Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On The Road

I'm feeling a bit discombobulated lately. I've barely been home and my routine is all out of whack. It's amazing how just a couple of days away can really throw a person off. Or at least me.

A little over a week ago, I headed to Atlanta for a work thing. I'd never been and was a bit worried about all sorts of things related to travel as it had been a while. Everything ended up being fine, but I did have a panic attack when I reached my hotel room.

This was a work thing and so there were work things I had to do most of the time so I didn't really get out much.

I had dinner Sunday night in the hotel bar.

Lonely beer for one.

My late dinner of grilled veggies and mashed potatoes.  It was worth the wait.

My food took a really long time to get to me and this had a big impact on my trip. Since I barely left the hotel and spent most meals eating at the hotel bar, I was overrun with customer service making it up to me for the rest of the trip. Free drinks and dessert and oodles of apologies whenever I came in sight of the manager. I wasn't even bitchy about my food being late that first night. I was way too tired and distraught to even care.

Free dessert. Chocolate mousse. It was so good I got again the next day.

But the overall customer service and friendliness from the people of Atlanta was amazing. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with big smiles and warm gestures.

I returned home late Tuesday evening sometime after 11pm. I was tired. I had to check out of my hotel room at 2, but my flight wasn't until 8:30 so I had been lugging my luggage for hours. And the Atlanta airport is no picnic. It was insanity. Not a single seat at any bar or restaurant for the longest time. Completely crowded.

I had to work the next two days and then there was a show (2 shows actually) that I had been looking forward to on Thursday night. So I went out. And it was a blast. Soda Pop Jerk, Rank Strangers, and Sex Rays at Palmers Bar on the West Bank in Minneapolis. It was great. So many friend were there. Great music. So much fun.

 Soda Pop Jerk.

Rank Strangers.

Sex Rays.

The only reason I could really attend this show, though, was because I had taken Friday off of work to decompress after the crazy week and to prep for Cannonball on Saturday.

Cannonball is an annual road trip, scavenger hunt, film festival put on my some friends of mine. Teams of 4 follow an itinerary that takes them throughout the state to a final location unknown until the morning of. Each team has a theme and general movie plot of their choosing and have to film their day at various locations and compile a short film to show at the end of the day. My team won last year.

It's a lot of fun but exhausting. You spend about 8 hours in a car, running around, filming, can be a long day. Then you get to the final location (a lodge somewhere) and you show your film and watch others and they are all super funny and then you spend the rest of the evening in a big house party. The house party part gets harder and harder each year. The older you get, the less appealing just crashing anywhere becomes. This time I forced myself to stay up until 4am and every last person was going to bed just so I could sleep on the super comfortable couch and not in the sweat lodge/stink room that was the communal bedroom. 

Some of our stops...

The Mermaid bar in Mounds View, MN.

Treasure City (somewhere in northern MN)

The Last Turn Saloon in Bemidji, MN where they serve burgers with egg rolls on them (this was not my dinner).

When you do finally get to your final location, it's dark and you don't really get to see where you are staying until the next morning. For example, I had no idea this was out the back door until I woke up in the morning:

Somewhere in Marcell, MN

I had taken Monday off of work, as well. After 5 years of Cannonball, I finally learned I need that extra day of recovery.

I then went to bed Monday night not feeling so great and woke up in the middle of the night unable to swallow. I seem to have caught a slight cold, which is completely expected. So now I'm just dealing with that. I stayed home sick yesterday after already being off of work last Friday and Monday - not to mention being out of town early last week in Atlanta.  So that's why I'm feeling discombobulated. I'm just out of sorts. I keep forgetting what day it is and what things I'm supposed to be doing. Like prepping for my residency at The Nomad in November (every Thursday!). I've just finally been able to concentrate on it. I'm sure I'll finally start feeling normal again by next Thursday just in time to play rock shows until 2am in the middle of the week. But that's okay. Because I really like playing rock shows. I hope you can make it out one of these nights! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Friday Brain Waves

I've been wanting to write a blog post on aging and how fucking terrifying it is. I've been bombarded with stories and situations that remind me how fucking terrifying it is lately. But I just can't because who wants to think about that?

So instead, I'll stay positive (which is really hard because I have to go to Atlanta next week for a work thing and I have to stay in a hotel room and I am ridiculously and embarrassingly afraid of discovering bed bugs and the hotel I'm staying at shows up on the bed bug registry as having had a case of them 3 years ago and that's enough to scare the crap out of me and I have been paranoid and stressed about it for the past month).

So, yeah, anyway, positivity...

I've got another residency happening in November at The Nomad in Minneapolis. This will probably close out my year for shows (unless I get offered something totally awesome) and the band and I will turn our focus to new songs and potential recordings of them in the early spring of 2014 (hopefully).

I've been working out some vocal arrangements with my lovely friends, Laura and Colleen. I'm so excited to have backing singers. They are such pros, too. It's fun to sing with others. Here's a sample of an acoustic take on a new song that they've added some parts to:

Next weekend is Cannonball! My annual road trip/scavenger hunt/film festival competition thing that my friends and I do. Every year I get excited about it and every year when it's over I swear I am never doing it again as it is exhausting. But last year my team won so I really didn't have a choice. As reigning champs I had to come back and help defend the crown. But I was smart this time and took the Friday before and the Monday after off of work. Plenty of time to gear up and wind down.

But, in the meantime, I'm just going to listen to the new Britney Spears song on repeat because OMG how can you not just start moving and dancing to this? Way to go, Ms. Spears!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Shuffle Selections

Here are the songs that played while I was at work today:

“Blank Slate” – The National
“Swear You Away” – Bomba de Luz
“Gold Star” – Tristen
“Arrest” – Andy Stochansky
“Gimme More” – Britney Spears
“Sprout and the Bean” – Joanna Newsom
“Fidelity” (Live in London) – Regina Spektor
“Tender” – Blur
“Asshole” – Rilo Kiley
“Origami” – Ani Difranco
“Man of the Hour” – Pearl Jam
“Walking Off Strong” – Caroline Smith
“Islands” – The White Whales
“Never Shine Sun” – Greg Brown
“Beast” – David Karsten Daniels
 “Muchacho’s Tune” – Phosphorescent
“Last Year” – Best Coast
 “Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)” – Phosphorescent
“Friend of Mine” – The National
“The Good Times Are Killing Me” – Modest Mouse
“Instant Classic” – Erin McKeown
“Shooting Star” – Veronica Falls
“About Today” – The National
“Godspeed” – Jenny Lewis
“78% H2O”  (Official Bootleg: Hamburg, Germany 10.18.07) – Ani Difranco
“Beginning to See the Light” – The Velvet Underground
“Want It Back” – Amanda Palmer
“Daniel” – Veronica Falls
“Here She Comes Now” – The Velvet Underground
“How It Went Down” – Dark Dark Dark
“The Next Messiah” – Jenny Lewis
“Gone Daddy Gone” – Violent Femmes
“Hearse” – Ani Difranco
“All That I Know Is (I’m Your Baby)” – Caroline Smith
“Love Letters” – The White Whales
“Melody Dean” – Amanda Palmer
“Swandive” – Ani Difranco
“Pelican Bay” – Rilo Kiley
“Slow Show” – The National
“Almanac” – Volcano Choir
“Don’t Lie” – Vampire Weekend
“Lost” – Amanda Palmer
“Buried Alive” – Veronica Falls
“None of Your Business” – Salt-N-Peppa
“Pillar to Post” – French Films About Trains
“M.O.R.” – Blur
“Finger Back” – Vampire Weekend
“I Should Live in Salt” – The National
“Eternal Flame” – The Bangles
“Rock & Roll” – The Velvet Underground
“Monster” – Tristen
“ A Quick Peep” – Oasis
“June” – Bomba de Luz
“Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy” – Jack White
“Sea Lion Woman” – Feist
“On the Sea” – Beach House
“Tell Me” – Dark Dark Dark
"Broken Toy" - Veronica Falls
"Wedding Song" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"Now That I'm Older" - Sufjan Stevens
"Burning Stars" - Mimicking Birds

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Office: Original UK Version

I recently finished watching the original UK version of The Office. Yes, I am very late to the party. I had started watching it many times. I've probably seen the first 4 episodes 5 times each. But I never got around to watching more even though we own the complete series on DVD. Something just never clicked with me.

Let me start by saying, I'm a big fan of British television and film. I love all things UK. I felt like I had found where I belong when I went to London.

But, The Office, just rubbed me the wrong way.

The only character I liked and genuinely felt for was Gareth - and I don't think that was supposed to be the case. It wasn't even that I liked him, I just felt that he was the most well-rounded, flushed out person. I understood why he is how he is. Everyone else just seemed positioned as they were to deliver the joke. Though the series is short, there are only 4 main characters. With just four, you would think you'd have a chance to get to know them better.

And those jokes...were they all either gay jokes or sexist jokes? I think they were. I'm not a prude when it comes to jokes by any means. But at least, with the US Office when Michael Scott would make a joke along those lines, the rest of the characters would show disapproval or shock. Pam Beasley never just sat there and took it when Michael would make some sexual comment. She would at least give a frustrated sigh. All the women on the UK Office just acted like, yep, this is how we're supposed to be treated in the work place. Punching bags for the men folk to leer at and make sexual suggestions to.

I understand this is a comedy and not an actual documentary of a work place. But it was just so constant that I couldn't tell what was the joke and what was the regular dialogue anymore. David Brent seems less over the top when everyone around him makes the same awkward humor.

And Tim and Dawn? Sigh. I might just be so used to Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson now that I had a hard time with him as Tim. But I just didn't like him. At all. I didn't want them to get together at all. I didn't like her at all. She seemed...vacant...and not bright. The US version of Dawn, Pam Beasley, seemed quick and likeable. Same with Tim. He just felt so dull, unlikeable, and someone to root against instead of for. His US counterpart, Jim,who also seems to lack direction, actually seemed to realize he was at Dunder Mifflin and should have left a long time ago but got stuck because of a girl and knew he could be better and even got out and went to corporate for a while before being forced back. Tim refused a promotion because he didn't want to get stuck, then was still there 3 years later doing the same job - long after the girl had left. People get stuck at jobs all the time, yes. Been there. But I just felt like he should have moved on.

In the end, the series just left me with a bad vibe.

Some will say that it's more realistic. Not everyone in an office is likable, most people get stuck in dead end jobs....but then don't have a reoccurring character come into the office and not even subtly suggest the receptionist gives him a blow job in front of everyone without repercussions if it's supposed to be realistic. There has to be a middle ground. And I must say the US version nails it much better.

Friday, October 4, 2013

On First Albums: An Anniversary

Wednesday was the three year anniversary of the release of my first album, Good. When I think back on where I was when I made that and why I made it and just generally who I was when I made that, it's a weird thing.

I read so many interviews with musicians who talk about how they cringe when listening to their earlier albums. And I get that. It's hard. Everything is so new. I didn't know what I was doing. I wasn't thinking about overall sound and themes and what I really wanted for this record, just that I wanted to make it. Make one. An album.

I had been sitting with this goal in my head for so many years. The goal was to perform one of my own original songs on stage one time. Just one song, one time. And I put it off for so long. I was terrified. Writing a song and playing it in front of people is absolutely terrifying the first time. And the second time and sometimes many many more times. People are so weird about music. Every one looks at it from a different perspective and likes what they like for different reasons. And you never know who your audience is that night. The fear of being laughed at or catching someone rolling their eyes or plugging their ears or getting up and walking away is a very legitimate fear. And I was terrified. So I put it off. For years. And for so many excuses. I had a guitar. I had songs. I had a voice. But there was always a reason not to.

Until I decided that there wasn't a reason not to.

So I did it and as I stood up there performing what would end up being the title track to this first record, I just felt a change. Something shifted in me. It was like I finally felt comfortable. Like I discovered this thing, a point of focus, that I had, that had always been there.

I performed 4 more songs that night and couldn't wait to come back the next week and do it again.

 First time on stage.

Throughout the next few months as I attended open mic after open mic, I kicked myself repeatedly for not tackling this as a young 20 year old - when the freedom to focus on your passion is more acceptable and easier. For now, this music thing would have to sit in the hobby section of life. Something to do between 8 hours of work and a good night's sleep and every other chore in between.

But I couldn't just let it sit there. I wanted to do more. I wanted to make an album. I had adjusted my goals and now an album is where it was at. I still couldn't really pin point why or what the ultimate goal was. I just thought, baby steps. One thing at a time.

So I contacted my friend to play drums on the album (Shawn, who still plays with me, but now plays lead guitar). I headed to the place where all my friends like to record (owned by the lead singer/guitarist of one of my favorite bands, so bonus), and started recording the songs. Because that's what I wanted. A professional sounding collection of my songs.

And after 6 weeks of work day evenings and a couple of 10 hour Saturdays, I had an album.

So then what?

I asked my friend if she would create the artwork. And she did. And it's so lovely. And people are always gushing about how pretty it is. And I cried when I first saw it because there it was. My first album cover. It was happening.

I listened to it and, it's a weird thing listening to your own records. With this first one, I was amazed to hear that, yep, my guitar can sound like the artist's I listen to. It's just an acoustic, but it sounds like an acoustic. It was some sort of validation that I can actually play. It's hard to explain.

And then you hear your own voice, which for anybody is awkward. It's really hard to get used to. You cannot help but pick it apart. I still think of all the things I would change vocally if I were recording Good now. These songs now, when played live, are so different in so many ways.

But this was all so new to me then.

I didn't heavily promote it. I didn't know how. I played shows and told people there about it. I figured out how to get it on iTunes and other music places online. I sent it out to radio. But I held my release show in my living room. Still just so very shy and worried about really putting myself out there. (It was a super fun awesome night, though.)

Preparing to rock the living room.

I am incredibly proud of this record. Just its very existence marks a complete change for me. And it's not a change of me becoming a different person, it's a change of me figuring out who I really am.

Music has always been the driving force in my life. My obsession. And now, three years later, I feel like I can tell people that I am a musician. And here are my albums. And I have a show coming up at this place. And you can hear me here. And I do this thing that I am really proud of and I hope you will listen. I want you to listen. I no longer want to keep it hidden to my own files. And if you don't like it, thanks for taking the time to check it out.

I've never been a very confident gal. I've always been very unsure of myself. Music has given me a confidence I never knew I could have. And even if most days it's not there in my every day life, walking the skyways of downtown St. Paul to get coffee before work or in a room full of party people, when I'm playing music I feel comfortable. I feel at home. I feel like myself.

Good will always be the starting point for that. Learning about the craft of songwriting and album making and gaining experience, I do things a little differently now. With Sea Salt I caught a theme running through and wanted to make sure the songs had a connecting vibe with them. Same with Intermission. I take songwriting as a challenge in my life. A positive one. Something to study and work on. I write with my band in mind. I write with my band. I have a band. And they are awesome. But I'm also less fearful of putting it all out there. With Good, it's a collection of songs that I had. That I was proud of. That I wanted to test the waters with. I learned a lot making that record, performing those songs, promoting it. I learned a lot about a lot of things.

It's a fascinating world, this music world. It can be extremely fun and extremely frustrating. But I'm so incredibly happy to be a part of it.

So thank you to the songs of Good and everyone who helped to make it a reality. It's been a gift that I will always cherish and am so thankful for.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Harriet Brewing 10/2/13

There was a massive storm and a lot of beer.

And it was a good time.

We played for two hours last night at Harriet Brewing. Okay, truthfully it was more like an hour and 40 minutes, but STILL. That's a long time. And it was so fun.

We had to break out all of our songs to fill up the time, which also added to the good times. I did some solo stuff and some duo stuff with Shawn, too.

 Double your setlist, double your fun.

And, when you play in a brewery, you're going to have some beer. And we did. And that also added to the fun.

It's a great little venue, with big garage doors that open up to a patio with Christmas lights strung around. They had a food truck there. And beer.

I would go there again.

Setlist for Harriet Brewery 10/2/13

Set 1
  • Salt
  • Flavor
  • I Guess This Is Called Moving On
  • Blind
  • Lens
  • Blue Whale
  • Good
  • The Party
  • Can't Even Tell (duo)
  • Johnny B. Goode (solo)
  • Minnesota (solo)

Set 2
  • A Story (duo)
  • Where's the Fire
  • Float
  • Good to Know
  • Beg, Borrow, or Steal
  • Easy to Blame (duo)
  • We Belong (solo - Pat Benatar cover)
  • Introvert
  • Adore
  • Yesterdays (first time played!)

Our next show is the kickoff for our residency at The Nomad in Minneapolis. Thursdays in November starting November 7th!