Sunday, December 30, 2007
"Thrash Unreal" by Against Me!
Album: New Wave
Punk may have seen more relevant days, but one listen to Against Me's "Thrash Unreal" is proof that there is still life blood coursing through the genre. Against Me's sound is less coarse and tidier than that of past punk legends, but they are no mere pop punk fakes. Good Charlotte they are not. Against Me's brand of punk is catchy as heck but it is also clever and smart.
The immediate hook of "Thrash Unreal" is its infectious "bah bah bah" chorus, an anthemic statement of wayward liberation. If there is a musical expression for youthful rebellion, Against Me has found it in the chorus. What makes "Thrash Unreal" an even greater song, worth more than just a catchy chorus, is its compelling depiction of a woman grown way past the maximum age for youthful indulgence. Rather than make it a sad song about a sad prodigal daughter, though, Against Me imbues the story with a defiant spirit. "No mother ever dreams that they're daughter is gonna grow up to be a junkie," growls lead singer Tom Gabel,"No mother ever dreams that they're daughter is gonna grow up to sleep alone." The song does not glorify its subject's debauchery but the song marvels at a life lived on the edge and the energy it requires to do so. As it says, "Some people just aren't the type for marriage and family." "Thrash Unreal," its pleasures many and too damn irresistible, exemplifies the allure of the rock and roll lifestyle. Who can refuse a hit when it's this damn good?
Friday, December 28, 2007
"Golden Inhibition Destroyer" by Warm in the Wake
Album: Gold Dust Trail EP
Like Keren Ann's "Lay Your Head Down," Warm in the Wake's "Golden Inhibition Destroyer" was a Song of the Week selection this year. The song's Southern rock sound is pleasant enough, big guitars and shuffling drums underscore cryptic lyrics. This would be enough for a decent, enjoyable song, but what takes "Golden Inhibition Destroyer" to the next level, what makes it a a song worthy of playing over and over again, occurs with a minute and a half remaining in the song, after the last lyric has been sung. At this point a piano solo begins as the drums roll a martial beat. The piano builds ever so gradually but soon it is colliding with the drums, rising then cascading to the verge of collapse. But it doesn't. It is an exercise in controlled breakdown. We never fear that the song will fall apart because what we heard before proved to us that Warm in the Wake knows its formula. Yet they also know it well enough to deviate from it and reveal what else is possible--ithin reason and without spiraling out of control. It is, I suppose, a "safe" song, but it is only so because Warm in the Wake know too well what they are doing as musicians that they don't leave a wreck of a song in the wake after all is done.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
"Lake Michigan" by Rogue Wave
Album: Asleep at Heaven's Gate
I'm a sucker for a catchy indie pop song, and Rogue Wave's "Lake Michigan" lit up the pleasure center in my brain. It sounds like something the Shins, former labelmates of theirs, would have concocted. The lyrics are inscrutable, but it's apparently about the damage being done to Lake Michigan with references to global warming and "sky is burning." The thought that this is actually a message song almost detracts from it, not because I'm anti-environment but that it is incongruous with the sound and feel of the song. I can imagine that irony is in play here but it doesn't go far enough in its reach for it to work as an ironic statement. Rather I'd prefer to enjoy the song's cascading guitars, handclaps and layered harmonies as a visceral experience. Yes, I know, it's akin to liking the Mona Lisa because of the frame around it, but really, the frame this song hangs in is that great.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
"Lay Your Head Down" by Keren Ann
Album: Keren Ann
Beguiled was what I was the first time I heard Keren Ann's "Lay Your Head Down," hands down the most alluring song of the year. With its guitar intro and hand claps, and most of all Keren Ann's seductive vocals, the song is an inviting experience. When she coos, "Lay your head down in my arms," you just want to take her up on the offer. Surprisingly the song runs for almost five minutes but it is as ephemeral as a cool summer breeze and just as refreshing. The production places Keren Ann's vocals at the forefront, echoing like a whisper through cupped hands. The strings and harmonica and the lively guitarwork and handclaps that form the spine of the song give the song a light, buoyant feel--like the softest pillow for your weary head. I keep wanting to describe this song as a lovely breeze wafting through the speakers because that's what it feels like when I hear it, a song that just makes me want to close my eyes and pretend that Keren Ann is singing in my ear.
Monday, December 24, 2007
"West Coast" by Coconut Records
Coconut Records is Jason Schwartzman, indie actor and scion of the Coppola filmmaking dynasty, who, through his stint as a drummer with Phantom Planet and now on his own, displays a talent for pop craftsmanship. "West Coast" can be described as a sequel of sorts to Phantom Planet's big hit, "California," which notoriously became the theme song to the show "The OC." There's the obviously similar subject matter and both share a winsome melancholy.
While "California" can be described as a song about arriving, the anticipation of a reunion, "West Coast" is a song about departing, leaving behind someone--perhaps forever. The beauty of "West Coast," though, is how triumphantly lonesome it all sounds. Rather than dwell on the sadness of parting, Schwartzman captures the catharsis that comes hand in hand with melancholy. Mostly he does it by pairing the lyrics to music that embodies the locale it refers to. Had the song not been titled "West Coast" it still would have been evident that it is a song very much about the sweet loneliness of living in LA, especially while in love. It has a summery, Beach Boys-inspired sound full of ooh-ahh harmonies and a swooping melody that sounds like a drive along a coastal highway. Then there's Schartzman's voice, mopy and sweet, which imbues the song's lyrics ("I miss you I'm going back home to the west coast/I wish you would have put yourself in my suitcase") with poignancy. He's a hopeful romantic, in love with the feeling of being in love. When the song reaches the glorious choral "ahhs" "West Coast" soars. Like the best pop songs, it sounds like how you wish felt all the time: so glad to be so unhappy in love.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Much is being said over at the LA Times' LA Land blog about the report released today that shows more people leaving Los Angeles county and the state than moving in. Due to immigration and child birth, though, the state and local population continues to grow, but in terms of "domestic migration" we're losing more than we're gaining. The culprits appear to be cost and quality of living, but the comments on the blog also point towards xenophobia. If the increasing Latino population is the reason some people are moving out then I'm glad to lose those people.
I've grown up in southern California, so I'm a bit biased, but I love the place. Still, I think it's a difficult place to live in, and I'm always impressed by those who move here not knowing anyone. It's a tough road. New York City isn't the only city "where if you can make it there you can make it anywhere." If anything, Los Angeles may be even more of a make-or-break kind of city. It's certainly a difficult place to navigate, but once you've succeeded and conquered it, you know you can live just about anywhere. Whether you'd want to is another question.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I ought to dock them points for being Harvard alums--a requirement it seems to earn a Times wedding announcement spot--but there's no denying the sweetness of the story of their love deferred between friends. So is this proof of the "When Harry Met Sally" theory that men and women can't be friends, that it ultimately leads to love?
Congrats to the happy couple!
Monday, December 17, 2007
The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away.
Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I went on a hike this morning with my friend Jeff up the Mt. Wilson trail. We didn't have time to go all the way up to the summit, but we made it about three miles in and turned back. It was great weather, albeit a little hazy to fully see the San Gabriel Valley down below. We're hoping to do the summit when Jeff gets back from his trip and hopefully by then I'll have hiking shoes. I was slipping quite a lot and I'm worried I'll wind up having to be rescued.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The ratio of women to men on a TNT team is 2 to 1, so if you're a single man and looking for outgoing, athletic, good-hearted women, there's no better place to meet them than on a TNT team. Not only will you help a great cause (Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) but you might just make a love connection, just like Ms. Weil and Mr. Raphael. Their story is quite adorable and the NY Times thought so too. Their announcement online also includes a short video. Watch it.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Great smiles from both of them and I love how the golden sun bathes them in its warmth. It's hard to tell where they are, but based on the background and the sunlight they could be out in Napa or maybe Italy. I also like that their heads aren't squeezed together like they were conjoined twins. They're together but no suffocatingly so. But for me it's the refreshing sunlight that makes this picture a winner. It makes them look so young and full of promise. Nia VonHockman and Christopher Chase should have gone with this photographer.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I'm not that knowledgable about Scientology apart from the rumors I've heard or the fact that it's based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. So maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that The Way to Happiness Foundation and The L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition are among the sponsors of the very first Hollywood Santa Parade (a revamp of the old Hollywood Christmas Parade). Is Santa a Scientologist?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Download: Ryan Adams - "Always On My Mind" (linked to Captain Obvious blog)
Covers are awesome. They provide insight into an artist's influences and when done right help reinvigorate a tired song. "Always On My Mind" isn't tired, but Ryan Adams's rendition of it reminds me how terrific it is. Maybe this will become a recurring thing here. Covers!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Mr. Baker is an actor living in Los Angeles and as a result the couple had been in a long distance relationship. Ms. Nifong was a graphic designer at the University of Virginia "until this month," which I take to mean that she'll be moving elsewhere. Most likely LA. Their meeting was cute--set up by parents of a friend--and their proposal is even cuter (in a barn, in front of a horse).
I guess I'm picking this announcement because it has always been a fantasy of mine to lock eyes with a performer on stage and feel like they're performing for me and only me.
Congrats to the happy couple!
Monday, November 19, 2007
Michelle Shocked once sang that you can travel for miles and never leave L.A. That wasn't quite the case yesterday when dozens of Angelenos set off by foot to traverse the entire span of Pico Boulevard from Central Ave. in downtown to Ocean Way in Santa Monica. We didn't quite stay within L.A. city limits, but she does have a point. There's so much of this city to see that even a lifetime lived here cannot guarantee a complete understanding of the city, and this fact was apparent as I made my way down one street in this city.
To be fair, I didn't quite walk the entirety of Pico. I got to downtown late and met up with the rest of the walkers at the Garment District, but I promise to make up what I missed some other time.
I'm tempted to describe the Great LA Walk in poetic terms as a triumph of the human spirit type of ordeal. It wasn't--at least for me. However, what it did do for me was remind me that there are innumerable wonderful people who make up this city who truly and proudly call themselves Angelenos. An event like this attracts the city's cream of the crop. I didn't get an opportuntity to talk to everyone, but I'm grateful for those I got a chance to speak with during the hours spent walking.
I just got back from seeing Before the Devil Knows You're Dead at the Westside Pavilion. On the way home I took Pico down to La Brea. It's a street I haven't regarded very much, but after yesterday's walk it feels reassuringly familiar.
Thanks again to Franklin Avenue for organizing the Walk. I look forward to doing it again next year.
More pictures from the Walk at my Flickr page.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The fourth and final night of my concert series ended last night with (yet) another show at the Troubadour. This time it was Sondre Lerche with opener Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame.
I didn't post anything about Night Three which took place at the Key Club to see Astra Heights, the band of a friend of a friend. Even without the personal connection, I was quite impressed by Astra Heights. Their music is indebted to the British, glam-rock sound, which they acknowledged by delivering a dead-on cover of T. Rex's "Twentieth Century Boy." Their album, Good Problems, is now available on iTunes. The songs "The March" and "Well Farewell" are highlights.
As for Lerche, he's gotten big enough that he performed two solo shows at the Troubadour. Sadly for me, being at the show last night made me realize that I have the musical tastes of a 19 year-old girl. I was surrounded by adoring young girls who professed their love to Sondre and punctuated each Sondre anecdote with a chorus of "Awww's". The rather sizable fan base surprised me, but Lerche has been working hard, releasing an album every year. He's getting more exposure now that he did the entire Dan in Real Life soundtrack. I haven't heard the new album yet, but the songs I heard last night--even with the limitations of a solo show--sounded pleasant and sweet. I suppose the appeal of Lerche is that coupled with his boyish good looks, his songs tug at heartstrings without being cloying or corny. I've been disappointed, though,that he hasn't progressed further than I think he's capable of, especially when he delivers something as potent as the title track from Phantom Punch. That song shows Lerche is capable of more than just diverting, adorable songs. Lerche has taken itty-bitty steps forward with nary a stumble. That's something I suppose.
The set last night was divvied up between all of Lerche's albums, with a slight favoring towards Phantom Punch. He opened with "Don't Be Shallow" but the set didn't really establish itself until the third song, "Everyone's Rooting for You." Lerche's music has been fairly formal and minimalist, so the songs didn't suffer much from the one-man arrangements. Of course the quieter songs, "Maybe You're Gone" especially, worked the best, but even "Dead Passengers" worked thanks to an impressive guitar interlude that showed off Lerche's chops. For his encore, Lerche ventured to perform the insistent "Phantom Punch" and Lerche admitted that the song really can't be performed well without a full band. Remarkably it worked. He also performed "Modern Nature" and ended the night with "Sleep On Needles" and all was well with his adoring fans.
As likable as Lerche is, it was his opening act, Dan Wilson, that tipped the balance of whether to go or not to go. I've been waiting for his solo album for a few years now, and now that it's here I can say that it's a rewarding album. There are moments of corniness--what songs about peace and love aren't?--and the songs are on the slow side, but Wilson's gift for melody shines through. The crowd, there to see Lerche, were slow to warm to Wilson's more mellow sounds, but by the time he got to his third song, "Easy Silence" and definitely when he performed "Sugar," the crowd was his. He even performed "Closing Time," which he cheekily called his "Junior" song, the song every songwriter who is about to have a baby writes. The song that the rest of the bandmembers were dreading. His proof: replace "room" with "womb" in the line "this room won't be open till your brothers or your sisters come." See! Great set, even as a solo. Definitely check out the album, Free Life.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Both inveterate swing dancers, they had gone dancing in November 2004, he alone, she with two female friends, at Glen Echo Park, a national park on the Potomac Palisades near Bethesda that has a ballroom with a 7,500-square-foot dance floor.
Ms. Dinkes asked a man she knew from JDate to dance with her, but because he had already promised someone else, he declined. Mr. Hoffman had been watching from afar but could not hear the explanation. “That was a dancing faux pas,” he said. “The rules are that if you turn someone down, you have to wait out the dance to dance with anyone else.”
I looked it up, and it appears that is the classical etiquette. It does make sense. You can't say no to someone and then all of a sudden be dancing with someone else, but in Ms. Dinkes'JDate case, it probably isn't faux pas, hence "perceived breach of etiquette."
Apart from that, I'm surprised that the first date would be an office holiday party. I'm not sure that would be the ideal place for a first date. However, if you're sure of yourself you've pretty much guaranteed a roomful of people to vouch for your qualifications as an ideal mate. Still, maybe it's just me, I wouldn't want my first date to be in front of friends and family.
I also wanted to point out the sweet little coda used by the writer of this announcement. It was a nice touch to end it with the deferred walk and the proposal. This was a sweet little announcement.
Congrats to the happy couple!
Monday, November 12, 2007
Another night, another show at the Troubadour. This time it was the Walkmen doing what I guess amounts to training to keep in shape and to sharpen their repertoire. No news of a new album from them, but based on last night's show it will be soon. Practically half the set, which felt very brief, was devoted to new tracks. The great news is that the new songs are terrific. Hamilton Leithauser is sounding more and more like Bob Dylan and the slow-burning songs are taking on more of a bluesy stomp. What I appreciated most about the new songs, whose titles I mostly missed, was that they displayed a bigger, bruised heart than I've seen or heard from the band. "I Lost You," one of the songs whose title Hamilton announced, was one such song that felt as big as it sounded.
The good songs are good enough that I almost didn't mind the fact that the band deprived the crowd of their favorites. Almost. Why couldn't they give us new songs and play "The Rat" as well? I could blame it on Hamilton being surly, but the truth of the matter was that he looked to be in great spirits. He thanked the crowd often and smiled. The crowd egged them on for two encores, which the band granted, but even knowing that the crowd was hoping for "The Rat" or "We've Been Had" or "Little House of Savages" or--in my case--"Lost in Boston" the band denied them. For their encore they did another new song and "Bows and Arrows." The band granted the audience "Wake Up" for a second encore. After that the devoted fans were still hoping for another encore, but they were denied.
In the scheme of things, the show was a disappointment for what it didn't provide, but it was a hell of an entertaining show. I missed the messy intensity of the other Walkmen show I saw last year at the Glass House, but it did seem like the band was more into the spirit of things last night. Watching Matt Barrick pound on the drums is a show unto itself. He literally bounces off his chair when he drums. They should think about putting him closer to the front of the stage so everyone can take a gander at him. Then again, he might steal the show.
On a side note, Britt Daniels of Spoon was at the show last night. Spoon is in town to play a show with Feist tonight at the Gibson Amphitheater. I would say he was a fan, but it didn't look like he was paying much attention to the show. I saw him walk out during the set only to walk back in a little later.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
When I first heard "Black Cab" three years ago, its jingle-jangle opening hooked me and it became one of my most listened-to songs of the year. When I saw him play Spaceland for the first time that year I was charmed but I also found it a little too precious. He had a small backing band--drummer, bassist, plus himself--so it didn't quite capture the full pop twinkle of his songs. The next time he was at Spaceland he had more support and it gave the show an amazing but intimate energy. It looked at the time that Jens would remain a pop secret, but with the release of his newest album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, and its 9.0 rating from Pitchfork, Jens is soaring.
Last night's sold out show at the Troubadour was proof of Jens's growing popularity and he rewarded those on hand with a joyful, exuberant show. It helped that Jens has plenty of songs in his repertoire from which to put together an entertaining show, but the songs aren't enough if the spirit isn't there. Jens definitely has spirit. Backed by a talented all-girl band (trumpet, violins, accordion, bass, drums) and a stoically cute DJ, Jens and the band--clad in matching white outfits that looked like kitchen uniforms--put together a show that embodied the bliss that the best pop music can elicit.
The show opened with "Into Eternity," one of many standout tracks from Kortedala. Jens didn't stray too far from the album renditions and I think it's all for the better. Unlike some acts, one goes into a Jens Lekman show hoping to hear the pop perfection displayed in the albums. That was primarily why my first Lekman show was a little disappointing. He didn't capture the songs in all their glory. With the full band, though, the songs were all exquisitely done, even in the quieter moments, such as in the lovely and affecting "The Cold Swedish Winter" from When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog.
I don't exaggerate when I say that the show was perfection. It was everything I could look for in a concert. Lekman was charming in his banter, asking if the people watching him from behind a window in the loft of the Troubadour were contagious at one time. Even when he spoke in the middle "A Postcard to Nina", something that is quickly turning into a pet peeve of mine in a concert, it was delightful. Plus, it actually added to the song as it provided more of a backstory to the song's farcical tale of lesbian love and deception. The show was sublime.
The crowd egged Lekman to do two encores. The first encore featured Lekman's dance songs, "A Sweet Summer Night on Hammer Hill" and "Friday Night at the Drive In Bingo." When he was summoned back he performed an acoustic version of "You Can Call Me Al" except that he eliminated most of the chorus parts as he "hated it" and a sweet rendition of "Pocketful of Money" with the crowd backing him up on finger snaps and shakers handed out earlier in the evening by Throw Me the Statue.
So it goes without saying that I highly recommend checking Lekman out when he comes to your town.
Opening for Lekman was Throw Me the Statue, a terrific up-and-coming band. Their music is amazingly wide-ranging. Their opening set started with their slower tunes, lovely songs perfect for navel-gazing, but they quickly got the crowd moving with songs like "Lolita" and "About to Walk." I've only heard a handful of songs from them, but I like what I hear. I can hear in them a very thoughtful and tasteful blending of electro-pop and more traditional singer-songwriter stylings. Their album, Moonbeams, will be rereleased by Secretly Canadian early in 2008.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Next weekend I will be doing 15 miles--the longest I've done since the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon in June. Instead of running, though, I will be walking.
I am participating in the Great Los Angeles Walk organized by Mike and Maria over at Franklin Avenue. On Saturday, starting at 9AM, we will be walking the entire length of Pico Boulevard from downtown to Santa Monica--all 15 miles or so of it. This is the second year of the Walk. Last year the crew walked the entire length of Wilshire Boulevard, but this year's walk should draw more participants.
If you want to join us, e-mail Mike and Maria at email@example.com. You don't have to do the entire distance--you can do all or just part of the walk.
Check out the Great LA Walk website for details. I can't wait!
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Ms. Gereghty and Mr. Shanley both work for JP Morgan Chase. They don't work in the same department, but it's interesting to see that Ms. Gereghty is higher up in the food chain than Mr. Shanley--she's a VP and he's an investment banker. I could be wrong, though. Those investment bankers make good money.
Congrats to the happy couple!
Monday, November 05, 2007
This weekend was a busy weekend for running in New York. On Saturday was the men's marathon Olympic Trials, which was won by Ryan Hall who looked like he could keep running for another 26.2 miles. He was strong and finished well ahead of everyone else.
Sadly, Hall's training partner, Ryan Shay, collapsed five and a half miles into the race and died. No word yet on the cause but it might have been an enlarged heart.
The next day was the New York City Marathon, which had thrilling finishes on both the men and women's side. Paula Radcliffe won the women's race, and it was my first time really watching her run. She's not a graceful runner at all and she looks pained when she runs, but she has guts and even when it looks like she's struggling she pulled off an impressive victory. She has won seven of the eight marathons she has competed in. She DNF-ed at the Olympics.
Lance Armstrong ran again this year and improved his time from last year by 13 minutes, finishing in 2:46:43.
And in a surprise, Mrs. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes ran her first marathon. She finished just under five and a half hours at 5:29:58. Congratulations to her. Suri and Tom were there at the finish.
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Coach Kate from TNT also ran it and ran it much, much faster than Katie Holmes. Kate finished in 3:41. Great job, Kate.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
This morning's New York Times carried an interesting article ("Rule Jostles Runners Who Race To Their Own Tune") on the topic. The articled talked about the push for race organizers to ban iPods and other music players and the difficulty of enforcing such a rule. Possible penalties breaking the rule include disqualification from the race, but a race like the NYC Marathon--with 40,000 runners--is hard to police. The issue for organizers is the insurance liability of runners oblivious to everything going on around them and failing to hear instructions or the runners they're about to trip up. For runners who favor iPods, the issue is simply getting them through the race.
I've made my preference clear, and again it's a personal preference. However, I don't know about banning their use completely, but at the same time I do understand why organizers may want to be cautious about allowing them in such a litigious society as ours. Perhaps running without music players should just be a part of the challenge of racing. If you're going to participate in an organized race just accept that you'll have to do it without Sisqo blaring through your earbuds. I still argue that races are fun enough on their own without the aid of iPods. Enjoy the experience!
If you insist on running with an iPod, I will at least recommend that you include LCD Soundsystem, the Little Ones, Battles, and the Go! Team in your playlist. If you want more recommendations I have more. Just ask.
Here's a picture of me enjoying the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon iPod-less.
Let me ask you: who looks happier than I?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Ceremony #1 was a traditional Korean cultural ceremony in Korea. Wedding #2 was a Jewish ceremony in Washington DC. The third--and legally-recognized--ceremony was performed by an Episcopal priest at Washington National Cathedral.
If that's not enough, their meet-cute also deserves attention, as well as their prestigious private schooling (she at Madeira, he at St. Albans).
Congratulations to the happy couple.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Paste Magazine is just about my favorite music magazine nowadays. I've often sat at a bookstore and read each issue cover to cover, a rare occurrence nowadays. It's a beautiful magazine to behold, too, with its nice matte cover and thorough coverage of emerging artists. In terms of discovering great new talent, Paste has been an invaluable resource.
If you love Paste like I do, prepare to love it even more.
Following Radiohead's name-your-own-price strategy, the folks at Paste are offering readers the same opportunity. For the next two weeks, readers can name their own subscription price (minimum of $1.00) and receive a year's subscription (11 issues). A regular subscription is $19.95--a great deal just for the magazine itself but when you add in the fact that each issue comes with a CD sampler, it's a steal!
I've never subscribed to Paste, but this got me to do so. It's actually a great marketing gimmick. I wound up subscribing at $16, which is only $4 less than the regular subscription.
What price are you willing to pay?
Friday, October 26, 2007
Thursdays this month have turned into an El Rey night for me. The last three Thursdays have found me at the El Rey for a show, two of which I saw for free. Two weeks ago it was the power pop of Rogue Wave, last week was the raw bluesy folk of Two Gallants, but last night was the best yet: Josh Ritter.
I've seen Josh Ritter a few times now and each one has been successively better. Last night was incredibly triumphant. The main thing I took away from Ritter's previous performances is the joy he exudes performing live. With his ear-to-ear grin and aw-shucks attitude, it makes you wonder at first how genuinely grateful he is, but by the end of the night he wins you over with a performance equally ecstatic as his smile. He was at his effusive best last night.
Ritter worked with a full band last night, which included a horn section. His new album, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter, is a rollicking follow-up to the more somber and elegant The Animal Years, and the looser sound was in evidence last night as Ritter favored the rocking songs of the new album as well as the ones from his previous work. With more exuberant songs in hand, Ritter was able to finesse the setlist and pace the evening extremely well, never sagging for a bit. Ritter and his band, which includes an energetic new drummer, the boyish and appealing Liam Hurley--who is also credited for "yelling"--opened forcefully with "To the Dogs or Whoever" and went straight on to "Wolves" from The Animal Years before slowing down a little with the lovely "Here at the Right Time."
After this brief interlude, the full band came back on along with the horn section and sent the evening soaring with "Right Moves," "Mind's Eye" and "Rumors." They disappeared after playing the intro to "The Temptation of Adam" but came back with more later with "Empty Hearts" and "Real Long Distance."
If it's even possible Ritter seemed to be having an even greater time now. He knows when to be cheeky and when to rein it in. In the middle of "Harrisburg" he launches into a brief cover of Modest Mouse's "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes," which doesn't quite make sense when I think about it but seemed appropriate at the time. The main set ended not with "Kathleen," which as an indefatigable crowd-pleaser instead became the penultimate song, but with the slower but exquisite "Lawrence, KS." Perhaps it was just Ritter being cheeky again, tweaking our expectations just a bit.
The encore was a mic-less cover of "The River" followed by the rousing "Lillian, Egypt." It was Ritter at his best.
The El Rey crowd can be quite noisy during a musician's set as the bar is just in the back and the conversations carry. But last night, whenever Ritter performed the quiet songs, it was as hushed as I've ever heard the El Rey. Any minor noise was met with a chorus of "Shh" from the crowd. Quite nice, I say. I also finally figured out where Josh Ritter's album should be marketed. Starbucks, yes, but judging from the crowd, the record label should consider placing some copies of his album at REI. Lots of physically-active types in there and hiking shoes. Just an observation.
Lucky for me, I get to see Josh Ritter again tonight--for free!--at the Natural History Museum.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Ashling McAnaney and Matthew Kramer
The romance that blossomed between this week's couple is probably the only good thing that came out of Y2K, a Phish concert and a 12-hour traffic jam.
The couple were introduced by mutual friends in 1999, but did not begin dating until after they had endured a traffic jam that would try any relationship: They spent 12 hours stuck amid thousands of other cars that were all trying to get to a Y2K Phish concert, on New Year’s Eve 1999, in the Everglades.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I plowed ahead with the run and kept a very strong pace, but my calves were making it tough. By the end of the run it felt like I had baseballs for calves. Soon my hamstring too was acting up, along with my right quadricep. I doubt I can run for a couple of days now. My legs feel worse now than they did after the half marathon.
It's just one of those things you can't explain. It's probably residual stiffness from the race, or it could just be one of those nights. One thing for sure, I don't want it to lead to an injury.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Dinner itself was fine. The bread pudding was quite good--more memorable than the risotto I ordered. A funny thing did happen on the way to the bathroom, though. Near the end of the evening I headed to use the boy's room. I went in and noticed that there were no urinals. I've never been to a men's room that had no urinals. I did my business in one of the stalls and wondered about there being no urinal. Was I in the women's room? It looked a little too dirty for being a women's room and I always imagined the ladies' restroom as being immaculate. Just as I was washing my hands the door opened. Two women walked in. I was in the women's room.
Strangely, the women took no notice of me until I blurted out that I was in the wrong restroom. They just laughed and said, "It's no big deal." And I agree. It shouldn't be a big deal. There are stalls, so it's not like I would see anything inappropriate. Besides, women have used the men's room a few times while I was in there doing my business when the women's room is just too busy. I'm no pervert!
Also, I now know that women make such a mess in the restroom. Sheesh.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
This was us exploring the Tech Museum after checking out Bodyworlds 2.
Alice and I copying the ballerina from Bodyworlds 2.
Before the start.
This Farmers' Market went on as scheduled despite sitting next to the course, where it was closed to traffic. Few customers as a result, but business hopefully picked up after the runners ran by.
A brass band.
Jane and I crossed paths on the course.
Hanging out at the lobby after the race.
Here's a bonus shot of my gorgeous ass.
More pictures from the weekend can be found on my Flickr page.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
I'll be running a half marathon in San Jose on Sunday, but if you have nothing to do that day, I recommend you splurge a little and explore downtown Los Angeles in style by taking part in Charles Phoenix's famous Disneyland Tour of Downtown Los Angeles.
I did it this spring and it was delightful. A good time will be had by all and it's a wonderful opportunity to learn about Los Angeles arcana, the stuff the Hollywood tours never tell you. Have lunch at Clifton's Cafeteria, watch a puppet show at Bob Baker's theater, and have some ice cream afterwards. If not this Sunday then the following Sunday.
Chris and I bought nothing but we had a blast scoping out all the pretty men--and there were plenty of them to see. I love pretty men, but they're not really my type. I like men who are more natural and rugged. And I like them nerdy. Still there was some good eye candy.
All in all it was a fun night even though we bought nothing. I felt out of my league there. I didn't even want to try anything on because I knew there was nothing there I could afford. I'm a strictly clearance rack kind of guy. I like to tell myself that even if I was rich I wouldn't be so extravagant in my spending. I enjoy having money, but more than that I enjoy knowing I got good value out of my money. Throwing $61,000 for snake skin luggage isn't good value, I think.
I also won a pair of tickets last night to go see Rogue Wave at the El Rey Theatre. Since I was going with Chris to the GQ event and I couldn't find anyone to go with me to the show, I had set my mind on not going even though I enjoyed their show two years ago. As it turned out, though, Chris and I parted ways in Beverly Hills at 9:45 and the El Rey is only a couple miles drive from there. By the time I get there, I figured Rogue Wave would just be going onstage, so I headed down, picked up my tickets and went in. It was perfect timing. No sooner than two minutes later the band took the stage.
I'm glad I went even though my legs were exhausted from all the walking and standing from the GQ event. Rogue Wave was great and all the songs, especially "Lake Michigan," sounded spectacular. They even performed "Eyes" during their encore. I have yet to listen to the new album, but based on the couple of tracks I have heard it is a stellar follow-up to Descended Like Vultures.
This morning Rogue Wave also performed on "Morning Becomes Eclectic." Their performance--which includes a cover of Split Enz's "I Got You"--is archived here.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Today, though, I woke up at 7:45. I remember the alarm going off at 6:45 but then turning it off. Sleep was just so good! I fell asleep at 11:15--early for me--and had one of the best nights of sleep recently. The brisk cool mornings also don't help matters. Perhaps it's time for me to shut my windows.
In any event, I can't make this a habit. If only there were 25 hours in a day I wouldn't be so sleep-deprived.
The LA Times had a big article about the opening of the Nokia Theatre. Hopefully this isn't another Staples Center journalistic debacle. With the completion of the Nokia Theatre and the entire LA Live project in 2010, there are hopes that it will become LA's Times Square. It's quite possible, and I can envision downtown being more of an inviting place to visit in three years. It's not really gentrification, even. Unlike areas like Echo Park and Silver Lake, downtown is being "gentrified" through sheer force by civic leaders and developers. It would be interesting to see if they succeed, and I certainly hope they do.
EDIT: The Daily News has a list of events scheduled at the Nokia Theatre. Judging from the list, it will be a long time before I ever go see anything there. Anita Baker? Enrique Iglesias? Larry the Cable Guy? Lame.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Team in Training/Eating folks took in a night of theatre last night and enjoyed--immensely--Avenue Q, currently playing through Sunday at the Ahmanson Theatre. It's a guaranteed good time--that is, if you're not offended by profanity, mature themes, puppet sex, and the use of stage fog. There's still time to see it and it can't be more highly recommended!
Afterwards we had a late dinner (11pm) at Pete's on 4th and Main. I had a burger and fries. Yum.
The handsome fellow above is Lawrence Bragg. He is the youngest Nobel Prize recipient. He was all of 25 when he shared the 1915 prize for physics with his father "for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays." Show-off.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
The Oinkster. I had a burger, fries and root beer. I craved an ube shake, but since I had a halo halo earlier, I resisted the urge.
A punk band called Get Out singing a song about Asian girls.
Teddy's Cheer Club. They were quite good.
Jessica Fichot singing songs in French (and Russian and Chinese and English). I picked up her CD. It's delightful!
Random scenes at the festival.
It was a great event--and free! Unfortunately my camera's batteries died on me during Fichot's set, so I have no pictures to show of other great bands like Bodies of Water and Dengue Fever. I left two songs into Under the Influence of Giant's set. They just weren't rocking my world. I highly recommend the festival, though. It's well-organized and the music, atmosphere and participants are awesome.
You rock, Eagle Rock!
Monday, October 08, 2007
[Associated Press photo]
The Chicago Marathon is one of the races that I'm eager to do, but thankfully I didn't do it this year. What is usually a fast course run in pleasant and ideal weather, turned into an agonizing march through the Second City as the heat and humidity led to cutting the race short. One runner died, a 35 year old police officer. It was the hottest Chicago Marathon ever, eclipsing the record heat of 1979. Hopefully this means that if I run the race next year, the chance of another heatwave occurring is nil.
Check John's blog for his firsthand account of the race. It looks like John finished the race but I know it was much slower than he usually does.
First off, I find it hard to believe that Lockhart is 47. So those with baby faces, don't fret. While everyone else see themselves wrinkling into old age, you'll still look as handsome as ever. Put up with getting carded for years, you'll be glad when you're 47 and looking like Mr. Lockhart.
Let's give credit to Ms. Zalesky, too, for being brave enough to come up to him while he was having dinner. I never approach celebrities. Who knows who I might have hooked up with now if I did.
It's the third marriage for Mr. Lockhart, and the fact that he exchanged numbers with a woman who's out on a date renders him a bit of a cad. Still, he's handsome, talented, and rich. You have to take advantage, right?
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Ms. Harris and Mr. Feehan met fourteen years earlier at Harbor Hills Day Camp. Both performed in the camp production of South Pacific, but they didn't know each other or fall in love until they met at a party years later.
How cute is that? They spent the rest of that night drinking and singing songs from the show. Some enchanted evening, indeed!
Monday, October 01, 2007
This month, though, rather than collect $2 for the birthday cake fund, the Powers That Be decided on another carbolicious party favorite. Tortilla chips. Instead of birthday cake, we had birthday chips. Thankfully we didn't have to sing "Happy Birthday" because if we did I doubt I could have stopped from laughing.
Friday, September 28, 2007
This week has been more active, but the rest didn't do my legs any good. I woke up today with very sore legs after last night's run in Beverly Hills.
Here's the week in running.
09/17 - Four miles. I ran in the median along San Vicente from Ocean Park to 26th Street. It's not as easy as it looks. The ground in the median isn't all that even, so my muscles were tense a lot of the time. Add to that the slight incline towards Brentwood. I think if I run it a few more times I can get the rhythm of the course down and be more relaxed.
09/19 - Four miles with the Frontrunners. I didn't time the run, but I think I made my dash up the final hill to early because I almost pooped out--literally--near the end. I also had to miss the potluck because I had to meet my family for dinner in Pasadena. All in all a good run.
09/20 - Five miles with Club Run LA in Beverly Hills. We were fast. I didn't time it but I could feel it. It's the same course as the training runs for Run Hit Remix and many of the same people, but it was a smaller group. I'll join them in future runs. After Thursday's run I took part in the Niketown sale and bought a long sleeve dri-fit shirt and matching shorts. Can't wait to wear them
Tomorrow morning I'm meeting with FJ and Andy. I'm not sure how far we'll go. We'll see how it goes.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
On my calendar:
10/25/07 - Josh Ritter @ the El Rey
10/26/07 - Final Fantasy @ the Glass House*
11/10/07 - Jens Lekman @ the Troubadour
11/11/07 - The Walkmen @ the Troubadour
11/26/07 - Band of Horses @ the Glass House*
11/29/07 - Sea Wolf @ the Troubadour
12/7/07 - Andrew Bird @ the Orpheum Theatre
That's not to mention shows by Rogue Wave, Two Gallants, Feist and Sunset Rubdown that I really want to see. I had to hold off on buying tix to make sure I can really afford to go. Concerts are great fun, but they are also expensive.
See you all at the shows!
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
From the LA Times:
CORONADO, Calif., -- The U.S. Navy has decided to spend as much as $600,000 for landscaping and architectural modifications to obscure the fact that one its building complexes looks like a swastika from the air.
The four L-shaped buildings, constructed in the late 1960s, are part of the amphibious base at Coronado and serve as barracks for Seabees.
From the ground and from inside nearby buildings, the controversial shape cannot be seen. Nor are there any civilian or military landing patterns that provide such a view to airline passengers.
But once people began looking at satellite images from Google Earth, they started commenting about on blogs and websites about how much the buildings resembled the symbol used by the Nazis.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
At least it wasn't a real bomb, but boy it wreaked havoc on street traffic. I would hate to have been stuck on Wilshire at that time.
I went on recruiting dinners when I worked at an accounting firm, but I really only went for the free meals. The conversation was always dull and rote.
My favorite part of this announcement is their shared love for Paris and the spontaneous weekend getaway they go on, which basically was their second date. I'm not terribly spontaneous, but if someone asked me to go on a long weekend trip, I would probably say "yes" after the initial doubts about the prudence of packing up on short notice. I've done it before. I just need the right motivation.
The announcement also points out that Ms. Wademan is a descendant of Miles Standish and of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. I have no idea who these people are or if we're supposed to be impressed by it. I see this a lot in the NY Times announcements. Often it's a prominent, recognizable ancestor. Still, regardless of their prominence, if you're 200 years removed from that ancestor, it's not all that pertinent to know. It's interesting trivia. I'd be more interested in knowing about the couple's interests than where they descended from.
In any event, congratulations to the happy couple.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I had a terrific seat in the terrace section near the middle. As it turned out there were a couple of seats available in the box, so Andy and Sheila came down from their far-flung seats to join me (and Bart).
Arcade Fire performing their final encore, "Wake Up," which prompted a glorious sing-along.
LCD Soundsystem performing "Yeah!"
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
With no further ado, here was the weekend in pictures.
7:30 AM - Meeting FJ and Andy for a run at the Rose Bowl
9:30 AM - Getting a birthday haircut from Eric at Tantrum
10:30 AM - Starbucks breakfast
12:00 PM - Picking up tickets to Wolf Parade at the Glass House
6:30 PM - After doing laundry and taking a much-needed nap, I blew out my birthday candles with the help of my niece and nephew
11:45 PM - Wolf Parade's awesome show lets out,
3:15 PM - Checking out the classic cars at SGV Pride in Pasadena
5:30 PM - Climbing up the walls
7:00 PM - Exhausted but still looking good