Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And the winners of my 2012 music awards are?

2012 Concert Photo of the Year

Welcome to my (now annual) year end music review post. If you have the patience to read all of it, you will see:
- My ten awards with winners and runners up
- Embedded Spotify Playlist of my Top 50 Songs
- More explanation of how I chose my award winners
- Photos of note I posted to Instagram from the shows I attended
(FYI: My 2011 Music Award Post)

1. The “Perpetual Repeat” Song of the Year: "Passages" by Exitmusic
Runner up: "Swimming Pools (Drank)" by Kendrick Lamar

2. The “Share with All Friends” Album of the Year: Myth by Beach House
Runner up: Adventures In Your Own Backyard by Patrick Watson

3. The “If Every One Could Be Like This” Concert of the Year: My Morning Jacket at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park
Runner up: Explosions in the Sky at Chicago Theatre

4. The “Phoenix” Becoming Too Big To Not Easily See Again: Walk The Moon
Runner up: Alt-J

5. The “Franz Ferdinand” Must Now See Every Time They’re In Town: M83
Runner up: Geographer

6. The “Bon Iver” Regret of the Year: M83's DJ Set at Spybar Lollapalooza Afterparty
Runner up: Mute Math at Summerfest

7. The “Medulla” Most Disappointing Album: Shields by Grizzly Bear
Runner up: Four by Bloc Party

8. The “Should I Quit You” Most Disappointing Concert: Bloc Party
Runner up: Pretty much my entire Lollapalooza afterparty strategy & execution

9. The “Shadenfradue” Guilty Pleasure Track of the Year: "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen

10. The "Buy an iPod stereo for the car" Best Decision I made in 2012: Returning to Milwaukee's Summerfest after too many years away.
Runner up: My overall determination to see acts like Explosions in the Sky and Patrick Watson knowing 100% of the way I would be giving the other ticket to a friend for free.

This reply from Aleksa Palladino on Twitter helped her cause
 1. The first full calendar year under a Premium Spotify subscription created an embarrassment of riches for me. It also made it very difficult for any song to maintain that perpetual repeat status past winners have acquired. Past year winners were also able to separate from the pack after seeing a live performance of the song, but with other candidates from Beach House and Patrick Watson getting in front of me this year, something special was needed. Which is probably why the tweet from Exitmusic helped it edge out a very strong field. Not to mention, seeing them at Subterranean with less than 25 other fans, in perhaps the cheapest show of the year, was a perfect storm.  Not to mention, I love Boardwalk Empire and have equal feelings towards Aleksa Palladino.

2. My first listen of Myth created the standard all albums of 2012 were to be judged in my mind. My appreciation has yet to waver in repeat spins and was able to hold off a significant charge from Patrick Watson. Maybe if I had seen Patrick  Watson twice in 2012 (as I was able to see Beach House) he could've prevailed. It's also an upset because of the Canadian nature to Patrick Watson - usually music from Canada has the inside track.

3. Every time I see My Morning Jacket in concert they reinforce why I always mention them when asked to list my favorite bands. Add in a gorgeous night and the first time I saw a show at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park created an unfair fight - even in a year in which I saw Radiohead. My favorite band not named Broken Social Scene (Radiohead) wasn't even able to get the Runner-up mention because the audible quality and nonstop set by Explosions In The Sky that exceeded my lofty expectations that have been generating since first hearing their sound on Friday Night Lights. Rounding out my top five shows of the year is the Exitmusic night mentioned earlier and the top-to-bottom awesomeness of seeing The Chain Gang of 1974 / Geographer / Miniature Tigers at Schubas. The Scubas show was early in the year, and it cemented the value of Spotify in my budget. It was the first time I was able to fully familiarize myself with the full discography of an entire bill in the weeks between ticket purchase and event.

4. Walk the Moon has a song playing in a commercial or a technological device. That's the 21st Century path for success. In the last show of 2011 I saw them open for Fitz & the Tantrums - in an exhibition that won the entire crowd. I barely got into their return to Chicago when Lincoln Hall sold out and already have a show in early 2013 that sold out before I realized they were coming back.

5. I will see M83 as long as my age allows. And by that I really mean: as long as I can deal with people younger than me.

6. Here's the problem - I was so entrenched in M83 fandom, I jumped at the "DJ Set" opportunity. It's just not the same: lesson learned. The entire postapolooza season was a mess with me. Choosing Bombay Bicycle Club over Trampled By Turtles, missing Band of Horses, knowingly turning my back on Frank Ocean... And why did they have to announce Franz Ferdinand at the Aragon after the other shows went on sale?!

7. Maybe I will eat my words again with Grizzly Bear. Shields is appearing on many Best Album lists, but I don't dig the majority of it. It's nowhere near Veckatimest (but what is?). My first impression of them was sour, and it's highly likely I will listen again to "Shields" and 'get it.'

8. I really loved Bloc Party back in the days of Silent Alarm and Weekend In The City. Their shows were great. The news of their breakup was met with sadness. I was so happy they were back together and touring I bought the tickets before I head the first note of Four (which was still better than Intimacy). I shouldn't have changed my last experience with them.

9. People have asked if my love of "Call Me, Maybe" is tongue-in-cheek or sincere. It's both. I think it's a good pop song at it's core, but I can't deny the miles of material I have had with the song structure. It has become my Musical Mad Lib of choice - willing to adapt it to any situation. Gangnam Style happened, but that's clearly a gimmick dance with a wonky music video that lacks the sincerity and heart of Carly Rae Jepsen.

10. My philanthropic gestures of taking friends to shows won't stop for 2013. Here's what I'm looking at for next year: Early 2013 Concert Radar

Special Music Mention of 2012:
Music + November = The cliche ROCKTOBER
Newlyweds Dayva & Neil
My cousins Joe & Tom
There's a branch of my family tree that is incredibly gifted with music ability. It was on display in full grandeur this past October at my cousin Neil's wedding. Not to sell my other cousins short, who peppered the entire weekend with their sounds, but I will never again see a groom sing songs, strum strings, beat snares, tickle keys and hold an entire reception congregation (including his wife) in the palm of his hand. The showstopper was the Newlywed Duet.

Finally, here is the Instagrammed review of my Year in Live Music:

Liza Day (Hideout in January)
Machine Gun Mojo (Hideout in January)

Islands (Lincoln Hall in March)
Fiona Apple (Lincoln Hall in March)
Chain Gang of 1974 (Schubas in March)
Geographer (Schubas in March)

Miniature Tigers (Schubas in March)
M83 (Riviera in May)
Hospitality (Empty Bottle in May)
Here We Go Magic (Empty Bottle in May)

Caribou (Tinley Park in June)
Radiohead (Tinley Park in June)
Walk The Moon (Lincoln Hall in June)
Explosions in the Sky (Chicago Theatre in June)

The Walkmen (Summerfest in June)
Mute Math (Summerfest in June)
Real Estate (Union Park in July)
AraabMUZIK (Union Park in July)
Beach House (Union Park in July)
Hey Rosetta! (Bottom Lounge in August)
Bombay Bicycle Club (Bottom Lounge in August)
Alt-J (Empty Bottle in August)

Chairlift (Empty Bottle in August)

Band of Horses (Millennium Park in August)
My Morning Jacket (Millennium Park in August)
Bloc Party (Riviera in September)
Grizzly Bear (Riviera in September)
Exitmusic (Subterranean in October)
Geographer (Lincoln Hall in October)
Freelance Whales (Lincoln Hall in October)
Beach House (Riviera in October)
Holy Ghost! (Aragon in November)
Patrick Watson (Lincoln Hall in December)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Can you hear what I hear?

Here are ten shows in the first three months of 2013 on my Concert Radar. In 2012, I took quite a number of people with me for free to shows because I had bought tickets in pairs. Speak up if any of the below sounds good to you, and if you speak up nicely there's a large possibility I'll fold and just buy your ticket.

To be honest, I think my streak of three record years in a row of show attendance will snap in 2013. My only hope is that more of my friends sign up on Spotify and have access to more music than in years past. 

Bear in Heaven | Shubas | Wednesday January 16 | $17
The Walkmen | Vic | Friday January 18 | $35
Geographer | Schubas | Sunday January 20 | $17
Toro Y Moi | Metro | Tuesday February 19 | $20
Ra Ra Riot | Metro | Friday March 1 | $20
Tame Impala | Vic | Wednesday March 6 | $30
Unknown Mortal Orchestra | Lincoln Hall | Thursday March 7 | $16
STRFKR w/ Blackbird Blackbird | Metro | Tuesday March 19 | $20
Stars | Metro | Saturday March 23 | $25
Alt-J | Metro | Thursday March 28 | $25

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why should you go to Lebowski Fest Chicago November 9 & 10?

More info / Get tickets
It first came to Chicago in 2008, which was also the first Lebowski Fest I attended. The movie party at Portage Theater had sold out, and I'll never forget the first time I heard a packed theater yell, "Over the Line!" in unison.

This next LF Chicago will be my tenth LF overall, and a record 3rd this year (I also attended the first Lebowski Fest Milwaukee in addition to my annual pilgrimage to Louisville for the Annual what-have-you that started it all).

Inside a Wisconsin bowling alley last June, Founding Dude Will said to me, "I hate to say it, but I think Milwaukee turned out better than Chicago."  My immediate recognition that I had no defense for my hometown - for even though LF has returned to Chicago every year, it hasn't sold out since that first time in 2008. This is why I chose to dust off "Leblogski" and write tonight.

Achievers and Amateurs, I present to you five reasons to attend Lebowski Fest Chicago in early November:

Poster from the 1st Lebowski Fest Chicago
5. Portage Theater
Especially for a movie most have only seen in homes and with small groups, the experience of watching this movie in large glory is vastly underrated. Most aficionados will cite other Coen Brother efforts as more cinematic, but there are gems from the 30 foot tumbleweed barreling down a barren Los Angeles to a beautiful setting for a Folgers eulogy.

Don't be surprised if you pick up on more hidden jokes too (such as how Donny's head is perfectly framed within the Dude's arm when we hear him first say, "That's just your opinion, man").  I'm looking forward to the palpable anticipation of the Jesus Introduction... The ovation that begins at the first notes of "Hotel California" is a traditionally great moment at all Lebowski Fests.

Jeff, Paul, Daniel, Tom, Izaak
4. The Dudes
Fair Warning, I'm very biased but, Chicago is the best "Dude" venue of any Lebowski Fest location. We saw the Best Dude color barrier broken when Izaak won and at last year's LF Chicago longtime Achiever Favorite Paul broke through to take home his first prize. Both made their LF debuts in Chicago, and both have wonderfully different personality traits that encompass The Dude in any form.

The two most famous "Dudes" in Lebowski Fest History: Tom (who was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the 10th Annual Fest) and Jeff (with the best ultra-inside-Lebowski nickname of "Mr. Jamtoss") will be making their official LF debut as the musical act "The Dudes Abide" before the movie. These two have a new tradition of playing the night before the Annual Movie Party, but it's great to see a performance from them officially posted.

[Handicapping this year's race: Tom and Jeff are retired/ineligible and Izaak might be taking it easy. Daniel has been picking up momentum in fan appreciation, but it will be tough to prevent a Paul repeat.]

3. Liam
James Hoosier will be there. He was Liam in the movie. This is an awesome thing. We all know he has zero lines (and was barely able to not look into the camera or laugh during his few scenes). But he will be polishing balls the Liam way and will be belly shaking and pointing accordingly.  Word has that his bowling game is almost back to a level that will get him to the next Round Robin... If he's not too busy glancing at Maudes he might vie for a high bowling score of the night.

Chicago is lucky to have Liam attend. He represents a lot of what is unique to the entire inside world of fandom. In any other element he is James Hoosier. A man that likes to post on Facebook about how proud he of the military service of his new son in law and occasionally whines about NFL games. In a bowling alley of Achievers he becomes a personification of something much greater.

Dave, and his special lady friend, at a past LF Chicago
2. All of us
Let me make something very clear. The Portage Theater is a great experience because it's filled with like minded people with an common interest. The Dudes Abide don't have any recorded music available for purchase or download. James Hoosier is not an actor. The attendees make Lebowski Fest. The people are the party.

It hurt to see Chicago not sell out in recent years - hurt like a boombox to the midsection. I've heard the New York Fests are attended by people too hip to wear a bathrobe to a bowling alley. I don't want Chicago to be like NY. I want more people like Dave - who I don't know but have seen at every Chicago Lebowski Fest. Dave is the best Chicago-based creative costumer. He has shown up with a heavy porcelain toilet strapped to his chest ready for head dunking, a bowling lane ready for others to step over his line, and most recently was seen as an oversized Dude Jellie Slipper. I can't wait to see what he has developed for this LF.

There is zero debate amongst anybody who has seen him in action... He is the best Jesus in Lebowski Fest history. I don't want to post pictures in case this post is successful and convinces someone to attend for the first time. The Jesus has arrived in a limo, he NEVER breaks character, and for all I know goes door to door surrounding the Portage Theater informing parents that he's a pederast.

He was only challenged once - by a Burlesque Dancer (a "She'sus") who danced and peeled off a purple jumpsuit that created a moment that I will always hold dear in my LF memory... But even that couldn't dethrone him.

You all have a date Friday November 9 & Saturday November 10. Hope to see you all there!
Poster designs by Bill Green

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Who is joining me for Postapalooza?

Today the Official Lollapalooza Aftershows were announced.
(Tickets go on sale this Friday)
Here is my wishlist/recommendations. Contact me if you'd like to join in the fun:

*   *   *

Wednesday August 1
Delta Spirit at Lincoln Hall
(Wednesday Runner Up: Alabama Shakes at Metro)

*   *   *

Thursday August 2
Dr. Dog at Lincoln Hall

(Thursday Runner Up: Passion Pit at House of Blues)

*   *   *

Friday August 3
Frank Ocean at Metro
(Friday Runner Up: tUnE-yArDs w/ Washed Out at House of Blues)

*   *   *

Saturday August 4
Temper Trap at Park West
Bombay Bicycle Club at Bottom Lounge
Trampled By Turtles at Double Door

*   *   *

Sunday August 5
Chairlift w/ Alt-J at Empty Bottle
(Sunday Runner Up: The Walkmen at Lincoln Hall)

*   *   *

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Before you cut my hair, how do you spell your name?

Hat Hair
Earlier this afternoon, as most days when I decide I need to go to my barber for a haircut, I quickly called the shop to make sure Roy would be there until 6 o'clock (the usual closing time). The place is located closer to my parents' house - it's usually a time crunch for me to get there in time and he is kind enough to not lock me out when I need his services. There aren't any appointments in a place like this, and I typically have to wait behind one or two customers who arrived earlier.

I walked in and noticed someone was already in his chair - and I plopped down in a waiting area chair more than content to wait. Less than an hour earlier I had walked out the door for the last time that I had been walking into for seven years and was exhausted mentally and emotionally. My hair accurately reflected my state  - my new job at a new company starts Monday and new coworkers might not be as accepting of my "crazy hair" that is a regular result of a stressful workday.

My first words to Roy... "Big day."
Midway though my reveal of my employment change, my entire train of thought was derailed - I noticed a note pinned to the other side of the wall:


Roy has diabetes. He's had it for about seven years. I didn't know these two facts before tonight. Suddenly my nervousness and worry about my future felt very small and petty. Roy's health had started to become a larger concern, and he wants to travel with his wife while his kidneys won't make it too cumbersome. The chapter of my life spanning the past seven years - unquestionably the best seven years of my life - were at an official end. But that same time my trusted barber has not had as great of luck. In addition to another superior haircut, I received a much needed shampoo of perspective (please pardon the horrid pun-metaphor).

Exactly one month from this new haircut Roy will leave me a barber widow. Chances are high that I'll make my way back in there just for one last cut while I search for another barber.

A quick rundown of the barbers who have cut my hair successfully on multiple occasions:
Don (different guy)

A quick run down of the barbers who have been horrible:

The trend is clear. I need a barber that has a 3 letter name. This is non-negotiable.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What do I wish for this year's Postapalooza?

This year, I'm not going to Grant Park for Lollapalooza.
Actually, I've never gone...

A few months ago, when Bj√∂rk and Radiohead were rumored headliners, I was all set to break the seal. More recently, when the rumors were all but verified that both won't be at Lolla, my non-attendance was solidified.  And thankfully Radiohead announced their own separate show - and I got tickets - so you can close the book on that chapter.

Without really wanting to see the big names at the end of the day at Lolla, I can't justify spending that amount and enduring the entire day(s). At best, I'd see a third of the acts - and it's not like any Lolla act won't be coming back to Chicago any time soon.

Two years ago I went to an official Lolla Aftershow - Cut Copy at Metro (here's my review of their Postapalooza performance) - and it was amazing.  The announcements of those "Postapalooza" after shows is what I'll be focused on now, hoping there won't be time conflicts and sellouts blocking me.  With yesterday's news of the official Lolla lineup, and today's news of Spotify playlists now available to embed in blogs: here's my personal Lolla Aftershow Wishlist

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Do you watch Mad Men? (should you?)

Mad Men season five starts tomorrow (via)
Sally Draper: Not mad, and not men, but awesome (via)
I am current on Mad Men, ready to start watching "live" tomorrow night when season five starts. Nothing in this post will spoil anything for non watchers - for this is more for them (as I was one just two months ago).

First and foremost, I will always appreciate Mad Men's existence for the simple fact that it paved the way for Breaking Bad, the best show on television today. Its success helped reinforce AMC's dedication to original programming.

In the past, I've made attempts to watch this show - failed attempts caused partly to the late night nature of the marathons on AMC before I owned a DVR and partly because season one is bad* and sleep inducing. But since a friend owned the entire series on DVD, I was able to rededicate an effort to get caught up. After all, Mad Men has won 4 Emmys for Best Drama (placing it in a tie for most all time with Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and West Wing). Note: all four shows can be considered workplace dramas.

*Season one is bad. People got ultra sucked in by the retro of it, the setting's authenticity, the gloss of a partially unknown but always respected era. It was glimpses of this first season that fueled my adamant stance against watching the show. Often, I would launch into my crude impression of every episode when someone (especially a coworker) wanted to know why I didn't watch it.  The impression was just me picking up my phone and barking orders to an imaginary secretary named Trixie for scotch and smokes.  After watching all of season one, I stand my the claim.  For your review, a one line summary of each episode as viewed by the objectification of women referred to as "Trixie."
  • Trixie needs to show her legs
  • Lie down Trixie and tell the shrink all your problems
  • Where is Trixie walking, hopefully to get that Sara Lee from the freezer
  • Daddy doesn't love you, but loves Trixie
  • Trixie best not gossip about boss' privates
  • Trixie needs help getting zipped up
  • Burning the midnight oil is bad for Trixie's skin
  • How do you like your scotch Trixie
  • Trixie get your gun
  • Double the Trixie double the fun
  • Trixie likes the vibration sensation
  • It's not fair, Trixie
  • Congratulations, twice, for Trixie
Yes, that's harsh - and I'll back away from my "bad" comment and say that it was a well produced set piece with sub par content. It should have lost to Dexter that year (back before Dexter became reduced to a CBS procedure devoid of suspense). As the show went on, its depiction of women (or the importance of the female characters) changed. Perhaps it was a microcosm of the decade in general.

Sally Draper - respect (via)
But seasons two and three were great.  And I will also admit that I would not have enjoyed them if not for the character investment from season one.  It's when I realized my fundamental problem with the show, and was able to adapt.  I prefer shows with main arcs that result in a deep story from a far distance.  Mad Men devotes nearly all its time to character development and is not afraid to sacrifice plot. Soap Operas were able to build decades of success by constructing a fully flushed setting and having it's characters move and interact based on their own motivations - and Mad Men follows suit accordingly. Nearly everywhere plot drives its characters - but not here.  Season three is also when I realized my favorite of all the characters is Sally Draper, for reasons I will not post in order to maintain the spoiler-free spirit.

Thankfully I was not watching live at the end of Season 3, for its season finale was one of the more exciting well paced hours of the show - and a beautiful set up for Season 4.  I would not have been able to handle that hiatus (which wasn't even as long as the one about to end tomorrow). Season 4 had more doses of Sally being Sally and proved that the show was dedicated to be as dynamic as the decade it chooses to spotlight.

I'm not ready to vault it into my top five favorite shows right now (especially with Justified just kicking major Kentucky ass right now), but I'm excited to finally be current near the water cooler.