New Music Friday: Maggie Rogers

Ever since the release date for Maggie Rogers’ album Heard It In a Past Life was announced I knew it was going to occupy this space. I was trying to decide which song from it I wanted to talk about in my New Music Friday post, but then I figured why limit myself to a single song when I can just link to the whole album in Spotify. You should really listen to the whole thing because it is wonderful from start to finish. “Light On”, which was my favorite song of 2018, is still my favorite but I really do love everything on it. It’s only January and there’s already a ridiculous amount of new music out there, but it’s entirely possible that Heard It In a Past Life might wind up being my favorite album of 2019. I’m not the only one because she has been getting mad press over this album. It’s seems like I’ve seen interviews with her everywhere.

I always have mixed feelings about artists I love getting so much attention because the more other people love them the more I run into stuff like I talk about below. I obviously love promoting new music and artists I love, but a little piece of me also wants to hold them close and make them mine. The better part of me who wants great things for them and also wants others to experience the joy they create always wins out, but I won’t lie and say I’m not a little pained by how much attention Maggie Rogers is getting right now because I know it means it’s going to be impossible to get tickets to see her concert (it already is) and she’s going to stop playing the small venues I love and start playing the large venues that I don’t. I will only feel marginally bad for feeling this way since based on everything she’s said in interviews and the actual songs on this album I’m pretty sure Maggie Rogers herself has some real mixed feelings about her fame.

I’m really never going to stop kicking myself for not buying tickets to see her at the 9:30 Club in March. It’s in DC and on a Monday and Tuesday night so I talked myself out of it and now I regret it greatly. I have never, ever resold concert tickets for more than I paid for them, so I hate to feed the greedy people and scalpers by buying ridiculously priced resale tickets. I was aghast when I first looked at resale tickets and saw they were going for double face value at $75. Turns out I should have jumped on that because currently the cheapest ones are $175. Apparently I’m not the only one who is obsessed with Maggie Rogers. It’s one thing if I were paying that much money for a concert and the artist is getting at least some tiny portion of it after everybody gets their cut, but I refuse to pay that much and let some greedy person get 10 times more money than anyone actually involved in putting on the show is getting. So I’ll just be over here crying in my pillow that I apparently won’t be seeing Maggie Rogers live again any time soon. I will just console myself with this amazing album.

 

New Music Friday: Doylestown Girl by Ryan Adams

This morning’s new music Friday features a song so new that it almost really doesn’t even exist yet. Ryan Adams has a new song called “Doylestown Girl” that is off what is apparently the first of three albums he plans to release in 2019. I LOVE Ryan Adams, but even I think that’s a bit much. He’s always been a prolific songwriter, but perhaps we don’t actually need to hear every song that comes out of his head. But I’ve also seen the list of people he’s collaborated on for the first two albums and I’m kind of excited.

On Wednesday Ryan Adams premiered the song on WXPN, the NPR music radio station out of the University of Pennsylvania. We get it here in Baltimore part of the time on some weird radio station that is sometimes a high school radio station, sometimes simulcasting WXPN, and sometimes some third thing that plays real old timey music which I’ve never quite figured out.  I love WXPN though and I stream it pretty much all day at work. I figured by now the song would actually have dropped for real and not still just be a WXPN exclusive, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. But WXPN shared on their blog this Soundcloud file someone in Argentina made of the premiere of the song being played on the station. I don’t know how long it will be up before it gets pulled, but here you go. Presumably the song will officially be out in the world sometime soon.

Lake Street Dive at Rams Head Live

Ok all other bands I’m going to see in concert in 2019, Lake Street Dive has thrown down the gauntlet. You all have a high bar to cross to be as enjoyable as they were.

But allow me to digress for minute because while Lake Street Dive was amazing not everything about the night was, namely the really annoying woman standing in front of me. Apparently Lake Street Dive has a big following among Baby Boomers because there were a lot of older people in the crowd including the couple in front of me who were probably in their mid to late 60s. The woman was already annoying me during the opening act when she kept talking to her husband and taking photos and videos and constantly wooing very loudly. I got to hear about her dream the night before and a running commentary on how many people had liked and commented on her Facebook post. Then she got even more annoying during the set change when she had to talk to every single person standing anywhere near her. If I didn’t know better I would think the Charm City Bluegrass Festival was paying her to promote them because she insisted on telling everyone about it and they needed to go. That is of course in addition to so many other things. I know more about this woman than I know about some of my family members. I know her name, what neighborhood she lives in, that she’s lived in Baltimore City her entire life, that she’s won tickets to the Charm City Bluegrass Festival three years in a row, what she did for New Year’s, that these concert tickets were a Christmas gift from her husband and the drama that went on with him trying to stop her from buying her own tickets and then finally having to tell her he bought them already, that she has a 35 year old daughter and what band played at her wedding, that her daughter is taking her to see Fleetwood Mac and taking her husband to some other concert that I have now since forgotten. I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting, but geez lady that is way too much information for me to know about you just because I stood next to you at a concert. She also kept knocking into me all night. I got super excited about halfway through Lake Street Dive’s set when her husband came back with drinks and she said we should leave after we finish these since you have to work in the morning. I was like drink up lady. They did finally start to leave. She was putting her coat on and then Lake Street Dive said we’re going to cover a song by Paul McCartney and I was like NOOOOO, Paul McCartney is like cat nip for Baby Boomers and sure enough she stopped putting on her coat and they stayed for a couple more songs. Then they did finally leave and I got to enjoy the last half hour of the show in peace.

Now on with the show. The opening act was Mikaela Davis. The name didn’t register with me when I looked up who was opening, but once she was out on stage I realized I had seen her before. The harp was a dead giveaway. I don’t know anyone else who plays a harp. The first time I saw her she was opening for Sara Watkins at Rams Head on Stage and she was a solo artist playing the harp. At the time I said she had written some good songs, but that the harp did nothing for me. I guess she decided in order to continue her career as a harpist that did not involve her playing weddings, hotel lobbies, or wherever else harpists actually play music that she was going to need to get an actual band. So this time she did have a backing band. It did help, but for the most part her music is not my thing. At least watching someone play a harp on stage is novel.

Despite the annoying woman and the lackluster opener I still had a great time because Lake Street Dive was fantastic. This was the first time I had seen them headline their own show. I had seen them previously at the Newport Folk Festival and with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as part of the BSO Pulse series. I really enjoyed those shows, but you never get a full sense of a band’s performance when they are squeezed between a million other acts playing 45-60 minutes at a festival. It was nice to finally get to see what they could do under their own auspices.

They are such a fun band. Rachael Price, the lead singer, has this amazing deep, smooth voice and is really dynamic performer. I love their music with its jazz, rock, country, and soul influences. Watching them groove out to it on stage was really enjoyable and of course the whole audience was dancing along as well. They played a good mix of songs from their albums. In addition to the aforementioned Paul McCartney song they also played a couple of other cover songs, which is something I always enjoy at live shows. They added keyboardist Akie Bermiss to the band in 2017, and he sang a very groovy 70’s funk version of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One”. It took me forever to figure out what song it was because of the different genre take on it. I was standing there singing along with the lyrics and think what song is this? It finally came to me. I was wondering what song they were going to end the show with since they had already sang all their big hits by the time their encore came around. It turns out it was with a cover of the song “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. I cannot think of a more perfect song for them to cover nor a more perfect band to cover that song. It’s like they were made for each other. It was such a super fun way to end the evening with everyone dancing and singing along. It was a banner way to kick off my 2019 concert season. I hope every show I go to this year is as much fun.

New(ish) Music Friday: Shame, Shame, Shame by Lake Street Dive

I still don’t really have any brand new music to talk about with the year having just started and all, but I wanted to get things off on the right foot and still have a post the first Friday in 2019. Last night I saw Lake Street Dive in concert and won’t have time to put together a full post about that until some time this weekend, so I thought I would choose one of the songs off their newest album to talk about as sort of a sneak preview of my concert post.

I listen to about 90% of my music while I’m working which means it’s generally in the background and I can’t pay attention to the lyrics. Even when I am in a place where I can be more attentive I still don’t often fully pick up on lyrics because I am a visual and not an auditory learner and I just have a hard time processing them. This is why when I used to have time and also actually had physical CDs that came with lyric booklets and liner notes I would sit down with the new music I acquired and listen to it while looking at the lyrics. I will occasionally pull up lyrics to a song online to listen along, but I definitely do that for a small fraction of the music I listen to.

Anyway, I’ve heard “Shame, Shame, Shame” off of Lake Street Dive’s new album Free Yourself Up any number of times and never parsed what the song was about. At the concert last night Rachel Price intro’ed the song by saying it’s about what happens when things are happening the world that horrify you but that you feel powerless to stop. I identify with that. I felt kind of dumb once I started listening to the lyrics as she was singing last night because it was then very obvious what (and who) it’s about. Now I like it even more.

New(ish) Music Friday: Happier by Marshmello ft. Bastille

It’s been a few week since I’ve posted something for New Music Friday because this time of year there really is a dearth of new music. I don’t really have anything exactly new this week either, but I thought I would write about song I’ve been loving recently. I don’t tend to write a lot about pop music here because it’s not where the songs that hit me on a deep emotional level tend to be. I enjoy myself some pop music, but it’s essentially car music for me. I listen to it when I hear it on the radio when I’m driving. In general it’s not the music I’m buying nor the artists I go to see in concert. There may be one or two pop songs a year that I fall in love with and seek out when I’m not driving and when I am desperately hope I come across them on the radio.

“Happier” by Marshmello featuring Bastille is one of those songs. I love nothing more than a jaunty sounding song with sad lyrics except maybe a melancholy Christmas song, which I guess is really just the reverse. I love the bittersweetness of this song of being in a relationship you know isn’t working out but where you still really care for the person and don’t know how to let go even though you know it’s for the best for both of you. This is most likely my last New Music Friday post of 2018. I’ll be back at some point before the end of the year with my annual post on the pop culture that’s meant the most to me over the past year. Until then, enjoy yourself some happy sounding sad pop music.

 

Mumford and Sons with Maggie Rogers at Capital One Arena

This past summer at the Newport Folk Festival Mumford and Sons were the surprise Saturday headliner. They had Maggie Rogers out with them for part of their set and even gave her time to sing “Alaska” with them backing her so I was unsurprised to see that they were going to be touring with her as an opening act. It also made me really want to see said tour enough that I was willing to go see it at Capital One Arena.

In general I loathe arena shows and try to avoid them unless there is someone I want to see bad enough and it’s my only option. I refuse to ever go to another stadium show though. Arena shows are pretty terrible because they are not designed for concerts. The music always sounds muddy, and of course they are huge so you’re so far away from the stage in general. Although as much as everyone wants to bulldoze Royal Farms Arena because it’s so old and outdated, I actually don’t find it a terrible place to see a concert. Anyway, I wanted to see this show enough that I decided seeing it an arena venue was worth it and it was.

By the time this show rolled around I was more excited to see Maggie Rogers than I was Mumford and Sons. She is one of my current favorite singers. Her first major label album isn’t even due out until January and yet she is a solid stage presence even in an arena, which I find even seasoned acts sometimes have a hard time commanding if they aren’t relying on a lot of fancy technical stage production that has nothing to do with them or their music. She was fantastic to watch perform and her voice is just amazing.

She’s originally from Easton on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and she talked about how she first saw Mumford and Sons at Merriweather Post Pavilion when she was 16. I was also at that show. It was the terrible one where there were crazy thunderstorms and we all got hailed on and then the lawn was madness for the rest of the concert. It must be surreal to be in the audience for a band when you’re 16 and then 8 short years later to be headlining for them in arenas. She told that story leading into her song “Light On”, which is all about everything good and bad that happens when you rocket to fame like Maggie Rogers did after a video of Pharrell discovering her song “Alaska” went viral. Spoiler alert “Light On” is going to show up as my favorite song in my annual most memorable pop culture blog post for 2018. I will have more to say about the song then, but needless to say seeing her sing it live last night was the highlight of the night for me. It’s obviously not even 2019 yet and anything could happen, but there’s a good chance that her album could be my favorite 2019 album. My favorite album of 2018 was something that came out in January. I’ll let you try and guess what that might be until I reveal it in another week or so.

Mumford and Sons were also good. This is the fifth time I’ve seen them in concert and the first time I’ve seen them at an indoor venue. I heard some people walking into the parking garage with us commenting that they hope Mumford and Sons comes back in the summer to play at an outdoor venue because it’s so much better and I would concur but I think they did an admirable job of trying to make an arena seems small. Their stage was in the center of the floor and they had standing room only floor tickets on either side of the stage. I had originally been trying to get tickets in one of the sections on the side of the arena because they would have been closer to the stage, but wound up getting seats on one of  the ends, which wound up being way better. We had a great view of the stage and I don’t think any of the seats on the side would have been that great because they would have been looking at the side of the stage the whole time.

The band moved around a lot and faced different directions. There were drum kits set up all over the place. Both ends of the stage were higher than the main part and they used these to create smaller more intimate seeming stage spaces. They even did one of those things where they gathered around one single mic and played a song acoustic. That’s brave in an arena. Marcus Mumford also went out and went all around the arena during one of the songs. I thought the girl behind me might keel over from excitement the way she was screaming with Beatles at Shea Stadium levels of excitement and the closest he got to us was an aisle two sections away.

As I said I’m not much for all the stage production and theatrics that usually go into arena shows and there was some of that but I don’t feel like they relied on it too much. There was one moment I will totally give them and say the pyrotechnics were totally on point. I have always loved the point in the song “Believe” where the music sort of drops out and then everything kicks into high gear. They definitely used some pyrotechnics to great effect for that, which can see in the video. It’s not from the show I was at because it doesn’t seem like anyone has posted one yet, but same deal. The rest of the pyrotechnics I couldn’t have cared less about but these worked for me really well.

They also had Maggie Rogers back out during the stupidly long encore to sing “Awake My Soul” with them, which was amazing. But also why you gonna take your leave of the stage after playing just over an hour and then come back for a 30 minute encore. Encores are dumb anyway, and I super appreciate the rare band that refuses to take them like Ryan Adams and Wye Oak, but if you’re going to do it do it like a normal band and come back out for 2 maybe 3 songs not 5 .

It was a really great show though and I’m glad I put aside my hatred of arena shows and trekked down to DC in the rain to see it. Of course now I’m just kicking myself for not getting tickets to see Maggie Rogers at the 9:30 Club in March and now they’re all sold out, and I hate feeding the scalpers. We’ll see if I cave as the show gets closer because if she was that great at Capital One Arena I can only imaging how stellar she will be at someplace like the 9:30 Club, which is such a better venue.

New Music Friday: A Phoebe Bridgers Trifecta

It’s after Thanksgiving so we have now officially entered Christmas music season, which makes it very apropos that I have some Christmas music for you today. Last year I was obsessed with Phoebe Bridger’s album and this year I have been obsessed with the temporary supergroup boygenius that Phoebe Bridgers formed with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus. So today I have three songs from Phoebe Bridgers and boygenius for you.

Yesterday she released a cover of McCarthy Trenching’s “Christmas Song” with backing vocals by Jackson Browne. It’s not a song I had ever heard before, but it’s about feeling lonely at Christmas even when you’re not alone. I love me a melancholy Christmas song, so it’s right up my alley.

Speaking of melancholy Christmas songs, one of my favorites is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. In reading the article about the new Christmas cover I discovered that Phoebe had recorded a version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” last year. She appropriately uses the “muddle through somehow” over the “hang a shining star” lyric and makes the song sound even more haunting than usual. I approve.

And on a non-Christmas song note I figured I would also throw in this recent cover of the Dixie Chick’s “Cowboy Take Me Away” that boygenius has been doing on their short tour, which sadly came nowhere near me. I’m holding out hope that they’ll reunite to play a set at the 2019 Newport Folk Festival. This is a gorgeous cover of this song. Their voices are so good together. It’s too bad their 5 song EP is all we’ll probably get out of them as a group.