More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

BSOPulse with The Lone Bellow April 30, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Music — dwhren @ 9:51 am

You may recall my post from last fall on the first concert in the BSOPulse series with Dawes. There were four of these concerts over the course of the season. I didn’t go to the ones with Wye Oak or Dr. Dog, but I happily made it to the final one of the season with The Lone Bellow. They are currently one of my favorite bands to see live as is evidenced by the numerous times I’ve seen them. I definitely couldn’t miss out on this opportunity to see them play with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

There are three parts to every BSOPulse concert. In the first the symphony plays some short 20-30 minute piece that they feel pairs well with the music of the band playing that night. This time it was Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, which I agree is an apt choice to pair with The Lone Bellow. It’s also a piece I enjoy, so I was happy to hear the BSO play it.

In the second part the band, in this case obviously The Lone Bellow, plays a set by themselves. The last time I went during the set change between the symphony and the band Alex Cortright from WTMD had a conversation with the BSO conductor and the band about the intersection of the music. I guess maybe things went quicker than anticipated this time or something because he just said we’re going to skip the conversation tonight because I know what you’re here to see. This part seemed slightly disorganized this time. I don’t know whose fault that was. It wasn’t a big deal, but something seemed weird. I did appreciate the conversation last time, so I was a little sad that they didn’t do. It on the other hand it meant more time for The Lone Bellow to actually play, so I wasn’t that sad.

As usual The Lone Bellow was fantastic. It was for the most part very typical of one of their sets. Great music, a lot of energy, and beautiful harmonies. They played a good mix of songs from their two albums. Zach is always a little nuts, but he seemed extra crazy at the show on Thursday. I’ve also been at multiple shows where one of Brian’s stories resulted in them playing some random song. That happened again at this show. They played an acoustic cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Brian told a story about meeting Prince while intimating that he liked Prince a lot more than Michael Jackson. That somehow resulted in the Michael Jackson song from Free Willy being brought up. They of course then wound up playing that and getting the audience to sing along. I certainly never expected to be having a sing-along to that song ever. Apparently a couple in the first row also got engaged during it, so that will be a fun story they have to tell.

During the third act of the show the band plays three of their songs with the BSO backing them. They played “Tree to Grow” and “Then Came the Morning”. For some reason I can’t remember what the third song was. They all worked very well together and it was a great treat to get to hear the songs played that way.

As always I left a Lone Bellow show wanting to see them again. They’re opening for Lake Street Dive, who I also really like, at Wolf Trap, which is my favorite venue, so I’m hoping I can somehow make that one happen too. They’ll soon be announcing the bands for the second season of BSOPulse and I’m very excited to see what bands they’ll have next year. 2016-04-28 21.37.222016-04-28 22.16.35

 

 

Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs April 25, 2016

Filed under: Music,Podcasts,Pop Culture,Uncategorized — dwhren @ 12:21 pm

Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs is one of my new favorite podcasts. As you may have guessed it is in fact a podcast where hosts Mark Blankenship and Sarah D. Bunting talk about songs. It differs from the other music podcasts I listen to like Pitch (come back Pitch you’ve been gone too long), Switched on Pop, and Song Exploder because those podcasts tend to focus on the mechanics of the music or things having to do with music production and the music industry. Instead Mark and Sarah tend talk about what they think about a song and the use whatever the song they’re talking about is as a jumping off point for what it reminds them of. Sometimes it’s other songs or artists, but also where they were in their lives when they first listened to the song a lot and what was going on the culture at large at that point. I fall into their same general age range, so their cultural touchstones and age milestones tend to gel with mine.

The episodes post on Fridays, and their seventh episode went up this past week. I’ve been meaning to write about the podcast for several weeks now, but I hadn’t gotten around to it. Since they talked about a song I requested in the most recent episode I decided I should make time to throw them some love.

My request was for them to talk about Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”. I apparently wasn’t the only one who wanted to hear what they had to say because two other people also requested it. I think I still have a love for the song a little more than they do. Even though I’m 37 I still like to indulge my inner angsty 90s teen from time to time, and as they point out this song is pretty much nothing but that. I had fun listening to them talk about it though as well as the discussion that springboarded from it.

I used to love Mark Blankenship’s writing about music, but he hasn’t really been doing that in any consistent way for a long time now. I still miss it, but the podcast is sort of filling that hole. It’s not exactly the same, but I’m still super excited about it and happy to have it in my ears every Friday. Plus at about 20 minutes an episode it fits perfectly to fill up my hour at the gym when paired with Pop Culture Happy Hour which also posts on Fridays.

If you’re a music person like me I highly suggest checking it out.

 

Hamilton Take Two April 24, 2016

Filed under: Friends,Theatre — dwhren @ 9:38 am

Yesterday I took a day trip up to NYC to see Hamilton for a second time. I saw it with my mom when it first moved to Broadway back in July. At that point it had not yet become the national obsession that it is now, so I don’t think anyone even noticed or commented about it. Now I can properly make people jealous. 🙂

At some point back in the fall my friend Sarah said she wanted to take a trip from Minnesota to New York to see it. We had met in New York once previously to see Aladdin on Broadway, so I told her if she came out I would totally go with her. She managed to snag us tickets for yesterday and then we commenced waiting for many months. Yesterday it was finally time.

I think I might have loved it even more the second time. The first time I saw it I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was a hip hop musical about Hamilton and heard just a small piece of Lin-Manuel Miranda singing “Alexander Hamilton” from when he first sang it for President Obama. I had seen Miranda’s previous musical In the Heights, so I knew sort of what I was getting into with the musical style. I also knew that it had been a big hit off-Broadway, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Thus I’ve now gotten to experience it both going in cold and having seen it before and listening to the cast recording so many times it’s etched in my brain. I’m glad I was fortunate enough to see it both ways.

There are so many words to take in and so much going on on the stage that I think the first time I was just trying to keep up a little bit. This time around though I felt like I experienced it on a whole other level. It was also slightly different this time around because of the cast. Jonathan Groff left his role as King George III and Rory O’Malley has taken it over. That change didn’t actually seem that different to me. The sort of affected voice the king sings in sounded fairly consistent across both actors. The big difference was that Javier Muñoz played Alexander Hamilton instead of Lin-Manuel Miranda at yesterday’s matinee performance. Miranda had announced from the beginning of the run that Muñoz would be playing the role at one performance per week and they post the dates on the website, so we knew going in that was going to the case. Going in a small part of me was disappointed, but I figured hey Muñoz was in the role when President Obama saw Hamilton, so who am I to complain. In retrospect I’m kind of glad it happened that way because I think it’s part of what made certain things stand out to me more this time around.

Muñoz has a deeper voice than Miranda, so it definitely sounded different than the way the songs are burned into my brain making it much more noticeable to me the points at which Hamilton is the one singing. It turns out overall Burr is the role that sings the most and that Hamilton’s story is really being told by all the other people more so than by himself. It obviously makes sense because “who lives, who dies, who tells your story,” but that just really never registered with me before seeing it yesterday.

One of the things that’s emphasized throughout the show is how Hamilton was an orphan but you see how he sort of builds families in the army, in marrying into the Schulyer family, and in creating his own family. He doesn’t always  do right by any of them, but in the end these families are the ones who tell his story, and I was just really emotionally affected by it seeing it yesterday in a way that I wasn’t the first time I saw it. As I said I think I was about to be more present for what was coming across emotionally since I wasn’t having to concentrate so hard on what was being said.

Angelica Schuyler was still my favorite character (is it right to call a dramatized version of a historical figure a character?) and “Satisfied” is still my favorite song. I adore RenĂ©e Elise Goldsberry’s voice, and I looked forward to every time she had a song that brought her on stage. At the end of the show she did an awesome rap that she said she wrote to encourage people to give to Broadway Cares, Equity Fights AIDS on our way out of the theatre.

It’s such an amazing show. It really deserves every accolade that has been heaped upon it. I wish you all the good fortune to be able to see it.

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Bruce Springsteen at the Royal Farms Arena April 21, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 9:38 pm

It seems a little weird to be writing about a musician other than Prince today, but last night I went to see Bruce Springsteen in concert and I’m going to write about it. I bought tickets when they went on sale several months ago, but then my husband had to go out of town for work and couldn’t go. The tickets were expensive and more than I usually pay for concert tickets so I almost just thought about selling them and not going. Then I thought better of it. 2016 has already been really evil about taking away great artists, and Bruce Springsteen is getting up there in years. I decided if I didn’t see him last night, I might not get the chance to see him again. That was obviously hit home even further today with Prince’s death, so I’m glad I decided to go.

First though I have to tell you guys my dirty little secret. I don’t even really like Bruce Springsteen’s music very much. I never sit down and turn on Bruce Springsteen to listen to and probably 75% of the time I change the channel if I hear one of his songs on the radio. There are a few I legitimately like, but most I at best could take or leave.

However, he is the best person I have ever seen live. I bought my husband tickets to see him back in 2009 for our first anniversary (because you know concert tickets are made of paper). He was such an amazing performer I didn’t even care that I only really like a small portion of his music. Someone I follow on Twitter who apparently is also not a Springsteen fan tweeted something about not needing to sit through three hours of something he hates to know he hates it obviously in response to people saying he wouldn’t know until he saw Springsteen live. Normally I would agree with his argument, but having experienced it myself I also think he may be wrong.

I was very much looking forward to seeing Springsteen again because he is so fantastic live. He played for three hours straight with incredible energy. I hope I have that much energy when I’m in my 60s, but I don’t think I even have it now. He also more than anyone I know loves his fans and genuinely wants to give them the best and most meaningful experience at each show that he can.

It’s hard to talk about this concert for me without comparing it to the last time I saw him. I enjoyed this one much more in terms of the actual music played. This show was part of the the River Tour in which he was playing the River album all the way through at every show. During the last tour I saw him he was playing full albums as part of his set, but was changing it up at different shows. Baltimore got Born to Run, which I just don’t like at all. I know this is blasphemous to Springsteen fans, but deal with it. I like the River album infinitely more than Born to Run so that half of the concert was much better this time.

However at the previous concert he was a lot more engaged with the fans. Don’t get me wrong about this one. He was out in the crowd during a number of songs, he crowd surfed during Hungry Heart, pulled people up on stage during Dancing in the Dark, and let a couple come up on stage and get engaged leading into the song I Wanna Marry You. Yet the show was completely played from a set list, which is all well and good and what I generally expect from concerts except that at the last show he spent a good portion of it playing fan requests from signs in the crowd. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen at any other show, and I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t something that happened again last night.

Old curmudgeon Danielle has one more observation about what made last night’s concert not as good as the last one she saw in that in 2009 people were not taking selfies like they do now. Every person he brought up on stage insisted on taking a selfie with Springsteen. You know what is fun to watch? Fans enjoying themselves and having the moment of a lifetime with one of their idols. You know what is not interesting to watch? People shoving a camera in someone’s face and watching someone take 10 selfies in a row with people. Put your phones down and live in the moment for a change people.

I may have enjoyed the last show I saw slightly more than last night, but it was still an amazing concert. Those guys are still amazingly kicking it after all these years. I missed Clarence Clemons, but his nephew is doing great in his stead and they had a sweet montage of Clarence Clemons over the years during 10th Avenue Freeze Out. I would definitely pay to see Bruce Springsteen again any chance I got.

 

Tux in DC April 17, 2016

Filed under: Random,Uncategorized — dwhren @ 10:47 am

Last week was my husband’s last week of work at his job. After being forced to commute to DC since last October he found a new job that will let him work from home again. While he was working in DC though our Arizona nieces were impressed that he went to Washington D.C. every day. Since they live in Arizona places like Washington D.C. and New York City are these big cities they have never been to, but see on tv and in movies all the time and learn about in school and it seems very exotic to be going there. I try to tell them that my other niece and nephew live in New York City, but since they don’t know each other I still don’t think they really get it or understand how these other kids are related to me.

Anyway on Thursday, since it was Paul’s last day of work, I was taking a staycation, and it was a beautiful spring day, he played hooky after lunch and I went down to DC to meet him. He had promised my nieces he would send them postcards from DC, which he still hadn’t done at that point. He did do that, but also decided it would be fun to take around a little stuffed penguin that we always play with over Facetime with them and take photos in front of DC landmarks to send them. So we walked around and took lots of pictures of Tux in DC.

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San Fermin at the Ottobar April 16, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture,Uncategorized — dwhren @ 2:43 pm

Several months ago I saw that San Fermin was going to be playing Baltimore at the Ottobar. I thought I might like to go see them, but since I didn’t think I knew anyone that would want to go with me I didn’t get a ticket at the time. I don’t mind going to standing room only shows by myself so I decided that I would just get a ticket closer to the show if I felt like going alone. Then of course because it wasn’t on my calendar I sort of forgot about it. Luckily some friends saved me from myself. We were at a wedding together last weekend and they asked if I knew the band and told me they were planning on going and I should come. I’m so very glad they did because it was a great show.

I had never heard of the opening act, Esme Patterson, but I enjoyed her as well. She was a little bit rock and a little bit country. She played three songs from a concept album of songs written from the point of view of women in songs. The three she played were based on Townes Van Zandt’s Loretta, Dolly Parton’s Jolene, and The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. I’m curious to listen to the rest of the album and see who else she featured on it.

San Fermin is an eight piece band with some of the members playing instruments like the violin, the saxophone, keyboards, and trumpets. It makes for some almost orchestral sounding pop music. It’s also a lot of fun to watch them all up on stage. They bring a lot of energy to their performances. The drummer even managed to break a snare drum in the middle of the show last night, and they had to momentarily stop the performance while it was replaced. I’ve never seen something like that happen before.

They played a good mix of stuff from both of their albums plus three new songs. I really loved all the new stuff and it made me look forward to whenever their third album is released. I particularly adored the song “August” and can’t wait to hear it again. Their music has a lot of different nuances with some songs with a female vocal lead and some of them with male vocal lead and some songs more lyrical and poppy and others more instrumental. When a band has so many great songs of their own I hate to use one of their covers as an example, but they closed the show with a cover of the The Strokes’ “Heart in a Cage” last night and feel like it encompasses little examples of all the variations in their songs. Plus it’s just really fun to watch them play it. (The video is not from the show I was at.)

It was a really fantastic show, and I’ll definitely be going to see them again when I get a chance.

 

The Oh Hellos at Baltimore Soundstage April 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — dwhren @ 1:02 pm

Last night I went with a bunch of friends to see The Oh Hellos at Baltimore Soundstage with opening acts Super City and The Collection. I haven’t been to Baltimore Soundstage for several years. The last time I was there it was an entirely seated shows with tables and food service. I found it really annoying as a concert format and it sort of turned me off from the venue unless I was really dying to see someone. Either they’ve given up on that format or at least did for this show, which I was happy about. There were still some tables along the side and back you could pay more to sit at, but most of it was standing room only in the area of front of stage, which is much better. It was especially good for these bands who definitely want to make you dance around.

I had never heard of Super City before. They were 5 hipster looking guys. I wasn’t very excited about their music. I really only liked one of the songs that they played, but they were at least entertaining to watch.

The second opening band seemed the perfect complement to The Oh Hellos. They were a band called The Collection, though they themselves never said who they were. Don’t do that opening acts. Not everyone necessarily knows who you are and if they do like you and want to look more into you, don’t make it hard for them by never introducing yourselves. They’re definitely one of those bands that have been popular in certain segments of music these days that have lots of people who play tons of different instruments and play a sort of folky rock. I’m sure this sound will eventually seem very indicative of the 2010s, but for now I’m still very much enjoying it. There were I think 7 people in the band and most of them played a ridiculous number of instruments. I was especially fascinated by the one woman who at times was literally alternately playing a clarinet and saxophone at times even hold them at the same time and then stopping to play the keyboards. I have no musical talent, so I’m always impressed by people who can play lots of them. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone in a band that wasn’t a marching band play a clarinet. They were a ton of fun and just full of great joy up on the stage. The Oh Hellos bring so much energy to the stage and it was really fun that they had an opening band that brought the same level.

This was my first time seeing The Oh Hellos as a headliner. I first discovered them a couple of years ago at the Newport Folk Festival. They were my favorite set of that year. Pretty much every year at that festival my favorite set belongs to someone I had never heard of before. I can’t wait to see who I discover this year. But I digress. I immediately fell in love with them as did the rest of the audience, and it was one of those times that as soon as they were done playing I looked up to see when I might be able to see them again. I then saw them open up for needtobreathe, and again it was a delight to watch the friends that I was with as well as the rest of the crowd be completely won over by them.

Last night was a little different because the audience was there to see them. People were fired up from the start because they knew what they were getting. I do somewhat miss the fun of watching people have no idea what’s coming and then be blown away, but really I’m happy for The Oh Hellos that they are at a place where they can be the headliner and fill the room full of people who love them. As always they were amazingly fun. It’s great that they have two albums of music to pull from now. The first time I saw them they only had an EP. They did great mixing up the upbeat, wild dancing around the stage songs with the more quiet, introspective songs. They also played a good mix from both of their albums. They’re pretty much everything I love in a live performance. They are super into it and give everything 100%. Seriously with 9 of them up on stage, every time I see them I don’t understand how they’re not all crashing into each other during the times they’re just dancing and bouncing around the stage with wild abandon. As usual it was an amazingly fun show. They’ll be at Newport again this summer, and I can’t wait to see them again.

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