Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Forever stamps.

Who decided that the damn Liberty Bell was what we wanted to look at FOREVER? Every time I send anything but a bill (which I haven't actually mailed in 15 years), I feel like the Forever Stamp just ruins the whole thing.
I wish I'd been in the loop on this...Forever Stamps would have a picture of a tiiiiny puppy with a bunch of flowers in his mouth, and it would look like he's smiling, but you aren't sure it's a smile...it may be a growl...but it's still so cute...partially because of that mystery.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

So The Tallest Man on Earth isn’t super tall.

How many times a day do you think he hears that? But it’s cool…some jokes are overused because they’re funny every time (this actually might NOT be one of those times, but I’m going to stick with it).

I spend last evening at UCSD’s The Loft, checking out The Tallest Man on Earth. I showed up a little late in hopes that I might miss some of the opener—some band called Nurses who I hadn’t heard of—but I managed to time it just wrong, and found my spot right as the lights went down for Nurses.

Pause for a moment here to comment on the venue. I haven’t ever been to The Loft, and most definitely would never have been to The Loft, had it not been for an exceptionally kind UCSD lab assistant who found me wandering around the poorly lit campus and showed me where to go. Dear UCSD: Please expend some of your newly increased student fees on ANY semblance of signage. Love, someone who gets lost in her own neighborhood. So I did eventually get there, and was surprised. It SEEMS like a cool venue—a beer and wine bar, a boothy-couchy seating area, a few tall tables, a good sized standing area and a short stage—but it’s tricky. If you sit at all, you can’t see anything. People talking at the bar may as well be talking on stage—the sound really carries. The stage is just short enough that it’s REAL hard to see the performers if there are tall people up front (and somehow, there ALWAYS are). And it’s on a UC campus, so many of the attendees were college students. At one point, I was behind two sets of college dates, the girls of which clearly knew the music, and the boys of which were talking about the only other concerts they’d to—Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett. Awesome (not at all awesome).

So all of that to say that if you ever make it to The Loft (not a given, because you might end up in the Biology department, or some forest, like I did), be ready for a younger crowd, and be there earlier if you care to see.

But back to what actually matters. So Nurses came out onto stage, and to be honest, I didn’t even bother standing up. It took me about forty seconds into their first song to stand and move up. I don’t even know how to aptly describe them in relation to other music—they’re sort of like a sadder, more serious Vampire Weekend. The lead singer has a similar “I’m young and love life and music and drinking and don’t have a lot to worry about” tone, and made good use of the harpsichord setting on the keyboards…maybe that’s why I thought of Vampire Weekend. But really—take note of these guys—they blew me away! For three people (one of whom was just on percussion), they have a really full, polished sound that will make you stop to listen. And they had these moments of harmonic brilliance that makes me wonder if they’re related. Side note—I just tried to Google them to see if they actually are related, and I got about two million website about nurses…the life saving kind. Different. Anyway. They’re probably not related (but the two front guys do have equally impressive beards), but their tones blend so well—you’ll be impressed. Go buy their album immediately. I was sad to see their set end, and already sent them a pseudo-creepy fan email.

I’m having a hard time figuring out how to write the rest of this, because The Tallest Man’s set evoked two completely opposite reactions that I don’t think I can weave appropriately here. Ok…I’ve decided—first, the music, second, everything else.

So The Tallest Man was all I hoped he’d be. The set list was impressive—a great blend of stuff from the new album (The Wild Hunt—a HUGE winner) and old favorites. His voice is so weirdly harshly-gruff-Bob-Dylan-but-more-accurate that you can’t help but pay complete attention to whatever he’s doing. It was only him on his several guitars, but from time to time, I had to jump up (damn tall guys) to be sure he didn’t have six arms, because I swear there were three separate guitar lines going at once. And he performs like his album—mellow, but still intense, and just overall good. His sad songs were somehow much sadder in person, his mad songs were much madder and his happy songs (…well…he doesn’t really have HAPPY songs, but you know what I mean) were energy-inspiring. There was something about seeing him actually say the words that he wrote that made them mean something more, and that’s saying a lot coming from me, a music-first-lyrics-second-or-maybe-third person. And at one point, I think he played Sade. The music part of the show left me energetic, happy and totally content.

The REST of the show left me drained, annoyed and way over everything.

Something was up with the sound. So I know the sound guy always gets crap, but really, the feedback was almost unbearable at times. The Tallest Man handled it like a champ, though, and played through it as though he didn’t notice it most of the time, while making his own adjustments on stage. But the WORST part was the audience. I left feeling like I needed to apologize to him for all of the following people:

-The Clapper. Not only did this guy clap through EVERY SONG, he often clapped off beat (so maybe not OFF beat, but on the one/three, which is just as bad), which was so unbelievably annoying that I almost cried blood, AND he continued to clap even when The Tallest Man came over to him during a song and said “Hey, this is actually a pretty sad song…” Liking the music so much that you want to clap: okay. Being the only one clapping in the entire venue: nokay. Continuing to clap when the band actually asks you to stop: NOkay.

-The Talkers. There were many. I don’t care if this is a date, or if this is your first concert, or fill in the blank. When the band has to say “This is a quiet one…so you all have to be quiet to hear it…” stop talking. Seriously.

-The Skinny Jeans. Just kidding…that would mean I hated everyone there.

-The Only Girl In The World Who Knows How To Appreciate Music. This girl started off the show sitting on the end of the stage and sit-dancing (to The Tallest Man on Earth…???), which evoked more than one awkward side glance from The Tallest Man as he performed, and at one point, was texting so obviously that he just walked over to her on the stage and just stared at her. She then came back to her friend, who was happily enjoying the show from the crowd, and proceeded to pull and push her (physically), and verbally cajole her by saying “It’s not the same here [three people back, mind you]…you can’t really appreciate it until you’re up there!” until she also went up to the stage to sit, displacing other people the whole way. Then at one point, she actually stood up on the stage and danced. At this point, The Tallest Man said “Sit down…this is really more of a sit down song.” Awkward. Go experience your first beer somewhere else, girl.

-The Awkward Fill-The-Silence Talker. So The Tallest Man wasn’t super talkative. Turns out, this is his show, so he can say or not say whatever he wants, right? Not okay, apparently, for this one guy. Every time The Tallest Man was trading guitars or tuning or taking a moment to adjust, this guy yelled out things like “Hey how are you?,” or “Yeah, play this song!,” or my personal favorite, “What’s better, San Diego or Switzerland?” At that point, The Tallest Man, who had just ignored him at this point, looked up and said “You know, I don’t really think about those things when I’m tuning.” At least this guy took the hint…that was his last comment.

So overall: Nurses was a complete success. Go tell all your friends about them, and pretend like you discovered them if you want, because your music cred will skyrocket. The Loft is a weird venue, and I may never go there again. I forget, sometimes, that an audience can ALMOST make or break an entire show, but…The Tallest Man on Earth is unbelievably talented, and I loved to see that his personality totally matches his voice—a little gruff, a little cantankerous, a lot of depth. I’ll remember him WAY more than the annoying people in skinny jeans.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


That was me...putting the hoe back in Coachella.

Come on...not really. That doesn't even make sense.

But I did want to actually write about it, in case I forget someday or something, so my children's children's children will think I'm a bad ass!

Coachella…always legendary…always memorable…always for different reasons.

This year was my fourth at Coachella, and it was notably the-same-but-not-at-all-the same for one main reason: it was so, so packed. The festival is always busy, but this year, with the removal of the one day pass (which meant that every attendee had to purchase the full three day pass) AND the increase of venue capacity, Coachella was just too busy. I write that half wondering if I’m mad about it just because I’m not a cool 22 year old anymore, but the general tone of whoever I spoke with there was the same—great line up, great venue—even great weather this year—just too crowded. It’s just not as fun when you have to be in a tent two acts before your favorite just to get close to the stage.

But that being said, the line up this year was just unreal, so overall, it was still overall, great.

I bought the three day pass because of the quality of the performers, but I was really sent over the edge by Frightened Rabbit, my fav-of-the-moment band. Unfortunately, they, as well as several other bands, had to cancel because they couldn’t get out of their home countries because of that damn volcano, so that was a downer.

But again…I don’t know why I keep focusing on things that weren’t great, because there was a lot of great out there.

So after I knew Frightened Rabbit was out, I was most excited about Imogen Heap, then Miike Snow. Both were unreal. I’ve been waiting for Imogen to come to the west coast for about 7 years, and she was 100% amazing—she was totally by herself, and played some acoustic on piano, but looped a lot with wrist mics (what?? yep.), so she’d play a little key-tar, then a little percussion, then ding some brass things hanging from this tree that she brought on stage, and loop it all for these amazing songs that sounded like a full orchestra was with her, but it was just her. Wild. Love. Imogen closed with her biggest hit, Hide and Seek, and her key-tar-synthesizer stopped working in the middle of the song, so she swung it back over her shoulder, and proceeded to finish the song on the piano without skipping a beat…but still wearing the key-tar. This was also memorable because these two college girls (no offense to college girls, but REALLY?) kept saying “Dear Sister,” like the SNL skit that uses the song, then laughing hysterically, and I wanted to hit them both right in the mouth. It’s not even your joke, college girls.

Miike Snow was also a delight. There’s something special about seeing a band or artist when they only have one album out--you know they’re going to play your favorites, and you know they’re going to be so excited. Miike Snow was no disappointment. His whole group came out with super creepy white masks (that they eventually took off). It made their peppy dance music sort of weird and eerie. But I loved it. And I really loved it when they took them off.

The other highlights throughout the event were…
-Jay Z. Obviously, right? He managed to play like 90% of his #1s in his set, and then Beyonce showed up to sing. Oh, and there were fireworks. Come on.
-Thom Yorke. He brought his super group with him, and managed to play their songs and Radiohead hits with the PERFECT balance of “outdoor festival acoustic” and “crazy thousands of people festival rock.”
-Passion Pit. It was just a huge dance party. Nothing but great about that.
-MGMT. Although I’m not super stoked that they’re acting too cool for school these days, their set was great. Especially the older songs. Sorry, MGMT…the last album is just better than this one.
-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. This was another band that we caught at the beginning of the hype, so they were really excited, really fun and really quality. They deserved to be on the big stage, with their energy and sound.
-Florence and the Machines. Oh wait, we couldn’t actually hear her at all, because she was in a tiiiny tent, when she should have been outdoors on a stage. Thanks for nothing, Coachella and the 2 million attendees.
-Matt and Kim. These guys were a really pleasant surprise for me—I love their singles, but they were great overall. And seriously—the whole band is a guy named Matt and a girl named Kim. I love that. They, unlike a lot of performers, talked to the crowd a lot too, which I loved.
-Vampire Weekend. I saw them when they were brand new at Coachella a few years ago, and it was so great to see that they’re largely still the same—still look like prep school guys, still sing with pizzazz, and still rock their crowd-pleasers. Excellent set.
-Pretty Lights. Again, a dance party, but it was mostly notable because a guy in a full Jesus costume was walking around and dancing.
-Julian Casablancas. This was another guy who I’d really only heard his singles, and I ended up staying for his whole set. He was so great—really talented, really personable. I bought his album on my phone while listening to him.
-Muse. Oh yeah…Muse is three guys. What??? They’re a band that I listen to, I think “These guys are something big…I need to listen to them more,” then I forget, then I listen to them again, six months later, then I realize how much I like them, then I forget… Never again though. The whole band was amazing, the set was amazing, the show was amazing, and I would put the lead singer’s vocals on par with any classical or Broadway or ANY singer—he was SO dynamic, SO accurate and overall amazing. Their whole set was so great. And it’s THREE GUYS. I thought it was like 40.
-Owen Pallett. Watch out for this guy…he’s going to be big someday. Sooner rather than later, I think. He’s this year’s Andrew Bird—plays his own stuff, loops a lot, and is a whiz on the violin. He was great “lay in the sun and just listen” music.
I could go on, but it might be too much.

So all in all, amazing music this year, I really missed Frightened Rabbit, and there were WAY too many people, which automatically meant that there were WAY too many people wearing headdresses, unflattering bathing suits and body paint.

Oh, also, I think we were watching Passion Pit, or MGMT, or some band that was a little dancy, and there was this group of guys in boxer briefs (only) dancing and doing squats over and over and over. I will never be able to forget that…even if I wanted to.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Shining Moments...El 5th

Finally, right? Not really...Chad turned this little guy around pretty quickly. Chad and Shannon...superCHAAAARgers!!
Chad is leaving this place soon, but if he is no longer around to film and edit these, I will be forever changed...FOR THE WORSE.

I had to add a password to this thing, since I got REAL nervous that it was being spread to sketchy people via friends of friends on Facebook, but I trust you people not to get me arrested. The password is pslam.

Shining Moments, el 5 from Shannon Hutchison on Vimeo.