Neko Case Flings Me Into Space

Oh, that Voice! That VOICE!! And to hear it in Radio City Music Hall, the pinnacle of good acoustics… it was truly magic. Neko Case and her aggressively-bearded band dazzled and amused with a performance that included a smattering of selections from each album and some hilarious banter with her sidekick/backup vocalist/stand up comedienne-in-residence Kelly Hogan. She’s touring to support her new album The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. It’s yet another album from her where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and its parts are utterly glorious.

Neko Case at Radio City

Neko and band, not performing Magpie to the Morning

Neko Case is known for the force of her voice, and the beauty of her lyrics. Seeing Neko live was every bit as spiritually and auditorially fulfilling as I had hoped it would be. It was a beautifully wrapped and beribboned present. The impact of her voice and poetic lyrics in such an acoustically blessed venue was pretty damn powerful. When an artist like Neko Case unleashes her voice and taps into the power of music as a means of transcension, it is a vehicle that takes you to the top of the mountain and then catapults you into the heavens.

[Ed. note: This used to be an embedded video of her performance of Night Still Comes on Jimmy Fallon a couple weeks ago, but the video has been evaporated for what I'm sure are nefarious reasons.]

From Night Still Comes:
Did they poison my food? Is it cause I’m a girl?
If I puked up some sonnets, would you call me a miracle?
I’m gonna go where my urge leads no more.
Swallowed, waist-deep, in the gore of the forest
A boreal feast, let it finish me, please.
Cause I revenge myself all over myself.
There’s nothing you can do to me.

Goosebumps!

Highlights from last night’s show for me: That Teenage Feeling, Hold On Hold On, and Man.

New Pornographers bandmate A.C. Newman opened for her. He and his band put on a solid show, much more energetic than last time I saw them, ending with my fave by them “Drink to Me Babe, Then.” I was hoping for them to share the stage with Neko and perform a New Pornographers song or two, but that didn’t happen. She did call him and crew out to help with one song, but Newman and band huddled together at the far edge of the stage like they were all sharing one umbrella and waiting for a bus. I was expecting a little more comfortable friendliness between the bands. Maybe a group hug at least?

Neko Case with A.C. Newman

A.C. Newman and band awkwardly sharing stage with Neko, while no one performs Magpie to the Morning

I’m working my way through the 7 Stages of Grief over this otherwise brilliant performance by Neko that inexplicably did not include Magpie to the Morning. It took me years (plural!) to get over Radiohead not doing Subterranean Homesick Alien when I saw them live. I finally came to terms with it but have had a real setback in my emotional health with last night’s tragic misstep by Ms. Case. What kind of world are we living in where Neko does not perform her most glorious song?! My delightful companion for the evening kept things positive by suggesting this meant we just need to see her again. I’m still heavy hearted.

Helping me reach Stage 6 (Reconstruction and Working Through) in the days after is this epic clip of Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Merchant and Joseph Gordon Levitt in a lip-synch battle for the ages.

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Best of 2012

Confession: I didn’t do a great job of staying on top of new music in 2012. There was a three-month miracle where we had a really good indie radio station in the NYC area but as quickly as it appeared it converted to sports radio. One evening I’m grooving to the Wombats, the next morning it’s two guys yelling about the Yankees.

A few bands that stood out in 2012 (in my admittedly limited experience) are Atlas Genius, the Wombats, Grimes, and Azealia Banks. I was supposed to see Grimes but the show got cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. I was also supposed to see Azealia Banks but got in a car accident earlier that day and was soaking in a hot tub that night instead. Not really a stellar music year.

However, 2012 is the year I met in person one of the members of my Holy Trinity: Kristen Hersh! Behold:

Kristen Hersh and me!

She performed an all-acoustic night at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York in April. I was in bliss. First off, it’s a gorgeous space. Secondly, she was amazing in every way. She alternated reading from her book Rat Girl with performing songs and being utterly and smartly charming. She played a lot from her early Throwing Muses days, and I was so happy I was just about levitating off my chair. Fish, Hate My Way, Vicky’s Box, and so many more, all done with just her voice and her acoustic guitar. After the show she talked to every person lined up to meet her, including me. I was so starstruck when I met her that I think I may have scared her a little. She was so sweet and approachable in direct contrast to how hard she rocks on stage. The same woman who can still do justice to a 50 Foot Wave song gave me a big hug. I’m still all tingly from the experience.

Kristen playing.

I also saw Swervedriver (thank you, Mike!) who were really fantastic, and who I’d like to see again. They put on a solidly great show, like the pros they are. And thanks to free tickets from the best indie record store in NYC, Other Music, I saw (with Mike, as it turns out) A. C. Newman and the Mynabirds.

The Mynabirds were incredible. So tight and energetic and fun. A. C. Newman seemed a little bored to be honest. I love his voice, and love his other band The New Pornographers. I’d recommend any of his solo albums and anything by The New Pornographers (clever lyrics, great writing, wonderfully catchy melodies), just maybe don’t go out of your way to catch him live on his own. Maybe he was having a bad day, like everyone does. I’ll give him that.

Bored or bad day or whatever, the musicianship shown by A. C. Newman and his band was superb. They all play multiple instruments, and the layering and complexity of the sound is truly amazing to listen to and watch being played. Flutes, oboes, a couple crazy keyboard solos – really exceptional.

He also has in his band what I’ve never seen outside of Brooklyn – the Ultimate Hipster. This guy didn’t miss a thing, to the point where it looked like he was dressed as a hipster for Halloween. Skinny jeans, fedora, scarf-y ascot thingie, black thick-rimmed glasses, tweed… it was one of the more entertaining parts of the performance.

A. C. Newman and his talented band:

Here’s the Mynabirds, definitely worth catching live:

Here’s to having a lot more music to write about in 2013. Let me know what I missed!

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Southern Comfort


One of the many awesome songs played on the indie station here in Southern Virginia

I grew up in what used to be a small-ish suburb1 called Newport News, tucked between Williamsburg and Norfolk, Virginia. I worked summers at Busch Gardens, exchanged mix tapes with friends, drove to Buckroe Beach, or Croatan, or down to Kill Devil Hills and Hatteras to watch the cute surfers, and led a life I judged completely boring. I left for college and never lived in Newport News again. I needed edge! I needed clubs and concerts and art and a city vibe! I needed black clothes and bad attitudes! So I eventually made my way to the New York City metro area.

One thing leads to another and here I am several2 years later back in Newport News for a week-long holiday with my daughter. As we are approaching Newport News I’m flipping around the radio stations for something to listen to, and to my utter shock I hear Atlas Genius coming out of the speakers. The next song was something equally indie3 – Battleflag by Lo-Fidelity Allstars. And so was the next. Way to go, 96X! How unbelievably cool to have an indie station here, when there isn’t an indie station anywhere near NYC, a town where you can barely get tickets to shows before they sell out.

I had told my Mom I wanted to catch a yoga class while I was in town, and her yoga instructor arranged for me to have a week-long free pass at her studio. So I rolled into town in time for the 5:00 class and was able to work out the kinks created by the 9-hour drive here. Isn’t that a pleasant way to start a vacation? And isn’t that incredibly nice of the yoga instructor?

The next morning I had a massage to further relax my tight shoulders and back4 and it was one of the best massages I’ve ever had. No joke. And I’m a really horrible massage snob. Isn’t that wonderful and pretty impressive?

By the time I’d finished the massage, listened to more great radio on my way home, and polished off the first of several trips to Chick-Fil-A, I had a soul-shaking realization: I like it here. A lot. People are nice. They chat you up in line to buy groceries just to pass the time. The call you Ma’am and hold the door open for you. There’s decent yoga studios, better radio than in NYC, and close proximity to several beautiful beaches. There’s no edge. It’s all soft and Southern. No, you won’t stumble across Tilda Swinton sleeping in a box, but you can let your guard down and relax. For the first time in my life I’m starting to see why people live here. Maybe it’s just the yoga-massage-Chick-Fil-A-good-radio quadruple whammie talking, but this place is all right.

Namaste, y’all.

__________________________
1 I used to describe it as a suburb without the ‘urb’

2 As in many, as in more than 20, maybe even close to 30, though I’d never admit it.

3 It is a little heavy on the Muse and Tool, which gives it more of a “Bro-Indie” focus than I’d ultimately prefer, but hey, it’s better than anything else I’ve heard in NYC since our one indie station went sports radio.

4 My body does NOT like that drive

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Wilde Saturday Watching Top Gear

Oscar WildeI’d like to share my perfect Saturday: compiling quotes to use on the backs of my new business cards with Top Gear on in the background. I’m reawakening my never-far-from-the-surface adoration of Oscar Wilde while fantasizing about driving fast cars with very funny British guys and beating Jennifer Saunders’ lap time1.

A few of my favorite Oscar Wilde gems:

Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.

I just returning from a social media marketing conference in Las Vegas where I met a guy named Travis Wright who had Photoshopped onto the back of his business card his “Dream Team.” He has everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Nikola Tesla sitting around a table, discussing something deep2. He says it inspires him.

I love that idea. So I’m assembling my own dream team. I figure it will take a few months of mulling to capture a decent collection.

Here’s who I have so far:

Oscar Wilde (naturally)
Shakespeare
Caroline Bayard
Eleanor Roosevelt
Charles Bukowski
Ghandi
Maya Angelou
Lao Tzu
Brian Greene
Brian Cox (I love astrophysicists named Brian – I collect them)
Matisse3
T.S. Eliot

That’s just me working off the top of my head.  Who’s on yours?

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1 1.46.1
2 So deep it sunk out of my brain, but it did leave the impression of depth.
3 Mostly because I want him to do some paper cutouts for me to hang around my house.

Posted in I Love Life, Tangentially Related | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Thank you Baby Jesus, Missy Elliott is back

Something I was afraid I’d never hear again: new Missy Elliott! Check it…

Available at midnight tonight on ye olde iTunes.

I’m so glad she’s back, hopefully to recalibrate hiphop1.

I’m a huge Miss E fan, from her Virginia roots to her visionary sound2 back in the early 00s, to her mind-blowing videos with Hype Williams and the groundbreaking Timbaland production… so good. So very, very good.

Meanwhile, just for fun

___________________
1 And eat Nicki Minaj for breakfast
2 Can sound be visionary?

Posted in Bands I'm Obsessed With, I Love Life | Tagged | 2 Comments