More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

The Cure at Merriweather Post Pavilion June 23, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 4:02 pm

If you have been a long time reader of this blog than you may recall that I have had a long time desire to see The Cure live. Last night I finally got to fulfill the dream I’ve had since way back when I first became aware of them way back when the song “Love Song” entered my life back in 1989. It’s a little disingenuous to say that I’ve wanted to see them in concert that long. I was only 11 then and if I was thinking about going to concerts back then, I probably would not have wanted to go to a Cure concert. In fact I probably would have been terrified to go to a Cure concert until I was much, much older. I’m not sure what I thought would happen at a Cure concert, but my goody-two-shoes, straight-laced self would have been scared to even think about what might happen in a place with that many goths. I was always attracted to characters that had that sort of sensibility, so I like to think I have sort of an inner goth. However, that was never going to be on the outside. First, being a goth takes way too much work. Second, see above about my actual personality, and even though I was attracted to characters like that real life goths would have freaked me out. So realistically it was much, much later in my life that I really wanted to see The Cure in concert, but I’ve loved their music for a long, long time.

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Alas by the time I really would have been old enough to see them live and had the money to do so, they weren’t so much with the touring in North America. They’ve had done a few one off dates here and there, but there haven’t been any big tours here in quite some time. They finally announced that they were going to do a tour in which they were going to play their first three albums in their entirety. That wouldn’t have been my first choice in what I wanted to hear, but I would have gone just to see them and eagerly awaited the announcement of those concert dates. The supposed time frame for that tour came and went and there were never any dates announced, but just when I started to give up hope a tour was ever going to happen they finally did announce this tour which was not confined to those albums and all was right with the world.

I knew going in that The Cure was never going to be a band that put on the kind of show that I love most where there is lots of audience interaction and other fun stuff that really make you feel like you’re experiencing something special. I knew they were going to be a band that got up on the stage and played their music and that’s what you were going to get, and it was. The little that Robert Smith interacted with the audience was completely lost on me anyway because I couldn’t understand 90% of what he said. I don’t know why because I had no problem understanding the lyrics when he was singing. When he was just speaking though it sounded like his words were going through a garbage disposal and I couldn’t figure out what he was saying. It’s actually not the first time I’ve had that experience at Merriweather, so I’m not sure if it was him, something with the way their sound system is set up, or a combination. At any rate I’m almost glad he didn’t interact with the audience more because I would have felt like I was missing out on something.

All that being said I had a marvelous time and am super, super glad I got to go. It lived up to every expectation I had for seeing them live. They played almost every song I would have wanted to hear save for “Friday I’m in Love”. I’m a little bummed about that, but hey I got every single other one, so I can’t complain too much for only missing one song from a band that has an extensive catalog of music to pull from. I sort of assumed that they were just playing the same set every night on the tour, but not so. I was curious if the sound restrictions at Merriweather that require a hard stop by 11 pm made us miss out “Friday I’m in Love” because they ran out of time, but I looked at their set lists from shows the previous week and they were different to some degree every night and only one of them included that song, so I guess it really just wasn’t in their plan for last night. Comparatively I’m really happy with the set we got, so I definitely won’t complain about that song.

They played for almost a full 3 hours, which was great. I love so much the rare occasions where I actually get to see a band play what I consider a full set. Three hours goes well beyond that, but these days with how if it’s not a festival they still try and pack at least 3 or 4 bands onto a bill meaning you get at best 90 minutes from the headliner. The Dixie Chicks played 2 hours on Saturday, and I thought that was great. So it was wonderful to get to hear them play for such a long time and really explore their catalog. My only complaint about that was that they literally started taking encores halfway through the show. They took their first encore 90 minutes into the set. There were a total of four. I’m already a curmudgeon about encores. I think they’re ridiculous and think people should just play what’s on their set list and dispense with this nonsense of going offstage, making the audience cheer for them, and them coming back for a few songs. The fact that we had to do this four times for The Cure was beyond stupid. Just stay on the stage and play 10 more songs and then if you must have one encore.

I generally don’t care that much about the lighting and whatever production design is going on at concerts. I’m there for the music and the show that the band is putting on. The background stuff is all incidental to me, but I actually did really appreciate the lights last night. Unlike the production at the Dixie Chicks concert I saw last weekend which seemed overdone and actually at times distracted from them, the lights at the The Cure did a perfect job of accenting the music. I guess they’ve had a long time to perfect that kind of thing.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect of the crowd. It was actually way less full of goths than I anticipated. I guess because many people have outgrown that. There were of course a lot of people my age and older, but some younger people as well. I guess they’re not so much into the goth thing these days. There were definitely some, but they were a minority of the audience for sure. I did see one guy with a tattoo of Robert Smith on his leg, which seemed a little crazy. He didn’t even stay for the whole concert, so that seemed a bit incongruous to me. I also really wanted to take the phone away from the guy in front of me and toss it in the garbage. He recorded a good chunk of the concert which was really annoying. I didn’t pay a lot of money to come watch a show through your cell phone screen. Rude!

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It was a really wonderful night, and something I’m glad I finally got to experience. That being said I’m not sure I feel compelled to ever see The Cure in concert again now that I’ve seen them, but I also don’t feel like I’ve spent the last couple decades of my life dreaming of something that didn’t live up to my expectations because it totally did.

 

38th Birthday Weekend June 19, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Friends,Life,Music,Travel — dwhren @ 5:23 pm

If the rest of my 38th year is as great as my birthday weekend, it’s going to be a fantastic year. My actual birthday was Saturday, but I took work off Friday to use up the rest of my vacation time and give myself a nice long birthday weekend. I started everything off getting to meet up with a good friend from college and her 3 year old daughter. In the time I’ve been in Baltimore she has lived off and on in the Baltimore/DC metro area a few times, but sadly moved away again last summer. She was back in town for a visit this weekend, so it worked out perfectly for us to meet up for breakfast on Friday morning. It was great to see her and the perfect way to start off the weekend.

Friday afternoon my husband and I headed up to Philly for the weekend for a weekend of concerts, which were my birthday present. With the hotel and concert tickets it was an expensive gift, but I’m pretty sure my husband would pay any amount of money for me to buy myself my own gift every year. I’m still waiting on that Christmas present from 2 years ago. Anyway, all the pieces fell into place for a perfect weekend, and the best birthday I’ve had since we got engaged on my 30th birthday.

What seems like forever ago now, The Cure announced that they were going to be playing in NYC on my birthday. I have been dying to see The Cure forever, which my husband knew so he agreed we could go as my birthday present. I didn’t manage to get tickets to that show, which I was sad about at the time but ended up being a blessing. A few weeks later they announced a full North American tour with a stop locally, which I got tickets to so I’ll still get to see them but it freed up my weekend for something else entirely.

The Dixie Chicks announced their first North American tour in a decade with a show in Philadelphia (technically Camden, NJ) on my birthday. I will be out of town for their DC show next week, but I hate that venue anyway so I’m much happier to go to Philly for a show anyway. So I got tickets for that show (I’ll refrain from a long, angry diatribe on the racket that is Ticketmaster and Live Nation being the same company that somehow resulted in me having to pay ticket resellers double face value for lawn tickets the day tickets went on sale via their website when later there wound up being swaths of tickets for sale from them for a show that was not in fact sold out and had people on Stubhub selling lawn seats for $6). Shortly after that they announced that Jason Isbell would be playing on Friday night with Frank Turner opening, so I decided we could make a whole Philly weekend of it. I was a little bummed that the show announced for Merriweather for Saturday night include Chris Stapleton co-headlining with Jason Isbell, but because everything was coming up roses for me a few weeks after I saw that we got notified that Chris Stapleton was added to the bill and the show had been moved to a larger venue. Perfect!

We stayed at the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill. Hotel rooms in summer in Philly ¬†are expensive, but I at least managed to find a rate that included free valet parking and free internet. The location also wound up being completely perfect for us. We were able to walk to Festival Pier for the concert Friday night, and while the Saturday concert was across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey there was a ferry we could take across the river a block from our hotel. I was really glad I did my research and saw that parking and traffic at BB&T Pavilion were terrible and cost $30 and found the ferry over as an alternative. My only complaint about the hotel was that our room overlooked I-95 so we had a lot of traffic noise. I’d definitely stay there again as long as they could guarantee me a room on a different side of the hotel.

I’ll write about the concerts themselves in separate blog posts since this entry is getting long already, and I know most of you don’t care to read about the concerts anyway. Saturday during the day we met up with my friend Erin and her family. They live just outside the city, so it was nice to get to see them while we were up there. They suggested meeting up at Spruce Street Harbor Park, which was again conveniently located just a few blocks from our hotel. It’s a little park along the waterfront that for the summer they put all these food stands, games, hammocks, bars, and seating in. Our original plan was to grab something from one of the food stands for lunch, but there wasn’t anything veggie friendly for my husband so we wound up eating inside the Hilton hotel restaurant, which was right there. After that we hung around in the park for awhile, then wandered around the city for a little bit and found a flea market to peruse. I haven’t yet mentioned how wonderful the weather was the whole weekend, but it was so it was a great day to spend outside with them.

It really was the perfect weekend. All the pieces fell into place, and I had such a wonderful time seeing music I love played live and getting to spend time with some wonderful friends and their great families. I wish every birthday could be this good.

 

70’s Music June 17, 2016

Filed under: Music — dwhren @ 11:09 am

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that WXPN is doing a themed Throwback Thursday every week this summer. Yesterday they were playing all music by 70’s singer/songwriters. Despite being born in 1978 and thus not being old enough to remember any of this music when it debuted, it is my jam more than any other music time period.

Supposedly people are most likely to believe the height of music occurred during their high school and college years and often stop really investigating much new music beyond that time period. That is far from the case for me. In this scenario my music would be from the 90s and early 2000s, and most of that music does nothing for me at all. I didn’t care much for it then, and I don’t care much for it now.

Instead starting in middle school I really started to listen to music from the 60s and 70s. I was exposed to a lot of this already through my parents music since that fits right into the music they should prefer based on their age, but I also had a music class in eighth grade that really made my friends and I start delving into the music of this time period. It was sort of a musicology/history of rock class, and I still think about it all the time all these many years later. Thanks Ms. Major (yes my music teacher’s name was Ms. Major) for helping to instill a love of music in me.

If you had any doubt that the music I love in high school was from the 60s and 70s let’s review the concerts I went to in high school: The Rolling Stones, Van Halen (twice), Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, and Aerosmith. Despite these more rock based bands being the concerts I went to, I also loved the more folk rock acts from this time. Much of the music I love today I think has deep roots in 60s and 70s folk rock.

It was a glorious day of music and definitely reminded me of how much I love that type of music. Everyone else my age can have their 90s music. I’ll stick with parents’ music instead.

 

Summer, Summer, Summertime June 16, 2016

Filed under: Simple Pleasures — dwhren @ 8:28 am

Last night I played kickball and then went and got ice cream with some friends. We were talking about what a perfect summer night it was. However, I also seem to know a lot of people who prefer winter to summer because they are insane. I hate winter and cannot wait for it to be over every year. I do admit I would like it if Baltimore could ever commit to having an actual spring, but we seem to like jumping straight from winter into hot, humid summers. As much as I would like some non-humid weather in the high 60s and 70s, I’ll take hot and humid over cold any day. This year was no exception to that as we spent most of May being cold and rainy before immediately jumping into the high 80s. Now that we’ve finally moved into warmer temperatures I can tell you how much happier I am. There are so many things to love about summer and I shall now list them for you in no particular order.

  1. More daylight.
  2. Not having to drag around coats, hats, scarves, and gloves.
  3. Sandals.
  4. Beaches and pools.
  5. Barbecues.
  6. Outdoor concerts.
  7. Ice cream cones.
  8. Ice cream sandwiches.
  9. Crabs.
  10. Al fresco dining.
  11. Gardens.
  12. Stone fruit.
  13. Berries.
  14. Street festivals.
  15. Just seeing people out and about.
  16. Picnics.
  17. Outdoor movies.
  18. Boat rides.
  19. Open windows.
  20. Sundresses.
  21. Fire pits.
  22. To quote a country song: Barefoot blue jean nights.
  23. Baseball games.
  24. Watermelon.
  25. Tomatoes.
  26. My birthday.
  27. Vacations.
  28. Sweet tea.
  29. Grilling.
  30. Fireflies.
  31. Flowers.
  32. Leafy trees.
  33. Blueberry pie.
  34. Walks in the park.
  35. Thunderstorms
 

Fun-Filled Weekend June 14, 2016

Filed under: Baltimore,Concerts,Friends,Music — dwhren @ 10:38 pm

I had a very full, but fun weekend this past weekend. It was so full that I even turned down a ticket to go see Flight of the Concords at Wolf Trap on Monday. I knew I was going to need to take Monday night as down time, and you guys know how much I love Wolf Trap.

This weekend was HonFest, which is one of the two big street festivals in my neighborhood every year. It’s my least favorite of the two festivals, but if I’m around it’s too close not to go to at least for a little while. We pretty much just walked around for a little bit and I got a fresh squeezed lemonade, which is my favorite thing about street festivals. You can’t beat that mound of sugar at the bottom of the cup. We also got to peek inside the Five and Dime Alehouse which is set to open in September.

Later that afternoon we headed out to the ‘burbs to celebrate a 2 year old’s birthday. It was just a small get together, which was nice. We bbq’d with some friends and played with their kids for awhile. Even though it was a little on the warm side it actually turned out to be a fairly decent day to be outside and was especially so once the sun started going down. After all the kids that didn’t live there had left some adults were still hanging out when our friends’ 4 year old son said to me you know the party is over don’t you. It is still cracking me up. He figured since all his friends were gone that we should leave too. It was a very nice evening.

Sunday morning I headed down to DC to meet up with some friends for brunch. Since Alison is always trekking up to Baltimore for stuff we decided we should probably head down to her in DC for a change. After brunch we walked around a bit and got some gelato for dessert. Then to get out of the heat we decided to wander around the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art, which was right near where we were. I hadn’t been in that particular museum when I was a kid, so it was nice to check out a small portion of it.

I capped the weekend off seeing Chvrches in concert at Rams Head Live with some other friends. I have a lot of awesome friends y’all. I’m still slightly confused by this concert, but very happy it happened. It was weird because the concert was only announced a couple of weeks ago, and then there was no opening act. I don’t remember the last time I went to a concert that wasn’t a huge name like Bruce Springsteen or Fleetwood Mac who both played for over 3 hours that didn’t have an opening act. Chvrches certainly played for much shorter than that. I’ve been pretty lucky at standing room only shows being able to see, but this concert not so much. If I stood in a very specific way I could see a small slice of the stage. I think some of the people I was with didn’t even get that. As always it was a really fun show anyway. I love Lauren Mayberry so much. I just want to put her in my pocket and carry her around with me. Chvrches is also at what I always consider to be the best part of their career in terms of live shows because with 2 albums out they have enough material to play a whole set of their music, but it also means they’re pretty much guaranteed to play whatever songs you want to hear no matter what.

It was a fun-filled weekend, but I’m pretty sure I needed another weekend with a lot more downtime to recover from it.

 

Lord Huron and Nathaniel Ratliffe and the Night Sweats at Wolf Trap June 9, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:08 pm

On Tuesday night I made my first trip down to Wolf Trap for a concert this summer. Hopefully it won’t be my last, but we’ll see. It’s no secret that Wolf Trap is one of my favorite music venues, and it’s a testament to how much I love it that I’m willing to deal with the awful DC and Baltimore rush hour traffic to go down there on a weeknight. It took me almost two hours on Tuesday, but totally worth it.

We had some rain earlier in the day and there was a chance for scattered storms all evening, so I was a little worried that we might get rained on. It turned out to just be a lovely evening. The only rain was about 5 raindrops which were just enough to create this lovely rainbow.

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The first opening act was an Australian band called Oh Pep! They were sort of folk rocky. I hadn’t ever really heard of them before the concert. They were enjoyable enough, but I’m not sure I liked their music enough to bother listening to it again.

The second opening band, who may actually have been co-headlining but I’m not sure, was Nathaniel Ratliffe and the Night Sweats. I first came across them at the Newport Folk Festival last year sort of accidentally. I wanted to go grab a burrito for lunch from a stand on the stage where they were playing and after I got over there I decided to stick around and watch them for awhile because from the bit I saw while waiting in line they seemed really fun. I only got to see a little bit of their set, but definitely decided they were a band to watch. Shortly after that is when S.O.B. started being played all over the place. They will be at Newport again this year, but having just seen them if they’re playing against someone else I want to see I won’t feel pressured to watch their set.

They were really great and so much fun. They play mostly soul music with a real James Brown kind of vibe to it and Nathaniel Ratliffe has some of the dance moves to match. I was really in love with the trumpet player though who was just jamming, dancing, and grooving through the whole show. If you ever get the chance to see them live I highly recommend it.

The headliner was Lord Huron, which apparently much of the audience was confused about or didn’t care for? I don’t know. It was the weirdest crowd experience I think I’ve ever had at a concert. The people in front of us literally got up and were leaving after Nathaniel Ratliffe until someone else told them there was another band. I’m so confused how they could have bought concert tickets without knowing who the headliner was. They stuck around for the set change and then about a song and half before actually leaving. By about halfway through Lord Huron’s set a whole large swath of lawn around us was completely empty. Maybe we smelled really bad and we didn’t know it? It was very strange. Lord Huron’s set may not have been as energetic as Nathaniel Ratliffe’s and it wasn’t even the best I’ve seen him play, but it certainly didn’t warrant so many people leaving. It was very strange.

I really like Lord Huron and have really enjoyed seeing them a couple of times at Newport, but I do think I would have enjoyed this set better if it had come before Nathaniel Ratliffe. The fact that it wasn’t as high energy seemed like a bit of a let down. I still really enjoyed it though and it’s definitely some great music to chill out to on a summer night. Sadly they didn’t play my favorite song, “She Lit a Fire”, but leaving Wolf Trap while scanning through radio stations I stumbled across some random station I didn’t know playing this song. The station promptly turned into static as soon as I got on the exit ramp leaving the park. I’m pretty sure Lord Huron magically took over my radio to play me that song to make up for not playing it during the show.

It was once again a lovely evening at Wolf Trap. Hopefully I’ll make it back down again at some point though sadly it doesn’t appear it will be next week for the Lake Street Dive show with The Lone Bellow opening.

 

 

High School Reunion at the O’s Game June 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — dwhren @ 8:54 pm

Last night I met up with my friend Tina and her husband at the Orioles game. They were in town visiting Baltimore for the weekend and wound up settling on the O’s game as a place to meet up while they were here. Tina is one of my friends from high school who I’ve kept in touch with over the years despite us not living in the same place since we graduated. Facebook certainly helps with that of course.

I said it was our own personal 20 year high school reunion because as hard as it is for me to believe our 20 year high school reunion is this summer, but neither of us is going. We graduated with 1300 people and neither of us has any connections that would warrant us going back to Texas at this point. So I don’t feel the need to pay a bunch of money to fly to Dallas and get a hotel just to go to a reunion where I might not even wind up knowing anyone if I went. This was much better.

It actually wound up being the second O’s game I went to in a week, which is not normal for me. We usually go to one or two a season, definitely not two a week. It’s like I’m not even me anymore. But don’t worry starting Tuesday I’m going to 5 concerts in two weeks, so I’ll be back to my normal in short order.

Despite the fact that the O’s lost it was a fun night. The weather turned out to be really great, and that’s one of the best things about going to a baseball game in my opinion is just getting to be outside on a beautiful night for a few hours. Sadly the O’s lost, but at least they kept it interesting at the end. Of course it seemed like was going to be a blowout the first 2/3 of the game, but the O’s scored 6 runs in the 7th inning in very exciting fashion. Sadly it wasn’t enough and that was really their only good inning. Oh well.

I was also amused by a guy sitting one section over from us. He definitely had a few screws loose, but apparently not so much that he couldn’t afford some pricy seats at Camden Yards. He was dressed in a plaid flannel shirt under an O’s jersey with an O’s hat on, but was walking around with a plastic Nationals’ microphone and every time there was a substitution in the lineup he would make a big announcement to the section he was sitting in and then the section we were sitting in about who it was. He would finish that off by telling us that he was going to drink some ridiculously large number of beers followed by a large number of shots after the game. I believe the final tally was 188,000 beers followed by 18 shots of Smirnoff vodka and then in his final announcement added that he was going to marry 54,000 women. He also loudly announced “Ladies and Gentlemen I’m out”, when he left during the 9th inning. He definitely made things interesting.

It was definitely a fun evening.