For a music lover, I have a hard time getting excited about new stuff these days. I don’t know if it’s my eclectic taste or what, but it seems like it’s really difficult. It’s not that I don’t like a lot of what I hear, it’s just that I don’t love it. I’m rarely impressed or engaged enough to buy an album or song–or even put it on a playlist. Most of the big names right now? Don’t care for ’em. I just don’t find them interesting.

So when something does catch my attention, I get excited. It’s a nice change.

Enter The Struts.

So, after a long stretch of exclusively listening to my own music collection in the car, I was like, “Man, I’m so out of touch with the rest of the music world,” so I decided to prioritize radio for my driving–if nothing good is on, then I switch to a CD or my phone, and honestly, that rarely happens, which is kind of awesome. I almost certainly was listening to local alternative station The X when The Struts caught my ear. I don’t even know what song. But it was the kind of rock I’m drawn to, with electric guitars and a hook.

Said local alternative radio station announced their annual Kick Ass Christmas Show with The Struts as their headliner, and although I’d only really kind of dabbled in their music, I liked it enough that I wanted to go. And although my brother is often busy, when I mentioned it, he was in. And then when I shared the flyer on Facebook, his wife’s sister and her boyfriend were interested, too, and the great thing about general-admission tickets is that even though I already bought our tickets, they could get theirs and we could meet up no problem.

I kind of joked about this being a throwback show, because for starters, my brother and I haven’t hit a small-to-mid-size local show in a few years, easily, and it was something we did a lot in high school and college. And second, what that means is four bands on a bill, general admission, standing for a good few hours. Neither of us has done that in a while. A lot of what I’ve been going to lately has been in seated theaters or big stadium shows, so this really was like old times. Especially with four bands, because that’s starting to take up a chunk of time. Two is pretty common, three happens often enough, and then when you hit four, it’s starting to become a different beast. In the end, we were on our feet for about 5 1/2 hours, and the next day, Brandon sent a, “How does everyone feel? I’m exhausted,” message. But…worth it.

Because, see, The Struts put on a show.

The opening bands were all great, for starters, and I’m also a firm believer that way too many people are dismissive of opening acts, thinking of that time as a buffer for getting stuck in traffic or not having to wait in line to get in or to just keep tailgating. Some of the best new bands I’ve heard have been openers, and if you go to concerts even just on occasion, it’s one of the easiest ways to discover something new. I believe so strongly in this that I’d love to pitch a column to a music publication that solely reviews bands I’ve seen as openers. I could give you full lists.

I figured everyone would be good. It was just that kind of all-around vibe, where I could just tell it was gonna be high energy. But like…I didn’t expect the showmanship I got, I guess. From the second The Struts started, it was a fast-paced rock ‘n’ roll party, with the glam look and attitude that I’ve probably been wanting but didn’t know it. I haven’t seen a rock band with a male lead singer come out in glitter and makeup–and multiple wardrobe changes–in a long time, looking kind of like Freddie Mercury, and they won me over so hard like halfway into their first song. I was sold. I loved it. They were one of those acts that’s great recorded but even better live, where all the songs are enhanced and more fun, and that’s my favorite kind of show. (Related to that, the very first time I saw Fleetwood Mac, they played “Second Hand News” so wonderfully that the recorded version isn’t the same anymore.)

And they played a solid, long show. With a big-ish bill, Brandon and I kinda figured their set would be an hour, hour-and-a-half tops, but fuck no! Two hours. And it was great the whole time.

My favorite part, though? They did this stellar cover of “Dancing in the Dark” that had even security bobbing their heads, and about halfway through, the frontman announced he’d be bringing his very own Courteney Cox onstage. And I was a little concerned, to be honest, because rock music still has a sexism issue and stuff like that can delve into weird objectification territory. Now, I don’t know how this goes on a nightly basis, but for this show, his pick was this little girl in a homemade Struts shirt that was maybe 10 years old tops who was, so, so excited to be pulled onstage. She was adorable and her excitement was infectious. It was cool to watch this kid–who said she’d seen them six times!–get brought up to sing and dance with the band. The gimmick was that they’d get the crowd amped then have a dance-off center stage, and in the middle of that, she did this backflip and the crowd went fucking nuts. We all started chanting her name. It was impossible to watch her without a shit-eating grin on her behalf the whole time. She’s gonna remember that for the rest of her life.

I found out at the end that of our group, I was the only one who was seeing them for the first time. A couple years ago, Brandon and his sister-in-law Katie saw them at the same Christmas show except as one of the openers, and while he hadn’t seen them since, she was going for the third time and introduced them to her boyfriend, Gage, who was seeing them a second time. Brandon ended up sending us all a Snapchat of a list of tour dates with an Ohio tour stop this weekend, and honestly, if I wasn’t going out of town with my mom already, I’d be seriously considering it.

Needless to say, a great time was had by all, and we anxiously await their next Pittsburgh show.

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The weekend was a great success.

Friday night, we had concert tickets in Greensburg, but Paul had a doctor’s appointment he’d kind of forgotten about. It was early enough that it didn’t really mess with our plans, mostly, and he was done fast enough that we grabbed some dinner. The downside was it was late enough that finding parking was a bitch–we got one of two spots left in the garage near the venue.

The show was for Andrew McMahon, of Something Corporate and then Jack’s Mannequin, and for some reason I kept thinking I’ve never seen him live before when, in fact, nope–I’ve seen both of those projects live one time each. I think maybe I keep thinking of them as separate from him, I don’t know. But the point is it was a great show. I remember Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin being a bit more raucous, and this whole tour is more stripped down, so that was nice. He reimagined a lot of those old songs to fit a softer, more acoustic sound, too, which was pretty cool.

We grabbed dessert in town before we hit the road back home, and Paul and I switched roles–I drove, he fell asleep partway down the interstate.

Saturday night brought the return of the annual Dancing Queen fundraiser for the fire hall near where Terra lives, and after our pre-wedding dance lessons, I got Paul to come with this year. For someone who claims to not really enjoy dancing, he sure did dance a lot.

And Sunday, we went to my parents’ house to watch the Pens game and wrangle Seger. My dad was out of town for the weekend and rambunctious puppies don’t do much for productivity, so to help my mom get some work done, we went over, hung out, and played with him. The game was good, too–we won, ending the first round of playoffs. I’m hoping to make it out to watch games at Primanti’s and the big screen at the arena, but the house has been keeping us busy.

I can’t remember exactly how it happened–I think it was how easily Paul ends up in YouTube black holes–but we found out about Puddles Pity Party, a super tall dude who dresses like a clown and his this amazing deep singing voice and does tons of great covers. And we were both pretty into it. Like, his voice is so great, and it’s the kind of performance-art type thing I can really get into. He honestly reminds me a little bit of Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes” clown, just strangely not as weird.

It worked out pretty well that right around the time we were listening to a lot of Puddles, one of the local concert venues announced a show from him, and I remember the timing being so good that I thought, “If I’d seen this a few days ago, I would’ve been very confused.” And naturally, we got tickets, and me being me, when I saw that we could get like third row, I was like, “Fuck it, why not?”

The show was last night, and I’ve already written about it in the new AXS listicle style they want for articles, but I have to admit I like that–it’s a style that works kind of well for live reviews, I think, because it hones in on the highlights without being wordy. Sometimes when I do live reviews, I struggle to find the words for them, particularly if I loved it, because I can’t just write, “It was fucking amazing,” a few hundred times and call it a day. As much as I’d love to see him really just go for it and put in a serious, moving performance, he throws humor in and it works pretty well, and there is a benefit to not having a concert full of sad songs. He pulls people up onstage and I realized really quickly our third-row seats put us in the danger zone, but fortunately, he honed in on other people and never came for me. His sets, like his releases online, cover a wide variety of music over the years and he nails them all, and like I said, his voice is amazing.

Afterwards, he meets with fans in the lobby, so we were like, “It would be a great picture and he’s awesome, let’s do it,” and I find the result hilarious. Puddles and Paul in reality are very close in height–Paul’s about 6’5″, 6’6″, and I think he said Puddles only beat him by a tiny bit–but he stood on his tiptoes for the picture and gave himself a boost. And then there’s me on the end, and they both tower over me. And they’re both going for the sad-face schtick, and I’ve got this shit-eating grin. I mean, really.

I love it.

It was nice to meet him, but part of his thing is he never speaks, which is kind of cool because it makes the whole thing very in-character and performance-oriented. But he seemed very grateful when we gushed a little.

So yeah, we had a good time. We had dinner at the Waterfront beforehand, walked around a little bit, and since Mondays are my days off all month, I got to not necessarily sleep in since the alarm wakes me up when Paul gets up, but I did get to nap and play with new hair stuff meant to keep my pink dye job bright. If you look in the picture, it’s a tiny bit pink, but today, it’s a lot more vibrant, so I’m pleased. And then it gets redone in a week anyway, so I’ll be back to officially having Cool Hair again.

I leave you with one of the only–maybe the only–original songs Puddles Pity Party has worked on. It’s called “Palms” and it’s a collaboration with Sxip Shirey, and I fell in love with it.

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?

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.