Thursday, April 23, 2009

All I Want to Do is Rock

Somehow, in between all of the weird medical problems I've had over the past few weeks (Don't worry, I won't get into it here because who wants to read about that?), I've managed to see three concerts, a live performance of This American Life at the Chicago Theatre, celebrate a friend's birthday and my four-year anniversary with the boyfriend.

Before I say anything about any of that, though, I just want to give a shout-out to @Glasgowgirl, who posted a link to my blog on a Glasvegas forum. While it's kind of strange to think about anyone actually reading anything I write, I hope at least one or two people enjoyed what I had to say in my last entry. I just had to share my love and excitement for the show and the band in general.

So let me get started by talking about yet another Scottish band. Rounding out my Scottish music trifecta for the month, we have (Primal Scream, Glasvegas aaaand...) Travis. Yes, we saw Death Cab for Cutie the night before we saw Travis, but do I really need to talk about Death Cab? What is there to say? Ben Gibbard was ridiculously thin. I wouldn't have recognized him on the street, that's for sure. They sounded great, they played a really nice set, the opening acts (Ra Ra Riot & Cold War Kids) were good as well. The crowd was a strange mix of concertgoers. My feet hurt a LOT by the end.

(Jon's Death Cab/Cold War Kids/Ra Ra Riot pictures on Flickr)

But let me get back to what I really want to talk about (Sorry, Death Cab! I love you. I do.). We didn't even have tickets to the Travis show. Neither Jon nor I were ever in love with their two most recent albums and the tickets were more expensive than most, so we decided to skip it...until he took a look at Craigslist and found a really sweet deal from some hockey fans who chose the Blackhawks playoff game over the concert. So, we went.

(The Republic Tigers)

The opening band, The Republic Tigers, impressed me enough that they are now on my iPod. Everyone around me enjoyed them, especially when they sang this cover of Blondie's 'Heart of Glass' with a falsetto that rivals Tim Burgess.

Then Travis came on and all hell broke loose. Lots of surprises. Halfway through one of their songs (forgive me for not being able to remember which one), Fran completely stopped the music. He apologized and informed us that every time he put his mouth to the microphone, he was being shocked. In the mouth. He sort of chastized whoever it was that was supposed to fix the problem, which apparently had been happening in sound check as well. They put a new, dry foam cover on the mic, to which he rolled his eyes and made a comment about it getting wet again in no time. I was suddenly struck with a feeling that the show would be cancelled right then and there. Luckily, Fran persevered and it wasn't. Needless to say, the rest of the show, I felt really really bad for him because I know it was happening a lot. They eventually rigged some sort of cover for it, but you could tell it didn't work. Occasionally I'd look up and catch him trying not to get too close to the microphone as he sang. I'll tell you what, didn't affect the quality of performance at ALL.

Surprise #2 came when the band introduced a guy, who had contacted them on MySpace and asked if he could come to the show (all the way from Dallas) and propose to his girlfriend on stage. She is apparently a really big fan and it was a really sweet moment. They then got to sit on the stage, right in front of the drum kit, during 'Humpty Dumpty Love Song'. They then dedicated the next song to a woman in the audience (who had also contacted them online somehow) who was eight months pregnant. If I ever get to see Travis again, I'm totally writing to them beforehand. I just need a good story.

(She said yes.)

Surprise #3 came during the first song of the encore. Sick and tired of being electrocuted, Fran came out with his guitar, told us all to be very very quiet, and sang us a song sans-mic and amp. I don't know if the people in the back of the Vic could hear anything, but where we were, it was magic. I was shocked at how quiet everyone actually was. Jon took a video...sideways...

The rest of the encore was played in the usual manner, but they skipped the very last song that was on their setlist (I'm guessing because Fran was over the whole microphone situation). Unfortunately for Jon, it's one of his favorite songs that they skipped.

(Random lady showing off her setlist)

I don't know how to describe why they were so good live. They had an energy that few bands I've seen have. They were jumping and climbing and rolling around on the floor and then climbing some more, and just generally rocking out. I missed seeing them at V2002 due to injury (the band's, not mine), but I don't mind that any more. I'd much rather my first time be exactly as it was.

What else happened?

1) The full, official Lollapalooza lineup was announced on Tuesday. I know it's going to be a good time. No Blur, but I knew that possibility was gone weeks ago. Looks like I'm going to get to see Glasvegas again!

2) Wednesday was my four-year anniversary with Jon. We had a delicious dinner at what is fast becoming my neighborhood go-to restaurant, Hackney's.

3) We saw This American Life live on stage this past Sunday. It was interesting to see these people that I listen to all the time. Mike Birbiglia always has great stories, and the one he told for this show was no different. The real star, though, was Dan Savage. He told a story about his mother's passing. Every time he got choked up, I got choked up. There is something so strange about someone standing in front of a crowd, talking to them about such a personal experience.

4) I've been on some serious antibiotics all week, which has made me loopy and tired and has me feeling like I'm in a daze.

5) I haven't mentioned the Mates of State/Black Kids/Sunbears show. It was fun, but I feel like it was so long ago now that I don't know what to say about it! It's been less than two weeks!!! I'm getting old and forgetful. I haven't even uploaded the pictures yet. Oops. I'm spoiled and I know it.

6) It's supposed to be 80 degrees this weekend. THAT is news.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Welcome to Glasvegas

I've been spoiled lately as far as concerts go. Last night was no exception. If you haven't heard of Glasvegas, you're not alone, but look out because that may change very soon. It's not that I wasn't looking forward to seeing them's just that I didn't really think about it much in advance. Look at my last post. I mention the show almost in passing. Do you see where I'm going with this? I had little to no expectations, but when all was said and done, they BLEW MY FREAKING MIND. Maybe it's the lack of sleep resulting from the later-than-usual show and this all will wear off tomorrow, but today, they're all I want to listen to. I have a musical crush, and I have fallen hard.

(More pictures HERE)

Last night was the first time I've been to Bottom Lounge. It's huge. There's the main bar, the actual music venue, the upstairs bar and a large patio. Each of these spaces is easily the size of most other bars and restaurants I've been to in Chicago. I don't know what the "cool kid" consensus is on Bottom Lounge, but I thought it was a great space and I'd go back and see a gig there any day. Most of the venues here are old theaters, which is nice, but this place is more like a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. It's a beautiful warehouse, mind you. With good music.

Both of the opening acts that were originally scheduled pulled out, or something else happened to them to make them disappear. So we got Von Iva. They're a rocking female three-piece from San Francisco (which they made sure to point out between every song). The lead singer had a bit of a Karen O. vibe going for her, and girl can sing! She wore short shorts and thigh-high boots and looked like she could (and would) beat the shit out of anyone who got in her way. I love a good frontperson, and that she was. I haven't had a ton of great luck with opening acts lately, but I think I might have to check them out.

I discovered Glasvegas about a year and a half ago though, of all places, MySpace. I was at a point where I felt stagnant musically and was trying desperately to seek out anything new that might make me feel like my go-to bands make me feel. At the time, they didn't have an album out, but I got ahold of their EP and loved it. When their album came out, I have to admit, I didn't listen to it for a while. I put it on the backburner because I was listening to a lot of "winter music" like Ryan Adams and just wasn't ever in the mood. When I finally did give it a fair shot, I liked it, but only listened once or twice and again forgot about it. It was only when Jon bought us tickets to see them a few months back that I put it on rotation in my iPod again.

They're Scottish. They have some of the thickest accents you've ever heard in music (completely different from Primal Scream), but somehow, even if you don't understand all of the words, you get what they're saying. They have such an interesting range of sounds, from slow acoustic to dark, almost electronic, to garage punk. I was hoping that their album would translate well live, and it did. What surprised me the most about the show, though, was the crowd. I think it surprised the band too. There were a few times when the lead singer, James, looked pretty genuinely touched that everyone (at least where I was standing) was so into it.

During the last song of the set, 'Daddy's Gone', he stopped singing and let the crowd take over, which, I must say, we succeeded in doing and then some. We were suddenly at a football match, chanting along, one big happy chorus/family/group of fans all cheering for the same team to succeed. Yes, this happens at concerts with some frequency, but for a relatively unknown band playing in America (I don't listen to the radio, so if they are on the radio regularly, then color me dead wrong, but I don't think they are) with the aforementioned heavy accents, it must've been pretty mind-blowing, no?

On a side note, I do find it a little weird that the biggest sing-along of the night (there were other, less intense sing-along moments during 'Go Square Go' and It's My Own Cheatin Heart That Makes Me Cry') came during a song that is so personal and painfully beautiful. As someone who openly admits to having some pretty legitimate daddy issues, 'Daddy's Gone' has always given me goosebumps as I listen alone in my headphones. So what was it like belting it out in a big crowd of people with the author of those words looking down on us? The only way I can think to describe it is cathartic in the most awkward way possible. Glasvegas -- therapists in training? Perhaps. Anyway, back on track...I'll never forget the looks on the faces of the band during that song in particular. Smiles that said, "Fuck yeah, we're doing it!" It was a great thing to be a part of. They thanked us, said something nice about Chicago, and James proceeded to kiss the hands of the women who were close enough to the stage to be kissed (mine included, which made me more than a little red in the face, I'm sure) and shake the hands of the guys.

(This is one of those moments where he kind of looked in awe of everything. Hand on head, mouth hanging open, etc. It was adorable.)

After they left the stage, we said hello to some people we knew and chatted for a while before taking off. Walking back to the train I was giddy. We ran into the lead guitarist, Rab, who I didn't even notice until I heard Jon say hi to him. He was still wearing his t-shirt and jeans, despite the 30 degree weather, which makes him tougher than I'll ever be, and chatting with some chick. I had no desire to bother him or intrude, so we did gave him the obligatory "Great guys are awesome...hope you enjoyed your first time in Chicago" and crossed the street to head up to the Green Line.

We made it home pretty late and by the time I got ready for bed and settled down it was already 2am. Today was rough, but it was all worth it. I can't stop gushing about what a great time I had. I haven't properly gushed about a concert since...Stereophonics*? Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed all of the concerts I've been to in Chicago, it's just that I expect more out of some of them than others.

*I 've liked the Stereophonics for years and years, but I'd seen them before, in 1999 and 2002, and found them pretty boring. Maybe it was the venue, but when I saw them last year, they were a different band completely. Really really great and a pleasant surprise indeed.

So if you ever get the chance to see Glasvegas, take it! Tickets to our show were only $15, so they're affordable and worth every penny. If you have a few bucks to spare after getting your tickets, buy their album. I don't have to convince you to buy their album, because if you see them live, they'll convince you to buy their album.

I think you'll be hearing about them for decades to come. Allan McGee likes them, they make great music, and they are already making headway in the U.S. Not only was 'Geraldine' used in a Rhapsody commercial that was on TV regularly last year, but 'Daddy's Gone' was featured pretty prominently on last night's episode of Chuck -- fuck-word and all.

Monday, April 06, 2009

April in Chicago... far too much like January for my taste. Today started out with sun, turned into a downpour by 3pm, and was snowing by 5pm. It's now almost midnight and still snowing. This is the forecast for tomorrow:

On Sunday, the snow/rain/sleet grossness is not such a huge deal because I can stay in, clean, and watch some TV (assuming our satellite dish doesn't lose its signal due to crappy weather like it did tonight). On Monday, however, I have to figure out what I can wear that doesn't include snow boots but will keep my feet warm and dry, and will be both work- and concert-appropriate, since we're going to see a show tomorrow night (Glasvegas, for the record). I'm not a huge fan of Sunday/Monday night shows, but sometimes you don't have a choice. I hate to keep complaining about the weather, because really, I should know what to expect and complaining doesn't ever solve anything, but it's completely draining.

Jon finally forced me to watch Changeling this weekend. I actually liked it a little more than I thought I would. I was surprised that I'd never heard of the case before. You would think a man that killed as many as 20 young boys would be a larger part of the general consciousness, even so many decades later.

One last movie note: We saw Observe & Report last Wednesday. I meant to write something up about it, but found that when I sat down to do it, I didn't really know what to say. I don't want to discourage people from seeing it, because it's not bad...but I don't want anyone, on my recommendation, going to see it and not liking it because they didn't know what they were in for. I have no problem suggesting films like I Love You, Man, because they hold pretty true to the way they're being advertised and if you like that kind of movie, you won't be disappointed. With O&R, it's entirely possible you won't like it because you wanted something different for your $10.

Confusing? Sorry. Let me put it this way. If The Village hadn't been billed (in my opinion) as a horror film, I may not have been as hugely disappointed in it when I saw it. Going into O&R, I knew what to expect, but most people won't. They'll see Seth Rogen and Anna Farris' names attached and think "lighthearted, goofy mall cop comedy" when that couldn't be further from the truth.

This is the email we all got from Steve at the Movies before going to the screening:
The film is called OBSERVE AND REPORT, starring Seth Rogen and Anna Faris, from writer-director Jody Hill (THE FOOT FIST WAY and HBO's "Eastbound and Down"). Yes, this is the Seth Rogen mall cop movie, but please do not think that this film bares even the slightest resemblance to PAUL BLART. This movie is about as dark as dark comedies get these days. Comparisons have been drawn with TAXI DRIVER and THE KING OF COMEDY. In fact, think of this film as "What if TAXI DRIVER had been a comedy..." There are easily a half-dozen jaw-dropping moments in this movie, and in many ways O&R changes the current landscape of R-rated comedies. It's that messed a good way.
Like I said, it's not all. In fact, I liked it. But I had an idea of what I was about to see. And if you're looking for a proper review, since I'm too lazy to come up with the words, check out Tankboy's take. I pretty much agree with all of it. Especially the part about Aziz.