there’s nothing I can say: fleet foxes @ prospect park bandshell // 8.1.17

Sometimes you don’t actually attend a concert – you just sit on the grass outside the venue with a can of Bembel-With-Care and your best gal, and you listen without watching. I’ve never really done that before. I thought it would feel like something was missing, but it felt like driving down a familiar road in a different vehicle.

The highlight of my night was hearing “He Doesn’t Know Why,” which is a song I distinctly remember relating to my high school crush back when I really used to listen to Fleet Foxes religiously. The part about letting your family sway you is what really resonated with me. Somewhere there’s a charming anecdote about how I got him a red mark on his permanent record after a giant group of we honors students got kicked out of the library for talking, so his parents convinced him I was a bad influence and wouldn’t let him take me to prom, but this is not a comedy blog.

Now, a zillion years past that, I’ve chipped away at that association and have come to find the coda most comforting:

There’s nothing I can do
There’s nothing I can do
There’s nothing I can say
There’s nothing I can say

I love it when a song twists and turns and loses and gains meaning.

Fleet Foxes are completely ethereal live. Robin Pecknold’s voice was so full and rich in person. It had a lot more dimension than on recordings, which I don’t think I expected because his voice is already pretty distinctive. It didn’t struggle, it only shone.

Moment of appreciation for (Sandy) Alex G, too. I caught him back at Run For Cover’s Something In The Way fest 2016 and I’d never heard of him before then. I loved his set, but his recordings were, I’m afraid, lost on me until recently when I gave Rocket a spin. I feel fairly confident that I’ve played “Powerful Man” more than any other song in the past three weeks. I only caught the tail end of his set, but was stoked nonetheless.

We left early. I almost went back tonight for night two, but I can’t replicate the magic of stopping dead in our tracks because they’d begun playing “Mykonos” (my best gal’s favorite song), and then “White Winter Hymnal” (not my favorite, but very dear to me) immediately after.

I cannot ever again for the first time feel what it’s like to walk into the darkness of prospect park and away from “Third of May/Ōdaigahara” as it continues softly in the background without me.

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we found ourselves some treasure and threw it all away // george ezra @ bowery ballroom (7.31.17)

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Every time George Ezra smiled, I melted, which meant that I spent most of this gig melting because he smiled so much. This was a very special show.

Despite living in New York City for almost four years – typing that out is strange because it feels like it’s been at most two – I have never been to a real dumpling spot. George played the Bowery, so I met my roommate down on Eldridge St. for a quick bite beforehand. I don’t know why this detail feels like it was an absolutely integral part of this experience, but there’s no denying it. The dumplings were so good that I can’t stop thinking about them, and I think they’ve been permanently bundled into my memory of this night. Even though the weather was hot and sticky, this night seemed to mark the start of fall for me.

When we strolled up to Bowery just before doors, we were met by a line that wrapped twice around the sidewalk. Usually when I get to Bowery at doors I waltz right in, but I guess I wasn’t all that surprised that George would have so many fans, and so many young ones, at that. Rarely do I feel old at a gig – in fact, I often feel young – but I found myself nostalgic for the days when my parents would insist on taking me to shows.

I was more or less ambivalent to the openers, Ruen Brothers. I really liked the song they opened with, “Aces,” and I felt as thought their performance was really theatrical. They seemed like a good fit to open for George, and I think they warmed the crowd up nicely.

It was really special to see George in such a small venue. We had a perfect spot that afforded us the perfect view of his shoulder shaking guitar playing magic. I really appreciated the way that he gave a short introduction to every song he played. Several of the songs that night were being performed in the United States for the very first time, so it was nice to have context on the songs I’d never heard before. Initially, I thought that it might get old pretty fast, but he was so endearing that I found myself equally as enthralled when he was speaking as when he was playing music.

I’m glad that I went to this show, because previously I’d been a little disappointed in the lead single from this album, “Don’t Matter Now,” which didn’t grip me in the way that anything off Wanted on Voyage had. But there was something really whimsical about standing in a room of people who were chanting “it don’t matter now!” around you, and joining in. It was odd, but I felt like I was choosing to laugh at whatever was bothering me, and I think that’s the point of the song.

When you watch George Ezra play, you’re very clearly watching someone who adores what he does – sometimes he closes his eyes during an instrumental bit of a song and you can tell he’s thinking I have created this. This is my favorite song ever. It’s hard not to smile at that.

i’ve been prayin’ ever since new york // harry styles @ saturday night live (4.15.17)

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I know that everything I am about to say will definitely sound fake, but by some miracle it is all entirely true,  swear down.

I attended the live taping of Saturday Night Live with Jimmy Fallon as host and Harry Styles as musical guest. 

Yes, that is right. I saw Harry Styles’ debut solo performance with my own eyes. I witnessed what was, if you think about it, his debut as an actor, as well (no disrespect to Marcel, of course), ahead of his actual film debut in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk which is out later this year.

It is my understanding that I was one of just twenty people who were let into the live show off the standby line. How did I manage this? I’m still asking myself the same thing. I think that part of it probably had to do with the fact that I slept outdoors on the cold hard floor of New York City for two nights. I lived in front of a parking meter on 48th st for 38.5 hours.

When the NBC page placed my ticket in my hand on Saturday morning at 7:15am and I saw that I was number fifteen for live it felt like a small miracle. Of course everything i’d heard about the experience of doing standby for SNL emphasized how much nothing at all was certain until your butt was in a chair. But let me tell you, “fifteen” felt like “guaranteed.” “Fifteen” felt like I had earned it.

I can say with absolute certainly that I was the least okay that I have been ever in my life when I arrived to Thirty Rock approximately two hours early to sit in a bar with my friends. I could not speak and I think for a long while I even refused to sit down. I was in a daze.

This daze only got worse as we were placed in line in the NBC gift shop, went through security, stood in a barren hallway for half an hour while a security guard told us that they had only let five people into dress (AND THEN TOLD US HE WAS JOKING WHICH I DID NOT APPRECIATE), walked upstairs into the historic lounge, were lined up in number order, and were taken up in the elevators. I truly floated to my seat. I remember being led through the doors into 8H, hearing the band, and breathlessly  and inaudibly asking my friend, “where are we?” It was the closest thing to an out of body experience that I have ever had. I wish I could say I am being dramatic about that, but I’m simply not.

And then. My butt. Was in a chair.

I was in.

I’d also just like to say that there were four of us in my camp, and my fourth friend was the last to be seated at the end of the row we were in, and quite possibly the last to be seated off the standby line. Unreal.

I loved seeing how Saturday Night Live worked. There was a real energy in the room, and though I have no frame of reference, I am willing to bet that the energy was a bit more charged given the fact that this was the first episode ever to air live coast to coast. I was in awe of how small the studio was. I’d expected it to be double the size. I was most charmed by the old metal chairs the moving cameramen sat in – they were adorned with “Saturday Night Live” in vintage font.

When the lights dropped, my friends and I all grabbed hands and looked up to the monitors for the dance portion of Fallon’s opening monologue. I do not think I will ever forget what it was like to see Harry on the screen for the first time. He was in the same building as us! I’m not sure it had even hit me at that point, but I couldn’t help but shriek like a little girl.

When they set up for the “Celebrity Family Feud: Time Travel Edition” sketch, one of the pages stood beside us said “are you guys Harry fans?” we said yes, and she said “he’s down there.” We were on a slightly elevated platform, so we all ducked our heads beneath the lighting rigs and there he was, dressed like Jagger. The conclusion of that sketch was actually the first time I cried. I looked right at my friend and broke down, saying only “I can’t believe we got to see Harry play Jagger.” In hindsight it’s hilarious that that is the moment that brought me to tears, but I don’t think I’m really going to sit here and talk about sanity when it comes to this occasion.

The second time I cried was when he opened his mouth to sing the first line of “Sign of the Times” which, ironically, is “Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times.” My friend tells this story better than I, so I’ll leave a space in case she ever decides to submit her hot take on the affair:

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Because this is my platform, I’ll give you my take, and it is that I have never in my entire life cried the way I cried that night at a concert. I had a tissue permanently placed to my nose. My gasps inward for breath were threatening to elicit squeaks and I had to subdue them because I was incredibly aware that there were microphones designed to pick up noise from the crowd just above my head. I know that I was shaking. I was, in a word, inconsolable.

Harry was incredible. His performance of “Sign of the Times” was not perfect, and I think he was visibly upset about that. But it made me fully soften to him, and I was so incredibly aware of the fact that he is just a boy who is a year younger than I am. I wished that I could tell him that he was amazing, his performance was passionate – which I’d take over polished any day – and that we were all proud of him.

Hearing “Ever Since New York” for the first time ever was amazing, as well. Admittedly, I don’t remember too much about that since I hadn’t already known the words and it was a little hard to hear them in the studio. I do remember hearing the line “I’ve been prayin’ ever since New York,” very clearly and getting that little pang in your chest that you get when you realize how lucky you are to live in a city that so many people write songs about. He’d written a song about my city, and he’d used the word “prayin’,” and my mind was blown.

My favorite thing about the whole affair is that when I watch the episode or the performances back now, I see them, but in my head I see them from the angle at which I saw them live. I’ve never experienced anything like that, and it is something I will never lose.

If part of the reason I got into SNL was my elective stint as someone devoid of a home, the other – much more potent – part of the reason I got in was definitely divine intervention. There really is no other logical explanation in my mind.

untie me, I’ve said no vows: the shins @ Music Hall of Williamsburg // 3.15.17

I got to live out a dream. I cannot believe that I have seen The Shins live. I cannot believe that I will get to see them again this summer.

I’ve noticed a trend, and it’s that all of my most essential friends grew up listening to the same things I did. Not necessarily in full, but some of the crucials were present. I think that if you’re a music fanatic – or perhaps even if you’re not – music helps to account for some of the ways you see the world. If you’re constantly listening to a song or if you have lyrics toiling around in your mind, something somewhere sticks.

I got to see The Shins with someone who listened to them during her formative years just like I did, and that made the entire experience so much more fulfilling and sweet. It was really wonderful to mutually express disbelief when they played some deeper cuts that we had thought were absolutely improbable choices, or to both experience the totally pure heightened emotion when you see songs you have been listening to for almost a decade come to life.

What a kaleidoscope character James Mercer is! There were moments where he seemed so boyish and sweet, and moments where his eyes went wild which made me wonder if he’s simply an insane genius savant, no more, no less – most likely, I’ve since decided. Then there were moments where he got personal – like when he was introducing Mildenhall – and moments when he played the guitar like a rockstar. All of them meld into this single human who I admittedly struggle to fathom, but completely adore.

Quick moment of appreciation for their set decorations which threw off total “Soul Meets Body”-meets-Sufjan-Stevens vibes (which is a confusing conglomerate), but were gorgeous and appropriate nonetheless. That set quickly raced to the top of my personal favorite set dressings list, alongside Real Estate’s 2014 tour stage lighting, The Districts’ 2015 stage, and The Killers 10th Anniversary Decennial (for obvious reasons – the antler keyboard made a comeback!!!). I don’t know who brought giant yellow happy face balloons to The Shins gig, but they somehow made the entire affair that much more whimsical.

I took five full videos which I think is a new personal record for full videos taken at a gig. See them under the cut (with indulgent commentary!)…

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is it strange that I no longer see the hands in front of my face?: clap your hands say yeah @ le poisson rouge // 3.4.2017

Where do you go when you are feeling completely and wildly insane? I put my headphones on and go straight to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. They’re the only band that I have found thus far whose chaos seems to mimic my own.

I think it’s entirely in the vocal delivery. As a young professional (lol) I am not afforded the luxury of spending the bulk of my day yelling about things, so I let Alec Ounsworth do it for me.

Clap are a band that have always been on my radar, but I’d never truly given the time of day until a friend recommended I listen to them and curated a path for me. That second part is crucial. I vaguely remember listening to certain tracks from Hysterical, but I don’t think that any of them had really done anything for me until the present. “The Witness’ Dull Surprise” really, really, does something for me. For the past six or so months I’ve turned to that song especially. There is something really sublime about the lyrics:

Oh well, the rain it never stops here
Is it strange that I no longer see the hand in front of my face?
Just short of longing for the past
And short of asking for forgiveness
You read my palm and suggested that I find a new apartment
All of our sleepless nights came crashing through the window

Later:

My dear, just show me where it hurts
And I’ll draw blood to make it better,
I will do anything.

It’s simple, but I’m unable to deny how much it resonates with me. Clap are a band that to me symbolize desperation. I do not believe that desperate = crazy but I think there’s a little bit of crazed mania behind every desperate feeling. I want to unpack that more, but I feel like I can’t, because I think it all speaks for itself, really.

I really enjoyed seeing Clap live. Their set was surprisingly (and disappointingly) short, but hearing The Witness’ Dull Surprise and Adam’s Plane live were a thrill. I was sold on the new album, The Tourist, after hearing those songs, too. The night served its purpose. This is a sentiment I’m sure I’ll express many more times on here, but: I laughed, I cried, I listened.