Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Day In The Life


I was planning on meeting up with a friend after work to chat. I just had to hop on the highway and go up a few miles to meet with her. No big deal. So I thought. She got off work around the same time I did, but she was much closer to the destination than I was. I told her it would take me a while to get there, but she was willing to wait (such a lovely friend!).

I got into my car after work and tried to decide the fastest way to get to the interstate when I noticed I was nearly out of gas. I decided to drive a different way in order to check the price of the lowest-priced gas station on my side of town. When I got there I did not have my wallet. I needed to go get my wallet from my apartment. Awesome-- add a few more minutes to the trip. I get to my apartment and grab my wallet, head out to the fastest route to the interstate from my apartment. I did not head back to the cheap gas station because it was out of the way, but I knew there were a few gas stations near the interstate exit, and honestly, I could probably make the drive up without getting gas. I headed that way, only to find that the interstate was severely backed up (probably an accident because traffic wasn't that bad anywhere else that early in the evening). I decided to turn around, and on the road that I turned onto, there was a Shell station. Perfect, I'll hop out and get some gas (add a few more minutes onto the trip).

I head back toward my apartment to take a different route north, thinking that I would be alright finding my way. There was a bit of traffic up that road, but I finally reach the street I think I am supposed to be on, but I am second-guessing myself. I try reaching under my seat for my GPS, but I cannot reach it. I figured I would just trust myself and go the way I thought was correct, all the time building up my anxiety (unfortunate natural response to situations like this, especially when someone is waiting on me). I drive for a while on this road and feel like it could be the wrong way, but I drive a bit further until I reach another familiar road. Do I turn there? So I did. Nope, it didn't feel right and the scenery seemed off. I got back on the original road I had turned on, but pulled off to find my GPS just to make sure that I was finally going the right way.

I sat in the parking lot of Burger King waiting for my GPS to load and I started searching for the mall at which we had decided to meet. I search for the restaurant first. No luck. I search for a restaurant that is near the one we are meeting at. No luck. I search for the mall in which they are both located. You guessed luck. The mall is pretty new, so my GPS must not be up-to-date on that stuff. It also showed that I was driving through cornfields. So yah. Add some more minutes to the trip... I decided to just keep driving in the direction that my intuition was telling me was the right way. Finally, after a search for the interstate I was heading toward, I see the mall in the distance. Again, GPS was not helping, but I had finally reached my hour after I got off work. It should have been 20 minutes max. I am thankful to have wonderful understanding friends, but man I was so stressed because I left her waiting. And I hate that.

My life is characterized by these moments. Unfortunately, I can't always plan for moments like these. The only solution is to learn to stay calm and try to keep from letting my anxiety control me. Unlearning this habit is hard, but I'm getting better.

In other news, I had a great time with my friend. :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Music Marathon Continues!

5. Bon Iver at the Murat Theatre, Indianapolis
As many musicians morph from freshman to sophomore album releases, Justin Vernon, the lead of Bon Iver, has taken a bit of a musical journey over the stretch of his first two albums and EP in between. His first album is a folky exposee of life and relationships while his second full-length is an electronic-folk rock exploration piece. His EP is a mixture of the two, a perfect bridge built to help us understand how he got from point A to point B.

I was introduced to Bon Iver's music when I was in college and it had been announced that our Integration of Faith and Culture club was sponsoring a concert in which he was performing. I listened to a song or two on myspace before the night of the concert to get myself acquainted with what I heard was brilliant music. I really fell in love with Vernon's simplistic yet profound musicality at the concert, and I bought his album For Emma Forever Ago there. I listened to that album probably for months on end-- in my car, in my dorm room, etc. Vernon's lyricism, although at times nonsensical, was poetic and enchanting along with his bluesy falsetto.


When Bon Iver's EP Blood Bank  was announced, I was very excited and ready for some fresh music from Vernon's genuis. But when I listened, some songs struck the right chords for me, and others, specifically songs with more electronic elements, did not. Generally, I am a sucker for a more organic sound, so I had a hard time engaging fully with the EP.


I stumbled across an announcement of Bon Iver's second album leaking over the internet, and a friend of mine provided without my prompting. I may not have chosen to invest in Bon Iver, Bon Iver, but since I received it as a gift of sorts, I loaded it into my library and gave it a few spins. I felt similarly about Vernon's sophomore album as I did about the EP.


The album collected virtual dust as it sat in my iTunes library for a month or so. I received notification of Bon Iver's scheduled performance in Indy, and marked it on my calendar as a possibility. Having seen Bon Iver at Taylor for ten bucks and being blown away, I knew that I had no need to top that experience, but what's one more concert tacked on the list for my Summer Music Marathon? One of my friends contacted me with a special proposition-- the possibility of a free ticket to the show. If that worked out, I was in for sure, but if not, I wouldn't morn the loss of a mediocre electronic folk rock show. Meanwhile, I brushed up on the new album just in case.

You may have gleaned the outcome of this proposition-- the tickets worked out and I headed downtown for the show! The opening act was The Rosebuds, whose music was good but did not stir anything deep in me. I honestly was just pretty anxious to see if my expectations of Bon Iver would be true or proven false. I expected it to be similar to the three-part band set that I saw in college, but with Justin Vernon playing synth instead of his rusty resonator. After the opener, there was a bit of an intermission so the stage could be stripped and set for the main act. I didn't take much notice of the instruments and the set up until Bon Iver took the stage and everyone stood up from their seats (to absorb the sound waves I imagine).

Vernon stood in the center of the stage-- to his left were two men playing trumpet/synth and trombone/auxiliary percussion. To his right were two guitarist/violin/vocalists. Directly behind him were two saxophone players, one of which played the bass as well. On either side of those men was a drummer, one who was also a vocalist (aka S. Carey). Vernon had brought his eight-piece band along-- far from the "guy and his two friends" context I had seen him in at Taylor for ten bucks. Their opening two songs blew me away, so much so that I can't even remember what they were. I had to process a ton during the show since I was not the most familiar with their latest stuff and since the arrangement of even familiar songs was unfamiliar (and just plain beautiful). I love music that has layers and interesting elements-- it engages my musical mind, makes me think and process. Sgt. Justin's Bon Iver Band did just that for me. There was enough going on to keep me captivated without being overwhelmed. The band rocked, and they rocked hard and loud, but they did so with intricate sensitivity, a good amount of precision, and lots of heart and soul.

Since the show, I have actually enjoyed listening to the new album and the EP. It is amazing to me how much of an effect a live performance can have on one's perception of an album. An album is such a static thing-- it is recorded one way and heard that way forever. Being able to see/hear a live performance of music that is largely known through a certain recording can be enlightening, offering a new perspective. I found this to be true for me. My experience with seeing Bon Iver perform live transformed my view of their recorded pieces. I am glad that I have a deeper appreciation of Bon Iver's latest works because I really did want to be able to give them that chance.

Highlights of the show include the surprisingly high average age of the audience (majority ranging from 27-33 I would say), the auxiliary percussion/trombone-player breaking out in some sick beats with his mouth (that man can apparently do anything), and the man down the row doing jazz hands at random moments during the show. Funny story here. And by funny, I mean I was a total jerk. I saw this guy and was very confused, even amused, by his outward expression of joy at unique moments. I poked fun to my friend who laughed along with me. A few minutes later, my friend looks at me with the horror of embarassment... "He's deaf!" "What?!" "He's deaf! I have like 4 cousins who are deaf and that is the sign for applause!" "......Oh my gosh.......I am a horrible person! Also, that makes no sense!" After feeling really terrible myself, I also mustered up some anger toward the people in front of us who also had noticed our jazzy friend and proceeded to poke fun as well. That is until I saw our jazzy deaf friend talking to his concert buddy...wait, deaf people don't generally talk, right? And if they do, they are usually signing while they speak... Alright, I didn't feel so bad anymore. The guy really was just doing some jazz hands out of pure excitement. He was expressing what we were all feeling, though, to be completely honest.

Overall concert experience= 4 out of notch for sure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Taking Some Time to Catch Up

Besides my last post about life's sometimes crazy pace, it's been a while since I have written on here. I have a lot to write about because of that very fact! In the past month, I have attended three concerts, celebrated a birthday (23), got a sweet hairdo, traveled to a few different states, and landed a job, among other events!

But let's back track about a month from today...(cue Wayne's World dream sequence...)

4. Florence and the Machine, The Lawn at White River State Park (Independence Day!)

I have to admit, the reason I bought tickets to this concert is because I thought it would be fun to get a group of people together and go downtown for the night. The plan seemed great-- good friends, go out for dinner, watch the concert, watch the fireworks on the canal. Things were a bit off-kilter-- traffic was killer, parking was crazy, and we got down there too late to get food. I was cranky, and standing in line for the concert was too hot, but we got good seats and ate food in the venue. Paying concert venue prices for food is better than starving, but still not fun. Our seats were in a great position on the right side of the stage. That is until the sun started setting and shining straight in our faces. Other than the heat and the sunshine (which I will hardly complain about, really), the venue was great.

The opening act for the show shall remain nameless, mostly because I don't remember his name, but also because we spent most of the set condemning his boring hard rock strumming and unnecessarily dirty distortion. At one point, too, he stopped to tune his guitar and actually made it more out of tune. We tried to find good things...really we did. There were some melodies that were actually quite interesting, and some of his chords progressions were fresh, but generally his music sounded pretty generic (i.e. Nickelback). His style of music was just nothing that any of us were interested in. There were quite a few fans, though, that cheered for him, so I was glad that he got some lovin' from the crowd. His drummer was really awesome, and the drums also sounded crisp and full (which would unfortunately change when the mainstage act came out).

Florence and the Machine came out after a quick stage change-- a beautiful tapestry of a bird was dropped and the smoke machine turned on while the majority of the musicians (minus Flo herself) came out to start playing. I loved seeing a harp player and was looking forward to hearing some of those Florence and the Machine rhythms played on properly-microphoned drums. The concert began as most do-- with a building intro to a familiar song. Then, Florence makes her way to the front of the stage, flitting around in a...yellow sheer dress with wings?
Florence Welch performs with her indie pop band Florence and the Machine at the Lawn at White River State Park on Monday, July 4, 2011. Since she was discovered singing in a pub in London, Welch has earned worldwide mainstream recognition. Olivia Corya/ The Star

She looked a bit like a lost canary, but her singing voice was one of a sorrowful warbler, lilting but strongly confident. After her first song, Florence offered a welcome in her delicate London-accented speaking voice, in contrast to her singing voice. Although the power of the drums was lost and you couldn't even really hear the keys, the music was fun. Some musical highlights of the night included familiar songs like "Cosmic Love," "Dog Days Are Over," and "Between Two Lungs." Between songs, Florence gently and politely called for a drink and explained that her mother is American, which means she would be proud that Florence was spending July 4th in the US. After that chat, the drummer started a marching beat, and I thought for sure she was going to sing "America the Beautiful" or some patriotic hymn, but instead she broke out in "Amazing Grace." Wait, isn't that song written by a British guy...?

Other highlights for our group in particular that night were finally eating food, singing a refrain of what sounded like "Praise the Lord," (actually singing "Raise it up"), watching and imitating the girls in front of us as they danced to the beat of their own drum all night long, switching seats to relieve one another from the sun's rays, and finally sitting on the cool canal to watch the fireworks. We weren't all super familiar with the music of Florence and the Machine coming into the show, but we enjoyed the choruses we could sing and dance with. There were plenty of people there who knew every word and danced like they were getting paid to inspire. We had a blast even though most of our laughs came from the ridiculousness of the whole night, but having fun was the goal, so I call the night a success. Concert itself gets 2.75 out of 5.

The day after the concert, I left to hang out with my family for vacation in Georgia. On said trip, I drank some good beer with my dad, got stung by a jellyfish, had the freshest shrimp I have ever tasted, laid in the sun too long, played a reggae version of a Blink 182 song with my brother, and dined and danced a jig in the streets of Savannah to celebrate my birthday. All in all, it was a great trip, despite having to get up at 3am to head back to Indy. See my past post about my airport experiences on that trip.

Tune in later this week for my experiences with the Fleet Foxes at the Pageant Theater in St. Louis, Bon Iver at the Murat Theatre in Indy, and maybe a few more special shows after that! :)