Last Week Delight

It’s time to talk about the things that brought me delight last week. Let’s get to it.

  • Staycation. I had to use up some vacation time, so I mostly spent last week on staycation. I basically watched tv, read, listened to music, and hung out with my cat. It was lovely.
  • Finding missing flamingos. If you follow me on Instagram you know that since January 2021 I have been posting a daily flamingo picture in my Insta Stories of all the flamingos that people have in their yards in my neighborhood. I’ve been doing it for almost a year and three months and haven’t run out of flamingos yet. People add new flamingos all the time and if they’re similar to other ones I have a hard time knowing if I already posted them or not, but someone else recently shared two photos of flamingos that were very distinctive on a neighborhood Facebook page and I knew I didn’t have them. I literally started rewalking every street in my neighborhood to try and find them and was striking out. It was driving me crazy that I couldn’t find them, but last week I finally found both of them. Now I can sleep at night.
  • Maillard Patisserie. There’s been a location in my neighborhood that for maybe the last decade has been rotating series of donut shops, none of which I ever really cared for. The last one closed at the end of last year and a few weeks ago a place called Maillard Patisserie opened up. I’m obsessed. It’s so good. It’s going to make me very fat and very poor because it is also not cheap. They have the best almond croissants I have ever had. And every time I go in there I walk away with multiple things. It’s dangerous.
  • 2 and half pancakes on the street. Sometimes living in a city means walking by things like 2 and a half pancakes lying in the middle of the sidewalk and living with the unanswerable question of how they got there.
  • Gonzaga losing in the NCAA tournament. Now you wouldn’t think Gonzaga losing would bring me delight since I had them picked to win in my basketball pool. However, Gonzaga is my bracket nemesis. They screw me over year. If I take them far in the bracket they lose. If I don’t pick them to go very far they win. It never fails. I even said to my husband when I picked them that I should apologize to everyone who was picking Gonzaga to win because their brackets are doomed. So it brought me a certain amount of satisfaction that they are still my nemesis and our adversarial relationship lives on.
  • Amos Lee on Instagram Live. I’ve written more than once on this blog about Amos Lee doing concerts on Instagram Live every Thursday for the first full year of the pandemic. Every once in awhile when he feels like it or is trying to promote something he’ll pop back on and do one and usually do a fundraiser for some charity while he’s at it. This week he did one to encourage people to come out and see him on the tour he’s getting ready to start and he also raised over $5,000 for Doctors without Borders.
  • Advanced Reader’s Copies of Books. Due to the fact that I’m a librarian there are a couple of websites I can get advanced reader’s copies of some books from. I always get super excited when a book I already know that I really want to read shows up. This week that happened with Zachary Levi’s forthcoming memoir, Radical Love.
  • Seeing a friend after multiple years. This past weekend I went to NYC to see a couple of Broadway shows, which in and of itself was a major delight, but while I was in town I got to meet up with a friend who lives there who I hadn’t seen since pre-pandemic. It was really nice to be able to catch up in person. It’s been so weird the past few years there are not an insignificant number of friends in Baltimore I really haven’t seen since the pandemic started, but then there are other friends who I’ve gotten much closer to. I don’t know how all my post-pandemic friendships will shake out, but I’ll relish getting to reconnect with those friends that I do.
  • Speaking of going to NYC, instead of taking the train like normal my friend and I drove up because I wanted one less vector of potential contagion. I wasn’t really looking forward to driving in Manhattan traffic, but I needn’t have worried because there was none. I mean I didn’t have to drive that far in the city to get to the parking garage we were parking in, but still. The streets were virtually empty of cars at the points we were driving. Downtown Baltimore has had way more traffic than I experienced in Manhattan on this trip.
  • Bagels and Black and White cookies. There are two things that I always have to eat when I go to NYC, bagels and black and white cookies. I have never bought into the fact that people claim the only good pizza is in NYC. I literally can’t tell the difference between pizza there and any other greasy slice you can get anywhere else in the country. It’s probably partly because I don’t particularly care for that style of pizza, so it all tastes not great to me. However, you will never convince me to buy into that theory. I will however die on my sword saying that bagels in NYC are better than other places. I won’t say that you can’t get a good bagel anywhere else, but I’ll just say they’re hard to come by. Too many places just make bagel shaped bread that doesn’t have the right chew. So I always have to treat myself to a whole wheat bagel with strawberry cream cheese, which is my standard bagel order in New York. Every bagel place in New York can offer me this combination. I don’t know of any place in Baltimore. I would also always get a black and white cookie from Zaro in Penn Station to eat on the train home. Since we didn’t take the train this time I just grabbed a black and white cookie at the bagel place we went to. Alas, it was not as good as Zaro’s cookie, but I’ll be happy about eating getting to eat one in principle.

Back to Broadway Baby

In April of 2020 my friend Jenny and I had tickets to see Company on Broadway. I was super excited to see it because it was a gender flipped production that originally premiered in the West End, and it’s the first show I ever considered flying to London to see. So I was super happy when they announced a Broadway run. Then COVID happened and the show had to shut down before it officially opened. They refunded our tickets, and it was unclear if the show would ever return.

Jenny, another friend Sarah, and I also had purchased tickets in August of 2019 to see The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in November of 2020. We joked about how long it was going to be before we actually got to see the show. Little did we know. That show they never refunded our money, they just kept rescheduling it. I think we rescheduled it three times with the final date for this past weekend. When it finally seemed like that date was going to stick and Company announced that they were going to reopen and put tickets back on sale we decided to rebuy the tickets for the same weekend, make it a two show day, and stay overnight instead of doing a day trip.

As you know if you know anything about me, I have been super cautious during COVID due to my immunocompromised status and have pretty much done very little in the past few years. This was the biggest thing I have done since the pandemic started. I’m glad these tickets were happily timed in the lull that it seems we’re going to get between Omicron variant surges. Hopefully the semi-low case rate plus keeping my N95 plastered to my face pretty much any time we weren’t in our hotel room or when we were eating outside kept me safe. Our friend Sarah decided she wasn’t ready yet to do something involving that many people which I get, but luckily my friend Jenn who lives in New York City agreed to take those tickets so they didn’t go to waste. Plus it meant that I got to hang out with her for the first time in two and half years which I was very happy about.

Music Man was enjoyable. I thought Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster brought a good, fun energy to their roles and had good chemistry together. The ensemble was really good. I also forgot how fond I am of all the songs in a Music Man. I very much enjoyed the show, but it was nothing groundbreaking for sure. It’s the Music Man as the Music Man ever was. I kind of like that my first show back was a classic though.

While I liked the Music Man, I absolutely adored Company. As I mentioned earlier this is a somewhat gender flipped revival of the 1970 Sondheim musical. Bobby, the central character of the show, who is usually a man was a woman in this production played by Katrina Lenk. Thus the three characters that Bobbie dates in this production were gender flipped to male. They also turned the couple Paul and Amy into a gay couple Paul and Jamie. I think all the changes worked really well. As the show is about a character turning 35 and feeling pressured by their friends and society to be married, I saw some people saying making Bobbie a woman was going to not read very well in this day and age. I didn’t feel that way at all though. I just felt like the show was a commentary on the good and bad of marriage and relationships and figuring out what that means in your own life.

In addition to the gender flipped aspect of it, I was also really keen on seeing this production because Patti Lupone has been starring as Joanne in it both in the West End and now on Broadway. Patti Lupone is Broadway royalty, and I had never seen her in a live production until now. She’s 72, so she’s getting up there in age and it’s unclear how many more chances I would have had to see her. Luckily she survived getting COVID a few weeks ago and was back in the show in time for our show. I would have been so disappointed if she hadn’t been there.

I wish that I had seen another actual production of Company prior to this one, so that I had a reference point for how it’s been staged before. I’ve seen the D.A. Pennebaker documentary Original Cast Album: Company about the recording of the original cast album. There was a staged concert production for the New York Philharmonic in 2011 that they filmed and released in movie theaters for a few showings as part of those Fathom events that Jenny and I went to see, but it wasn’t a fully staged production so it still didn’t give me a full sense of how it’s been staged in the past. I’m just very curious because I thought the staging for this production was fantastic and very clever. The number “Getting Married Today” was particularly amazing. I loved the whole thing and am so very glad that COVID did not ruin my chance to see it but just delayed it for a little while.

It was so great to be back in New York City after so long. I’m used to going several times a year, so this was a long break for me, and I realized how much I missed going up there. Despite some COVID precautions like wearing a mask constantly and not eating inside despite the lousy weather, it felt almost like a normal thing which is something I haven’t felt in a very long time.

New Music Friday: Made Up Mind by Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt put out a new single, “Made Up Mind” a few weeks ago, the first from her forthcoming album, Just Like That…, due out on April 22. I actually don’t have much to say about it except that I really like it. It sounds like a Bonnie Raitt song and at this point that’s pretty much what I’m looking for from Bonnie Raitt. I have tickets to see her in concert later this year. I’ll be interested to hear her play stuff from the new album live.

On Becoming a Vinyl Person

I’ve talked on this blog previously about how I really identify with the radio station, WXPN’s slogan “Vinyl at Heart” because I have always felt like with my love of my music being what it is that I should be a vinyl person, but I never have been. Until now.

I’m old enough to remember when vinyl was a thing the first time around. I remember having a little Fisher Price record player that I played little storybook records on. There were little picture books that came with little records in the back and you would play them and they would read the story to you. I remember my parents’ record collection, though I was too young to have ever had the experience of buying my first record. By the time I got my first album it was on cassette. There is something about owning a physical object. I remember my first cassette album (Madonna’s True Blue) and my first CD (Salt-N-Pepa’s Black’s Magic), but I couldn’t tell you the first album or song I downloaded from Napster or iTunes or streamed on Spotify. But digital music made it so much easier to get music and carry around a lot of it with you. So I moved on with the times and the formats. Listening to vinyl eventually developed a certain cache that I aspired to, but it never seemed practical and I am a very practical person.

There were a number of things that coalesced at the same time that have finally made me a vinyl person, at least for now. I did already have a couple of albums lying around that I had gotten as gifts from various WXPN fund drives. Then I supported a kickstarter for Christopher Paul Stelling’s album, Forgiving It All, last year. I didn’t actually give at a level that got me an LP because I didn’t have a record player hooked up to play it on, but I did do the bonus add-on where I also got some artwork from him in addition to the digital download and t-shirt. When the t-shirt and artwork came he had also thrown in an LP for free. So my collection was already growing.

I also started getting attracted to all the new pretty, colorful vinyl that they make now. I’m not sure if I would be as interested in vinyl if it was all just still plain black. I really liked the way the Hiss Golden Messenger holiday album that came out last year looked, and that sort of tipped me over the edge into wanting to have a way to play some vinyl.

This was about the time that we were finishing up our kitchen renovation/half-bath addition. My husband, who is a pack rat, had moved a bunch of stuff out of our basement into storage so that the contractor would have easy access to the pipes. One of the things that he brought back from storage was his old 1980s record player that had just been gathering dust in our basement. So I told him he should hook it up. Here’s where he makes fun of me, and it becomes evidently clear that I am not a real vinyl person.

We have Sonos speakers throughout the house. I wanted to be able to play the vinyl through the speakers because I wanted to be able to listen to it anywhere and not just in the dining room where the record player currently lives. The Sonos component that would let you add a record player to the system was like $800, so I found him a hack with a Raspberry Pi and put him to work creating that for me for way cheaper. A lot of people claim to like vinyl because it’s analog and not compressed like listening to digital music like CDs or streaming, while I’m over here taking my analog music and making it digital so I can stream it to my speakers. I don’t care. I cannot tell the difference. For someone who loves music so much, I do not have a very discerning ear. I once did a quiz that asked you to tell the difference between music at different compression rates. It had to get pretty compressed before I could tell the difference. I mean like I can tell the difference between listening to music over our Echo Dot versus the Sonos speakers, but then ask me how much I care. I’m a monster I know.

So now I have a record player set up and am slowly building a record collection. The first thing I did was go out and buy the The Cure’s Disintegration on LP because that of all albums has been the one in my life that has felt most wrong to not own on vinyl. And now when artists release new albums I want to own I’ve started buying them on vinyl instead of in a digital format (yes I was one of the few people left on the planet still buying digital albums instead of just streaming them via some streaming service). As I’ve mentioned I really like buying the pretty colored versions even if it costs me a few dollars more than the plain, black vinyl.

I have discovered that another way I am not a true vinyl person is that I do not have that collector’s gene. I never have. Not for anything, and this is not changing that. I don’t spend my time trying to fill in holes in my collection somehow, and I refuse to pay any kind of markup for people reselling stuff. When I got all this stuff set up, I had just missed the window on buying the new War on Drugs album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, on colored vinyl. You could still get the plain black one, which I did, but the only way buy the colored versions at that point were to pay re-sellers at an incredible markup. Since vinyl is obviously a limited thing, there are lots of albums that if you don’t get them during the initial pressing, you’re out of luck. I’ve looked into a couple of those and again refuse to buy them if they’re not priced in the range of other LPs. I’m not a good collector like that.

I am enjoying listening to my vinyl though. It is fiddly, and not nearly as convenient as listening to digital music. That is part of what I’m enjoying about it though. I think it’s helping me channel some of my music energy during the pandemic when I still can’t go to concerts like I would like to, and I’m still spending way more time at home where I do have time to just sit and put records on. I do have questions about how when one day I hopefully do get to reenter the world more if I’ll still be this much into the vinyl. I do appreciate though how it’s making me listen to full albums again and actually relisten to things multiple times. There’s so much music out there that I often buy albums that I only listen to a couple of times, but with a finite record collection I have to listen to things more than I might have otherwise. I do wish that the record player were say next to my couch so I could just lean over and flip the record instead of having to get up and and walk into the dining room. But alas there is no room in the living room. At least it gets me up off the couch way better than my Fitbit buzzing at me ever has.

I’m never going to be the stereotypical vinyl person hanging out in record stores geeking out over records, but I am appreciating dipping my toe into the vinyl world and getting back to listening to music in a way I haven’t in a long time and that I realize now that I missed.

Last Week Delight

It’s time again to take a look at some of the things that have been bringing me small moments of joy over the past week.

  • The sunrise. With the time change I’m back in the sweet spot where I got out for my morning walks in the dark and get to watch the sunrise, sort-of. Due to all the trees and buildings around I don’t have a clear view of the horizon, so unless there’s a lot of good wispy clouds I don’t actually get much of an actual sunrise. It makes a extraordinary sunrise a rare occurrence, but it does happen. It did a couple of times this past week. Laura Lippman (Baltimore-based crime novelist, if you’re not familiar with her) has also taken up a morning walk since the pandemic started. Even though she has no idea who I am, I feel like we’re walking buddies, walking about the same time every morning on opposite ends of the city. She lives in south Baltimore and walks along the water and has a nice view of the sun rising over the city every morning. She posts daily photos of the sun rising across the water by the Domino Sugar sign. I’m always slightly jealous of her sunrises, but I’ve also come to appreciate that mine are a little bit more special because they don’t happen very often.
  • The morning moon. On the flip side, I do often get to see the morning moon on my walk. I don’t know if Friday morning’s moon was a full moon, but if it wasn’t it was awfully darn close and it was spectacular. Really one of the most incredible morning moons I’ve seen. It was big and bright and as the sun started to rise and it started to set it just seemed to get even closer and larger. At one point I turned a corner and a woman was just standing in the middle of the sidewalk not moving. Usually when I see that it’s because someone has a dog they’re waiting for to finish its business, but she had no dog. I was walking towards her and she was just still standing there and then pointed behind me. I turned around and wasn’t sure what she was pointing at. Then I got closer and she said to me, look at the moon. She was just standing there marveling at it as I had done earlier. I appreciate that she was just taking the time to stop and enjoy what a wonderful sight it was and trying to share it with others.
  • Kids running to school. During my morning walk I walk past the local elementary/middle school. The end of my walk normally corresponds to people dropping their kids off at school, so I pass a lot of walkers. There’s a number of houses on one street that have some elementary age kids about the same age, and I like watching them pop out of their houses and as they move down the street have more people join them. The kids will run as fast as they can until the get to the next intersection where they wait for the parents to catch up to cross the street and then they’re off again. I’m sure their teachers appreciate that they’re getting some of that energy out before heading into class.
  • Driving with the windows down. We had some beautiful spring weather last week, which meant I got to drive home from work with the windows rolled down. There’s only really a few times a year in Baltimore where it’s not too cold or too hot to make that feel like a realistic thing to do. I always like when I get to do it and when you’re driving by lots of other people doing it to and you can hear little bits of what everyone is listening to in their cars.
  • Tiny work triumphs. It’s always nice to feel a sense of accomplishment at work. I solved a tech problem that someone else tried and failed to figure out. I hate being responsible for technology because there’s always too many problems, but I do like the nice little serotonin boost that comes with solving a problem you didn’t know how to fix. I also had a really good class this week. I’ve never taught this session in person before. The professor invited me for the first time in the spring of 2020 and the beginning of the pandemic derailed that. I wound up just recording myself and they apparently watched it on their own or not. Last year I taught it online, and unsurprisingly the students were not super engaged. I didn’t know how things would go finally teaching it in person, but it was great. The students were super engaged and asked lots of good questions.
  • Baltimore has lots of issues with staffing the Department of Public Works since the pandemic started. We’ve gone through periods where they have suspended household collection of recycling completely, and now since omicron they’ve scaled back to recycling pick-up every other week. Some people are suspecting that this is going to be a permanent change. I hope not. But anyway, someone in my neighborhood created a website for people to check if it’s their week for recycling because it’s hard to remember. I like when people create stuff like this just because they can and want to try and be helpful.
  • Arabbers on my street. If you’re not from Baltimore I know you have no idea what an Arabber is, but they are street vendors who go around Baltimore selling fruits and vegetables from horse drawn carts luring people out with a distinctive cry. There’s one that comes round my neighborhood fairly frequently and sets up on the main street. When he’s leaving to go back to the stable, I’m not sure why my street is part of his route home, but whenever I hear the jingle jangle of the bells on the horse coming I peek out my window to watch them roll by.

And now for your musical moment of delight.

If you follow me on Instagram this song won’t be a surprise to you. Since I just wrote about another song of Lucius’s forthcoming album for New Music Friday, I didn’t want to write about this song there too. So I have it for you now. It fits here best anyway because it is a joy bomb. The song is a bop, and if the video doesn’t put a huge grin on your face then I can’t help you. They asked people to send in videos of themselves doing selfie dances. Apparently the people who volunteered to be in the video were only given small snippets of the song that corresponded to where they would be in the video and were given some small instructions like obviously what color to wear but then could create what they wanted. I love the final result. I can guarantee I’m going to be watching this video a lot during the rest of 2022, especially if this year continues on its current trajectory.

New Music Friday: Astral Projection by Yumi Zouma

I was going to write about the new Bonnie Raitt song today, and maybe I will at some future date, but then I heard the new album by Yumi Zouma, Present Tense, and had to write about it instead. Yumi Zouma is a New Zealand band who I had never heard of before this morning despite this being their fourth full-length album. They talked about them on NPR Music’s New Music Friday podcast, which is how I heard about them. They said that this album reminded them of 90’s bands like The Sundays and Mazzy Star or music that would be featured in a coming of age teen movie. All of these things are like catnip to me, so I was already sold. Then they played a snippet of the track I’m highlighting from the album, “Astral Projection” and my immediate association with the reverby guitar that starts the song was The Cure, who are probably my all time favorite band. The album as a whole is little poppier than the broody indie rock of the aforementioned bands, but I can see where they were coming from. As soon as the podcast was over I immediately switched to listening to the whole album, and I love it so much. It’s like it was someone dug into the recesses of my brain and programmed some machine to spit out an album designed exactly for me. I was walking around with a big fool smile on my face listening to it. I immediately came home and ordered it on vinyl. I don’t remember the last time I had this much visceral pleasure listening to a new album.

Last Week Delight

It’s time again to share some of the things that have been bringing me moments of delight over the past week.

  • Cherry blossoms and daffodils. The first signs of spring are starting to appear with some of the cherry blossoms and daffodils starting to bloom. Baltimore is beautiful in the spring. Tons of people of daffodils and tulips in their yards and the city is covered in cherry trees, including babies of cherry trees (the originals have died) Al Capone gave to Union Memorial Hospital for treating him for syphilis.
  • Scout. My cat brings me delight in lots of ways, but two things this week that I took note of are how she sits like a little lady when she’s in sphinx pose. Most cats just sit with their two front paws straight out, but he always sits with hers crossed. It’s adorable. She also begs me for a lap when I come home from work every day. She’s an old, arthritic lady so she has stairs to get up onto the couch. She runs to the bottom of those stairs and then turns around and stares at me and meows until I go over to the couch and sit down so she can run into my lap. Usually she just hangs there for like five minutes, but one day this week she stayed for an hour.
  • Socks. I have lots of socks, and I like that I have all kinds of socks for different purposes. Fun, decorative socks. Athletic socks. Compression socks that I once bought for long plane trips, but which have become my outdoor, winter exercise socks because they’re tall and cover more of my leg. Warm, fuzzy socks for lounging around the house in the cold in. So many socks.
  • Return of the bike people. There are two guys that I often see on my morning walk who do a morning ride together. I usually see them right about the same place every morning when they’re splitting off to go back to their respective houses. It hadn’t even really occurred to me that I hadn’t seen them in awhile because presumably they weren’t riding in the winter cold until I saw them again this week and I was like the bike people are back!
  • Kimberly Adams announced as the new Make Me Smart podcast co-host. I was super sad (and still am) when Molly Wood announced she was leaving Marketplace and thus also the Make Me Smart podcast. It seemed like all the listeners assumed that Kimberly Adams would be named the new co-host because she was the go-to fill-in when either Kai or Molly were out, but for the last few months instead of they’ve just had a rotating cast of Marketplace people co-hosting. I was starting to think that was the new plan since so many other podcasts I listen to have started doing that in recent years. I don’t love it because one of things I like is the sense of listening to friends sitting around chatting on a topic because a rapport and inside jokes and things build up over time that just doesn’t happen when you’re constantly rotating hosts. So I was pleased when they did in fact make Kimberly official this week, and she immediately proved my point. There is a long running joke about her getting Kai to watch the movie The Neverending Story because it came up one time somehow that he had never seen it when she was filling in, and he promised that by the next time she filled in he would have watched it. He did not, and still never has. After the announcement that she was the permanent co-host he asked what she was looking forward to and she responded getting him to finally watch The Neverending Story. That’s the kind of content I’m here for.
  • I like the tv show Million Little Things. I like dramas that are just about people living life. This week was one of their best episodes ever. It has a pay off for people wanting one of the central couples who have been broken up to finally get back together. It had a hi-larious scene with another character trying to tell his wife that the previously mentioned couple kissed while they were sitting across from them and the other guy one of those characters was still dating. And I liked that it subverted the expectation that yet another character who found out that his recent ex-wife was dating another woman was going to be all upset about it and instead had him be very supportive also in some amusing ways. It was a delightful episode.
  • Daylight Saving Time. I don’t love the abrupt time change, but I do love having more light at the end of th day. Oddly I’m also looking forward to it being darker for my morning walks again. I like going out while it’s still dark and being out during the sunrise. In recent weeks I’ve been up after first light. That will change for a little bit again until the days get longer.

And now for your musical delights of the week.

  • The do-do-do-do-do part of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. It’s a 7 and half minute song and that part only shows up with less than a minute left in the song, but it’s the part of the song that everyone knows, and it’s so fun to sing along to. I have no recollection of the first time I heard that song, but kind of wish I did remember the first time I must have experienced that little jolt of surprise when it happened, but now I just enjoy the long anticipation of knowing it’s coming and waiting for it.
  • Chvrches with Robert Smith at the NME Awards. Robert Smith was featured on the song “How Not to Drown” on Chvrches most recent album. He joined them to sing the song at the NME Awards and then they also sang “Just Like Heaven” together in the most delightful way. I love how they turned it into a duet with Lauren Mayberry singing the parts of the song that are written from a woman’s perspective but Robert Smith still singing the “she said” lyric. Perfect. There was some tiny, tiny rumor that was probably just that, that they might tour together. I would go anywhere and pay any amount of money.

New Music Friday: Special by BOYO

I had never heard of BOYO prior to this morning, and I don’t know much about him. Apparently though he recorded an album and then shortly before it’s release decided that the downbeat nature of it no longer reflected his mood, so he scrapped it and recorded an entirely new album in like a month. “Special” is the final song on his new album, Echoes Like Memories. I actually only really like a couple of songs on the album, and this happens to be one of them. I’m in a really crappy mood today. The weight of the world is large, and work is super stressful with any hope of that ending any time was dashed yesterday. So sometimes all you can do is try and dance it out, and this song is perfect for that. I hope that I too one day soon feel like BOYO and think this sad music doesn’t reflect how I feel, let’s dance.

Last Week Delight

As promised I’m going to try to write a weekly post of the delights I’ve found over the past week or so. In his book Ross Gay talked about becoming a delight hoarder, and I sort of already feel like that. One it can sometimes feel like there are too many, and two I feel like I shouldn’t share them all because then what if I don’t have anything to write about in the future. I’m going to try not to hoard my delights because no matter the worry, there will always be more. I mean some of these are completely silly little things, but they gave me a little moment of joy, and I appreciated that the extra second I stopped to actually think to myself this is a delight gave them just a little bit more power for good in my life than they would have had if I had just thought about them in a more passing way. So I would say week one of this little experiment has been a success. Hopefully I will continue with the practice.

  • The Name of This Series. I appreciate a good pun. I don’t know that this is actually a good pun, but it pleases me. In case you haven’t figured it out, Last Week Delight is a riff on John Oliver’s HBO show, Last Week Tonight.
  • Long overdue library books being returned. News loves a good story about library books being returned decades after they were due. My library got back some books that have been gone so long technically they belonged to the women’s college that was merged with my current university when it went co-ed. I got to be interviewed about the story. It was kind of fun.
  • I missed my first Wordle last week. It was a very sad day, but also I appreciate that the word I missed was NASTY, and that’s what it felt like. Especially since I had the ASTY part of the word, but there are too many words that start that way. I guessed PASTY, TASTY, and HASTY, and then ran out of guesses. Nasty indeed.
  • Cheerleading others. I was just noticing on my social media last week how many musicians I follow are constantly cheering each other on and how many local restaurants I follow cheer on other local restaurants even people doing the same thing they do and could be considered their competition. For example a new patisserie opened in my neighborhood recently and another popular bakery has been promoting them. It’s nice to see people trying to lift each other up instead of tear each other down for a change.

And now we turn to a litany of music related things that brought me delight. If you didn’t figure out that music would feature heavily in this, you must be new here.

  • The artist GAYLE has a pop punk song that is very popular right now called abcdefu. Most songs that have multiple versions because of language are usually labeled something like explicit and clean or radio edit. It gave me great delight to see that hers are labeled abc (nicer) and abcdefu (angrier).
  • Someone posted a video from Rick Beato’s YouTube series on “What Makes This Song Great” featuring the song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. It’s one of my all time favorite songs, so I watched it, and then wound up going down a YouTube rabbit hole of a bunch of his past videos. He breaks down the songs isolating the individual tracks and instruments to talk about the interesting things each part is doing in the song. As someone who has zero musical talent, I’m always fascinated by this kind of stuff because it’s like magic to me that people think of any of this stuff.
  • Even though I don’t live in Philly, I am a big fan of the University of Pennsylvania radio station, WXPN, which I stream all the time particularly while I’m working. Helen Leicht was their long time mid-day host and a fixture in Philadelphia radio for 50 years. She’s been in and out the past few years with some medical issues, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when they announced that she wouldn’t be returning to the station. It is sad, but it’s been nice listening to all the tributes they’ve been doing and thinking about all the artists she’s introduced me to over the past 20 years that I’ve been listening. It kind of blew my mind when I stopped to think about how long I’d been listening to her on the radio as well.
  • I still listen to the radio on my commute. On most days it’s about 3 songs long. That is of course if it’s a good day, and I find songs I want to listen to, and I don’t spend most of my commute just flipping between stations trying to find actual music or a song I want to listen to. Some days I judge how good of a day I think it’s going to be based on the quality of my commute music. I hit the jackpot one day last week because not only did I get three good songs in a row, they were also great 80s/90s tracks that I could sing loudly off-key to while I was driving, and what’s better than that? In case you were wondering the songs were “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers, “Maneater” by Hall & Oates, and “Never” by Heart.

Allison Russell at The Barns at Wolf Trap

Last night I went to my first indoor concert since the pandemic started. Last summer in that glorious six weeks when we all delusionally thought COVID was over I did go to see Amos Lee at Wolf Trap and went to the Newport Folk Festival. Then Delta hit and things got worse and my doctors all made me paranoid about doing pretty much anything, so I bought a lot of concert tickets and then didn’t go to any of them for the rest of the year.

Last night I decided to finally brave going to see another concert. I don’t know how much people understand how big of a step this was for me, since most people have been back to living their lives mostly like normal for awhile now. I literally don’t do anything with crowds, and don’t do anything indoors at all except go to work and doctor’s appointments. I could probably count on my fingers and toes the number of times I’ve gone into stores and half of those were probably during that brief window last summer when things felt good. I don’t hang out with friends inside. Pretty much nothing. So to go to a crowded indoor space was a huge leap.

There were a couple of reasons I decided to make it at this point. Case counts are pretty low at this point. I’m newly topped off with anti-bodies since I qualified for a fourth vaccine dose. I would qualify to take some of the anti-virals now on the market if I did catch COVID, though I’ll feel better about that when they are more readily available. Also, Wolf Trap still had all their mask and vax requirements in place last night, which most concert venues have now dropped. It’s also a pretty small venue, fewer than 400 people seated, and they shared all the things they’ve done to upgrade their ventilation system. Like I have concert tickets for this coming weekend that I bought last May, when again we all thought COVID would be history by now, and I’m not going to that because all the precautions have been dropped, it’s sold out, standing room only, and I’m not ready to go stand smushed up against 1,200 other maskless people who may or may not be vaxxed.

I am so very glad I set aside my anxiety and went. It was a glorious night. Everything I love about live music and have missed so much. It really sucks when the thing you love most in the world becomes one of the most dangerous things you can do. I’m hoping we’re really at a detente with COVID for awhile, so I can start doing this more regularly.

Kyshona was the opening act. It was just her and an acoustic guitar, but she was crazy powerful. I was already somewhat familiar with her because some artist I follow was promoting her at some point, and I pay attention to who people I love are telling me to love. So I’ve already been following her on Instagram and listening to some of her music for awhile now. She was also part of the Once and Future Sounds set that Allison Russell curated to close out the Newport Folk Festival weekend last summer. So I wasn’t completely surprised, but it was one of those amazing sets where most of the people in the room had no idea who she was when she took the stage and now they’re all fans for life. I love those moments. They don’t happen too often, but when an opening act just blows an audience who doesn’t know them away there’s just nothing like it. She got a standing ovation and people were literally flying out the door to get the merch table as soon as she left the stage. She told the audience that she used to be a music therapist, but now she does music therapy for everyone and wow was that some therapy last night. Her voice is incredibly powerful, and her songs bring such a powerful message about loving yourself and other people. She was great at involving the audience and getting us to sing along with songs that almost no one knew. Another delight, the joy of singing along with an audience, something I have missed so much. She was the perfect opening act, and I can’t wait to keep following what she does next. Go acquaint yourself with Kyshona if you don’t know her already.

Allison Russell’s set was just as wonderful and full of joy and positivity. Her first solo album, Outside Child, which is what she’s promoting on this tour is up for several Grammy’s and was in the top of every best of 2021 list out there including mine. It’s about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her step-father and how her mother turned a blind eye, which led her to run away from home and spend her teenage years homeless. She was joking about trying to tell people about how they should go listen to this album about her childhood trauma, but it’s really not about that. She said it’s about survivor’s joy. She just has such a wonderful spirit in her music and the positivity and forgiveness she puts out into the world.

She talked a lot about how Brandi Carlile pulled her up and helped move her career forward after years of struggling to make it as an artist and now there’s all these doors in the walls she once face and how she wants to continue that and bring up the people behind her. She had four other women on stage with her in what she said she didn’t want to call her band but her circle because the term band sounds hierarchical to her. I have never seen someone introduce her bandmates with such joy and love for what they do with her and the other music their creating. She did the same thing for all the other people in her crew. She talked a lot about that closing set she curated at Newport last year and how she wants to take that on the road and do it in different cities to help introduce people to more new artists especially those people who have a hard time getting their foot in the door. I hope she does it and comes near me because I would love that. She was just so giddy and excited. It was so much fun. You would have thought it was her first time out on stage since the pandemic with how excited she was about everything.

There was also actually some music in her set too. Since she only has the one solo album at this point she pretty much played everything off that plus the songs she wrote for the Songs of Our Native Daughters album with Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, and Amythyst Kiah. She also covered a Sade song and Tracy Chapman song for her encore. It was such a lovely night, and everything I could have hoped for.