For nearly three decades, I thought my mom was a fan of the ALCS-swept New York Yankees. She grew up in New Jersey, her brother is a Yankee fan, her parents are Yankee fans… I guess I just assumed. And there wasn’t exactly a shortage of opportunities for her true colors to show — I played little league for like 10 years, went to god knows how many Norfolk Tides games, and watched a ton of baseball at home during and after family dinners. So imagine my surprise when the following exchange took place over the phone earlier this season…
Mom: “Ugh. I hate the Yankees.”
Her: “I’m a Mets fan!”
Turns out, when she was a kid, she rooted for the Mets to stick it to the rest of her family. Pretty awesome, if you ask me. She also called a career audible when I was in high school and became an Episcopalian priest after 31 years of teaching American History. She’s just full of surprises.
So is Radiohead, apparently.
I rolled up last Thursday’s Jack White show at the Charlottesville Pavilion in full freak-out mode. Various stressors had gotten the best of me, and I actually brought the idea of leaving up to Mrs. You Hear That while the stage was being prepped for Mr. White. Thankfully we stayed, and the more I think about it, freak-out mode might have been the best possible mindset for my first time seeing Jack White perform.
Concert Catch-Up Week, Day 5: tUnE-yArDs
(click here if you missed Day 1: Todd Snider, here if you missed Day 2: Justin Townes Earle, here if you missed Day 3: Radiohead, and here if you missed Day 4: Mariachi El Bronx)
I hate it when famous people I like don’t get along.
The subject of music feuds came up a few hours before my friend Coyle and I saw Radiohead in Washington D.C. And before you ask, no, the music feud I’m talking about isn’t the one about us buying the same M. Ward shirt, though I am wearing it as I type this — hear that Coyle?!? No, the subject came up because our pre-show listening regimen leaned heavily on Arctic Monkeys, to whom Coyle’s been listening quite a bit recently. As we talked about Suck It and See, Arctic Monkeys’ most recent album, it dawned on me that I hadn’t given the band a fair chance over the years, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of something Thom Yorke said a little while back. Of AM and their rapid rise to fame, Yorke was quoted in 2006 as saying:
“The fact that poor Arctic Monkeys are getting so much attention is purely based on the fact that the mainstream music business is such a bunch of fucking retards as far as I’m concerned.”
Looking back at this incident with the benefits of hindsight and Google, it seems totally unfair (and dumb) for me to have let a single utterance, especially a flippant one that was mainly directed at the mainstream music industry, steer me away from a group I’d been starting to enjoy. But a half decade of tepid listening, a heavy Radiohead bias and the fact that AM drummer Matt Helders had fired back a shot about Radiohead being boring all worked together to warp my memory, and I found myself saying to Coyle something like, “I haven’t listened to them much. I think they said something not so nice about Radiohead at one point.” It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I seem to have passively chosen a side in a disagreement that took place 6 years ago between two people I’ve never met, which means that I’m just now finding out how great Suck It and See is. Crazy, right?
Well, the crazy train keeps on rolling, with a stop two days later at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, where I was set to see tUnE-yArDs for the first time.
Concert Catch-Up Week, Day 4: Mariachi El Bronx
(click here if you missed Day 1: Todd Snider, here if you missed Day 2: Justin Townes Earle, and here if you missed Day 3: Radiohead)
Consider for a moment the nature of applause. Giving someone “a hand.” Fairly straightforward, right? You applaud someone or something to show approval, with vigor acting as a measure of enthusiasm (excepting of course the legendary slow clap, which dramatically inverts the vigor dynamic and belongs in the nonverbal communication hall of fame, in this humble Rhetoric and Communications minor’s opinion). Cultures all around the world do it. You can golf clap, fast clap, clap seriously, clap sarcastically, clap enthusiastically, clap dispassionately, clap at completely inappropriate times… the variations are many; but one thing unites all of these types of applause: they’re externally directed. A tool for communicating outwardly. Which is why there’s something just a little bit weird about theater audiences clapping after movies (it’s not like the director can hear it), and why there’s something more than a little bit awesome about Mariachi El Bronx’s set opening up for tUnE-yArDs at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville on June 5. I’ll never forget how Mariachi El Bronx rescued me from a pit of despair… with my own applause.
Concert Catch-Up Week, Day 1: Todd Snider
I have a confession to make. Promise you won’t be mad if I tell you? Pinkie swear? OK, here goes… I’ve been holding out on you. I’ve been to some amazing concerts — 3, to be exact — that I’ve yet to tell you about. Uh oh, you look furious. C’mon, you said you wouldn’t be ma… oh, you just have to sneeze? Gesundheit!
To fix this grave injustice, I’m declaring a Concert Catch-Up Week. Over the next
5 days week or so, I’ll be offering quick recaps of the wonders these eyes have beheld in the last few weeks, starting with Todd Snider — the second of two acts that opened up for Justin Townes Earle on May 22 at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA. With all due respect to Jeff Tweedy, whose cantankerous-cuddly routine made his show at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville a few years back one of the best and funniest shows I’ve ever seen, Snider’s set was fucking hysterical.
If you would have told me in September of last year that central Virginia would see the establishment of three brand new music festivals in 9 months, I would have said, “That’s just cray.” But you would have been right! In the time it takes to make a human child, RVA Magazine has hosted RVA Music Fest (my coverage here and here), Style Weekly has put on the Shadrock Music Festival (Cheats Movement’s coverage here), and now — and I really do mean now, as it’s already started — we have Charlottesville’s Tom Tom Founders Festival, a month-long, SXSW-style music, arts and innovation conference that culminates in two amazing days of music this weekend. More than 50 bands will be performing on Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12, and the lineup includes a wonderful mix of heavy-hitting national acts (Those Darlins, Futurebirds, Josh Ritter and J Roddy Walston & the Business to name a few) and VA-based artists that promise to showcase the amazing pool of talent found in the area (Dead Fame, Eternal Summers, The Hill & Wood and No BS! Brass Band among them). Have a look at the full list of performers and their set times here. Though several jump out as must-sees, two in particular have me worked up into an anticipatory tizzy, the first of which is Nelly Kate.
Ladies and gentlemen of central Virginia, start your engines. Race weekend in Richmond is upon us, and it’s got me all nostalgic about how, almost exactly one year ago, I rang in the spring NASCAR race at Richmond International Raceway with my very first post about Detroit duo Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr. Imagine my joy, having found a group that combined my love of soulful electro-pop and brightly-colored sports merch, just a short time before their revered namesake was coming to town for my favorite weekend of the year (keeping in mind of course that the weekend of the fall race is also my favorite weekend of the year). NASCAR in Richmond is a tradition that’s grown near and dear to my heart over the past half-decade, just as Dale Jr Jr has done over the course of the last 12 months.
So I was lucky enough to catch Youth Lagoon on Saturday, March 24, at Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C., along with my friend Travis (you might remember him as the pioneer of the Gaga Challenge) and our music-loving wifeys. The following Friday, our better halves proved that the “better” is short for “better judgement,” as both of our spouses decided to rest up in Richmond in preparation for the Monument 10K, while Travis and I espoused certain sleep deprivation and inflated race times by driving west to Charlottesville with my buddy Josh to catch Reptar at the Southern. Both shows were great, and there was something especially cool about seeing one up in Travis’ neck of the woods and one closer to Richmond inside of a week (OK, so Charlottesville isn’t exactly my neck of the woods, but ever since the Jefferson started stealing a sizable percentage of the good central VA shows, it’s starting to feel that way… but I digress). I thought a fun way to report back on this mini concert series would be for Travis and me to do some yearbook-style superlatives, so let’s dive right in…
Are you ready to play a kickass game of connect the dots? Since today’s edition largely takes place in the south, we’ll call it, affectionately of course, co-redneck-t the dots. I really think you’re going to like what we find, so let’s get started with the fine gents of Raleigh, North Carolina-based American Aquarium, who, on Friday at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, country-rocked their way through an amazing set opening for Jason Isbell, who hails from northern Alabama, just like former Drive-By Truckers bandmate Patterson Hood, whose father, David Hood, was the bass player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as “the Swampers” — ya know, “They’ve been known to pick a song or two”), the legendary band that recorded with some of music’s most recognizable names, like Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, John Prine and many, many more, all of whom, in order to record with the Swampers, had to to make pilgrimages to one of two studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which is where American Aquarium just finished recording their new album, which was produced and recorded with the help of Jason Isbell, with additional contributions from the lovely Amanda Shires, Isbell’s girlfriend, who appeared on stage with both Isbell and American Aquarium last Friday night at the Jefferson Theater. Whew. Crazy, eh? And that run-on sentence doesn’t begin to cover how entertaining American Aquarium’s set was (a real-life love-at-first-listen experience) or the remarkable impact that Muscle Shoals has had on popular music. A few weeks back, I wrote about the idea of musical centers of energy, and Muscle Shoals most assuredly qualifies. Though the town’s population is just 13,000 or so, the area still has a tremendous amount of musical history. So many canonical musicians have been drawn to Muscle Shoals, and it’s wild to think about how the Swampers insisted on recording on their own turf. And Grammy wins for albums like the Black Keys’ Brothers go to show that the town maintains that gravitational pull to this day. Judging by the songs I heard at the Jefferson Theater, American Aquarium’s upcoming album is sure to be a hit as well, so to whet your appetite, I’m posting “Reidsville,” a song from their 2010 album Small Town Hymns that tells the story of a southern town with a very different legacy than that of Muscle Shoals. Listen below and snag the album on iTunes here.
American Aquarium — “Reidsville“
Your favorite band is playing in town, but the show is completely sold out. Fortunately, a local radio station is giving away a pair of tickets. You time your phone call just right. You dial the number… busy signal. Shit! You hurriedly dial again… Holy crap, it’s ringing… “Congratulations! You’re our ninth caller and you’re going to see [insert favorite band name here]!”
Before last week, I had never won tickets to anything. Like, ever. And even though the scenario I described above may be a little old-fashioned, winning tickets remains one of those those cliched musical experiences (like meeting an idol or catching a projectile guitar pick at the end of an encore) that everyone should have at least once, despite the fact that the interweb has dramatically changed the way ticket giveaways are conducted.
I have Charlottesville’s Starr Hill Brewery and [gulp] Facebook to thank for my very first clichéd, fist-pumping, ticket-winning moment. Last Wednesday, Starr Hill posted a video to Facebook of a mystery substance being pumped into a huge mixing tank alongside the promise that “If you can guess what style of beer it’s going to be, you could WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS to see Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at The Jefferson Theater this Friday night!” Finally — an opportunity to combine my [cracks knuckles confidently] formidable familiarity with beer and my love of concert-going in a way that doesn’t involve fighting through a crowd to pee halfway through a headliner’s set! Alright! Two guesses later — “Wheat beer” was wrong; “Belgian IPA” was right — I earned two spots at Friday’s Isbell show, which proved to be nothing short of amazing.