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.

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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.

Friday Five: La La La La La La La

  1. What’s your favorite song about a specific city? I’m sure I’ve forgotten some gems, but I have to mention “Adelaide” by Anberlin. It’s kind of about a city, kind of not–its name comes from a city (and the album it’s from, actually, is called Cities) but lyrically, it sounds to be more like a woman or a relationship. But it’s always been one of my favorites from Anberlin and one of my favorites from that album.
  2. What’s your favorite song about a real, historical figure? Okay, so, I couldn’t think of any and did some Googling and clicked the first link I came to, which was this. And I definitely have to go with some on this list–“God Save the Queen” by The Sex Pistols, for one, and “Suffragette City” by David Bowie, even though that song seems to have nothing to do with Suffragettes. And while it’s not strictly about history, “American Pie” by Don McLean does drop some good references.
  3. What are your favorite song and favorite group (or solo artist) from the classic Motown era? My Motown collection is seriously lacking, and while there’s a few Motown artists I’m familiar with and have dabbled in, I don’t feel like I’ve listened to any enough to be able to declare a favorite. That said, there’s a chance it would be The Temptations, just based on some of my favorite Motown songs–most notably “My Girl.” I also really, really love “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by Four Tops.
  4. What’s your favorite song by a musician (or band) you really dislike? I bet you’d find a lot of these if you looked through my “Starred” playlist on Spotify–there’s a lot of one-off songs lurking in there by musicians I’m not really a fan of otherwise. It seems to happen the most with country. I know I have a few Blake Shelton and The Band Perry songs in there. And I know this is blasphemous in some circles, but I just can’t get into Elvis Costello. I’ve tried. He just doesn’t do it for me. But I love “Veronica.”
  5. What’s your favorite song with the word “song” in its title? Surprisingly, searching my iTunes really delivered on this one, and I never realized how many songs I love do have the word “song” in the title. “The Bed Song” by Amanda Palmer is a pretty one that’s grown on me. “Dumb Pop Song” by Lucky Boys Confusion because it’s really catchy and fun. “Jenn’s Song” by local Blue of Colors is one of my favorites of theirs in particular. “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” by Elton John because it’s one of his classics and so, so true, plus I love the video. “The Authority Song” by Jimmy Eat World because I love the chorus, not to mention those guitars. All-time favorite, though? “The Great Song of Indifference” by Bob Geldof. Starts slow, builds up wonderfully, is really fun and kind of rebellious, has a great combination of instruments, all that fun stuff.

I still hate Valentine’s Day. I still think it’s a holiday that’s become far more commercialized than Christmas–people still at least know why we celebrate Christmas, but I don’t think people know St. Valentine was even a person. I hate that we use it as a day to express something we should do daily. I hate that social media is filled with pictures of flowers and jewelry like getting gifts on a holiday that society pressures you into is somehow impressive. Look, I love me a thoughtful gift, but a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, and a necklace on a holiday dedicated to those objects doesn’t make your significant other “the best ever!” You know what shows dedication and love and selflessness? A partner who goes out of his/her way on a regular to do make you feel loved and appreciated. Talk to me when your partner cleans your apartment or does your dishes while you’re at work for no reason. Call them the best ever then, not because they bought the same shit that everyone else on social media bought.

So Paul and I don’t technically celebrate Valentine’s Day. He brought me roses last year and knows me well enough to know that I like my flowers a little bit nontraditional, so he got me orange roses. This year, he didn’t really do anything, but he did bring me some cookies from a batch he made earlier in the week.

Thing is, it’s hard to not celebrate Valentine’s Day when cool things happen on that day–last weekend’s ballet trip, after all, was a Valentine production, plus we saw Swan Lake last year and I went with Brandon and Kelly to the Moulin Rouge ballet the year before that–Paul wasn’t interested in that one. This year, Jukebox the Ghost was playing in the city, though it was more like a coincidence and not a specific Valentine’s show.

First of all, I’ve really fallen in love with that band, and I’m not gonna lie–I owe it solely to Marion. She put a song of theirs on a mix for me years ago and we saw them together a few years ago. I think I missed them the last time they came through, and once I made it through Christmas, I used that paycheck for tickets.

The problem with buying tickets to things in Pennsylvania in February is it’s unpredictable. Last weekend, the weather was gorgeous and warm. This weekend–like many Valentine’s Days past where I got stuck when I had tickets to a thing–it snowed. Now, it wasn’t the worst ever, but the timing was bad enough and Washington’s plows are careless enough that it did interfere with our plan. Washington’s lack of plowing is incredibly frustrating, by the way–the roads were still covered and shitty when we were coming back in around 1 a.m., and the snow had stopped around 5 in the evening. They just didn’t bother.

The plan was to eat somewhere that wasn’t likely to be crowded, so we decided on the Chinese buffet, which worked pretty much perfectly. We even finished to leave when I wanted around 6, but by then, the snow was enough of an issue that I resigned and said I would be okay with us risking getting a shitty spotty for a standing-room only concert so we could take our time getting there. To make things even more inconvenient, the inbound tunnel we need to take was closed, so we had to go around. Which would be fine when it’s not snowing–a little more congested with traffic lights and therefore a little longer, but no big deal. I was really frustrated knowing the highway would probably be snow-free and get us there much faster if the tunnel was open.

I wanted to get there when doors opened, but we got in about 45 minutes after that by the time I remembered where the parking lot was–I haven’t been to Mr. Smalls in a few years–and walked up. The tradeoff was that the temperature was in the teens at best, so we weren’t waiting out in the cold, for one, and since there was no line left, I decided not to fuss with my huge winter coat and borrowed a hoodie from Paul. Only froze my ass off walking to and from the car, and I impressed Paul with my “I’m fucking freezing, get me inside now” speedwalking.

Turns out we did get a pretty good spot. We squeezed in right on the side, and for a little while, his height wasn’t blocking anyone. This cute little short girl–shorter than me–came in somewhere after the first band, and we let her go in front of us. I’ve been in her situation before. Paul’s 6’4″. I’m 5’4″, and she was shorter than me. She seemed grateful. Just doing my concertly duty.

I’ve written a full review for AXS, so I’ll link it when it goes liveit’s here!–but in short: Secret Someones opened, who were my favorite of the two openers and were a mostly female rock band and pretty great. Really liked them, and I love seeing a female-dominated band. It’s rare. Like, they exist, but I’m used to concerts being a sausage fest. So it was also nice when the second band, Little Daylight, had a lady singer. They were also a good band, and her voice was really pretty.

In the meantime–mostly between Little Daylight and Jukebox the Ghost–this girl next to me starting annoying the shit out of me, and she kept it up for the duration of the night, pretty much. First, she started complaining about the opening bands. She wasn’t complaining that she didn’t like them (and with Secret Someones especially, what’s not to like?) but she was complaining that she had to see them at all. And believe me, I get being excited for the headliner and sort of just wanting to skip to them sometimes, but I’ve seen some excellent openers I’ve fallen in love with and would never have heard otherwise. But I get that’s not everyone’s thing, even if they do end up liking the band–and she did like Little Daylight, and I don’t think she’d been there for Secret Someones. If she was, I didn’t hear her. My issue is if opening bands are such a bane on your existence, why are you there for them? Obviously, I get wanting to get there early to secure a good spot, but if you’re gonna do that, then suck it up when it comes to openers. If they’re that much of a problem, come later.

Her next problem was the bands setting up the gear and doing brief soundchecks. I think the first complaint there was that they don’t have things ready to go from the start, which I used to agree with in my early concert days, but you go to just a handful and it becomes pretty obvious–especially in small venues–that’s not really doable. Again, this is just a reality of the nature of shows. Then she complained it was taking too long for them to do it, and while I agree it did seem to take longer than normal and Little Daylight and Jukebox the Ghost both started later than scheduled, shit happens. Hell, both times I’ve seen Paul McCartney, the whole show started at least an hour late. And I’m not standing there saying, “How hard can it be?” when I obviously have zero experience setting up gear or running sound for a band. Bitch, if it’s that easy, you go do it. As Terra said when I bitched on Facebook, it takes effort to make the sound not sound like trash.

But she didn’t stop there! The worst of it was during the concert. Oh, Jukebox the Ghost was up to her standards, but the people around her weren’t, I guess. She and her friends kept pointing different people around us out to each other and taking about them, laughing, and occasionally imitating dance moves she thought were weird or stupid, I guess. Because God forbid you go to a concert and 1) let people enjoy themselves and 2) enjoy it yourself and pay more attention to the band rather than the people around you. I realize the hypocrisy here, given that I was obviously paying attention to this girl, but it’s also hard not to hear someone right next to you shouting to her friends, laughing, and mimicking people’s dancing. I think she might’ve made fun of Paul at one point, but it was hard to tell, what with her pointing at everyone else around us at all.

It’s like she doesn’t give a shit about the experience of live music at all. You don’t get how opening acts and soundchecks work, fine, but don’t stand out there and make fun of people who came out to have a good time and are succeeding in doing so. They’re probably having more fun than you, considering they’re not concerning themselves with what other people are doing and insisting on putting them down to make themselves feel better.

It’s especially frustrating when I’m fiercely defensive of Paul, for one, and when they boy was actually dancing. Yes, he dances awkwardly and poorly, but that’s not the point. The point is to go out and have a good time, and I was especially happy since he only went so I didn’t go alone–although I did think he’d like them, and I was right. He even listened to them a bit today and asked about the names of songs, which is a great sign.

Frustrated as I obviously am, I didn’t let the bitch ruin my night. Jukebox the Ghost put on a great show, and I love them. Wish they would’ve played “Under My Skin” because it’s my favorite, but the setlist was pretty great, so all is forgiven.

Friday Five: Song Stuff

  1. What’s a song that reminds you of your parents? With my parents, both as a couple and individually, it’s hard to nail down just one song–artists or maybe even albums would be the better route because of their different tastes, mostly. My dad’s classic rock like Journey (especially) or Foreigner, Rush, or REO Speedwagon–and maybe Rush and REO Speedwagon especially since they’re bands my mom and I don’t like. As for my mom, Prince and Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks are her big ones. If I could narrow down a song for my mom, it would either be one of Stevie Nicks’ solo hits, like “Edge of Seventeen,” or my mom’s slower Fleetwood Mac favorites, like “Gypsy” or “Sara.”
  2. What’s a song that makes you think of food? “Meat Is Murder” by The Smiths, since I’m a vegetarian, although I don’t really share most of Morrissey’s strong opinions on that or any other issue.
  3. What’s a memorable song from a movie soundtrack? I really, really love soundtracks–including musicals, so this is hard to pin down, too. And I have my iTunes on shuffle right now, which isn’t helping. It just played songs from Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia back to back, which isn’t helped by the fact that I really, really love the music and artists who inspired those movies/musicals. And then it went to Moulin Rouge. So we’ll leave it at that.
  4. What was your favorite song from 2014? First of all, I’m probably not gonna pick just one, but I’ll do better than my cop-out answers above. Second, I have more music from 2014 in my collection than I thought I did, so good job, 2014! So, major standouts: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” by Against Me! and while we’re at it, the album of the same name was so fucking great and is probably my favorite of the year. Pretty much every other song on it would be a runner-up for this question. Bleachers’ Strange Desire was also great, with “I Wanna Get Better” especially. Then there was the Kickstarter album Sugar House by Midas Whale with “Before I Leave” and “Rise and Shine.”
  5. What are your favorite songs for when you’re behind the wheel? You know, I know there are songs I’ve declared to be “good driving songs,” but I can’t remember any offhand, plus I don’t have any go-to music for when I’m driving. When I am, I either scroll through the radio or–gasp!–go the old-fashioned way and put a CD in. So lately, my driving music has been the few top-40 songs I like, which is mostly Meghan Trainor or Taylor Swift, or the local classical station, NPR, Or Paul McCartney’s Good Evening, New York City.

Paul went up to State College for part of the weekend as kind of a last hurrah with Ryun before Ryun leaves for basic training with the Air Force. I was invited, of course, but I had Erasure tickets for Sunday night. Even though they were planning on coming back Saturday, I preferred not to travel and go to a concert in one weekend, partly as a precaution in case something were to happen and we’d get stranded because no fucking way was I gonna miss Erasure.

It sounds like they had a lot of fun, though, hanging out and drinking. They even got Paul to dance in a club, employing a tactic to help that I never considered–getting him drunk first. Although Paul says he doesn’t think I’d like his dance moves. He does tend to move a bit awkwardly.

The one huge reason I’m glad I didn’t go, though, is they went to a Penn State football game, and I’m not about to sit and watch anyone play football at all.

Paul got home Saturday night, so I went over to hang out with him. We had dinner at Primanti’s, banged, banged again Sunday morning, and pretty much just hung out for a little bit in the morning before I came back home to clean in anticipation of my mother coming over for Erasure.

Now, I really fucking love Erasure and I would’ve gone no matter what, but other than some former professors and a blogger, I don’t really know of anyone else around here that likes them, and certainly not anyone I know well enough to ask them to tag a long with me. Usually, this is a major perk of having a boyfriend and I know Paul would’ve gone had I asked, but the synth pop leanings of Erasure are not at all the sort of music he’s into, and I didn’t want to drag him along to a concert he probably wouldn’t enjoy at all. So, who do you call as backup? Mom, of course! And the thing is, though my mom wouldn’t really call herself an Erasure fan, Vince Clarke was in Depeche Mode and Yaz previously, both of which she likes, and Erasure is understandably much more my mom’s style. And moms also don’t like to say no when you tell them you don’t want to go alone…because they don’t want you to go alone, either, as evidenced by that time I went to see The Nutcracker alone and everyone was furious with me for it.

I live slightly closer to Pittsburgh than my parents–in fact, depending on traffic, considerably closer, and we made the drive to and from Erasure in about 40-45 minutes–so we decided it would make the most sense for her to come here, spend the night, and then we’d go to the outlets the next day since we both take the day off after concerts.

And so I came home and cleaned until she knocked on my door. And if I can keep it this clean until I move out, I’ll be really pleased with myself. It’s mostly clutter, but shit does my living room look good now. I didn’t make it so far as finishing my bedroom, though.

We had dinner at PF Chang’s at the Waterfront, then did a little bit of shopping to kill some time. The walking around in warm weather so soon after eating must’ve upset my stomach because I started to not feel great and was really hoping it wouldn’t end in me puking through the concert and missing one of my favorites. Fortunately, sitting and drinking water helped. Related: I always avoid buying water at concerts because it’s expensive and usually a pain in the ass, but the major perk of doing it to settle my stomach was that I had plenty of water left to last me throughout the show, and I needed it with the heat and dancing. Turns out it’s tons better than resisting and being hot and thirsty all night…which is also why some local concerts kept making news for dehydrated, hospitalized teenagers.

The actual concert was excellent, and I’ve already written about it here. Speaking of that link, I’m not sure if I mentioned that I now write for axs.com on occasion. One of these days, I’m gonna put up some handy links in the sidebar listing where else you can find my writing, because I’m pretty regular at like four or five sites by now.

Also, that link is my calm, professional review. But basically, All Hail the Silence opened, who were quite good and made for a really fitting opener, then Erasure came out and we all danced for an hour and a half and it was fucking amazing. Their sound is much more lush live, and they sped up a couple songs. Funny thing is, for as much as I love them, I probably only knew about half their set. The thing with Erasure is a discovered them in high school after I was illegally downloading some Depeche Mode and someone mislabeled “A Little Respect.” I knew when I played it that it wasn’t really Depeche Mode, but I also knew it was catchy as hell and I liked it, so I found out who it really was and illegally downloaded more of their songs. And then I started buying their albums, a quest which continues to this day. Erasure was never really huge, and when I’m out CD shopping, I mostly only find greatest hits and whatever their most recent album is at that time. I lucked out on the South Side once and snatched a couple earlier ones, but my Erasure collation still has huge, embarrassing gaps.

But they played most of my favorites, they sounded great, and Andy Bell is such a fun frontman. He joins the ranks of Robyn for being my new favorite onstage dancer.

After that, Mom and i came back to my place, went to bed, went for breakfast the next morning, and shopped for a good chunk of the afternoon. I spent too much money, but it was all on things I needed and payday is Friday and I just got a raise, so whatever.

Note also that I did’t pause for a second when I ordered my Erasure tickets in a presage but I do pause when I see high price tags on boots, no matter how badly my current ones need replaced.

Friday Five: Happy Birthday, Bruce

  1. Hey, what else can we do now, except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair? (“Thunder Road,” 1975) Nothing else, because riding with the windows down on a nice day with music blasting is one of the most enjoyable feelings there is. It’s why I get really antsy when spring starts creeping in and I start opening windows the second it hits 60 degrees.
  2. Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse? (“The River,” 1980) Worse–disappointment. Dreams don’t promise us anything, but not having them come true can be crushing.
  3. So tell me who I see when I look in your eyes: is that you, baby, or just a brilliant disguise? (“Brilliant Disguise,” 1987) Nope, it’s me. I hate human facades.
  4. Do you think what I’m asking’s too much? (“Human Touch,” 1992) That depends on the question, but I’ve rarely thought something to be too much. I do think it’s too much, for example, for people to ask writers to sugarcoat reality or not share their experiences for the sake of other people involved, because everyone has a right to tell their story. It doesn’t give you the right to be a dick as a writer, but every time I’ve been asked something about negativity or something, I’ve felt like I was being asked to be dishonest about my experiences. I’ve also thought it was too much when my dad’s asked me to inform certain people that they’re not welcome in his house because I feel like that’s a dick move when he’s not the only one living in the house, and I don’t want to fight his battles for him. If he has an issue with someone, that’s on him to handle.
  5. Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart? (“Life Itself,” 2009) You know, I generally don’t think they do, But I think sometimes people are connected by something initially and either someone loses interest in whatever connected them or circumstances change or people end up with very strong differing opinions. And sometimes, people just don’t know how to handle connection.

And of course I’m doing the leftover/reject questions!

  1. Baby, did you make it all right? (“Racing in the Street,” 1978) Yeah, I did. I’m in a good, healthy place.
  2. But if dreams came true, oh wouldn’t that be nice? (“Prove it All Night,” 1978) Going back to #2  in the previous set, absolutely. I think everyone in the world would be happier, but it would be a strange place.
  3. Well son, you got a statement you’d like to make before the bailiff comes to forever take you away? (“Johnny 99,” 1982) I was framed!
  4. How do you live broken-hearted? (“Mary’s Place,” 2002) The only way out is through.
  5. How do I begin again? (“City of Ruins,” 2002) Make a serious, conscious decision to do it and try really fucking hard and do what you need to do to make it happen.
  6. Can you ask for anything more? (“The Wrestler,” 2009) I’d like more money, my own house, and a sustainable writing career, for sure, but frankly, I’m not unhappy with where I am and I know I’ll get those things eventually with patience, work, and maybe a little luck.
  7. Where’s the work that’ll set my hands, my soul free? (“We Take Care of Our Own,” 2012) Here–it’s writing.