Friday, August 29, 2014

Up Up Up And Down

It's been one week since Birthday Week ended and I wanted to document the highlights.

I wish I would have written this post last Saturday morning as originally planned when the glee from a most excellent Birthday Week was still there shimmering. But then Saturday night happened and everything went to hell very quickly and I'm still trying to shake that off. It was getting better.

But then I ran over a squirrel on my way home today.

I cannot describe the awfulness of that event. Animal rights advocate vegetarian here. I tried to stop. But he came out of nowhere. He was trying so hard to get across the street. I was in the midst of a turn. If I stopped, I would have been rear ended and possibly hit from the side. I had hoped he had gotten through.

But he didn't.

It was awful.

A lot of people would just say "oh, it's just a squirrel".

But I am not one of those people. The squirrels in my yard are fed by us. When Murray died, those squirrels became our surrogate pets. I love watching them play. They brighten my day.

I feel terrible.

I want to puke.

I am afraid to look at my tires. I am afraid to drive in that intersection. I don't want to see what I did.

Ups and downs. Highs and lows. The constant rollercoaster.

I had written about some of the Birthday Week happenings already. My show at The Nomad in which my sister Jackie completely shocked me by showing up. She moved to Montana two years ago and I hadn't seen her since then.

There was my recording session. Vocals night #2. The record is coming along.

There was the most amazing nap I've ever had. Curled up with my dog. He's such a good boy.

My mother-in-law made a most delicious chocolate birthday cake that I spent the whole week enjoying.

Matt and I partook in late night frozen pizzas twice and a 3am viewing of The Big Lebowski. Because he gets to enjoy some of the perks of Birthday Week, too.

Both Ani Difranco and Leonard Cohen released new songs from their upcoming albums due out October 14th and September 23rd, respectively.

And I went to the Minnesota State Fair. Twice. And it was awesome.

So, you take the good, you take the bad, right? Thus is life.

I'm not going to get into what happened on Saturday. Because, as with everything, it will pass.

I donated $50 to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota. It was a suggestion from Matt to try to make myself feel better about the accident that happened. And it did help. Hopefully some other little squirrel somewhere will get the help it needs.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Recording Day 6

Currently I'm in the midst of a very sleepy, fuzzy morning. I was recording vocals for the album last night and I didn't get home until a little after midnight. Then I spent the next hour just lying in bed, wide awake, thinking about what's left to do for the album, making up backing vocal arrangements, and just generally very excited and trying to come down off the creative high one gets after spending hours focused on a project that you are very passionate about.

Then I had to get up and come to work. The constant mental shift of active musician and office worker.

But enough about that.

I'd say the album is about 80% recorded. There are 12 songs total. 10 of them are almost complete - meaning they have all the basic instrumentation and the main vocal done. They just need the backing vocals and then any additional instrumental bells and whistles I decide to throw on. Of the remaining two, one has the instrumental track done - just need vocals - and the other is going to be recorded in one sitting.

Of course, once that's all done, there's mixing and mastering. But I can't think about that now.

It's to the point where the album is so close to being completely recorded. We are right near the finish line and I just want to get it done. But money is always a factor. Now I'm wondering, do I do a Kickstarter? I don't know if the mental stress that would place on my life - constantly watching it and worrying that no one will donate - would be worth it. But it might be necessary to get this done.

I'm just so excited about this album. It's definitely different than the last, but a very natural progression of sound. I want to share it with everyone!

In other news, Birthday Week rolls on. I was thrilled that last night went so well. It continues on the path of what has been a very good Birthday Week so far. Tomorrow is my actual birthday and I'm heading to the State Fair with two of my dearest friends. It is a tradition now that we go each year on the first day. It just so happens that it falls on my birthday this year. The weather may not cooperate. It could be wonderful, it could be horrible. Fingers crossed for a lovely day!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Nomad And Birthday Week

My Birthday Week kicked off Friday night with a show at The Nomad. It was our first show playing out in public since April (although we did play a house party at John's place a couple weeks ago). And it was a Friday night. So double bonus or something.

We had a fun bill with Graveyard Club, Nallo, and Edger - all bands you should check out and I made easy links for you to do so if you just click on their names.

 Graveyard Club



We closed out the night and played a sweaty (at least for me) set of mostly newer songs. The electric guitar came out again and it's just been so much fun to play that these days. Now I just need one of my own so maybe I can learn to play it well. ; )

 Photo by Kimi.

 Photo by Nallo.

Photo by Matt.

Setlist for The Nomad 8-15-14

  • Reactor
  • Lens
  • Car
  • Where's the Fire
  • Float
  • Salt
  • Safety Mode
  • The Reminder
  • Beg, Borrow, or Steal
  • Introvert
  • Adore

Birthday Week keeps going, too! I spent a bit of Saturday back at The Nomad to catch Southside Desire and Sex Rays. Today (Sunday) I went to my mother-in-laws where she made grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate cake for me and my nephew - who shares the same birthday as me. Tuesday, I head back into the recording studio to work on some more vocal tracks. Wednesday, hoping to go out for a couple of drinks and appetizers at Eli's in NE Minneapolis. Then Thursday - on my actual birthday - I'm heading to opening day at the State Fair. LOVE The FAIR. So excited for cheese on a stick and Luigi fries and general fair craziness. I'll be heading back there the next day, too.

Birthday Week!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lyric Of The Day

"no one's ever lost forever
when they die they go away
but they will visit you occasionally
do not be afraid
no one's ever lost forever
they are caught inside your heart
if you garden them and water them
they make you what you are"

- from "Lost" by Amanda Palmer

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Thoughts On Aerosmith's "Cryin'" Video

Just had an urge to watch the video for Aerosmith's "Cryin'", the first video in the Alicia Silverstone starring trilogy from their Get a Grip album. I was 13,14 when these videos came out. Grunge and flannel were everything. Alicia was iconic in these videos. That's not hyperbole. She was The It Girl. I remember having a shirt just like the one at the end of the video when she jumps off the bridge and my jeans and boots and I called it my Alicia Silverstone outfit. She was the coolest. (I also had a shirt I called Eddie (Vedder) and another one called Ethan (Hawke).)

But I was barely a teenager and it's weird to watch things you thought were awesome as a teenager as an adult. I would still wear the bridge jumping outfit, though.

Really, the character in the video is a fucking psycho.

She catches her boyfriend cheating on her in a movie theater. 

Actually, back up. It starts with her and her boyfriend - played by early 90s douchebag, Stephen Dorff - making out and they have matching tattoos. Not sure how old they are supposed to be in this video. Guessing 18 or 19 and they got matching half heart tattoos so that when he cups her boob, the heart becomes one. Classy. (And this is coming from the girl who thought getting a tribal tattoo was a good idea.)

Then she catches him making out with another chick at the theater.

So she picks him up and drives him to a remote location and acts like he's gonna get some, but instead pulls away, punches him, kicks him out of the car and leaves him in a trail of dust. And he just stares at her with a "wow...what a woman" look on his face.

Her next decision is to run off and get the heart tattoo covered up. Okay, I can see wanting to do that. But she gets this smallish heart tattoo covered by inking some giant woman on a horse or dinosaur or something monstrosity in its place. She is so going to regret that in 10 years.

Next step in the "tryin' to forget you" parade, a belly button ring. 

I know it sounds like I'm making fun, but I'm not. Everything in this video is so 1993, it's a fucking time capsule. Yes, to Gap flannels and belly button rings and stick straight hair parted down the middle and bad tattoos in bad places and big combat boots and Stephen Dorff. Yes to Aerosmith making one last grasp for relevancy with their own music and kicking ass at it. This album was HUGE. And it was all thanks to Alicia Silverstone and this crazy girl she played in three of their videos. They came back again huge with the Dianne Warren penned "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" for the Armageddon soundtrack. But now they host games shows and hide out on yachts. 

And, yes to music videos still being a really big deal. Sure, YouTube has brought them back, but they are no longer the mini-movie event watching things they use to be. Bands put out videos like this and they had hit albums. MTV still mattered.

But back to that video...

She's got her tattoo replaced and her belly button ring. She and Stephen Dorff meet up again for one last romp. She takes off and ends up on the side of a mountain road in her classic convertible (because of course) which has just broke down. Ugh. The worst. What to do? How about pull out the jean shorts you keep in the trunk of your car for such an occasion, take off the perfectly nice dress you were wearing and start walking. What else could you do? There were no cell phones.

She ends up at a cafe drinking her coffee. Black. Because that's how we liked it in 1993. She looks over. A handsome man gives her a smile and holy shit that handsome man is Sawyer from Lost! For reals! Craziness. But, just like Sawyer, he's just a thief and steals her backpack (talk about being typecast from the beginning). But she is a badass and chases him down, high kicks him in the head, and gets her backpack pack. (Also, yes, us girls in 1993 carried backpacks not purses. The only thing that would have made this better is if it was a tiny black baby backpack.)

Now she's all fired up and comes up with her ultimate revenge plan against Stephen Dorff because she still can't let it go. Because she is crazy. She calls him to a highway overpass. He finds her standing on the ledge. THE GIRL PRETENDS SHE'S GOING TO KILL HERSELF. WTF, Alicia. That is some psycho stuff. He reaches over. He tries to talk her down. But she jumps. Over a busy highway with tons of cars that are probably like HOLY SHIT SOME GIRL JUST JUMPED OFF THE BRIDGE! I imagine many tires squealing. Probably a ton of accidents. But, oh look! She's got a bungy cord so she's safe. And she gives him the finger. And everyone is like, wow. She is so fucking cool. I know I thought that. Even Stephen Dorff thought that. He's back to his "wow...what a woman" face. And you know what? She probably totally got him back.

I might have to go watch Bon Jovi's video for "Always" next. That video was my everything back then. (And the best part is that I went to go grab the embed for "Cryin" and "Always" is in the related content list. Because of course it is.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Be Positive Though It Hurts

My brain is currently swimming as I try to fight through a hang over. The Jenny Lewis show last night was exactly what I needed after a rough weekend, but it has left me with the remnants of one too many PBRs. Luckily, I had the day off today.

Jenny was absolutely brilliant last night. I have not been into her new album The Voyager - although some of the songs are growing on me - but she is a ridiculously good performer. After the poor concert experience I had on Saturday night, I had decided I didn't even want to try to be up front for Jenny Lewis and I was just going to be content hanging out towards the back. But as soon as she started I was a bit bummed I didn't try. Still...she reached me. All the way at the back of the room.

It was my wedding anniversary. We had a lovely weekend planned and it was mostly lovely. It started on Friday night at a fun party hosted by my drummer, John. The band and I played a set in his backyard. We hadn't played in front of people as a band since the end of April so it was good to get some time in before our shows this fall start kicking in. We played mostly songs off the new album, but added some oldies at the end. I had a moment when we started playing "Float" and someone in the audience got really excited. Still weird that people know my songs.

That night, Matt and I had decided that we would drop Robbie Dog off at grandma's house so we could enjoy our anniversary weekend without having to worry about getting home at certain times. There were block parties that we wanted to attend. Saturday morning we dropped him off and he was such a good boy as he watched us leave.

We stopped and did some shopping on the way home. I bought a new shirt to wear out that day.

We headed to The Butcher and the Boar block party to see BBGun, Night Moves, and Haley Bonar. I love Haley. She is far and away one of my favorites. She's such a solid songwriter. I see her often, but I always look forward to it.

We were having such a great day and a nice time.

We went to the front row before Haley started. It was a block party. People were chatty. They'd been standing in the sun drinking all afternoon. I was not expecting completely silence for the show. But next to me was a group of 3 people. They were in the front row, with their backs to the stage, holding a very loud conversation. They seemed to have zero interest in Haley Bonar or the fact that there was even a stage behind them with someone performing or that there were other people around them who were trying to enjoy it. I kept waiting for them to stop and start paying attention. But they didn't.

As I do, I took it upon myself to do something about it. But I was not the only one. Others asked them to please take their conversation elsewhere. But I guess my tone was the bitchiest of all or something. They finally walked away and I was able to start enjoying the set.

Let me just repeat, everyone around us was chatty. It was expected. It was not the kind of setting where you expect silence. I have no problem with people leaning to their friends to say something. But to plant yourself in the front row with your backs to the stage and then speak so loudly because you are right next to the speakers that you have to shout your conversation because you are more into that than the performer is a behavior that I will never understand. Why are they even there? Put the CD on and stay home.

I was just getting back into the set when this guy comes up to me and stands directly in front of me. Like, nearly on my toes right in front of me. He was shorter so I could see over him. But it was weird. He was so close and so in front of me that if you were standing behind me, you probably wouldn't have been able to see him. There was plenty of room around us so that made it even stranger. But people drink and get weird and I just assumed he was oblivious to his surroundings.

So I moved. And he moved in front of me again. So I moved again. Then so did he.

This repeated itself for a while until I was finally like, excuse me? What are you doing?

He whips around like he had been eagerly waiting for me to speak and says "Can't I dance at a show now??? Is that not allowed???" His aggression completely shocked me. I just said, "yes, go ahead. Dance. That's fine. I have no problem with that. You're just doing it basically on top of me." He whips around again and tells me I have an attitude problem and I should shut up.

Seriously, it was frightening.

He was in my face with a look of crazy in his eyes. I started to apologize and said "I'm sorry for whatever I did to you. Can we start over?" I tried to shake his hand, introduce myself, but he wouldn't let up. He just stayed in my face with his chest pumped.

Then one of the chatty girls from before comes running over and I was all "oh, you're with them." She tells me she had to send him over because she hates when people talk at shows and ha ha how do you like that.

I was just shocked. She actually sent some little goon over to try to fight me. It was insane.

At this point, Matt had gone to get security. As he came back, the angry guy and chatty girl ran off. And by then, my night was ruined. I left. I was shaken. I couldn't enjoy myself anymore.

It sucked.

Flip to the next morning. I was enjoying sleeping in. It's not something we get to do with the dog. He wakes us up every morning at about 6:15. Matt had got up to grab his phone and I awoke to him calling down the hallway "Niki. Get up. We have to go. Robbie's gone."

Robbie had jumped the fence at my mother-in-law's house. He had been gone for nearly an hour by the time she called us. She lives about 25 minutes away. He is a very fast dog. He was gone.

This was what we woke up to on our anniversary.

I jumped out of bed and we got on the road. I frantically posted his picture on Facebook and Twitter, typing through uncontrollable sobs. Traffic was terrible and made even worse knowing that each extra minute was another minute head start for Robbie to be even further away. Lost in the winding suburban streets of Bloomington. All those busy roads. All those massive parks. I couldn't believe I might not see him again. It was such an awful feeling.

When we got about 2 minutes away from her house, my mother-in-law called and said he had been found. I just cannot even begin to describe the relief. We got there and there he was. Dirty, wet, panting like crazy. He was gone for nearly 2 hours. And from the various sightings in the neighborhood, he got pretty far.

I tend to wallow in the dumps once I stumble into one. I throw myself a lot of pity parties and I hate that I do that. But I just don't get a lot of vacations (I had taken a 4 day weekend) and anniversaries happen once a year. I was looking forward to this weekend and now at this point, I was nearly assaulted at a Haley Bonar show and got wake up call that my dog ran away. It's hard not to be like, what the fuck, universe?

Later that day, I ran to the grocery store and while I was driving out of the parking lot, the guy in front of me kept slamming on his brakes for apparently no reason. When he did it again then started to turn without using a turn signal, I honked my horn. He slammed on his brakes and jerked his car towards mine and rolled down his window. I kept driving and he started following me. Because I honked my horn at him. What his plan was for if he caught me, I don't know. I managed to get into traffic while he got stuck at a stop sign and I lost him. But so very scary. I know aggression begets aggression and all that. But they put horns on cars for a reason. I nearly hit the guy a couple of times because he was so randomly slamming on his brakes. He was driving erratically.

I had forgotten to get something at the grocery store, so I ran to the gas station. As I was paying for my purchase, a guy peaks his head in and asked the cashier why the pump isn't working. She explains to him that that pump is a pre-pay and he either has to pay at the pump with a credit card or pre-pay inside. His response to her "SCREW YOU. I'm going somewhere else." WTF? Screw you? Why would he say that to her? It's not her fault.

It was the third act of aggression I've witnessed in 12 hours and I just couldn't take it anymore. I got sad. I came home and slumped on the couch and didn't want to leave. The Jenny Lewis show sounded like a chore and I was worried I might look at someone the wrong way and things would go horribly wrong.

But Matt said maybe it would be good for me. So we went.

We got there about 20 minutes before she went on. It was sold out. Packed. We stayed towards the back as planned. The people around us seemed like good people. After a few songs, we wandered to another area and just sort of did that routine all night. It was a fantastic show. She has never sounded better. She played a great mix of old and new and Rilo Kiley songs.

The last song before the encore was "A Better Son/Daughter". We had moved to the side of stage and I had the best view I had had all night. This song hit me hard. I've always liked it. It's kind of THE Rilo Kiley song. Everybody loves it. You can't not like it. The lyrics are universal. They are almost easy in their obviousness to connect and at times when I've been feeling more cynical, I've thought them to be kind of cheesy. A song written for people to belt out to at shows. Let's throw the word fuck in and people will go wild. But still, I've always thought it was a great song. And last night I cried. Because...

"the lows are so extreme that the good seems fucking cheap
and it teases you for weeks in its absence
but you'll fight and you'll make it through
you'll fake it if you have to and you'll show up to work with a smile...

you'll be awake, you'll be alert
you'll be positive though it hurts...

you'll be honest, you'll be brave
you'll be handsome, you'll be beautiful
you'll be happy"

I cried. I hate when I cry at shows. It happens more often than I care to admit. Music just does that to me. It brings up all the emotions.

There was a woman standing behind Matt and he let her move in front of him and she was so floored that someone would give up their spot. She kept thanking him and then she said it was her birthday and I told her it was our wedding anniversary. And we hugged. And I was reminded there are nice people. I was full of all the feelings.

After the show, we decided to go have one more drink next door and this woman and her friends showed up and we ended up joining them at their table and had a really excellent time.

Sometimes I just need to be reminded that not everyone is an asshole. Kindness begets kindness.

I have been trying to be more breezy. I'm not doing very well at it, but I'm trying. I will probably still call out jerks at shows and I will still honk my horn at no turn signal using bad drivers. But I do need to let more things roll off my back.

For now, I just need to get rid of this hang over and take my dog to PetSmart for some treats.