The Who

For some reason, I was thinking we’d seen The Who later in the fall, but it was actually the same week as Suavity’s Mouthpiece, Brandon’s Birthday, and Neil Gaiman. I would forget when I attended I concert.

We got the tickets completely spur of the moment when they came up on discount ticketing site ScoreBig. I called my mom, I said, “Hey, these tickets are up,” and we got seats on the floor around the middle for something like 10% off or better.

The played Quadrophenia in its entirety, which I’m actually quite unfamiliar with. I played it every morning as I got ready for work so I’d change that, which was helpful, but I still didn’t know lyrics (except for “Love Reign O’er Me,” which everyone knows but isn’t the best on the album). But in the words of my dad, “Who cares? It’s still The Who.” Point taken.

They played a great show, as they’re expected to. They’re another band that falls into the category of old rockers kicking way more ass than new ones. The show gave me a greater appreciation for Quadrophenia, and I bought a physical, used copy the following weekend in Pittsburgh. And if you’re looking for physical, used copies of any album and are in Pittsburgh, Dave’s Music Mine on the South Side, right on East Carson St., is where you want to go. Good prices, great selection, and great staff. That’s also where I hit part of my famous Erasure goldmine and dropped $70 on music in one trip. I plan to hit them hard on Record Store Day.

Anyway!

After Quadrophenia, The Who went right into a brief greatest hits set, basically covering their most well-known songs. And the one everyone was waiting for was motherfucking “Baba O’Reily.” I famously took to social media about the girl next to me who was on Facebook or something in the middle of it. Now, smartphones (and the fact that Paul and I used to be long distance) have made me guilty of checking my phone in concerts as the band plays, where normally I’d save that for set changes. It’s a matter of respect, even in a rock atmosphere. But to be playing on your phone during such a classic song is ridiculous. Really, I’m not even sure what she was doing there. She seemed like she got dragged with a friend and boyfriends. I don’t like to question a concertgoer’s dedication or motives, but if you don’t give any shits at all, you belong in the cheap seats, not the floor.

But I made up for her. I rocked harder than I have rocked in a long while, and I fucking loved it.

Top 5 on Friday: Icy

Top 5 “Icy” songs

1. “Love Like Winter” by AFI Overplay means I don’t love this song like I used to, but it’s still badass with a sound that just feels wintery. The video helps. And I’m from Pennsylvania, so ice and winter are basically the same thing.
2. “Winter Winds” by Mumford and Sons This song actually sounds more summery, but it takes place in the winter. In fact, it’s even a song that can make winter and ice bearable–as long as you’re not out in those winter winds.
3. “A Winter’s Tale” by AFI This is one of the songs that I really fell in love with after I discovered AFI B-sides because holy shit, you guys, talk about thrashing. The riffs are killer, it has excellent hooks, yet Davey Havok screams the verses, giving it a hardcore/punk edge. It’s a fantastic rock song, and among AFI’s underrated. It’s a shame that it’s a rare B-side, though that follows in the tradition of other beloved hard-to-find AFI classics. I’m looking at you, “Now the World” and “Synesthesia.”
4. “Hearts Frozen Soil Sod Once More By The Spring Of Rage, Despair, And Hopelessness” by AFI Yes, that title is ridiculous, but it was part of a compilation of shorts songs with long titles. This one is  just 30 seconds long, but it’s still catchy and fun yet aggressive. And what’s icier than a song with the word “frozen” in the title?
5. “Snowsun” by Fortune Howl It’s a harsh electronic song, evoking all sorts of icy imagery. And it’s called “Snowsun.”

American Idiot

Brandon and I went to see the American Idiot musical last night in Pittsburgh, and I want to talk about it now before I forget all the things.

This June, I’ll turn 24. This September will mark 12 years since the September 11 attacks, meaning officially, half of my life will have been spent at war, in a country under the fear of terrorism, in a time when things are shifting and people are scared and angry and maybe a little lost–especially if you’re a 20-something. Everyone is afraid their opposing political party is going to send the country to shit, and we can’t all be right.

I was 12 when September 11 happened. At 13–literally days after my birthday–my dad left for his first deployment, albeit on a base in Italy. He returned several months later, then deployed two more times–including once when he wasn’t supposed to and left when given the opportunity–between when I was 15 and 17. I can’t remember the time clearly. They blur together. I think I was 16 when he was injured in Iraq, and my college years were spent dealing with the various ways being injured fucked him up.

I was about 15 when I started paying attention to politics. Green Day was one of the mainstays of raging against Bush and the Iraq war. I saw them on the American Idiot tour. I have the shirt and some confetti with the heart-shaped grenades. Rock the Vote happened–but I was too young–and the compilation album Rock Against Bush. I read. I watched. I questioned. Now I’m 23 and pretty damn liberal–war should be a last resort, but it usually isn’t. I get criticized plenty, living in Pennsylvania with a Republican boyfriend who’s not really all that Republican. I see things happening, and I want them to stop. They make me angry. When I really think about it, I’m scared, too–scared that we’re moving backwards, scared that an entire political party wants to deny me rights as a woman, deny others rights in part because of race and religion, control marriages and bodies and personal decisions. It’s a confusing time and a confusing age.

And American Idiot captures this perfectly.

The musical opens with the curtain slowly rising to reveal a basic set of just staircases, metal, and TV screens–which are great to pay attention to–with sound bytes playing of Bush talking about terrorism, reporters talking about North Korea, etc. It launches straight into “American Idiot,” sung with fervor and pure aggression–and the sets the tone for the rest of the musical, especially with the music itself. Some songs are gorgeous exceptions (“Last Night on Earth” probably being the most notable), but overall, the musical is a powerhouse of attitude, resulting in an extremely effective and moving show, despite a very simple and even predictable plot.

The plot is nothing new or groundbreaking, but its success comes in the delivery through the music, making any simplicity or predictability entirely forgivable. It’s a one-act show–about the perfect length–so everything gets right to the point. A lot is done visually, which I loved, from neat scenes to dance sequences that are downright aggressive to the actual plotting. It follows the classic writing rule “show don’t tell.” You’re told a little, but for the most part, you see it instead, sometimes even without any verbal explanation or context.

In that way, too, it’s fascinating to see how the songs have been adapted to fit a plot. “Favorite Son,” for example, is an entire sequence featuring an all-American military poster boy, while “Extraordinary Girl” launches into an impressive dream sequence involving wired acrobatics and badassery which is genuinely impressive and a thrill to watch. I was totally enthralled and engaged. Looking away meant missing something. Looking away takes you out of the show. That makes it succeed where some musicals fail–rather than being strung together by songs, the songs are the real heart of the show, and you don’t find yourself looking at your program to see what’s next. It powers through with no real breaks, which also provides a greater context for the album itself. Lines make more sense or hit harder, enhancing the album. In fact, I think American Idiot as an album has been vastly underrated.

Which brings us to the music. The band is onstage, which is awesome, and the music is loud from the start with more of the sound of a rock concert than a musical. The touring cast’s singers, though, are damn fantastic. They have great voices that work with the music rather than sounding too pretty. The most impressive of them was probably Whatshername, who was just an all-out badass with a real power to her voice, shown best in “Letterbomb.” I’ve always found some of the songs to be excellent rock pieces, but the musical helps to enhance them and really showcase the skillful songwriting. And, of course, a plot, characters, and story make things more moving. I almost cried multiple times not because of something sad or even remarkably happy but because of the sheer power of the music combined with the storytelling. I did cry during “Homecoming,” which was beautiful, and certain lines were particular moving for me.

American Idiot can very easily be compared to Hair and Rent, with hints of Across the Universe. Though not really political show, despite the opening and occasional subtle commentary, similar plots to Hair deal with the military and how people around the military deal with the military and what can happen–a similar theme in Across the Universe, too. But it has Rent’s sound, look–especially given the basic set–and attitude, sort of taking the larger commentary of Hair and stripping it down to the day-to-day. Rent, like American Idiot, isn’t particularly political, but you’re looking at slice-of-life countercultural living in changing times and what that means for the characters living it. Traces of Across the Universe come in with sequences like “Are We the Waiting” with a line of people going into the military, similar to but much simpler than “I Want You.” Similarly, the “Before the Lobotomy”/”Extraordinary Girl” sequence is very reminiscent of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.”

I only disliked the ending–“Whatshername” closes the show (not counting the encore/curtain-call full-cast performance of “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”), but the entire “Homecoming” sequence would make for a better, more powerful ending.

Others, however, disliked sex scenes and plot points involving drug use, but isn’t that kind of representative of the times? For one thing, such things should, to some degree, be expected of a musical based on a rock concept album born out of a post-9/11 society. And this is 2013. Theater is pushing the limits, and as was Tweeted to me, there are plenty of vanilla musicals out there. American Idiot is gritty and raw, and therefore, realistic–because life in 2013 can be gritty and raw, too.

I hesitate to call American Idiot the New Millennium’s Hair or Rent because they are so iconic, but all three do represent the eras out of which they were born. The original Broadway run wasn’t particularly impressive after Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong left the cast, but there’s no reason the tour can’t kick ass and make this a classic.

Friday Five: Spinning

As always, from http://f.riday5.com.

  1. What’s had you spinning ’round in circles lately? Hmm. Paul’s mom, I guess. I’m starting to understand her more, but she still aggravates me to no end. I’ve been trying to avoid her. I’ve been pretty successful–haven’t seen her since the Superbowl.
  2. When were you last on a bicycle? I have no idea, but it’s been years. I keep saying I want to get a decent bike and bike the trails all over Fayette County, but I have yet to do it. Maybe I’ll splurge this summer and get on it.
  3. Who’s the best storyteller you know? Marion and Sarah always tell good ones. I think I do a good job, too.
  4. How well do you handle carnival rides? Okay, if they’re just the dinky ones at little fairs and things, not well. I won’t go on them. My mom never let us when we were kids, which was devastating, but it was because she was paranoid about their safety after seeing a random boxes of gears out at one such fair. I have a bit of apprehension about things like rollercoasters, anyway, so I already don’t trust thrill rides. Now, if it’s at a legit amusement park and is a permanent fixture, then I’m okay with it. As in I’ll ride it and be scared the whole time in line but end up loving it. Best case in point is the Aerosmith rollercoaster in Disney. I was terrified but ended up loving it.
  5. What do you think of TV gameshow Wheel of FortuneI used to like it more when I was little, but I’m not that into gameshows now in general, and Wheel of Fortune especially is one I just get bored with easily. But my fourth-grade teacher was on it once.

My Mom Touched Rick Springfield’s Ass

Everyone knows my taste in music is notoriously eclectic. If you’re at all surprised that I not only love Rick Springfield but was all over a chance to see him live in Greensburg, you’re wrong.

Of course, this was a family affair–as are all other concerts given by musicians whose careers started before I was born. We all go. Very rarely does one of us sit one out, though I wanted to for The Police. And I kind of wish I would have because it was kind of a forgettable show–the band didn’t even seem to like each other or want to be there.

But I’ve seen bands just as old kick so much ass that they put bands half their age to shame. Styx, Def Leppard, Elton John, and Paul McCartney (obviously) are all on the top of my list of acts you do not want to miss because they still put on a lively, energetic, engaging, interesting, fun show. And I’m adding Rick Springfield to that list.

Most people only remember Rick Springfield from “Jesse’s Girl” or General Hospital, but those people are missing out on a whole body of rock work. By the way, “Human Touch” is one of my favorite Rick Springfield songs, so start there. Then try “Kristina.”

The theater was full of women my mom’s age. The Palace Theater is Greensburg isn’t well-suited for a rock show simply by design, but size-wise, it’s perfect for musicians like Rick Springfield with a decent (and rabid) following. It’s along the lines of some of Pittsburgh’s mid-size to large clubs, just really pretty with legit seats. And they let everyone pretend they weren’t there, if they so desired, and swarm the stage, but our seats were close enough that we were able to stay put with no problem seeing.

But those ladies went nuts, ran to the stage, and took gifts and flowers with them. Now, I’ve seen lots of displays of female affection at concerts, most notably one woman who had “TOM” written on her bare ass in the crowd when Angels & Airwaves were playing X-Fest in Pittsburgh, but I’ve never seen bouquets of roses for a man brought by multiple women. He accepted them graciously, then took handfuls of them and used them to strum his guitar, thereby destroying them and sending rose petals all over the stage. And it was fucking badbass. Seriously, it was one of the simplest yet coolest acts of rock I have ever seen. My only regret is failing to get a picture of it every time.

He put on an energetic show, despite playing with a broken hand. He tore through a setlist including pretty much all his hits, some newer songs, some unfamiliar gems (like the aforementioned “Kristina”), and even covers of “Jet” and “All My Loving.” Now, I notoriously hate Beatles covers, but plenty of artists keep proving to me that they can do them skillfully (Cheap Trick is another).

He even came out into the crowd. The ladies loved that. He climbed on the tops of seats, got groped, and made his way down our row, singing right above us, which is always cool.

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He frequently lost his balance. When he did so in our row, everyone reached to support him. I nearly grabbed his hand, bandaged and broken, then stopped myself and grabbed his arm instead. Basically, my entire family kept him from falling, and he thanked us–but best of all, my mom’s position and and desire to rescue him ended up with her hands planted on his ass.

(In fact, my parents are the two people immediately in the front of the picture on either side of Rick.)

When he made his way back to the stage, he brought a little kid up to finish the song–“Don’t Talk to Strangers”–and it was adorable.

In the end, it was a great show, I had a lot of fun, and I left impressed. Then had to drive an hour home, get to bed around 11 or 12, and get up between 5:30 and 6:00 the next morning to be at work at 7:00, but whatever. I prioritize fun, music, and concerts over the recommended amount of sleep.

A Week Full of Fun Times

November was simultaneously a month full of fun times and a month full of rough times. Fun times: brother’s birthday, Suavity’s Mouthpiece, and Neil Gaiman all in the same week, plus holidays. Remind me to talk about seeing Rick Springfield earlier in the fall and The Who later in the fall. Rough times: perpetual crankiness I blame in part on being off birth control and back to my typical awful periods but more on Paul’s mom…and that’s pretty much it. Stay tuned for tales of the time I cried the whole way home for Thanksgiving and then gave Paul an ultimatum because of his mother.

But for now, the fun times! They kind of go hand-in-hand with the rough times because the fun times were a catalyst for some rough times. Go figure.

We had this week full of fun things going on, like I said. So one night, I went to Paul’s from work and then we trucked it into Greensburg to see/hear (and now Taste, because, you know, that totally doesn’t sound like the creepiest thing I’ve ever said) Suavity’s Mouthpiece at UPG.

Now, Paul and I have many differences. We also have many similarities. We also have many things that fall strangely in the middle, like music. For example, he used Muse as an excuse to talk to me but I can’t get into Jethro Tull and he doesn’t like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. We disagree on which Fleetwood Mac songs are the best (but he and my mom mesh perfectly in this regard).

The first thing he does when he gets in my car is turn the music down. Sometimes, he’ll ask me to do it, and when I literally only turn it down two notches on the number dial, he just does it himself.

This is a very long-winded way of saying I thought he was going to hate Suavity’s Mouthpiece. Normally, when I think he’ll hate something, I don’t take him. Most couples beg one another, but not us! For example, he didn’t want to see the Pittsburgh ballet’s production of Moulin Rouge, so Brandon and Kelly (Keldon) went with me instead and I didn’t ask him more than twice. But he doesn’t have a car and we were heading into Pittsburgh the following night to see Neil Gaiman, so I figured picking him up and taking him with me the night before would save some time and driving. But as we’ll discuss tomorrow, crashing at my apartment for like three days was not cool with his mom.

But anyway, to my surprise, Paul liked the show after all. Due to differences in sound with live performances versus the recordings, I’m not sure that he would’ve like it as much had he heard it, say, in my car first, but I will take whatever musical victories I can get–especially since this is probably the weirdest music he’s ever listened to.

(Related: I always love it when he hears something in my car and asks me who it is. Usually that’s a sign of dislike, but in some rare occasions, he becomes a fan.)

I wasn’t attending in any official music-reviewing capacity, but I blog and I blog about whatever the hell I want to. So, Pittsburgh peeps, I highly recommend catching a show next time they do one. I’ve raved about SM before, so I just don’t have a whole hell of a lot to add here. That’s what I get for not being able to blog about a show until three months later, but whatever. I had a really good time, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and I look forward to the future of Suavity’s Mouthpiece.

Here’s some pictures I took.

And here’s some swanky jazz and crooning for you.

Top 5 on Friday: Singles

Top 5 singles that you currently love

 1. “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey I know, I’m so hard on Lana Del Rey sometimes that it’s like she’s replacing Lady Gaga for the female musician that irritates me the most, but “Video Games” is a gorgeous song all around. This song show off all Lana’s strengths, too.
2. “Blood for Poppies” by Garbage I’ve talked a little bit about Garbage before, I think, and how I seem to have missed out on their peak yet still found their latest album a little disappointing. Now, thanks to rediscovering this song from said album at The Vagina Monologues on Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided Garbage must be an old band I delve into in 2013. This song has a killer, big hook with fantastic, ass-kicking rock elements. I actually didn’t recognize it and thought it was an older Garbage song. Fail.
3. “Closer” by Tegan and Sara I’m not sure if I mentioned this or not, but I’m doing the same thing with Tegan and Sara as I am with Garbage–they’ve been around a while, I never paid close attention to them, and then they released some new music that remedied that and I wondered what the hell I was doing in the meantime. Now, if you’ve heard the sone, you know it’s catchy as hell and a little bit sexy. What you don’t know is I saw the word “closer” at work today and the song got stuck in my head, and I haven’t even listened to it in days–until now.
4. “Us” by Regina Spektor Regina Spektor is both similar and different to Garbage and Tegan and Sara in that I’ve known about her for a while, but I’ve fallen more and more in love with her as the years have gone by. I remember this video quite vividly. Also, I NEED those tights she wears and I’ve been looking for a similar pair for ages, so someone help me out! Anyway, I loved the song then, and I’ve never stopped loving it. I still think it’s one of the most gorgeous love songs ever written, complete with fantastic imagery. Regina herself is gorgeous, too.
5. “A Little Respect” by Erasure Look, this isn’t my favorite Erasure song, but it’s the one that introduced me to them and led to a love affair. And it’s still among my favorites, and it’s exemplary of everything Erasure does amazingly well–and even better than all these whippersnappers in electronic music these days–and everything I love about them, from the synths to the dance beats to the sweeping vocals and the lyrics. Love, love, love. Makes me even more thankful for those used Erasure albums I managed to find scattered across the tri-county area before Christmas and swept up immediately. Whoever got rid of those has bad taste, but I love them for it.