Sunday, August 23, 2009

The strut of a rockstar

I'm recovering from an awesome weekend full of music and some great new friends. All of that fun has left me tired, with a scratchy throat and feet that feel like death. Totally worth it.

Friday kicked off the weekend with a launch party for a project I had worked on. After the party, we all headed down to our favorite spot a few blocks down. I fell a small sense of pride in the fact that we filled half the place that night. Good times had by all (I hope).

Yesterday was Summerfest 2009, an annual music day put on by our awesome locally owned radio station. This year's lineup was: Envelope, The Living Things, Band of Skulls, Company of Thieves, Matt & Kim, and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. Thanks to the kindness of a stranger (now a friend), I made it into the Company of Thieves Big Room, which is an unplugged set at the radio station. Thanks to the kindness of another new friend, I was able to get into the station before anyone else, so it was us, the band, and the DJ's for a while. If I didn't love Company of Thieves before, I do now. They are great, possibly even better, live.

After the show, I met up with my friend Blair and we headed to Summerfest. We caught Envelope, the local hip-hop act. The highlights of Envelope included his grandma, who was dancing backstage and the end, where he released balloons and doves as humorous and low budget way to wow the crowd. We saw a little of The Living Things before seeing Band of Skulls.

If you haven't heard Band of Skulls, you should stop what you're doing and find their album. This was a great summer album, full of gritty rock and lots of dance potential. It was made for driving with the windows down or, better yet, outdoor shows. The whole band has the kind of rockstar persona that makes you stare. Leather jackets in the middle of August, aviator glasses, and the strut of people who rock out. They lived up to the hype and put on an awesome show. Kings of Leon should probably take notes (yeah, I said that).

While the crowd and sound were horrible for the Company of Thieves show, we got good spots for Stellastar**, Matt & Kim, and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. While I'm not a huge Stellastar** fan, the crowd loved them. When Matt & Kim came on stage, the energy levels exploded and the entire pit area became one bouncing, hopped up dance party. Matt & Kim played a fun, high energy set and managed to charm everyone between songs ("I don't have health insurance, but I thought this t-shirt gun was a great investment."). At one point, Kim showed off her "booty shaken", and I kid you not, she smiled through the entire show. I'm friends with the station's photographer and we were looking at the photos afterward - she looks the same in almost every one. They are adorable.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears came on stage next and did a great job. While I recognize the appeal there, I just can't get into their stuff. Sorry. I tried, not my style. I ended up leaving and hanging out with some friends at the afterparty next door, where the dancing had already started. It felt amazing to sit after standing all day.

So, it was great, despite the tired feet and scratchy throat and overall need for more sleep. Definitely check out some new music and support the little guys out there!

Let's do this

Chicago: Days 3+4

After getting some rest and recovering from the night before, I called the service station as soon as they were opening up. While we had been told that a mechanic would be in on Sunday, several phone calls finally informed us that he wouldn't, that he didn't have a phone, and that there was no way to find out when he would be in. As you can imagine, this was frustrating. We searched for other places to take my poor car, but no one was open on Sunday. So, we decided to make the best of our extra day and just enjoy Chicago.

This ended up being possibly my favorite day of the trip. We walked around downtown and just enjoyed the city and sunshine (it was 96 that day). We ended up in a garden that was right next to Grant Park. In the garden there was an area to sit and put your feet in water. After days on our feet, it was heavenly. We could hear all of the music across the street and heard a couple of really good sets for free. After pulling ourselves away from the water, we found a shady area and painted our nails. If that isn't quality girl time, I don't know what is. We finally headed home, ordered a true, Chicago-style pizza, and watched movies. If you're going to be stuck somewhere, this is how it should be.

The next morning, I called the service station again and actually got to talk to a mechanic this time. He assured me that my car would be looked at within two hours. We set out for breakfast and felt timidly hopeful that good news and a quick fix were on the way. We both agreed that, however nice the trip was, we wanted this to be our last meal in Chicago.

The rest of this story, probably the most dramatic, would take a long time to tell. In short, I was informed that I would need a new engine. When you're stuck in another city, 6 hours from home, tired, wearing the same clothes as you were yesterday, and sleeping in a recliner, this is not what you want to hear. A few phone calls later, we learned that we could "probably" make it home with the current engine. We picked my car up, packed our stuff in, and took off. There was a definite "let's do this thing" feel to it all. It took us eight hours, but we made it, and my car is still running. I have to give props to the BFF, who helped me keep it together and made me laugh more than I ever have before. Despite the fact that almost everything went wrong at some point, we had an amazing time!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So we left and started a garage band

I interrupt your regularly scheduled programming (my Chicago tale of disaster) to discuss my latest music obsession. I've been reading music blogs and felt the need to share my own latest find.

I was able to catch a Metric show on Tuesday and walked away feeling the need to revive my teenage "I wanna be a rockstar" dreams. The show was really fun thanks to Emily Haines' energy and her awesome sequined dress. She bounced, danced, and at one point, threw herself into the crowd before running in front of the stage and giving everyone high fives. The rest of the band smiled and played like they were *gasp* having fun. Twice during the set, there were pauses where Emily talked to the crowd. It wasn't the same "thanks for being a great crowd" lines, either. She talked about how excited they were to actually hear their music on the radio, her parents, and how she didn't really understand the effect of music (to paraphrase: "If we were all on the Subway right now, we'd be giving each other dirty looks."). It was nice to go to a show with actual interaction.

After being wowed by the show, I did a little research on Metric and ended up finding out more about Emily Haines. She has collaborated with, among others, Broken Social Scene (and on my favorite song!) and Stars and has two solo albums under the name Emily Haines + the Soft Skeleton. If you haven't heard her solo work or seen the (awesome) video below, be sure to check her out!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It happened

Chicago: Day 2

After our Lollapalooza day of music and rain, we headed out to see Chicago. All of Chicago. While the day started out cloudy, it quickly turned very sunny and veerry muggy. I started removing layers after about an hour and my sweater and scarf became awkward weights in my bag for the next ten hours of walking. By the end of the day, I had an impressive sunburn and several blisters on each foot. I had also seen some of the best spots in the city.

We started by train-hopping over to a great little cafe in Wicker Park called Cipollina. Right under the tracks, this place had awesome food/coffee/atmosphere. We walked around the neighborhood a bit before heading over to the Steppenwolf theater. On the way there, I saw Cynthia Rowley's store. In case you are unaware, I looove Cynthia Rowley's stuff. My sweaty grossness, Puma's, and bag full of discarded clothing kept me from going in. A few hours later (I might add that I was tired/hot/thirsty/cranky by this point) we ate an amazing lunch at Costello's. This was one of my friend's favorite spots when she lived in Chicago, so it was a nice return for her.

We followed this up with more walking, heading down to sit by the lake for a while. We took some really awkward photos and tried to avoid looking at the Speedo-sporting sunbathers nearby.

After heading to the apartment and cleaning up, we headed out for dinner at Wishbone. After our day of public transportation, we decided to drive my car and find a parking spot. We had made plans to meet up with some friends for an aftershow, but our plans fell through (ah, so much confusion) and we decided to drive around a bit and find some dessert.

And that's when it happened.

My car started shaking. The whole car. We happened to be right by Shell station with a service center (this does not happen!) so we pulled in and tried to figure it out. Half an hour and one phone call to my sleeping parents later, we decided to leave the car there. Assured that the mechanic was in on Sundays, we left with his number in hand and a renewed sense of hope.

Then, we took the right train. In the wrong direction. We realized this at 12:15, after three stops had passed us by. We got off the train at the most desolate and distant stop we had been to yet. This is when we realized that the trains had possibly stopped running for the night, meaning we could be stuck in a not-so-awesome part of Chicago at 12:30. We ended up catching the second to last train of the night and made it home, exhausted, at about 1:30. Little did we know what was ahead...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009

We survived our Chicago trip. That is, in fact, impressive.

Day 1: Lollapalooza
We had an awesome time at Lolla, as expected. We started out with Hockey, who made it into their second song when they lost power completely. They handled it well by playing drums and then handing beer out to the crowd. We wandered to the next stage and saw a great set by Manchester Orchestra. I wasn't a huge fan, but they are great live. We caught some of Gringo Starr and The Knux (loud, but great energy), and The Builders and the Butchers. Then, we headed to Bon Iver. Bon Iver is one of the few artists I would happily stand in the pouring rain to hear. He is one of even fewer artists who is actually better in the rain. After his amazing set, we caught Ben Folds, Fleet Foxes, and then, The Decemberists. I don't claim to be a Decemberists fan, but they won me over this weekend. They were easily my favorite and put on an impressive show! After that, we waited (and waited) for Kings of Leon. I'm really sad to have missed Depeche Mode, but it's nice to say that I've seen Kings live. I had the advantage of standing by an awesome guy for this show, and we danced and sang the whole time.

It's worth pointing out here that:
:: It started raining an hour after the gates opened and stopped about an hour before KoL came on. We were soaked.
::For the record, it is not okay to use an umbrella at a music festival, ever. People will kill you, and they will be justified.
:: We only used the bathroom once all day, we ate twice that day, and we were on our feet for 17 hours straight. Lolla will crush the weak.
:: Most creative way of sneaking alcohol in: guy had taped small bottles of whiskey all over his body.

Check back in - our trip didn't get interesting until the next day...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ready or not

It's late and I should not be typing. I always leave out (more) words when I write late and it never ends well. Feel free to abandon this post now.

I'm leaving tomorrow for Chicago and Lollapalooza. My bags are not packed, my bed is not made, my car has not been cleaned, and I have no idea what I will wear. I did, however, manage to: have some minor repairs done to my car, arrange my health insurance, set up house sitters, interview for a job, work on a freelance project, make a much-needed Target run, and get some road-worthy music lined up. Oh yeah, and I got an iPhone (!).

It's been a busy week, and I think I need this trip more now than I did even a few days ago. My perspective has changed this week (and from more the iPhone, thank you). I learned to say "no", a lot. To reconsider. To be (even more) careful. I learned how to deal with difficult people, and that I need to appreciate the really rare and good people around me more. Always more. I feel a sense of calm in the midst of knowing that I have very little control over what happens next. I will be ready again, come Monday, for the next step/hop/jump/dive.

So, friends, you can catch my live-from-Lolla updates on Twitter, and rest assured, there will be plenty of photos here soon. Cheers!
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