Kings of Leon – June 25

Apparently concert reviews are all I can manage to put out at the moment, but there you have it. IMG_4719

Kings of Leon capped off my run of spring and summer concerts, playing the Marcus Amphitheater on June 25th and subsequently acting as one of the Summerfest headliners. I was fairly shocked to see that they would be headlining one of the first nights at Summerfest, because they really haven’t put out much new material lately, they barely play shows, and I don’t think they’ve been to Milwaukee in years. All in all, I was just grateful that with the band’s drama and cancelled shows a couple years back, that they didn’t cancel on us.

I got intimately acquainted with Kings of Leon back in 2005 when I worked at a small coffee shop in Minneapolis. My co-worker, Justin, would regularly blare 2004’s Aha Shake Heartbreak over the cafe’s lo-fi system and rock the hell out. I immediately fell in love with the addictive beats and the grinding drawl of Caleb Followill’s vocals. Justin eventually quit showing up for his shifts and allegedly joined a small circus that travelled primarily through the Dakotas, but my love for Kings of Leon lived on.

IMG_4722When Q and I got married in 2009, we chose “Use Somebody” for our first dance tune, as something different and not so slow-dancey. We were unaware that its radio play was going to escalate to “Call Me Maybe” levels right before our wedding, but nonetheless, I think it remains a good choice.

So, when we sat down to a disappointingly not super full amphitheater that Thursday evening, I was stoked. The rain was holding off, my predictably overpriced glass of Prairie Fume was perfectly chilled, and our seats were pretty good. A lot of the Summerfest acts that night were country-based, so I was hopeful that the general crowd would be a little more redneck and less white trash, which is the general Summerfest draw.

I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but the grandiose blaring light show with 2-story background screen projections and meticulously choreographed lighting wasn’t quite it. It wasn’t bad by any means, but I suppose I longed for the time when the Kings played dirty basement shows to a fraction of the crowd and with zero pomp. I’m not sure if they ever did that, but I like to imagine they did. And I like to imagine that I wasn’t in fact, 10 years late to this show.

Nonetheless, it was great to see one of my top five bands in any situation. They played a great variety of songs all across their repertoire and I was familiar with all of them. (Particularly the coolest song with my name in it.) Stage banter was very minimal, but that just left more time for rocking out. The crystalline background projections were expertly matched to the songs and created awesome ambiance. Of course we heard our wedding song also, so Q was quite pleased. Also, the final encore was “Sex on Fire” which I absolutely forgot existed. Who did NOT forget however, was the middle-aged couple two rows in front of us that could NOT keep their hands off each other the whole night. Old lady booty-patting aside, it was an excellent finale to my summer shows.

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The eager congregation of Father John Misty.

FJM1At the end of May, clearly the month that this blog forgot, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) play at the Pabst Theater here in Milwaukee. This is the show I’d been looking forward to most this year, and it did NOT disappoint. Fast forward through the opener, because I can’t remember their names other than it was not King Tuff, as I’d expected. Whoever it was, wasn’t bad, but they were nothing like the spectacle that was about to o’ertake the stage.

FJM’s stage setup was pretty straight-forward: a basic band setup with a curtain backdrop and a neon sign depicting a heart with “No Photography” written in cursive. Before the concert, I had a discussion with Q about the authenticity of that photography warning, since Father John Misty is fond of re-posting fan pictures on Instagram. I also noticed that different parts of the phrase were blinking at different times and “No Photography” was rarely lit up together. I found this to be yet another small signal speaking to the particular brand of irony that he seems so fond of creating, particularly in his most recent album, I Love You Honeybear.

But, the show. Ahhh, the show.

Certain singers have a way, or a vocal pitch, or something, that just is more or less drug-like to me. Sam Beam. Caleb Followill. Colin Meloy. When I first heard Father John Misty, it had the same effect. Goosebumps. And other feels. JFM2

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a show with such high energy. Sure there was Weezer at the short-lived Verge Music Fest in 2010, but Rivers was totally on drugs. And maybe FJM was too, but I don’t care. That man jumped and flailed and stood on top of the bass drum and threw the microphone stand around and pretended to hang himself with the mic cord and flopped around on the ground like a fish that was being electrocuted, all while singing and wailing in the most delectable way.

It was an audio-visual consummation of the holiest order.

A review that I perused post-concert mentioned what a travesty it was that Josh Tillman was trapped behind the Fleet Foxes drum kit for so long, and I couldn’t agree more. I love me some “Mykonos,” but DAMN.

A perk of seeing Father John Misty, as if I needed another, was that his catalog as a sophomore act is entirely manageable. I am extremely intimate with both of his albums, thus I was familiar with every song he played. Of course, there were favorites: “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” “Chateau Lobby #4,” “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment,” and “The Ideal Husband,” and “Nancy From Now On,” just to name a few.

A recent trip to Madison made me blissfully aware that FJM is playing The Orpheum on September 20, and I have every intention of being there. Odds are slim that he’ll slay the encore with Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” again, but all my fallopian tubes fingers are crossed.

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“If each decade of your life was represented by a pop song, what would it be?”

First, let me just say that this is a ridiculously invalid question. It’s true that the first decade of your life can be pretty summarily wrapped up into one tune. But 10-20? C’mon. That’s a HUGELY diverse period of time. You are like four different people during that decade. Sometimes all at once. It’s impossible to pick one. I was into TLC, Michael Jackson, the Backstreet Boys, a slew of shitty punk bands, and finally some decent indie acts all during that time. Anyway, this is my best shot….though they’re not necessarily pop.

  1. 0-10 years = “Good,” by Better Than Ezra. I had an outstanding childhood. Nothing sucked. I remember this song playing during a scene in The Babysitter’s Club movie. I’ve read the entire series and believe that it helped shape my love of literature. Plus, Better Than Ezra is a vastly underrated ’90’s band. 
  2. 10-20 years = “Become What You Hate,” by Midtown. I loved Midtown when I was in high school. I feel that this song represents the emo angst I thought I had back then, and accurately describes my failing struggle to rail against what I am now: a suburban wife who just last week uttered the yuppiest phrase on the planet: “Um, you’d better keep your phone on while we do this T25 workout in case the contractor guy calls.” RIP, you artsy rebel. 
  3. 20-almost 30 years= “I’ll Try Anything Once,” by Julian Casablancas. Most of my 20’s has been this vaguely hedonistic phase where I try to compensate for career-oriented/artistic shortcomings by taking intense pleasure in the ecstasies of life: music, travel, and libations. I alternate between high highs and low lows, trying to find my spot somewhere in the middle. This song is a mellow representation of the middle: somewhere between the obscure and the obvious. Simple but deep. The first time I heard it was during a scene in the Sofia Coppola movie, Somewhere, which I watched at the Oriental theater, alone, on Valentine’s Day 2011. I sat in the middle of my row and sipped on a Two Hearted Ale, dreaming of a life at the Chateau Marmont, with wine on my tongue and salt on my skin.

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Admin. Prose.

JoanYesterday marked the super-ridiculous non-holiday that commemorates the duties and responsibilities of secretaries everywhere. And yes…I said secretaries. I work as a secretary and I’ve never understood why people find the word “secretary” offensive. Joan Holloway-Harris was a secretary for God’s sake…and who wouldn’t want to be her? Anyhow, as an “administrative assistant” I could care less about being recognized. In the immortal words of Pam Beesley, “I don’t think it’s many little girls’ dream to be a receptionist.”

PamOver the years, it’s been tough to process the fact that answering phones and doing desk work might just have turned out to be my “career.” As time marches on, I drift further and further away from my college graduation and from the “freshness” that comes with being a recent grad with up-to-date industry knowledge. Everything seemed so….possible, and now the bouquet of daisies that my colleagues were so nice to gift me with yesterday just seem to stand as a symbol of failure. I can rip a petal off for every interview I botched. Every job I didn’t apply for because I got jaded and lazy. For every time I turned on the TV instead of studying up on SEO and HTML and Google analytics.

At the same time, I do enjoy my work. Most days, anyway. I support three awesome coworkers and we have a blast in and out of the office. I leave my work at work each night, and there is basically zero stress. Yes I wanted to write and come up with ideas and see my words in magazines and on websites and make actual money but…that comes with a lot of other junk too. And sometimes it’s a struggle to know whether or not that junk is actually worth it, or if perhaps maybe I’m just made to support other people who are doing way awesomer things than I can do. Teachers (namely, my husband.) Counselors. Administrators. Kids who are trying to get into college so they can go do awesome things.

I’m good at my job and good at making life easier for other people. I’m lucky to have a lot of people who tell me frequently how much I’m appreciated. And maybe that’s all I’m willing to work for. And maybe that’s enough, and I’m just still working on making peace with it.

Despite all this, Some E-Cards did have some pretty spectacular cards to commemorate the pseudo non-holiday. Alas, cheers to those who have to deal with phone calls, because they are still a thing, those who can make copies like a ninja and fax like nobody’s business. Because that too, is still a thing. Props to those who are two steps ahead, and know that it’s the little things that matter.

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Sur le thème de recommencer.

Quelquefois, il y a des choses que je ne peux pas parler a haute voix.

J’aime faire tout le monde heureux. Et, quelquefois, les choses que je pense, et que je pourrais écrire, ne serait pas rendre les gens heureux. Si tu n’as pas quelque chose sympa a dire, ne dites rien du tout, non? Mais, il aide, quand tu peux écrire dans un autre langue. Alors, il se sent que tu ne dites pas les choses mal, rien du tout.

Parfois, je veux me enfuir, et ne jamais retourner.

Parfois, je déteste tout le monde. Meme tu. Et vous.

Parfois, quand je conduis a chez moi après le travaille, je veux conduire et conduire, jusqu’a je suis dans un autre place. Loin de chez moi. Je ne sais pas pourquoi. Je ne sais pas ou….just un autre endroit. Avec des personnes différents.

Je regarde les photos et je veux essayer quelque chose nouveau.

C’est stupide.

C’est seulement quand tu ne sais pas quoi tu as, que tu veux commencer encore.

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“You are looking down through the skylight as chefs prepare dinner for your ex-fiancé’s wedding.”

The industrial rooftop “terrace” on the very tippy top of the 12-story Regent Palm Desert wasn’t made for lounging. It was made for roaring air conditioner units and greasy janitors shuffling around on pea-sized gravel, clearing vents and changing light bulbs. But when I traded one said greasy janitor a pack of cigarettes for the entry pad code to the industrial oasis of the rooftop, it became my heat-soaked, glass-topped sanctuary.

The massive skylight was probably initially put atop the top-floor hotel kitchen for ventilation. But when I got that code, it became a way to somehow take myself outside of my body and look in at well, something else. At this particular moment, I’m watching men and women in starched aprons plate seared sea scallops, stir vats of French onion soup, and craft truffle-whipped potatoes and tomato-crusted leg of lamb into sheer culinary perfection.

The blessed union happened just a couple of hours ago. He probably dipped the bitch backwards in an inappropriately long and juicy smooch and ran his hand up her thigh while Jesus rolled his eyes. Who the fuck serves lamb at a wedding with 800 guests? I press my back against the glass and stare into the dark desert night. The alien blink of a wind turbine glows red against the black-orange aura of the city.

I toss my cigarette onto the cool gravel and re-tie my apron. The embroidered hotel insignia brushes rough in gold thread under my fingers. But the vanilla creme brulée.

I can’t believe that fucker kept the vanilla creme brulée.

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What a terrible world, what a beautiful world.

Wednesday night kicked off this year’s concert season, as Q and I and a few friends saw The Decemberists play at the IMG_4350Riverside Theater here in Milwaukee. This was our third time seeing this particular band, and it certainly was a charm. The Decemberists never lack for sheer entertainment value. Colin Meloy’s humorous stage banter was upstaged only by the giant whale puppet (maneuvered by two little girls dressed up like the twins from The Shining no less) that gobbled up the band during the ever-popular encore staple, “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.”

As we’d now seen The Decemberists multiple times, I had a much better grasp on their whole catalogue, and knew much of the setlist. It was well-rounded with tunes both old and new, and I was even pleasantly surprised to hear one of my favorites (albeit a little watered down), “Los Angeles, I’m Yours.”

Though April will be a bit of a show-drought, I’m also looking forward to seeing Nick Offerman & Megan Mullaly, and, the probably highlight of my year, Father John Misty in May. It’s still cold outside, to why not immerse oneself in beer and good tunes?

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