More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Garbage 20th Anniversary Concert at the 9:30 Club October 29, 2015

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 7:57 pm

I never saw Garbage in concert back when they were super big in the 90s. Despite the fact that in my fantasy life I had that kind of 90s riot grrl rock persona, in reality I was about as far away from that as you could get. Shy, timid, conformist are better ways to describe what I was my senior year of high school when Garbage’s first album came out. If they were even playing anywhere at that point that I could have gotten into I would have been terrified about going to a club at that age. By the time they would have been playing the larger venues I was off in college and just not going to many concerts like that because it was a trek to get any place they might have been playing from where I was. Thus I pretty much missed them their first go round.

For whatever reason every once in awhile I like to go down a rabbit hole of watching Garbage concert footage on YouTube because Shirley Manson is fun to watch. Every time I do it I would look to see if they were going to be touring at all and until recently the answer was always no. About a month or so ago I did this and discovered that they were in fact touring for the 20th anniversary of their beginning and that they were playing two nights at the 9:30 Club. Unfortunately at that point the concert was only a few weeks ago and probably long ago sold out. I seriously don’t know how I missed this because I follow the 9:30 Club on Twitter and get their weekly concert announcement email.

If I miss out on concerts tickets when they’re on sale I usually just consider it not meant to be. I hate paying greedy ticket resellers two or three times face value to go to a show, so I pretty much never do. In this instance though I decided I really wanted to go and set myself a threshold of how much I was willing to pay for a ticket and started stalking Stubhub and Craigslist for tickets. Unfortunately this was made a little more complicated by the fact that they only sold paper tickets for this show and no digital ones presumably to cut down on counterfeit tickets for what they knew would be sold out shows. Thus I would see tickets in my price range but being sold by people who wanted someone to meet them in DC or Northern Virginia to pick them up. Luckily good karma was on my side. Whenever I can’t use concert tickets that I bought for whatever reason and I resell them, I never, ever sell them for more than face value even if I could get much more for them. One night I was on Craigslist looking and saw someone post two tickets for face value in Columbia, which is well within range for me to get to without too much hassle. We arranged to meet outside a Dunkin’ Donuts the next morning and I got my tickets. So thank you random guy on Craigslist for not being a jerk and selling your tickets at face value.

My husband is having to commute to DC for work these days, so I decided that since he was already going to be down there that he should use the second ticket. Plus of all the bands I ever dragged him to see Garbage is probably the most up his alley. Because he’s an awesome guy he also drove down to DC the morning of instead of taking the train so that I could take the train down in the afternoon instead of driving down in rush hour in the rain.

There were many things at this concert that emphasized that 20 years is a long time and all of us who gravitated too this album during our high school years are now old. I knew that the audience was going to be older than the typical concerts I go to where I feel like a grandmother compared to all the teens and young twentysomethings that tend to be there. As expected this concert was decidedly full of people my age and older. The people in front of us in line going into the venue brought their teenage daughter with them (she wasn’t even born when the first album was released!) and the father was explaining what bootleg tapes were to her. The thing that really made me feel old though was hearing, if the 9:30 Club staff member is to be believed, that the filming that was going on during the concert is for something that’s going to air on PBS. PBS! The Garbage fan base has now also become the PBS fan base. Who would have ever seen that coming back in 1995?

The opening act was Torres. I can’t actually think of a more perfect opening act for Garbage. I had heard a few songs of hers here and there, but hadn’t really ever sat down and listened to her much before. She has that same growly, punk rock voice that Shirley Manson has when she sings. It’s not probably something that I’ll seek out again, but I thought the set was a good complement to Garbage.

20151028_195807

Garbage started out the concert by putting a large drop cloth in front of the stage and then playing a compilation of television footage from when they hit it big on it. They then also sang their first song hidden completely behind the cloth such that (most) of the audience was only seeing their shadows. I say most because I was off on the side of the stage and could see the band behind the curtain. It was also the perfect place for me because I could actually see most of the stage from where I was. In a sold out standing room only show my short self was resigned to pretty much not seeing anything. Since one of the reasons I wanted to go was to see Shirley Manson perform, the fact that I could perfectly see the part of the stage she was on the entire time made me really happy.

Performing behind the curtain

Performing behind the curtain

I should also mention that one of the reasons I really wanted to go to this concert is that they were only playing songs from 1995 and 1996, which pretty much meant the self-titled first album and any B-sides that were put out during that time. If was going to see Garbage in concert that’s pretty much what I wanted to hear, so I didn’t want to miss out on the chance to get exactly what I wanted. And as advertised that’s what they did.

They may be 20 years older, but they are still 100% great performers. Shirley Manson might not be quite as energetic on stage as she once was, but I’d say she’s still a good 90%. I really love her so much. She scares me a little when she’s singing, but it’s kind of funny because when she’s not singing she seems like a completely nice person. She had lots of great stories to tell and really seemed very appreciative of the audience and what the album meant to them. I also quite enjoy her laugh. Then she starts singing and seems like the most intimidating person. I guess that’s the point of the music though.

Torres

Torres

It was a fantastic show, and everything I wanted it to be. I’m so glad that all the pieces fell perfectly into place for me to be able to go. It was meant to be.

 

Tucson Trip October 27, 2015

Filed under: Family,Travel — dwhren @ 7:51 pm

Last week I took sort of a last minute trip to visit my family in Tucson. Originally my sister and her family were planning coming to visit us in Baltimore since they haven’t been out in four years, but she could never find decent plane tickets home during my niece’s fall break week so that didn’t work out. Since she didn’t wind up using her copious airline miles on those plane tickets she asked if I was interested in flying out to Arizona to visit them instead while my uncle and aunt were down visiting from Spokane for the Washington State v. Arizona football game. I hadn’t seen them since my uncle officiated my wedding seven years ago so I rearranged things so I could make it out there.

Unlike when I’m out there during holidays or the summer, now that both my nieces are in school I didn’t actually get to see a whole lot of them or my sister who was at work. I flew out Wednesday night and pretty much they were all in bed by the time my parents dropped me off at their house. Thursday I did get to hang out with my 3 year old niece since she only goes to preschool Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That night my sister had a bunch of friends over for dinner to celebrate my dad’s birthday which had been on Wednesday.

Friday I mostly hung out and played cards with my parents and aunt and uncle during the day. Then Friday night the adults all went out for dinner in downtown Tucson at some place called Proper Restaurant. It was a rather uneven meal. I don’t think anyone plans to go back there.

Saturday my parents and my sister’s family meet at Starbucks every Saturday morning for breakfast, so we did that. My dad requested I bake him a cheesecake so after breakfast I tackled that with some help from my 3 year old niece. I also bought her some cookies to frost since I knew she wasn’t going to understand the concept of a cheesecake. After that we met up with my sister and my 7 year old niece for lunch and a trip to the mall. It was at that point that my 3 year old niece started to lose it a little insisting that she was too tired to walk and being really whiny. We just figured she was being a typical three year old. Then my sister and I both felt really bad when we got home and figured out that she had a 103 degree fever. I could tell she was really not feeling well when we decorated her cookies after that and she didn’t even want to eat any of the frosting. Poor kid.

Sunday the 7 year old and I wound up going out for breakfast by ourselves since the 3 year old was still sick and we didn’t have time to coordinate meeting up with my parents since we needed to get out of the house before the 3 year old saw us and got mad she couldn’t go. She was seeming a lot more peppy when I left for the airport, but I’m not sure if that was just the Tylenol making her feel better.

It was a nice visit with my family even if it was short. I look forward to seeing them again at Christmas. Hopefully by some miracle no one will be sick, since it always seems like someone is sick when I visit.

 

Fall 2016 TV Diary October 16, 2015

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 1:32 pm

After my previous somewhat heavy post lets pivot to something totally mindless and get to my annual run down of what TV shows I’m watching (or not) this season.

New Show I’m Watching

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Only the pilot episode of this show has aired so far, so I don’t have much to go off of. It’s apparently even weirder than normal pilots because it somehow went from being a half hour show on Showtime to being an hour long show on the CW. Thus the original 30 minute pilot was stretched to 40 minutes and aired. At any rate I did enjoy it enough to keep watching. It’s about a (maybe) crazy woman who is a successful lawyer but highly unhappy in her personal life. She quits her high powered New York job to move to a small town in California after running into her long ago summer camp ex-boyfriend and finding out he lives there. Oh and it’s also a musical. There are some occasional song and dance breaks. I’m into it and I did enjoy the songs they wrote for this episode, so it’s up my alley. Sadly based on the ratings I’m not sure this show will be around that long even on the CW.

The Muppets

I have no strong feelings one way or the other. I’ve seen most of the Muppet movies. I enjoy a good Muppet thing, but I’m not obsessed with Muppets like some people are nor do I have issues with watching Muppets being voiced by new people because Jim Hensen is no longer around to voice them. This version of The Muppets is different from what we have generally seen in the past in versions of The Muppet Show in that the show is in mockumentary format and revolves around the backstage goings on in Miss Piggy’s talk show. I have tired of the mockumentary format. It seems a little tired at this point and having it be Muppets doing it is just a bit weird, but if the show was good I could overlook it. The thing is I’m not so sure that it is good. I was reasonably amused by the pilot episode, but each subsequent episode has felt less funny and more tedious to me. I’ll probably keep watching for awhile, but it’s definitely not anything that I’m super in love with.

Grandfathered

This show stars John Stamos as a successful restauranteur and ladies man who finds out that not only does he have an adult son that he never knew about, but that his son is also a father making him an instant father and grandfather. Paget Brewster plays the mother of his son. Of the two new comedies on Fox the critics all seemed to prefer The Grinder, but I really like this one much better.

The Grinder

I didn’t even originally have this show on my list of things to watch, but so many critics seemed to enjoy it and it was on back to back with Grandfathered which I was planning on watching, so I figured I’d give it a try. It stars Rob Lowe as an actor who just finished a run on a highly loved show called The Grinder where he played a high powered lawyer. His father and brother, played by Fred Savage are actual lawyers in the small town where the family lives. Rob Lowe decides we wants use the lawyering skills he picked up from playing a lawyer for a long time to play a lawyer in real life as it were and help his brother win cases. It’s an ok show, but really I am having a hard time getting past the premise. I know it’s a sit-com, but really there’s just no way that Rob Lowe’s character would be able to do any of the things he’s doing.

Scream Queens

This is another show from Ryan Murphy creator of American Horror Story and Glee. I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of the first season of American Horror Story and don’t think it’s really for me. I did enjoy Glee in it’s early seasons, but eventually gave on it probably about halfway through its run. This show looked like some over the top fun. It’s sort of the vein of the Scream movies. It takes place in a sorority house at a university that is being stalked by a serial killer dressed as a red devil, the school’s mascot. It’s pretty much what I was hoping it would be. It’s only set for 15 episodes, and I definitely feel like that will be more than enough. Probably one season will also be enough too. Although based on the ratings I don’t think a second season would ever be under consideration and I hope that we at least make it through the 15 episodes it’s supposed to be.

Returning Shows I’m Watching

Big Bang Theory

Generally I still enjoy this show, but I am finding it a little ridiculous how they’re determined to force Sheldon and Leonard to keep living together. They need to let that go like they finally did with Raj not being able to talk to women while sober.

Empire

This show was Fox’s breakout hit from last year. I gather it’s not doing as well this year, but I’m still enjoying it. I worry a little bit about the fact that it has a longer episode order this season than last. I feel like this show could go off the rails very quickly if the writers run out of plots too quickly. I like the music and so far it’s fun, so I’ll stick with it until then.

Modern Family

I’m pretty much just still watching this show out of habit. It’s not horrible, but it’s not great either. I wouldn’t really miss it if I stopped watching it though.

blackish

Now in its second season I’m also still enjoying blackish. Now that he’s done with Hannibal it seems Laurence Fishbourne is going to be around more this season than last. It’s a nice smart comedy about race.

Nashville

Nashville is still it’s same old country music soap opera self. I haven’t run out of love for it yet.

Amazing Race

When I saw the cast for this season of The Amazing Race I almost bailed. I’ve grown weary of their stunt casting and long for the days when it seemed like real people who had actually ever seen the show and had actually applied to be on it and weren’t courted made up the teams. This season includes paparazzi and some people from TMZ. Those were the two that stuck out to me immediately and made me grown. Happily even though I’m still annoyed by their casting techniques it really hasn’t even come up for the most part. None of the teams this season seem super obnoxious, and I’m enjoying that for a change. I was sad that the team I was rooting for got eliminated last week, but oh well.

Brooklyn-99

Brooklyn-99 is by far the best sit-com that at least I’m watching on tv right now. I’m ready for them to bring the team back together again. I’m not sure why they already felt like they had to do something like send Captain Holt somewhere else. Hopefully it doesn’t drag on too long.

The Affair

I enjoyed the first season of The Affair which looked at the same story from two different sides. Now they’ve expanded and are showing the same story from four sides. That might be a little bit more than anyone needs. Now instead of the same plot line told twice across a single episode we’re getting it told four times over two episodes. That could get real old, real fast especially since they’re dragging out this murder mystery which I didn’t care about in the first season and care about even less as it drags on forever.

The Flash

I don’t have too much to say about The Flash other than I continue to enjoy it. I still don’t think Barry and Iris belong together, but at least she finally knows his secret because it was ridiculous that they were keeping it from her.

iZombie

I very much enjoyed the first season of iZombie and so far the second season is going well too. There doesn’t seem to be much of a sophomore slump for now. I think they’re going to have to clue Clive into the fact that Liv is a zombie who takes on the characteristics of the brains she eats soon though because otherwise the way she acts with him and some of the really awful things she’s doing and saying to him are really getting out of control and something he would bail on her for.

Arrow

Last season of Arrow started to drag for me a little bit. I got bored of the R’as al ghul storyline, and it seemed to drag on forever. So far it seems like we’ve moved on from that being the main focus, and can have a more interesting storyline with Damian Dahrk.

Vampire Diaries

I had no idea what this season was going to be like with Nina Dobrev leaving the show and thus Elena being gone. Since she was the central character it seemed a little ridiculous that the show would continue on without her, but at least based on the first episode I think the show can survive. I’m interested to see where everything they set up in the first episode goes.

Jane the Virgin

There’s only been one episode of this show so far this season, but so far it’s as fun as it was in the first season. I’m glad they quickly wrapped up the kidnapping storyline. It’s a nice bit of light fun in my tv viewing schedule every week.

Fargo

The second season of Fargo is really a sort of prequel to season 1 going back in time to the 1970s with some of the same characters in earlier times, but with essentially mostly a whole new story. This season is chock full of big name actors. I grew a little tired of season one by the end. We’ll see how this season plays out.

Shows I Plan on Watching

I am going to check both of these shows out, but let me just say that although I enjoy both the movies and tv shows I really am at peak superhero. Every tv show these days seems to be a superhero show or an anti-hero show. Can’t I just have some nice sweet character driven drama? I miss Parenthood and Hart of Dixie.

Legends of Tomorrow

Yet another show in the DC universe on the CW. I already watch Arrow and The Flash, so I might as well give this one a try when it finally airs.

Supergirl

This doesn’t start airing until November, so I haven’t seen it yet obviously. I’ve heard from one TV critic that it reminded her of Lois and Clark, which if that’s true would make me very happy.

Shows I’ve Quit Watching

Castle

I had really hoped that last season of Castle would be the final one. Once I reach a certain point with tv shows I tend to watch until the bitter end even if I’m not enjoying them so much anymore. I sort of thought Castle would be one of those shows, but apparently it’s not. I didn’t even watch the episode, but when I saw that they made Beckett and Castle break up again I was like that’s it I’m out.

New Girl

Last season I found I was barely paying attention to this show anymore when I had it on. I was happy with the way last season ended with Schmidt and CeeCee getting together and decided it was a nice way for me to end my time with the show too. Now I won’t have to live through the inevitable storyline where they break up again.

Life in Pieces

I’m sad that I didn’t like this show because there are so many actors I like in it like Colin Hanks, Dianne Wiest, and Betsy Brandt. However, I really, really did not like it. I am hard pressed to think if I’ve ever turned off a show without at least finishing an episode, but I only made it about halfway through this one before I said ok I’m done with this show.

 

To All the Fighters October 13, 2015

Filed under: Life — dwhren @ 9:07 am

This year has taken a toll on my psyche, and I’ve been feeling exceptionally down in the past few weeks. I pretty much want to throw in the towel on humanity. My dear city of Baltimore is a giant mess and on track to have the highest number of homicides it has ever had. Three seems to be another mass shooting every other day. Add to that the atrocities going on around the world in Syria and many other places and I feel like we should just toss the whole world into the sun.

I have no confidence that anything can be done about any of it. It all seems like a lot of people shouting past each other. I watch all the yahoos we have running for president and that doesn’t give me any hope for a better world. I’m a registered Democrat so I have no say in which of the Republican clowns gets the nomination, but I am not any more enamored with any of my Democratic choices either. Throw in the giant clown car that is Congress and I have very little hope that anything productive can be accomplished.

At work yesterday I was putting some closed captioning on an lecture David Simon gave at one of the universities I work for a number of years ago shortly before the final season of The Wire aired. I remember attending that lecture and thinking man David Simon is the most cynical person on the face of this planet. In revisiting what he said I realize I am sadly right there with him these days. However, at the end of the lecture during the Q&A period someone got up and said I don’t want to let you leave these bright, young college students thinking that there is no hope because things can change. It may take generations and we may not even realize it while it’s happening, but they can and do change for the better sometimes. That guy was right.

I feel like I’m the worst sort of human being because I do feel acutely on behalf of the poor and marginalized. Social justice issues are something that are of great interest to me, but aside from throwing some money at some causes I don’t ever do anything about it. Part of it is what feels like a learned helplessness in that I just don’t feel like anything can get better. It’s also that I have social anxiety to some degree and a more significant anxiety about entering into foreign situations. It’s very difficult to do any meaningful work towards social justice without interacting with people you don’t know or putting yourself into unfamiliar situations, so I don’t. I let that be an excuse. There is a passage in the Bible that says the worst thing is to be lukewarm and I get that and feel like that’s what I am. I’m not cold or indifferent to the problems. I feel them to my bones and yet I do nothing. That seems worse than not even knowing or acknowledging that they’re there.

All of this is leading up to say that unlike me I know that there are people out there fighting to right the wrongs of this world, and I want to raise my glass to them. Without people who were willing to stand up for injustices that seemed like they could never be changed we would still have slavery. Women still wouldn’t be able to vote, and on and on. Sometimes it feels like we’re moving backwards instead of forwards, but there are still people out there fighting every day to make changes no matter how incremental to help create a better world. Some of them like Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King rise to prominence historically and others have fought and will fight unrecognized for the work that they do. To every person who rises up and fights for a better tomorrow I thank you. I hope that one day I can muster the will and energy and stop putting my own selfishness and insecurities first in order to join you.

 

Switched on Pop October 9, 2015

Filed under: Podcasts — dwhren @ 7:57 am

I keep saying that I don’t have time to keep up with the podcasts I already listen to, but I keep hearing about new podcasts that I can’t help but check out. Within a few weeks ago two of the podcasts I already listen to, Pop Culture Happy Hour and Pitch, were both singing the praises of the Switched on Pop podcast. Now that I’ve listened to it I can say it was with good reason.

Songwriter Charlie Harding and musicologist Nate Sloan break down pop music every couple of weeks. Sometimes they talk about a specific song or artist. This week they looked at Justin Beiber’s most recent singles, but they’ve also examined artists like Kacey Musgraves or why even though they really like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You” it didn’t turn into a big hit like “Call Me Maybe”. Other weeks they take a more themed approach by looking at things like a cappella, the use of the saxophone in pop music, or the song of the summer.

They really do a deep dive into the music examining things like the production, structure, chord progression, and lyrics. As a musicologist Nate Sloan often looks back in music history and compares current pop songs to classical music. They really look at music in a way I never think about it, but that I really enjoy.

If you are a music fan like I am I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough.

 

Ryan Adams’ Cover Taylor Swift’s 1989 October 6, 2015

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 7:52 am

I’ve been wanting to write about Ryan Adams’ cover of the entirety of Taylor Swift’s album 1989 since it came out two weeks ago, but life has kept me busy and I haven’t had a chance to do it. The speed at which the internet talks about things makes me feel like I shouldn’t bother writing about it now that it’s been two whole weeks, but I still to want to so I’m going to.

I follow Ryan Adams on Twitter and I got really excited when he started tweeting clips of the covers he was creating. Despite the fact that I never bought a copy of Taylor Swift’s version of 1989, I was super excited to hear what Ryan Adams did with it and immediately pre-ordered it as soon as it was available.

I never had much use for Taylor Swift as a country singer, but do appreciate her as a pop singer. It’s what I always thought she really was anyway, which is why I was annoyed by her pop masquerading as country. The first song of hers I can really remember liking is “Red”, which is firmly on the pop side of her final album before she went full on pop with 1989. I do like the album and have enjoyed the eight billion singles that have been released from it. However it falls firmly under my pop song feeling that the only place I really want to listen to it is the radio and thus I never bought that version of the album.

Ryan Adams on the other hand is someone whose music I adore and own many albums of. It’s not something I’m likely to hear much if anything of on the radio and thus not something I’m going to quickly tire of. This album is the best of what a cover songs can be. Ryan Adams changes up and makes the music his own and puts into a style that sounds like him while also still somehow keeping the tenor of Taylor Swift’s versions such that it is still completely recognizable as what it is. It’s a delicate balancing act and Adams pulls it off with aplomb. It especially pleases me that he sings the lyrics from “Blank Space” in the same way that Taylor Swift does such that is sounds like she’s singing about Starbucks lovers.

Of course now what I really want is for Taylor Swift to cover one of Ryan Adams’ albums. While I’m waiting for that to happen I’ll keep listening to this one. I encourage you to do the same. It is up on Spotify, which I think is a little bothersome since Taylor Swift made a big deal about pulling all her music from Spotify. Music copyright is weird y’all.