My 2017 concert run is coming to a close–the only one left is the annual Trans-Siberian Orchestra show, so that aside, I guess the last one of the year was Regina Spektor over the weekend.

I’ve been lucky to see a ton of musicians live, and at this point, there are very few I haven’t seen at least once. But Regina Spektor was one of those few. After several years and undoubtedly thousands of dollars spent on tickets, the thought of experiencing a musician live for the first time was exciting, especially one I’ve been a fan of for years.

And she started a little late, but she delivered. She played a lot of new songs but threw in some old ones, too, and I was really happy to hear songs like “Us,” “Apres Mois,” “On the Radio,” and “Samson.” She’s a beautiful singer, and live, her voice has a power that’s surprising. And for someone who goes to a lot of energetic rock shows, seeing a woman at a piano for almost two hours was absolutely a change of pace, but impressive nonetheless, especially watching her actually play piano–plus the other things she did, like get on a guitar for a few songs and do a few a cappella. It was a great show, a really nice night out, and Paul and I bother left quite happy.

And with that, I say bring it on, 2018. I may be looking at buying a house, but a wedding didn’t stop me from a steady stream of concerts in 2017, so why stop now?

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We got wedding pictures back from the photographer a few weeks ago, and they came on this cute little wooden flash drive with a picture of us on it. They turned out beautiful. I’m really happy with them, not just because she got some great shots of the whole day but also because she got great shots of guests and the bridal dance. My goal is to print them all out and distribute them–I would have loved to put them in with thank-you notes, but I started those before we got the pictures back, plus the thank-yous are smaller than the smallest print option that’s not wallet-sized. And I don’t think wallet-sized pictures would be as fun.

We went out to both sets of parents’ house to show them off.

And then we saw Ben Folds towards the end of the month. It was something like my fifth time seeing him, but it was Paul’s first–he doesn’t always share me enthusiasm for concerts, so I started to just assume he didn’t want to go to certain things with me. Turns out he actually had an interest in seeing Ben Folds, which I learned the last time after I bought tickets for me and Terra. So this time, it was supposed to be the three of us, and she ended up having to work the overnight shift that night. And of course, with our luck, of all the people we know who like Ben Folds, not a single one could go, and multiple Facebook posts from both of us reaching out to see if maybe there was a fan lurking we didn’t know about proved fruitless. So I turned to the Facebook event page, and that got me some success. We sold it to a woman there and just met her out front before the show.

And of course we had dinner at PF Chang’s first.

It was a really good show, too, maybe one of the best I’ve seen from him–not counting his symphony shows. First he played a typical set, then he came back for a second, where we launched paper airplanes onto the stage with requests written on them. And the fun ensued. Of course, before he even got started, someone yelled, “Rock This Bitch,” which has become a live tradition where when it’s yelled, he improvises a song. Twice now he’s used it to tell a story about climbing Mt. Washington in the city, and the last time he referred to it as “Mt. Motherfucker,” so that came back around this time. It wasn’t the only improv we got, either. He’s good at it and did it a few times when paper airplanes had some notes on them as opposed to songs, but that got one lucky couple moved from their balcony seat, where their view of him was obstructed by a speaker, down to the stage, and then another guy asked if he could go get his cello from his car and play it onstage with Ben Folds for a song. And he did. The whole thing was pretty great.

Paul had been saying he needed a day off an I always take a day off to sleep in after concerts, so we both took the day, which happened to be a Monday. He had his heart set on the Eat N Park breakfast buffet, so we did that, and then I finally remembered to take my wedding dress to the dry cleaner’s. And then we spent the rest of the day at home.

The night of the leak, we had tickets to go see Muse. We made it out just in time–I got showered and ready as fast as reasonably possible, and we had dinner and drinks at President’s Pub. We were running a little behind schedule and did miss a few songs from the opening band, PVRIS, but didn’t miss anything huge.

Somewhat strangely, a large number of people seemed to actually be there for co-headliner 30 Seconds to Mars. I get a little bored with their music–you can only throw in a “whoa” chorus in so many songs before it gets old–but the crowd was great, and Jared Leto is a really energetic, charismatic frontman. It’s strange to see him out on tour and performing after the success he’s had as an actor. I originally knew him as the dude from 30 Seconds to Mars because of course I did, that’s just who I am as a person, but after seeing him in a totally different context and now back to the band thing, it was strange. And people really love him.

Muse was amazing, albeit without some of the spectacle they had the last time we saw them, I think just because this was an outdoor show and doesn’t allow for as much of the theatrics as the hockey arena does. I wrote a review of it, but the basic gist is Muse is a great band who does a great live show and you should see it.

I took the day after off, like I always do after a concert, so I ended up with a little two-day break from work in the middle of the week. Except not really–the first day was dealing with the leak, and the second was dealing with the aftermath. With the wedding quickly approaching, I had a whole list of things I wanted to tackle, some related to that and some not. Instead, I took a garbage bag of damp towels to my parents house to wash them for free, and between sleeping in and doing that, it basically killed the whole day. I was back in time to go to the courthouse to get our marriage license, then go to our dance class. And Taco Bell.

Not too long after we saw Stevie Nicks in Philadelphia, she extended her tour and announced a Pittsburgh date. I was leaning towards not going, mostly because it was so soon after, but my mom talked me into it.

The day of managed to be this perfect mess of things that lead to the most pain-in-the-ass commute to a concert I’ve ever had without actually being late. It was supposed to work out great–my mom had to be in nearby Coal Center for work, so she’d come right over to my apartment when she was done. I ended up working a little late and was relieved when I hadn’t heard from her by the time I left because it meant she wouldn’t have to wait for me.

As it turned out, she was stuck in traffic. There had been not one but two accidents on the same interstate in the same area that day, and although that’s not the route she was taking, she did happen to be on a possible detour, along with everybody else trying to reroute. Meanwhile, I had to stop for gas, and out GetGo is in a real shitty location and is almost always busy, and someone was pulled in waiting for a pump in such a way that I couldn’t go around him and I couldn’t see around him, either, and make the left I needed to. So I decided to take a chance on going right, which I know from past experience isn’t a clean-cut, easily maneuverable block. I pretty much just guessed my way home, taking residential streets and making turns that felt right until I saw areas I recognized. It was a delay, but not a big deal.

We got in my building to find my key was getting stuck in the lock. Paul, who was taking Terra to what was ultimately a failed driver’s test, had fallen in mud on his way out and stuck his muddy key in the lock, which must’ve caused enough trouble to make it a real bitch for me to get my key in and unlock the door. After some trouble, I did manage to get it and Mom and I changed into lace clothes, the only appropriate attire for a Stevie Nicks concert.

She wanted to get into the city as soon as possible, so we were out the door and on our way. And then we hit traffic on a separate interstate that almost never has any trouble, and we sat in the usual parkway traffic, then the usual event traffic, finally making it to a restaurant across the street. It’s kind of a good thing we’d seen the tour before–we didn’t really care about seeing The Pretenders, so that gave us some time to meet up with Nolan and Brett and eat. How neither of us was in a cranky, hangry rage is kind of a miracle.

Fortunately, though, the saga ends there. We timed it well enough to get to our seats a little bit before Stevie took the stage, and she was great, as usual. Another bonus to going twice–she did “Landslide,” which she hadn’t done in Philly.

Mom decided to spend the night at my place, so we came back, had a snack, and went right to bed…because I had to work the next morning.

It’s just kind of one of those things that just didn’t work out great. It was my last Saturday on weekend rotation for March, and normally, since Saturdays are much more relaxed, I can choose my own hours and would’ve just gone in an hour or so later. But Stephanie’s baby shower was that same day at 2 an hour away, and I refused to miss it. My original plan was just to switch someone days to make my life easier, but when I ended up needing to do that at the beginning of the month for Pap Pap’s funeral, I decided against doing it a second time. It seemed silly to do it twice in one month. So instead, I worked with what I had. I knew it would be a pain in the ass, but I decided that the best thing to do was to go in early–I figured that way, I’d be leaving when it started and I’d be fashionably late but wouldn’t miss too much. So I slept for about four hours, then went to work, got out about when I planned, had a pretty easy drive, and made it to the shower about an hour in and fortunately had not missed anything other than snacks and mingling, which I made up for plenty after the gifts were all opened.

It was a nice shower, and I was glad I made it work. Some of the old crew was there and we all seemed to have a pretty good time talking and hanging out like we used to, which was nice, too. I hung around a little bit longer than the others since I’d been late, and Steph and I spent a decent bit of time bullshitting, the way ya do when you don’t see people often and they live an hour away.

So I was satisfied but, in the end, pretty fucking exhausted. It was a very distinct kind of tired, too–I’ve had days where I’ve gone into work after not sleeping well and end up struggling to stay awake if I’m not engaged in what I’m working on, but this was an entirely different thing where my eyes felt heavy the whole day and I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed at the end of the day, yet I was functioning fine.

Still, I was pretty happy to see my bed and not have to set an alarm for the next day.

Dancing Queen

The weekdays have brought work, of course, plus a visit with my therapist to do some quality venting about wedding planning and a trip to the mall to buy shampoo from Lush. I haven’t used it yet, but I will tomorrow. I’m so excited just to try a new coconut shampoo that it’s pretty dumb, actually. But hey, it’s the little things.

And then Prince died. My parents, brother, and I have a group text thread we use for general family communication, and my mom actually told us in that. When David Bowie died, I was convinced it was a hoax at first, but this time, coming from my mom, I knew it was real. I also knew she’d be in serious mourning–anyone who knows my mom knows she loves Snoopy, Stevie Nicks, and Prince. More than once in the few days since now, she’s mentioned how she still remembers sitting on the beach with her best friend talking about how they couldn’t wait to go see Purple Rain. This one hasn’t hit me the way David Bowie did, but it’s still sad. I used to joke that I knew Prince lyrics without ever remembering having heard the songs because I grew up with them. It was like one day, I realized I knew every word to “When Doves Cry” and I didn’t know how it happened.

So I wore a purple shirt and purple shoes to work last Friday.

Now, our favorite disco/funk cover band, Dancing Queen, was in town down at the casino just minutes from my apartment. We first saw them at a fundraiser for a fire hall where Terra and her mom volunteered, and it’s become something of a tradition now to go. I missed this past one–it’s every January, and it got rescheduled this year due to a snow storm. It was rescheduled for March, but it was the same day that I had tickets to see Jukebox the Ghost and went to look at our wedding venue, so I had to miss it. But my mom went with her Aunt Elaine and a friend of hers, and when they found out Dancing Queen was gonna be out here and for free, they were all about that.

So I came home from my Saturday shift, hung out a little, and changed into appropriate dancing attire. As it turns out, I found the perfect shirt from one of the many boxes Terra gave me before she moved. And appropriately, it was purple.

In fact, when I got to the casino, the stage area in the back was lit purple, and in the hour before the band started, they played all Prince music. Before Prince started, they had a moment of silence in his memory.

We ordered some food and gambled a little and lost, but most of the night was just dancing. That’s why we have so much fun going to see them. I do enjoy a lot of the songs they play–and they even played Prince’s “Kiss”–but it’s just so fun to go out and dance like that. It’s just music and a good time in the most basic of ways, and everyone is having fun.

It was great. I loved it. It was unifying and cathartic. It’s what music is about. There’s just something about a dance floor packed full of people, especially in the middle of a messy election year. Nothing else mattered for those few hours. Everyone just had fun. It’s something everyone should experience in some way, just something that lifts them out of everyday life and bonds them with other people, even if it’s temporary.

The catch is I’m out of shape. Sure, Paul and I have been walking regularly now that the weather’s warm, but we’re talking like half-hour walks on warm weeknights. Not almost a full three hours of dancing. Fortunately, I didn’t pay for it too horrible the next day, but I was definitely feeling it. I was achey. My mom even texted me and said, “My ass is draggin’.”

And for the rest of the weekend, we pretty much just stayed in. We’d gone out and done stuff the past couple weeks, and Paul, true to his introvert self, wanted a more low-key weekend at home. Worked for me. I danced too much.

The Stars Look Very Different Today

The death of David Bowie is getting to me tonight. Frankly, to post about anything else doesn’t feel right, yet strangely, I don’t have a hell of a lot to say. And that’s just as a fan–I can’t imagine how his loved ones feel right now, though it’s got to be great to see the outpouring of love and grief. All of my social media is packed with it, and I’m reposting almost everything. So much of it is so touching.

But I do have something to say. It’s a repost from my Facebook status, but I want to express here, too, nonetheless.

When I first started getting into alternative music, Bowie’s name was thrown around a lot by both bands and their fans. So one day in my early teens, I was out shopping with my mom and was scouring the CDs for something good and new to get, like I always did. And I saw “Ziggy Stardust” and bought it, pretty much on a whim–I hadn’t heard a single song on it, and I asked my mom if she was familiar with it. All she said was she thought “Suffragette City” was good. But that was it. That was all it took to turn me into a dedicated Bowie fan to this day. He had so many qualities that have come to be some of my favorites in music and musicians. Weirdness, creativity, originality, versatility, confidence, and just damn good music. My 21st birthday party was Bowie-themed, and it was probably the most drunk and most hungover I’ve ever been. The very first time I went out for Record Store Day, I underestimated its power in Pittsburgh and missed out on every single copy of his latest album that Dave’s Music Mine had, and then I drove all over the South Side to every participating record store to try and snag a copy. I never did find one. When I once talked to Brandon about songs in the running for first dance at my wedding, “Heroes” was one of them. Bowie and Iman were one of my favorite celebrity couples. Just last week, I was saying to my mom that I’ve gotten to see a lot of great musicians and that Bowie was one of the few musicians still on my bucket list and that I hoped he’d tour again, what with a new alum and all. In my still fledgling writing career, I even got to write a bit about Bowie, and I’m so grateful for that now.

Basically, David Bowie was the first musician who meant a lot to me to die. And it sucks.

Brandon’s normally my date for Punchline shows. Neither of us has ever gone to a Punchline show without the other–until now, thanks to the Army and weekend drill.

So I got Paul to go with me instead.

In retrospect, maybe I should just go to these things alone, although I was kind of hoping Brandon’s drill schedule would change, as it often does in the military. It’s not that I didn’t like going with Paul–it’s actually fun and exciting for me to introduce him to new music–but he’s not always crazy about going, so he can be a bit of a curmudgeon at times. And I worry a lot about whether or not he’s enjoying himself.

I can’t remember the last time I went to a Punchline show. It was probably the last time they played a show here, but I can’t remember when that was, either. And there’s always the chance that I couldn’t go for any number of good reasons. But safe to say there’s a decent chance it’s been four years or more, and I am kind of bummed Brandon had to miss it–it would’ve been a pretty cool triumphant return to our days involved in the local scene, although I am trying to see if he’s free for a local festival next month. Which reminds me, I better ask him about that damn drill schedule again.

Anyway, the show was great. The openers were both local, too–Mace Ballard, who I’ve heard of and did enjoy but wouldn’t say impressed me, and Nevada Color, who I enjoyed more and kind of have ties to. One of the members graduated high school with my brother, and I didn’t recognize him until the singer mentioned everyone by name. And that was pretty cool. I mean, I didn’t really know the kid, but it’s neat to see someone from our school opening for a pretty well-known local band. It also kind of makes it suck more that Brandon couldn’t make it.

Punchline was fantastic, as awesome. Maybe it’s the long span of time since I last saw them, but it had a healthy dose of nostalgia to it–enough to bring back memories of the tons of shows we used to go to, but not so much that it felt like reliving a part of my show-going past that’s gone now. What really made it interesting was seeing how the band handled their new material, which is more electronic, alongside their more pop-rock past stuff. The solution was basically more rock-oriented live versions of the new songs, which was pretty cool. And despite some grumpy-looking moments, Paul seemed to have a good time.

The drive home was a pisser, though. We’d had–and are still having–bouts of unusually warm weather, which is how the day started out, but then the temperature dropped below freezing. When that combined with the recent rain we had, things got messy. My mom advised me to drive carefully into town in the morning, but I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with it going home that night. We were fine almost all the way home until we were in Washington, just a few minutes away from the apartment. We’d stopped for some Sheetz MTOs in Canonsburg and were coming into Washington when suddenly, there was stopped traffic all down Route 19 both ways. Turns out someone had slid on ice and set off a chain reaction of fender-benders. At least 20 cars on both sides of the road had to be pulled over, although because some weren’t visibly damaged, I’m not sure why so many. Even the on-ramp to the interstate had some trouble and significant backups, and some lanes were closed. I ate my sandwich in the car while we sat in traffic, and when we could finally move, we slowly crept our way home.

But winter hasn’t set in just yet.