New feature for 2016!

I love those alchemical experiences when you’re eating or walking down the street and you hear a song that crystalizes the moment, transforming whatever you’re doing into pure bliss or awe or gratitude. I’d like to start documenting those here, starting with a song I heard during lunch today at Stroops Heroic Dogs.

Stroops is the hot doggy offshoot of Dutch & Co., which used to feature a fancy dog once a week for just an hour. The tradition now has its own home a few doors down Marshall St., and while I was digging into an RVA Dog (pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes, and crab cakes — amazing), they played a version of “Seven Nation Army” I hadn’t heard before. Siri was kind enough to tell me it was Nostalgia 77. I thought the horns were even more prominent — maybe there’s a remix out there I’m missing — but here’s the closest version I can find.

Nostalgia 77 — “Seven Nation Army” [Spotify/iTunes]

Kopecky Family Band

Kopecky Family Band

So as it turns out, trying to encapsulate my Fall Line Fest experience in a single post is preventing me from writing anything at all about it. That’s no fun. I want to share a bunch of pictures, I have a great video of No BS! Brass Band covering “Thriller,” there’s a cat story… it’s just too much to cram into a single serving. So I’m heeding the advice issued in The White Stripes’ “Little Acorns” and taking things one at a time.

My very first Fall Line Fest experience came via Kopecky Family Band, the Camel’s Friday night closer. I made it to the Camel just as the preceding act was tearing down — right on schedule, to everyone involved’s credit — which gave me the opportunity to watch the venue’s stage side clear, start to fill in again, and eventually become crowded with gold-wristband-wearing, excited, eager-to-sing-along supporters whose enthusiasm was rewarded handsomely.

While the highs of the show were certainly high (I’m speaking literally here — as you can see from the picture above, certain members of the band would climb things at particularly elevated moments), the quietest moments are the ones that have stuck with me most.

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Shovels & Rope

I try to avoid comparing bands to other bands, especially in writing, but I will share that in the days leading up to last week’s Friday Cheers, when I was trying to get people at work jazzed up about going, I told of handful of them that Shovels & Rope reminded me of The White Stripes. The two groups sound nothing alike, which makes me feel a little less guilty about broadcasting the comparison here, but they really do have a great deal in common, and I’m not just talking about their even gender distributions and intra-band romantic entanglements. I was mainly thinking about how they stage their songs.

Both bands are (I’m staying in the present tense because I’m unwilling to come to terms with The White Stripes not existing anymore) comprised of just two people, meaning that arrangements are sparse, usually just drums and guitar, both players have to be “on” around 100% of the time, and there’s seldom a bass line gluing songs together. Forgive me for extending the adhesive metaphor, but I actually went around telling people (with performance videos that I’d seen online in the back of my mind) that Shovels & Rope felt duct-taped together in amazing way, and that this was the group’s strength, not a weakness. I’ve overhyped bands before (cue “you can say that again” eye roll), but I really, really wanted my analogy to stick, for the sake of the folks I recommended the band to, sure, but mostly for me.

I tend to fall in love with bands as ideas, and this is a particularly touching one. I love that two married people — Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst — “made something out of nothing from a scratch and a hope,” pulling each other out of that frustrated emotional space creative types inhabit before their talents are sufficiently recognized. And I love the notion that two people can be so effective at the craft of writing and performing songs that they can travel around the country and share their music without a backing band in tow. That’s why, more than most concerts, this one felt like a test. A high-stakes showdown between expectations and reality. Could this couple shoulder the burden that, fairly or unfairly, I’d placed on their shoulders?

Yes they could, and yes they did.

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Spiders game

Just last night, Mrs. YHT and I had the pleasure of sitting in section 18 of the Robins Center and watching our alma mater, the University of Richmond, mount an unlikely last-minute comeback and beat #19-ranked Virginia Commonwealth University in overtime.

It was fantastic. Probably the best college basketball game I’ve ever seen in person.

That said, I had low expectations going into the game (VCU has been playing extremely well — UR, not so much), so when VCU started pulling away near the end of regulation, I wasn’t exactly shocked. What was a little jarring was how much louder the VCU fans were, despite the fact that they were the away team. It was impressive. Also embarrassing. At times, the VEE-CEE-YOU chants were so loud, the only thing that could take your mind off the ticket sales/team spirit disparity was the music pumping out of the arena’s possibly new and definitely booming PA system.

Since I failed to DVR the game and am desperate to relive it, and since the music they played in the arena during breaks wasn’t half bad, I thought I’d share with you a sampling of the songs that helped carry the Spiders to an unlikely victory.

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He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister

He's My Brother, She's My Sister EP

Tryptophantastic Week: Day 3 — He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister
(Click here for Day 1 — Yellow Ostrich and here for Day 2 — Moon Hooch)

Preconceptions are very fickle, so fickle that they may very well be public enemy #1 when it comes to finding and exploring new music. Plus, they don’t always make sense. Take He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister, for example. One of the most dedicated music fans (and most recently minted twitterers) I know told me about this L.A. based outfit last weekend, and I can’t help but laugh at the random association that popped to mind immediately after hearing their name. Remember when Jack and Meg White were passing themselves off as siblings for a while? And then people figured out that they were not siblings, and had in fact been married at one point? Remember that? Two things. 1. This is not normal behavior. 2. The indelible strangeness of this ruse (yes, I’m excited that I get to use the word “ruse,” though I do feel like I’m typing in the voice of a soap opera actor) has made it so the White Stripes are the first thing I think of when confronted with a brother-sister musical group. It’s ironic and stupid. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter how distracted I may be by two people pretending to be blood relatives, the He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister EP is fantastic and engrossing and preconception-proof. Rob and Rachel Kolar are the namesake bro and sis, and the group’s 7-track EP is so jam packed with surprises — unexpected instrumentation, subtle touches that add texture and personality, stylistic swings — that it’s as impervious to prejudgement as it is enjoyable and re-listenable. And a Kill-Bill-Vol.-2-trumpet-infused cover of “Moonage Daydream” doesn’t hurt, either. Did you know David Bowie’s real name is David Jones? Just sayin’. While “Tales That I Tell” and “How’m I Gonna Get Back Home” are both highly recommendable, upbeat tunes, I can’t resist sharing with you “The House That Isn’t Mine,” which embodies the EP’s sneaky, varied brilliance so perfectly. Listen below and buy the He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister EP on iTunes here.

He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister — “The House That Isn’t Mine