code to use because I could not miss out on the chance to see all these amazing people on a single stage. Excuse me while I rattle off names for the next ten minutes. Obviously as the concert was a tribute to the incredible career of Emmylou Harris she was going to be there, but the concert also included Mavis Staples, Sara Watkins, Allison Krauss, Patty Griffin, Kris Kristofferson, Chris Hillman & Herb Pederson, Rodney Crowell, Trampled by Turtles, Shovels and Rope, The Milk Carton Kids, Holly Williams, Sheryl Crow, Conor Oberst, Shawn Colvin, Daniel Lanois, Iron & Wine, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Buddy Miller, Don Was, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Whew! Now that you know who was there I can actually talk about the concert itself. I have to say that I think the title of the concert was a little bit of a misnomer. It probably should have just been called The Songs of Emmylou Harris. Adding that “life” part in there made me feel like there would be more talking about her life and career than there actually was. For the most part all the artists just came out on stage when announced and sang one or two of EmmyLou’s songs and then left. A lot of them didn’t say anything at all and the ones who did only said a sentence or two. There wasn’t even a real host on the stage. It was just some disembodied voice announcing everyone, so the whole thing felt a little cold to me. One thing I have learned by listening to musicians talk about their concerts on podcasts is that some audience members are very hostile to them spending much time talking and not playing music. I am the exact opposite. I actually want to hear what the artists have to say about what they’re playing.

At any rate, I didn’t realize it ahead of time, but from what I gathered last night this concert was recorded for a PBS special, so it was definitely very scripted and I get why it was like it was, but it took away some of the heart of it for me. The music itself though was wonderful. Emmylou Harris is a musical legend for a reason, and seeing so many amazing people that I love in their own right on stage singing her songs was incredible. I recently watched the PBS Special for Billy Joel winning the Gershwin prize where similar to this a lot of well known artists got up and sang covers of his songs. Through most of that all I really wanted was to hear him sing the songs. Not so with the concert last night. Everyone was amazing and I didn’t feel like man I just wish Emmylou was out here singing that instead.

There was no shortage of music either. The concert lasted three and half hours. Even cutting out the time for the intermission and the few minutes between each artist when they had to hook new instruments into the sound board, there’s probably still at least three hours worth of music. I can’t imagine PBS giving three whole hours to broadcast this, so I’ll be curious to see what they cut. It many not have been quite everything I was hoping for, but it was still a wonderful concert and I am really glad I got the chance to experience it.

 

Songs I Love: The Stray Birds’ The Bells and Best Medicine January 9, 2015

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 7:54 am

The Stray Birds are an Americana/folk trio from Lancaster, PA composed of Maya de Vitry, Oliver Craven, and Charlie Meunch. I must have heard some of the music from their first album because even their website says it was in heavy rotation on WXPN and was highly praised by NPR Music both of which are some of my go to music places. However for some reason it must really not have made an impression on me because I don’t remember it at all. The same can definitely not be said of their most recent album Bad Medicine.

I have been meaning to write about “The Bells”, the first single off of it, for some time now but just never got around to it. I was loving that song every time I heard it.

Then I recently heard the title song, which is the second single off of the album. I think I might love it even more. I can’t get enough of this lyric from the chorus.

“If the body is a temple, the soul is a bell and that’s why music is the best medicine I sell.”

I listened to the whole album and the whole thing is great. If you’re not familiar with The Stray Birds you should definitely check them out.

 

Remembering My Sweet Cat Charlotte January 5, 2015

Filed under: Cats — dwhren @ 12:00 pm

On December 28 we sadly had to put our cat Charlotte to sleep. We first noticed that she was sick back in August when she stopped eating and getting sick if she did eat anything. It then became very apparent that she had slowly been losing weight for some time and because she had always been a skinny cat we hadn’t really noticed. The initial diagnosis was hyperthyroidism, which she did in fact have and was probably a large contributor to the weight loss, but even after going on medication for that she was still getting sick and not eating. We did a bunch of additional tests, but even after spending all the money on that the vet was never able to come to any conclusion about what was actually wrong with her. They said they could continue to run more tests that would get increasingly more invasive and more expensive without necessarily getting any great feedback. We all decided the best course was to treat her with steroids for lymphoma, which was their best guess about what was wrong and see how she responded.

After going on the steroids she seemed to bounce back. With the help from some appetite stimulants she gained back all her weight and was acting more like herself again. Sadly I think all the help from the extra weight and the steroids just helped her mask the fact that she still wasn’t well. According to the vet cats do everything they can to hide the fact that they are sick, so you often don’t know anything is wrong until they are really bad off. Charlotte seemed perfectly fine when we left for our Christmas trip to Arizona and the friend who was watching her on Christmas sent a photo of her looking all happy that day. Unfortunately a few days later that was not the case. Our friends that were watching her on that Sunday night found her lying on our basement floor not moving and breathing really funny. They called to let us know and tell us they were going to take her to the emergency vet.

The vet called us and let us know that she was showing neurological issues. She wasn’t responsive when they waved a hand in front of her face and her legs were locked, which is a sign of neurological issues. Her lungs were also very bad which they said could be due to issues in the part of the brain that control the lungs or she could have aspirated some of the blood that she was drooling. The whole situation sounded awful. After asking them realistically whether she would really be able to come back from this they said no, so we made the decision to have her put down and not prolong her suffering. At the time I was really sad that we weren’t there in order to say goodbye to her, but in retrospect I’m kind of glad I didn’t have to see her the way they were describing her condition. I get to remember her seemingly happy and healthy as she was when I said goodbye to her on the morning that we left.

We got our Charlotte along with our other cat Scout about 9 and half years ago from the SPCA that is down the street from our house. Although we adopted them at the same time they are not from the same litter. All of the other kittens from their respective litters had been adopted out and there were no two kittens available from the same litter at that time, so we picked out two kittens from different litters. Paul picked out Scout immediately and then was looking at some other kitten who was just sleeping and looked boring to me. I told him I didn’t want the other kitten. Instead I was taken by the kitten that was literally hanging off of her cage door. I thought that looks like an insane, fun little cat. That was my Charlotte.

At the time her name was Precious. There was no way I was going to call a cat Precious, so she got renamed Charlotte after Charlotte’s Web (obviously Scout was named for To Kill a Mockingbird). I would still call her my precious kitty all the time though, especially after The Lord of the Rings when I would say my precious like Smeagol. Paul did not like it when I did that. I had many other names for her as well. I called her gooberhead all the time. She was also known as Meeper because of the cute little barely there meow that she had that was more like a meep than a meow. She also went by Little One in contrast to her fat sister, and as stealth kitty or sneaky cat because she was very good at sneaking past you into rooms she wasn’t supposed to be in without you noticing and then getting locked in there. I called her Crazy Pants because true to how she was acting from the first moment I saw her she was always slightly insane. I also called her Smushface because of her tendency to sit with her face smushed into the corner of the cat tree.

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Incidentally she never paid much attention to that cat tree in it’s original location along the wall on the opposite side of the room, but as soon as it was moved across in front of the book shelf in order to make room for the Christmas tree or for the new cat tree we bought to replace this one she loved it.

I lost most of my pictures of the cats from the first few years of their life when the hard drive on one of my old computers fried after Scout chewed through the cord on it. Paul pulled up some of these cute kitten pictures of Charlotte that he had for me.

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Charlotte was the sweetest cat I have ever known. Together Scout and Charlotte are the best cats I have ever had by far. They love people, are very mellow, and are not at all biters or scratchers. Most of our friends prefer Scout because she is the more outgoing cat and is the one that will come out during parties and stuff. Don’t tell Scout, but I always had a special place in my heart for my little Charlotte. She wasn’t a fan of commotion, so she would run into the basement when people were in the house and moving around a lot. At the end of parties or when people were over and just chilling on our couches or around the dining room table then she would come out and beg for attention. She loved for people to pet her and would sit next to me on the couch, meow, and head butt me until I would pet her. I once read an article saying that petting cats creates a stress response in them. I said someone should tell Charlotte that because she insists on being petted at all times. I have never had another cat who has begged for attention like she did. She was definitely a lap cat.

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Almost every morning before I left for work she would run to the sit on the arm of the couch, which is right next to our front door and beg me to pet her on the way out the door. It was the sweetest thing. She knew my routine and when she would hear me coming back down the stairs after brushing my teeth she would race from the back of the house, around the top of the couches, and onto the arm of the couch. I always wanted to get a video of her doing it, but sadly I never did. I did snap this picture of her waiting for me on the arm of the couch one morning though.

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Charlotte also liked nothing better than a precarious position to sleep or sit in. She was constantly amusing me with the places and positions I would find her sleeping and sitting in.

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Charlotte also had a weird obsession with tomatoes. You could not leave tomatoes out on the counter or that cat would get into them. The first time she did it as a kitten I thought she was attracted to it because as a red, shiny ball it looked like a fun toy. I was completely wrong. It was definitely something about the smell that attracted her. Even when we brought tomatoes home from the farmers’ market in a completely opaque bag she couldn’t see into she would start stalking around them and jumping up on the counter to try and get into them. She would not just play with them. She would actually eat them. This is what would happen if you left a tomato unattended around Charlotte.

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Charlotte and Scout were never super cuddly with each other, but they did like each other and get along. They would play and wrestle with each other and groom each other, which usually devolved into said wrestling matches. They would chase each other around the house and Charlotte was also smart enough to cut Scout off by taking the shorter route behind the TV stand instead of running in front of it. Every once in awhile you would find them cuddled up together though. Scout is definitely missing Charlotte and has been wandering around the house meowing like she has never done before and is super needy with us at the moment. It’s sad because you can’t really explain to a cat what happened to her little buddy.

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This is the last picture I have of Charlotte. My friend Kristen took it and texted it to me on Christmas. I miss this little girl so much and I’m so sad that she’s gone, but I’m glad I got to spend 9 and a half years giving love and getting love from this super sweet little cat.

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Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2014 January 1, 2015

Filed under: Books,Concerts,Movies,Music,Podcasts,Pop Culture,Television,Theatre — dwhren @ 12:03 pm

It’s time once again for my annual round up of the pop culture that I have found the most memorable over the past year. As I point out every year this is not a best of list. I don’t necessarily think any of these things are the top in their categories. Instead this is a compilation of the things I most enjoyed this year and that meant the most to me in 2014.

This list was actually little harder than usual for me to put together this year because in many ways it felt like a very meh year in pop culture to me. Not in every category, but particularly in music and books there weren’t any real standouts to me. I definitely am not the only one who felt that way about music. I’ve heard a lot of professional music critics saying the same thing, so I feel justified in that. I’m not sure everyone else felt the same about books. Perhaps I just wasn’t reading the right things, but out out of the 125 books I read in 2014 I only rated 4 of them 5 stars on Goodreads. I felt like I had way more than usual that I gave 2 or 3 stars to. Hopefully 2015 will be a better year for me in these areas.

Movie I Saw in a Theatre

Last year in this category I talked about Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight. This year he gets another mention with his film Boyhood, which was filmed over a period of 12 years following the life of a young boy with all of the actors returning periodically to film scenes so that as the actors aged the characters did as well. It was an impressive piece of filmmaking and deserves every lovely thing that has been said about it. With a project like this it can sometimes feel like you’re supposed to love it because it’s like nothing that has ever been done before, but in this case the movie itself and the story it tells are wonderful and it’s not just the gimmick that is deserving of praise.

I would also be remiss not to mention the Veronica Mars movie in this category. I guess like Boyhood it also has some historic value as the first crowdsourced movie to be released in movie theatres. I loved the show and this movie was everything I hoped it would be. I certainly don’t think every canceled television show should have a movie made from it. In most cases I think it would only result in diminished returns, but in this case I supported it and think it really worked.

Movie I Watched at Home

I so rarely watch movies at home, I almost thought I didn’t have anything to put into this category this year. Then I remembered that we recently rented Chef with some free credits we had from Amazon from deferring 2 day shipping on our Prime account. I had heard lovely things about this movie when it was in theatres, but it just didn’t work out for us to see it at that time. I remember it being out when we were vacationing in Key West last May. There was a little theatre a couple blocks from the place we were staying that was advertising it. Had it actually been playing while we were there we probably would have gone to see it one night, but it didn’t start until the night before we left. When we were looking for something use our credit on, I remembered this movie and decided it’s what we should rent.

It’s a great little movie written by, directed by, and starring Jon Favreau. His character, as the title suggests, is a chef who falls down on his luck and loses his job. In trying to figure out what to do from there and really use his culinary skills in the way he wants to he connects with his young son who he has grown distant from since his divorce from his son’s mother. If you haven’t seen it I definitely recommend checking it out.

Fiction Book

As I was mentioning above I didn’t really feel like a read a whole lot of books this year that I really loved. I definitely had to look through my Goodreads list to see what I actually even gave a good rating to because there wasn’t anything that was jumping to the top of my memory. I rated 3 fiction books with five stars and of those the one I feel like I should write about here is the book Someone by Alice McDermott. This was my pick for one of my book clubs this past year. I don’t think everyone enjoyed it as much as I did, but that’s okay because I thought it was beautiful. It’s a simple book that just follows Marie, an Irish-American living in Brooklyn, throughout her life. The story itself isn’t particularly compelling. There’s not much of a plot to speak of, but McDermott has such a way with words that reading the way she describes things is a great treat. There were so many wonderful little morsels in this book that I loved, so it’s the book I’m going to go with in this category.

Non-Fiction Book

Looking back at the non-fiction books I read over the past year listed in Goodreads there was only one that I gave five stars to, and it’s actually not the one I want to write about in this category. For the record that book was You Are the Music: How Music Reveals What It Means to Be Human by Victoria Williamson. I still think that was a great book, and as someone who loves music it really resonated with me. However the one book both fiction and non-fiction that has really stuck with me from this year is The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs. For some reason I only gave it 4 stars when I rated it, but it’s the one book I really haven’t stopped thinking about since I read it. It’s the true story of a brilliant boy who grew up in a horrible neighborhood in Newark. He was surrounded by violence and drugs, his father was in prison for murder, and yet he managed to make it out for awhile. He attended Yale and had a bright future ahead of him before he wound up pulled back into his old life in Newark. The book is written by his friend and former roommate at Yale, who unapologetically recounts Robert Peace’s life and examines the reasons that his life was cut short and why it isn’t as simple to walk away from what you know for a supposedly better life.

TV Show

There is a lot of good television these days. Between what I watch on network television, cable tv, pay cable like HBO and Showtime, and then what Amazon and Netflix are now putting out I can barely keep up with what I’ve chosen to watch and I still feel like there is a ton that I’m missing. There is just no way to keep up with all of the excellent television shows that are being made these days. However, the television show that I’m most interested in right now is probably not one that is making any television critic’s best of list. Over the summer my friend Sarah convinced me that we should both start watching Arrow. It was something that I had heard good things about and did have interest in watching at some point, so it didn’t take much arm twisting. She never wound up watching it all, which I say is her loss because I plowed through the first two seasons and was anxiously awaiting the third when it started this fall. I don’t think the third season has actually been as good, but I’m still enjoying it and it’s probably currently the television show I most look forward to getting to watch every week. There’s probably a bit of a recency bias with this choice as well, but I only get to pick one show so this is the one I’m going with.

TV Episode

Luckily for me I also given myself the TV episode category, so I can talk about more than one tv show. Parenthood is now in it’s final season and we’re getting ready to hit the last four episodes. This show has been wildly uneven over it’s six years, but when it is firing on all cylinders it will gut you. That is why this show is the perfect fit for this category. Many storylines the show chooses concentrate on just don’t work and when you hit episodes that strongly focus on those plots it’s not great, though the love of the characters often pulls it through in those cases. However, when this show focuses on the smaller, more realistic moments it is amazing. Season 5, Episode 19 “Fraud Alert” was one of those episodes that just about killed me. It was especially heart wrenching with two stories going with the younger kids. It was the episode where kids peed in Max’s canteen on a field trip and Sydney and Victor are having a really hard time with their Julia and Joel splitting up. Both Max and Victor have very understandable breakdowns during this episode and they broke my heart. It was so good. I am really going to miss this show when it is gone. I will be sad to no longer be sharing life with the Braverman family when it ends.

Album

As I have already mentioned there wasn’t really a whole lot that stood out to me in music this year. Honestly if I could I would like to write about Jason Isbell’s Southeastern again as that album from last year still resonates with me more than any new album I’ve listened to this year. Looking through the albums I bought this past year I want to give special mention to Nickel Creek’s A Dotted Line because I do love them, I do like this album, and I love that they got back together to put this out for the 25th anniversary of them playing together. I also thought about Jessie Ware’s Tough Love because I listened it on repeat a ton of times. However, ultimately decided to go with Ryan Adams’ self titled album. I have probably listened to it more times than any other album I bought this year, and it was one of those albums where when I was listening to it I would think this is my favorite song on this album, then the next one would come on and I would think no this is actually my favorite song from this album all the way through. This album came out three years after his last release, which is unprecedented for him. He usually turns out material crazy fast, which can sometimes show. In this case the extra time was well worth it and resulted in a fantastic album.

Song

In some ways I want to spread the love around a little and pick a song by a different artist, but if I’m being honest with myself here I really have to go with Ryan Adams again and the song “Gimme Something Good”, which I obviously listened to a lot on the album, but was also very happy to hear every time it came on the radio and of course was very happy to hear him play live at the Newport Folk Festival this past summer.

Artist

You would think having given Ryan Adams both the song and album categories that he would be the only choice for artist, but you would be wrong. Thanks to the way I put this together I can actually pick a musical group that actually didn’t put anything out in 2014, but 2014 is the year I became aware of their existence so I get to write about them now. That honor goes to The Oh Hellos. They were one of the first artists that The Newport Folk Festival announced for their 2014 lineup. I immediately fell in love with their music. It is so joyful it makes my heart swell with happiness every time I listen to it. They have a short 4 song Christmas album that I listened to on repeat at work one day during December, and it made me so happy.

Even better than just the music itself is their stage presence. They are a large band. I think there’s something like 12 of them and they just get up there and play their hearts out. I got to see them twice this year, once at Newport and then opening for needtobreathe at the Fillmore in Silver Spring. Both times the audience was composed largely of people who had never heard of them before and both times I got to watch as they completely bowled everyone there over and made them instant fans. It’s been a few years since they’ve put out any new music and I hope that 2015 will provide some.

Concert

Obviously The Oh Hellos are at the top of my list as far as the best concerts I saw this year. I also have a special love for Jason Isbell concert at the 9:30 Club this past January with Holly Williams opening for him. They put out two of my favorite albums from 2013, so getting to see them play together at the beginning of 2014 was a real treat. Holly Williams playing “Waiting on June” was the first time I have ever been at a concert where everyone around me was in tears, which was a very special moment. My biggest regret of 2015 so far is that I won’t be seeing Jason Isbell when he comes back to DC to play the Lincoln Theatre in a few weeks. I don’t know anyone who wanted to go with me, so I didn’t buy tickets but then once they sold out I really regretted not getting any.

The concert I’m actually going with here though is Mavis Staples at 2014’s Newport Folk Festival. This year’s festival was a celebration of her 75th birthday. She was obviously the closing headliner, but she also popped up throughout the weekend to sing songs with during other artist’s sets. It was so awesome to hear her singing with so many other great musicians. Her set was amazing. It was so great to be able to see a musical legend like Mavis Staples sing live and because of the venue to be able to have so many other artists I love join her on stage to sing with and celebrate her.

Broadway Theatre Production

Of the four Broadway shows I saw this year it’s really hard to choose which one I should write about here. I loved seeing Sutton Foster live again in the beautiful show Violet. Seeing Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch was an amazing experience. Aladdin was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Ultimately though I’m going with Cabaret starring Emma Stone and Alan Cumming. I have always loved Cabaret. I love the show itself and the music. Finally getting to see Alan Cumming as the Emcee after all these years was fantastic, and I really thought Emma Stone was great as Sally Bowles. I’m very happy I got to see her in her Broadway debut.

Baltimore Theatre Production

This year I’m going to go with one of the touring Broadway shows at the Hippodrome for my choice of most memorable Baltimore Theatre Production. I’m picking Sister Act because I really enjoyed the show a lot, but more so because it surpassed my expectations exponentially. I was not really looking forward to the show very much and figured it was going to be yet another awful musical stage adaptation of a movie. I was kind of blown away by how much I liked it. It was a lot of fun, and was probably my favorite show of our season last year. I definitely wasn’t expecting that at all.

Podcast Episode

I often wind up picking one of the Nerdist podcast episodes for this category because of the podcasts I listen to it is the only one that features guests in almost every episode making it very easy to remember them. The other podcasts I listen to are just the hosts talking about things, so it is often hard for me to distinguish one episode from another at the end of the year. This year though I specifically remember the Extra Hot Great episode that Alan Sepinwall guest hosted on. With Joe Reid leaving as one of the regular podcast hosts at the end of 2013, they decided to continue with 4 hosts every week but with the fourth chair being filled by a guest host every week. Alan Sepinwall is my favorite television writer. We agree on a lot of, though not all, television shows. If I’m watching a new show you can usually bet it’s because Alan told me to. If I’m wondering if I should try out a new show that’s coming on he is the first person I turn to in order to find out. Thus I was very excited to see that he was going to be appearing on one of my favorite podcasts. As expected his episode was a lot of fun. In one of their segments they talked about The Knick, which I never watched, but was amused by Alan’s constant rubbing in that he had received more screeners than Tara, Sarah, and Dave had. The Game Time was one of the television theme song ones, and I remember laughing out loud at the gym while listening to them have so much fun playing it. It was an excellently fun episode. I demand more episodes with Alan Sepinwall!