New Music Friday: Take Me There by Delta Rae

Earlier this week I was debating which of the gloriously gloomy female indy rock songs featured on this week’s All Songs Considered I wanted to feature on the blog today. It was an embarrassment of riches if that type of music is your thing like it’s totally mine. You should just go listen to the episode because I wound up pivoting entirely when I found out that Delta Rae was dropping the first single off of their forthcoming album, The Light this morning.

Delta Rae brands themselves as the Great American Southern Gothic Male Female Soul Folk Pop Country Family Band. As such they’ve said they have a lot of problems with record labels because they want to pigeonhole artists into a genre so they can market them and Delta Rae didn’t like feeling like they had to be put in box and constrained in the type of music they were making to please their label. Thus they’re setting out on the indie label road again and they funded their next two albums The Darkness and The Light through Kickstarter (which I backed). They wound up getting fully funded in something like 48 hours so for the rest of the month they just kept adding on ridiculous stretch goals. I for sure know we’re getting a Holiday album, which was what I was most excited about. There’s also going to be an acoustic album and I think some music videos and even a live stage musical of some sort. I sort of lost track.

Unlike the aforementioned sad songs I was considering for this week, “Take Me There” is pretty much the opposite of that. It’s a super peppy song definitely more on the pop spectrum of their music. It’s a much better song for a Friday morning. Go listen and do a little dance.

New Music Friday: Castles by Freya Ridings

So the song I’m talking about today isn’t all that new. It was released back in July, but the first time I can recall ever hearing it was earlier this week. I am apparently way behind the times because the YouTube video has already racked up close to 9 million views. I am very disappointed in myself. Anyway, if you like me have yet to hear the song “Castles” by Freya Ridings you should take a listen. It’s an excellent song about picking yourself up and making an even better life after a breakup.

Happy 11th Anniversary to My Husband

Today my husband and I are celebrating our 11th anniversary. It’s been 11 wonderful years since we got married and 15 years since we started dating. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long. Time has flown by. Neither of us are super gushy romantic people. We don’t generally do the types of things that the culture at large would necessarily consider romantic, but I think the life we live together and the way we take care of each other is the best romance of all.

Me being me of course can think of no better way to express my love than through a song. If you read my post from yesterday, you’ll know I mentioned that I was bummed that Ray LaMontagne didn’t play my favorite song of his when I saw him on Wednesday night. That was partly because I already knew I was going to be using it in this anniversary post. If I had gotten married any later this song would have been the song I chose for our first dance. However, the album it’s on didn’t come out until four days before our wedding and somehow in that four days while I was in the midst of last minute wedding prep I did not find this song, fall in love with it, and then decide to make it our first dance song. (Our actual first dance song was Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” in case you were wondering.) I love this song and think it perfectly encapsulates our marriage because my husband is the best thing that ever happened to me. He makes my life better every day. I look forward to many more years together.

Ray LaMontagne at the Lyric Opera House

Last night I went to see Ray LaMontagne at the Lyric Opera House. It was an all acoustic night. The opening act was Kacy & Clayton, a band I was previously unfamiliar with. They are cousins from Saskatchewan, Canada. It was just the two of them up there with acoustic guitars. Their music was fine. I’m not sure that I’ll be seeking it out again, but it was a pleasant 45 minutes that sort of flew by. I felt like they had a really short set, but then when I looked at my watch more time had passed than I thought.

Ray LaMontagne was also doing the entirely acoustic thing last night. It was him with Carl Broemel from My Morning Jacket accompanying him on guitar and pedal steel (love me some pedal steel). This was the first time I’ve really seen Ray LaMontagne in concert. He played the Newport Folk Festival a couple of years ago. I don’t remember who he was up against, but obviously someone I wanted to see more since I only saw a small piece of his set there. It was back when he was touring his Supernova album, which I am not a fan of, so that set full of those songs wasn’t doing a whole lot for me. The small section of songs he did from that album last night also reminded me that still don’t care for it.

I do like all his other albums though, and I figured seeing him acoustic would be a nice treat. It’s a good thing that I enjoyed it since I sort of paid double for my ticket. I go to a lot of concerts alone, but sometimes I choose to drag my poor husband. I somehow completely forgot that I bought two tickets for this show way back when they went on sale. I was convinced this was a show I was planning on going to alone right up until I was literally walking out the door and pulled up my ticket in the Ticketmaster app and discovered I had two of them. My husband who is usually pretty game for letting me drag him to concerts he doesn’t care about was understandably not willing to let me drag him out with 2 seconds notice. So I still wound up going alone. I just paid for two seats to do so.

I was having a conversation with someone earlier this week who said that Ray LaMontagne is the second best performer she’s ever seen next to U2. People have different opinions and different things they like in shows, so I’m not here to judge anyone’s preferences, but I can say he for sure is not one of the best performers I’ve ever seen. He wouldn’t even crack the top 25. Probably not even close. I still think his songs are lovely, and it was great to get to hear him play them live. I just didn’t find him super engaging as a performer. Pretty much the only thing he said to the audience all night was to introduce Carl Broemel and say thank you at the end of the night. He just stood up there and played his guitar and sang. I mean ultimately that’s what we’re all there for, but I like a little bit more from my live shows that makes me feel like I’m getting something I wouldn’t get just sitting at home listening to the music.

Even though he has a fairly new album, this set did not feel like he was promoting it. He pretty much concentrated on playing the hits across all of his albums. When someone starts to have an extensive catalog you know you’re never going to hear everything and you just hope that they play the songs you really want to hear. In this case he played every single song I would have wanted to hear save for one, which unfortunately is my favorite song of his. So thumbs down to that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was disappointed he didn’t play it because it’s the second most listened to song of his on Spotify. I’ll have something more to say about that particular song tomorrow for reasons, so you can wait to find out what it is or use the clues I’ve provided to go look it up now if you can’t stand to wait.

It was an enjoyable evening, though I’m not sure it made me want to see Ray LaMontagne in concert again. Perhaps one day if I’m super excited about an album he’s touring it would be fun to see him play a non-acoustic set as well.

New Music Friday: Okie by Vince Gill

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

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

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

Maggie Rogers at The Anthem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Music Friday: Higher Love by Kygo and Whitney Houston

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

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