2008 – My Musical Year in Review (but not like a musical revue).

Hey, I agreed that Bon Iver recorded a good album, but I don’t know if I agree with the way that everyone has been gushing about it.  Just about every music blog that I read has to mention him somewhere in their Best of 2008 posts.  If recording something in the middle of a bitter Wisconsin winter is all it takes (because that is the one consistent point that all reviewers bring up) then I’ll plug the mic in tonight – it’s well below zero degrees – and you can tell me where to get in line.  But instead of being a grump about it and taking out a long, frustrating day on poor Bon Iver (it really is a good album) I’m going to make my own Best of 2008 list.  This is based on my very limited exposure to pop and indie culture (compared to the real music bloggers, anyway) and is really just reflective of my own personal experience with music this year. So if that kind of thing interests you, read on!

Deep breath, here goes (in order remembered, no special hierarchy). 

1. Jenny Lewis at Epiphany Church | Chicago, Illinois | September 19, 2008 – This show was partly great because of the adventure that surrounded it, but it was mostly great because Jenny Lewis is great.  I’ll say this item on the list also includes the release of Acid Tongue, but we heard the live versions of all the songs first and the album was a tiny bit pale in comparison (just a tiny bit).  This show also gave my my first taste of new favorite drummer, Barbara Gruska.     …stay for the breakdown!

 

2. Tegan and Sara at State Theater | Minneapolis, Minnesota | October 11, 2008 – Half the fun of this show, as I said in my original “review” was how funny these girls are!  The grow-to-love-it Twin-Rock was pretty great too, I mean, that’s the thing that gets you there.  Lots of songs from The Con which I love.  

3. The Art Table Reunion Show at The Eagles Club | Green Bay, Wisconsin | September 20, 2008 

arttable

– A year in the making, The Art Table finally got together to make gentle the masses still quaking with mourning. This was a fun show, if a bit rough (my crash cymbal stand was stripped and just about useless) and we played a few new songs inluding Door Mat and Break Up River which will possibly someday be recorded.  There is some video from this show that I almost forgot about, which I will put up when I get a chance. 

 The piggy-back to this item is The Art Table mini-show, when Holly and I played a couple songs at Kristin and Nathan’s wedding at The Train Museum.  We both had shiny happy fits of rage…

4. The return of purchasing CDs (forget you, iTunes!  I want album art!) Some of my buys in 2008 included: Jeff Hanson – Madame Owl | Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs | Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago | Nedelle – From the Lion’s Mouth |Dear Nora – 3 States | The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon | Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue.  I would recommend all of them (although I haven’t actually received the Dear Nora discs yet, I pre-recommend them.)  This can also include my list of albums on backorder, The Dears – Missiles | TV on the Radio – Dear Science | She & Him – Volume One | Nicole Atkins – Neptune City.

5. Discovery of old Elliott Smith bootleg.  Increasing love for Quasi.

6. Growing bored of Mates of State, Tilly and the Wall, and Rilo Kiley.  I think this is a significant corner being turned in my musical taste, personally.  Of course it could turn right back just as easily (I’ve been known to fall in and out of love) but for right now the power-pop is a little more grating than it is fun.  Performances like this do not help their case:

Granted I never picked up MoS or TatW’s new albums, and only “acquired” Rilo Kiley’s disappointing Under the Black Light, but the point isn’t that they aren’t still good bands, just that I have started losing interest in them.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Speaking of, check out Milwaukee’s own, our friend Mike Mangione! (I think we saw him at The Cup at some point  in 2008, so he can legitimately be on this list)

7. Threatening to grow bored of Sufjan Stevens… (also here) Of course I will never really give up on Sufjan Stevens, but we had been getting a little antsy for some sign of life.  This was before I knew anything of The Welcome Wagon, though, whose debut Sufjan was busy producing.  Yay, Sufjan!

8. The Welcome Wagon – Welcome to the Welcome Wagon – I really do love this.  I’ve posted enough links to this band by now, but since this IS my exhaustive year-end list I’ll post it just once more.  It’s gospel music!

9. Seeing a free Ra Ra Riot show at The Union | Madison, Wisconsin | I don’t even remember the date.  This just kind of fell into our laps, we had never heard of the band, it was before their ship had taken sail, or at least before The Rhumb Line was released.  It was awesome.  It was totals fun.  The Virgins opened.  

 10. Handel’s Messiah at Christ Presbyterian | Madison, Wisconsin | December 14, 2008.  NOT just because I needed to find a number 10, this really was great!  I’ve always loved the music at this church, and this performance came at a time when I really needed an angel choir to shout praises in my ear.  It’s Advent, y’all!  But ah, I didn’t bring my video camera, so watch some other folks perform it!

Oh, there is one other thing that will make this list (I guess at top 11) but it’s not ready to go up here yet.  Stay tuned.

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Weekend in paragraph form (Second Edition).

It was one of those weekends that is almost too overwhelming to write about. So I better just write about it, or it will go forever undocumented, it will be in the past, and eventually forgotten.

No, I can’t. Too much happened. I can’t even write about it. But I’ll give it to you in one breath:

Drove to Milwaukee, Emily made me dinner and taught me how to wear makeup like a real woman, Molly and Arek joined me for burritos, Molly hosted a very exclusive art show, met up with Holly, took a bus to Chicago, the bus driver was crazy and held us hostage, K and N gave us a place to rest our heads and the confidence to take public transit, JENNYLEWIS was unbelievable, drove to Green Bay, the Art Table Reunion show was sloppy but fun and Rebecca, Shawn, Anthony, Andrew, and Andrew came which was awesome but unfortunately Rachel came two minutes too late so we got some pancakes afterward and I didn’t really sleep all weekend long but that’s what Tuesday nights are for.

But if I can repeat one part of that for emphasis, Jenny Lewis really was unbelievable. I’ve been able to hear her sing live three times now (once with Rilo Kiley and twice on her solo tours) and she is maybe the one person I’ve experienced who sounds even better live than she does recorded (and recorded she sounds pretty dang fantastic). It was a little strange watching the Secular Queen singing in a church packed full of hipsters, but it was mostly just great. Here is what I gleaned from some Youtube scavenging:

(These are from the show I was at, but I didn’t take them)

A new one:

An old one:

A cover:

In other concert news, I’m going to see Tegan and Sara in Minneapolis which I’m pretty excited about, and I’m thinking I might need to see The Dears when they come to town. Before Jenny it was well over a year since I’d been to a concert. I need to make up for lost time.

(Never said I’d win an award for the writing in this post, did I?)

(Photos by Molly and Shawn)

You should think about going to this. (And then go.)

Show’s at 9pm….

Big happenings and burrito let-downs.

There are certain weekends that are just destined to be great.  This weekend may be one of them.  This weekend not only marks the beginning of the Olympics (of which I have mixed feelings this year but am still growing daily more excited for) but it also contains the day on which I turn another year older.  I’ll get to see my family this weekend and some of my best friends, and no matter what kind of events unfold, it’s an August weekend, so I know it will be a good one.

If I may, then, I’d like to designate in advance another sure-to-be-awesome weekend: September 19-20.  I don’t know how to begin building this up with the right amount of suspense, so I’ll just give you the facts:  Friday night we’re going to be in Chicago to see… Jenny Lewis!  Ahh!  Jenny and her acid tongue.  I can’t wait.  Then the next day we are driving all the way up to Green Bay for, are you ready?  The Art Table Reunion Show!  It’s officially happening!  September 20th at the Eagle’s Club.  Be there, all right?  We’ll even have a few new songs, just for you.

Finally, I’d like to close by saying that today I had lunch at a popular burrito chain which I suppose will go unnamed.   I went there because I won a coupon for a free burrito, otherwise it’s not really on my dining circuit.  On the way in I read a sign on the door that said, “Our burritos are so good you’ll need a cigarette when you’re done.  Just don’t smoke it in here.”  Funny, right?  It was their attempt at a clever spin on the No-Smoking sign, meant to suggest, I assume, that their burritos are as good as or better than sex.  Kind of a bold assertion (probably wouldn’t want to explain that sign to my kids) but more upsetting than the crude analogy was the basic encouragement of smoking.  Just not there.  Smoking is cool, but not in our restaurant, okay?  Smoking doesn’t give you lung cancer, and our burritos won’t give you a heart attack.  Heck, why am I protecting them?  The restaurant was Chipotle Mexican Grill!  Kind of a tasteless move, for a pretty tasty burrito place.

Speaking lately in Last Nights.

(Note from B: The frinternet is down again, which means I haven’t been able to post this, let alone perfect it. I’ve got all kinds of blog ideas that are just piling up without any outlet. This could damage me, if left untreated. Sorry for the infrequent posts. This one I wrote on Sunday.)

Last night The Art Table played at a wedding. Well, more accurately, Holly and the Non-Italians played at a wedding and I sat in for a few of the requested classics. Holly and I also kicked off the set by singing that Moldy Peaches song Anyone Else But You that they sing at the end of Juno (which the bride and groom had danced to five years before Juno ever came out, so it was their song first!) We also sang Mable, which was really the reason why I drove up to Green Bay this weekend, and once we realized there was only one vocal mic I ended up signing with Holly on hers while someone else played my drum part… so we all got to hear what Mable would sound like with a real drummer! (For those of you who missed it–it sounds pretty awesome.)

The wedding was held at the National Railroad Museum, which looks really neat inside with all of the party lighting and the train cars and such, and while Holly and the Non-Italians were setting up I sat on the front steps of an engine car and took the scene in. There was so much energy in that canyon of a room, with the wedding party dancing and Holly testing the distortion from her pedals and some little boy wearing a Mardi Gras mask beating away on the drums like he was the happiest kid alive. I glanced up and saw the Wisconsin flag hanging from the rafters, and the train cars lined up in a row, serving industriously as the backdrop of all of this. Life was pulsating. The noise of joyful conversation and laughter mingled with white lights and then kind of swallowed me up and I was for some reason overjoyed. I remember thinking, or maybe praying, “God, can you beat this?”

I don’t know what prompted me to say something like that. Even as soon as I thought it I realized it was ridiculous, because A) of course God could beat it, but more importantly B) God was there anyway, whether people were aware of it or not. Sometimes I forget that when I’m in a secular place. I feel like I’ve checked God at the door and any fun that I have is fun without him. Sometimes I feel like if I’m having fun while I’m not in church, if I’m having fun while drinking a beer, if I’m having fun while rock and roll pounds against my eardrums, then it must be wrong. But that’s a lie, and an unfortunate one. That’s the kind of lie that can lead to guilt, and what about this weekend should actually cause guilt? Nothing, really. Fortunately, guilt never came. This weekend was just fun. I had a great time with my friends and family, with the fireworks and art supply shopping sprees and too-big burritos, with the rock and roll wedding party and, hey, with church too. It’s really a great relief when you realize that there is nothing wrong with having fun, at least not inherently. And it’s a different kind of relief to be reminded that God is still there in the midst of it, no matter what.

Weekend in paragraph form.

Emily chopped off my hair! (I asked her to.) It looks pretty dang cute, if I’m allowed to say so. Emily also turned 21 this weekend, and to celebrate we drank some homemade Cherry Bounce with our grandma and watched a bad 90’s teen movie with the gang in our grand tradition of watching bad teen movies (or sometimes GOOD teen movies. Aquamarine, anyone?). Emily, if you read this, I’m so happy I got to be home for your birthday! On another day, Holly and I played our old Art Table set for the first time in 10 months. I developed a pretty ferocious blister on my baby-soft right hand, but my drumming was surprisingly all right, considering how long it had been. Not that I’ve ever been a “good” drummer, but I was as consistently mediocre as ever. We also wrote a new song, which we may release on an EP so I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say that the Art Table’s demise has never been more fun. I had my car fixed. It was very loud and now it is very quiet, and it’s also very clean, inside and out (my dad and I did that, not the mechanics). I went to church this morning but with all of the rain my head was in a little bit of a cloud throughout the service. Tomorrow evening I start my psychology class, which maybe I haven’t mentioned here yet, I’m not sure. The collaborative comic project is also beginning to take legs, and I’m officially moving it up on the list of priorities. What all of this means is that I’ll probably be writing even less in this blog than I have been already. Maybe I’ll surprise all of us and update it with regularity, but I’m pretty sure June is going to be consumed with other things. But what will June consume?

You’re already so far away from me.

I have a date for the wedding! Just when I was ready to accept my fate as the lonesome bridesmaid, toeing shyly at the edge of the dance floor, my good friend and former band mate has agreed to keep me company. Well all right, she’ll be my guest, not my date, but that’s even better. The Art Table!

Speaking of, Holly and I spoke tonight about a possible reunion show. Holly, who has moved on to bigger and better musical endeavors, suggested this last fall but I shrugged it off at the time. Recently I have really been missing the good old days of The Main Stage and The Eagle’s Club, the days of Mable and Diana, and shipwrecks and dog bites and zombies (of course). Holly recently bought a new drum kit and offered to give the old Art Table kit back to me (“back” because once upon a time, long before we even dreamed of playing music together, they had been my drums and I sold them to her). It would be fun, having a drum set again, and maybe this time I would actually learn the proper way to play them, but I just don’t know where they could live. Drums and multi-family apartment buildings don’t mix, generally.

Years overdue, I finally got around to watching American Splendor this evening. Combined with a quick library read of an Adrian Tomine novel (yes, the same one I sniffed at with snobbish disdain last week) I come away from this evening a bit inspired to return to the graphic form of storytelling. Although it seems, at times, like I can barely keep my monthly comic strip afloat, I can’t shake the idea that there is some tiny little story inside me that can most effectively be told with pictures. I know it will never be anything epic, and it may not even stand on it’s own. But I think I have to get it out of me. If only I knew what it was. In the meantime I think I’d like to buckle down on my comic strip, get to know the cast of characters better. Did you know my comic strip is about a blogger named Paul? I didn’t even know his name was Paul until just recently. It’s time we got acquainted!

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You know I’m not usually a fan of music videos, but watch this one and try not to smile:

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