Tag Archive | live music

The Second Week of May Edition

This last week was a doozy. Nothing to do with the fabulous top ten lifestyle but the dreaded “W” word.  I can honestly say that this birth year so far hasn’t been good, especially on the professional and budgetary front. I will admit my current job appealed to me for its boring stability that would lend itself to a more interesting personal life. Lately, this has not been anywhere near true. Now I just want to work from home somehow and get me a cute little dog. By the way, I saw my dog last night—a black French bulldog with adorable little ears. I would name mine Onyx after my graduating class of course.

alice_russellAnyway but back to the second week of May…Last Thursday, I went to see Alice Russell. I discovered Alice through the magic of Amazon. She was suggested to me and her MP3’s were on a $5 special. I played her music incessantly at work, when I could, as it really lent itself to creative stimulation. I slowly realized that this was a weekday show that started at 9p. and I’m not 24. I was beat, completely exhausted. I saw there was an opening act, so I decided to make my appearance around 10. I got there at 9:45 to see the opening act was still performing,  no slight against the performer, but I just hope for a short first set and that Alice would be on no later than 10:15. That did not happen. She started at exactly 10:38 (this is when you know you are tired). I will admit two things: first, the audience was extremely eclectic. Apparently Alice was on NPR that afternoon and I could see the NPR crowd, the stereotypical U Streeters, and the hipster set. Seeing Alice Smith was diverse and rather young, but this event drew folks who are 50 plus.  Second, Alice Russell needed another venue. Seriously, her kind of show and audience required another venue. It goes unsaid that I thought it should have started earlier. Alice was lovely. Her voice is gorgeous and lush. This made the sound system issues more frustrating as it clouded the perfection of her voice. In the end, I needed to duck out earlier to get the wonderful opportunity to watch road construction.

The rest of the weekend was a blur. I went to a Zumbathon. This was three hours of straight dancing capped off with a performance by E.U featuring Sugar Bear. I managed about 2 hours and 15 minutes as I got there a little late and it ran over. My thighs still hurt. It was fun and exhilarating and exhausting. I don’t plan on making this a regular habit out of consideration for my poor thighs. Finally, I finished the weekend with a pig roast. I haven’t eaten pork since I was a freshman in college but everyone else seemed plenty excited. All the event did was made me yearn for home. Every year my family has a pig roast for Memorial Day and I won’t be there this year. Hopefully soon I will have a wonderful Michigan edition post to share…

The Wedding Edition

So, last weekend was not conducive to writing a wonderful post. However, I did spend the third weekend in PimlicoApril celebrating the occasional fabulousness of Living Social. I spend that Saturday at one of my new favorite events, Decanter at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore. Decanter allows participants to taste local Maryland wines while watching the ponies. Last year, it was cold, rainy and empty. This year it was sunny, brisk and crowded. I do wish that they had better food options. You really needed more substantial eats to soak up all the wine. I found some wines that I just loved. This included a rather new winery, The Winery at Olney, a unique retailer that imports grapes and makes the wine onsite. The fruit wines were so delicious and I am not a fan of sweeter wines, but I was happy. I also purchased a bottle from Detour Winery and wrote down a lot of wines that I will be taking to my local spirits store for when I finally run out.

I also went to the Broccoli City Festival, which I fear I was too old for. How do I know? Well, Phil Ade has about a dozen rappers on stage with him and I thought: “Who are all these people? Why are they on stage? Will all of them be rapping? When will this end?” Yes, so I stole a picture from the twitter feed to illustrate why there shouldn’t ever be that many MC’s on stage. Look, I appreciate that Wu Tang Clan has (had) 10 members, but really only four of them rapped with any regularity. Black Alley did appear, but I was ready to go and we did.

I spent the last weekend in April at the latest edition of Liner Notes. See my first post. It was as fun as always. And then I went to a wedding! I haven’t been to a wedding in about seven years. It’s not that I haven’t known anyone who has gotten married, it’s just that they either had a destination wedding or headed to the Justice of the Peace.

Here’s a truth about me. I am a bit of a humbug about weddings. I blame my first adult weddings. I always weddingwanted to go to a wedding because they look so glorious on television. I couldn’t really remember the weddings from my childhood, even the one where I was a flower girl. Though, I acknowledge that I was probably an awesome flower girl. I finally got my opportunity in college. My first adult wedding was okay. Okay, it was long. There were poetry readings, ballerinas, a choir, a soloist, someone read a psalm. It was a lot. Then we headed to the reception, which was ho hum. This is when I discovered that receptions are pretty mundane. It is hard to describe what I don’t like about them. They are like proms, but not. The food is okay. There are a lot of activities that need to happen: toasts, dances, bouquet throwing, cake cutting. The music is iffy. I have been to two weddings in my life with great DJ’s. That is not a lot.

My next wedding scarred me for life. Terrible is not the word. I was told by someone that it wasn’t a terrible wedding as it was just a terrible day. Fine, I will allow that. Most people I discover judge bad receptions by the food selections and the availability of an open bar. I’ve only been to two open bar receptions. One I was in the wedding party and the other I had a long drive, so I probably had a glass of wine at each. The terrible wedding started late because someone lost the wedding license. Very late. Not Colored People’s Time late, but is this going to happen late? This also taught me to drive everywhere. In fact, my date taught me to drive myself everywhere, because she suffers from the “I don’t know how to make a graceful exit” disease. The lateness of the wedding led to a late reception. I was ready to go, but alas I did not drive. So the caterers left. Straight up departed. They did not feel like waiting any longer. Unfortunately, when the caterer departed they forgot to leave utensils to which to serve and eat the food. So the delicious food sat there, while the guests stared longingly at it. Some in the family was forced to head to the store to find utensils but it was a holiday and everything was closed. So we sat for an hour. Then there was a medical emergency, then people started slipping out and finally the bridal party looked around and there were about 20 people there and the activities hadn’t even started. Sadly, I was part of the 20. Boy, did I want to go home. Boy could I not, because well…things fell further apart.

So in hindsight, I attended a terrible wedding that I was stuck at for hours and was forced to console the bride in the end (see above). I served as a bridesmaid in a wedding, where I didn’t eat, at all because of an oversight by the waitstaff. In fact the entire bridal party wasn’t served and a couple of us went to I believe Applebee’s afterward. I went to a perfectly boring wedding reception where no secular music could be played. A wedding that was shuttered by Hurricane Isabel. The wedding turned out beautifully–getting married by candlelight–and the reception had to be at the in-laws.

So, on my way to the wedding last weekend, I started to panic. What if I was some kind of bad wedding juju? Then I remember when I was cleaning my second bedroom, I found a wedding favor for my friends’ wedding and realized that they would be married for 10 years in 2013. That was a great reception, but I did miss the wedding because I got locked out of my apartment. Uh oh. Hey, the weddings I attended are batting about .500, which is the national standard anyway. It cannot be me! I swear.

At the wedding last weekend, I remembered the beauty of weddings: the joy of seeing the bride for the first time in her gown and the happiness of seeing the bride and groom recite their vows and place the rings. It was all too much. It was glorious.

To quote American Beauty:  Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.

The Shake Off the Blues Edition

Last week was not a banner week. In fact, it was a terrible week. It was the kind of week that reminded me of why I started this blog in the first place. Somehow along the way, my job became not fun. There is no shame or anger in that; it is a grown-up job in a cubicle-land with pleasant coworkers. However, I needed outside interests that inspired me, gave me something to look forward to. Outings, friends, music always soothed me. That would need to continue in order to survive everyday life. So what did I do last week? Lots. Some fun, some necessary.

alice_smithFirst, I went to see Alice Smith on Thursday. People love her and I was oblivious, but the tickets were $25, so why not. I loved her too. I heard her new album “She” free on OkayPlayer. I will admit I am so glad that album previews are back. This is wonderful as I can hear and judge without payment. Yay! I liked the album (it will always be that to me) and was ready for the show. Boy, was that show late. On a weekday. Luckily, I was off on the following Friday. I dread opening acts now and another great thing: there wasn’t one. I had to google Ms. Smith, sorry for not being a devoted fan, to be prepared for banter or whatnot. There was no banter. I liked that the audience was very multi-cultural. It’s a weird statement. But I have a strong preference for soul music and the occasional hip hop. Therefore, my concert experiences are pretty homogeneous. 9:30 usually brings the multi-cultural and I found good parking. Viva la weekday shows! It was great. I adore Alice’s voice. It’s really a bluesy-rock voice that actually reminds me of Ann Wilson (Heart). I admire distinctive voices that are easy to recognize. She’s definitively on my list of those I plan to follow closely.

8-GO-GO-PosterFriday was spent getting one of two of my broken computers fixed (therefore, no post). After beautiful weather all week, Saturday had a bit of a chill, still sunny. I decided wrong-headedly to drive into the city for the free Corcoran day. This was terrible because everyone decided to drive into the city. It took more than an hour to get to the National Mall area. This may or may not be due to something called cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms were a little anemic on Saturday. I understand full bloom was Tuesday. I admit that I am one of those cheesy people that loves cherry blossoms, but there weren’t many to see. Then onto the Corcoran to see the Pump Me Up exhibit. I have another confession. I don’t believe that D.C. is a great indigenous music town. There are some good local acts but would I call the music subculture vibrant, no. My friend who has lived in DC since the 1980’s didn’t like that viewpoint, but oh well. It was interesting seeing what DC was like then, as DC in the 80’s, except for 227, seemed like a scary place. Of course I grew up in the metro Detroit area, so I can say this without judgment. The exhibit felt cold and detached as if the curator thought of DC as some faraway thing and not a place s/he loved. I really thought the exhibit could benefit from some multi-media. It was the 1980’s, not the 1880’s. How about some music, videos, documentaries? I didn’t feel that DC was too different from the movies I saw about the East Coast in the 80’s save Go-Go. Punk is punk, hip hop is hip hop.

drink the distictFinally, after a lot of walking, I decided to walk around some more gathering wine samples. I went to Drink the District. I wish it was warmer. I purchased the evening ticket from Living Social because I knew there were things I wanted to accomplish that afternoon, but the sun went down and the wind by the water kicked up. So it was cold. As an aside, in the early 2000’s I worked at the Navy Yard. The changes that have been made to that area are remarkable. When I worked in the area, there was a working crack house on the corner and now there is a Gordon Biersch. If only a sushi restaurant, a Potbelly, a trapeze school and other cool amenities were there when I was saddled into that spot. Back to the wine tasting, I didn’t like many of the wines, which is really rare. I decided that I really like Naked Grape products and some Moscato wines, because Moscato wines are tasty, which is why it is a dessert wine. I loved the concept and hope they do another one when it’s warmer.

My Sunday was spent running errands, being locked out of yoga and getting computer #2 fixed before settling into the return of Mad Men. Then back to the weekday grind.

The Badu Edition

Fuzzy Ms. Badu

Fuzzy Ms. Badu

Last week, I was blessed with seeing Ms. Badu. Anyone who follows Erykah Badu regularly knows that her concerts constantly surprise. Last summer, when I saw her at the Summer Spirit Festival, she appeared irritated and sang no radio hits. She stuck mostly to the Worldwide Underground, my personal least favorite album, and Mama’s Gun. People wanted to hear Window Seat and other more recent work. Folks were disappointed. I wasn’t completely. Only because every time I see Badu, it’s an adventure.

My first time was in 2001, fresh from Mama’s Gun. We went Baltimore’s African American Heritage Festival, where she was the headliner. My friends disliked driving everywhere and insisted that we take the train. Plus, it was a Friday night and there was traffic to consider. My have times changed. Her show started late and we only had about 15 minutes to see her before we needed to catch the train. Luckily, we heard a few songs including my beloved Otherside of the Game. This no-driving plan turned out disastrous. We purchased the wrong tickets back to D.C. Thus, we each had to either pay an extra $30 to board the train or be stranded. Fortunately, my girlfriend was one of those women (not like me at all) who could charm a man into anything. Therefore, we ended up riding free on the next train. Through all of this drama, I kept thinking that I wish I was back at the Erykah show, can I rush back to the Erykah show. I was in love.

True confession: I didn’t own Mama’s Gun until about 2008 when I picked up the CD for $6 at a going out of business sale for a failed retailer I don’t remember: Tower, Circuit City, whatever. These things blend. My friends were incredulous that I didn’t love that CD. It was the best thing in human life according to them and I finally admitted that I didn’t own the CD. The problem lied with Bag Lady. Anyone around in summer of 2000 knows that song was a breakout hit. Radio stations and video channels played it incessantly. The song was background music in every restaurant, bar, lounge and I absolutely hated it. It caused mixed feelings. I wanted Erykah to have success, but with that song. Ugh. Anyway, I wrongly figured that song represented everything else on the album. It didn’t not and I found out eight years too late.

When she announced the tour of revisiting previous work, I was conflicted. I didn’t love her previous show and needed good mood Erykah to make effective use of my money. I’ve never seen her in a bad mood (just irritated) but those that have are scarred for life. I wanted intel on how the concerts were progressing before purchasing. Erykah makes me irrational. My favorite song is Otherside of the Game, but my anthem is Cleva (story of my existence). I couldn’t decide which show to see. With all of the vacillating, it was decided for me. The Friday Mama’s Gun show sold out. Baduizm it would be. I re-listened to Baduizm several times to prepare. I forgot how much that album takes me back to one of my favorite years. I swear 1997 was one of the best years of my life. I spend so many nights listening to that CD in my dorm room while completing assignments since my university refused to give students the basic human right of cable. Therefore, I only got about four channels on a regular basis. I was set for the nostalgia and what great nostalgia it would be.

I was ready for the show as I don’t get excited. I won’t mention the cramped conditions of Fillmore. I don’t understand how the venue skirts around fire code violations as I think there were about 300 too many people in the space. We were shoulder to shoulder and I couldn’t move my arms. Nonetheless, we had good mood Erykah that night. She even made jokes. The surprising thing about the concert was how straight forward it was. When I saw her a few years back, she sang Apple Tree as a reggae/ska song that forced the audience to listen closely for identification. The show had few remixes, even though that word minimizes what she does. She merged On and On with Mama’s Gun …& On. She turned my adored Otherside of the Game into a spiritual, trance experience with the addition of echo machines and primal screams. Other than a few gospel-tinged elements, she executed each song flawlessly as heard on the CD. For the uninitiated Erykah attendees, it may have given the wrong impression. Those folks might expect simple, great performances in the future and that’s a set-up for failure.

However, the encores killed my worry. First, she did a cover of Chaka’s Stay, but not just Stay as she weaved in elements of other songs. Then Didn’t Cha Know which she merged with Believe in Yourself from The Wiz. That was the kind of awesomeness I truly expected and makes me a believer. I didn’t want to leave. I saw someone selling tix to the Mama’s Gun show on Twitter and almost copped them. Then I remembered that I had visitors in town and, you know, I should be around. That’s what Erykah does to you. You only think of her and nothing else. Nothing else.

The Overambitious Edition

Running a bit late, but here goes. I had multiple plans for this weekend, but the snow and a headache reduced my packed weekend from 5 to 2 events.

Jose James at the Howard Theater

Jose James at the Howard Theater

Last week, I had the pleasure of seeing Jose James at the remarkably frigid Howard Theater. Seriously, the place was freezing. People wrapped themselves in coats and scarves. Growing up in Michigan I was always taught that if you bundle up in your coat indoors, what will you do when it’s 20 degrees or more colder outdoors? Therefore, I never walk around in outerwear (a sweater or shawl only) no matter how cold it is indoors. And really, is it every 24 degrees inside like it was that day outside.

But back to the show. I admit that I am not familiar with Jose James’ music. I spent the last few years not discovering new music, but revisting old artists. This has been a great experience musically but has placed me woefully behind the curve on current non-ubiquitous artists. However, my friends love him and the concert was only $18 due to a wonderful Goldstar deal, so I was happy to purchase a ticket. I could not quite sing along, but the songs were, lacking an action verb, amazing. I actually dislike dinner concert venues, because I prefer to face the stage not look over my shoulder at the performer. Plus, the tables were too close together and we didn’t have much breathing room. But as the night wore on, I realized that the set-up worked. James approaches his jazz-infused songs quite slowly and methodically, letting his music seep into your consciousness.  Also, James has a unique ability to let his band shine and he may often stand slightly off stage as they perform. If warmer, the show with its crammed seating and intimate setting would lend itself to a throwback 50’s Harlem Jazz club, a rare occurrence in this modern time.

Changing America exhibit at National Museum of American History

Changing America exhibit at National Museum of American History

Next, that weekend, a friend invited me to a group outing to visit the Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the  March on Washington, 1963 exhibit at the National Museum of American History. Another admittance, I am not fond of history as an academic discipline. Current, last hundred years or so, history is easy. Television, newspapers and magazines capture and disseminate information (hopefully) as they happen as with the March on Washington. Prior to that the information gets fuzzy. Very fuzzy.

Think back to all of the rancor about the recent Lincoln film. History scholars were upset that the film depicts Lincoln as a great emancipator when his reasons for freeing slaves weren’t all together altruistic. Personally, I don’t care if Lincoln didn’t like or respect African-Americans as the historians claim as long as we were freed. That’s where the split materializes. People have this need for everyone to have pure hearts and actions. I don’t require heroes and heroines, just people who make the right decisions when necessary.

The saying goes that history is written by the victors. There are pockets of history that is written, stories that are written but not shared, and events that are distorted. Seeing these artifacts—Lincoln’s hat, Frederick Douglass’ letters, official records–makes history more tangible, but motives and thoughts will always be missing, especially without diaries or journals. The visit spurred an hours-long conversation about activism, race and the upcoming generation. Not that we solved the world’s problems, but critical thinking is always a great thing. And maybe that’s what history can provide.

Four Day Weekend

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for a multitude of reasons: food, fellowship and Friday, black Friday. While this year’s Thanksgiving was quiet, I did make the most of the four-day weekend. Growing up with a shopaholic meant I spent many hours bored in department and discount stores while my mother scoured racks for clearance deals. My mother loved to tell people how much my outfits cost. This was back in the 80’s and 90’s when department stores had huge discounts on merchandise. I don’t know what changed but there aren’t discounts galore anymore. The ability to brag that an entire outfit including shoes cost less than $40 has diminished. I actually hated Black Friday. Waking up at 6 a.m. to shop until noon wasn’t my thing. However, something changed when I spent my first Thanksgiving in Maryland. I didn’t like it and I decided to shake the blues of being away from “home” by shopping. So I marched myself to WalMart at the crack of dawn and got a lovely $99 top of the line sewing machine and a $39 portable DVD player. And then headed to Sears for my first digital camera. Hilariously, I use none of these things currently. My sewing ability is limited to hemming garments though I keep saying I will take sewing lessons. The DVD player was used for exactly two bus trips to NYC before I determined it to be more of a nuisance (because I prefer to limit myself to one bag). I dropped the camera in a fountain in Vegas and it never recovered.

Black Friday is very controversial. My name brand devotees despise anything but the best so scoff at most doorbusters. I am not an electronic brand junkie. If the best television costs $800 and the second best costs $600, I will be buying the $600 one and spending the $200 for entertainment money. I prefer experiences to things. However, occasionally the best technology does go on sale on Black Friday (rarely and usually at deadly Wal-Mart, which has just devolved into chaos). Ultimately, I stick to household items, clothing and appliances. I know that there are actual deals to be had and I learned to love the thrill of getting a great deal.

Now, I have set rules for Black Friday shopping:

  1. No off-brands. I owned an Apex CRT television years ago that never worked and I returned it twice! This was difficult because it was a CRT and I had no upper body strength
  2. No Best Buy ever. People camp out and I don’t wait in line. Also, it takes forever to check out. I actually waited in line for 45 minutes without moving once before giving up. Occasionally, I go later in the morning and get the deals that the masses didn’t care about.
  3. Never wait in line. Yep, I arrive about 10 -15 minutes before opening, queue up and enter when the doors open. Placement in line rarely leads to the good items as you just need to be rather quick
  4. Know what things cost. Not everything is a deal. Some stores, mostly clothing stores, marked things 40% off but raise the original price so it’s really only 25% off
  5. So, understand trends. Some stores also have a 40% off sale on Black Friday, but make everything 60% off the weekend before Christmas. Sometimes the converse is true. I swear by leather cashmere-lined gloves which go for $80-90 dollars. On Black Friday, they are $30 and they never went lower than $40 all winter. The next year, I knew to buy more on Black Friday
  6. No fighting. I think this should go without saying
  7. Scope out the store prior to the sale. Some stores stock the merchandise the week of Black Friday and you can get good surveillance. If I know that there are only 20 crock pots, I will head for those first versus the 500 pajamas. This also helps when items are in weird places. Target once hid automatic wine openers on the top shelf and no one could find them. I knew where they were and got multiples for gifts one year. They were a hit

After all of that shopping, I treated myself to the Faith Evans concert. Despite my numerous times at the Howard Theater, I have never eaten there. I always eat before going anywhere, even meeting people for dinner. This is for self preservation. I understand the food wasn’t good, but the show was awesome. Faith, sang her face off, as the old folks say, and was so energetic. She also had the best, happiest backing band that I have seen in an extremely long time. I saw her a few years ago at For Sisters Only, which never looks right in the new Convention Center, and she was okay. I reckoned that maybe I should have seen her in her prime and shrugged it off. I actually tried once when I first moved to D.C. and the show was cancelled. That incident leads to one of my best stories of how I once spoke to the Vice President of Ticketmaster. Back to Faith, boy was I wrong. Maybe the venue, time and event didn’t lead to a good show at the Convention Center, but we definitely got the best of her last Friday. I left in awe or should I say with Tears of Joy. Too corny. Oh, okay.