Category Archives: Music

2015 | The Year In Music

It’s December 31, 2015. The house is quiet and clean. My plans for tonight include watching a movie with my little family of three and going to bed at our regular time. We’re all fighting a bug if we need an excuse, but the truth is we’re just not into New Year’s Eve anyway. After four Christmas gatherings, I am partied out.

Rather than create a list of resolutions, I’m just going to reflect upon 2015 and appreciate the joys and lessons of the year. In this first post, I remember the music.

It’s tough for me to get out at night, but I aim to go to at least one show/month. This year, I made it to twelve. Goal achieved.

The only music that I saw in the early winter months of 2015 were a couple of Juice Box Jams meetups. This is a cute, local event for kids in Annapolis that features about three children’s groups/singers. The kids can play with blocks and legos or have their face painted if they’re not moved to dance. My kid is usually singing and dancing, just like her mama.

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In May, I was thrilled to take my two and a half year old daughter to her very first concert. My friends Sheila and Leanah joined us to see Ingrid Michaelson at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia. We purchased seats but planned to sit on the lawn, just in case my little one needed to get up and move around a lot. We decided to see how she would do in the seats when we realized it was pretty damp and cold outside of the pavillion area. This sweet, musical child of mine was mesmerized by both the opening band and Ingrid. When she recognized a song from a movie that she loves, she gasped and looked to me with the happiest eyes I’d ever seen. This night was magical for both of us.

Shows usually pick up in the summertime and this year, I was happy to kick off my summer of music with my imaginary friend Susan. She exists but the nickname is a story for another time. Susan flew in from Colorado and we drove to lovely Charlottesville, Virginia to see Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis. It was worth the drive to see Jenny for the first time and Ryan for the third. Before the show, we had some cocktails on a rooftop and I felt like that person I used to be who did this sort of thing all of the time. Susan and I had a blast listening to the music, buying stupid tee shirts, and afterwards, singing our own songs with an audience of UVA college kids. Yay, cocktails.

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A few weeks later, friends Melissa and Michelle joined me at the Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis to see Rhett Miller. Why does this guy have to be so charming and ridiculously good looking? I should stop getting in the meet and greet line and embarrassing myself with inappropriate ramblings, but not until we take a photo where I don’t look like a total dork. *So, sorry about the rest of our lives in the awkward grin and bear it line, Rhett.* He was performing the usual great variety of his solo/band catalog, but it was really nice to hear songs from his most recent release, The Traveler. It ranks high on my list of favorite Rhett Miller solo albums, but I’ll never be able to choose my top three.

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I don’t want to name the next artist that I saw because he was really awful. He’s usually really fun with an irreverent sense of humor and a seriously seductive smolder. On this night, he seemed to be in a pretty bad place. The audience was uncomfortable. I hope it was just an off night and that he’s doing okay. While the show left me feeling a little sad for the performer, it was still a nice time to get out with some girlfriends.

Next up, another show at Wolf Trap in Virginia to see Brandi Carlile. First Aid Kit opened, so that was really great even if the audience was chatty. (Rude. And they had no idea what they were missing.) Brandi’s last album was a celebration of love and rock and roll. I just love The Firewatcher’s Daughter. I first saw Brandi Carlile at Rams Head Live in Baltimore when she was touring to promote her debut album. I don’t know her, but I was so happy to see how her audience had grown into a pavillion filled with fans singing her songs back to her. That same week, The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and I couldn’t help but cheer for her and every other person who finally felt their love validated by the nation.

On July 4th, I sent my little one off to a BBQ with her aunt and uncle while my husband, brother, and I went to the Foo Fighters Festival at RFK stadium. The stadium is in shambles, but the show was fantastic. Gary Clark Jr., Joan Jett, Heart, and a bunch of other bands played seriously fun rock and roll but obviously, Foo was the highlight of the night. Everyone knows by now how Dave Grohl emerged on his throne of guitars, seated to rock after breaking his leg at a previous show. I’m used to seeing shows at smaller venues where I can have a guitar inches from my face for $20, but Foo Fighters know how to engage thousands in a stadium as if they were in the front row, even when their frontman is incapacitated.

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My kid was treated to her second show of the year/her life when Scars on 45 played a free show for WTMD radio. She sat on my shoulders so that at least one of us could see, and danced to the music with her cute little sound-reducing headphones. My friend Sheila drove up to see the show with us, so as far as my little girl knows, concerts mean Sheila time. They closed the show with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way which sent me into a month-long love affair with 70s music that I hadn’t listened to for far too long.

The next show was Delta Spirit at 6th & I. I attended a book reading at this historic synagogue, but this was my first rock show in this beautiful space. I’m pretty sure we had a blast, but what I remember the most about this night was heading to a hotel where some young Democrat club was having a GOP debate/final Daily Show with Jon Stewart viewing. I sniffled a little and shed a few tears in a bar while watching Jon Stewart bid his adoring viewers farewell after 16 years.

A few weeks later, I returned to DC with Melissa to see The Fratellis at 9:30 Club. Melissa said about Jon Fratelli,  “I love the way he plays guitar.” I replied, “I love the way he moves.” We were standing relatively still on the floor with jumping beans that resembled people, but this band had a way of moving everyone in the room. Yowza. I have been listening to all of their music, but particularly their latest album, Eyes Wide, Tongue Tied, incessantly since the show. If the little one is in the car, I just cough strategically or turn down the volume when there’s a phrase that I don’t want her repeating at preschool. If I remember, anyway. Her favorite song is “Baby Don’t You Lie To Me” and my heart soars when I hear her singing along.

In October, my friends Marie and Cindy drove into town from Pennsylvania to see me, Sheila, and Melissa – oh! And our favorites, the Old 97s. We never miss a 97s show because they never disappoint. As usual, a great time was had by all, thanks to the ever-rocking band and the heavy handed bartender. The quote of the night comes from Marie who said while poking my cheeks, “I can’t feel my faaaaaaaace!”

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Ken is walking away. Rhett is triumphant. Philip is a hologram.

On a bummer of a day during the summer of 2015, an old Nada Surf song started to play and it put a smile on my sad face. Their whole catalog has been back in heavy rotation ever since. When I couldn’t sleep at night, their album Let Go kept me company. I was really looking forward to their show. When the date finally arrived in November, Melissa and I journeyed to the U Street Music Hall. We were both tired and sad and stressed that day. There was unbelievable traffic and confusion on the way and we walked right by the venue while trying to find it. In between the opening band and Nada Surf’s set, our troubles were put into perspective with the horrifying news of the terrorist attacks in Paris. When the band came out, we put our phones away. All of the sadness melted away, at least for an hour and a half or so, as we fell into their glorious rock and soul-soothing pop songs. This band really has a way of making everything better. I’m so glad there’s more to come in 2016.

The final show for 2015 was a gathering to see Carbon Leaf‘s annual Christmas show in Annapolis. It has become a tradition to see this show each year with Robin, Sheila, and Melissa. I realize that I would go to many shows alone if I didn’t have the latter two in my life. As usual, we had a fantastic time. Before the show, we always meet at our favorite wine bar to enjoy excellent reds, delicious food, and the best company.

Each of us have our favorite bands, but we all know that the music is secondary to the extraordinary gift of having girlfriends to share it with.

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Here’s to more musical adventures in 2016.

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“Serendipetty”

Some things are bumming me out lately and most of it is out of my hands. I can probably control some of it, and I can certainly figure out how to deal with the rest. I will say that the right song always seems to magically appear when I need to hear it. Cheers, Tom Petty. I needed this today.

Well I know what’s right.
I got just one life.
In a world that keeps on pushing me around but I’ll stand my ground.
And I won’t back down.

This Mom Went To A Rock Show And Went Weeeeeee All The Way Home.

Last night, I hung up my mom hat and let down my rock and roll hair. I went to the 9:30 Club in DC to see the band The Wild Feathers with my friends Sheila and Melissa. Going to this show was in the stars. Melissa casually brought up the show in a FB message last week, saying that she was thinking of going to this show. I asked if tickets were still available. While she found out about the ticket situation, I found a just-in-case babysitter and Sheila confirmed that she was free. Because the music gods are kind and generous, tickets were available, we were all able to go, and the cherry on top? We discovered that the show was super early. Doors were at 5 o’clock! This meant that we would have time to get to the venue, have drinks in the cavernous basement bar of 9:30 and actually hear each other talk, see a fantastic rock show, and best of all… be home and asleep by 11 o’clock. Yes, I am old and the mother of a toddler. Sleep is everything. (I recently said Dave Grohl is everything. I guess sleeping with Dave Grohl would really be everything? I’m certain he would think so, but enormous ego be damned, I still love him.)

So, this band was really great. Melissa, Sheila and I love to share music with each other. The Wild Feathers album magically appeared in my mail box one day after Melissa discovered them. Sheila was lucky enough to see them a few months back, opening for another band that she loves. Their harmonies are just beautiful on the album, and their performance was lively and tight. I’m a little embarrassed by the tweet that I wrote during the show, enchanted by the new song that they played.

My idiotic tweet: Songwriters make my heart hurt, even in the happiest time of my life. Are you ****ing  kidding me with these new lyrics, @TheWildFeathers?

The Wild Feathers retweeted this, but thankfully, they did not ask me which line gutted me so. I don’t remember. It’s not like I was a waste-face, but my alcohol tolerance is not what it used to be. I told my friend on our way home from the show about the exhilaration of being at a concert. I explained that women are constantly thinking of what needs to be done next. Our minds are never still as we worry about all of the things. For me, going to a rock show is bliss. For a couple of hours, I am completely relaxed while exciting and/or beautiful sounds are screaming and/or delicately whispering  in my ears. For a couple of hours, nothing else exists.

Those words escaped my mouth and I felt the icy glare of the judgmental mom who lives inside my brain. Let’s call her Blaire. She’s a real bitch and I try not to believe anything she says. Last night, Blaire was gossiping to other fictional moms about how “Stephanie forgot about her daughter while she was drunk at a rock show on a weeknight!” Listen up, Blaire. First of all, my daughter is two and I don’t have to be at work until noon so weeknights mean nothing. Secondly, this is a batshit and unnecessary argument that I am having with myself. Finally, it is absurd to think that I can’t have a moment of transcendence just because I am a mother now.

Luckily, I came across this blog post by Liz Gragan, written in response to this NY Times article by Heather Havrilesky, both affirming my case against Blaire’s judgment. Havrilesky writes that “The current culture demands that every mother be all in, all the time.” Later she writes, “Somehow, as we’ve learned to treat children as people with desires and rights of their own, we’ve stopped treating ourselves and one another as such.” Gragan’s response is that it doesn’t have to be this way. That it’s perfectly okay to retain your own identity after having children. Actually, I think that Havrilesky is saying the same thing, but she is just noting that it doesn’t seem acceptable to not let motherhood be an all-encompassing role. For me, Blaire’s voice is our culture’s voice screaming that I would have time to be Super Mom if I wasn’t selfishly seeking booze in nightclubs with bands and girlfriends. But… my voice, which is probably more crass than Havrilesky and Gragan’s, but in complete accord with what I think they are saying, says screw that. Like most parents, I want my daughter to grow up to be happy. If I’ve learned anything in my first two years as a parent, it’s that children learn most from modeling our behavior. I want her to be responsible, to do well at work, and be a good mother if she chooses to be one at all. I think I’m doing okay on those counts. Most of all,  I hope that she sees that I strive for balance and harmony, and that I find those things because I recognize that my happiness and well-being are as crucial to nurture as all of the other things on my neverending to-do list.

Here’s a video of Left My Woman by The Wild Feathers. So, the first line is disturbing. Maybe I just don’t get the metaphor? Creepy opening vibe aside, this is the song that was playing when the band let the audience take over the chorus. It is always chilling and awesome to sing in unison with a bunch of other blissful fans.