More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Joseph at Rams Head on Stage June 13, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 9:25 pm

You might recall that I named Joseph’s album I’m Alone, No You’re Not my favorite album of 2016, that I wrote about how much I love their song SOS (Overboard), or that when I saw them open for Lucius back in December that I said I couldn’t wait to see them headline a show. Ok, let’s be realistic, you remember exactly none of that. But I did in fact say all that right here on this very blog.

Last night I did get the chance to see them as a headliner at Rams Head on Stage in Annapolis. Rams Head on Stage is one of those seated venues that is tables with optional dinner and drink service. Because Baltimore earns its nickname of Smalltimore I wound up seating directly across the table from someone I used to be in a book club with, but haven’t seen or talked to in a couple of years.

The opening act was a band composed of two brothers aptly named The Dupont Brothers. Since Joseph is a band composed of three sisters they joked about it being a brothers and sisters night. The had sort an etherial folk music sound. They reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on who. They were good entertainers and I wouldn’t mind listening to them play live again if I happened to be somewhere they were, but I’m not sure I loved their music enough to keep track of them otherwise.

Joseph was everything I anticipated they would be based on the short set I got to see them play last year. They were super energetic and really commanded the room. Often times I find seated venues, especially ones like this where tables are involved and there’s not really any way for people to stand up to create generally low energy crowds, but they had the crowd super pumped and into the show. Their harmonies as always were amazing. Last time I saw them I said I was disappointed they didn’t play “Blood & Tears”, but I understood because it was such a short set. I started to get a little bit worried that they somehow weren’t going to play it during this show either since they didn’t play it until pretty close to the end of the set list, but they finally did and was probably my favorite part of the night.

Joseph is scheduled to play at the Newport Folk Festival. Normally since I had just seen them I would choose to see someone else that they’re up against instead. In this case, they put on such an amazing show that they cemented a spot in my Newport schedule. They now join the rank of bands who I immediately want to see again as soon as their show is over. I can’t wait to enjoy them with a Newport crowd.

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Neil Diamond’s 50th Anniversary Concert in Baltimore June 11, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 5:00 pm

When I was 11 or 12 (I don’t know the actual age, but I was in 6th grade so it was one of those two) my parents took me to my first concert. It was Neil Diamond. That concert obviously set off a long love of live music. So I couldn’t resist going to see Neil Diamond on his 50th Anniversary Concert Tour.

I also saw him about 11 or 12 years ago at the Verizon Center in DC. He definitely wasn’t as spry as he was even back then. Dude’s 76 though, so I’ll cut him a break. It’s impressive that has enough stamina to get up almost every night and perform for 2+ hours. His voice is still great, so won’t be too concerned with the somewhat lackluster theatrics. That’s never what I’m at a concert for anyway.

At that last concert I was actually surprised by the number of twentysomethings that were in the crowd. The age level was decidedly higher at this show. Granted I’m over a decade older and so would be any of those twentysomethings. I still felt this show skewed older because I didn’t feel like I saw very many people even in my age range. Most everyone I saw was closer to my parents age, which is obviously Neil Diamond’s demographic.

And Neil Diamond does have a following. I heard a number of people around us talking about how many times they had seen him live. And there were definitely some old ladies having some feelings during certain songs and when he flashed up certain pictures of himself in younger years. He used a lot of really great old home movies and concert footage from his career as a backdrop during certain songs, which I thought was really great especially since the tour is celebrating his 50 year career.

He sang most of the songs I wanted to hear and pretty much played all the big hits. I was a little worried that he wasn’t going to play America, which is my favorite Neil Diamond song probably because it’s the first Neil Diamond song I can remember knowing. But it was the final song of the encore. As an American flag image showed up on the screen the crowd went wild because they all knew it was coming. And of course the singalong that was Sweet Caroline was lots of fun. It was a great show to celebrate the long career of an American music icon.

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Bon Iver and Hiss Golden Messenger at Merriweather Post Pavilion May 25, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:05 pm

Last night I went with my friends Lindsey and Andrew to see Bon Iver and Hiss Golden Messenger at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I missed Bon Iver the last time he was through these parts a number of years ago, so I was excited to finally get to see him live. I got even more excited when they finally announced that his opener was going to be Hiss Golden Messenger, who I also love.

Even though I love both them and was very happy to be able to see them both, in my mind I found them to be somewhat of an odd musical pairing. Hiss Golden Messenger is kind of Southern jammy guitar rock while Bon Iver is whatever Bon Iver is. Wikipedia offered up the genre of folktronica, which I’m going to go with. I expressed my thoughts about how I felt they were an odd concert fit on Twitter and Hiss Golden Messenger actually responded saying they’re all friends. And ultimately after the concert I decided there’s a lot more common DNA there than I really thought. The auto-tuney, more experimental music especially of more recent Bon Iver kind of overshadowed the guitar of it all, but seeing it all live on stage last night made the guitar stand out more to me.

Hiss Golden Messenger was great. I really enjoyed their set. It felt like the music I needed for where I’ve been lately. Their jammy folk rock is well, my jam. I feel like I’m carrying around 800 lbs of anxiety at all times, and I find Hiss Golden Messenger’s music so soothing to my soul. Just sitting there and listening to them jam out was a kind of bliss. My friend Lindsey said their music is perfect for a super hot, sticky summer day and she’s exactly right. Their song “Saturday Song” was one of the inspirations for the Spotify playlist I have called Chill Summer Songs for exactly that kind of it’s too hot to move summer weather. Having that weather instead of the gray, damp, cool weather we did have was the only thing that would have made it more perfect. They played a good mix of stuff from their new album and older albums. Their attempt to create a sing-along to “Heart Like a Levee” fell very flat. Sorry guys, you’re just really not a sing-along kind of band, but I still love the song even if their sing-along idea didn’t work out for them. As we hopefully finally head into warm summer weather I highly recommend giving them a listen.

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Normally when I got to Merriweather I get lawn seats, but for this concert I decided to spring for pavilion seats. My reasoning was two-fold. One I slightly overestimated how popular Bon Iver was. I don’t think the show sold out, although it was decently full. When Merriweather really sells out, I feel like they way oversell the lawn for the amount of space there is and I hate dealing with that especially if the weather turns out lousy like that one Mumford and Sons concert I was at. So thinking Bon Iver might be a sell out situation, I decided I wanted a seat that was actually mine. The other reason I wanted to be inside the pavilion was because I knew his show would be heavily reliant on lights and you can’t really see that very well from the lawn. I was completely correct on that, so I’m glad I made the choice to sit inside the pavilion.

Bon Iver’s set was very heavy on songs from the new album, 22, A Million. In fact he/they played it pretty much straight through from beginning to end before throwing in a handful of songs from other albums at the end. We still got “Holocene”, “Calgary”, and “Skinny Love” which I was happy about. My favorite was “Skinny Love” in which Justin Vernon stayed out on stage solo with a guitar lit in a single spotlight and played. The crowd, which had stayed seated for the entire concert rose to sing along. It was beautiful, and one of those perfect concert moments I love.

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Future Islands at the Ottobar April 10, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 7:58 am

Saturday night I went to the second of four album release shows Future Islands was doing at the Ottobar in Baltimore for the release of their new album The Far Field. I really appreciate it when bands still honor where they came from even after they make it big. The Ottobar is a tiny dive club in Baltimore, where Future Islands is from, that holds about 400 people. They could certainly sell out much large venues at this point, but they chose to go back to their roots and play the place they grew up in.

For their Baltimore shows they also gave a showcase to other different local bands at each show. We had 83 cutlass as the first opening act. He’s a rap artist, which isn’t really my thing. He was decent, but there was only one song that I would say I actually really liked. It’s not his fault as a performer, it’s more my personal tastes in music. I’m much more a melody person than a lyric person, so unless you’re singing rap that has a strong hook behind it or leans more towards hip hop with a strong musical beat behind it your rap is not going to be my thing.

The second opening band was called Jenny Beseztz. Their synth rock music was much more in line with Future Islands’ music. They’re actually not from Baltimore, but are old friends of Future Islands from North Carolina, which is where Future Islands relocated to Baltimore from. I liked their music well enough. The friends that I was with liked the music behind the songs, but were really not in favor of the singer.

This was the first time I had seen Future Islands live, at least playing music. I’ve seen them hanging out a bbq place in my neighborhood before but I don’t think that counts. I’d like to say that since they’re from Baltimore I knew them when, but I really didn’t. I found out about them pretty much the same time the rest of the world at large did, and thought oh hey cool when I found out that they are from Baltimore. They played at one of the street festivals in my neighborhood a couple of years ago, but of course that was literally the only year I missed it because my friend decided to get married that weekend.

Everything I had heard about Samuel Herring, their lead singer, performing live is true. He is amazingly fun to watch as he dances all around the stage. He’s in constant movement doing everything from just general bouncing around to Russian kick line dancing to sort of sexy stripper undulations. He was apparently dancing vigorously enough that he ripped his pants at the beginning of the show and the rip kept getting worse as the night went on until he eventually left us in the care of the rest of the band while went to change his pants. They played a long set of 25 songs filled with a great mix of old and new stuff.

It was a really fun show, and I’m glad I managed to snag some of the very limited tickets to it. My only complaint, which is a general complaint about shows at the Ottobar, is that it started too late. I am too old and too tired to go to shows where the openers don’t go on until 9 and the main act doesn’t take the stage until 11 when I’m normally in bed. I could barely keep my eyes open by the time they finished around 1 am. Someone really needs to create concerts for old people that start around 6 and end by 10. I’m guessing that’s not actually going to happen though.

 

BSO Pulse with Lake Street Dive February 25, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 3:46 pm

It’s been awhile. I just really haven’t felt like writing much. My mental energy is sapped by everything happening in this country right now, and even the things that do make me happy are colored by my feelings of anger, sadness, and helplessness. I wasn’t sure when or if I would start writing here again, but of course it would be something music related that got me back here.

This past Thursday night I went to the latest BSO Pulse concert featuring Lake Street Dive. Of the four concerts in the series this year, this was the one I really wanted to go to so when a couple of my friends asked if I was interested in going I of course said yes. They were slackers and didn’t buy their tickets when we talked about it, and then it sold out so I thought I was going to be going alone. But things worked out. Following the BSO on Twitter paid off because they tweeted the morning of the concert that they had released some tickets for show. I immediately let my friends know when I saw it, and they managed to snag some of the tickets. I would have gone to the show alone, but it was nice to have some friends with me to enjoy it with.

If you recall from my previous posts on the BSO Pulse series it’s a grant funded collaboration between WTMD and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to pair indie rock bands with the BSO in concert to introduce a younger audience to the symphony.

The concert is split into three parts. In the first part the BSO plays an orchestral piece. This time it was The Rise of Exotic Computing by Mason Bates and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Legend of the Kalendar Prince from Scheherazade. In second part whoever the band is plays about an hour long set of their music, and in the third part they finish off with the band playing three of their songs with the BSO playing an orchestral arrangement to accompany them.

I just love this series. I love how it brings people who would probably never show up to the symphony and introduces it to them in a way that might get them to come back. I also like seeing the older people who are obviously regular symphony subscribers in the audience as well.

Lake Street Dive was a lot of fun in their set, and the collaboration between them and BSO was wonderful. They finished off the night playing “Call Of Your Dogs”, which is probably my favorite song by them, “Side Pony”, and a cover of Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl”. I was amused by their comment that they never imagined playing with a symphony and if they did they could never in their wildest dreams believe they would be playing “Side Pony”, which is literally about wearing a side pony tale. The cover of “Rich Girl” was practically grown in a lab to please me. I love Hall & Oates to death, and even though I didn’t realize it before, Lake Street Dive is the perfect band to cover their music. The addition of the BSO to it made it that much better. Everyone in the audience was up singing and dancing along. Even though I know Lake Street Dive has an EP of cover songs that includes “Rich Girl”, which may be how some of the people know the song, I’m choosing to believe in my heart of hearts that even the young twentysomethings also have a deep abiding love of Hall & Oates somehow.

It was an excellent night of music, and I hope there are many more of these to come even after the grant funding ends.

 

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2016 January 2, 2017

Filed under: Books,Concerts,Podcasts,Pop Culture,Songs I Love,Television,Theatre — dwhren @ 10:55 am

Once again it’s time for my post on what was the most memorable pop culture of the year to me. It’s pop culture I consumed in 2016, not necessarily things that were exclusively released in 2016. And once again I point out that this is the stuff that made the greatest impact on me. It’s not a list of the top anything. Even I acknowledge that there are things on this list that I would not put in a top 10 or even top 20 list. They’re not necessarily the best of anything, just the stuff that I enjoyed the most or which had some special meaning to me.

Movie I Saw in a Theatre

I’m pretty sure I saw more movies in the theatre in 2016 than I have in a long time. I’ve seen 4 movies since Thanksgiving alone, which is very unusual for my life these days. I enjoyed most of the movies I saw, but I’m giving this category to La La Land. It was the one movie I saw this year that I almost immediately wanted to see again. It wasn’t a perfect movie. It didn’t quite live up to its promise as a movie musical. It started out with a bunch of musical numbers and then almost completely dropped them until the end. It was a little uneven, but I still loved it. It’s a beautiful to look at, and I really could just watch Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling interact forever. Their relationship seemed so real. At the time I saw it I was a little disappointed that they didn’t end up together even though realistically that’s what should have happened. Usually I would have enjoyed that ending, but wasn’t in the mood for at the time. In retrospect though I can appreciate it, and whatever my feelings about it were they did not detract from my love of the movie as a whole.

Movie I Watched at Home

Last year I said I should probably retire this category because I don’t watch that many movies at home, and I had a hard time thinking of any. I’m still singing that tune this year, but I’m apparently not quite yet ready to let it go because it’s still here. In doing a review I discovered I actually watched a lot more movies at home than I thought, but I literally had to go back and look because I couldn’t remember any of them. Once I did though the obvious choice was Sing Street. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a sweet little film that takes place in 1980’s Dublin about a teenage boy who starts a band to impress a girl. The songs in it were all written for the movie, but definitely evoke the sounds of 80s music. It’s a delightful little film.

 

Fiction Book

Alas my great streak with books I loved last year did not continue into this year. I did manage to meet my reading goal of 100 books for the year, but there were very few I rated above 3 stars on Goodreads. This category like several other ones exemplified how out of sync I was with pop culture this year. Almost every best of book list I saw had Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad as it’s top pick. I did not care for that book. The fiction book I most enjoyed did show up on most lists as well, so I guess I wasn’t completely off. It was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Essentially its a series of connected short stories, which makes it unusual that I would like it that much since I generally don’t care for short stories. The thread that connects them though is following two lines of a family through two sisters on the Gold Coast of Africa, one who is sold into slavery and the other who becomes a slave traders wife from their lives in the 1600s up through present day. Each story is essentially a new generation. It was a wonderful and heartbreaking book that really demonstrates how the sins of the past continue to haunt the present even hundreds of years later.

Non-Fiction Book

I had much better luck with non-fiction books this year than fiction ones. Most of the books I rated over 3 stars on Goodreads were non-fiction. My favorite non-fiction book of the year was another book that was not very uplifting, but was extremely interesting. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond explores poverty and housing through the lens of the city of Milwaukee. Desmond explores the intricacies of housing and the tenant/landlord relationship especially when dealing with people living in poverty. Many books like this seem to take sides, but Desmond does a really good job in following a couple of landlords and their tenants at showing how complicated the relationship and that there are failings on both sides.

TV Show

With as much good scripted television as there is these days I feel like I’m going a little off book in declaring my favorite tv show of the year as Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. It was the biggest surprise to me because I was never the hugest fan of Samantha Bee when she was a Daily Show correspondent, especially towards the end of Jon Stewart’s run when she really seemed to be going off the rails a little bit. I didn’t even plan on watching Full Frontal because I figured it was just going to be more of the same stuff I wasn’t enjoying on The Daily Show, but my husband insisted that we at least try it out and I’m very glad he did. Full Frontal is really smart, and I appreciate having a woman’s voice in the late night world, especially one who will focus on woman’s issues in a way that no one else is. I’m definitely going to need Sam Bee’s outrage to help keep me sane as we move into the horrors of whatever this Trump presidency is about to bring us.

 

TV Episode

I stopped watching Halt and Catch Fire a few episodes into its first season, but decided to get caught up this summer after hearing so many people talk about how much better the second season was. So in a way it’s a little surprising to me that my favorite episode of the year was from the third season of this show. Season 3, Episode 7 – The Threshold is a great hour of television. Donna and Cameron’s relationship and their building of Mutiny together was the heart of season 2 and what turned this show into something worth watching. Watching it fall apart in this episode was sad but wonderfully acted and excellent to watch.

Album

Music is where my tastes really did not converge with critics or other music listeners as my favorite songs and albums really didn’t show up on any best of 2016 lists. My favorite album of the year was Joseph’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not. Joseph is a group of three sisters who have wonderful harmonies but some of their songs also have a great pop sensibility. I love this whole album, and I hope to be able to see them play more of the album live in 2017.

 

 

Song

I suspect the song I’m putting in this category has a bit of recency bias. I suspect that if I first fell in love with this song say back in March instead of November that I’d probably be sick of it and wouldn’t be including it here, but Wrabel’s 11 Blocks was the song that I loved to sing along to in the car more than any other song this year and the one I always hoped I would hear on the radio when I was driving which is what it earns it this spot. Realistically my choice here should have been Joseph’s SOS (Overboard), which I love and is probably the song I listened to most this year.

 

Concert

Every year my real favorite concert experience is going to the Newport Folk Festival. This year that was no exception. I was already beat down my 2016 at the end of July and that weekend was such a balm for my soul, but I always like to pick another show from the year for this category since Newport being a festival isn’t really a single concert. This year my favorite concert was Garth Brooks. I never got to see him back in the 90s, so I’m glad I finally got the chance. He is an amazing performer and manages to make an arena show feel intimate and so fun. It was so fun to sing along to all those songs of his I loved and also to see Trisha Yearwood perform some of her songs. They are some of the first country artists I ever fell in love with and it was great to finally get a chance to see them live.

 

Broadway Theatre Production

In last year’s post I named Hamilton my favorite theatre production of the year and said I’m going again in April of 2016 so maybe it will be my favorite show of 2016 too. Let’s be realistic. It was. But I also saw other great Broadway shows this year. So even though the best show I saw was Hamilton again, I’m going to put She Loves Me in this category. The production starred Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi and it was delightful. I even paid to re-watch it online when they broadcast a recording of it later in the year.

Baltimore Theatre Production

My favorite theatre production that I saw in Baltimore snuck in at the last moment. It was the touring production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The Broadway production won the Tony for Best New Musical in 2014 and I’ve wanted to see it for years. It was never something that I felt that I needed to see on Broadway though given the limited number of shows I get to see there each year. I always knew I was going to wait until it toured to see it, so I was happy that it finally came around as part of our season tickets to the Hippodrome this year. It was a great show and well worth the wait. It was extremely smart and clever and a show the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long time.

Podcast

I already gave away in a post a few weeks ago that my favorite pocast this year was Out of the Blocks, a local Baltimore podcast from Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick. Their tag line One City Block, One Hour of Radio, Everybody’s Story pretty much describes what the podcast is about. It’s a fascinating look at the city and in the human condition. I highly recommend it to everyone not just people from Baltimore.

Podcast Episode

If Out of the Blocks didn’t exist Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs would have gotten my vote in the previous category. Instead they’ll get the mention in favorite podcast episode. I of course had to pick the episode where they discuss the song I requested, Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”.

 

Joseph, Pete Yorn, and the Head and the Heart Concert December 17, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 10:28 am

 

Last night I went to WRNR’s Holiday Hoo-Ha at Rams Head Live featuring Joseph, Pete Yorn, and The Head and the Heart. Tickets for this concert went on sale shortly after I bought tickets to see The Head and the Heart at DAR Constitution Hall in DC. I like The Head and the Heart so I didn’t mind seeing them twice and I really, really wanted to see Joseph, who spoiler are going to show up in my best of 2016 pop culture post coming soon.

Joseph, a band of three sisters, are wonderful and were definitely the highlight of the night for me. I was sad that they were the first opening act and thus only had a short 30 minute set. I definitely hope to see them again soon when I get to see them play longer. It’s understandable because they have two albums of songs to choose from and such a short time to play, but they definitely didn’t get to everything I was hoping to hear. They were a lot of fun and their voices together are just lovely. My only complaint about their set aside from the fact that it wasn’t long enough was it seemed like the mix was a little off on some of the songs with the drums overwhelming the vocals and other music. I’m pretty sure White Flag is going to need to be my mantra for 2017.

Going into this concert I knew I probably knew some Pete Yorn songs because I recognized his name, but I definitely couldn’t have told you what any of them were. I didn’t bother to look him up or listening to anything before going. I did wind up knowing more of his songs than I thought I probably would, but I still wasn’t super excited by his set. It was just him and his guitar, which is sometimes a great thing but not what I was really in the mood for last night. I don’t dislike Pete Yorn, but I obviously don’t care enough about his music to seek it out or really pay attention to the fact that I know it. I was so tired last night and his set did not help pep me up. I really wish he and Joseph had switched places in the line-up so they got the longer opening set. He played for 50 minutes and I was really ready for him to be done by the end. He even faked us out saying he was playing his last song and then when it was over saying oh do I have time for one more? I do, okay great. When he asked if the crowd wanted him to play one more I definitely heard a lot of no’s including mine. The girl behind me said no, I can’t take this. I’m so tired. I’m right there with you sister.

The Head and the Heart always put on a good show. I didn’t enjoy this set as much as the one I saw in October at DAR. Probably a lot of it was me and not them. I was really struggling with how tired I was by the time they took the stage at 10, and my back hurt from standing around on the concrete floor. I’m old and appreciated the earlier time and the seat at DAR. Plus they played a lot more stuff from their new album this show, which I was surprised they didn’t at DAR. More power to them to do that. It makes sense since that is the album they’re out touring to promote, but I just don’t know that album as well as their earlier too yet and neither did most of the crowd. There were a lot of sing-a-long moments at the DAR show that I enjoyed that didn’t happen last night because people didn’t know the songs. It was still a good show, but of all the times I’ve seen them this was probably my least favorite.