New Music Friday: Light On by Maggie Rogers

This week’s song is hot off the presses. Maggie Rogers dropped her new single “Light On” on Wednesday. It’s all about the changes in her personal and professional life over the last two years after her song “Alaska” went viral after some promotion from Pharrell Williams. This song has an amazing beat and I love it. It’s going to be the perfect song to add to driving and exercise playlists.

I expect a lot more people will know Maggie Rogers’ name soon. This song will be featured on her first full album due out in January. She is also going to be opening up for Mumford & Sons on their upcoming Delta tour. Although she wasn’t officially on the bill with a set of her own she popped up all over the place at this summer’s Newport Folk Festival including with Mumford & Sons who turned over part of their set to back her singing “Alaska”. I definitely look forward to hearing more from her in the near future and seeing her perform on that tour.

 

Florence + the Machine at the Anthem

This past Saturday I went down to DC to see Florence + the Machine at the Anthem. This was my fourth time seeing Florence + the Machine. Interestingly the venues have been going down in size. The first time I saw her was back in her early days opening for U2 at M&T Bank Stadium. That is the first and last concert I will ever go to at a venue that size. Then I saw her twice at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I was a little surprised to see she was playing a venue as small as the Anthem, but she certainly made up for it with the ticket prices. Totally worth it though.

When they originally announced the concert there was only a Friday night show, which I bought tickets to. Then after that sold out they added a Saturday show. Getting down to DC on a Friday night after work is a bear, so I decided to buy a ticket for Saturday night figuring I would be able to sell my Friday one. I eventually did, but I held onto it for a long time thinking I might wind up going both nights. Even though I have a place to stay in DC, after being out of town for the previous two weekends I decided I only wanted to be away on Saturday night and not the entire weekend.

It worked out well because another Baltimore friend was going down to DC to hang out with the friend I was staying with in DC so I rode down with her and then got a ride back to Baltimore on Sunday with my DC friend as we have season tickets to Center Stage and our play was on Sunday afternoon. They went down to the Wharf with me trying to tour some Viking ship that was docked there for 10 days, but the tickets were all sold out. We tried to grab dinner, but all the sit down restaurants around there had at least 90 minute wait times so that didn’t work out either. I wound up grabbing something at Shake Shack. They kept me company while I ate and then went off somewhere else in the city to find food.

Even though the doors to the venue were open at that point I opted to just sit outside and enjoy the nice evening for about another hour. I had been to the Anthem once before to see Brandi Carlile, but that was a seated show meaning there were a lot fewer people. I was a little leary going in on how I was going to feel about a standing room only crowd of 6000 people in an enclosed space, so I decided to limit how long I had to deal with a crowd of drunken people. I also don’t care about Beth Ditto, who was the opening act so I decided I was going to go in just in time for Florence + the Machine to take the stage. I have to say I love Florence, but I do not love her choice in opening acts. I have not cared for her openers at any show I’ve seen.

My plan worked perfectly. I got in line around 9 and was through security at 9:10. Florence + the Machine went on at 9:15. I just situated myself at the back of the crowd and it was fine for the most part. I definitely did not want to be smushed in the middle of everyone. Plus I’ve often found that with my short stature if I can stand far enough at the back of the crowd I can kind of see over it whereas I can’t see anything if I’m in the middle of it. If it wasn’t sold it, it was close to sold out so I couldn’t get exactly far enough away from other people to see great, but for me at at a standing room only show where I wasn’t in the front I could see pretty well. It also helps that unlike must SRO venues, the Anthem has video screens so when I couldn’t see the stage I could at least watch those to see what was happening.

In all the press about her latest album release, High as Hope, I saw that Florence Welch had gotten sober before recording it. Assuming she’s still sober I was kind of curious how that might affect her live shows since she’s always been sort of out there on stage and I thought perhaps she would be more inhibited if she was sober. Whatever her current state of sobriety I did not notice any difference in her stage presence. She was still just as dancing and twirly and all over the place as she has always been. She spent a couple of songs in various states of running and dancing around in between the stage and the security gate, then standing on top of the security gate, and then finally over the gate and off into the crowd. I’m sure the Anthem’s security detail were thrilled.

The music of course was great. She sang an array of songs from across her four albums. It also just felt like a very positive place to be on a night that otherwise didn’t feel so positive in the midst of a whole lot of days that don’t feel so positive. She emphasized that hope is an action, which really struck me since in all of this hope is something I have very much struggled to hang onto and feel like I don’t have anymore. But she’s right without hope we can’t do anything else. I also forgot how touchy feely she likes to have her audience get. I’ve always been with friends at previous shows and perhaps my introverted self blocked out this out, but as soon as she started asking people to hold hands with strangers and asking people to tell strangers that you love them it all came flooding back. It’s not something I’m keen on doing even with people I know, so I was really not excited about doing it alone in a crowd of people I didn’t know. I just stood there, but the people on either side of me were game, so I went along with it.

It was as always a great show and I look forward to her next album when I will undoubtedly get to see her tour again.

A Star is Born

This past weekend I went to see the newest remake of A Star is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. This movie was right up my alley. I mean a movie about music in which one of the main songs Bradley Cooper’s character was supposed to be famous for was written by Jason Isbell and there was also a cameo by Brandi Carlile. I had actually completely forgotten that I knew she had been involved in it. I just saw her post something on Instagram yesterday morning about the movie and I was thinking maybe she had also written a song. Then when I actually saw her scene in the movie I was like oh yeah she mentioned this when I saw her at The Beacon because she met the guy who was opening for her when they were filming the movie.

In case you are unfamiliar with the story Bradley Cooper plays a what I would best describe as an Americana singer who has had a great career, but whose star is starting to fade as he succumbs to alcoholism and hearing loss. Lady Gaga plays an amateur singer who he meets and takes under his wing. They fall in love, but their relationship is tested as her star rises while his is falling. It’s definitely a tragic love story, so if you’re looking for a movie with a happy ending this isn’t it in case you thought it was.

Despite one scene that I had to watch with my hands over my eyes because of the deep secondary embarrassment I really liked this film. The performances were great. I loved the music in it. Also, let me add the obligatory review comment about hey did you know that Lady Gaga could sing, but hey she can. It was actually kind of great to get to see her sing without all the performance trappings that go into her musical persona. I know we’re supposed to think Bradley Cooper’s character is being a jerk when he criticizes Lady Gaga’s character for pretty much turning from a singer-songwriter type into well essentially Lady Gaga, but I was like yeah drop the theatrics and go back. It’s definitely not the feel good movie of the year, but I would recommend it especially if you like music.

New Music Friday: Cat Power’s Woman

Cat Power is back with a new album, Wanderer, today, her first since 2012. I’ve been enjoying “Woman”, the first single off the album for the past several weeks. It features Lana Del Rey and I really like the way their voices sound together. I also love the guitar lick that starts each verse. It reminds me a lot of the guitar lick in Tom Petty’s song “Breakdown”, which is one of my favorites by him. I also appreciate that the song doesn’t exactly what you expect it to do musically. It sort of ramps up in the chorus so that you feel like it should break wide open, but it never really quite gets there and then it totally slams back down going from the chorus back into the second verse. It makes it musically interesting to me.

New Music Friday: Tom Petty’s Keep a Little Soul

This week’s new music is actually old music. Today is the release date for An American Treasure, which is the new box set of live versions, alternate versions, and previously unreleased music by Tom Petty put together by his band the Heartbreakers, his wife and his daughter. I’m often a little leery of posthumous music releases. I often think if an artist didn’t want this song out in the world, then why a I listening to it now. Sometimes though I suppose especially during most of the time that Tom Petty was recording there just wasn’t room for everything. You could only fit so many songs on an album. The fact that this is put together as a tribute by all the people who knew Tom best gives me more faith in it. Most of the box set is different versions of previously released music, but there are a couple of new, old songs that have been added including the song “Keep a Little Soul”. The music video, which features live footage of Tom Petty, was put together by his daughter. All of it does seem like people who loved Tom Petty trying to put together something to honor him and share that love with his fans and not the money grab that these sometimes can often feel like. As I’ve previously mentioned I have a deep love for Tom Petty, so I’ll allow myself to enjoy this last music from him.

 

New Music Friday: Jade Bird, Christine and the Queens, and Mumford & Sons

Earlier in the week I was thinking I was going to write about some songs by Amos Lee and Phosphorescent, but when I sat down to write I decided give the ladies a little love instead. Plus Mumford and Sons dropped a new song yesterday after what seems like forever so I decided to throw them in the mix too.

Uh-Huh by Jade Bird

I thought forever about writing about Jade Bird’s song “Cathedrals”, but it was out around the time that I just had no will to write about anything so I just never did. I still love that song and you should go listen to it too. I’m very much digging Jade Bird’s newest single, “Uh-huh” right now though. Sometimes you can use some angry girl rock and “Uh-huh” definitely fits that bill.

 

Girlfriend by Christine and the Queens

The single “Girlfriend” has been out for a few months, but the album it’s on, Chris, drops today so I figure it’s a good day to write about it under the auspices of new music Friday. Christine and the Queens is the stage moniker of French singer Héloïse Letissier. If you prefer to listen in French the album is being released in both French and English. I’m very much loving the kind of groovy early 80’s smooth synth of this song.

 

Guiding Light by Mumford & Sons

It’s been three and a half years since Mumford & Sons last put out new music. It was starting to feel like they might never do it. I had sort of hit a point with them that the stuff off their first three albums had gotten so overplayed that I didn’t even want to listen to it anymore even though I once loved them a lot. Then they played the Newport Folk Festival this past summer. They stuck to the acoustic stuff from their first two albums, but seeing them live especially within the context of Newport reminded me of what I fell in love with in the first place. Plus in my current binge watch of Grey’s Anatomy I just hit the season that obviously coincided with when they were ascendant as several of their songs showed up within a couple of episodes. The use of the songs in the show also gave a new life to them in my mind. Now they have finally dropped a new single with an announcement of their forthcoming album. It sounds like a Mumford & Sons song and that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s time to get a little bit excited about Mumford & Sons again.

Mt. Joy at the 8×10

It’s only the second week in my Friday new music blog post series and I feel like I’m already cheating. I always write about the concerts I got to already, but I’m co-opting my post about last night’s Mt. Joy concert and making it my new music post for today too since I figure most people reading this have no idea who Mt. Joy is. Hey at least I’m writing.

I first saw Mt. Joy at the 2017 Newport Folk Festival. At the time they may have had one song up on Spotify. Whatever it was it was enough to get me to put them on my Newport schedule. As I stood there grooving out to them they all of a sudden started singing about Baltimore in their song “Sheep” and I was like who is this band? Are they from Baltimore? Turns out they are not. They have roots in Philly but fully formed and are now based in L.A. I did find out last night about the Baltimore connection though. The lead singer said that Baltimore has a special place in their heart because it influenced one of their earliest songs and his brother went to college in Baltimore so he hung out here a lot at the time.

Anyway, they finally put out a full album back in March which I really like, so I jumped on the chance to see them again when I saw they were going to be playing the 8×10. The 8×10 is one of Baltimore’s well known little concert clubs and for some inexplicable reason until last night I had never been there. There is no logical explanation for this that I can figure out. As a through line from last week, The Stray Birds, who I wrote about last week even have a song called “Sabrina” all about a fan that used to come see them play at the 8×10.

Usually I try to get to shows early enough to support the opening act and check them out even if I don’t know them. For whatever reason I didn’t make it down there until about halfway through Illiterate Light’s opening set, which turned out to be a good thing because I did not particularly care for them. The rest of the crowd seemed into them though, so good for them.

Speaking of the crowd it was a good one. I was shocked by how everyone seemed to know the words to every song and were singing along. That made me happy. I’m a shorty so I often have problems seeing at standing room only shows unless I’m right up front or standing so far back behind the crowd that I can see over it. Neither was an option last night, so I wound up trying my luck up in the balcony. The rail was only one set of people deep when I got up there, but I still couldn’t really see. I had resigned myself to not really seeing anything, but a little ways into the Mt. Joy set the guy in front of me went and stood behind his girlfriend and waved me up to the rail. So thanks to you random stranger for allowing me to see at least half of the concert. I also felt particularly old at this show. I remember going to shows when I was in college and seeing the random one or two old people hanging out by themselves and thinking weird old people at a club. Well now I am the creepy, weird, old, music loving person hanging out by myself at the club with people at least half my age. Life comes at you fast.

Mt. Joy was good.  They pretty much played all the songs off their album plus a couple of covers. One was a Neil Young song that they played as the first song of their encore. When they went off stage before the encore people started shouting one more song and then someone got people to start saying two more song instead of just one. When they came back on stage they said we were just going to play one more song, but now we’re going to play two. I appreciate the sentiment, but I’m on to you Mt. Joy. I could see their set lists on the stage from my vantage point in the balcony and there were always two songs in the encore. Nice try.

I had a hard time rousing myself to go out on a gloomy Thursday night. The lack of sun always sends me into hibernation mode and my introverted self would often rather just stay home even when I know I’ll have a good time once I get somewhere. I did in fact enjoy myself once I got there and am glad I went.