Tag Archive: music


A Week Of Insanity

It all began last Saturday. Walking home from work, I found an unopened roll of Sweet Tarts on the ground. Believe it or not, that was among the more expected and “normal” things to happen…

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Last night I went to the Grey Eagle to see a personal musical hero of mine, Ken Stringfellow. You might know him as the co-leader of The Posies, my favorite band of all time. Or perhaps you know him as That Guy Who Played Keyboards On Tour With REM. Or maybe you know him from his time with a reunited Big Star. Or with his garage rockĀ  side band The Disciplines. Or from all the albums he’s produced. Or maybe you don’t know him at all. But you should. His solo stuff has leaned heavily on piano-rock and experimental jams, all with super-catchy hooks. Good stuff.

The show was a seated event, so I made sure to get there early. Evidently I didn’t need to do, because there were barely more than twenty people who showed up. I was a little bummed out at that, but oh well. As he would later point out, this was his first time playing Asheville, and you have to build your audience somehow. Better to have a passionate and enthusiastic few than a huge crowd of people who don’t care. But I digress.

The opening act was a guy named Greg Cartwright, who plays in a local band called Reining Sound. It was just him solo on electric guitar. He was a good guitarist, and definitely had talent, but it just wasn’t my thing at all. His voice was a little on the nasal side, and he didn’t have much concept of melody. He said that he was so used to playing with a rock band that he had to shout over, and it showed. His songs didn’t hold my attention at all, but the little bits of lyrics I was able to catch here and there sounded pretty cool. Perhaps his songwriting works better in the context of a rock band, but solo he just didn’t grab me. It didn’t help that he played for almost an hour, didn’t speak much in between songs, and spent most of the night walking back and forth between the microphone and his set list sitting on a stool some ten feet away. Maybe his style works for others, but it didn’t for me, so I was kinda glad when he walked off the stage.

After a brief intermission, Ken Stringfellow took the stage. He spent the evening alternating between guitar and a baby grand piano, which evidently belonged to The Grey Eagle. He remarked how he usually has a digital piano with him, but that you just can’t pass up an opportunity like this. In between songs he talked a lot, about anything and everything. Things got off to a rocky start with a groaner of a joke about all of The Eagles being grey, but he somehow made it work. But anyway, about the music…..

He mostly played selections from his newest album, Danzig In The Moonlight. By my count there were three songs not from that album, including two from 2004’s The Soft Commands and one from 2001’s Touched. He didn’t play any Posies songs, because as he explained, he wanted to show people what he did when he wasn’t playing with others. Most of the newer songs worked naturally on just guitar or piano, which forced the listener to focus even more on his always intelligent lyrics. Some songs, like “Superwise,” sounded radically different from their album forms, but most stayed pretty much the same. For the most part he chose to completely forgo the use of the microphone, and when he played guitar he spent more time standing on the ground in front of the audience than up on the stage. It genuinely felt like he was just hanging out playing for some friends in their living room, rather than being a paid performer at a venue. He took the friendly vibe to its logical conclusion with a plea for someone to put him up for the night. This was, as he put it, a “cultural event,” and part of enriching the cultural landscape of a town is to ensure that culture does not freeze to death in its van.

On Danzig In The Moonlight there is a song, “Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something,” that is a slow, countryish duet with Charity Rose Thielen of The Head And The Heart. For this song, he was joined by an audience member, a girl named Vickie who is in a local band called Warm The Bell. I haven’t gotten a chance to check out their stuff, but they have a CD release party coming up in a few months, and based on their descriptions I think I’d probably like them. I’m really only writing this paragraph to remind myself to check them out. If you’re not interested, feel free to ignore it. But I really need to give them a listen, sounds like it might be my kind of thing.

You really couldn’t have asked for a stronger performance. His songs are well written, melodic, and catchy as hell. His passion for music shines through every word and every note. And when he’s not playing, he’s pretty good at soliciting laughter. After about an hour and a half of music and banter, Ken announced that he was finished and would be heading to the merchandise table. He commented about how much he loved Asheville, and that even though the crowd was small, this was a great gig.

He hung out for a good half hour, making it a point to meet everyone and shake their hands. There was no one running his table, so he personally sold everything. I snagged a show poster and got him to sign it. He asked what my name was, then proceeded to give me an Irish sounding suffix, signing it “Chris O’Moon.” Right on the picture of the moon. Well played, Stringfellow, well played. He fielded a lot of questions, cracked a few jokes, asked for coffee-house recommendations, and eventually had to call it a night. I got a strong impression of sincerity from talking to him. This is someone who doesn’t fake anything – when he seems like he’s enjoying himself, that’s because he actually is. His personality shone through no matter what he was doing – he seemed like the kind of guy you’d want as a friend. Oh, and he makes music too. Awesome music. You should check it out.

 

So last night was the big night. Jeff Mangum, live at The Grey Eagle. A few months ago I waited outside of Harvest Records for hours to get tickets to what would become the fastest sellout in Grey Eagle history. And it was totally worth it.

I ended up taking my friend Morgan, a big Neutral Milk Hotel fan. I had asked Katie, but she had already planned a birthday party for the same day and didn’t want to shuffle things around. Her actual birthday was Wednesday, but she was in Atlanta until Friday night. We decided that I would go to the concert and then when it was over I would join up with the birthday party, already in progress. But more on that later…

Morgan finally got a car, and drove over to my place a little before the show. It was snowing and she freaked out, so I drove to the concert. Parking was ridiculous. I wound up parking in front of a warehouse about a quarter of a mile from the Grey Eagle. The place was pretty packed, with people lined up into the parking lot waiting to get in. They had two lines going, based on last name, and it was nearly fifteen minutes before we were inside.

The opening band was a duo called Tall Firs. They both played electric guitars in various tunings through lots of effects. It was pretty mellow and atmospheric, with a sort of dream-pop/slowcore vibe going on. I bought one of their albums, but it’s very different. They have a drummer (or did at the time of this album, which came out in 2008) and the sound is more straight ahead rock. Evidently one of the guys is a guitar tech for Sonic Youth and they’re on Thurston Moore’s label. A lot of the CD reminds me of Sebadoh. I hear a little Pavement in there, and possibly some of Sonic Youth’s less experimental and noisy moments. I’m going to have to check out their other stuff and see how it compares, but I like the CD I bought a lot.

After a brief intermission Jeff Mangum took the stage. He looks a bit different from when we last saw him, with a huge greying beard that makes him look very Asheville. He opened with “Holland, 1945” and it quickly became obvious that the entire night would be one giant sing along. He played a few more songs from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and threw in a few from On Avery Island as well. He didn’t really talk a lot in between songs, except to thank the crowd for being so supportive. On several occasions the usually dark and depressed Morgan suddenly turned into a twelve-year-old cheerleader, screaming her head off and countering every Jeff Mangum thank you with a “no, thank you!”

On several songs during the first half of his performance, Mangum hummed the melodies that were played by a horn section on the album. I like to think of myself as being somewhat observant, so it didn’t escape me that for some reason there were four microphones on stage. Even though I knew it was coming, when the horn section came out for “Oh Comely,” I just about lost it. Everything sounded perfect, perhaps even better than on the album. After thunderous applause from the crowd, he launched into an extended version of “Naomi,” and again the horns came out. He closed with “Two Headed Boy,” but this time the horn section was joined by a guy with a floor tom and another guy with a tambourine. They played the instrumental “The Fool” and then everyone left the stage as the crowd went insane. Jeff returned for an encore of “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.” Pretty much everyone there was singing along, and when the horns came out one last time it was the perfect end to an amazing performance.

I wound up buying In The Aeroplane Over The Sea on 180 gram vinyl, and while I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a gatefold, the artwork looks amazing. The record itself has the phonograph/plane/whatever picture on the label and the lyrics and credits are on a sheet inside the sleeve. I stuck my ticket stub and bracelet inside the sleeve as well. I was hoping to get him to sign it, but the guy at the merchandise table said he doesn’t usually come out to sign and meet with people. Oh well, still totally worth it.

After the show we came back to my place. Morgan didn’t stick around, and I attempted to get in touch with Katie. She wasn’t answering her phone, so I assumed either she couldn’t hear it or was already too drunk to perform such a high level action. I remembered that she said their pub crawl was starting at The Yacht Club, so I decided to go down there and see if they were still there. The guy said they had already left and he didn’t know where they were. I decided to try another of her usual haunts, Broadway’s, but they weren’t there either. Finally she returned my text message and said they were at a gay bar. I asked where it was, but she said they were leaving. I told her I’d take a rain check and she should come over tonight so I could give her her birthday present(s). This afternoon I talked to her and she said she was really hung over and hanging out with her family. As of yet she hasn’t gotten home, so I’m thinking we’re not going to hang out tonight. Hopefully I’ll get to see her tomorrow.

I think I’m going to work on some paintings and then attempt to get to sleep at a decent hour. The End.

 

The Best of 2012 – part 5

And here we have it, the fifth and final chapter of The Best of 2012, wherein I count down the top 5 albums that came out last year. Keep in mind that this list is entirely subjective. If you disagree with my choices, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. These were the best albums of the year, and that’s final.

Drumroll please……….

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You know that thing I keep saying about getting to bed at a decent time? Yeah, that never happens. But what does appear to be happening is the Top 10 of 2012

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The Best of 2012 – part 3

In my attempts at finishing these posts and getting to sleep at a decent hour, it seems the third time is in fact the charm. So without further ado, let’s pick up right where we left off…..

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Welcome to another incredibly late night edition of The Best of 2012. Is this what being in a relationship is like? Because I thought there would be a lot more sleeping. Oh well, enough about that. Time for five of my favorite albums from last year…..

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The Best Of 2012 – part 1

It’s insanely late and we’re getting off to a slow start, but I did promise an update, so here goes…

 

We beginĀ The Best Of 2012 with a look back at some of the not-so-good releases, a few albums I didn’t get the chance to hear, and a few that came close, but just didn’t quite connect. Continue reading

So I log on to make a new post and WordPress looks absolutely nothing like it did a few days ago. What the???

Well anyway… back to what I was going to post about…

Yesterday I closed my account with BB&T. They didn’t even ask why I was closing my account. You could tell they just didn’t give a shit. I guess after the whole “occupy” thing and everyone switching to credit unions they’re just so used to it. But switching to a credit union is definitely the way to go, in the event someone reading this was contemplating.

After my bank fun and a little shopping I picked Katie up from work. Her ex sent her a “moneygram” and we ended up going to several places hoping in vain someone would cash it. We didn’t have any success, but she was able to cash a refund check from the electric company and she insisted on paying for dinner. I wouldn’t have any of that, but I did cave and let her pay for the movie tickets…

We went to see Frankenweenie at the Brew-n-view. It was pretty good overall, if not earth-shattering. While it was clearly aimed at children, it never came off as cheesy or pandering, and there were plenty of jokes adults would love. There were a lot of neat homages to classic black-and-white horror movies, but it mostly avoided the popular trend of inserting a million pop culture references to make you laugh. The bottom line is that if you’re a Tim Burton fan you’ll like it. It wasn’t my favorite of his movies, and after a while the 3-D glasses were giving me a headache, but it was definitely an enjoyable movie experience.

That’s about all for now. I’ll probably play around with this weird new setup and hopefully get around to posting my long-delayed best-of-2012 list. I have a few more albums to listen to before I set anything in stone, but it’s almost finished. Until then…..

 

It’s nearly 2:00 am. I’ve just returned from Katie’s apartment. She has four cats, and her roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend both smoke in the house. I haven’t been able to breathe for quite some time and I itch all over. I just took a Benadryl. What better time to finally write my review of the past year?

Yeah. I’ll make this quick.

This year was pretty eventful. In January I got out of a long-term relationship. I’ve spent the past year chronicling my dating life, which has been mostly humorous. I seem to have found someone who isn’t interested in stupid games, but this post is about 2012, not this year.

It was a year of loss. In February I lost my grandfather on my dad’s side, three months to the day that my grandmother on my mom’s side passed away. In September I lost my other grandmother. I drove to Fayetteville for my grandfather’s funeral and saw how completely and utterly insane my family is. I decided to stay far away when my grandmother passed. In the interim, my aunt has severed all ties with everyone else in my family. She even un-friended us all on Facebook. Is it possible to “un-family” someone? Holidays haven’t quite been the same since then. I’m pretty glad I live on the other side of the state from her and the other nutcases I’m somehow related to.

On a professional level, 2012 was a year of triumph. In late 2011 I set a personal goal that by my birthday I would have my art career off the ground. I bested that goal by several months, putting together a website, a Facebook page, a shop, getting business cards printed up, and being booked for my first solo show in Asheville by the end of April. My show started in August and ended up running for over two months. I sold a lot of prints and an original. In November I was booked for a group show, and while that ended up being a disaster thanks to the complete unprofessionalism of the “gallery,” it was still something. Not only this, but I was given a raise and promotion at the art supply store, enabling me to quit the gas station, gain an extra day off, and not lose any pay. On this end of things, I really have nothing to complain about.

A lot else happened. I got sick a few times. I most certainly did damage to my liver. We survived another election campaign. Justin Bieber still exists.

In the end, it was like any other year. It had its share of ups and downs. I met new people and watched old friendships dissolve. I laughed and had good times. I got my heart broken. You win some, you lose some. But returning to the world of blogging has helped me to keep things in perspective a little better, and be the introspective sonofabitch I was designed to be. So far 2013 is off to a smashing start – a potential new girlfriend, a new roommate, a new bank account. But like any other year, there will inevitably be low points ahead. That’s really about all you can say about life. I made it through another year, and this new year will be one hell of a ride. Life is a journey, not a destination. I’m not sure if that was Coleridge or Aerosmith, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Benadryl is kicking in. The End.