Saturday, November 12, 2011


I was obsessed with this song when I was nine and heard it for the first time in years tonight. Both the cashier and I were singing along.

(No, nine year old me was not cool enough to be into Ben Folds Five. I had no idea who they were. But an odd bit of chance and the TGIF lineup injected my otherwise Oldies and Country music upbringing with some pretty decent indie pop, even if I had no idea.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Three Years Old

Dear Blog,

Just when I think you're dead, you turn three years old. Sure, the past year has been rough - the number of posts halved, the shows dropped to almost nothing, and the CD buying dwindled down to barely there.

But here you are, limping along to three years, 54 (chronicled) live shows, 311 posts. The list of artists tagged is too long for me to even consider counting.

I don't know how long you'll last, but considering I thought you were dead and buried last November 9th...

And about those glasses? I might just have to bust them back out tonight.

<3 Alex

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Sounds, after DJs that almost weren't worth it

The Sounds at Royale in Boston, MA, October 30, 2011

So the tickets said doors at 6, and assuming a 6:30 show we arrived at six. Oh how stupid we were.

The music pouring out of the speakers was already loud, even though the crowd was only twenty people deep. We were only a few feet back from the stage and my friend feared for my ears later in the night as I'd forgotten to bring earplugs.

"Honestly, I've probably done so much damage to them over the past few years, one more night isn't going to hurt."
"That's like saying you've done so much damage to your liver, what's another night of binge drinking?"

So I paid a dollar, bought some earplugs, shoved them in my pocket and never pulled them back out. It's just not the same through little cylinders of foam.

First up, after a full hour of nothing, and oh my god up for too long, Kids at the Bar. Two dudes, two soundboards, one laptop. They DJed for 75minutes. I don't know that it wasn't all preprogrammed - sure they were turning knobs and hitting buttons, but it never correlated with what was coming out of the speakers. One of the guys, Red Plaid Dude, was at least a little excited. Dude in Black just stared at his board and drank a beer the whole time. It might have worked in a club of people looking to dance, but the crowd waiting for a band was... displeased. It would have been fine for 30min, but 45min in and everyone was antsy. After an hour and fifteen we practically applauded that they were leaving.

Next, Natalia Kills. I actually really liked her and her legging clad band. She had a great stage presence, a badass attitude, and the voice to back it up. Her live performance was even better than the recorded music on her site. She seemed a little stiff at the beginning of the set, probably from nerves and wondering how the crowd would react, but by the end she was smiling and captivating. "Free" and "Acid Annie" stood out, as well as her cover of "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green. I might not go out to see her again, but I'd definitely be happy if she was opening for someone else I was seeing.

Then Kids at the Bar came back! As soon as their little DJ cart came back out the crowd let up a collective groan. This time we only had to put up with them for 30min, but that meant they'd been on stage for almost two hours total. It was brutal.

Then finally The Sounds. We were maybe two feet from the stage and it was loud and intense. We were so close to the guitarist's monitor that the mix was off, but it was still so amazing. The Sounds' songs are meant for crowds to sing out, with repeated verses and lots of yelling. Maja is an amazing front woman, strutting and kicking and singing in five inch heels. She has this aura of complete badassery, while still being gorgeous.

From a stripped down piano and crowd sung "Night After Night" to "Ego" to "Song With a Mission," the crowd and the show both pumped with energy. I'm not sure how to describe how having Maja Ivarsson singing about two feet away from you, staring at you, will make you sing out the words to prove that you can. The whole band was having fun and rocking out, and they're one of only a few bands to whom I'd give the label "rockstars." It's something about the presence and the all consuming energy, as though every point in that room was focused on the stage.

Stumbling out into the cold afterward and onto a broken down Red Line, we ran into other concert goers who shared our sentiments of bad DJing openers, attractive guitarists, and charismatic singers. As soon as it was over, I wanted it to start again.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Snow, Sharks, and Screaming My Heart Out

Panic! at the Disco at Lupo's in Providence, RI, October 29, 2011

This show started, like almost all Lupo's shows, with a gigantic line snaking around the block. It was pouring rain and the temperature was quickly dropping towards a point where that rain would turn into something else entirely. But then an awesome concert buddy showed up with coffee, and a good line friend returned. There was a discussion of past horrible line friends that, a year later, just made me laugh hysterically. ("As it turns out, 'Player' is bro-speak for 'has a girlfriend'." "Well then what's bro-speak for 'moved to Germany'?")

We finally got inside, only to be accosted by a security guard searching everyone for glow-sticks. I have no idea why, but this one security guard spent the entire night tracking down anyone in the crowd wearing glow-sticks. It was so ridiculous that we stopped a passing security dude later in the night to ask what was going on, and he shrugged and looked confused. We later saw him asking the glow-stick-hater about it, pantomiming in the onslaught of noise, but could not make out what the response was.

First up was The Tower and the Fool. It wasn't bad at first, rocky acoustic with alright lyrics, but then it quickly spiraled towards full on depression. It was past emo, into the "my heart is dead" region of lyric writing, and I spent the entire second half of the set wondering if they all just needed hugs. It was sad.

Now, at about this point, The Shark showed up. The Shark was a five foot tall, completely trashed girl in a felt shark costume. Face visible through the gaping shark teeth, hands covered in light gray fins, she was trying to barrel her way through the crowd. At every sticking point, she would turn to the offending body and scream "I'm a shark!" I'd never seen someone try to start a fight while holding up soft felt fins before. She was loud and screaming and actually really hitting some of the people around her. It was amusing for the first minute or so, but after ten, not so much. Finally some guy came and dragged her out of our portion of the crowd. We saw him later in the night supporting her slumped, obviously sharked-out body. It was ridiculous.

Foxy Shazam. I don't know what the hell that was. I can't even begin to think of how to describe the experience. I was simultaneously terrified and excited. The lead singer looked like a sex offender bull fighter, the keyboardist played with his feet, and the trumpet player spent the night in various states of undress. They were upside down and all over the stage and loud and crazy and... just and. It was kind of awesome. It was every decade that you've ever made fun of crushed into one. You just have to experience it to believe it. This, this doesn't even come close, but maybe it will help:

Then came Panic! at the Disco. We had grabbed spaces by the railing and I swear I spent most of the night with my body flung over it, clutching on and screaming out every word. There was so much energy in that room... new songs and old, everyone was throwing themselves into it. I got that feeling again, the one where I squeezed my eyes shut and gripped tighter around the banister, as though if I just held on tight enough I could stay in that moment forever, with lights flashing on the other side of my lids, bodies pressing in close, my head full of nothing but sound.

I remember old shows where Brendon would move the mic away whenever the song swore, make the crowd fill in. That is no longer the case. Sometime after the split, his dirty mouth found a place on the stage, and it makes for this predatory stage presence. It's mostly sexy but also a little funny, because you know he can't really be taking himself seriously the whole time. It was, however, during "I Write Sins" that I felt something bad happen. The whole crowd was singing out, but out of instinct everyone screams just a little louder on the "whore" that Brendon used to always drop. That's when I felt something in my throat tear or rip or snap. Two days later and it's still not quite happy, especially after a second concert the following night (but more on that in another post).

But was it worth it in that moment? Absolutely.

Their encore included a cover of "I Believe in a Thing Called Love." I love that song, and they did it well, and no way was the girl trying to crowd surf by jumping off of our banister going to prevent me from continuing to enjoy it. Though, fun fact kids, you shouldn't crowd surf on teenage girls. They will always drop you. Always.

The show ended, I parted ways with the concert buddies, and then I wound up in the epic October snowstorm. Being a New Englander, I decided that a little snow was not going to deter me, and that I was going to drive straight through it back to Boston.

After about a mile on 95, I shut the radio off and started talking to my car, God, and myself, assuming that some combination of the three might get me at least to my parents house in one piece. It was the worst thing I have ever driven in and I have never been so terrified while driving. I've driven in snowstorms, driven in really awful weather, but this was out of the blue, two months early, and ridiculous. I couldn't see the lines on the road, the wind was threatening to blow me sideways, and my wipers kept freezing over and smearing the little vision that I had.

But was it worth it for that show? Absolutely.