Austin City Limits: Day Three

September 29, 2008

That's a big bunny, even for Tate

Ah the third and final day. The strangest thing about this year’s festival is that Friday and Sunday had the best lineup (in my mind) and yet neither day was sold out.

First up for the day was Priscilla Ahn. Will had seen her when she opened for Amos Lee a while ago and suggested we check her out. She was a last minute replacement for Adele which had to be somewhat difficult, especially given that it was just her on this huge stage. But she delt with the pressure really well, in fact she’s pretty damn funny. One of her songs in particular titled “The Boob Song” was really enjoyed by the crowd.

At the same stage after Priscilla was Tristan Prettyman. I’ve been a Tristan fan for over three years now and I’ve seen her in concert a number of times and always look forward to each performance. I was especially excited for this show because I wanted to get a recording. Things were going great, Tristan was playing some of her new material which I really enjoy, but when I looked down to check my levels I realized that my recording had stopped. I tried to start things back up but it would immediately stop recording once it started. What the hell. After a few moments I realized that it was out of space. So I abandoned the recording process for the rest of the set and simply enjoyed the set.

I suspected the problem with the recorder was that when I deleted the old files from the CF card that they really didn’t get deleted. Sadly I needed a computer to remove these old files and Dell and AT&T had a booths setup with laptops so I figured one of them might have a USB cable. No such luck. My only option was to reformat my CF card to free the space but that meant I’d loose my Tristan recording. Given that there was two more shows that I wanted to record, I saw little option.

With free space at hand, we headed over to see Neko Case. When buying some cables for my recorder I started talking to this fantastic guy that works at Gleb Music and along the way I mentioned that I was going to ACL. He immediately stated that he’d love to get his hands on a Neko Case recording and told me stories of how he’d traveled from California to Washington to see one of her shows. How couldn’t I check her out after hearing a story like that.

We then hung out for an hour, keeping our spots a few feet from the stage to see The Raconteurs. Their show was amazing. As much as I love Tristan, I think The Raconteurs edged her out just a little bit. Unfortunately Jack White (lead vocals) had a slipped disc in his back but somehow managed to pull himself through the show. Their studio albums most definitely have a rock feel to them but their live performances are much more intense, but how couldn’t they rock with a guy like Brendan Benson on guitar?

Initially I wasn’t sure about this years lineup, but thankfully those feelings were unwarranted because in the end I had just as much fun this year as I did the last two. Plus, this year was a lot cooler (temperature wise) than previous years and the grounds were much more enjoyable thanks to volunteers picking up bottles in exchange for t-shirts. I was really glad that Tate could join us this year and am hoping that we can have an even larger group for the next festival.


Austin City Limits: Day Two

September 29, 2008

Clothing Optional Area

Clothing Optional Area

Tired. Very Tired. We got a bit of a late start on Saturday which actually worked out pretty well because there wasn’t anyone on the schedule in the morning that we really had our hearts set out to see.

Will and I checked out Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings while playing a little game of Hot or Not. Neither of us had ever heard any of their music but really enjoyed how much fun they had interacting with the crowd. After that set we checked out the merch table, I got a fairly cool recycling themed shirt but sadly the posters this year weren’t all that appealing.

We then wondered over to the stage where Erykah Badu was going to perform. I haven’t listened her since 1998 so I can’t exactly say that I’m familiar with much of her music. But she’s got a fun sound so we figured we’d check it out. Sadly she started the set 10 minutes late and then decided to spend five minutes telling the crowd a story. I’m all up for artists telling stories during their set, but spending 10% of the set on a story is a bit excessive. We headed out to meed my Dad and Tate at the WaMu stage to see The Nachito Herrera All Stars.

None of us had herd the Nachito Herrera All Stars before but apparenlty a couple of Tate’s friends had actually seen them the night before in the Twin Cities and were impressed. Apparently the group had only played together for a few shows which is quite impressive. They didn’t have a whole lot of lyrics to their songs but that’s pretty understandable. I was just impressed with how well Herrera conducted the group while playing they keys.

By 6:30 the day was really starting to roll. We all checked out John Fogerty (front man for Credence Clearwater Revival). I started listening to CCR when I was in junior high which surprised my Dad at the time, so I’m quite familiar with Fogerty’s earlier work. I wasn’t sure how much of his older stuff he’d play but happily he had a good mix. It’s always interesting to watch someone as legendary as Fogerty.

The highlight of the day for me was Iron & Wine. When I started working at O’Reilly a coworker named Matt introduced me to their music. I listened to the album a bit but sadly didn’t spend much time with it. This is a decision that I’ve regretted after circling back around and hearing their latest album, The Shepherd’s Dog. Iron & Wine continues to develop a more complex sound which is especially present in their live performances.

This was the only show that I recorded in its entirety on Saturday and I’ll post it if I find out if they are cool with having their shows recorded. As a side note, for all of you in the bay area, Iron & Wine is going to be playing at this years Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival on October 5th. The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival is a free festival in Golden Gate park and I’d highly recommend checking them out.

We closed out the day with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and happily walked back to the downtown area feeling a bit more energetic than the night before. Plus, we had the pleasure of being informed that we’re sinners by some religious folks outside the park, always a good time.

Austin City Limits: Day One

September 29, 2008

Last Friday was the first day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the beginning of my third year in attendance. My goal was to write about each day immediately after the day ended, but it didn’t take long to realize that this goal would not be met. But better late than never and I’ve got a few hours to kill before my flight back to San Francisco.

Part of the reason I didn’t have time to write at the end of each day is because my Dad, my brother Tate and one of my best friends Will made it to the festival as well and we were simply having too good of time hanging out together (wish you could have made it Alex and Amanda). This was the first year that my brother came along with us and I was excited to see what he thought of the experience.

Given how exhausted we all were from traveling to Austin, I was very proud of us for getting to Zilker park a bit after noon. The first show I wanted to see was Yeasayer at 1:30. I first heard of Yeasayer last January from Liz and I’d listened to their album All Hours Cymbals a few times but didn’t give it a whole lot of attention until leading up to the festival. However, in the last few weeks the album has really been growing on me. Their lyrics can be a little hard to follow along to sometimes so I wasn’t sure what the others would think of the show.

They played most of the songs off of the All Hours Cymbals album but without a doubt, Sunrise and 2080 were two of my favorites. My only complaint is that the base guitar was driven into distortion which cast a lot of the delicate and intricate details into the shadows. But that’s fine, it gives me a good excuse to see them again the next time they are in San Francisco.

Next up was Jakob Dylan, son of Bob Dylan. Last year Bob Dylan was the closing act on Sunday and lets just say I was disappointed with how he interacted with the crowd. Thankfully his son Jakob seems to have plenty of energy and spark in him to say hello to all of us. Knowing that it would be a fairly long day, Will and I kind of relaxed a bit during his set but still found it quite enjoyable.

At 3:30 we made our way over to see Del tha Funky Homosapien. I love Del. He is by far one of the most innovative and talented artists in the Rap/Hip-Hop world. Many people aren’t familiar with him under this name but chances are you’ve heard him without knowing it. His most well known work is likely on the song “Clint Eastwood” with the Gorillaz. But for me his greatest work is the Deltron 3030 album. We didn’t get very close to the stage which is a bummer because there was clearly a ton of energy in the crowd.

Going off of a recommendation from someone that Will chatted with on the flight to Austin, we decided to check out Patty Griffin. She didn’t seem too bad but given that we didn’t know much about her, it was kind of hard to really get into her set. So we headed out halfway through, got some food and then listened to the first half of the Slightly Stoopid set. I was hoping that G. Love would come out and join them for Mellow Mood and in fact G. Love did come out, but they sang a different song. Will and I decided that we’d leave early and get a killer spot for The Swell Season.

If you aren’t familiar with The Swell Season and you like folk music, make sure you do something about that. Many months ago Will suggested that I check out the soundtrack for the movie Once and that was the best music recommendation Will has ever given me. The soundtrack for the movie was written and performed by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (they also starred in the movie). So when Will informed me that The Swell Season was made up of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, I was very excited. We managed to get some spots a few feet from the stage and the show firmly cemented the desire to see the two of them in concert again. Especially because we headed out fifteen minutes early to see Donavan Frankenreiter.

If you follow my blog, you may remember me blogging about how amazing the Donavan Frankenreiter show was at the Outside Lands Festival and that was an experience I wanted to duplicate, so I was very motivated to get a good spot for the set. My Dad and brother didn’t feel the same need so they hung out a bit further back in the crowd while Will and I managed to be close enough to touch the stage. Once again the show did not disappoint. Donavan was as fantastic as always and clearly seemed to be enjoying himself.

But what made this show special for me was when G. Love joined Donavan on the stage. I passed on seeing the G. Love show in favor of The Swell Season, a choice that wasn’t easy to make. So it warmed my heart to be able to see him join in on both “What’cha Know About” and “It Don’t Matter”.

Normally at shows I spend a good amount of energy taking photos. But for this festival I took a grand total of 15 pictures, 15! Last year I took ten times this many photos and frankly it felt very strange to not have a camera in my hand the entire time. But I have a good excuse, I promise.

Shortly before the festival this year I went to a JJ Grey & Mofro concert and during the concert I was wishing that I could share what I was hearing with others. Then it hit me, I could totally share what I was hearing if I got some recording equipment. I did some research online, got myself a portable recorder and I already had a mic so it was easy to get something simple going (I’ll share the details of my setup in a later post).

I played around with the recorder and various mic positions earlier in the day and by the time the Donavon show came around I was feeling fairly confident that I could get a good recording. So Will and I stood right up front, me grabbing the audio and Will grabbing some video. Not only was the set better than I expected, the quality of my recording exceeded every single expectation I had, almost to the point of tears :). Here’s the video of “It Don’t Matter” that Will shot:

Friday ended up being a very long day for all of us and we were all ready to get back to the hotel for some much needed rest. Between the sun, moving about and the music, one tends to feel pretty drained at the end of the day. But that’s actually a pretty good demonstration of exactly how amazing these festivals are. It’s the memories that are made hearing so many amazing artists with such amazing friends that makes it all so worthwhile.

Concert: JJ Grey & Mofro

September 14, 2008

I know, it wasn’t that long ago that I blogged about JJ Grey & Mofro but trust me, my listening habits aren’t centered around this one band. It just happens that their albums are amazing, they recently released Orange Blossoms and played the last two nights at The Independent in San Francisco.

The combination of leaving my place late and dealing with the never ending saga of parking around the venue made me miss the opening act, Hill Country Revue. This is a bummer because they appear to be a very talented bunch but thankfully I didn’t miss a minute of JJ Grey.

Most artists tend to play their most recent material at a concert and this show wasn’t an exception to that rule. But I was pleasantly surprised at much material they also played from prior albums. They hit up Jookhouse and Brighter Days off of their first album Blackwater. They played the title track off of Lochloosa as well as Fireflies.  Off of Country Ghetto they included War, Footsteps, Turpentine, Mississippi and possibly others (I was too involved in the music to make set notes).

Personally this was exactly the type of set that I was hoping for, one that mixes both the past and the present. However, the audience reaction wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The title track off of Orange Blossoms is a full on rocking song that tells a great story. I thought for sure the crowd would react strongly to the song but they didn’t. My guess is that the album is just so new that most fans haven’t had the chance to absorb it yet. Those fans are in for a treat when they do.

Also to my surprise was the fact that seemingly everyone in the audience sang along to Lochloosa. That track was released four years ago and really goes to show how strong and loyal the fan base is for the band.

At the end of the almost two hour long set I was wishing that I had gotten tickets for the Friday night show as well. So I will guarentee that you can find me at another one of their shows down the road.

Avoiding Bad Haircuts

September 6, 2008

Thankfully it grows back. That’s what I keep telling myself during and after a bad haircut. But as my hair gets a little thinner, that statement gets a little less comforting all the time. So I’m thinking it might be time to start taking a more active and less passive approach when it comes to deciding who cuts my hair.

The catalyst for this thought is the fact that I recently moved. While parts of moving can suck (boxes, utilities, general disruption, etc), the absolute worst part is finding all the people that you infrequently visit.  People like a new doctor, barber and taxidermist. Being a healthy guy without pets, naturally the need to find a new barber was encountered first.

The need for a haircut tends to sneak up on me. One day it’s not on my mind, the next day it’s screaming at me to do something about. This was the case I found myself in one day last week. So I figured I’d get some work done in the morning and then head out in the afternoon and find a place to get the job done.

One thing led to another and the next thing I knew it was 7pm and not only had I skipped lunch, my hair was still too long as well. Damn. So I knew that the haircut would probably have to wait but I decided to walk downtown and grab some food. I managed to find a mexican place that was so good that it took my mind off of my shaggy head. But then on the walk home I actually found a barber that was open! Unbelievable.

Sadly it was Great Clips. Even sadder is that I went in. Perhaps my judgment was clouded by the food that I just ate or the feeling that I wouldn’t have to sleep with this mess on my head another night.  I’m not sure, but I should know better than to make the mistake of asking, “do you have enough time for another haircut?”.

That question should never be asked. If it’s close enough to closing time where you have to ask if there is time for a 15 minute haircut, walk away and come back the next day. Why? For the same reason you don’t want to order fast food right before they close, these people are anxious to get the hell out of there. And when someone has fairly sharp instruments that close to my head I’d like them to be thinking about the tasks at hand, not the tasks at home.

This wasn’t the only sign that I should have continued on my way. After the woman responded with a confidence inspiring “sure”, she asked me for my phone number. Not because she was attracted to me but because she wanted to enter it into the computer. After telling it to her three times and her still not getting it right I decided that it was best left incorrect. None of this really bothers me, in fact I’d prefer if they didn’t have my real phone number.

The reality of what I got myself into slammed home when she also couldn’t understand the fairly simply description of how I wanted my hair cut. “Tapered up the sides and an inch or so left on the top”, I have a hard time thinking of a simpler haircut that one would actually pay for. After repeating myself she responded by saying, “I love your accent, are you from England?”. You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m from Iowa and the only accent I can even impersonate is a northern one don’t ya know.

What could I do at this point? I’ve got that neck based apron on so it’s hard to just run away. Calling the woman an idiot or actually saying anything that was in my head at the moment isn’t going to help one bit. So I bit my tongue, closed my eyes and told myself “it grows back”.

But if you say that to yourself for too long you’re liable to just blurt it out at some point. So instead of dealing with that awkwardness I decided to think of all the other signs that you’re in for a bad haircut. I remembered this one time I got my haircut in college (also at a Great Clips, what’s wrong with me) by this guy that had the ugliest hair I’ve ever seen in my life, it made mullets jealous. It literally looked like he sculpted his hair into a bird and no, this wasn’t in the 80’s. If someone thinks that style is good enough for themselves, who knows what you’ll walk away looking like.

After remembering that story I couldn’t help but wonder about Great Clips itself. I’m always suspect of any company who’s name implies quality. It just feels a little arrogant and insulting to me, especially because there isn’t much that’s great about them.

Thankfully when I opened my eyes at the end of my haircut the result wasn’t as bad as I expected. She didn’t do a great job, but nobody has laughed at me so by some measure it’s a success. But I’m going to find myself in this exact same position in a few weeks and I clearly need all the help I can get. So if anyone has ideas for other things to watch out for, I’d love to hear them.