4.27.2004

LIVE MUSIC PHOTOS: Sufjan in Ann Arbor, MI



Here's one of the better pictures I got from the Sufjan Stevens show in Ann Arbor this past weekend. I'm still waiting for somebody to come out with a camera that has an automatic setting for taking pictures in clubs. Why is it so difficult? So frustrating...I'm spent. But, anyway, I was fortunate in that it was a tiny club and I was very close to the stage. So that helped me salvage a few decent photos. All I can say is that I did my best. After toying with my camera for too long, I just gave up and decided to pay full attention to the performance rather than trouble myself with trying to capture it on film - eerrrr, memory stick.

So anyway, here are a couple other pics I took during the show:
Sufjan
Denison Witmer

Also, Relevant Magazine just added a new interview with Sufjan to their pages.

4.21.2004

MUSIC NEWS: Sufjan returning to homestate of Michigan



The weekend cannot come soon enough this week. My anticipation can be attributed 100% to the hope and promise of an extraordinary evening with Sufjan Stevens in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Originally, the only date he was going to be playing in this great state was in Grand Rapids, a good two-and-a-half or three-hour drive. Recently, however, we discovered a new date was etched into the schedule to pass through Ann Arbor this Saturday with Denison Witmer and Rosie Thomas in tow. Ann Arbor is an hour or less away from our home.

Dana is working Saturday. Normally if Dana has to work, this means that the show is a no-go, simply because not getting out until 7:30pm puts a really big stick in the spokes, if you will. This obstacle has been eclipsed by one wonderful bit of news: the Blind Pig is not even opening its doors until 9:30. As such, I will be at the show, and I will have the added privelege of having my lovely wife accompany me. We'll have time to get ready, scarf some food down, and make the drive to Ann Arbor, arriving at the Blind Pig right on schedule. It would have been nice if Dana didn't have to work at all on Saturday, so we could spend the day in downtown Ann Arbor, but you gotta take what you can get. So, anyway, the show will be amazing. Sufjan could make a very strong case for being my favorite artist working right now. Two other really good acts are with him. And we will be there with smiles.

4.20.2004

FOXTROT

...is, like, hands down my favorite daily comic. I check it everyday and it's always good. But I especially liked today's timely strip (click on it to see a bigger version):


4.19.2004

AH...SPRING HAS FINALLY ARRIVED!

What a beautiful weekend. The weather in Michigan is finally getting nice. We had a little glimpse of summer this weekend. Sunny, high 70s. It was so nice. We got the gas grill - that we won from Home Depot - assembled without any difficulty. So once I get the tank filled with propane we'll be barbecuing as much as possible. I can smell steak already.

Yesterday, I pulled out the hose and washed my car and then vacuumed and Armor-Alled® the inside. We were going to do both cars this weekend if it was nice, but we couldn't do Dana's Jetta due to a substantial snafu. Saturday afternoon, as we were pulling up to the movie theater to catch a matinee with Dana's family, the passenger side window made a loud popping sound and completely dropped down into the door. It wouldn't go back up. So no wash for "Betty". Instead, she sat in the garage for the rest of the weekend.

I finished cleaning my car just in time to catch the Pistons take care of business. It was an exciting game to watch. They totally rolled over Milwaukee. If they can keep playing like that, we're gonna roll right through this series. I gotta like our chances to go the Finals this year the way Detroit's playing. Now, to see if I can score a couple tickets to a home playoff game.

Today, one thing I've got to do is begin finalizing vacation plans. We're gonna hit San Diego for a week in late May. Hopefully, it'll be a sunny and warm week. It'll be cool to drive around the coast, check out the San Diego Zoo, maybe SeaWorld. I'd like to see Big Sur. I've heard it's beautiful. And then we were thinking of stopping by Newport Beach and looking up the Cohens. I think Sandy, Kristen, and Seth (and Ryan) would love to have us pop in, hang out in the poolhouse for awhile, say "Hi" to Captain Oats...it'll be a fun time had by all.

4.16.2004

LIVE REVIEW: HAYDEN & SARAH HARMER



APRIL 13, 2004 - THE MAGIC BAG (FERNDALE, MI)

Last night, we made our way down the road to the Magic Bag for the opening date of this tour, shared by two Toronto songwriters who, as it turns out, have built quite a little following for themselves: Hayden and Sarah Harmer. Never heard of S.H.; I came for Hayden, who was owner of the opening spot on this night. That was a shame, because what it entailed was a shorter set than the last time I saw Hayden, two years ago in the very same venue, when he played for a good hour and a half or more. Lots of songs, lots of interacting with the audience. That was one thing I remembered being a real asset to his show. I remembered him being really down-to-earth and likable, telling stories and making fun of himself and stuff. His demeanor hasn't changed a bit. And neither has his ability to perform his music well live, even if he was only armed with his slow guitar strumming and harmonica (he was sans piano on this night).

Being the first night of the tour, he was a little rusty, messing up in the middle of songs a couple times or having to start over after playing the first ten seconds or so of a song. But it didn't happen too much and more importantly it in no way detracted from his performance. Rather, it made it more enjoyable and more "real". It was a very intimate and forgiving setting. As far as the material goes, he mixed everything up well: four or five new songs from his forthcoming album, Elk-Lake Serenade, which comes out May 11th, a few from 2002's Skyscraper National Park ("Dynamite Walls", "Bass Song", "Carried Away", & "All In One Move"), and one of the first songs he ever recorded, just about ten years ago, "Stem", which is a favorite of mine. Highlight of the set, though, was "Bass Song." As he described with a slight grin on his face, "this is a song about when I got murdered".

After seeing Hayden twice now, there's one thing I can say. I don't want to miss out on him the next time he comes around. The only bad thing about it? I wish we had gotten to the club earlier so we could've gotten seats at a table. We had to stand on the side because the place was was almost full already.

After a brief break, Sarah Harmer and her band took the stage. Frankly, I was surprised at how many people clearly came out for Sarah Harmer. I thought Hayden was the bigger draw. I hadn't even heard of her before, but once she got up there the people filed down to the front floor area below the stage in droves. I couldn't help but wonder where she built this big following. Judging from the look of the crowd, which had no shortage of spiky-haired, mens' dress-shirt-wearing girls, I made an educated guess. It wouldn't come as any sort of surprise to me if she had once been a part of the Lilith Fair. I'll have to find out for sure who she's supported in the past.

Anyway, she was pretty good. Dana said she thought she had a pretty voice. I probably couldn't argue with that. I couldn't get Rosie Thomas out of my mind for most of her set. She reminded me of her a lot. But Sarah Harmer probably had a few more upbeat numbers than Thomas would have had. I don't know. I haven't seen Thomas live, so I guess I can't really say. Before her set, I heard one guy arguing with another about Hayden and Sarah Harmer. This loudmouth thought Hayden wore his influences on his sleeve too much and that Sarah Harmer was more original and "filled a musical hole", as he put it. But I could sit here and easily rattle off a number of female songwriters who make very similar music: Thomas (as I already mentioned), Leona Naess, Lisa Loeb, Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams...Beth Orton, even. Well, Orton's probably a little bit of a stretch, but I might still store their CDs next to each other on the shelf. But that's just a few names. So that guy was an idiot, but I'll still give Harmer credit. Even though she may not be as original as Loudmouth Over There thought, she still injected some freshness into that sound. It was still good, honest music sung with a sweet voice. And I'd rather listen to her than Sarah McLachlan or Jewel any day of the week. Overall good show. Probably something that almost any girl would like, so if you've got one bring her and she'll have a good time. I just got tired and my feet were killing me from having to stand through both sets, so towards the end there my attention span got really short and all the songs started sounding like ones she's already played. Better than staying home and watching American Idol, though.

See if the tour's headed for your town and if it is, go check it out. Here's the rest of the dates (Hayden will only be at the shows with a ** after it):

4.14 Chicago, IL (Martyr's) **
4.16 Pittsburgh, PA (Rex Theatre)
4.17 Alexandria, VA (The Birchmere) **
4.19 Philadelphia, PA (Theatre of Living Arts) **
4.20 New York, NY (Tribeca Rock Club)
4.21 Boston, MA (Paradise Rock Club) ** -- Jon, you should go, dude!
4.23 Portland, ME (Big Easy)
4.24 Burlington, VT (Club Metronome) **
4.26 Toronto, ON (Winter Garden Theatre)
4.29 Montreal, QC (Cabaret Du Plateau)
5.01 Rochester, NY (Water Street Music Hall) **
5.02 Buffalo, NY (The Tralf Music Hall) **
5.09 Vancouver, BC (Commodore Ballroom)
5.11 Seattle, WA (Crocodile Cafe)
5.12 Portland, OR (Aladdin Theater)
5.14 Reno, NV (The Garage @ The Hilton)
5.15 San Francisco, CA (The Independent)
5.19 Los Angeles, CA (Knitting Factory)
5.21 Santa Fe, NM (The Paramount)

MUSIC NEWS: Tracklist for B.D.B.'S "One Plus One Is One" revealed

Twisted Nerve has announced the tracklist for the upcoming release of Damon Gough a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy's newest album, One Plus One Is One. All Twisted Nerve will say about the record's release is that it'll be "out this side of summer - so we believe". The people there have listened to the final product and have this to say about it: "Well, we've had it in the office now since last week and (although we're bias!) it is simply 14 tracks of sheer bliss. We think that this is by far his most sublime and satisfying album to date, even, dare we say it, better than 'Bewilderbeast'."
Well, that's a dangerous statement, verging on overhype. I don't know if it'll be that good. But I'm sure it will be pretty good, because...well, because he's Badly Drawn Boy. He's a proven player. Anyway, here's the songs...

1. One Plus One Is One
2. Easy Love
3. Summertime In Wintertime
4. This Is That New Song
5. Another Devil Dies
6. The Blossoms
7. Year Of The Rat
8. Four Leaf Clover
9. Fewer Words
10. Logic Of A Friend
11. Stockport
12. Life Turned Upside Down
13. Takes The Glory
14. Holy Grail

MUSIC NEWS: iPods Making Great Targets

I found this article on FoxNews' website and it gave me a good laugh, particularly the segment which I have bolded about midway through the article:

APPLE COMPUTER'S CUTE LITTLE iPOD PORTABLE MUSIC PLAYERS SURE ARE POPULAR - MAYBE TOO POPULAR.

British thieves are so fond of swiping the pricey MP3 players that police this week asked iPod (search) users to consider switching to boring black or gray headphones, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Turns out the standard white "ear buds," which identify an iPod user immediately, are mugger magnets.
"People need to use common sense," said a West Midlands police spokesman. "Using different color headphones might be useful to pretend you were listening to something cheaper, such as a portable stereo."
Crime rates in Britain have soared in recent years, with muggers known to snatch cell phones and other electronic gadgets right out of users' hands.

"A man asked if I was wearing an iPod," said Birmingham student Roland Baskerville, "and as soon as I told him 'Yes,' he pulled a knife out and started waving it at me, saying 'Well, hand it over then.' I gave it to him and he ran off."

An Apple spokesman contended that iPod users would "rather be robbed" than suffer the indignity of appearing to use different personal music players.
"It's up to the consumer if they want to use black or gray headphones instead," he said. "Some users really like the coolness of being seen wearing an iPod."
Gary Parkinson, a magazine editor, told the newspaper the theft appeal comes with the territory.
"You are an obvious target," he explained. "The other problem is that the iPod is so shiny and lovely you want to get it out and show people. This attracts criminals like magpies."

LIVE REVIEW: DEATH CAB & BEN KWELLER



MARCH 30, 2004 - ROYAL OAK MUSIC THEATER (ROYAL OAK, MI)

Well, the Death Cab/BK show was great last night. Here's my report:

First of all, it turned out to be an all-ages show, which means one thing: tons of high-schoolers. I've never felt so ancient in my life. But the sight of one guy who looked like he was 35 and had wandered in from the bar next door, beer-in-hand and decked out in his dressy attire, trying to mack on a group of teeny-bopper girls...the sight of that sad sack made me feel quite a bit younger and better about my place in that crowd. I don't think we stuck out too much, anyway, as I noticed a proliferance of zip-up hoodies and messy hair. I was right at home.

So...the music. As I could have predicted, Death Cab was the best band of the night. Some other band called Aveo (new labelmates w/ DCFC) put on an absolutely lackluster performance to open the night. They were completely self-indulgent and boring as hell. Horrible. And most annoying was that I couldn't take my eyes off of the singer/lead guitarist's left knee. He had, like, restless leg syndrome or something. It was so obnoxious. No matter how hard I tried to watch something else - ZOOP! My eyes would go straight back to his bouncing leg. But definitely the worst thing about them was just that their songs totally sucked and were completely un-memorable. Well, except for that first one where he'd throw his head back and let out some kind of Indian battle-cry a few times (wo-wo-wo-lalalalala-hoo!). I won't forget that...cause it was hilarious! So, here's a tip. If you're planning on catching this tour further down the road, you don't have to worry about getting there early or even on-time. Plan on missing the first act. They're not even worth talking about anymore.

So, yeah, then Death Cab came on and put on a stellar performance. They're such rockstars now. It's funny. Dana especially enjoyed watching the bass-player, who I said looked exactly like George Castanza sans glasses and bald pate. He was pretty funny to watch. But this did not overshadow their set. Everytime they started a new song, I saw the kid next me quickly scribble down its name on a torn-out page of scrap paper. This induced a small chuckle within me. I thought it just a bit too obsessive. I even overheard a girl ask him "Why do you write them down???" Anyway, operating on memory alone, I managed to retain a good portion of the songs they played, which included some faves of ours. Here's the ones I can remember:

The New Year
A Movie Script Ending
Title and Registration
Lightness
Styrofoam Plates
For What Reason
Photobooth
Debate Exposes Doubt
Pictures in an Exhibition
Company Calls
Tiny Vessels
Transatlanticisim

In case you're planning on catching them later, you can probably expect to hear most of these same songs, if not all of them. That's all the ones I can remember. There may have been a few more. But it was an opening slot, so they didn't play as long a set as the last time we saw them at the Majestic Theater. Nevertheless, it was a great performance.
Kweller came out and before he could get going some kind of "technical difficulty" sprung up with the bass amp. So he made good use of that time in the shadows of the stage to strike some quite laughable rockstar poses in his black leather motorcycle jacket, red Converse all-star hi-tops, and most notably some eyebrow raising super-tight jeans. I had to laugh. The guy is just strictly amusing. I'll give him that. Anyway, they worked it out, or so it seemed and the band got going. The first few songs were rockers that I couldn't get into because they were so mediocre. And Kweller's backing band was pissing me off. They were schlubs. I was pretty disappointed at this point. But after getting those cruddy songs out of the way, BK started to work in his good tunes - old and new - and the show took a noticeable turn toward the better.

"Sha Sha" was a highlight, but possibly the the best part of his set for me was "Family Tree", never my favorite BK song but one I always liked still. The reason this song was the most memorable of the night for me was not so much the song itself, although it had a hand in it, but what happened during it. I hate to say it, but I was actually almost "touched" during this song, and by the unlikeliest of people: these four teenagers that were about six feet in front of me. After a few glimpses of them earlier on in the show, I already had them pegged as superficial, arrogant punk kids. I mean, the one leader kid was, like, acting so cool with these two girls and his buddy, showing off his muscles in this small green wife-beater shirt. It was truly pathetic. I won't go off on him anymore, because I realize now I was being completely judgemental and I feel ashamed of myself for that. But anyway, later on, as Ben Kweller was singing, "You are...my family tree / Be good to me / Take care of me", I looked down at him and his group of friends. They were slung all over each other, arms over shoulders and swaying back and forth for the whole song. They looked so close. Like they were the best of friends, a tight-knit family to each other. I imagined these kids waking up at their separate houses and each one thinking about what the four of them were gonna do together that day, because they did everything together. Made me nostalgic for my own high-school years when I was learning to grow up and trying to find purpose in life. You experience a closeness with your friends at this point in your life that's almost indescribable. You cling to each other and your happiness totally depends on them. They're your life. I realize I probably sound totally ghey talking about this. Please don't make fun of me. I guess it was just a snapshot in my head that stuck out for whatever reason. Maybe just because I miss all the close friendships I used to have. I have Dana, and she's the best friend anyone could ask for. I don't want it to sound like I'm downplaying that at all, because I couldn't make it without her, but you know how it is - people need more than one really great friend in life. And I guess I just miss having that, with all of mine living hundreds of miles away. They're still my friends, but it's not the same being so far away from them, not being able to hang out with them and stuff. It's just not. Anyway, you know who you are. I'll just say that I miss you guys and wish we were all still living within a 15-minute drive from each other.

Geez, veering off the trail a little bit, huh? Sorry. Back to the story at hand...Kweller's set was much improved after the first few rockers. His band left the stage to open it up for him to do a little solo acoustic thing for a few songs, which I really enjoyed. He did this new song called "On My Way" that I really liked and then, of course, the obligatory cover of "Ice Ice Baby". I really thought after seeing him do this at three shows before that I wasn't going to enjoy it, but...man, I still did. It was good. It was good and completely humorous.

Well, that's about it. We ditched the show a little bit early cos it was getting late. As much as I was enjoying the show, I was wicked tired. I found myself staring straight ahead during most of Kweller's set, unable to focus or closely follow what was going on onstage. I was drifting off into zones. Perhaps that's what caused me to go off into that weird tangent of a daydream as I was watching those four kids. Anyway, with work starting early in the morning, it was way past these geezers' bedtime, so we split.

ANXIETY BUILDING FOR DEATH CAB/BK SHOW

Got a pretty sweet evening ahead of me. Death Cab tonight - right here in Royal Oak, on my own stomping grounds. Ben Kweller's the headliner (?). We've seen BK a few times now; he's always the supporting act. So it's weird that this time he's the big name on the marquee, especially with DCFC on the ticket. Weird. But anyway, he's still cool. Not the best, but he's always pretty fun live. The upside is if it's getting late and we're bored with Kweller, we can just go because we'll have already seen Death Cab! Anyway, every frog and toad knows that Death Cab puts on a good show, so that should make tonight a good one.