New Music Friday: Okie by Vince Gill

I used to really like Vince Gill, but as country music radio changed and left his style of music behind I sort of lost track him. Then he started getting a lot of press for his new album Okie, which came out back in August. I feel like it’s a really interesting juxtaposition that makes it both too old school for current country radio but also too progressive.

The music for sure is the same old Vince Gill style from back when he was popular in the 90s. It also still contains some very traditional country songs about faith, family, and his country music idols. But it also contains songs that touch on much more progressive issues like sexual abuse (Gill has shared his own experience of a coach that tried to take advantage of him as a kid), teenage pregnancy and the hard decisions about how to handle that, racism, and attempts to see beyond ourselves to difficulties faced by others. Despite touching on some hot button issues Gill does not take it to overly political place, but rather shares his hopes that we can all be fair-minded and kind.

It’s a great country album that evokes my country music sweet spot. I recently watched Ken Burns’ excellent documentary Country Music and someone, exactly who I don’t recall at the moment, said that the 90s were an excellent time in country music when the doors felt wide open. All the various styles of country music that had evolved over time seemed to be welcome. Women seemed to be welcome. And then after such a short time the doors slammed shut again and it became a good ol’ boys club of a very specific brand of country. That led to the breaking off of Americana music into its own genre. I still like country music to a degree, though I don’t love it as much as I once did and that’s because that statement made me realize that the style of country music that I really adore is what Americana is. Pretty much every single one of my favorite artists right now fall under the Americana label. Vince Gill will never be labeled Americana because he was a country artist first when his musical style was what country music was, but I would say if he came into the fold now he’d for sure be labeled Americana. This album is a great example of that.

Maggie Rogers at The Anthem

On Tuesday night I made the trek down to DC to see Maggie Rogers at The Anthem. I didn’t actually set out to see Maggie Rogers 4 times in the span of a year’s time, but that’s what happened. I first saw her last November opening for Mumford & Sons at which point I started kicking myself for not having bought tickets to see her at the 9:30 Club in March. I refused to pay the scalpers the almost 10x the face value that they were selling the tickets for, so I missed that show. But a few days later when her show for the Anthem in October went on sale I snapped them up. Then she wound up playing at the Newport Folk Festival this year, and as you know my husband bought me tickets to see her at The Greek Theatre in LA. I would totally see her again too.

Having just seen her a few weeks ago I knew I was going to pretty much get the same exact set, but I was 100% okay with that because Maggie is such a great performer and so fun to watch. Plus I adore the music obviously. She did play one new song that she’s written but hasn’t recorded yet. That was a nice treat. I saw her say something about performing it for the first time last week at one of her Radio City Music Hall shows, so I was hoping we would get it too, and we did. Other than that it was pretty much exactly the same down to the stage banter for the most part, which she doesn’t have a lot of. Just swap out DC for LA and the names of the opening acts. (I really liked Now, Now who opened for her in LA. I did not so much care for Empress Of who opened for her at this show.)

I did learn one dirty little secret though. At the LA show as she was introducing the band she was pretty much saying that they were pretty much either all from LA or in the process of moving to LA. Maybe they are in the process of moving to LA. I don’t know. It seems like a reasonable place for a band to make their home base. But then when she was introducing them at this show LA was mentioned in relation to nary a band member. Then she said let me tell you a secret, I often like to introduce one of the band members as from the city we’re playing in even though they’re not actually from there, but this is my hometown (not really, but I guess Salisbury, Maryland is close enough) so I’m not doing that tonight. So now I know I was probably lied to in LA.

Despite the music being the same in some respects the show felt completely new to me. Mostly it had a lot to do with the lighting. I know they didn’t redo the lighting design in the last couple of weeks, but somehow it seemed entirely new to me. It could be because the obnoxiously drunk girls in front of me at The Greek kept me distracted from the show or just plain blocked my view. It could be because with the time change Maggie didn’t even take the stage until well after I’m normally in bed, so I was half asleep. It could be the difference between how they looked in an indoor versus outdoor venue, or it could be that I was sitting above them in the balcony this time. Maybe a combination of all of the above.

Seeing her this time was a much better experience than at The Greek mostly because of the stupid drunk girls in front of me at that show. I had no one in front of me at the Anthem and there were no annoying people anywhere around me. It’s a concert miracle since usually I attract the worst people at concerts. This show did finally make me figure out the only way I ever want to see shows at the Anthem again.

The Anthem is a fairly new venue. It opened 2 years ago this week in fact. It’s a mid-size venue holding about 6,000 people, which based on the number of shows that sell out there was sorely needed. The 9:30 Club where most of these people would have played previously is about a quarter of the size. So obviously it’s great to have a venue that can hold more people and give more opportunity to go to the show, but logistically it’s just a nightmare if you’re doing a general admission standing room show.

The one thing that I will never be able to get around is the location. The 9:30 Club is on the outskirts of the city and much easier to get to from Baltimore. Plus they have their own parking lot. The Anthem is built at this trendy new development called The Wharf with lots of shops and restaurants along the Anacostia River in southwest DC. It’s a freaking pain the butt to get to with DC traffic and there is nowhere to park. I know DC has fairly decent public transit compared to a lot of places, but there isn’t a Metro stop particularly near there (not that it would help me anyway), and the parking is severely lacking. I don’t understand how they built this and thought we don’t need that much parking. There is a lot there, but it’s not very big and I would never count on finding a spot there. If you’re trying to use Spothero to get a parking spot the closest non-valet place to park is 3/4 of a mile away. I’m definitely not trying to wait on a valet to fetch my car after a 6000 person show lets out, so I hoofed it from a ways away.  Catching an Uber/Lyft near there after the show is also a nightmare as I did that last time I was down there and was staying over with a friend who lives in DC. It’s just a terrible place to get to no matter how you’re trying to do it.

I know a lot of people who really like the Anthem as a venue. I don’t love it. I mean it’s not a terrible place to see a show. When I was there to see Brandi Carlile and it was a seated show with only about 2,500 people it was great. I don’t like crowds so the 6,000 person standing room thing is an issue for me not only because being surrounded by that many people in a crowd with no designated space makes me twitchy. Plus I’m short so I’m never going to be able to see over that many people. Also they do not have enough security to deal with getting that many people into the venue. I don’t know what they can do to make it better given the limited number of doors into the venue, but the lines to get in are insane.

I figured out the secret to avoiding all of this at this show though. They have box seats in the balconies that you can buy tickets to. The only drawback is you have to pick them up at will call, so if you can’t make the show for some reason you have no way to sell them and recoup your money. I get that they’re trying to prevent scalping these tickets, but for someone who only ever resells tickets at face value, it’s a little annoying for me. Stupid scalpers ruining everything. I have certainly changed my mind at the last minute about going to show in DC that I bought tickets for and resold them on several occasions. I guess this forces me to not back out unless I really have to rather than just I decided it’s too much of a pain to drive down to DC on a school night.

Anyway, I bought one of those box seat tickets this time even though it makes the already stupid expensive Anthem tickets even more expensive, and I will never go back. First it gets you into the venue through the VIP security line instead of you having to stand in the insanely long general admission line. Second you actually get a seat. I’m old and tired and I like to be able to sit down at concerts if I want to. Third, being in the balcony particularly in the first row like I was meant no one was in front of me and I could actually see the show. If I was on the floor I would have been lucky to get a glimpse of Maggie here and there. If I can’t get one of those tickets the next time I want to see someone playing at the Anthem unless it’s one of their rare fully seated shows, I don’t think I’ll go. Aside from the location and the parking issues having the box seat ticket solved all of the other things I hate about this venue.

It turned out to be well worth the trip down to DC on a Tuesday night even though I promise you I did a lot of whining about going, especially since I was going solo, before I left that night. I was like whose dumb idea was it to buy a ticket to this show? It was mine, and I’m glad I had it.

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Stony Run Trail

One of the things I like about Baltimore is that it’s a fairly green city. I know not every part of the city has easy access to green space, but there are a decent number of areas that do. In my little part of the city within a mile or less of my house I can walk to Druid Hill Park, the Jones Falls trail, or the Stony Run Trail.

The Stony Run Trail, which is the focus of this post is a short little trail that runs along the Stony Run. The trail part is only about a mile long from end to end, though I gather there’s a walking path that goes almost all the way up to Northern Parkway. I’ve never gotten farther than Coldspring Lane, so I’m not quite sure how it travels north of there even though I’ve looked at the online map a number of times. Someday I’ll do the whole thing. For now I’m just enjoying the trail.

Even though it’s short, it’s a very peaceful respite in the middle of the city. It’s very calming to be surrounded by the trees and walking along the water. I am a bit disturbed by how many people I see let their dogs run into that water though. It is for sure polluted. Please don’t let your dog (or god forbid your kids) go in that water. It’s pretty to look at though.

It’s about 3 miles for me to walk the trail from one end to the other and back again and add in the walk from my house to the nearest trail head. It makes for a nice bit of afternoon exercise.  Soon I’ll be relegated to the gym for the winter because it will be too dark (and soon after that too cold) for me to walk on the trail or outside after I get home from work once the time changes. I’m enjoying the trail as much as I can until I get to that point and then I’ll be counting the days until spring.

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New Music Friday: Higher Love by Kygo and Whitney Houston

I had a lot of thoughts about what I should write about this week for new music Friday. There’s a couple of things actually new this week. There’s a new album out today by San Fermin, a band I really like. Carly Pierce and Lee Brice released “I Hope You’re Happy Now” last Friday, and I’m really digging it. There’s also a new song by Dan+Shay and Justin Beiber so I could have talked about Justin Beiber’s foray into country music, but I wouldn’t do that to you. And while I’m on a country kick I really like the guitar work in Keith Urban’s newest single, “We Were”. I also thought about finally writing about Jay Som’s “Superbike”, which has a great 90s indie female singer vibe to it that makes me kind of nostalgic.

Ultimately though I wound up deciding to go with the song that is bringing me the most joy right now, which is “Higher Love” by Kygo and Whitney Houston. This song isn’t particularly new in any sense of the word, but the current iteration is new enough that I’m counting it. Back in 1991 Whitney Houston sang a cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” at a concert in Tokyo. It apparently was added as a bonus track on the Japanese release of her album I’m You’re Baby Tonight. Back in June someone found it I guess and it became a whole thing inspiring Kygo to create this dance remix of the song. So it’s an old cover of an even older song remixed into a dance track that’s been out for several months, but it’s the song that is giving me life right now so I’m bringing it your ears for new music Friday whether it’s really that new or not.

Jade Bird at the 9:30 Club

This past Saturday I went down to DC to see Jade Bird at the 9:30 Club. I’m always saying that I wish concerts started and thus ended earlier because I am old and tired. This concert was finally just that, but of course the timing of an early concert worked out all wrong for me. Saturday was also the date of my friends’ annual Oktoberfest party. I hadn’t seen most of the people going to the party in about 6 months or longer, so I really wanted to go. Unfortunately their house is 45 minutes in the opposite direction of DC from my house, so it was kind of insane for me to go up there first and then drive down to DC for the concert, but that’s what I did.

The 9:30 Club was having some late night DJ festival or something over the weekend, so Jade Bird’s concert wound up being an early show, which normally I would have been all for except that it meant I got to spend even less time at the party. With trying to get everything over with in time to turn the venue over it seemed like all the routine concert timings got turned on their head as well. Normally for club venues like the 9:30 Club doors will open an hour before the opening band goes on. These days most opening bands will play for about 45 minutes, then there’s a 30 minute set change break, and then the headliner will play for about 90 minutes.

None of that held true for this concert, so I felt like I was barely there. I timed leaving the party to get down there right around when the opener should have gone on according to normal concert timing. That did not work out in this case. I got down there right around 7 and by the time I got in the venue, I was there just in time to hear Flyte play their final song. They must have started at 6:30. I don’t really know them, so I wasn’t super upset that I missed their set.

Flyte was just two guys with guitars, so it took them no time at all to do the set change, so after only 15 minutes Jade Bird went on at 7:30. She only wound up playing for an hour and 10 minutes, which was a bit disappointing. I wish she had played 3 or 4 more songs. I’m guessing with the late show happening she might have been only contracted for an hour and 15 minutes rather than the normal hour and half. Who knows. With missing the opening act and her set being so short it felt like the concert barely even happened.

Even though the set was short, Jade Bird was great. Unlike when I saw her open for Jason Isbell over the summer when it was just her and her guitar up on the stage, this time she had a whole band with her. She played some with them and did a few songs solo as well. She switched between the guitar and the piano too. She only has one album and one EP out, so she doesn’t have a ton of music to fill a set with. She played a couple of new songs, which I really liked. She also did a few cover. She did Blondie’s “Call Me” and what she called a cover of a cover with Gillian Welch’s version of Radiohead’s “Black Star”. She’s got a really powerful voice. I feel like there’s not too many female singers with a more rock edge these days. Granted there’s not many male rock bands these days either, but I appreciate her range from more indie rock to songs with a little bit more edge to them.

Even though it felt it was way too short, I enjoyed the concert. It also makes me wonder why we can’t use this timing for all concerts. I could be home in bed by 9:30 instead of that being the time the headliner usually starts. It would be great. Let’s start a movement!

New Music Friday: Happy Birthday, Baby by Hiss Golden Messenger

I wrote about “I Need a Teacher” the first single from Hiss Golden Messenger’s new album Terms of Surrender a few months ago. The album was released last Friday, and since I haven’t come up with anything else to write about today, I’m going to share another song from it that I love. This song isn’t particularly new to me. I first heard “Happy Birthday, Baby” at the 2018 Newport Folk Festival when they played it in the Late July Family Tent. M.C. Taylor talked about how he had written a song for his firstborn son when he was little and now that he had a daughter she hated when he played that song because like true siblings she was jealous that she didn’t have a song. So he wrote this song for her on her fifth birthday. So now she has a song too. It’s very sweet. If you like me are a sucker for the whole chill Southern rock vibe that Hiss Golden Messenger is great at the whole album is really wonderful. Go have a listen.

The One with My Favorite Friends Episodes

This past Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of Friends premiering on television. Being in high school and college during the heyday of its run made Friends a real part of my life. It’s for sure the show I’ve seen the most of, and I still quote it frequently. I pretty much quote this scene every time I have to use a map.

The first episode of Friends I ever saw was the 5th episode. My family had moved from Massachusetts to Texas that year, and my school district had a weird break in October for the Texas State Fair. I used that break to go back to Massachusetts to visit friends and I remember staying at my friend Kim’s house and watching Friends for the first time. It became part of my regular viewing after that.

I have other distinct memories of watching the show. I remember having a Super Bowl party for Super Bowl XXX because I was living in Dallas and the Cowboys were in the Super Bowl that year. That was also the year that Friends was the show after the Super Bowl, so I remember watching it with a crowd of people.

In college various friends and I had over the years had viewing parties in our dorm rooms/houses. I apparently also have a memory of not watching Friends. I distinctly remember not seeing the end of the episode where Ross says Rachel’s name at his wedding to Emily because the power went off on campus for some reason. This was back in the day before you could see shows that you missed easily. Heck this was before normal people even had DVD players so you couldn’t even buy series on DVDs yet. The only way you were going to see an episode you missed was when it showed up in a rerun. Sadly I missed that one too because I was ironically in London where that episode takes place studying abroad by the time the rerun aired before the start of the new tv season. I was super jealous of one of my friends who flew over on Virgin Atlantic because she got to see the episode on the plane. They had it on their in-flight entertainment because Richard Branson guest stars in the episode. I have no idea how many years it was before I actually saw that episode in full.

In honor of the show that played such a big part of my formative years, here are my five favorite episodes. I’m not going out on any big limbs here. I looked at a couple of different lists of the 25 best Friends episodes and pretty much these were either their top 5 or definitely in their top 10. There’s a reason they’re my favorite, and obviously others’ too. The show obviously went on for 10 years and did have some good moments in the later seasons, but the real gems lie in seasons 2-5.

I’ve provided video clips of the moments in the episode that are what I think of when I think about it.

5. The One Where Everybody Finds Out (Season 5, Episode 14)

4. The One Where Ross Finds Out (Season 2, Episode 7)

3. The One with the Prom Video (Season 2, Episode 14)

2. The One with the Embryos (Season 4, Episode 12)

  1. The One Where No One’s Ready (Season 3, Episode 2)