April Shows

Austin always has great live music but the month of April proved greater than most. This is said with consideration that March has its SXSW and October its ACL. Two of the bands from my current top five played her in April in addition to another great live band that I saw long ago, before they were big.

Arcade Fire played the Austin 360 Amphitheater on April 10. We took a party bus from downtown Austin – which we learned is the way to travel out to 360 if the band you want to see isn’t playing IN town. Of course we brought along all the essential party supplies and enjoyed ourselves in a way that we could not have, had we driven ourselves. When the tour was initially announced, it was requested that attendees wear “formal attire”. Some people didn’t like this at first thought but I was happy to see a good percentage of folks decide to give it a go. I wore what I called “fun formal” including Loud Mouth Golf pants, a tuxedo shirt, bow tie and cumber bun. Prior to the show we also did some tailgating of sorts and had our share of pictures in the bluebonnets.

Image

The actual concert was true to form with an unmatched musical performance, show effects of lights, confetti, dancing, music and large paper mache heads of the Pope and Obama. They played mostly from their new album but a good number of older songs as well. Those of us up close in the pit did our fair share of dancing our pants off, some literally.

Image

The National played the Moody Theater, also known as ACL Live, three consecutive nights. They sold out every night, which speaks to their talent and Austin’s good taste. Since I was out of town the first night and had soccer the second, I attended the third. At least that’s what I tell people. Honestly, the first two nights sold out before I had a chance to grab a ticket so I had to wait until the third, magical, night was added. Though I went to this show alone, I enjoyed running into some old friends and meeting & hanging with some new ones. Concerts are good places to meet people because you know you already have something in common; it is an experience that you can build upon. Warpaint opened and you know I am a sucker for a front woman, this is a band of four. I had seen these girls before, at an ACL once upon a time, but felt this may have been one of their better shows. They had certainly matured musically. The National was, as one of my friends put it “soul crushingly amazing”; I might change that slightly by adding an -ly to amazing and wrapping the description up with beautiful. The universal humanity of their lyrics reaches deep within the individual whose ears they fall upon. Matt passionately poured out his heart in each song. He even got the crowd involved by firstly walking throughout the entire crowd and ultimately having us all sing along to an acoustic Vanderlyle. The full set list can be found HERE on my Instagram.

Since Vampire Weekend is set to play at FPSF in Houston at the end of May, I had initially passed on the ticket to Stubb’s. When I realized how many friends were attending, and considering Stubb’s is my favorite venue, I picked up a ticket from a couple just before they unloaded to a money-hungry-scalper. The show held a friendly happy feeling to it general and it was good to be there with friends. It was also good to be a little nostalgic, thinking back to when I saw them at indoors (at a pre-remodeled) Mohawk a number of years ago with just a handful of people indoors versus this sold-out show at Stubb’s. I look forward to seeing them again at the end of May, but the details of that festival are reserved for this Friday’s post.

 

never look back, never give up (a year end review)

Today’s title comes from the band Haim’s song, Falling.  Haim is just one of the bands that I fell in love with this past year. Others include Air Review, Lord Huron, Chvrches, Poolside, Phantogram, The Joy Formidable and St. Lucia.  Phosphorescent’s Song for Zula takes my song of the year, at the least.

White Lies, Local Natives, The National and Arcade Fire gave us new albums. I was able to catch a Mumford & Sons‘ show with my brother Joe and two of my cousins, Mary Elizabeth and Annie.

My year began with a snowboarding trip with my brother Joe. He is a skier but gave boarding a go. It was a good, yet cold adventure. At the end of the month and in contrast, I took Lindsey to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for her 30th birthday. We enjoyed the warm weather and beach views from the pool plus its fruity and sugary drinks. The few days we were there reminded us that we could take a vacation and simply relax versus go – go – go.

Three other trips that Lindsey and I took, and I have already blogged about include, Vancouver, Chicago and Charlotte.  Vancouver, in May, to visit the fabulous city and I ran the marathon. The Chicago trip was to visit some old friends and celebrate the 4th of July. Charlotte was to visit her family and explore what the city has to offer; we took a second trip there for Christmas.

Two of my favorite places to eat in Houston grew this past year. Good Dog, formally a food truck, opened its brick and mortar in the heart of the Heights; walking distance from Lindsey’s. Liberty Kitchen, still a favorite in the Heights, opened a second location that has a gorgeous interior and a Japanese influenced menu. My final word regarding food and drink in 2013 would be the introduction of the Untappd app. It allows me to find, track and rate the many craft beers I get to experience.

Finally, some life experiences of note. Two of my brothers graduated from college. One of which, Robert, has been living in Houston for all of 2013, meaning I was able to see him more. Some of my most memorable dining and concert experiences included that young lad. Running is a major part of my life. This year I ran fewer marathons and less mileage overall but found joy in coaching running. I helped a few friends run their best races, whether it was a 10k, half marathon or marathon. Coaching two soccer teams, I was reminded the happiness that can be found in coaching soccer, the fun to be had while learning. To top them all, last Saturday my niece, Mary Elizabeth, said “Wuv you!” for the first time, it was to me, her uncle John.

I look forward to the adventures, meaning and moments that 2014 will bring!

soundtrack genius

The past couple of days I have had more than one conversation about what I am listening to lately. It is that time of year that we need music to listen to, I’m not talk about Christmas; I mean the time of year for cooler weather, when we need sounds and songwriting that warms our heart and stirs our soul. For example, Oats in the Water by Ben Howard – featured on the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Overall, I have been more impressed by the music that accompanies that show this season. Howard’s song in particular, really struck a chord in me.

I think it is great when a television show or motion picture can incorporate music that moves the viewer deeper into the piece. Though the above is possibly a product of Super Music Vision, I want to highlight another music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas, of her own label – Chop Shop Music Supervision. The OC was my first introduction to her genius, which proved greater still through ER, The Twilight Saga and Mad Men. She is the only music supervisor that I know by name and can typically recognize when she is behind the soundtrack of a show. According to IMDB, she has 100 credits; that is 100 episodes or movies that are significantly better because of her participation. I actually have chosen to watch certain series solely because of her association.

Chop Shop Music’s latest project, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack, is available for stream this week before its release next Tuesday. To name a few, it features great music from The National, Lorde, Coldplay, and The Weeknd. Listen here. 

Thanks again Alexandra!

miscellaneous monday: friends without limits music festival

The Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) featured some familiar names but maybe too familiar; the only one I was really looking forward to seeing again was The National. Which is why I wasn’t in a hurry to buy an overpriced ticket this year. When the second weekend rolled around and a friend of mine had a spare 3 day pass, we made a deal and I got to go.

There were some new-to-me shows that I experienced and enjoyed including: Haim, Kaskade and Junip. Incidentally, I don’t want to write this post about music but about something in particular from this year’s festival. Something that goes beyond the amazing addition of the craft beer tent or the feeling of falling rain while the beat drops during Kaskade. During a great show from Grimes on Saturday, three people were pushing their way through the crowd. They stopped right in front of our group. I am not sure of their age but know they were young and it was evident that one girl “very far gone on some sort of substance.” She stumbled back and forth, bumping into everyone, even as she tried to stand still. Her friends, one of which I think was her sister, were not recognizing that this girl needed a break. She needed some shade and space and water. Then the thing happened, the thing that this stumbling, mumbling girl did not need – the two people she was with, left her. No one in my group could believe that she had been abandoned.

My group was made up of two couples and another couple guys that I had met just the day before, Friday of ACL. The seven of us stuck together and were there not just to enjoy the shows but to enjoy each other enjoying the shows. The girl being left behind, drove home the point that FRIENDS HELP FRIENDS. Had any one of us been in a similar situation, we would have made sure that person was taken care of. I can say I know this because we did have a couple close calls, where members of our group had maybe partied too hard. We made sure they had what they needed and cared for them. I truly hope that what I saw on Saturday was an anomaly and most people stick together and help each other in a time of need.

Sunday was rained out due to massive amounts of rain on Saturday night, meaning flooding, meaning I missed The National. Props to those few bands that did manage to play indoor shows throughout the city on Sunday. Though I was bummed to miss The National, I understand the need to cancel the final day of the fest. Many people in Austin had their homes or cars flooded; much bigger than whether or not I got to see a particular band.

Question now is whether ACL will do one or two weekends next year. Though, potentially more people get to experience the fest with two weekends, I know several folks that went twice. Additionally, I am curious how they made out financially with the prices dropping significantly from the first weekend to the second. I also think that so many festival details, that make ACL such a great fest, seemed to fall through the cracks. Maybe C3 has spread themselves too thin.

Why are you listening to them?

Why do you like the bands that you like? Why do you hate those that you do? Is it because of their lyrical genius or rhythmic prowess? How they make you feel? How the look or dress? Does it matter to you how many other people like them?

Maybe it is because of my musical background but a high percentage of my judgement is based on the band’s sound. The choice of instruments and how well they blend with the voices. As a word-lover, I put some weight into lyrics. Do they work with the sounds? Do they strike a chord in me? That said, I can appreciate a band’s ability without falling in love with them, but sometimes my resolve is not so strong.

My current top five: Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, The National, White Lies, and On an On. There really isn’t an order to the above but the first four are pretty solid and the last is in a rotating spot that has been held in the past few years by Local Natives, Of Monsters and Men, PolicaThe Joy Formidable (to name a few). Maybe it is really a TOP FOUR with an honorable mention(s). I only linked the less popular names.

The National have a new album, Trouble Will Find Me; which I love. This new album is actually an inspiration for this particular post. A number of people cannot listen to The National because of their dark, sometimes depressing nature. On the contrary, I am captivated by their sound and most of which Matt Berninger has to say. Unlike others, I appreciate the crescendos and repetition. At times he comes off broken, other times more victorious and this is a fantastic representation or real life. The thoughtfulness that was placed into each musical movement and the accompanying words is evident; I appreciate this on a very deep level. My argument may not convince you to like them, but I only hope it gets you to listen in order to decide for yourself.

The important thing is that I like these bands because of their sound, their lyrics, the passion they pour into both. The thing about passion is that it can be intimidating. Sometimes being passionate about one thing means you alienate the listeners that disagree or whom are lukewarm toward a similar attitude or expression. So it should go without saying, like what you like – listen to what moves, motivates or melds most with you. Don’t like a band solely because you think someone else might like them. Listen to as much music as you can, find something new. I challenge you to evaluate your choices in music. If you know WHY you love someone it may be easier to continue loving and supporting, maybe even promoting them.