Sunday, December 5, 2010

Full of Grace

I've been listening a lot over the past couple weeks to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I only recently discovered this Vermont-based band, even though they have toured relentlessly over the past few years and have a rep as an outstanding live band. Their self-titled 4th studio album was released in June 2010. It's good old-fashioned 70's-tinged rock and roll (indeed it seems as if a couple of her band members don't realize that hairstyles have progressed since the 70's). Plus Grace has the best scream in the business. Do yourself a favor and give them a listen. I'm looking forward to checking them out in person when they pass through the D.C. area.

A Blonde Frenzy

As a professed lover of redheads, what to do when one of my favorite redheads and favorite singers goes blonde? Such is the dilemma presented to me by Alison Sudol, aka A Fine Frenzy. Based on this photo I will give her the benefit of the doubt. After all, if she discovers that blondes don't have more fun, a return to redness is just a salon appointment away......

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Jenny and Johnny

I love Jenny Lewis in all her incarnations: Rilo Kiley, eponymous solo artist, and her latest role as one-half of Jenny and Johnny. Johnny is Johnathan Rice, Lewis' longtime boyfriend who has played on all of her solo work, and has now graduated to sharing title billing. Jenny and Johnny released their debut record (I'm Having Fun Now) on August 31, and have been touring in support of the album since then. I caught their show at the Black Cat in DC on September 16, and at the Ram's Head Tavern in Baltimore on October 25. Jenny seemed sensitive to the fact that she is the better known of the two, and that the majority of the crowd was there to see Jenny Lewis, with or without Mr. Rice. As such, she engaged in very little banter with the audience, and let Johnathan handle the mic most of the time. It was also clear that they wanted this to be a true Jenny and Johnny show, and therefore at the Black Cat played all but one of the songs off their debut, while slipping in one unrecorded song (Just One of the Guys), three songs from Jenny's solo albums (The Next Messiah, Carpetbaggers, and Acid Tongue), one Rice solo song (The End of the Affair), and closed with a cover of the Everly Brothers tune "Love Hurts", a hit for the group Nazareth in the late seventies. The Ram's Head show was very similar, subtracting "Love Hurts", and substituting the Rilo Kiley hit "Silver Lining" for "Acid Tongue". For Acid Tongue, Rice pulled several young ladies from the audience to provide backing vocals. Don't get me wrong though - I'm not implying that Lewis faded into the background. She is an engaging performer whom I have now seen in concert 4 times. And everytime I simply cannot take my eyes off her onstage.

An Audience Participation of "Acid Tongue". Black Cat, 9/16/10

Crappy Cell Phone Pic - Jenny Lewis at the Black Cat. 9/16/10

One of the more interesting songs on I'm Having Fun Now is "My Pet Snakes", a song that Rice said was about friendship, but looking just below the surface it seems to be a song from Lewis to Rilo Kiley bandmate (and co-founder) Blake Sennett. If it is indeed about Sennett, it does not bode well for a Rilo Kiley record anytime soon. The song starts with Jenny singing:

Oh I don't believe in double vision
And I don't think that two heads are better than one

Possibly a reference to a struggle for control of the band?
And continues later:

And if you don't believe in destiny
Then take what you are given
You and I got caught between magic and business

We walked in on you while you were polishing your knives
(Jenny: While your eyes were turning green)
Sleeping in a twin bed with a serpent by your side
(Are you trying to compete with me)
You talk a lot of shit but you never start a fight
(Fantasize about killing me)
God it makes me queasy when you smile
(Through your jealousy)

This is a key passage that provides evidence that the song is about Sennett. In addition to the themes of competition and jealousy that may have been present as the media and public's focus within the band increasingly centered on Lewis, Sennet was once quoted in an interview saying that he had a dream about killing Lewis.

In the next verse, Jenny sings:
And if you don't believe in chemistry
Then what were we doing?
You and I had everything
From rebirth to ruin

With Johnny chiming in:
Everytime you come around I have to run and hide
I get claustrophobic even when I am outside
I thought that we were brothers
Man I thought that we were tight
Sucking out the venom of your bite

But maybe, Jenny indicates, the door is not totally closed:
And I don't believe that paradise is lost
I say this with my fingers crossed

And if you don't believe in prophecy
Decide when it's finished
You and I tried everything
From heroin to Guinness

And if the song is about Sennett, the next move appears to be his:
2009 it was a bastard of a year
I cannot get stoned no more
I only get the fear
We could have it out or we could have another beer
All the best of luck with your career.

I certainly would love to see a Rilo Kiley show. But I know I will go see Jenny in whatever her next incarnation. She deserves to be better known, and she and Rice sound great and perform well together. Pick up the record, see them in concert, but do SOMETHING to introduce yourself to the music of Jenny Lewis.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Last night I saw singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson at the 9:30 Club in D.C. I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase the "Ingrid's Top Ten" package, which allows 10 fans at each tour stop to attend the soundcheck and to have a "Meet and Greet" with Ingrid. The day before the show I received an e-mail from Ingrid's management that informed me that in order to attend soundcheck, I needed to be at the 9:30 Club no later than 4:00 pm. No small feat since I woke up the morning of the show in Duluth, MN. Luckily all my flights were on time and I made it home with plenty of time to spare.

At the appointed time, me and my fellow meet-n-greeters (eight 20-something women, which prompted Ingrid to note "One of these things is not like the others") were ushered into the club, where a spread of pizza, salad, deserts, and non-alcoholic beverages had been laid out for us. We were given laminated "Ingrid's Top Ten" credentials, a poster, and a set list for the evening's show, all of which were later autographed by Ingrid. Sound check was interesting to see - though a more tedious process than I imagined - the first 30 minutes were spent soley on setting the correct drum levels. During this part of the check Ingrid posed for pics with us. After sound check we had to leave the club until the official doors opening time, but we were put at the front of the line for re-admittance.

Ingrid with guitarist Bess Rogers

The Irish duo "Guggenheim Grotto" opened the evening with a set that was well-received by the sold out crowd. However the energy was cranked way up when Ingrid and her band, clad in floor-length dark robes, entered to Led Zepplin's "Immigrant Song". Casting aside the robes, the band launched directly into "Soldier", off her 2009 album, Everybody. From there Michaelson cruised through a 17 song, 90 minute set that was full of her trademark stories and self-deprecating wit. Highlights included a stunning instrument-free cover of REM's "Night Swimming", which Ingrid performed alone on stage, after first using a looping pedal to set a vocal melody track which she then sang over. For most of the audience every song was a highlight, as evidenced by the enthusiastic sing-alongs. The ground she covered was familiar, and included fan-favorites "Breakable", "Everybody", "You and I", "The Chain". and "Maybe". As when I saw her in July at the Denver stop on the Lilith Fair tour, she closed with a tongue-in-cheek cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic", and performed "Be Okay" and a revved up punk version of "The Way I Am" as encores.

Ingrid Michaelson at 9:30 Club, 10/14/10

Ingrid and her band (l-r, Chris Kuffner, Elliot Jacobson, ? , Bess Rogers, Allie Moss)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Lilith Experience

Last month I combined a trip to visit my sister in Colorado with a chance to catch the Denver stop of the 2010 Lilith Fair tour. I've always been a huge Sarah McLachlan fan, and Lilith Fair is her brainchild, a "Celebration of Women in Music" launched for a 3 year run in the late 90's, and resurrected for a second go around this year. Like many concert tours this summer, Lilith was beset by slow ticket sales that caused the cancellation of 11 scheduled dates, and saw a number of main stage artists (Kelly Clarkson, Miranda Lambert) pull out of scheduled appearances. I was joined at the Denver show by my co-worker Jen, who is also a long-time Sarah fan. This blog, however, is not about the music, it is about the spectacle that was Lilith. Simply put, Lilith is not the domain of those that possess a Y-chromosome. One of the second stage artists, singer-songwriter Anya Marina, put it best in one of her song dedications: "This song goes out to all the dudes at Lilith. All seven of you." There were many, many women there. Most of whom were not looking at me as a potential partner (although they may have been looking at Jen that way).

Anya Marina Sending a Song out to the "Dudes".

As with any good multistage, daylong music festival, there were hospitality tents that sponsors used to hand out samples of their products. Jen took full advantage (below). I passed.

Many of the most interesting sights were not on the stage, but were on the bodies of the concert-goers. I'm sure every tattoo has a story, but, well, I won't even try to guess at this one......


And the stars weren't only on the stage.....

Alas, not everyone can afford high priced skin ink. Some are forced to make do with the "poor man's tattoo"

Will Lilith be back next year? I have my doubts given the problems that plagued this year's tour. Will I go back if it does return? Absolutely - I'll see Sarah any chance I get. The rest of the sights are just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mortified Shoebox: Scenes from a Childhood

Video game poetry, sending pics to older men on the internet, and being pimped out by your mother. Just a standard day in the childhood of Felicia Day. This is why you should NEVER save mementos from childhood! Though, thankfully for us, Felicia did.....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ingrid, a Ukulele, and Radiohead

Sometimes you stumble across something unexpected, that is both odd and awesome at the same time. A Radiohead song sung by a female singer-songwriter with only a ukulele as accompaniment would seem to qualify for the odd part. But the awesome? Most definitely. I will be attending the Lilith Fair tour during its Denver stop in July, and one of the artists on the bill is the talented Ingrid Michaelson. The 30 year old New York-based Michaelson got her big break when producers of the tv series Grey's Anatomy discovered her Myspace page, and used one of her songs in an episode. Ingrid's songs have since been heard in at least 8 Grey's Anatomy episodes, as well as episodes of One Tree Hill, The Real World, Kyle XY, and in an Old Navy commercial.

Ingrid is known to do some quirky covers in concert, including covers of the themes from Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire, The Golden Girls, and Full House. But those are generally done as fun audience participation sing-a-longs. While in the studio for an I-tunes special, she recorded the following version of Radiohead's "Creep". With a ukulele. Odd. And Awesome. Check out her website, or follow her on Twitter @ingridmusic.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Felicia, Oh Felicia!

I spent my weekend at Farpoint Convention in Timonium, MD, just north of Baltimore. Farpoint started life as a Star trek convention, though over the years (I think this was the 17th annual) has morphed into a more generalized sci-fi gathering. Now, I'm not much of a Star Trek fan, though I did watch "The Next Generation", and there was one reason, and one reason only, that I went to this convention: Felicia Day. Felicia, star of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog"; star of her own web-series "The Guild; new media maven; 1.75 million followers on twitter. And the ultimate on "Greg's Favorite Redheads" list (sorry Alyson and Alison). I love her work on the web, and I love the fact that her success in developing, producing, and promoting her web-series is largely self-made. Felicia has had somewhat steady work in Hollywood appearing in TV series, including a recurring role in the 7th (and final) season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. However, she mainly has bounced around outside the margins of what could be called "mainstream" success. A hardcore video gamer, Felicia has admitted that she once had a World of Warcraft addiction that even caused her to miss an audition or two. It is the world of MMORPGs that form the basis of "The Guild". The first season of "The Guild" was produced on something less than a shoestring budget, with fans sending Paypal donations to allow for the final episodes of the season to be produced. But that was enough to get the attention of Joss Whedon (again), who cast her as Penny in "Dr. Horrible", and was also enough for Seasons 2 and 3 of "The Guild" to gather sponsorship support from Microsoft. If you are not familiar with Felicia's work, visit her website, and check out her acting reel.

Felicia Full Reel from Felicia Day on Vimeo.

Farpoint Con went on my calendar as soon as Felicia announced on her blog that she would be one of the scheduled guests. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that I wanted to get an autograph, and hopefully a picture. A month before the convention, the organizers announced that as part of an annual charity fund-raiser they would auction off lunch with Felicia, so that became part of my agenda as well. In preparation I made some 8"x10" prints of some professional photos from Felicia's Flickr page for her to sign. I was fortunate that on Saturday, as I was wandering the convention floor, I happened to glance down at a table and saw a small handwritten sign that said "Felicia Day 11 - 1:00". I looked at my watch, which said 10:53. "Well, heck," I said, "I'll just stand right here". At about 11:05, I looked toward the elevators and saw her walking across the floor with a handler from the convention. My first thought was "Crap, what am I going to say?" And I actually got nervous. She was absolutely charming, unpretentious, and a joy to talk with. Oh, and REALLY thin. She apologized for being late, and then took several minutes to set up her pictures and Guild DVDs, which were for sale. Then the handler had to scurry off in search of some sharpies. I did not mind in the least, as it gave me a total of about 5 minutes to talk with her. She signed one photo that I brought, as well as one I purchased, and a Season 2 Guild dvd that I also purchased. After I stepped away, I took out my camera to take a picture of her signing for the next person. She turned toward me and smiled, then said "Wait! Do you want me to take a picture with you?" Well, duh! So that is the second piture above.

I attended a panel discussion of later in the day, and asked her a question about how she assembled the cast for the first season of "The Guild", since at the time she had a script, but no money, and so could not afford to use union actors. Her answer was fairly long, as were all of her answers - she is very chatty, and an engaging speaker. After the panel I killed time until the charity auction that evening. Lunch with Felicia (scheduled for Sunday) was the last item on the auction block. Up to that point, the auction had raised about $2000 selling a variety of autographed memorabilia, and the auctioneer told the audience that he recognized that it was a bad economy, so no one should be disappointed if we didn't match last year's total of $3000. Bidding for lunch with Felicia started at $300. I bid $325. And the bids started rising quickly between me and I think 2 other guys. When I bid $750 I could hear surprised reactions throughout the crowd. When I bid $1000, Felicia looked at me and her jaw dropped. The autioneer said "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just matched last year's total". But before the words were out of his mouth, I heard a voice behind me saying "$1100". I immediately countered with $1200, but also knew that was all the higher I could go. And the voices behind me quickly moved on to $1400, then $1500 - and kept going. When the bidding crossed $3000, I thought that Felicia started to look a little uneasy - and she interjected with "Remember guys, this is ONLY for lunch!" After the dust settled, lunch with Felicia Day sold for $5000, with all proceeds going to benefit a disabled veterans charity.

I went back on Sunday to attend the morning autograph session, and had her sign the other two photos I had printed. She was very pleased with my selection of the pics from her Flickr page, and mentioned that she was considering using one of them as a new headshot, and asked what I thought. I told her that two of her current headshots on display were pretty similar, and perhaps she could consider replacing one of them with the newer photo - that her eyes in the new photo were spectacular. I also said to her that I had thought I would have had a decent chance of winning the auction with a $1200 bid, but in the end wouldn't have even been able to get in the same restaurant with that bid! She said the auction was just crazy, and she had worried if the people bidding were really going to have enough money for their bids (apparently they did). Then she took another pic with me (the first pic above).

After that, I drove back home, still not sure about the whole con scene, but more than pleased that I got to meet one of my favorite actresses. I'll post the autographed pics in the next couple of days - but I have to replace my scanner first.