By Request: Top Concerts

One of my friends has been asking me to tell her what my top ten concerts are. I told her that was really hard and told her maybe I could come up with a top three for her. I’ll probably end up somewhere in between. I’ve been thinking about what factors I would consider to put something in my top tier of concerts and I decided I probably couldn’t really rank the concerts I’ve been to. I’ve been to a lot of concerts and I wouldn’t begin to know how to decide which ones I liked more than another that is if I could even realistically remember what they all were off the top of my head. Instead I decided to answer a variation of the question and go ahead and put it in a blog post. Instead of ranking my top concerts I decided to talk about what concerts have been the most memorable for me for some reason or another. I’m not sure that would make them the best concerts I’ve ever seen, but they’re ones that stand out to me in my memory.

Neil Diamond at the Omni in Atlanta (probably)

This Neil Diamond concert had to go on the list because it was my very first concert ever when I was 10 or so. I don’t actually remember that much about it, but I know it was when we were living in Atlanta and that it was in some sort of arena, so I’m assuming it was at the Omni Center, which was where the Atlanta Hawks used to play basketball. I could be entirely wrong about that though. Even though I don’t remember much about that particular concert itself it is of course memorable to me because it was the first in a very long list of concerts I would go to in my life.

Christopher Paul Stelling at the Newport Folk Festival

I could put so many things from the Newport Folk Festival on here, but I’m refraining from making this one big post about Newport. There are a couple of sets that do deserve a mention here though. I didn’t actually know much about Christopher Paul Stelling before I went to see him on the Harbor Stage first thing on a Sunday morning at the Newport Folk Festival. It wound up being one of the best things I’ve ever witnessed. First of all Christopher Paul Stelling is this super intense acoustic guitar player. For much of his set it was just him on the stage with his guitar and he had the audience enraptured. It was kind of a singular experience to watch. Then as if the performance itself wasn’t enough it ended by him proposing to his girlfriend, who is a member of his band, on stage. It was kind of the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen at a concert.

Brandi Carlile at everywhere

There was no doubt that Brandi Carlile was going to wind up on this list. It’s hard to even pick any particular concert of hers to put on this list because they are all so amazing. She’s someone I could just see over and over again and never get tired of watching perform. Every time I see her I can’t wait to see her again. That was true from the very first time I saw her live at the Lyric Opera House to the most recent time at the 2018 Newport Folk Festival and everything in between. I have to give a special shout out to seeing her at The Beacon in New York City this past April partly because it was my first time at The Beacon which is a wonderful venue and second because I had a front row seat, which was amazing.  The concert I’m going to single out though is her set at the 2015 Newport Folk Festival. I’ve gone back and listened to NPR Music’s recording of this set many a time when I need a pick me up. There was such a sense of hope at that time. It was like the high in the world when it seemed like we were standing on the top of the mountain and things really were moving in the right direction in the world before everything fell apart. I listen to this to remind myself that I once felt that hope and that hopefully I will one day again.

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/429333796/434691259

Cowboy Mouth at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem, NC

Cowboy Mouth is a New Orleans based band that I saw a whole lot of times when I was in college and in my early 20s. I gather they are still together and touring, but I lost track of them a long time ago. They are really outstanding and engaging performers. They were always about creating an atmosphere of positivity and energy. They are also an interesting band because the lead singer is also the drummer. I always enjoyed all their shows, but at one of the ones I saw at a now defunct little concert venue in Winston-Salem, NC called Ziggy’s not only did the lead singer crowd surf but he took his drum set out into the crowd with him and sat there drumming on top of the crowd. That’s some trust right there. It was pretty amazing. I should also shout out seeing them at the House of Blues in Chicago because I have an everlasting reminder of that show with the ringing in my right ear that has never gone fully away since that show 21 years ago. So thanks for the tinnitus I guess. By the way consider this your periodic reminder to always wear hearing protection at concerts. Love your ears. I wish I had started earlier in my life.

Tom Petty at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD

Tom Petty is one of my all-time favorite artists. For various reasons the first two times I saw him in concert I wasn’t there for the whole thing. I finally got to see him perform from top to bottom at Royal Farms Arena for his 40th anniversary tour. It was an amazing show and full of so much joy. It was kind of like one giant sing-a-long. It sadly was only a couple of weeks before he passed away, so it was also the last time I will ever get to see him. I’m happy he got to go out on a high note and that I was there to see it.

Holly Williams at the 9:30 Club

Holly Williams comes from a long line of country royalty as the granddaughter of Hank Williams and daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. After a car accident she was unsure if she’d be able to play and tour again so shifted her focus to other things. She now has a couple of stores and does some old house renovations in the Nashville area in addition to raising three young kids so she’s obviously keeping busy with other things, but I really do miss her music. I gather she plays every once and awhile still in Nashville, but unless something changes it’s unlikely I’ll get to see her again. This show was actually her opening for Jason Isbell the first time I ever saw him live. The song she got a lot of attention for on her final album was a song called “Waiting on June” which was about her grandparents on her mother’s side. It’s a beautiful song about their life long love that moved everyone in the audience to tears. I have never been at a show surrounded by people in tears because they were so moved by a song. It was a truly special moment that I won’t forget.

Dawes at The Ryman

I love Dawes and have seen them in concert many times. However, this particular show is on this list more for the venue than the band. I being who I am have a concert venue bucket list. The Ryman was right at the top of it. It was the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and is known as the church of country music. Whatever concert I first saw there was bound to wind up on this list no matter who it was. It is an amazing venue and I would love to see more shows there in the future. For now though the only one I’ve seen is Dawes. Their show there was fantastic. They played for a full three hours, but my husband taking me to this show as a present because he knew how much I wanted to see a show at the Ryman is really why this concert winds up on this list.

This was kind of a fun exercise to write a post off of someone else’s prompt. If anyone else has ideas of something they would like me to write about let me know. I definitely reserve the right to veto anything, but I’m definitely open to writing more posts based on things people ask me.

 

 

St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Rams Head Live

Last night I went to see St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Rams Head Live. The opening act was a band called Valley Queen, which I was unfamiliar with prior to the show. They were a low key rock band. It’s not any music I would ever bother to listen to on my own, but I didn’t hate it. Plus I’m always happy for more female fronted rock bands, which they are.

I had seen St. Paul and the Broken Bones at the Newpork Folk Festival, but this was the first time I had seen them in a concert of their own. It turns out that maybe I don’t like St. Paul and the Broken Bones as much as I thought I did. At their heart they are a soul band and I really like that part of their sound, which all the singles they’ve released from their three albums decidedly are. I actually don’t think I ever fully listened to their second album, so I’m not sure what the songs from that album are like. I have listened to their most recent album a couple of times and did know that it had a bit more of an experimental sound that I liken to soul but with a 70s synth space age sound. I didn’t mind it as background noise while I work, but it turns out I wasn’t super into listening to it played live while I didn’t have anything else going on. There were a couple of times when Paul Janeway, the lead singer left the stage and the band just played by themselves, which I wasn’t super into. Overall the band was into the show, the crowd was into it, I just wasn’t into it. Oh well. When you go to as many shows as I do they can’t all be winners.

As an interesting side note apparently Paul Janeway took his now wife to a concert at Rams Head Live when they first started dating. He told that story last night and it’s made me super curious ever since given that they are from Alabama, and it makes me wonder how they wound up at a concert in Baltimore when they had just started dating. I supposed I will never know.

New Music Friday: Love Gone Wrong by Lula Wiles

Lula Wiles put out their sophomore album, What Will We Do, at the end of January. I first heard it and fell in love with it when NPR Music had it as one of their First Listen albums before its release. The first song on the album is a hauntingly beautiful folk song about staying with someone and going through the motions even after the love is gone because there never seems to be the right time to actually leave either. Their harmonies are wonderful and bring a great depth to the song. Go have a listen.

 

New Music Friday: Moderation by Florence + the Machine

Florence + the Machine dropped a couple of new songs at the end of January. I somehow missed that until this week, but I figure now I can write about one of them in conjunction with purchasing tickets to see her in concert this summer at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I don’t really have much to say about the song except it sounds like a Florence song with its sort of sweeping melodies and background chorus. It’s going to be another great song for her to swirl around the stage to. I can’t wait until June.

New Music Friday: Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend

 

I went back and forth this week about what song I wanted to post about. I thought about one of the songs from the out of nowhere record by Better Oblivion Community Center, which is a collaboration between Phoebe Bridgers and Connor Oberst, but ultimately I decided I don’t love that as much as I would like to. I still adore Phoebe Bridgers and love her collaborative spirit and have many thoughts on who I want her to collaborate with next, but I for whatever reason have never really cared for Connor Oberst even though you’d think I would. So I think his presence is dragging this down for me.

I also thought about the new song “Front Porch” by Joy Williams who was one half of the beloved and sadly gone too soon Civil Wars. She put out a more pop oriented album after they broke up that I didn’t really get into, but this song seems to indicate a return to the more folk/Americana vibe that I think suits her better.

But ultimately I decided on Vampire Weekend’s new song “Harmony Hall”, which The Atlantic called thrillingly uncool. I’m pretty sure that just makes The Atlantic sound like idiotic hipsters. I have very little to actually say about this song. I have never really been a Vampire Weekend fan for no particular reason. They are just never a band I ever really listened to. I know the band name, but I could not name you a single one of their other songs. I have no idea if I even like any of them. I do like this song and it’s bright jangly sound. It seems like a good antidote to the bleak mid-winter. And that’s about all I have to say about that.

I usually try to embed the YouTube/Vevo versions of songs here in case anyone reading doesn’t have Spotify, but the video for this song is nothing but insects and it’s horrifying if you don’t like insects so I am not unwittingly subjecting anyone to that. Feel free to go find it on your own if you want.

Chuck Rewatch

I recently accidentally started a rewatch for the television show Chuck. I just finished rewatching it yesterday in a weird twist of fate on the same day it aired its final episode in 2012. The only reason I even know that is because I apparently still follow the Chuck Facebook page (who knew?) and they posted something that showed up in my timeline about that right as I was sitting down to watch the final two episodes this afternoon. It’s like it was meant to be.

I’m not someone who generally rewatches tv shows because especially in this day and age there are too many new things to watch. I’ll rewatch episodes here or there. I used to do that more when there used to be more reruns of some of my favorites on and I could just happen upon them when I had a few minutes to kill but wasn’t going to sit down and get into whatever I’m binging. There aren’t too many of those anymore so that’s rare now. The only two other shows I can think that I’ve done a full rewatch of are Veronica Mars in preparation for the movie and Gilmore Girls just because. I think I’ve actually done two full rewatches of Gilmore Girls. I am unsure if either of those was connected to the new Netflix episodes. I feel like one of them must have, but also I don’t remember doing a full rewatch that recently so maybe not.

Anyway, I didn’t really mean to do a rewatch of Chuck. I had recently just finished my crazy binge of all 14 and half seasons of Grey’s Anatomy that existed at the time and hadn’t yet got into anything new. Sometimes I like to sit with shows in my head for awhile before I move on. I was looking for something to throw on while eating lunch one weekend and decided on Chuck because I had just been talking about it on Facebook with my friend Erin in conjunction with Zachary Levi being on the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I had watched the pilot episode again with her when I visited her at some point in the last couple of years and had thought about rewatching it at that point, but I was probably in the middle of something else and then moved onto something I hadn’t seen before instead of continuing on with Chuck. Then Netflix lost it and it wasn’t streaming anywhere for awhile. I only realized Amazon had picked it up at some point when someone on one of the podcasts I listen to mentioned it in passing in an episode last fall. I figured since I wasn’t look to start a new show quite yet I would just throw on an episode of Chuck since I could again. I started with Season 1, Episode 2 and several hours later I knew that I was going to wind up doing a full rewatch.

It’s a good thing that I did because turns out that I somehow remembered only about 85% of what happened on that show. It really surprised me how little I remembered because I adored that show. It was by far my favorite show on television during its run. I nerded out about that show so many times. But apparently after 7 years I only remembered it in the broadest strokes because there were so many plotlines that I did not remember happening until they started and then I was like oh yeah I totally forgot that this happened or other ones where I never really remembered from watching it the first time. I really did not remember that Awesome found out Chuck was a spy way back in season 2. I completely forgot that Casey had a daughter. Even the lead up of the entire episode where he’s trying to save his ex-fiance who thinks he’s dead didn’t clue me until Alex walked in the door at the very end of episode. Then it all came rushing back to me that she existed and winds up dating Morgan. Also by the way I had a completely false memory of Casey and Alex’s mom winding up together but I guess my memory was conflating her and Carrie Ann Moss’s character. I did not remember that Brandon Routh was on this show at all and consequently remember very little of the Ring plot line. I also totally incorrectly remembered that Sarah lost her memory for like half a season leading into the finale. Turns out she didn’t lose her memory until the penultimate episode of the show, so decidedly less time than I thought. I think not remembering pretty much anything made my rewatch more fun because it was almost like I was watching it for the first time again.

The most important thing is that the show completely held up. I sometimes worry about rewatching shows particularly the older they get because sometimes due to times changing or just personally not being in the same place as you were when you watched it things don’t hit you the same way. I have such a strong affection for this show that I didn’t want anything to ruin it, which probably another reason I don’t rewatch too many shows. I didn’t have to worry about Chuck because I still loved it as much as I did the first time. I laughed out loud so many times watching it and it of course gave me all the feels over Chuck and Sarah’s relationship.

In 2019 it’s very obvious how over the top male gaze-y this show is, but I’m choosing to overlook it because at least all the characters being objectified are women who have their own agency and who are decidedly more bad ass than any of the men on the show. I was also a little worried about how I would feel about Casey during my rewatch now knowing what a terrible human being Adam Baldwin in is in real life (allegedly). Casey was my favorite during the initial run and I thought that might be ruined for me knowing what I know now, but it wasn’t. Casey was still the best even if the actor who portrays him is not. I was able to separate the two out in my mind. We can get into the philosophical conversation about whether or not it’s okay to enjoy great things created by not great people some other time.

Chuck is still a really delightful show with such heart that I still adore so much. The first four seasons are still aces. I remember not loving season five as much during its initial run and that held true during my rewatch as well. It’s not like it’s complete garbage like the final season of White Collar. If I ever do a rewatch of that show I’m definitely quitting before I get to that one. In fact if I ever rewatch that show it will probably only be the Sarah years. Anyway, season five wasn’t nearly as good as the seasons that preceded it, but it still had its moments and the show as a whole has definitely stood the test of time. I do kind of wonder how somebody who doesn’t know the history of how the Subway campaign saved the show would feel about all the heavy handed product placement, but I didn’t mind because I know it’s what kept my show on for way longer than it had any right to be on given its ratings.

Since it was threatened with being canceled so many times and half the time never knew if it was going to even get a back 9 for the season there were multiple episodes that were written as stand in finales. This show ultimately had five great finales including the actual one. My favorite episode of the whole series is the season 2 finale, which really is a microcosm of everything that was wonderful about the show. I know some people were mad (and are apparently still mad if you look at any of the comments on that Facebook post I mentioned earlier) that Sarah didn’t for sure get her memory back in the finale, but I really love the end of the show. Whether you choose to believe that Sarah gets her memory back through that magical kiss with Chuck like Morgan theorized or not you know that even if she doesn’t she’s totally going to fall in love with Chuck Bartowski again because who wouldn’t. And of course the end of was soundtracked to the perfect song, The Head and the Heart’s “Rivers and Roads”. They have ended every single one of their concerts that I’ve been to with that song and I never don’t think about Chuck when I hear it. The music in this show was always fantastic. I bought so many songs on iTunes back when I bought songs on iTunes because I heard them on this show. Now it would just be a Spotify playlist, but no matter what this show brought so much music that I love into my life and it’s only fitting that the show would go out on a song that fit it so perfectly.

I am so happy that I rewatched this show. It brought me so much joy and warm fuzzy feelings. I really do miss shows like this on tv. They just aren’t there anymore. Setting aside all the reality shows scripted shows just aren’t like this anymore. You either have your so-called prestige show or shows trying to be prestige shows that are all plot driven or about some anti-hero or you have your almost completely episodic shows where there is all plot and almost no character development. I miss shows like Chuck that are about characters who are allowed to grow and change while also artfully threading together season long story arcs that connect to the also episodic stories that happen each episode. It’s probably why I fell so hard into my Grey’s obsession because it too is that kind of show. These are the kinds of shows I want. I wish someone would start making them again. Otherwise I’ll just have to keep rewatching Chuck.

New Music Friday:Red Bull & Hennessy by Jenny Lewis

On Wednesday Jenny Lewis dropped the first single off her forthcoming album due out on March 22, “Red Bull & Hennessy”. It will be her first album since 2014’s Voyager, which by the way still contains my favorite Jenny Lewis song ever, “She’s Not Me”.

I’m not sure I’m into the reverb fade out at the end, but other than that I love it. It’s a very Jenny Lewis sounding song with a little Kate Bush “Running Up that Hill” vibe in the bridge. I’m here for it. I’m very much looking forward to the full album. Also a new album should bring a new tour, which hopefully means I will finally get to see her live outside of the Newport Folk Festival. I adore Newport, but I also like getting to see people do their own thing without the constraints a festival puts on them. That is something that has so far eluded me with Jenny Lewis for various reasons.