More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

David Gray with Amos Lee at Wolf Trap June 17, 2015

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 9:47 pm

As anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile knows, Wolf Trap is my favorite concert venue. When I saw their announcement that David Gray and Amos Lee were going to be playing there together during the week of my birthday I tweeted something about it. My friend Jenny rightfully pointed out to my husband that the tweet was a hint aimed at him. Even with that prompting he apparently failed to get it. His company has box seats at Wolf Trap and he can put in to win tickets to up to two events per month. In May he told me the two events he put in for, and I just looked at him kind of dumbfounded. I said first of all one of those dates I’m out of town at a conference and second you didn’t even put in for the one concert I told you I wanted to go to. I then reminded him of this Twitter exchange. Apparently this conversation finally made things click for him.

On Monday night he told me I had to come straight home after work on Tuesday and not go to the gym because we had plans that night. I’m no dummy so I immediately figured out that he had in fact bought tickets to the concert. Unless we happen to wind up in his company’s box seats I generally prefer to get lawn seats at Wolf Trap because I like that you can picnic on the lawn during the concert. Paul wound up buying us seats inside the pavilion, which actually worked out well for last night. In the best of traffic Wolf Trap is a little over an hour away from us. At rush hour on a weeknight it takes forever. Last night it took about an hour and 45 minutes by the time we parked and got to our seats. We arrived just before the concert started, so it was good we had reserved seats because wherever we would have found space on the lawn at that point we would not have been able to see from.

It was a gorgeous summer night out, and it was the perfect chill concert to sit outside, enjoy the weather, and listen to some great music. For the most part Amos Lee and David Gray both play music that is not going to inspire anyone to get up and dance, so it was nice to be able to just sit back and take in their music.

This was my first time seeing either one of them live. I’ve had the chance any number of times. I did once try to find someone to go see David Gray with me, but no one was interested. This was back before I decided to start going to concerts by myself because life is too short to not do something you want to do even if you have to do it alone. I’m pretty sure that most of my friends have no idea who Amos Lee is, and although I do like his music for some reason I just never felt strongly enough about seeing him to go alone. Apparently the perfect trifecta of David Gray, Amos Lee, and Wolf Trap made it all worth the effort though.

I never really know how to describe Amos Lee’s music. I don’t think it falls strictly in one genre. It’s kind of folk and soul, but there’s someone in the band who plays pedal steel so there’s obviously country influence in there as well. He has this great soulful, deep voice that you can kind of feel in your chest. I love it. Amos Lee was not quite what I was expecting live though. Let’s just say he was a lot more bro-like than I was anticipating based on listening to his music. There was a lot of rapping of lyrics that does not occur on the studio albums. I enjoy people playing around with their songs live though, so I didn’t mind. He sang a lot of stuff of the Mission Bell album, which is my favorite so I was happy about that. I was sad that he didn’t play “Chill in the Air”, but he was the opener so I guess you take what you can get in the limited amount of time there is in opening set. He was fun, and the music was great so I’d definitely see him again live if I got the chance.

David Gray’s set was enjoyable as well. He pretty much played every song I could have hoped that he would play. On songs that he wasn’t sitting at the piano he did get up and dance around the stage, which was fun to watch. He did pretty much just play straight through though and didn’t change up the songs in any way from their original form. You know me I’m all about a little stage banter, jokiness, storytelling, etc. to go along with the songs, and as I already said I like people who will play around with their songs a little bit when playing live. It makes me feel like I’m getting something more than I would get just by listening to an album. I really did enjoy the set, but unlike someone else I know, it wasn’t something that makes me feel compelled to rush right out and see him again. I definitely sometimes leave concerts thinking how can I possibly see this person again as soon as possible. I didn’t leave with that feeling last night.

All in all it was a great summer concert, and I’m really glad I got to go.

 

Babysitting the Nieces June 16, 2015

Filed under: Family,Travel — dwhren @ 7:56 am

I spent the past few days in Arizona babysitting my sister’s two daughters. My sister and brother-in-law went to Boston for a wedding that he was in. Their original plan had been to take the kids so they could play with their cousins, but thanks to all the snow Boston got this winter the cousins were still in school. Instead of having to make the cross-country flight with two small kids for no good reason they instead offered to pay for my plane ticket to come out there and watch the girls while they were gone.

I flew into Phoenix on Thursday and picked up my sister’s car at the airport where she left it when she caught her flight out. I then made the drive to Tucson. When I got there my eldest niece was at camp and my youngest niece was just going down for her nap. Right after all they had swimming lessons. My parents live nearby so my dad came along to show me where the swimming lessons were located and to help out wrangling the kids. After that we met up with my mom for dinner at a nearby restaurant. Once we got home it was pretty much time to get the kids bathed and ready for bed, so I really didn’t even see much of them on Thursday.

Friday the 6 year old had camp again and I had to get the 3 year old out of the house while my sister’s house cleaners were there. Normally they go over to my parents house to hang out, but my mom had just gotten over a stomach bug and I was too paranoid about catching it to go over there. A new children’s museum recently opened around the corner from where my sister lives, so I figured it would be a good time to check it out. Based on what I had seen online it seemed like it was aimed at toddlers and that the  6 year old would be bored. It worked out perfectly that she was at camp and I could just take the 3 year old since my assessment was correct. We spent a couple of hours playing with things there, though I’m pretty sure her favorite thing was the sticky hand she got as a prize from a game about shapes that they had. She was obsessed with it for the next 2 days. The first thing she said to me when she woke up on Saturday morning was “Where’s my sticky hand”?

Friday afternoon we swam in their pool and played other games around the house. There was a steady rotation of games for the rest of the weekend. Monster Attack in which I just chase them around the house in a circle, wicked witch which is similar but involves people being locked in the closet as a trap and then escaping while the witch is asleep, Barbies (I hate Barbies), various card games and match games (I am awful at match games. Even the 3 year old beat me), and magic carpet rides in which I dragged them around the tile floor on blankets.

Saturday we met up with my parents for breakfast at Panera bread. They usually all meet at Starbucks on Saturday mornings, but my parents don’t care for Starbucks so said since my sister and brother-in-law weren’t there they weren’t going and we could go to Panera instead. The 3 year old did not get the concept of Panera for breakfast since she is used to going there for lunch. She kept telling me on the way there that she was going to eat mac and cheese and I was telling her they didn’t have mac and cheese at breakfast. Habit trumps everything when you’re three I guess because she refused to eat the cinnamon roll I got her despite her major sweet tooth (the kid only ever wants to eat junk food) and insisted she needed bread and butter like she always eats, so I had to go beg the person to get us one of their lunch rolls like normally comes with the mac and cheese.

The rest of Saturday was pretty much just more of the games we played on Friday and another swim in the pool. Since they are learning to dive for things in swim class and all their pool toys float we took a trip to Target to some diving toys to play with as well. I had a few hours on Sunday to play with them before my parents came over to watch them when I headed out to the airport. We did the reverse hand off of the car. My sister’s flight got in about an hour before my flight left so I actually got to say a quick hello and goodbye to them in the airport.

I usually only get to see them a couple of times a year. Usually once at Christmas and then around this time. I’ve gone out to Arizona in June several years when I’ve been on that side of the country already for conferences, and last year I met up with my family in San Diego in June. This year it didn’t look like I was going to make it out, but my nieces were asking when I was going to come visit again so it worked out well that I was able to go out and babysit for them. Now I just have to wait another six months or so to see them again.

 

Mumford and Sons at Merriweather Post Pavilion 2015 June 15, 2015

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 2:46 pm

I’m a little behind in writing about this, but last Wednesday I saw Mumford and Sons in concert for the third time. I went with my friends Laura, Lindsey, Chinwe, and Jaclyn. The concert was completely sold out, and I think Merriweather is a little delusional about how many people can actually fit on their lawn unless they are considering the standing room only capacity. Of course every has blankets and spreads out a bit, so people who arrived later had a hard time finding a spot. I saw people arriving in large groups at the end of the second opening band and just laughed at them because there was no way they were finding a spot. Thanks to rush hour traffic plus an Orioles game it took us an hour and half to get to Merriweather, which is insane since it should take about 30 minutes. There was still space when we got there, but we were pretty close to the back of the lawn.

Despite the crowds unlike last time I was at Merriweather for a Mumford and Sons show we had our space marked out and it was fine even though every inch of space off of our blanket was taken up by someone else. When I saw them back in 2011 at Merriweather a freak thunderstorm resulted in us getting hailed on and all of our belongings including our blankets winding up in a soaking wet pile. Pretty much everyone pulled up their blankets to shield themselves and after that it was all over. There was no demarcation of space and the crowd was super annoying and just trampling all over our stuff. It was not really the best experience.

Aside from the weather last time, I do have to say that I preferred that actual concert to this one. This was my least favorite of the three times I’ve seen them, the first time being in Arizona also in 2011 during their Railroad Revival Tour. It was pretty much based on their set list I think. The weather was great, the company was great, the music was ok. I know a lot of people are down on their third banjoless album, but that was not it for me. I actually like the new album and prefer it to their second one. I think the problem was that they really front-loaded the set with all of their slower songs. It was like they went through their albums and said let’s play every slow song we’ve ever written during this set. It wasn’t really what I was expecting from a Mumford and Sons concert, and I felt a real lack of energy at the show which should not have been the case especially with a sold out crowd.They did finally pep it up at the end, but by that point it was a case of too little, too late for me.

Had I been expecting a night to sit out on a blanket and just listen to some good music it would have been great, but based on my past experiences I was ready to be up on my feet for 2 hours dancing. Instead I was up on my feet for 2 hours standing there. I think the camera man also hurt the show for me as well. As I said we were pretty far back on the lawn such that I couldn’t actually really see the stage from our vantage point, which meant I was relying on the screens to see what was actually happening down there. For whatever reason the camera man shooting the video for those screens pretty much cut it off between songs so you couldn’t see the stage when they were talking to the audience between songs. That was annoying, and then during some of the faster songs s/he was trying to be too creative and doing crazy cuts between all the people up on the stage. I just wanted to see what was happening on the stage instead of being subjected to an epileptic fit inducing camera work.

The final issue I think is that the Florence + the Machine concert I saw at Merriweather the night before this one was so incredible that this one just didn’t live up to that experience. I hate to pit acts against each other like that, but the Florence show was still so fresh in my mind that this one just paled in comparison and made it seem even more disappointing than it was. I still had a great time and would definitely see Mumford and Sons live again. I think this was just a case of a show that was good, but not great and which was going to have to meet some pretty high standards to meet my expectations anyway.

 

Florence + the Machine at Merriweather Post Pavilion 2015 June 10, 2015

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 4:17 pm

My friend Laura and I went to see Florence + the Machine in concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night. I have seen her live twice previously, once at Merriweather 2 years ago and then a year or two prior to that when she opened for U2 at M&T Bank Stadium. Florence Welch is an amazing performer, so I had been waiting anxiously for her to tour again. She was announced in the lineup of a number of the big music festivals, so I was thinking she might be part of the Firefly lineup, which is the closest large music festival to Baltimore. I was disappointed when that lineup came out and she wasn’t part of it, and in fact the entire lineup was not very exciting. However, a few short weeks later Merriweather announced she would be playing there in June instead. That’s even better in my book. It’s cheaper, closer to home, and doesn’t involve being at a large music festival. FYI, call me crazy but I like to go to individual shows rather than music festivals.

Speaking of music festivals Florence broke her foot back in April during the first weekend of Coachella when she jumped off the stage. Every video I saw of her performing after that she was sitting on a stool, and I was bummed thinking that might still be the case for her Merriweather show. Happily last week she performed on the Tonight Show and I saw that she was up and moving around. I thought maybe she might still be a bit more subdued than usual, but I really didn’t need to worry because she was dancing and running around the stage and into the crowd as much as usual last night. She did mostly choose to use the stairs off the stage and down into the crowd rather than jump into it. At the end she did kind of step off the stage onto the gate separating the crowd from the stage and then step down into the crowd from there, but it was a far cry from throwing herself off the stage like she did at Coachella. In addition to her trips down into the crowd, she she brought one guy from the audience who was up front holding a poster board that just said HUG! on it onto the stage to in fact give him a hug.

In addition to obviously loving the audience and interacting with them both from the stage and by becoming part of it, one the things that makes Florence such a great performer is her energy on stage. She is always running and dancing around and it’s just a joy to watch. She did at one point trip on the long flowly trousers (as she called them) she was wearing while and fall while flying around the stage. She said she is strictly forbidden from breaking anymore bones, but she can’t help but go all out. I definitely believe her on that one because she is kind of crazy, but it’s so much fun.

The music was fantastic as well of course. She sang a good mix of songs from her three albums. She played all the big hits like “Shake It Out”, “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”, “Dog Days Are Over”, “Sweet Nothing”, and “No Light, No Light” plus the two singles off her new album during the show, so I was wondering what she was going to do for an encore. She wound up doing two new songs, “St. Jude” and “Delilah” and then ending out the show with the first song that ever really went anywhere for her “Kiss with a Fist”. It wasn’t your typical encore, but I can get behind that. Who says your encore has to be always be your major hits.

It was an amazing concert just as I expected it would be. She’s been great every time I’ve seen her, but this time might have been the best. If you ever get the chance I can’t recommend seeing Florence + the Machine highly enough.

 

Triple Crown Winner June 7, 2015

Filed under: Random — dwhren @ 9:50 am

I was very excited yesterday to see American Pharoah win the Triple Crown after winning the Belmont Stakes. It’s been 37 years since Affirmed was the last horse to win the Triple Crown. That meant that there had never been a Triple Crown winning horse in my lifetime as the last one happened just a few short weeks before I was born.

My parents would often hold Kentucky Derby parties to watch the first leg of the Triple Crown. Now that I live in Baltimore, home of the Preakness, I have continued their tradition in a slightly altered form by hosting an annual Preakness party. So as you can see I’ve been kind of invested in the idea of there being a Triple Crown winner. I’ve been waiting and watching every year hoping that there would be a horse that could pull it off only to be disappointed. The worst years were the ones that there wasn’t even a chance because the horse that won the Kentucky Derby didn’t win the Preakness.

This year I actually missed watching the Kentucky Derby because I was traveling at the time, but I did watch the race on a replay. Since American Pharoah didn’t run away with the race and I kept seeing all this stuff about how much he hated crowds I didn’t hold out much hope for him going into the Preakness. Then however the Preakness happened and my hopes were raised a little. He really ran away with that race, and thought maybe just maybe this is actually the horse that can do it. Of course people have said that about many other horses that have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness only to be disappointed.

One of the problems is that these days if a horse doesn’t win the Kentucky Derby often owners will rest them by having them skip the Preakness, which means at the Belmont the potential Triple Crown winner is facing a field of horses that are much better rested than he is. I was worried about that this year as always, but it didn’t seem to matter. American Pharoah went out the gate at the front and never let go of that lead and once again completely running away with it at the end. It was a very exciting race and the end of something I’ve been waiting to happen for a very long time.

 

Dorm Life June 3, 2015

Filed under: Random,Travel,Work — dwhren @ 5:34 pm

The other day I was reminiscing about high school, so it only seems fair that today I’m talking about living in a dorm. Don’t worry I’m not planning on continuing to examine every phase of my life since high school. I spent Tuesday at a copyright conference in Colorado Springs. The conference itself was free, but obviously there are flight, rental car, and sleeping accommodations that still had to be paid for. I was long out of professional development money from work, so anything I spent on this conference was coming out of my own pocket.

I debated for awhile if I should come because it seemed a little silly to fly from Maryland to Colorado for a one day conference. (There was a half-day pre-conference on the basics of copyright that I decided I didn’t need to go to and flight times would have made difficult anyway.) After looking over the agenda multiple times I decided it really was something I wanted to go to. The copyright sessions at the big library conferences I mostly wind up going to tend to focus on copyright basics or on the new relevant case law. I already know a lot about copyright, and I keep up with the current case law so oftentimes these sessions aren’t as useful for me as I would like. This conference was really focused on doing the work of a copyright librarian. It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The sessions were really helpful, and I’m glad I decided to make the trek.

You may be wondering what the heck all this has to do with living in a dorm. Well like many conferences held on university campuses during the summer there was an option to stay in the dorms for much less than it would have cost to rent a hotel room. I had done this once before a few years ago. I received a scholarship to attend a week long workshop at the University of North Carolina, which included accommodations in their dorms. I didn’t find that a particularly pleasurable experience, but I’m also cheap so I decided to give dorm life another try.

While I’m staying here I vow that I’m too old for this and it’s not worth it, but I know myself and should the option present itself again I know I’ll do it to save money. Dorm life as adult is both better and worse than dorm life when you’re actually in college. First of all in college you really don’t know any better. I also stayed in hostels while traveling at that age. I wouldn’t do that now because I don’t have to. Also you have all your stuff with you so you make it home for yourself. As an adult just staying in a dorm room for a few days it’s a pretty spartan existence. Think back to what was in your dorm room when you arrived no campus each year, add the cheapest possible sheets and towels and that’s what you get for your stay. This room at least has blinds. The UNC dorm had nothing on the window so a streetlight shined into all night long keeping me up.

Dorm life as an adult is much quieter than when you’re in college though. There are no students in the dorm, so there’s no crazy drunk people wandering the halls all hours of the night. In some ways dorm life was never for me even when I was in college because I am a pitiful sleeper. My freshman year when I had to live on a hall it was loud all the time, and I really don’t think I slept for the entire year. After that my dorm rooms were always in suites so there were only a few rooms in my hall area, which generally made it quieter. My sophomore year I lived above a frat that ended their parties every weekend with the song American Pie. If I was home I knew not to even bother trying to go to sleep until after that song played.

I can’t say I’m sleeping much better during this dorm experience mostly because the dorm doesn’t have air conditioning. With temps in the mid-80s the past two days and the afternoon sun shining directly in my window it’s been pretty warm in the room. I’m one of the lucky Baltimoreans that has central AC and we also keep a window unit in our bedroom since the AC doesn’t get to our top floor very well, so we keep it nice and cool while we sleep. This warm weather sleeping thing is not for me.

This was a weird, rambling post which is mostly to say that I’m happy I no longer have to live in a dorm and I look forward to staying in my nice comfortable bed in my cool bedroom tonight.

 

Thinking Back on High School June 2, 2015

Filed under: Life — dwhren @ 8:27 am

This week someone from my graduating class created a Facebook group for our high school class in preparation for our 20 year reunion next year. First of all it’s crazy and horrifying to me that it has already been that long. I have no idea where the last 20 years went. It does not possibly seem like it’s been that long.

It’s been an interesting few days seeing people posting like crazy in that group. I know it will die down once the novelty has worn off in a few days. It actually reminds me of when I first joined Facebook back in the day and everyone was reconnecting with their high school pals and acquaintances all excitedly. I haven’t really reconnected with anyone new because I was already Facebook friends with the high school people I’m likely to be friends with.

Also, here’s the thing my graduating class had 1300 people in it. I obviously only knew a tiny fraction of these people. Most of the people posting in this group I don’t recognize in the least. The pictures and remembrances they’re posting are making me realize that there is an entire world of my high school I really knew nothing about. Someone posted something about it seeming like the popular kids were already dominating the group just like high school, and it kind of threw me because I was like I have no idea who the popular kids even were. I certainly wasn’t in any group that could have been considered popular, but there were so many people at my school that I have no idea who the people who I suppose existed in your typical popular cliques like football players and cheerleaders even were.

I lived in Texas, so let’s be real I spent my Friday nights going to football games. I however was hanging out with the band. I always like to say that I am a band geek who was never in the band. In both high school and college I had a number of friends in the band, and even now as an adult many of my friends were band geeks at their respective schools. I couldn’t name you one person on the football team or our homecoming court and wouldn’t have been able to back then either. This is in contrast to the school I went to my freshman year in Massachusetts that was much smaller. There I definitely felt a sense of who the popular kids were and new who they were. I think the sheer number of people in my class in Plano meant that if you could find your niche then you didn’t really know what was going on with everyone else. It was just enough to keep up with the people in your own little area of the school. Obviously it seems not everyone had that same experience, but at least for me looking back it seems to be what was true.

I’ve also been really surprised about the number of people who have either never left the area or have gone back. Someone started a thread asking where people were living now and the vast majority of people who have responded are living in Plano or in the surrounding area. I can’t even imagine still living there. I guess a lot of them probably grew up there and have family still there so it makes sense for them. I on the other hand didn’t move there until my sophomore year of high school and my parents moved away from there the year after I graduated, so I’ve never even had a reason to go back to visit much less think about living. Interestingly not a single one of the high school friends I know of stayed there or anywhere near there.

Anyway, this has been a really long way to say that looking through the posts in this group has made me reflect on my high school years and where I’ve ended up compared to other people in my class. Once i found my group of friends I was pretty happy in high school and am happy with where I’ve ended up. I’m glad it’s not in Plano. The one thing this group has not done is make me nostalgic. As much as I like to act horrified about how long it’s been since I was in high school, I honestly would not want to go back. I’m happy with where my life is now, and have to say that my 30s have been a pretty great decade so far.