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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Songs I Love: Ramblin’ Man by The Allman Brothers May 27, 2017

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 4:26 pm

In honor of Gregg Allman’s passing I present you with a story about the song “Ramblin’ Man”. When I was in 7th grade my family moved from Georgia to Massachusetts. During that summer between my 7th and 8th grade years my sister and I took tennis lessons at a local tennis club along with our neighbor, a boy a few years younger than us who had also just moved there but from England.

Our tennis instructor was a college kid who to my young 12 year old self seemed infinitely older. To reconcile my memory of this guy with the college guys I interact with on a daily basis takes some work because he will forever seem so much older in my mind. At any rate for some reason he made it his goal to teach us all the lyrics to the song “Ramblin’ Man”. I don’t know why he decided that should happen. I suppose some high minded idea that this music he himself was probably just coming to learn of in college was far superior to whatever pop music we were wont to go on about at the time. I still have vivid memories of singing the lyrics to that song while playing tennis long before I could have reliably told you I had ever even heard the actual song.

Every time I have heard that song in my life since then though I have thought back to that summer and that tennis instructor who in his own mind was deciding to elevate my musical tastes. I don’t remember your name, but thanks for the memories. And thanks to The Allman Brothers who did indeed create some wonderful music that this guys was not wrong about the fact that I should know it.

 

 

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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Nashville Music Trip May 1, 2017

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Travel — dwhren @ 7:47 am

Reader, you may remember back when I wrote about my concert venue bucket list. If you don’t, no matter because my husband remembered it and bought me tickets to see Dawes at the Ryman Auditorium for Christmas. That of course necessitated a trip to Nashville. For some silly reason Paul had in his head that we would just take a quick overnight trip to see the show and then come home. I on the other hand was like why would we go all the way to Nashville and only stay for one night? Not only are there multiple other concert venues on my bucket list in Nashville, but I’d never really been to the city before. I was there once for a night when I was high school and went to look at Vanderbilt on a college tour. I didn’t really do anything in the city itself, so I was also interested in having time to check out what the city had to offer.

Adding to the fun of the trip, in looking for places to stay on Airbnb, I discovered that the person who owns the house they used as Deacon’s house on the tv show Nashville rents out an apartment built into the attic of it. I couldn’t resist getting to stay in Deacon’s house, so that’s what we did. The house they used in the first season where Scarlett, Avery, Gunner, and Luke all lived in various configurations was right next door. We also happened by where they shoot the Highway 65 offices when we were walking around downtown, so we had a whole little unintended Nashville location tour.

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The house they used as Deacon’s house in the TV show Nashville. We staying in an apartment in the top of it.

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Deacon has a pretty nice back yard.

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The house used to film Scarlett, Gunner, Avery, and Luke’s house in the early seasons of Nashville

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The space they used to film Highway 65 Records in the TV show Nashville

Aside from it being really fun to say that I stayed at Deacon’s house, it was a really great location too. It was in East Nashville just over the Cumberland River from downtown and a few blocks from the Titans stadium. It was just a little over a mile to walk from the house into downtown, which we did during the day. The neighborhood has definitely been gentrifying over the past decade or so. We felt plenty safe walking around in the light, but between the footbridge over the river and our house was the dark area by the stadium and a not well lit public housing unit so we were a little wary walking to downtown after dark. We had a rental car so we just drove over instead. It probably would have been fine, but without really knowing the area we didn’t want to do anything stupid. There were several decent little restaurants within walking distance. We pretty much stuck in East Nashville for our meals. It was a perfect place for me to stay. Convenient to everything we were doing, but out of the crazy fray of downtown. I don’t even want to think about all the drunken bachelor and bachelorette partiers we would have been contending with in a hotel downtown.

We flew in Thursday afternoon. I had been hoping to go the Bluebird Cafe on Thursday night, but it was not meant to be. Usually there are two shows a night, but they were closed for a private event earlier in the evening and thus there was only a late show even further limiting our chances of getting tickets. It will be a good excuse to go back to Nashville again some day, but the fact that the tickets don’t go on sale until the week prior makes it difficult to actually plan and not pay last minute for everything.

I’m really happy with what we wound up doing Thursday night instead. We wound up at City Winery seeing Uncle Earl and I Draw Slow. Uncle Earl is an old-time bluegrass sort of band made up of KC Groves, Kristin Andreassen, Abigail Washburn, Rayna Gellert. I already knew I liked Abigail Washburn, so was curious to see what this band was. They formed in the early-2000s, but aren’t really an active band at the moment. They joked up their one night world tour. They were a super lot of fun. The music was great, and I happen to appreciate that they were very much sort of stumbling through the set not knowing song orders or who was supposed to be standing where because they were just back together for the night. They had great rapport with the audience and the whole thing was just a lot of fun.

I Draw Slow is an Irish band who plays Irish folk and Bluegrass music. They were also really wonderful. I had not ever heard of them prior to this concert, but I really love their music and will definitely be listening to them more. They just released their third album, and this was their album release show in Nashville. I really liked how they explained the story of each song and what influenced them to write it before playing. I always like that kind of insight into the music I’m hearing. I definitely recommend checking them out.

Friday morning we toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I very much enjoyed it. It reminded me about all the things I love about country music even though I could pretty much do without most mainstream country music at the moment. The special Brad Paisley exhibit made me realize that I hate every Brad Paisley song I know except for his duet with Alison Krauss. There was also a special exhibit that’s there until the end of the year on Bob Dylan and how his work in Nashville on the Blonde on Blonde album (obviously the 50th anniversary of it being the reason for this exhibit) influenced other non-country artists to record in Nashville. It was interesting, but it was really large in comparison to the rest of the museum and by the end I was a little mad that I spent so much time reading about Bob Dylan in a museum about country music. I thought the exhibit on session musicians was really well done though. They had a little areas for each one where you could step in, read about who the musician was, what he played, and then listen to a sampling of songs that musician played on. I can’t say how much interest the museum would hold for anyone who is not a fan of country music, but I loved it.

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If you’ve ever paid any attention to music related posts here, you should know I love Jason Isbell so much. Thus I was very happy to see this display in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

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Display of one of the session musicians in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Friday afternoon we did a tour of the Ryman Auditorium. I’m not sure I think it was worth the $20, but I certainly learned a lot about the space and it did give me a new appreciation for it going into the concert we saw there on Saturday. We also walked around downtown a little. I got off of Broadway as quickly as possible and tried to avoid it for the rest of our trip. It like Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Sixth Street in Austin is full of crowded bars, loud music, and horrible crowds of drunk people. It may be what a lot of people go to Nashville for, but it is 100% my nightmare. We didn’t step one foot into any of those bars, and I was happy to get far away from the packs of bachelor and bachelorette parties roaming everywhere.

Friday night we had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. Oddly enough some of my friends from Baltimore were also in Nashville this past weekend to run the Rock N Roll Marathon and were also at the Opry on Friday night. I loved the Opry. I love when music has a sense of history and everyone is aware of it and it informs what they are doing on stage. The Opry with its nightly mix of new and old country and bluegrass artists is nothing about that. Plus with every artist getting only two songs it’s really about the show as a whole rather than any single artist playing. Old Crow Medicine Show was the “headliner” so they got three songs. I very much appreciate them saying that someone (I forget who) told them if you’re given the honor to play the Opry you should play the song that got you there, so they of course ended on “Wagon Wheel”, which is always some sing-a-long fun. Josh Turner, who has an amazingly deep voice, was probably the other biggest current name on the bill. I however was especially excited to see Pam Tillis. I adored her back in the 90s when they actually allowed female artists to be played on mainstream country radio stations. Getting to see her made my 90s country loving heart very happy. I also very much loved one of the old-time bluegrass bands I hadn’t heard of before playing “Rocky Top”, which is a bluegrass standard and something I have wonderful memories of from my childhood. It was an excellent evening and definitely lived up to and exceeded my expectations.

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Paul and I at the Grand Ole Opry

It turns out that the marathon I mentioned earlier ran within a block of the house were staying at and right by the restaurant we ate breakfast at on Saturday morning. We didn’t intend to watch any of the race, but right as we were leaving the restaurant it became apparent that the male leader was about to round the bend to where we were at about mile 20. We decided to stay and cheer him on and then wound up sticking around for about an hour to cheer on some of the other racers until I decided it was getting too hot and sunny for me to be standing about with no sunscreen on. It was a terrible day for a marathon. They even moved the start time up 2 hours because of the predicted heat and humidity.

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The male leader of the Rock N Roll Marathon running by

Our actual agenda for the day was to go the Hermitage. It was a little bit more difficult to do then it should have been because of the marathon. It’s really hard to navigate around a city you don’t know when there’s a marathon going on. Knowing streets are blocked off is only so useful if you don’t know the way to get around them and Google only wants to tell you to go the ways that are closed. We made it there eventually though.

The Hermitage, in case you don’t know, was Andrew Jackson’s estate. Apparently not everyone even knows who that is. I stupidly read the post-it comment wall they had at the end of the exhibit for people to say what they learned about Andrew Jackson or thought about him. Someone posted that they learned he was the president. Anyway, there is a museum exhibit that walks you through a lot of information leading up to Jackson’s presidency and information about his personal life with actually very little about his presidency itself. If you were wondering what they would say about the Trail of Tears, the answer is not really anything. There was enough there that seems way to relevant to today, but this isn’t a political blog post so we’re just moving on. You also get a guided tour of the house itself and an audio tour that goes with various markers at other places around the grounds. It’s worth visiting if you’re in the area.

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The Hermitage

On our way back from the Hermitage we stopped at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. I had heard many people talking about this ice cream, so figured while we were in the area we should try it. It was good, but I’m not sure that it lived up to the hype for me. Probably because I have The Charmery right down the street from me.

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Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – Half Almond Brittle, Half Brambleberry Crumble

Saturday night was the Dawes concert at the Ryman Auditorium. They were excellent as always. They played all my favorite songs, which they don’t always do. Of course this set was literally three hours long, so it was going to be pretty hard for them not to play all my favorite songs. They ended the evening playing “All Your Favorite Bands”, which was the absolute perfect song to end the night. They stopped playing for the final chorus, put their instruments down, and stood and watched the crowd as we sang it to them. I’ve seen them do this with various songs at any number of concerts now, and I will never stop loving the look of awe and wonderment Taylor Goldsmith gets on his face every time. The fact that the still gets so much joy and to some degree still seems surprised that the crowd knows his songs makes me so happy.

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Dawes at the Ryman

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Taylor Goldsmith playing an acoustic solo song.

The Ryman was an excellent place to see a concert. I could have done without the obnoxious Baby Boomer guy in front of me. I routinely find Baby Boomers to be the worst concert goers. This guy insisted to me multiple times before the concert started that as soon as the lights went down I was required to stand up for the entire concert. Yeah, no man. My back can’t take standing for 3 hours right now, and I don’t need to tell you that for you to leave me alone and not turn around and gesture for me to stand up whenever I was sitting down. It would have been one thing if I insisted he sit down because he was blocking my view, but that was not the case. Aside from him and his equally obnoxious friend who was sitting behind me who kept yelling loudly things like “Testify” at the stage, it was an excellent show and I enjoyed it very much.

It was a wonderful weekend, and I’m so happy to have gotten to check a few places off of my concert venue bucket list with three excellent nights of live music.

 

Songs I Love: Hope the High Road by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit April 17, 2017

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 10:12 am

I’ve been meaning to write about this song since it dropped almost a month ago, but I almost never have the mental energy to write blog posts these days. I’m off work today though, so I have no excuse. Jason Isbell and his band the 400 Unit have a new album, The Nashville Sound, coming out in June so probably expect this to the best the first of several posts about it. I know no one reading this really cares because despite my repeated attempts over the years to turn everyone I know onto Jason Isbell’s music I have failed. But I can’t stop, won’t stop writing about how much I love his music.

Prior to hearing this song I wondered how much I might actually like the music from his new album as all the interviews with him I had seen about indicated that it was not going to be full of sad sack songs like the previous two albums that I loved so much. He said it was going to be much more of a rock and roll album with the full backing of the 400 Unit hence it’s a Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit album and not just a Jason Isbell album. “Super 8 Motel” is the most rock and roll of the songs off Southeastern and decidedly my least favorite, so I wondered if I would still feel the same love for the songs on The Nashville Sound.

If “Hope the High Road” is any indication I have nothing to worry about. I am once again going to love this album. It definitely has much more of a rock and roll vibe to it than most of the music off of Southeastern and Something More than Free, but at its heart it still very much sounds like a Jason Isbell song. The lyrics that cut straight to my heart, the great guitar, Amanda Shires voice echoing in the background. I love everything about it.

The full album is released 2 days before my birthday, and then I get to see him in concert 2 weeks after that so needless to say I’m looking forward to June.

 

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.