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.

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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.

Movie Review: Jersey Boys

When it’s 2014 and you’re hanging out in small-town Pennsylvania and decide to go on a double date one Sunday afternoon to see Jersey Boys, a movie based on a musical based on the rise and fall of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, you’d probably think you’d have the theater to yourself. You’d be wrong–people older than your parents who can probably actually remember said rise and fall of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons pack the theater instead. I prefer them to teenagers, though.

Brandon and I have been gradually falling in love with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons over the past few years. Brandon probably fell harder and faster than I did, because he was the one who wanted to see the musical the last time the tour came through Pittsburgh. And then we fell in love more, and we’ve been looking forward to this movie adaptation ever since. Especially since Valli and songwriter Bob Gaudio served as executive producers, which has a way of adding integrity to the project. Paul joked that “no wonder they come off looking the best,” although I disagree. The film doesn’t ignore Valli’s affairs, and given that much of the drama revolves around bandmate Tommy’s involvement in the mob and subsequent debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars Valli chose to pay back himself, it’s not really hard for anybody but Tommy to be a real antagonist here.

As musical-to-film adaptations go, Jersey Boys is pretty faithful. The structure is almost identical–each of the Four Seasons narrates a section, chronicling the band’s initial struggles through their success through their downfall due to Tommy’s debt. That works well for the film, and it was so effective in the musical, I was happy to see it wasn’t scrapped for the film.

A few things which made the musical so fantastic were scrapped, though, and I understand why. The musical opens with a French cover of “December 1963 (Oh What a Night),” which serves to demonstrate the band’s lasting popularity and impact on music, plus provides a good framework for the show, given that it ends with the band’s reunion at their induction to the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. Such an intro might not be as effective in a movie, and instead, it gets right into Frankie’s involvement in both the early stages of the Four Seasons and the mob. One of the most entertaining scenes–and performances–is Christopher Walken as a tearful mob boss as Valli sings “My Mother’s Eyes.”

But the downside to the focus on the mob element–and that’s the most interesting story line–is the focus of the Four Seasons being a band that started singing under a streetlight gets downplayed, which makes Valli’s ending narration regarding what he considered the high point of the band almost irrelevant. But I’d rather see it than not, because it’s an excellent speech.

But for me, the biggest disappointing change in scene is the fact that  “December 1963 (Oh What a Night),” one of the musical’s highlights, is moved to the end credits, while in the musical it served as a funny summary of Gaudio’s first one-night stand. It’s a change that makes sense, though, as the film isn’t presented as a musical with the songs driving the plot–instead, almost all the songs are featured as performances or background music, so it’s more like a two-hour-long episode of Behind the Music. Although this doesn’t hurt the plot, especially considering very little is actually missing–though I did miss the dark use of “Beggin'” and the importance and purpose of the songs “C’mon Marianne” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,”  it did detract from the film.

Part of the strength of musicals, especially one that features some of the greatest and most well-known songs ever written, is that they offer great pacing and energy. This film instead got a little sluggish near the end, but more importantly, it completely lacked the intensity the musical had.

I can’t remember if I cried during the musical, but I do remember finding it to be surprisingly intense and overwhelming. I had no knowledge of the band’s involvement with the mob, and the show comes to a climax with a very moving, well-done medley, as well as an explosion from bandmate Nick regarding how fed up he is with Tommy. Granted, the level of intensity is also raised since you’re seeing a guy yelling in the middle of a packed but silent theater, but the scene in the movie didn’t carry the same emotion. Neither did the ending.

For its faults, though, Jersey Boys is a really good movie. The performances were excellent–all the Four Seasons but one, I think, performed in the musical, and everyone delivered for the film. The music, naturally, is amazing. It’s an entertaining and well-executed movie that’s worth seeing, especially for fans of the musical.

And if you haven’t seen the musical but enjoyed the movie–and probably even if you didn’t enjoy the movie–keep an eye out for the musical’s tour. It’s amazing.

And I can’t talk about the Four Seasons without once again praising their contribution to music. I mean, I once cried almost all the way through their greatest hits. I can’t even focus when my favorite Four Seasons/Valli songs start playing because I get distracted and have to just listen to and appreciate the music, and maybe that’s part of the point of Jersey Boys, no matter the medium–the world’s a brighter place for that music, despite the shit everyone went through to get it here.

In Which Pittsburgh Traffic Hits a New, Infuriating Low

First off, a recap of my life the past few weeks: work, walks in the park, hanging out around Washington.

Now, last night, I went to see Ben Folds with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and Leah, Terra, Brandon, and old middle-school classmate Levi tagged along. Rachael was supposed to go but ended up not being able to, and I feel kind of bad because this is the second time she’s missed out on a show she was supposed to attend with me. But Levi took her ticket. I didn’t exactly think an extra Ben Folds ticket would be hard to get rid of, and I was right.

So, I’m a stickler for recycling, even though my apartment doesn’t provide it and there’s no convenient places to drop it off near my apartment or work. There’s one place on back roads between the two that lengthens my commute, so if I’m in the area or desperately need to clean the shit out, I do take it there. But they recently put up this nice, big sign saying it’s for residents of that township only, and I am not a resident of that township. So I’m trying to avoid it.

Fortunately, there’s a place in Pittsburgh I can take it, and I try to leave early whenever I go into the city to get it there, even though it’s often out of the way and traffic ruins my life. There’s been many a time where we’ve had to ditch the recycling drop-off plan because of traffic, and last night was one of those nights. Fine. It blows, but I’ll be back to gamble on my birthday Saturday and can take a big haul then. But the traffic didn’t end there.

Let me be clear–I left my apartment over two hours before Ben Folds was supposed to start playing. This would normally be plenty of time to drop off recycling, get Terra, and make it to the theater with time to spare. In fact, I thought we’d be killing time before the show. Instead, Brandon and I quickly realized on the way to Terra’s that recycling wasn’t gonna happen. And then as we kept sitting in completely stopped traffic, it started to look like we wouldn’t be getting to Terra’s until 7, which is when I had planned to be at the theater. I like aiming to get there early, and this entire night is one of the reasons why–not that it made a damn difference this time.

We looked up alternate routes to Terra’s in traffic but none were helpful, so we had to stick it out. We made up some time and things were looking up.

Then Leah calls and says they had trouble finding parking–despite the fact that the theater’s general area has probably four or five lots and garages–and they ended up a few blocks away, which isn’t a bad hike, but it’s a huge pain in the ass when you’re running late and you know that if not for whatever chaos has befallen the city, you’d be parked next door.

So I did still scope out the parking situation, but it became a very desperate “we’re going to the first one we see” situation. Which basically landed us across the street from where Leah parked.

Apparently, Pittsburgh was hugely busy last night–in addition to Ben Folds, there was a Pirate game, an Arctic Monkeys concert, and a musical at the Benedum. And we passed every single one of those things on our way to Ben Folds, which meant not just traffic but hoards of pedestrians so large that even when lights turned green, the cars were stuck. We sat at two or three lights for about four or five turns each because things were so congested that only one or two cars could make it through at a time. At 7:30–showtime–we were sitting in my car in traffic right in front of the theater. By the time we made it a few blocks down the street, hiked it to the theater, sorted out the ticket situation because I wasn’t sure if Leah had picked them all up or left ours at the door, then got seated, we’d missed approximately 40 minutes of the concert. Now, I’m not sure if he started on time and from the sounds of it, we only missed three, maybe 3 1/2 or four songs (although one was “Effington,” one of my favorites), but it’s still incredibly frustrating. I was even using my Pittsburgh app that helps you find available parking, but the garages it was telling me were open were only open to people with leases. So thanks for nothing.

The good news is Ben Folds played for about another two hours, so in the grand scheme of things, we only missed a small chunk, but it was a chunk nonetheless. But I did hear my other major favorites: “Zak and Sara,” “Annie Waits,” “Not the Same,” and encore of “Narcolepsy,” love song that keeps growing on me “The Luckiest,” and a killer “Rock This Bitch.” For those who aren’t Folds fans, “Rock This Bitch” is this live tradition where if someone yells, “Rock this bitch!” he’ll make up a song on the spot. Last time I saw him with the symphony, it was a section of the show where he played by himself, so he did this very dramatic, dark song about climbing down Mt. Washington. This time, though, he involved the entire symphony and created this epic, really good song–this time about a scary cab with a driver who played clarinet while driving.

If you’re a Ben Folds fan, I highly recommend checking out one of his symphony shows. The environment (and ticket price) are a lot different than the usual club shows, but the skill and the beauty of hearing the songs adapted for a symphony is fantastic. “Narcolespy” is one of the most gorgeous examples, as is “Not the Same,” complete with the audience as a choir, while “Zak and Sara” is pure fun and “Rock This Bitch” is impressive. It’s well-worth it, trust me.

We ended the night with Mad Mex and my early birthday presents from Terra, which were some little metal stamps that say “As you wish” and “Stay shiny,” plus a little shirt with a penguin on it, handmade earrings, and Wizard of Oz duct tape that’s surprisingly adorable.

And because I can’t have a simple night, I was met with more parking woes when I got home–my lot was full of people who don’t live here and I was forced to park at the Methodist church next door. I don’t have to resort to that often–it was normally when a snow storm was coming up and I knew I’d get stuck in my own lot–but it’s happened enough that I almost feel like I should slip them a thank-you note and a check.

Today, I took the day off to sleep in after what I knew would be a late night. I’ve been in bed for most of it.

Top 5 on Friday: Thank

Top 5 artists/bands you would like to thank for their music.

1. Mumford and Sons For being talented and beautiful. One person at the Pittsburgh show called them the band of our generation, the one people are gonna actually remember and still love.
2. David Bowie For being such an innovative, badass icon who has consistently made different and good music throughout his career.
3. Buddy Holly For being one of the Founding Fathers of rock ‘n’ roll and one of the best songwriters this country has ever seen. And, duh, inspiring The Beatles. There are no words for how much I love you, Buddy Holly!
4. AFI For being the first band I fiercely, fiercely loved and truly changing my life, most notably by introducing me to music, ideas, and subcultures I’d never properly been exposed to before. And for providing me with music to move me through angry and hurt. And for reminding me of why you’re amazing and I love you when I forget, because I do sometimes.
5. The Beatles For being so iconic and beautiful and influential.
Five wasn’t nearly enough, guys. I could easily come up with five more. From the Music Memoirs.

Top 5 on Friday: New Releases

Top 5 recent new releases

1. Burials by AFI I’m not sure if I would say this is the band’s best album, but I’m also not sure if that’s because I’m so partial to Sing the Sorrow or if Burials really just isn’t quite on that level. But Burials is certainly the band’s most mature album, and it’s some of their most straightforward, gritty rock. They feel a lot more like a grown-up band now and not a band for teenage goth girls. It’s still very much AFI in that it’s dark but at times incredibly catchy. And Jade Puget’s guitar riffs are some of his best ever.
2. Small Little Pieces by Blue of Colors Solo projects sometimes have a way of actually sounding a lot like the bands they originated from (one of my favorite examples of this is Queen’s Brian May’s Back to the Light, which sounds a lot like pure Queen, but I also cite this as an example of how collaborative the band’s songwriting efforts were). Blue of Colors, though, Punchline singer Steve Soboslai’s more indie-oriented solo endeavor, isn’t one of those. Some songs do sound like a subdued Punchline for sure–“Goodbye Stranger,” for example–but overall, Small Little Pieces is a different, solid indie record. Even though I admittedly overplayed some of the songs released in advance.
3. Matangi by M.I.A. I’ve always liked M.I.A., but I’ve only really been a casually listener–Matangi is the first of her albums I’ve ever listened to in full, which was a good decision because it’s excellent.
4. The Next Day Extra by David Bowie The Next Day was a nice surprise release from Bowie anyway–and I’m still pissed that I never found the Record Store Day vinyl on my pilgrimage–but the bonus material on the Extra release only makes it better, even though I strongly dislike bonus rereleases with a year or so of the original. That said, I’m a big fan of “God Bless the Girl.” This is definitely the best of Bowie’s most recent releases, too, so that’s a huge plus.
5. Reflektor by Arcade Fire I’ve been meaning to pay proper attention to Arcade Fire since I caught their SNL performance awhile back and really liked it, but other than happening upon a few songs on Spotify, I never really did. Then IYS started covering single releases and the album leak, and the Sirius satellite radio Paul had (has?) in his car had “Reflektor” on heavy rotation on all the alternative stations. And here we are.