Just a little catch up in vlog world…

and a TRIP TO NEW ORLEANS! What a city.

Here’s the deal with me, and I know I’ve been over this several times and in several forms. In my formative teenage years I became a folkie. I appreciate a great songwriter. I’ve seen and see quite a few of them, and I count many of them as my friends.  There’s a vibrant and wonderful live music scene in this town/state I live in, and that’s pretty dang awesome. Lots of local and regional acts of amazing talent and virtuosity in bars and listening rooms every single night of the week.

However…however. I’m coming into my own as a “big show” junkie. I found that out this year and I think I embraced it…so much so that I plan on amping it up even more in 2017 if possible. There’s nothing like the feeling that being at a concert with thousands of other excited people brings. This sounds weird coming from me because I generally structure my days with priority number 1 being “avoid people in person at all costs,” but I had a few concert experiences this year that brought me out of my intro-shell. Most of them involved pop music. Most of them involved singing very loudly. Most of them involved me stalking down an iconic song to hear it live. For instance:

Vanessa Carlton: The Mucky Duck

“You know I’d walk 1000 miles if I could just see you.” That song was on repeat in my college years, and it was cool to hear in an intimate room like The Mucky Duck. Vanessa put on a great show all around.

Carly Rae Jepsen: ACL Moody Theater
“Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe.” One of THE iconic hits of mid-2000’s pop. Everyone knows this song. They may hate it, but they know it. Luckily Carly Rae has plenty of fans who love it, and we all sang along at the top of our lungs. Super fun. (The Vlog)

Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding: Cedar Park Center
This show is where mine eyes were opened to the glory live pop hath wrought.  Ellie is perhaps at the part of the mountain of her career where she’s pretty dang near all the way up to the top except she’s got more to climb and no one’s really sure how high the mountain is.  I’ve followed her on social media all year and the woman never stops playing shows across, almost literally, all the continents.  It’s incredible.  She has earned every hit and every accolade. As with my album review, Ellie’s show is one hit after another.  High energy, and still very accessible.  She broke it down with a few acoustic guitar tunes, played some drums, and danced her ass off.  I left a much bigger fan than I was when I walked in, which is really what you want out of a live performance. (The Vlog)

Maya Rudolph

Maya Rudolph and Princess: Paramount
One of my comedy heroines has a Prince cover band, and they were scheduled to play the Moontower Comedy Festival…in what turned out to be the week that Prince passed away (stop it, 2016). I would have them the pass of all passes if they canceled, but they did not. Maya and her partner Gretchen Lieberum gave an incredible tribute to a room full of bummed out people, which ended in everyone rushing the stage, dancing and singing loudly. A lesson in music and grief, and how they work together. (Same Vlog as above!)

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Austin, TX

Mary Chapin Carpenter: All Over
One of the more recent excursions so I don’t need to rehash a TON, but…as the aforementioned Vanessa Carlton song says, I will travel 1000 miles just to see Mary Chapin play. She’s a true pro, because I have seen her play solo, I have seen trio shows, I have seen full band shows, I have seen her swap songs with Shawn Colvin…whatever the tour set up, there are always new songs and different arrangements and she does a Q&A (I am the one that asks MCC what books she’s reading), and I ALWAYS leave feeling a little more able to conquer the world than before. It’s joyful and meditative at a Mary Chapin show. I hope whoever reads this finds their artist that does that for them, and while I would LOVE to think it’s MCC for EVERYONE!!!!…I know you guys all have your people. Seek them out. (The Vlog)

Taylor Swift Formula 1 Austin, TX

Taylor Swift: F1 Circuit of the Americas
It was not just a concert, but a full on mind-blowing experience. I love Taylor’s music, and since I am kind of spoiled with seeing people I really like pretty close up, I was a little wary of how this whole thing was going to go down. As you can watch in the vlog, we had a whole day to get where we needed to be, and we landed some prime standing spots close to the stage. It was an incredible, immersive experience where I sang louder and with more joy than I can remember, well…ever. Taylor is a boss of a writer, performer, and business person and it all came together with 80,000 people at Circuit of the Americas. 10/10 Would Do Again.

Whatever it is I seek at these shows, I intend to find more of it in 2017. A shared collective joy is part of it. An illumination either into the artist’s craft, or their ability to connect with me among hundreds or thousands of others, or just leaving feeling surprised at what I felt. I love that feeling. The “Whoa” factor. More of it, please.

My Smartwatch and Me

18 Dec
2016

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“Constant high frequency flinches” – a description of our lives on phones from the great documentary on minimalism right now on Netflix. I feel that a lot. Earlier this year, I think in March, the ringer switch on my phone flipped permanently to the “off” position.  There’s a way around it to toggle sound back on, on but it’s 3 menus deep in settings and WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT? So slowly I just accepted that my phone was silent.

To offset this new reality because I am a Busy Productive Person (TM) and also a sucker for a tech gadget, I impulse bought a Pebble smartwatch in an open box sale just to try it out…you know, “for science.” Soon all those notifications that popped up on my phone (and were silent) were buzzing my wrist.  At first I thought it was kinda cool…I always knew when something was up, I could see a text message fairly easily while driving (stop that), and I felt like a new version of Busy Productive Person (TM) had arrived.

As the year wore on, I lessened which notifications got through to my wrist until it was down to phone calls and texts.  I began to notice that while I might have my phone face down on the table at lunch with a friend, that wrist vibration was hard to ignore. Even if I didn’t take a glance, my mind was removed from the conversation with the real live human being in front of me until I checked the notification.

After a while the flinch began. What did someone want? Was it a problem? Was someone wanting something from me right this instant? Could I fulfill the self-perceived obligatory Busy Productive Person Response Time (TM) I had set for myself? It didn’t matter if I had just sat down to practice a guitar part or maybe write a song or work on some intense emailing or what…the wrist would buzz me, and I’d answer it. I started to get a sinking feeling when the flinch happened, because I knew my brain was now headed in another direction. I’d be scattered and dissatisfied with the task it interrupted and also dissatisfied until I handled the notification response, whatever it was. I felt on top of it but my body was telling me to work something else out for crying out loud.

Over Thanksgiving with my family in Houston, I forgot to pack the charger for my watch.  It died halfway through the weekend, and when I got home I put the watch on a shelf and I haven’t charged it since.

My phone still lives on silent, and I have missed a few phone calls, but now manage to not look at my phone for maybe an hour or two at a time instead of multiple times an hour.  This is kind of a big deal for me, the pleaser and “Busy Productive Person (TM). If anyone has noticed I don’t text back as quickly, no one’s mentioned it (I doubt anyone cares).

Since I am a sucker for a new year’s resolution, I’m going to try and pay less attention to the buzzes and the little red notification bubbles and see what happens. If anything my brain will feel a little calmer.

We can dissect the ins and outs of this year as a whole another time, but for now I’m gonna focus on what I focus on best: the music. And for all its other weird aspects, 2016 was a pretty awesome music year for me, both for getting good things on disc (or data) and for seeing awesome shows. Let’s commence.

The Recorded Good

Albums…yes, I still buy them. Usually via iTunes. I am a very heavy “single” consumer these days, though…like most people who listen to the radio. If I hear it and like it, I’ll usually get the song. If I find myself getting a decent amount of songs from one release, I’ll usually go all in on the album.

Susan Gibson: Remember Who You Are

Any year with a Susan album in it is a magic year, and this one has been one of my favorites since it landed in my earholes earlier this year.  I know I am biased but I am also right. Susan recorded with good friend and all around Buddha Don Richmond, and they took a perfect batch of songs and made them perfecter. In particular, Susan can’t play “Put the Shovel Down” without me actually getting goosebumps and it’s awkward because while it’s one of her most serious songs, I will request it everywhere and bring everyone else in the room down into goosebumpy meditation with me. Don’t miss it. (Also, thanks to Emily Shirley, some of the best album artwork everrrrrr).


Ellie Goulding: Delirium
Technically a late 2015 release, I didn’t get his until I was nearing the live Ellie show in April. The thing she’s proven with her recordings is that she’s an album artist, not just a single dropper. This one picks up where her 2013 release “Halcyon Days” leaves off…almost every track is an earworm for me. She’s a singer-songwriter at heart, but uses beats and rhythm in a fantastic way. Highlights: Something in the Way You Move (above), On My Mind, Codes

Mary Chapin Carpenter: The Things We Are Made Of
It’s always a good year when MCC releases a project, and this one lived up to my expectations. A big old deal was made about Dave Cobb producing, because he’s the “it” Americana producer this year, and that’s great but…it sounds like a Mary Chapin Carpenter album and that’s awesome, so I’m gonna give a big round of applause to Mary Chapin. Some of the best writing you’ll find anywhere. Highlights: Something Tame Something Wild, The Blue Distance, Oh Rosetta

Elizabeth Wills: Every Little Star

I was lucky enough to be in the studio for the birth of this album in January, and even if I didn’t see the love and attention that went into this record, I know I’d still hear it pouring from my speakers. Elizabeth is a healing kind of songwriter to listen to, much like MCC above, and these are some of my favorite songs of hers. Especially check out: Love Come Down and Spinning Circle

Kiiara: Low Key Savage
I bought Kiiara’s EP because I really loved her breakthrough single “Gold,” and all of it is one pop/EDM trip that I have grown to love. One of the critiques of “Gold” is that it’s hard to hear the words and to that I say…but that BEAT. Also that line is “Gold up in my teeth, tastes like money when I speak.”


Lady Gaga: Joanne
Of course, I was excited for a Gaga album. This one is different. Some have called it a country album, and while she’s written with a Nashville hit maker (Hillary Lindsey, who is certifiably awesome) for a couple of songs, I don’t really see this as such. It’s a songwriter album, and there’s still the requisite amount of weird to make it a Gaga album. I was a little sad to lose the Eurodance sound I love from her, I am currently obsessed with Million Reasons, so I guess I’m ok with it all.

Singles:

Since “one track at a time” is increasingly the way I want to buy music, I thought individual songs needed their own list. Heavy on the pop.

Calvin Harris/Rihanna – This Is What You Came For: T-Swift wrote this and if you listen really close you can discern which “ooo ooo ooo”‘s are hers and which are Rihanna’s. Yes I’m a nerd. I got to hear the solo piano version live in October so that was cool.

The Belle Sounds – Call Out Love
The Belle Sounds – Olivia
The best band in Austin right now FIGHT ME. The songs, the sounds, the harmonies…they sound like their recordings when they play live and that is incredible.

Johnnyswim – Let It Matter: This duo is back and their new album is gorgeous. This song especially gets me, and their melodies are top notch.

Major Lazer + Justin Bieber – Cold Water: Yep, hell froze over and The Biebs made my list. Whatever you think about his pants and his conduct, the kid attaches to a good pop song, usually. He had an especially good year with his own album, but guest spots on other songs sealed the deal. This one is my jam.

X Ambassadors – Unsteady: I know nothing about this band but this song was big and I never got tired of it.

Mike Posner – I Took A Pill In Ibiza: I feel like this one came out last year, but maybe not…anyway it’s big on the Grammy nom list this year. I feel like these are some of the most honest lyrics on pop radio at the moment. In fact, Posner wrote it as an acoustic folk song, and the remix got sucked up into hit radio land and here we are. It’s great.

And here we are, in December. May the 2017 music muses be kind to us.

Next post: the live stuff.

42 Vlogs!  Amazing.  Also I have this really crazy run going with these last 3:

40: T-Swift
41: Mary Chapin
42: THE BOSS

Not that there’s pressure for 43 but maybe a little. Anyway…I got to meet Bruce Springsteen and my tattoo is half done and life’s ok from over here.

Vlog 41: MCC Edition

30 Nov
2016

Roadtrips and good friends and coffee and Mary Chapin Carpenter. These are a few of my favorite things!

MCC is Awesome

12 Nov
2016

Wow.  There’s an incredible amount of things going on in the world at the moment.  Hard to wrap one’s mind around the changes politically and socially this week, but I’m sure my head will start wrapping soon.  Or try to…holy crap.  In the meantime, photos.

Before Election 2016 went down on Tuesday, I saw 3 Mary Chapin Carpenter Shows in Dallas, Austin, and Oklahoma City.  All amazing.  More on the details later but for now in the sake BLOGGING SOMETHING…photos.

Night 1: Dallas, Texas

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Dallas, TX

Night 2: Austin, Texas

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Austin, TX

Night 3: Oklahoma City, OK

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Oklahoma City, OK

What a fantastic show. And a fantastic day. Thanks Melinda Ann and Taylor!

It was a very Swift week, starting with a little detour north to Dallas for the State Fair (!) and the museum-like Taylor Swift Experience. Join me and my new hat.

Last night I got to fulfill one of my Big Bucket List Items (TM) and see Taylor Swift do her awesome music thing live in person from a few rows back at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.

It was amazing.

From the opening bassy rumbles that shot through the crowd of 80,000 people like an earthquake, to Taylor rising up from center stage, to every song being a complete joy because I’d think, “YES I LOVE THIS SONG!” It’s not often that I get to really embrace my pop music self outside of my 4 walls and sing and dance and get lost in a spectacle, but all of that was supplied by Taylor on Saturday night.

I went with Concert Buddy Extraordinaire, Melinda Ann. She knows how to roll, and we both share a need to be close to the action which is always good. If you go to a show with someone who isn’t cool with being crushed by a horde of people, you definitely won’t be near the action. We got all up in there.

Looks like we made it!! @_plma_ @cota_official @taylorswift #attachestaysway

I’ll save the day long F1 Track experience for the vlog, but we wormed our way up to PRETTY dang close to the stage. Like..none of my photos did our view justice. We could see everything really clearly without looking at the screens, from facial expressions to Taylor’s really cool shoes (get it, girl).

Taylor had a cold, and in the Most Realest Thing I have ever seen an international pop star do on stage…she had her background vocalists bring her tissues from time to time and she’d just blow her nose right there. Sometimes you just gotta get the snot out so you can sing. I’d also like to note that I feel like my luck is also that if I had one gig all year long (this was her only 2016 show), I’d probably get a cold too. Not insurmountable, but a bit of Murphy’s Law at work.

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None of that cold business stopped her from doing solo acoustic songs on guitar (Fifteen) and piano (This Is What You Came For – hell yes – and Sparks Fly!)

Taylor Swift in Austin

There are 3 Taylors (at least) in this photo.

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One of my favorite things was that Melinda Ann and I were squished up right behind a group of about 5 teenage girls (and their parental chaperones – good job, parents!). It was really fun to watch those girls have the time of their lives as we were having ours. When Taylor played “Fifteen” (admittedly, a song that came way before my Swift fandom time) with lyrics like:

‘Cause when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you
You’re gonna believe them
And when you’re fifteen feeling like there’s nothing to figure out but
count to ten, take it in
This is life before you know who you’re gonna be
Fifteen

…these girls were just sobbing and singing along, grabbing each other for their favorite lines, and I am POSITIVE feeling like no one in the world understands them like Taylor Swift understands them right now.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons…say what some people will about T-Swift and pop music and 18-year-olds writing songs (STEP UP HATERS I CAN HANDLE YOU), but Taylor really just hits the nail on the head of a true emotion. Theoretically it’s a true emotion that she had herself (though songwriting is not always that way…other people’s emotions are fair game in songwriter land)…but however she did it, it came out as a piece of writing that is able to connect to a massive swath of people, and KEEP connecting to subsequent generations. That is why pop music is short for “popular music.” That song is 10 years old, so 25-year-olds are reminiscing about it, and these 15-year-olds are living it right now. That’s timeless, and that’s important.

In fact, I saw a great quote on the wall at the Taylor Swift Experience at the State Fair (it was a very Swift week, what can I say?):

“Swift is one of pop’s finest songwriters, country’s foremost pragmatist and more in touch with her inner life than most adults.”- The New York Times

I TOTALLY get this when I listen to Taylor, and as a 30-something (I’m about 4 years into my Swift fandom so I started my 30’s with her), I can give you a laundry list of favorite lyrics of hers that hit me somewhere meaningful. She transcends her age with her writing, and while it’s poetic, it’s more the thoughtful dissection of a visceral feeling that I appreciate when I’m listening to a Swift song.

Those girls were appreciating it, too, among 80,000 of us on a race track on the outskirts of Austin last night. It hit them in the gut, and I have no doubt those moments will continue to happen for them with Taylor’s music as they seem to keep happening for me. This is why pop music is important. These teenage fans might be the ones that support your favorite band in 10 years, because Taylor taught them how to really connect with a song. Just don’t be surprised if they’re still singing along to “Fifteen,” too…that formative song bond is a hard one to break. Mary Chapin Carpenter taught me how to let a song crawl into my insides and make its home when I was 15 years old…and I’m glad she opened that space so all these new songs including Taylor’s get to come in, too.

And then we all danced everything bad out of our system and kept all the good…we’ll all be buzzing on this show for a good while to come, I imagine.

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