Brandi Carlile with Lucius at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Friday night I went to my second of three concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion. This time it was Brandi Carlile with Lucius opening. It is no secret around these parts how much I adore Brandi Carlile. I also really like Lucius and would have gone to see them on their own, so it was a bonus that I got to see both of them together. I do wish that Lucius had gotten to play longer though. They only played for about 40 minutes. With only them and Brandi on the bill and the concert starting at 7, I’m not sure why they weren’t given a full hour. I’m sure the people in front of us were really wishing they had a longer set. They were very obviously there for Lucius. Holly and Jess, the lead singers, always dress in matching outfits that are a little bit ostentatious and out there. The three guys in the band always dress in matching outfits as well, but it’s generally this suits or in this case pretty casual black pants and shirts. Anyway, the people in front of us were dressed in matching white jumpsuits with hot pink wigs. They left after Lucius’s set too, so they obviously were really only there to see them. That was an awful lot of money to spend for 40 minutes since we were all the way down in the pit, but I guess to each their own.

I also was kind of annoyed with people during Lucius’s set because everyone around us aside from the people in front of us were obviously there to see Brandi and didn’t seem to care much about Lucius. There were a lot of people talking and just generally ignoring them. Since Lucius sang a lot of their quieter songs it was kind of hard to pay attention to them over the din of the crowd. Also I wanted to throw away the phone of the girl who was sitting next to them that sort of moved into their space after they left. She spent the whole concert taking photos and videos. I don’t begrudge anyone a few photos or even videoing one song, but when you spend the whole show doing that it’s super annoying to everyone around you. I don’t want to have to watch the whole show through your phone or as in this case have your arm right in my line of vision as you hold your phone up over your head. I was hoping she was going to chill out and put her phone away after a couple of songs, but she didn’t. I am not confrontational and generally would sit there and be annoyed in my head the whole time and then blog about it here later. I was even nice and waited for her to finish her video of “The Story” and then asked her politely to put her phone down because she was blocking my view. She never really did, but at least that made her move back over into her seat and she did keep putting her left arm down and only holding the phone up with her right arm so that her arm wasn’t in my face. I guess that’s something, but all it did was shift the annoyance to in front of someone else.

Brandi’s set was amazing as usual. I saw her 5 times in concert last year and for all but one show she pretty much did the same set aside from a song here or there that she traded in and out. In a lot of the publicity surrounding the by the way I forgive you album she talked about how they are such a performance based band and realized that they were stuck in a rut writing songs based on what they knew were going to be energizing to audience especially on the festival circuit and not anything that felt artistically challenging or interesting. They decided to go in a completely different direction with that album, and obviously it has paid great dividends. I adore it, but I did also miss some of those livelier numbers during their sets last year. It seems like maybe they have started to add some of that stuff back in. It felt to me that they made this set list in kind of chunks.

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At the beginning they had a bunch of the energetic crowd pleasers to get people into the show. I felt way disoriented though because they started off the set with “Hold Out Your Hand”, which is the song they used as their encore at all 5 shows I saw last year. It really is such a great encore song that I almost thought it might become one of those songs a band has that they use as their encore forever and always. Apparently not. Instead everything was flipped completely on it’s head with that song being the opener and “Every Time I Hear That Song”, which they had been opening their sets with last year becoming one of the encore songs. They also did a chunk of quieter old favorites like “The Story” and “The Eye”. Then they did a chunk of covers including inviting Lucius back out on stage and singing their song “Dusty Trails” with them. Brandi joined them for that song at the Newport Folk Festival last year, so I guess they decided to do a reprise at this show.

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She also sang a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water”. Then there was a chunk of songs off the new album. She did two encores ending the first one with “Party of One” and then coming back out to sing a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It is a wonderful song, but I am pretty much of the mindset at this point that it needs to be put on ice for at least 25 years. The Jeff Buckley cover of that song was inescapable in television and movies for a number of years and it kind of wore me out on it and ruined it for me. I would be perfectly content to never hear that song again for at least another decade. That being said Brandi does a lovely cover it and it was a beautiful moment to look back behind me at all the people holding up the flashlights on their phones and swaying to the song.

I was also amused the next day to discover that I had made it into another of Pete Souza’s photos at a Brandi Carlile concert. If you don’t know who Pete Souza is, he was Obama’s official photographer. He is friends with Brandi and is as equally obsessed with her shows as I am. He goes to a lot of their shows and photographs them from backstage. I was in the front row of a show at The Beacon in New York City last year and wound up in one of the photos he posted on Instagram. This time you have to zoom way in on the crowd to pick me out, but if you do you can totally find me. I’m going to see her in Philly with Mavis Staples in September. We don’t have great seats for that one, so I know I won’t wind up any photos there.

 

New Music Friday: I Need a Teacher by Hiss Golden Messenger

I adore Hiss Golden Messenger, the Durham, NC based band fronted by MC Taylor. It is the perfect summer music to me even when the messages of the songs are less than cheery. There always seem to be some hope at the bottom of his music though, which all wraps up into what I would say is the perfect folk music of today. They have a new album, Terms of Surrender, due out September 20 and dropped the first single, “I Need a Teacher” a couple of days ago. It’s apparently going to be a fairly political album though from what I read definitely with a hopeful bent in it. The first song focuses on the work of teachers and the video features teachers, parents, and students in North Carolina during a walk out to protest cuts to public education in that state. Hiss Golden Messenger is going to donate $1 from each concert ticket sold during their tour this fall will go to the Durham Public Schools Foundation. Unfortunately the closest their getting to me is Philadelphia in November. They are one of those bands, of which there are sadly many, that I adore but who never, ever come to Baltimore. They’re not on the official Newport Folk Festival bill this year, but they will be playing one of the after shows, which means that I know they’ll be hanging around the festival throughout the weekend. MC Taylor is always sitting in with other bands and seems to always be a part of the themed mystery sets. I know Phil Cook who is also part of Hiss Golden Messenger is curating one of those mystery sets this year, so I have no doubt they’ll all be in the house. I’m already looking forward to it.

Speaking of Phil Cook, I didn’t get a chance to write about this video when it came out, but you should also watch this super sweet video of Phil’s song “Another Mother’s Son” that he put out at Mother’s Day earlier this year featuring a bunch of mothers from Durham with their kids.

New Music Friday: The Wheels of Laredo by Tanya Tucker

Today I’m talking about some new music by country legend Tanya Tucker. Her forthcoming new album, the first in 17 years, was produced by Brandi Carlile and Shooter Jennings. The first single from the album, “The Wheels of Laredo” dropped earlier this week. I do still love me some classic country sounds. It’s always nice to have some new country music that still sounds like country music instead of pop/hip-hop music with some pedal steel and fiddle thrown in.

And as I bonus I’m going to throw in Japanese Breakfast’s cover of Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels”. If I hadn’t just posted about another Japanese Breakfast song last week, I probably would have gone with this song this week. I can add it to my arsenal of Tears for Fears covers that I love along with Gary Jules and Michael Andrews cover of “Mad World” and Joseph’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. I won’t even hold it against the song that it was apparently recorded to be background music for W hotels, which is just kind of sad. No matter how it got into the world, I’m glad it did.

Florence + the Machine at Merriweather Post Pavilion

On Monday night I dragged my husband down to see Florence + the Machine at Merriweather Post Pavilion, the first of three concerts I’ll be seeing there in June. They’ve been upgrading a lot of things there over the past several years and it’s now really starting to show. The first year was mostly backstage stuff so to the audience it didn’t seem like they had done anything. Last year the biggest thing I noticed was some of the new bathrooms. I guess they had a bunch of new food stuff last year and even more this year, but I never get food there so I don’t really know. The major new thing this year, which you could see start to take shape last year when they raised the roof on the pavilion was the addition of the new sky box seats and the new sky lawn. They look really nice, though I will never pay the stupid amount of money they want for the box seats. Interestingly anyone can go up on the sky lawn because technically they are lawn seats. I gather there is actual grass up there. I didn’t go up this time, but next time I think I’ll walk up just to check it out. It’s pretty flat though and since you’re above the stage I don’t think it would be worth sitting/standing up there for the actual show unless you got there early enough to snag a spot right along the balcony.

They have also replaced the seats inside the pavilion. No more janky, rusting metal folding chairs in the far back sections! I never understood why there weren’t real seats in those areas to start, but now everywhere has nice new plastic folding chairs. That’s good because I pretty much go for the pavilion seats at Merriweather now. In my younger years I used to love sitting out on the lawn there. It’s still not awful when you know the show isn’t going to be a sell out, but they sell way too many tickets for the lawn for super popular shows and it’s just miserable especially if you wind up surrounded by a bunch of rude, drunk people. Plus, now that they’ve added this new sky section the pillars holding that up have reduced the amount of lawn space that has a decent view down to the stage without solely relying on the screens. I can afford pavilion seats, so unless I’m going with someone who prefers we do the lawn I’m pretty much paying for a seat these days. It is kind of funny that I still much prefer the lawn seats at Wolf Trap over sitting in their pavilion. I love picnicking on the lawn there and everything just seems so much more civilized.

Anyway, now on to the show. This was the fifth time I’ve seen Florence + the Machine live. I never seem to care for whoever she picks as her opening act. The first time I saw her she was opening for U2, so that doesn’t count. The second and third times I saw her I had never heard of the opening acts, came and saw them, didn’t care for them, never listened to them again, and could not tell you at this point who they were. I saw her at the Anthem back in October and knew I didn’t care that much for Beth Ditto so skipped the opening act. Same for this concert which had Blood Orange as the opening act. My husband wanted to leave a little bit earlier than I suggested so we still got there in time to hear the final two song of Blood Orange’s set, which just confirmed my decision to not to see them.

I’ve basically seen Florence + the Machine tour once for every album. This is the first time I’ve seen them twice on the same tour, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of seeing anything new. I know a lot of times bands have a pretty standard set list and stage banter routine that they don’t deviate from much. There was definitely a lot of overlap and intros to songs had the same general gist, but it didn’t feel like a retread at all. I looked up the two set lists to compare. She played 16 songs at the Anthem and 17 at Merriweather with 12 of them overlapping. So about a 1/3 of the songs were new, which is a pretty good percentage. She also played another 1/3 in a different order than she did at the Anthem, so it very much felt like a new set other than the very beginning and end.

She is just such an awesome performer too. She has so much energy and is just running and dancing around the stage all the time. I would be completely out of breath and unable to sing. Not that anyone wants to hear me sing. She of course went out into the crowd all the way up into the lawn. She gets the crowd involved in the show almost better than anyone else I’ve seen. She is also just brings such an energy of peace and love and positivity while also encouraging people to, I want to say fight to lift up the oppressed but fight feels like the wrong word. Anyway, she basically said at this show basically said I know you’ve already spent a lot of money on concert tickets, but if you were thinking about maybe buying a t-shirt or something tonight donate that money to the ACLU instead because I don’t need it. I always leave a Florence show feeling so much more uplifted no matter what is going on in my life or the world. She has taken to ending her shows with “Shake It Off”, which really is the best closing song she could pick and she should never change that. As someone with anxiety who holds onto a lot of stuff I should just let go of I feel like I should listen to that song every day and make it my mantra.

It was another excellent show by Florence + the Machine and is why I will continue to see her every time I get a chance. Even Paul gave it high praise. Whenever we leave shows I drag him to I always ask if he enjoyed it. For the most part unless he really didn’t like it I get a response of it was fine or it was okay. My husband does not express emotion very much. When I asked him how he liked this show he said it was good, which on the Paul scale is pretty much like giving it 5 stars, so she even won over the curmudgeon.

Spring 2019 TV Diary

Since the spring television season is ending I thought I would share my thoughts on some of the new shows I’ve been watching. Most of them have ended their runs by now, but since we’re heading into the less busy summer season you may want to catch up on some of them.

Losers

This is a short 8 episode show on Netflix. They are only about a half hour each, so it’s really quick and easy to get through. It’s a sports show, but you don’t really have to enjoy sports to watch it. Most of the stories are going to be about something you’ve never heard of. It’s all about various sports figures who are the losers and what they went on and did after those big losses. Be forewarned that there are far more subtitles in this show than I was expecting going in since several of the episodes feature people from non-English speaking countries.

Turn Up Charlie

Turn Up Charlie is another Netflix show starring Idris Elba as a washed up DJ who winds up being coming a nanny to his college mate’s bratty kid. Her mother, played by Piper Perabo, is a famous DJ herself and is often on tour and her father is a famous actor who is often away shooting movies around the world, so she of course acts out to get their attention. Idris Elba’s character agrees to babysit her in exchange for help with his music and of course they both wind up helping each other become better people. I pretty muchy heard nothing good about this show. It was not great, but I also didn’t think it was nearly as bad as everyone seemed to make it out to be. I don’t expect that it will get another season, but if it does I’m sure Idris Elba and Piper Perabo will wind up in a relationship together because I’m shocked they didn’t already.

Whiskey Cavalier

Whisky Cavalier was a not great ABC starring Scott Foley as an FBI agent who is super sappy and emotional while Lauren Cohen is a CIA agent with a heart of stone who are forced to work together. They have a whole other team of side characters that I won’t bother to get into. This show was super clumsily written and obviously the recent lack of shows with will they or won’t they romances is showing because the writers for this show obviously have no experience and no real mentorship in writing them because this was some terrible paint by numbers, but all out of order will they or won’t they relationship tropes. I even yelled at the tv that the third episode is way too early for the characters to have to wind up play acting that they are a real couple. Having recently just finished a rewatch of Chuck, which is a first rate will they or won’t they romance between two similar type characters I can tell you that this show is garbage. I was hopeful about it when I first heard about it because on its face it’s the kind of show I wish there were more of, but not if it’s written like this. It’s too bad because I really do like Scott Foley and Lauren Cohen and this show could have been so much better than it was. I have one episode left on my DVR, which I will finish, but I’m not actually sorry that it’s not getting a second season.

Abby’s

I figured that Abby’s was doomed from the start, and I was correct since it was just officially canceled by NBC this past week. Even though we have now ostensibly entered a year round tv schedule, you can still tell that a network doesn’t have much confidence in a show when they not only hold it for midseason, but don’t start airing it until the season is almost over at which point they’ll start burning it off multiple episodes at a time before they start airing their summer shows. I’m sure there are some, but I can’t think of a single show that debuted in this sort of slot that made it to another season. It’s too bad because this show was growing on me. Natalie Morales played an emotionally stunted woman who opened an illegal bar in the backyard of her rental house. The other main characters are all regulars at the bar, which has all kinds of crazy rules and traditions. There is also the new landlord who inherited the house from his now dead aunt(?) who is a straight-laced guy who is at first anti the bar, but then just wants to become part of the gang. I’m sure if the show went on longer he and Natalie Morales’ character would have become a couple. It was a ridiculous show with ridiculous characters, but I kind of enjoyed it. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy the few that are still left to air before it’s gone for good. Also I don’t know why Natalie Morales seems to be a show killer because she’s great. Maybe one day she’ll manage to get cast in a show that goes the distance. Sadly it won’t be Abby’s.

In the Dark

In the Dark is a mid-season show on the CW about again an emotionally stunted, hard as nails (I’m sensing a pattern among female tv characters this spring) blind woman who doesn’t want help from anyone except her best friend and roommate. She supposedly works for the seeing eye dog training organization that her adoptive parents run, but she doesn’t really work and pretty much does whatever she wants and people let her get away with it. She spends a lot of time drinking and pushing people especially guys away from her. She was friends with a small time drug dealer who she stumbles across murdered in the alley where they used to hang out together but before the cops get there the body disappears and there’s no evidence of a murder so no one believes her because she’s blind and couldn’t actually see anything and was also drunk at the time. Since the cops won’t do anything, she decides to investigate on her own. There’s also someone sent to keep her from investigating who she winds up dating for real and a cop who has a mad crush on her and who also has a blind daughter. Plus a whole lot of other people I won’t go into here. I’m not going to lie. It’s not a great show, but I also kind of love it. It’s always one of the first things I choose to watch when there’s an episode on my DVR. There are still a few episodes left in this season. It’s been renewed for another season, although I kind of wish it hadn’t even though I really like it. With the show being based on a mystery like it is I just never have high hopes for the writers knowing where to go after that. I really like the characters and for right now the mystery is decent enough that it’s engaging as well, but they can’t drag it out forever and throwing more things into or throwing a new mystery to be solved in season 2 is always a recipe for disaster.

Boomerang

This is continuation of the movie Eddie Murphy movie Boomerang, which I’m not sure that I ever saw, on BET. The main characters of the tv show are the twenty-something children of the movie characters. It’s mostly a character driven show and reminds me a little bit of Insecure. It literally took me until the final episode of the season to be able to remember any of the character’s names. Now I can tell you the leads are Simone and Bryson, but don’t ask me what anyone else’s names are. It’s weird because it is actually a show I enjoy watching. It will be back for another season, and I’m going to keep watching.

Shtisel

Shtisel is an Israeli show available on Netflix about an Orthodox Jewish family. There’s the widowed father who is being driven out of his job as a teacher because of his age. There’s his youngest son who is supposed to be getting set up for marriage by a matchmaker, but who has fallen in love with a much older, twice widowed woman who is the mother to one of the students in his class. Finally there’s the daughter whose husband supposedly went to Argentina for a job, but ran off when he got there. She is now trying to keep his real absence a secret from everyone while figuring out how to support her 5 kids. I think they’re on to season 3 in Israel now, but we’re only partway through season 1. Given that it’s an Israeli show it’s subtitled, which means when we have other tv to watch we tend to watch that instead. There’s also nothing super compelling plot wise to keep you wanting to watch episode after episode of this show. It is a rich world that I appreciate being able to dip into though, and I do fully intend to keep watching it.

Fosse/Verdon

Fosse/Verdon is based on the lives of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon. I gather that it’s based on a much better biography of them. I’ve only managed to watch 2 episodes so far. The rest are building up on my DVR. With the tv season and my travels slowing down I’m sure I’ll get back to it soon. There’s nothing about it that’s super grabbed me at this point, but since it’s a limited series show I will probably finish it out.

Good Trouble

Good Trouble is a spin-off of the tv show The Fosters starring the two daughters from the family now in their 20s and starting off in their respective careers in L.A. I very much liked The Fosters when it was on, but most of the time I preferred the storylines about the parents more than I did the kids, especially Mariana. As a result I was pretty sure this show was not going to be for me as it seemed like all it was going to do was magnify all of my least favorite things from The Fosters. I made it through exactly one episode. I was going to give it a second episode, but before I watched another one someone on a podcast I listen to basically said the exact same thing and said the second episode was even worse at which point I decided I was out.

The Avett Brothers at Wolf Trap

My friend Chinwe and I always hit up a concert at Wolf Trap every summer. This year we got it in right at the beginning of the season. The Avett Brothers played three nights in a row doing three different sets. There were a couple of songs they played every night, but the majority of the sets were different. We originally planned to go to the Saturday night show because getting to Wolf Trap on a weeknight during rush hour is a bear. It was nice to finally have a show that we wanted to go to fall on a weekend when the traffic presumably wouldn’t be nearly as bad, although you never can tell with the DC Beltway. Unfortunately we didn’t get our act together soon enough and all the lawn seats were gone for both the Friday and Saturday shows by the time we bought our tickets, so we wound up going Thursday.

Paleface, who was I was not previously familiar with, was the first opening act and played all three nights. His music reminded me of a combination of 60s psychedelic music crossed with surf music. It was interesting to listen to, but it’s not something I’ll probably seek out further.

The second opening act was different for each night. On Thursday, it was Rodney Crowell. I know Rodney Crowell is a country legend, but I really couldn’t have named you a single song of his, and I also didn’t recognize anything he played. I really enjoyed it all though. It was a the perfect music to sit outside and listen to on a beautiful night. I am happy that we wound up going Thursday and seeing him because I think I’m happier with him than I would have been with Thao and the Get Down, Stay Down or The Felice Brothers who were opening the other nights.

Having now looked at the setlist for all the nights, I am bummed we didn’t get to go Saturday and not just because the almost 2 hours it took us to get there would have probably been cut in half. I was very happy that The Avett Brothers played “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”, “Ain’t No Man”, and “No Hard Feelings” at our show, but they also played all three of those songs on Saturday in addition to “I and Love and You” and “Murder in the City” which I also would have loved to hear. Oh well, I guess you can’t have everything. The show we saw was still excellent. The Avett Brothers are a lot of fun. I also don’t understand how their cello player is not in intense pain after every show given that he just hoists the cello neck up on his shoulder with the cello sticking out in front of him and plays like that. This was the first time I’ve actually seen The Avett Brothers play their own show and not just part of a set at The Newport Folk Festival. I would definitely go see them again. Happily I still have more shows at Wolf Trap to look forward to this summer. I have tickets to at least two more shows and who knows maybe I’ll go to something else if I get ambitious.

New Music Friday: We Get By by Mavis Staples featuring Ben Harper

Like last Friday, I have another concert from Thursday night to write about, but I can’t really fudge this week and combine my posts because The Avett Brothers don’t really have any new music out right now. So stay tuned for my post on that concert. For now let’s talk about the inimitable Mavis Staples’ new album, We Get By, which is out today.

Mavis Staples makes me so happy. She is just pure joy despite having lived her life fighting for change through her music. She grew up singing with her family as part of The Staple Singers, one of the iconic groups of the Civil Rights movement. She is turning 80 years old this year and is still going full force. She has this new album out and is still touring like crazy. The Newport Festival Foundation held 3 recent concerts in New York, Nashville, and L.A. with star studded line-ups to celebrate her. I’m so bummed I wasn’t able to get to any of them. There’s just no way she’s not coming to the Newport Folk Festival this year even if she’s not officially announced. I said the same thing last year when the closing set of the weekend was themed around civil rights music, and I was totally right so I’m holding out hope for this year too.

This new album I think was probably a little sad for her because it’s really the first one in forever where she’s singing without any other family members. She obviously sang for a very long time with the Staples Singers. I just listened to a podcast recently where she was talking about being a solo singer and thinking her voice didn’t sound right without any other Staples singing with her so she recruited her sister Yvonne to come sing back-up for her. They did that for a long time, but Yvonne past away last year. Now Mavis is the last one standing aside from I think one brother who if I recall isn’t in good shape.

I’m highlighting the title song “We Get By” for a couple of reasons. One because I really like it. Two because it features Ben Harper who produced the album, and three because the beginning of this video gives you a little glimpse of the joy that Mavis Staples lives out.