Last Week Delight 4/17/2023

Buckle in. I’ve got a lot of delights for you this week.

  • I had an upper endoscopy last Monday to try and find out what has been causing my relentless reflux issues. It originally wasn’t scheduled until 2:30, so I figured I wouldn’t really get to eat until around dinner time. For some reason they called that morning and asked me to be there at 10 instead. So I was home in time for lunch, and didn’t have to feel starving all day. It unfortunately didn’t shed much light on anything, but at least for right now all that acid hasn’t done any damage to my esophagus. So that’s good news at least.
  • I’ve had a very busy stretch of days. I think this is the most things I’ve done in a row since pre-pandemic. And even then 6 days in a row of activities was not the norm. I was already too old and too tired for that back in 2020. I kicked things off on Wednesday night going to see Lucius with Danielle Ponder at Rams Head Live.
  • Thursday night was a surprise baby shower for some friends from church. They were indeed surprised, and it was a lovely night to be outside and hang out with friends.
  • Friday night a group of us went out to dinner to belatedly celebrate a friend’s birthday. It’s nice that the weather is warming up again so that I can go out to eat at restaurants again, and I appreciate friends who make sure to make outdoor reservations so that I can join them. I’ve missed out on a lot of friend gatherings over the winter, so it’s nice to be able to be a part of things in a somewhat normal way again for a little while.
  • Saturday my husband and I drove down to the DC area to have dinner with friends who live down there and to celebrate one of their birthdays. We technically ate dinner in Maryland, but just over the line because we must have parked in DC as when we started driving home our GPS welcomed us to Maryland, so we must have crossed over the line at some point. The weather was rainy and thunderstormy all day, so we were very much keeping an eye on the weather to see if we needed to shift our plans. Luckily the weather wound up cooperating, and it was a lovely night to eat dinner outside. I was also very excited when we got dessert and they told me that the apple hand pie on the menu had been replaced by a strawberry shortcake with cardamom ice cream. I love cardamom and was immediately sold. It was delicious.
  • Sunday night we had tickets to see Hadestown as part of season tickets to the local touring Broadway shows. Hadestown was actually the last show I saw on Broadway before COVID happened. I had very much enjoyed it then, and I had seen it with the original cast and wasn’t sure how well the touring cast was going to be able to live up to it. They did a pretty darn good job. I was particularly worried about Hades because I didn’t see how anyone could come close to living up to Patrick Page. He wasn’t as good, but I will say that the actor whose name I unfortunately don’t know did a pretty good job. He had a similarly deep, booming voice which I think was key.
  • For my final night of sociability, I have book club tonight. We read the book Remarkably Bright Creatures, which I loved. It’s really type of book we tried so hard to find to read during the last 5-7 years when everything has just felt terrible all the time in the real world but that we so very rarely were able to find. Something that feels light and clever, but that isn’t just complete fluff that leaves us nothing to discuss.
  • It was also a beautiful morning for our first outdoor church service of the season. I’m sure it will get cold again before we really settle into summer weather and we’ll have a few mornings when we’re shivering with the breeze off the harbor. Yesterday was absolutely perfect though.
  • Speaking of church I was sitting near a couple of pregnant women yesterday, and a little girl who is probably around 3 and half came up and was looking at their baby bumps, so one of them asked if she wanted to say hi to the baby. The little girl then gave her baby bump an elbow bump. It was adorable. I’m like you can tell this kid has been raised during a pandemic.
  • I don’t know why it delighted me so much, but it did. A couple blocks away from church while I was stopped at a light one of the guys on our worship team zoomed by me on one of those electric scooters that are left all over the city for you to rent.
  • One of my friends on Instagram kept posting stories about how she was already doomed to be humiliated by her Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year, so eventually I DM’ed her and said I must know what you’ve been listening to. So she she told me she better not be in the top 1% of Shaggy listeners. I responded with this joke, which I am inordinately proud of. “You: It wasn’t me. Spotify: Caught you red handed.”
  • Ross Gay has written a sequel to The Book of Delights, which is what got me into doing these delights posts in the first place. It’s called The Book of (More) Delights, go figure. I got a galley copy of it and am in the middle of reading it. In one of the delights in the book he shares that due to his original book people send him lots of mail in which they recount their own delights. One of them shared about their friends cat whose names is OREO Speedwagon, which was also a delight to him, and something he thought we should also know as to bring us delight. It did indeed delight me, and now I feel compelled to extend the delight to you.
  • We have a craft table at work that is covered in brown butcher paper that people draw and write on all the time. This morning I spotted that someone drew a heart on the table and inside of it said, “A proud dad brought his accepted daughter here for a visit.” I thought it was super sweet, and it put a smile on my face.
  • And now for your musical delights. First up the song “Nina Cried Power” by Hozier featuring Mavis Staples. I adore this song. I heard it this week for the first time in a while, and it made me very happy. Seeing them perform it together live is still one of my favorite Newport Folk Festival moments, and it takes a lot to make it towards the top of that list because there are so many darn amazing things I’ve seen over the past decade there. I was also delighted to discover that Mavis Staples is featured on a song on the new Abraham Alexander record, which I did not realize until I put my new vinyl on while I was doing the dishes and all of a sudden Mavis was singing to me.
  • And also the song “Heavenly Day” by Patty Griffin. I don’t have anything to say about. It’s just a song I love and heard this week.

Dawes at the Warner Theatre

I really like the band Dawes and have seen them in concert a number of times, but I wasn’t going to go see them this time around because their closest concert on this tour was in DC on a Sunday night. I hate going to DC for concerts on school nights because it means I’m getting home well after my bedtime and am always exhausted the next day. However, back in December the radio station WRNR was doing a contest to win tickets to the show. I entered it and won. Luckily they sent me my tickets before their frequency got snatched out from under them and they disappeared. I think they might still be operating as an online only radio station, but I haven’t really investigated since they stopped appearing on my car’s radio. So I’m not 100% sure if that was just in the immediate aftermath or it’s going to be a longterm thing.

Anyway, the result of all that was that I did in fact trek down to DC to see the concert on a Sunday night. Given my experience driving to DC the previous day, we allowed ourselves plenty of time to get there and of course had no traffic issues and got there in a normal amount of time which put us at the venue almost an hour early. Can’t win. This is why I hate driving to DC.

This was my first time at the Warner Theatre. Every other time I’ve seen a show listed there that I would want to see it’s been on a weeknight, and I’ve never felt compelled enough to go to deal with that. It’s a very ornate old historic theatre that’s very beautiful. Our seats were up in the middle of the balcony, so not the greatest, but I could still see really well because unlike the dumb Hippodrome in Baltimore these seats were actually offset from the seats in the row in front so you were looking between people’s heads instead of directly at the back of the person sitting in front of you. So I still had a good view of the stage the whole time.

As Dawes is wont to do, it was an Evening with Dawes show meaning there was no opening act. They played two sets themselves with a short break in the middle. I’ve seen several of their shows that have been that way. I bought tickets to see Mary Chapin Carpenter at Wolf Trap later this year and they added Dawes as the opening act. I’m very perplexed by this combination of artists as even though I really like both of them, I don’t necessarily think that they appeal to the same audience in general. Anyway, I was joking that I’m not sure how they’ll ever play for the short amount of time opening acts get since I’m used to seeing them play for 2 and a half hours at a time as they did last night.

I was actually expecting that one half of the night would be them pretty much playing through their new album, Misadventures of Doomscroller. They actually played far fewer songs from that album than I was anticipating, but happily one of the songs they did play was “It Comes in Waves”, which is my favorite song off that album. They played a good mix of music from across their catalog. They’ve post a couple of the other set lists from previous shows that I’ve seen and it does seem like they’re mixing it up a lot from night to night. Sadly the show before mine they played two of my favorite songs “Roll with the Punches” and “Feed the Fire” that we didn’t get during this show. But even at 2 and a half hours it’s unlikely you’ll get to hear all your favorites, so I was happy with what we got.

I did like that Taylor Goldsmith, the lead singer, started the second half of the show doing a couple of solo acoustic songs, which is something I had never seen before. The first one, “St. Augustine” is sort of an ode to his childhood and then he played a new one that’s not on an album called “Little Ones” that he wrote for his kids that he has with his wife Mandy Moore. Yes, that Mandy Moore.

All in all it was a great night of music, and I’m glad I did wind up getting to see them one final time before their bass player Wylie leaves the band. I’ll be curious to see what the lineup is later this summer when I see them open for Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Snail Mail Valentine’s Fest Night 5 at the Ottobar

Last night was my first time back to the Ottobar since COVID. It was also my first truly standing room only indoor concert experience. It was the one I was most reluctant to return to. I love the Ottobar. It is a great place to see a show, but it is a super dive club. It’s old. It’s tiny. The ceilings are very low. Aside from the fact that they leave the back door where you go in open all the time, there is probably next to no ventilation. Aside from the fact that there are fewer people there than a larger club so statistics are slightly on your side, it’s really a COVID field day in there. But I finally decided to take a chance and brave it in my N95 mask. I had a few anxious moments, but I feel like they were more just my typical anxiety of I hate being smushed in a crowd of people and I wish these strangers would stop touching me. I’m glad I went though, and I hopefully didn’t bring any COVID home with me.

Lindsey Jordon, aka Snail Mail, is from Ellicott City, Maryland a suburb of Baltimore. So of course she still has lots of ties to this area even though I believe she now lives in New York and her musical career has reached a much larger national stage. So she put together a five night run at the Ottobar called Snail Mail’s Valentine’s Fest. When tickets went on sale I don’t think there was any indication of who would be joining her across the five nights. At some point they put out a poster that listed all the bands, but there was no indication of who would be playing which night. If you follow me on social media that’s why I kept referring to the openers as “surprise” openers, since you had some clue who it might be. I was there on the final night, so it was pretty clear by that point I was going to see Waxahatchee.

I was very excited to have Waxahatchee on night, but I was also super bummed that I missed Soccer Mommy on night 2. I had plans to see Soccer Mommy at Ottobar thrwarted twice by COVID, and I apparently don’t want to see her bad enough to drive down to DC to see her next month. I’ve also seen Waxahatchee two other times in recent years, so I would have preferred Soccer Mommy. Oh well. I made a calculated decision to go with night 5 even though it was a Tuesday, instead of the Saturday show because of the Maggie Rogers concert on Monday. These are still the complicated COVID calculations I make in my head. I was like if I go to Ottobar on Saturday and catch COVID there, then I will miss out on Maggie. But if I go on night 5 after Maggie then I will probably get both in even if I do catch COVID at one of the shows.

Before Waxahatchee though, there was also another opener who I hated. She was not the absolute worse opener I have ever seen, but she was pretty up there in my rankings. I know Lindsey Jordan has a lot of punk and pop punk influences, so it’s not entirely surprising that she would have someone more on the punk end as an opener, but that was very much not for me. The artist was MJ Dunphy and to my mind it was essentially her up on stage sort of scream groaning lyrics into a mic with a musical backing track except for the one song where she played a guitar. I did not enjoy and was very happy when her set was over.

Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee did a solo set without the rest of her backing band. She was just had Brad Cook, music producer and musician, on guitar with her. Even though I have seen Waxahatchee recently this was actually a very different set. I would say the set was comprised of about 50% new music, 30% Waxahatchee songs, and 20% Plains songs (her recent musical collaboration with Jess Williamson). I really wanted to try and make it to one of the Plains shows. I don’t remember why I couldn’t make that happen, so I was very happy to get to hear a couple of those songs live. I’m sure some people were bummed that she played a ton of new stuff, but I was pleased. A small club like the Ottobar is the perfect place to try that stuff out. She did surprisingly very clearly flub the lyrics to “Lilacs”, which some asshole in the audience felt the need to yell out to her after she was done. It was very clear that she screwed it up, she knows it, we all know. No need for you to point it out jerk,

I had been very excited when I got to the Ottobar. I didn’t actually mean to get there quite as early as I did. I was flying solo because my friend who was supposed to go with me wasn’t feeling well, and I couldn’t find anyone who wanted her ticket. Ottobar is super close to my house though. It’s just over a mile away. If it felt at all safe to do so late at night, I could totally walk if I wanted. Anyway, since the drive is like five minutes I got there at 7:40 which surprisingly was still plenty of time to snag a spot on one of the risers. There are two steps down from the back bar area where you come in to the main part of the club in front of the stage. Instead of just putting two stairs there they sort of built them out and ran them around the corner and all the way down the wall of the club so that there are sort of two elevated platforms you can stand on. Since I’m super short and have a hard time seeing at standing room only shows, I always try to snag a spot on one of them because then I can actually see over the crowd. So I was excited to have a spot there until Snail Mail came out and I realized they had set Linsey Jordan’s mic up in such a way that a pillar was blocking pretty much my entire view of her any time she was singing or speaking intot he mic, which was about 85% of the time. Oh well. Best laid plans and all that.

She did a nice mix of stuff from her two albums and EP. Katie Crutchfield came out and sang “Ben Franklin” with her since she does the backing vocals on the actual recording of that song. Lindsey was saying they have a “Katie button” they use to fill in thos vocals when they don’t actually have Katie Crutchfield there to sing them. Apparently the drummer didn’t actually know it was Katie’s vocals and was like wait what that’s Katie, when he found out she would singing the song with them that night. It was a very unpolished show compared to what I often see, but that’s what made it fun. Katie came back out again to sing the final song, which was a cover of The Killers’ “When We Were Young”. It definitely ranks up there with my favorite concert covers of all time.

In fact I recorded it. I never do that. I never, ever record full songs at shows. I will do a few clips from one or two my favorite songs and that’s it. I don’t want to bother the people around me and make them stare at my phone, and I also prefer to live in the moment and experience things not from behind a screen. I did this one because I knew I wanted a copy of it, and I could do it while subverting my other reasons for not recording. I was standing in front of a wall so there was no one behind me to bother. Also, by that point in the night a lot of people had left because it was very late on a work/school night. So no one was next to me either. I was able to hold my phone off to the side and record while also watching it not through my phone. I posted it to my YouTube, so you too can enjoy. The sound quality isn’t great. I promise it sounded better in the room. You can also tell I never do this since it didn’t occur to me to turn my phone horizontal because I’m so used to shooting things to post to my Instagram stories. I refuse to post to Reels and share from there though because I don’t want to agree to let other people do stuff to my videos, which you now have to do. I don’t know why I draw the line there, but I’m an old curmudgeon who doesn’t want people to be able to do stuff with my content outside of my control. See also one of the many reasons I don’t TikTok. Anyway, here it is if you want a listen.

Maggie Rogers with Del Water Gap at The Anthem

Last night I trekked down to DC to see Maggie Rogers at The Anthem. Unless it is one of their rare fully seated shows, I will forever and always only spring for the VIP box seats at that venue. No standing in the ridiculously long line to get in with 6,000 other people or then being smushed on the floor not being able to see anything in the standing room only section. I am old and tired and my body is broken. I will take a seat if I can have one because luckily I can afford it. Anyway, when I bought my ticket there was a single seat in the front row of the second level boxes available. If I wanted two seats together I had to buy one in the back row of a box on the third level. I decided I preferred the better seat over dragging my husband down with me. I’m sure he preferred my choice too.

Turns out I really was sitting in the we’re old and tired box. I could see a lot of the people in the other boxes were standing even though they had seats. Not my box. We used those seats we paid for. I probably would have liked to get up and dance a little, but my still screwed up foot would not have appreciated it especially since I am going to a standing room only show tonight and will be on it for hours. Plus, since I was in the first row I didn’t want to be the person who stood up an forced everyone behind me to stand up so they could see since none of them clearly interested in standing on their own free will. I still did some chair dancing and had a grand old time. It was also fun just to be able to look out over the crowd and see their collective movements.

Del Water Gap was the opener. Maggie Rogers was actually in Del Water Gap for a hot second when she was a literal teenager. Now Samuel Holden Jaffe holds the moniker as a solo artist. He did have a band with him, but he definitely kept referring to Del Water Gap as him and not a band, and he never introduced the people playing with him. Other than knowing that Maggie used to play in the band when she was first starting out, I didn’t know much about it. I know I heard a song or two from when they played together off her album Notes from the Archive: Recordings 2011-2016, but I definitely don’t think I had ever heard any of his more recent stuff. I liked some of the songs more than others, but he put on a good performance and got the crowd into it. He did also come back out later and sing one of their songs during Maggie’s set.

Maggie Rogers grew up in Easton, Maryland so whenever she plays the Baltimore/DC area she refers to it as a hometown show. She did say that there were lots of old friends including her middle school math teacher along with most importantly her mom. I always think it’s fun to be at a “hometown” show for artists. This show was pretty much at the beginning of the new Feral Joy tour. She had three nights in Boston before this, but that’s it. The production values have gone way up since the last time I saw her. More money means more stuff. There was a lot more fancy lighting stuff and a big projection screen behind her that there was a camera guy on stage projecting onto. The screen was only in use during certain songs. I have said many times before and will say it again, that I don’t give a whit about any of that. At a certain point I feel like bands begin relying on that to wow the audience instead of their actual performance (*cough* U2 *cough*). That was not at all the case here. I felt like it just augmented the performance and wasn’t the focus of it, which is how it should be in my opinion.

It was a great high energy show with a good mix of new songs, old songs, slow and fast songs and a little bit of storytelling, which I always like. Based on what she was saying on social media ahead of the show, I knew she was going to play the entirety of the new album, but only some songs off of Heard It in a Past Life. It’s inevitable that some of your favorite songs start dropping out of the set list once artists have multiple albums to pull from. I just really wanted to hear “Back in My Body”, and was happy it made the cut. It’s my favorite song from that album, and it was my favorite song of the night. It was always a great show.

Live Music Weekend

I packed a lot of live music into this past weekend much to my husband’s chagrin since he got dragged along for all of it. I have been a long time member of WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania radio station. I get free passes to their annual music festival, the XPonenential Music Festival aka XPNFest, with my membership level. However, until COVID happened the festival was always the same weekend as the Newport Folk Festival, so I was never able to go. Back when we were all young and naive and thinking COVID would be a thing of the past by fall of 2020, they pushed the festival back from July to September. Of course the festival didn’t happen that year, but they announced that they would be keeping the September date permanently because it would offer better weather anyway. They did have the festival in September last year, but I was still leery of large gatherings even outdoors so I didn’t go. I finally took advantage this year.

The festival is a half day Friday, a really full day on Saturday, and then a shorter Sunday. The only band I was super interested in for Friday was The War on Drugs, who I had already seen back in May, so we skipped out on Friday so that we didn’t have to take off work early and didn’t have to pay for an extra night in a hotel. It also meant that on Friday night I could drag my husband down to Annapolis to see Amos Lee in concert. He was playing as part of the inaugural Annapolis Songwriters Festival, which had a mix of over 70 paid and free concerts throughout the week. The concert was outside on City Dock. Madison Cunningham opened for him. I really want to like her more than I do because I keep seeing lots of people talk about her including critics and artists I am generally in alignment with musically, but I just can’t get into most of her music. She was fine, but even live I couldn’t get super into it. Oh well.

I have said it here before and I will continue to say it that Amos Lee’s Thursday night Instagram concerts during the first year of the pandemic really got me through that time, so I relish any chance I get to see him live. It doesn’t happen very often because he never plays in Baltimore. I saw him play a solo acoustic show last summer at Wolf Trap with a half capacity, socially distanced audience. I had tickets to see him play with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center back in April that was rescheduled from pre-COVID, but it was too close to our trip to Hilton Head for me to want to go and risk our vacation. So I was happy to finally get to see him play with his band. I will admit that it was not my most favorite of his sets. I paid to watch his shows from the Ryman and at Red Rocks on this tour and I liked those set lists more. I still enjoyed it though and will happily jump at the chance to see him again any time.

After getting home late Friday night from the Amos Lee show, we got up bright and early Saturday morning to drive up to Camden for XPNFest. We had a hotel booked at the Hilton Garden Inn, which is in walking distance to the festival. You’re pretty much not near anything else, but since we were essentially only going to the festival that was fine and it worked out well that we could just park over there and walk to everything.

I was kind of annoyed at both XPNFest and the Annapolis Songwriters Festival because of all the rules that differed across the 3 different venues I was going to be at and the fact that they didn’t enforce most of them. I think Freedom Mortgage Pavilion is the only one that actually enforced their annoying rules. I don’t consider it freedom to not be able to take my stuff into places anymore for security reasons, but I guess only gun owners freedoms count these days. The security at the other two venues was pretty lax though. I’m used to Newport where they literally do go through every little bit of your stuff thoroughly. In Annapolis and at Wiggins Park they barely glanced at anything. In Annapolis people had bags much larger than were supposedly allowed, and apparently they changed the no chair rule at the last minute I guess because they sold way fewer tickets than expected. I don’t know how other people found this out, but it would have been nice to know so we could have brought ours. Speaking of chairs, the chair height rule at XPNFest was way lower than at Newport, so I spent a bunch of money to buy us new chairs that fit their height requirements and so many people had tall chairs. We could have taken in whatever we want. Why have the rules if you’re not going to enforce them. I’m just mad because I spent so much time and money trying to make sure I complied with everything at each venue and then it mostly didn’t matter.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at XPNFest as the set up is kind of funky. During the day they have shows in Wiggins Park on the waterfront, but then the big headlining shows at night are next door at Freedom Mortgage Pavilion. That holds 25,000 people, but I gathered that they sold additional tickets to those shows beyond the festival and that the Wiggins Park capacity was smaller than that, I just wasn’t sure by how much. Turns out the answer is A LOT. I have no idea what the capacity or attendance actually were, but I know the Newport Folk Festival caps at 10,000 people per day, which is tiny for a music festival, and XPNFest was definitely just a fraction of that. It was a teeny, tiny little baby festival. It also skewed very old. Most of the people there were my parents age. I only saw a handful of people in their 20s and then there were middle aged people, some with kids. I guess it’s because it’s a festival put on by a radio station and kids these days don’t listen to the radio. I did appreciate feeling like I’m not the only old weirdo that’s still into new music, and doesn’t just want to listen to what I enjoyed in high school. I’ve got a long way to go to catch up to most of the people at that this festival.

There were two stages at XPNFest. The River stage is the main stage overlooking the Delaware River and then the Marina stage that is sort of behind it and off to the side a little overlooking, well the marina. They are very close together and you can totally hear the music from anywhere, but the topography of the park means you can’t actually sit at one stage and turn around and actually see the other. They music basically just flips back and forth between the two stages. While they change the sets on one stage music is playing on the other. It was kind of nice not to have the Newport problem of always feeling like I’m missing out on something because there is music happening in too many places at once.

We set ourselves up at the Marina stage both days because there was better shade. I was amused because at most venues people fill in from front to back, but at the River stage people filled in from back to front because that’s where the trees were to provide shade. The Marina stage had more trees that were larger, so there was better shade overall. My husband just stayed put and I just walked over and stood in the back to watch the sets on the River stage.

On Saturday we left the shows at Wiggins Park a little early so that we could go have dinner with one of my oldest friends. We’ve been friends since I moved to Massachusetts in 7th grade. We stayed in touch even after my family moved again right after my Freshman year in high school. Since Baltimore and Philly are fairly close, we have usually been able to see each other once or twice a year. Then COVID happened and we hadn’t seen each other in 3 years. So I wanted to make sure to see her while we were up there. We met up for dinner and got to catch up for a few hours, which was nice. Then my husband and I headed back to the headlining part of the festival in Freedom Mortgage Pavilion.

I’ve talked a lot about the setup but haven’t actually said much about the music. I won’t bore you with an in depth look at every artist. I will just point out a couple of my highlights. I was happy to finally see Lo Moon, who I had tickets to see at a small club in Baltimore back in May but that I didn’t use. I think their music fits better in a dark club at night, but hey if what I can get is a bright stage in the middle of the day I’ll take it. Bartees Strange was definitely the highlight of Saturday. His new album, Farm to Table, is definitely going to be on all the best of 2022 lists. He also has an incredible stage presence. His set was a lot of fun. Sunday was my highlight day though. I was excited to see Buffalo Nichols, who I had been looking forward to at the Newport Folk Festival before we had to abandon ship. I was happy to get a second chance at seeing him. The set I was most looking forward to all weekend was Kathleen Edwards, who I have never seen live but have wanted to for awhile. She was my favorite set of the weekend, and I immediately wanted to go see her live again. So I’m hoping that will happen at some point. Jenny Lewis was the Sunday night headliner, and she also gave a really great performance. I was extremely happy that she played “She’s Not Me” as her second song in the set because it’s my favorite and she doesn’t always play it.

All in all it was a nice little music festival, and I look forward to going again in future years. It’s not the Newport Folk Festival. Going to this just reminded me how special that is. The sense of history and the collaborations that happen there can’t be beat. This was a festival where artists played music and it was enjoyable, but it was each artist doing their own thing. That was not what Newport is about. I will go back to XPNFest and enjoy the music, but Newport is home and where I get to commune with my folk family.

Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter at Wolf Trap

Last night I went down to Wolf Trap to see Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter at Wolf Trap. It was actually a show rescheduled from sometime in the summer of 2020 when it didn’t happen for obvious reasons. I actually didn’t have tickets to the original show. It must have been scheduled for a date that theoretically conflicted with some other plans I had, but I was able to make the rescheduled date for this summer. So I guess COVID did one good thing.

It wound up being an absolutely perfect outdoor summer concert. The weather was warm and a little humid, but not uncomfortably so. Sometimes with outdoor concerts I can’t dress appropriately for how warm it is at the start of the show when the sun is still up and how cool it is at the end of the show after the sun has gone down. This was just perfectly warm all the way around. There was also the wonderful ambient sound of crickets and cicadas to add a little extra harmony to the music.

One thing I like about me is that my musical interests are varied enough that I can sometimes go to concerts and be convinced I’m the oldest one there and then other times go to concerts and be sure that I’m the youngest one there. This concert was decidedly one where I felt like the youngest person the audience. That’s not really true because I did see one kid who was probably about five who was definitely younger than me, but for the most part it was a very grey haired audience with most people more like my parents age including Emmy Lou Harris herself who was the most glorious grey hair. I don’t even really have any memory of her having anything but grey hair. It’s rather impressive as someone in the public eye that she’s just owned it. But also she really is grey hair goals. If my hair looked as good as hers, I wouldn’t dye it either.

Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter were co-headlining the show. I felt like it could go either way who was in the actual headlining spot though. Emmylou Harris was up first. I did feel like she should have been in the headlining spot, but it turns out according to Mary Chapin Carpenter she would have been had she not immediately left to travel for something in New England. That also explains why Mary Chapin Carpenter came out and sang a song with Emmylou at the end of her set instead of them singing together at the very end of the show like you would expect. They sang “All the Roadrunning”. I was also amused that it seems like Mary Chapin Carpenter came out to sing that song while she was still getting ready for her set. I wouldn’t have thought anything about it if she had come out for her set with her hair up in a messy bun and in jeans, but when she came back out for her set her hair was down and the jeans had been replaced with black pants.

This was the first time I had ever really seen either one of them in concert. Back in 2015 I did go to an Emmylou Harris tribute concert that had the most amazing lineup of artists ever, which she was also at and joined in singing some of her songs at. Mostly though it was listening to other people sing her songs. This was the first time I’ve ever actually heard her songs really sung by her. Even at 75 she still has a great voice. She has a huge catalog of music, which she did a good job of playing a selection from. Though with so much music to choose from it was inevitable I wasn’t going to hear everything I wanted to. She did sing 3 songs off of the Red Dirt Girl album including the title song, “Bang the Drum Slowly” and “Michelangelo”, which I was happy about. However she didn’t sing “One Big Love”, which I would have liked to hear off that album. I was also happy that she sang “Pancho and “Lefty” but was honestly shocked that she didn’t sing “Wrecking Ball”. We got “Goin’ Back to Harlan” off that album instead. It was still fantastic even if I didn’t get to hear everything I wanted to hear. She just needed a longer set.

Both Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter did a good job of telling stories and talking about the inspirations for their songs. I love when artists do that at concerts instead of just singing. Some artists I’ve seen so many times I could tell the stories behind all their songs, but in this case since I’d never really seen either of them live before the stories were all new to me.

And that brings us to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s set. She told a story that is probably the best thing I have ever heard an artist say from the stage before in all the many concerts I’ve been to. In introducing her band she said that some bands do things like do drugs and trash hotel rooms. They play croquet, and they all have handles they use during their games so she was going to introduce them with their croquet handles. She said whenever they finish sound check some place they find a little patch of grass and set up their croquet set and play a game. I love this so much.

A lot of the songs from her set came from her newest album, The Dirt and the Stars, which was released in 2020. That album completely passed me by as did the fact that she apparently did a live YouTube thing called Songs from Home for the first 62 weeks of the pandemic playing a song a week into her phone which was apparently duct taped to a ceramic jug. That apparently led to an actual live concert with no audience performed at Wolf Trap which aired on PBS as One Night Lonely and won her a Grammy. Obviously there was a lot going on in the first year of the pandemic, but I can’t believe none of that ever made its way before my eyes in all that time. Luckily it looks like she still has all the YouTube videos up on her channel and you can watch the PBS special if you’re a Passport member, which I am. So I’ll have all that to go back and watch now. Anyway, all that is to say that I didn’t actually know a lot of the songs that she played. It didn’t really matter because they were great even if I wasn’t familiar with them. She did in fact play the three songs that I wanted to hear “Passionate Kisses”, “I Take My
Chances”, and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”. So I can’t complain at all.

There was nothing at this concert that made it particularly special. It was really just two legendary musical artists doing their thing. But the simplicity of it, the beautiful venue, the wonderful summer weather all just came together to create a perfect concert.

Bonnie Raitt with Lucinda Williams at Pier Six Pavilion

Saturday night we saw Bonnie Raitt with Lucinda Williams at Pier Six Pavilion. The show still indicated that we needed to have vaccine verification. They also said that when we were there a few weeks ago to see the War on Drugs, but no one asked to see our card so I kind of figured that it was just outdated information from before everywhere dropped all their restrictions. Luckily we brought them just in case because they did in fact check this time, though it was completely pointless because they didn’t check IDs along with them, so you literally could have shown them anybody’s vaccine card. As COVID cautious as I am, even I think having a vaccine requirement at an outdoor venue is silly at this point.

We grabbed the same exact spot at the front of the lawn that we had for The War on Drugs concert, which is a great spot. Great sight lines to the stage, no one in front of you, and cause of the positioning of a pillar no one wants to sit right next to you either because then they wouldn’t be able to see. Some guy did sit down next to me on the opposite on the small retaining wall that holds the lawn in and talked to me the whole time. He wasn’t a bad guy to talk to, but also I really didn’t need him chatting me up the entire concert.

Lucinda Williams was opening. I was a little bummed because half of this tour Bonnie Raitt had Mavis Staples opening for her and the other half was Lucinda Williams. I wish we had gotten Mavis, but oh well. I did not realize that Lucinda Williams had a stroke back in November of 2020. She can sing fine, but she still has a lot of problems with movement. She had to have someone walk her on and off the stage and needless to say she can’t play guitar anymore. I appreciate that she’s still out there trying to do her thing as best she can. Her band was great definitely filled in for her that respect. I don’t really know Lucinda Williams music very well. I mostly just know the song “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”. I just don’t think I like her voice that much even though her music is generally in my wheelhouse, and obviously she’s not much of a stage presence these days. So not a terrible set, but definitely not my favorite opening act ever.

Bonnie Raitt was great. She started off with a couple of songs off of her new album, which I happen to like. She’s still out there making good music. I was surprised she only played two songs from it, but I’m sure it pleased the crowd who were probably all there for the old stuff given that we were pretty much the youngest people I saw there save for one or two other groups of people. She played a good mix of songs from across her career. She of course played “Angel from Montgomery” and dedicated it to John Prine. She said she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to sing it on this tour, but instead it was cathartic. Speaking of people no longer in their performance prime, she definitely had to adjust “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. She can’t hit those high notes anymore, so she started much lower and at some points when the original song goes up she went down instead. It’s inevitable with older performers. Just a reminder that we’re all getting old and no longer in our hey days, but it’s not to say that the performance was bad at all. It was a really good set though that flew right by. I was shocked when she was done and I realized that she had in fact been playing for 90 minutes. It went by in the blink of an eye. I definitely wish she could have played longer, but noise ordinances yada, yada. I was happy to see her again, and we had another perfect night for an outdoor concert. I hope that trend continues.

Tears for Fears with Garbage at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Last night I went to see Garbage and Tears for Fears at Merriweather Post Pavilion. It was a real 90s throwback in a lot of ways except of course the fact that had it been the actual 90s I highly doubt these two bands would have been on the same bill together. Now they both tap into old people nostalgia all lumped together. I say it’s a 90s throwback concert because it was like the olden days when I first started going to concerts where you would have a single opening act that played for an hour and then the headliner would play for about 2 hours. Now bills are jammed full of multiple acts and even if there are only 2, they start later and it’s rare for the headliner to play for longer than 90 minutes.

It was Father’s Day and I think there were a good number of people in the crowd who were there as a father’s day present as there seemed to be lots of families with kids of all ages from babies to adults. Most of the audience as is to be expected were people approximately my age or older unless they were clearly there with people of that age group. There was one group of three twentysomethings that showed up for Tears for Fears and sat near us and I was like how did you get here?

There was a family inside the pit right up against the rail with two little girls one 13 and one 8. You may wonder how I know this, but it’s because the 13 year old was crazy excited and singing along to every song. The camera people kept panning to her during both sets, and at one point Curt from Tears for Fears talked to her and said I have to know how old you are and said that she’s been down here singing the words to every song, even the ones off the new album and said it was making his night. Then he asked how old her little sister was and apparently their father must have also said his age because he was like I don’t care that you’re 54 sir. But obviously you are raising your children right. Right before the end of the concert he asked her name and again told her that she made his night. What an exciting concert experience for that kid. I love that she’s going to have that story to tell for the rest of her life.

I was less enthused about the tween aged child in front of me who stood and clapped off beat over her head for almost the entire Tears for Fears set. At one point her parents pulled her down and were talking to her and then when she got back up she was just doing more rhythmic arm movements, so I thought maybe they had asked her to stop clapping. I was fine with the arm movements. It was really the off-beat clapping that was annoying me especially during slow songs that did not need anyone clapping along to them. Alas, that did not last long and she went back to the clapping. As a fellow rhythmically challenged human I’m not trying to denigrate that as much as say if you can’t clap on the beat then don’t spend two hours at a concert doing it non-stop. Someone needs to teach that kid how to channel her enthusiasm for the music into some dancing in place. Other than that it was a great night though.

Garbage was the opening band. Shirley Manson was so excited. She was like this is the best night. Things don’t get any better than this if you’re me. The weather is perfect and not the 100 degree heat we’ve been playing in. She said she couldn’t believe how many people came out to see them open. I would say the majority of the crowd was there for their set. I only saw a few people wander through our space in the lawn that were clearly looking for a place to sit right before Tears for Fears played. She said they haven’t played a crowd that big (~19,000 people) in this area since the HFStival back in 1995. HFStival being a big music festival in these parts back in the day that was attached to the radio station WHFS that has been defunct for almost 2 decades now. I’ve seen Garbage play a couple of times around these parts and they were playing in clubs that hold about 1,200 people so this was obviously a huge jump in crowd size as she said.

They were great. Shirley Manson is still the coolest in my opinion. She’s like the person I always secretly wanted and still secretly want to be even though I’m like 100% opposite of her. They of course played all their hit songs along with some other stuff. I had completely forgotten that they had a Bond song until she said they never play it, but that they were going to do it and we should enjoy it because they’re not going to do it again for a long time. They are still such a fun band to see live.

This was my first time seeing Tears for Fears live. I was too young to have seen them back in their hay day. They broke up just about the time that I was going to my first concerts. They have been back together off and on since 2004 and I guess have done some touring in that time, but never around these parts. Last night they said that the last time they played a concert in Maryland was 1990. So it’s not really like I’ve had much opportunity to see them. It would be easy to write them off as a legacy act, but they’re actually still writing new music. This tour is supporting their new album The Tipping Point, which came out earlier this year. It’s actually really good. They played a bunch of stuff off of it along with all of the hits that people came to hear, so I think everyone left happy. I was happy to get both because I do really like the new music as well as their old stuff. Though honestly I could have left happy after the third song when they played “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. It’s by far my favorite Tears for Fears songs and quite honestly one of my favorite songs ever. I fell in love with it as a little kid when it came out and have never stopped loving it. I’m very happy I finally got to hear it live. All in all a great show.

Jason Isbell and Sheryl Crow at Wolf Trap

On Friday night we went to Wolf Trap to see my first concert there of the season and thankfully not the last. It was super hot during the day, but once the sun went down it was a very pleasant evening to sit outside and enjoy some live music. I always enjoy sitting on the lawn and enjoying a picnic there. Though it was a sold out show and we wound up setting our chairs up on the concrete just behind the lawn because the lawn was jam packed full. A family even set up behind where we were. I do have to question why the mom in that family thought tater tots are a good picnic food. Seems to me they would just be cold and soggy. She was listing off all the things she brought to the kids, and I was like tater tots?

Waxahatchee was opening. Her set was really short since Jason Isbell and Sheryl Crow were co-headlining. She only had 30 minutes to play. It was an enjoyable little set though. I don’t have much to say about it.

This was a quick tour these three acts did together. I think it was something like only 6 dates. As is often the custom when artists co-headline they seemed to be trading off who went first and who went second. We had Sheryl Crow up first with Jason Isbell doing the final set. I have never been a huge Sheryl Crow fan. There are a handful of songs that I do actually really like, but most of them are just there apparently invading my brain against my will. I have never owned a Sheryl Crow album nor do I ever really seek out her music. Though I do have one of her songs, “I Shall Believe”, on my Amazing Songs Spotify Playlist. Sadly she did not play that song, though I didn’t really expect her to. My point with all this is to say that despite never really seeking her out on my own I knew pretty much every word to every song during that entire hour and fifteen minute set. I vaguely recognized a song from the Cars soundtrack that she apparently sings. I did not at all know some new song she made for the Showtime documentary about her that recently aired. But other than that I pretty much knew everything much to my surprise. I guess she had way more hit songs that were impossible to escape than I realized. She is a good performer, and I did enjoy her set. I’m still not going to go seek out her music though.

I’m always happy to be at a Jason Isbell concert. I love his music so much. It wasn’t one of the better sets of his that I’ve seen though. It felt very short. With them co-headlining and Wolf Trap having a hard out, they only had an hour and fifteen minutes each as I mentioned, which seemed very short and then he didn’t even really use it to its fullest. Sheryl just played straight through her full time. He did take the time at the end to do the whole dumb encore thing which ate up time and then they didn’t play all the way to 11. I feel like had they skipped the encore and played their full time they could have fit 2 more songs in there.

I was pleased that his wife, Amanda Shires, was there playing in the band. Literally the first thing I do every time I see him live is look to see if she’s there. She plays fiddle on all his albums, but as she has her own musical career she only sometimes tours with him. So they have all the songs re-orchestrated to play without the fiddle, but I much prefer it when she’s there. Apparently it was a special treat that she was there that night as she wasn’t supposed to be. He said she showed up and surprised him the night before in a rented Chrysler that he thought was the Uber Eats driver when she was first pulling up. I was also happy that he played “Goddamn Lonely Love”. It’s a song from back in his Drive-By-Truckers days, and although he usually throws one or two Truckers songs into his sets, he never plays this one live. During one of their Iso-lounging concerts that they did online at the beginning of the pandemic, Amanda told him that it was her favorite song that he’s ever written and he commented that he never plays it because it’s too depressing. I didn’t go too far back, but I did look up the most recent week of his setlists to see if it was something they had in regular rotation right now and doesn’t seem like it, so whether or not it’s true I’m going to believe that he added it to the set for her since she showed up to surprise him.

Overall a very enjoyable night of live music. I’m happy to be able to get to go to some concerts again that it’s still outdoor concert season. I don’t know when I’ll ever feel ready to go back to crowded indoor concerts. It’s super depressing to think about since obviously you know how much I love live music, and I’ve already sat out so much shows in the past year. I’m just going to try and enjoy the ones I can enjoy now in a much less risky environment.

The War on Drugs at Pier Six Pavilion

Last summer I wound up skipping a lot of concerts that I had tickets to that I didn’t wind up going to because after Delta showed up and it was clear that COVID was not actually gone and my doctor warned me about being very careful not to get it I was too paranoid to go to any of them. Data after the fact seemed to support that it would have been a reasonable thing to do. I’m not actually sure how with the new Omicron variants are making that data hold up for crowded spaces even if they’re outside with how much more transmissible it is, but I also know that it has to lessen the risk and I will go insane if I just lock myself away in my house forever. I was hoping to get back to some indoor concerts too with the way things are I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, but I’m not going to sit out my outdoor concerts this summer. (I’m so bummed that I’m going to miss Chvrches again next week. I had tickets to see them in DC right after Thanksgiving when OG Omicron was going crazy and didn’t go. Then they announced they were coming back again after only 6 months which is unheard of to a venue I like much better and I thought it was a sign that we were going to get another summer reprieve, and I was going to get to make up for missing out on the first show. Apparently it was just a sign that I’m too hopeful and willing to get kicked down over and over again.)

So all that being said I went to my first outdoor concert of the season last night to see The War on Drugs at Pier Six Pavilion. It’s a nice little outdoor venue in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. It was the perfect night for an outdoor concert too. It was also a nice low key reintroduction to concerts for me because unlike everything else I’m going to this one was not close to sold out. I bought lawn seats so that we had control over where were sitting and where in relation to other people with the ability to move if we wanted. Since the show wasn’t sold and the back of the pavilion was particularly empty a lot of people from the lawn went in and grabbed seats because there was no one policing it like at Merriweather and Wolf Trap where you have to show your tickets 50 times to get to your seats. That left the lawn very uncrowded. We had a spot right in the front of the lawn and there wasn’t anyone within 10 feet of us in any direction. I brought a mask but didn’t wear it until we were walking out in the crowd. I’m pretty sure I won’t have nearly that much space at any other show, so this was a nice dipping my toe in experience.

If you’re not familiar with The War on Drugs they’re originally from Philly, but I think they live in LA now. Their album I Don’t Live Here Anymore was my favorite album of 2021. I’ve been a fan for a long time, but this is the first time that I’ve actually been able to see them live because as their lead singer said last night even though we’re from just up the road in Philly we never play down here. It’s sadly true for lots of bands because Baltimore falls within the radius clauses for lots of DC And Philly venues and since those are bigger markets the bands just play there and skip Baltimore.

They’re basically a good old guitar based rock band the likes of which you don’t see too much these days. I love their music, in particular all the guitar sounds. Their songs do tend to have some long instrumental breaks, but they’re contained which in my mind makes them different from jam bands that will take a 5 minute song and turn it into a 25 minute song live. Their songs live were still their songs even if there are stretches that are only instrumental. I appreciate my husband letting me drag him along because I knew he would really not care for this concert. It made me laugh to myself a little because stereotypically if you told someone that one us was being dragged to this concert against their will people would guess that it was me rather than my old, white guy husband.

It was an enjoyable show. They didn’t have an opening act so they had plenty of time to play with and didn’t go on until almost 30 minutes late, which I was annoyed at. I get annoyed at rock and rollers acting like stereotypical rock and rollers, particularly because I’m not used to it. Between festivals and individual shows that are packed to the gills with multiple acts, concerts these days are generally very regimented with strict set times. It’s rare that acts don’t go on when they’re supposed to. They did play for a good two hours though, which is rare because of a lot of shows having not just one, but two opening acts in this day and age. It was perfect chill music to sit outside and listen to on a gorgeous summer night with a couple of songs worth getting up to dance to. It did make me realize that this is the only way I would really ever want to see them live again. They are not a band I would want to stand around in a crowded club or arena and see. They’re definitely a chill out on the lawn and enjoy the vibe band for me. It was a nice way to get back into a full fledged concert season. Looking forward to several shows in a few weeks over my birthday weekend.