St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Rams Head Live

Last night I went to see St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Rams Head Live. The opening act was a band called Valley Queen, which I was unfamiliar with prior to the show. They were a low key rock band. It’s not any music I would ever bother to listen to on my own, but I didn’t hate it. Plus I’m always happy for more female fronted rock bands, which they are.

I had seen St. Paul and the Broken Bones at the Newpork Folk Festival, but this was the first time I had seen them in a concert of their own. It turns out that maybe I don’t like St. Paul and the Broken Bones as much as I thought I did. At their heart they are a soul band and I really like that part of their sound, which all the singles they’ve released from their three albums decidedly are. I actually don’t think I ever fully listened to their second album, so I’m not sure what the songs from that album are like. I have listened to their most recent album a couple of times and did know that it had a bit more of an experimental sound that I liken to soul but with a 70s synth space age sound. I didn’t mind it as background noise while I work, but it turns out I wasn’t super into listening to it played live while I didn’t have anything else going on. There were a couple of times when Paul Janeway, the lead singer left the stage and the band just played by themselves, which I wasn’t super into. Overall the band was into the show, the crowd was into it, I just wasn’t into it. Oh well. When you go to as many shows as I do they can’t all be winners.

As an interesting side note apparently Paul Janeway took his now wife to a concert at Rams Head Live when they first started dating. He told that story last night and it’s made me super curious ever since given that they are from Alabama, and it makes me wonder how they wound up at a concert in Baltimore when they had just started dating. I supposed I will never know.

New Music Friday: Love Gone Wrong by Lula Wiles

Lula Wiles put out their sophomore album, What Will We Do, at the end of January. I first heard it and fell in love with it when NPR Music had it as one of their First Listen albums before its release. The first song on the album is a hauntingly beautiful folk song about staying with someone and going through the motions even after the love is gone because there never seems to be the right time to actually leave either. Their harmonies are wonderful and bring a great depth to the song. Go have a listen.

 

New Music Friday: Moderation by Florence + the Machine

Florence + the Machine dropped a couple of new songs at the end of January. I somehow missed that until this week, but I figure now I can write about one of them in conjunction with purchasing tickets to see her in concert this summer at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I don’t really have much to say about the song except it sounds like a Florence song with its sort of sweeping melodies and background chorus. It’s going to be another great song for her to swirl around the stage to. I can’t wait until June.

Philly Trip

My husband and I took an overnight trip to Philly a couple days ago. While I look for concerts I want to go to in the DC-Philly corridor, he looks for computer security conferences. In this case our desires aligned. He told me he planned to go up to Philly for a conference and it just so happened to coincide with the night Dawes was playing in Philly. I had seen them at Wolf Trap last summer, but had left wanting much more as I felt like their set got cut short because of Wolf Trap’s curfew and Shovels & Rope playing longer than I think they should have as one of the openers. So I was eager to see them again and when I realized that I could ride up with my husband and drag him to the show I put that plan into motion.

We drove up early Friday morning and I dropped him off at his conference and then went to see if I could check into our hotel super early. They didn’t have any rooms available so I just dropped off the car and my stuff and wandered around for awhile. It was cold and snowing the whole day, so it wasn’t the best weather to walk around in but the wind wasn’t blowing so it wasn’t completely terrible either. I wound up sitting in Barnes & Noble for awhile reading to kill time before my first plans for the day.

It eventually dawned on me after I made these plans that I was going to be in Philly on a Friday afternoon. I have mentioned here on more than one occasion my love for WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania radio station. It’s what I listen to at work all the time, and every Friday they do a Free at Noon concert. I have obviously never been able to go in person, but as soon as I put two and two together I put this concert on my schedule for the day. They only announce who’s playing about a week beforehand and then open up the site for claiming your free tickets to it. I would have gone no matter who was playing, but I was pleased that it wound being Amy Helm who I like. She’s the daughter of the drummer from The Band, Levon Helm. She sang a lot with him and did a lot of backup singing, but now has two albums of her own out. My favorite song off the new album is actually a cover a Milk Carton Kid’s song “Michigan”. I was hoping she would play it and it was by far the best song of the performance. The whole thing was great though. She went from playing the mandolin to the keyboards and then just singing sweet harmonies in an acapella hymn with one of her band mates.

It was great to actually be in the room for a change instead of just streaming it from my office. I felt weirdly overly surrounded by old, white guys though. I finally decided it was because that’s who has time to be at a concert in the middle of the day, a bunch of old retired white guys. Some day I’d like to be able to do it again, but that’s obviously not going to happen any time soon.

After grabbing some lunch I headed to the Mutter Museum. It had been on my list for a long time, but was just something I had never gotten around to doing any of the other times I’ve been in Philly. My husband was mad that I was going without him, but I told him afterwards that I’m glad I wasn’t with him. I read most of what’s on museum placards, but I’m also a fast reader and do skim some of the finer details. He will literally read every single word on every single item on a display case. I probably would have been done an hour before him if we were together. If you’re not familiar with the Mutter Museum, it’s located at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and is a collection of medical specimens, equipment, and models collected by Dr. Thomas Dent Mutter. It was an interesting collection and I’m glad I went, but I don’t feel the need to ever go again.

Friday night we obviously went to the Dawes concert, which is what I went to Philly for. Every so often Dawes likes to do tours where they do a bunch of An Evening with Dawes shows, meaning that there’s no opening act and you just get them playing for 2 and half to 3 hours. It was my first time at the Fillmore Philly. If I ever go again I might pay extra money to get premium seats in the balcony. It’s a 2, 500 standing room only venue aside from a few elevated seats in the back of the main level and the seats in the balcony. I pretty much can’t see much at SRO shows unless I’m all the way up front, which doesn’t happen often. I’ve generally found if I can get far enough the back if it’s not a completely sold out show then I can see over the crowd, but if this wasn’t sold out it was close to it so even though I did stand as far back as I could I couldn’t get enough distance between me and people in front of me. I wasn’t completely out of luck, but I could pretty much never see more than one band member at a time depending on how the crowd moved and how I was craning my neck. Dawes was great as usual. I was happy to get to hear them play or a good long time. I was hoping that they would play my favorite song off of their new album, Passwords, but I figured it was a long shot and sadly they didn’t. That was my only real disappointment with the night. It seems like they’ve decided on the three songs their going to play from that album, and “Mistakes We Should Have Made” isn’t one of them. I always hate when I fall hard for a song that’s deep into an album that I know a band is never going to play live unless somewhere down the line they do a show where they play all the way through an album. Overall it was a good night though and worth going up to Philly for.

Saturday morning we met up with my friend Erin and her family for brunch at a place in Logan Square called Urban Farmer. If you’re ever in Philly and looking for some place to eat near the Franklin Institute, The Barnes Foundation, or even the Philadelphia Museum of Art I would recommend this place. The brunch food was great, so I’ll go ahead and assume their other meals are as well. I had brioche French toast with hazelnut butter and cranberry compote and some of the best breakfast sausage I can remember eating any time recently. It was of course great to catch up with my friends too. I’m glad we get to see each other generally at least once a year and sometimes more since Philly isn’t that far away. Who knew when we met in 8th grade and only living in the same city for 2 years that we’d still be friends and hanging out when we were 40.

Our final stop before heading back to Baltimore was the The Barnes Foundation. We wound up getting some hotel deal that was a partnership with the Visit Philly tourist bureau whereby participating hotels offered guests free parking, 2 tickets to the Barnes, a Lyft credit, a coupon for $20 off at some restaurant and 2 free ice skating coupons. We were mostly in it for the free parking because parking in downtown Philly is super expensive and most places don’t give you in and out privileges with your car which makes the parking rates rack up even more if you go in and out of the garage. We actually wound up picking our hotel partly based on the fact that the hotel had valet parking that gave you in and out privileges since we knew we wanted to drive to the concert. The valet experience was kind of annoying since it wasn’t run by the hotel and I wound up dealing with trying to drop the car off and get it back out again right at morning and evening rush hour with people parking their for work. At any rate the deal save us $50 in parking. The bonus for us was the 2 free tickets to The Barnes. I had just gone back in August, so I wouldn’t have bothered to go again this soon but I figured we shouldn’t pass up the free tickets. It was actually interesting to go back because even in these few short months since I had been there they had rolled out a whole new digital experience that was very cool. The museum is laid out so that everything is hung as it was in Albert Barnes’ original home, so there are no labels on anything on the wall. There are paper booklets in each room that will give you the title and artist of everything, but they have now created a digital site you can use on your phone. You just pull up the site and then take photos of the art and it will pull up information about it on your phone. Sometimes it’s just the bare facts about the piece, but other times there is a lot more context about the artist, art, or it’s place in the collection. I did have to catch myself to make sure I was actually looking at the art too and not just staring at my screen, but for the most part I thought it was great and really added to the experience. As my husband said it has now ruined him for all other museums. He of course also wanted to be able to dig into the code and find out how everything worked.

It was an excellent couple of days in Philly, and I’m glad I turned my husband’s one day conference into a fun overnight trip for us.

 

 

New Music Friday: Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend

 

I went back and forth this week about what song I wanted to post about. I thought about one of the songs from the out of nowhere record by Better Oblivion Community Center, which is a collaboration between Phoebe Bridgers and Connor Oberst, but ultimately I decided I don’t love that as much as I would like to. I still adore Phoebe Bridgers and love her collaborative spirit and have many thoughts on who I want her to collaborate with next, but I for whatever reason have never really cared for Connor Oberst even though you’d think I would. So I think his presence is dragging this down for me.

I also thought about the new song “Front Porch” by Joy Williams who was one half of the beloved and sadly gone too soon Civil Wars. She put out a more pop oriented album after they broke up that I didn’t really get into, but this song seems to indicate a return to the more folk/Americana vibe that I think suits her better.

But ultimately I decided on Vampire Weekend’s new song “Harmony Hall”, which The Atlantic called thrillingly uncool. I’m pretty sure that just makes The Atlantic sound like idiotic hipsters. I have very little to actually say about this song. I have never really been a Vampire Weekend fan for no particular reason. They are just never a band I ever really listened to. I know the band name, but I could not name you a single one of their other songs. I have no idea if I even like any of them. I do like this song and it’s bright jangly sound. It seems like a good antidote to the bleak mid-winter. And that’s about all I have to say about that.

I usually try to embed the YouTube/Vevo versions of songs here in case anyone reading doesn’t have Spotify, but the video for this song is nothing but insects and it’s horrifying if you don’t like insects so I am not unwittingly subjecting anyone to that. Feel free to go find it on your own if you want.