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.

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switch it up, switch it up: victoria monet, little mix, and ariana grande @ madison square garden // 2.24.17

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I was a 90’s child, but I never got into The Spice Girls. I think I was technically a bit too young to have hit them in their “prime,” and I think that the focus for my peers was on Brittney, N*Sync and Backstreet Boys (I will state, for the record, that my preference was for N*sync). I never went to pop concerts as a child – is this why I have become an avid concert attender in my prime? all of those years of deprivation? – however, in saying that, I must divulge that my technical first concert ever was to see Jessica Simpson in Bryant Park for a taping of Good Morning America, right around the time that the Dukes of Hazard came out, as part of a friend’s birthday party. I liked Jessica Simpson as much as a pre-pubescent girl would, but the experience did not make me feel like I had just seen an idol. It was also perhaps a bit underwhelming – a rather bare stage with the musicians and J.S. prancing around in her Daisy Duke outfit; it wasn’t particularly awe-inspiring.

Fast forward probably fifteen years to the summer of 2016. I’d been listening to a lot of Radio 1 at work because admittedly I’m endlessly amused by their coverage of whatever annual shindig they put on in Ibiza (“Ibiza is going to be absolutely massive. I Absolutely Cannot Wait for Ibiza.” god bless and keep Annie Mac). I kept hearing this song over and over and over again: take a sip from a secret potion, i’ll make you fall in love… It was not one of the ones that I wrote down to look up later, but I found it popping into my head quite often. The song was “Black Magic,” by Little Mix, and it is totally and undeniably infectious.

Summer ended, and now we’re at Fall 2016 when I, well, I’d say “stumbled” but I was rather “pushed,” into an unabashed love affair with One Direction. Logic told me that this was the appropriate time to get properly into what I’d mentally cataloged as “the female 1D” so I decided to give “Get Weird” a spin. I was surprised by how I immediately found it to be a perfect album. That is not an accolade that I dole out very often. I became completely and totally obsessed. I loved Perrie and her gorgeous hair (pun not intended). I loved how Jade was absolutely beautiful, but totally quirky. I loved, maybe more than anything, Jade’s Natalie B. Coleman heart dagger sequined shirt that she wore in the bestLive Lounge ever!(!!!) I loved how well their voices blended, and how they were four bad-ass beautiful women that I felt were impossible to not admire.

I began totally indoctrinating my friend/coworker with Little Mix and was pleased when she grew to love them. I remember cheekily messaging her approximately once a week to say “but WHEN are they going to go on tour???” Finally, Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman tour was announced with them as a supporting act, so we jumped on seats for Madison Square Garden. It was funny to us – we thought, alright, we *guess* we’ll stay for Ariana Grande, since we’re paying for her, though neither one of us were particularly interested.

Obligatorily, we started listening to Dangerous Woman. I remember hearing “Moonlight,” the very first track, for the first time and immediately instant messaging M to say “I cannot believe this, but I am impressed – you have to listen to this right now.” We both started to play the album and Ari’s back catalog and pretty soon it became unclear to me who we were more excited to see.

This was in November, I believe, and the concert was end of February, so the subsequent months were completely and totally centered around the event to come. We discussed a Plan of Action™, we curated our outfit visions. We expressed disbelief that we were going to be in the same room as our girlband heroes. We spent an entire preparatory weekend at my friend’s house in New Jersey. We went to the mall to shop for outfits, we drank wine and did face masks, we squealed over and over again because the concert was in two short weeks! Our friendship revolved around this show, and it was pure madness. I’d never had this type of experience when I was younger, so I was thoroughly enjoying it.

The night before the show, I had the intense feeling of anticipation and excitement that I previously only ever felt the night before traveling. I could not believe that sort of feeling could be applied to a concert, and a pop concert nonetheless. Who would’ve thought? I felt like a child; it was wonderful.I realized that I don’t really feel pure unadulterated excitement over indie shows. That doesn’t shock me, but it was nice to know that I still could feel excitement over a concert. The day finally arrived, and my friend and I spent the entire day in a teenage dream – we watched the latest episode of Riverdale, had afternoon coffee to get us ready for our long night, and danced around my room to a playlist of Little Mix and Ariana Grande while we got ready, as girls are wont to do. We walked out of my apartment feeling like a million bucks. The day was as perfect as we knew the night was going to be.

I was unfamiliar with Victoria Monet and we arrived about halfway through her set. To be honest, I found her performance a bit awkward. Much like the Jessica Simpson concert, it was a pretty blank stage (this time completely devoid of musicians), and she just sort of danced provocatively and sang. I liked her voice, but her show didn’t cinch me.

Begrudgingly, I’ll admit that I felt Little Mix’s set was short (just six songs) and blatantly catered to their most accessible hits. It was a little disappointing. I cannot say that I blame whoever made this decision, but as a huge fan of theirs I really would’ve appreciated at least one deep cut. However, there’s no denying that they performed their songs to perfection, and it was a mix that I think showcased their talent. I think the part I loved most about their performance was that you could see very apparently that they are first and foremost friends. I remember Jesy first addressed the Garden by saying, “I want to introduce you all to my three best friends.” It was so heartwarming.

And then there was Ariana. She is a powerhouse. Wow. Her set was nearly two hours and she just kept going and going and going. I thought she was really impressive, although I have to say that for one of the largest pop stars in the world, I think I expected a bit more from her stage design. There were moderate pyrotechnics and plenty of lasers, but the stage itself was rather stationary. I do have to say that I appreciate the points made in this NYT article, so I’m still rather torn on this subject. But I loved her set, and she blessed us with”Jason’s Song (Gave it Away)” which came out of left field but I was so excited!

I could probably say something more insightful about the music or concert – I mean, I feel like I glossed over it all a little bit – but when I think about it, for me this event was primarily about anticipating and experiencing seeing really awesome,strong, and talented women kill it on stage with one of my closest awesome, strong, and talented friends by my side. That’s all there is to it.

And if there’s even a slight chance that I can repeat this sort of pure fun and empowering experience by continuing to go to pop concerts, then I well and truly want to go to all of the pop concerts. Every last one.

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i’ll see you when we’re both not so emotional: american football @ terminal 5 // 1.28.2017

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In the month span between December 2016 and January 2017, I lived out all of my emo (being liberal with this term) band dreams.

I saw Kevin Devine for the sixth time (this was my third time seeing him with The Goddamn Band, I think). Kevin has been a staple in my life since middle school. In fact, I think that if my favorite band, Arctic Monkeys, didn’t exist, he would be my be-all-end-all. Frankly, some days he is anyway. This Kevin show brought me Pinegrove, a band that has skyrocketed straight to the top of my list of Bands That Are The Most Important to me.

From the crowd of that KD show, I bought tickets to ‘Something In The Way’ fest, which Modern Baseball was headlining and Pinegrove was also playing. Later, my friend and I tried to understand how we thought that not going to that fest was even an option – we couldn’t. This was the first of many times in the months to come that I would say “Thank God for Pinegrove.” The ‘SITW’ lineup was quite frankly insane and it exposed me to some great stuff I probably wouldn’t have otherwise known (Turnover, Alex G.)

After MoBo was The Front Bottoms’ annual ‘Champagne Jam’. This was my first time seeing The Front Bottoms after years of loving them. One of my most potent musical memories is discovering them one high school summer and becoming totally addicted. I remember my dad asking me to help with yard work, and me bringing my mp3 player outside – I could not survive without them in my ears, and I’d never enjoyed yard work more.

After all of the above, it only made sense to go see the Fathers of Emo, American Football. It was like the previous two months or so were one long emotional concert leading up to American Football as the grand headliner. I won’t pretend that I’ve been a fan all the while; I was seven years old when the debut came out. I’d tried to get into them a few times at the suggestion of a friend, and just couldn’t. Then I was turned onto one of Mike Kinsella’s side projects, Owen. Hearing some of those songs live completely changed me, and I went into one of those “I need to listen to everything this human has ever put out” moods.

C, meet American Football.

What an incredible and awe-inspiring performance! I did not expect to love it as much as I did, truly, having only gotten into them when the first songs from the new album dropped. But to hear “Honestly” live was like hearing it for the very first time. There are times when that bassline pops into my head and won’t leave until I play the song thrice on repeat. They have completely and totally infected me.

I could not believe how dynamic the band was on stage. I fully expected stagnant calculated guitar playing and not much else (which isn’t necessary a bad thing). Instead I got probably the most entertaining drummer apart from Mat Uychich or Matt Helders (join me for a later post where I attempt to determine why all of my favorite drummers are named Matthew), Steve Lamos. He is plain and simply put, The Man. I guess I also wasn’t really expecting two percussionists which threw me for a loop, but ultimately gave me so much more context.

I was also surprised by how danceable the music was – I don’t think I ever would’ve realized had I not gone to the show and stood behind a guy who had such rhythm and was so endearingly into it all. Also, moment of appreciation for the very nice guy who let my friend and I take his spot on the coveted back-of-the-room-bar-platform at Terminal 5 because we were shorter than he. Thank you, kind stranger.

All in all, the crowd was actually perfect. As much as I love seeing my favorite artists, sometimes I love being the wallflower at a concert – I love watching people love things that I only like. It gives me perspective and I’m always in awe when I discover how much more dimension a band has than what I felt I could determine from listening to them. I guess ultimately that’s the magic I keep seeking by attending gigs.