Friday, March 30, 2012

My Kick Drum Heart

I am currently obsessed with The Avett Brothers. (In case you are unfamiliar with The Avett Brothers, start here. I'm listening to this as I write this post actually. They are a folk/rock/punk/country/bluegrass band from South Carolina comprised of Scott and Seth Avett, lead singers, piano, guitar, banjo, Bob Crawford, stand up bass, and touring musicians Joe Kwon, cello and Jacob Edwards, drums.)

O.b.s.e.s.s.e.d. I've probably mentioned this fact once or twice. But not obsessed like hanging their glossy photos on my wall Tiger Beat style (though they are a fine, fine looking group of men) but more like obsessed in the "I can barely stop myself from listening to them every single day, I need my fix" sort of way. And I've had this obsession off and on for the past two year. Every day. I need them.

And so when the chance to see them live popped up this spring, I bought advanced, groupie nerd pre-sale tickets as soon as humanly possible. Oh, did I mention that this show I bought tickets for was a three hour drive away? I was pretty sure they'd be coming to Kansas City sometime this summer, but I couldn't wait, because what if they didn't? What if I had let a three hour drive to Springfield make me miss seeing my favorite band? The potential tragedy of it all!

So tickets secured and tragedy averted, the anticipation building over the last couple of months, it was concert weekend! So we hopped into the car on a Saturday morning, threw our bags in the trunk and set off on our weekend road trip. There's a sense of glee in a totally free weekend away from home. No obligations, just our whims and the concert to look forward to, and the random sparks of fun injected into our leisurely road trip.

The drive to Springfield is fast and mostly open country. Zipping along on a sunny spring day, sadly it was just a little too cool to have the top down on Joe's convertible, but we made such good time that we had plenty of time to stop and take in the sights. Ok, the sight.  How can you see a billboard advertising over 100 types of cheese with this little belly full mouse and not pull over immediately? You would stop. We did.


And do you want to know what the best part of Osceola Cheese is? And no, it's not the mouse statue out front or the mouse cut out (Frankly the "Um' Good" on that mouse's belly looks a little suggestive if you ask me) it's the fact that of all the 100 plus cheeses available for purchase, nearly every single one, you can sample for free! See those little plastic containers, open that lid, grab a toothpick and sample away. Can you say, thanks for the free lunch?

So our tummies filled with tiny samples of roughly 20 cheeses, we bought a small sampler pack, a Sarsaparilla to share, some crackers, and hit the road again.


And then we saw another sight to hit: the vast, dark, dusty, mystery of Moccasin Trails Antiques. Based on my earlier post this week, Joe and I love antique stores. Hunting for treasures, looking at the strange things people consider valuable, and basically walking back in time, only if time were all merged together on a variety of card tables and bookshelves in your grandmother's attic.



We weren't really in a buying mood. We saw some Fiestaware, but it was overpriced, a couple of racist salt and pepper shakers, I'll pass. Though Joe bought a very cool old wooden and metal box that is now sitting on our fireplace, stacked high with books. It is sturdy and well crafted and has these interesting metal edges and handles. It's cool. So back in the car and on our way to Springfield and the big show.....

We checked into our newly renovated eco-friendly hotel with a lovely view of the Girl Scouts offices and the highway. The location deeply troubled the man checking in in front of us. "So I have to choose between the noise of the highway or the noise of the train?" he snarled at the front desk staff. "Yes, sir, you do." she deadpanned. He huffed away to "examine the room." You could barely hear anything once you were in the room. And this isn't the Four Seasons, it's a budget hotel in Springfield, MO, come on.

Each room was assigned an animal, I suppose to go along with the ecology theme, a little picture of your animal visible right under the room number, which made it kind of fun to walk up and down the halls and check out our neighbors: the Salamander, Giraffe and Wolverine. We were in the Hippo room, which really should have come with the board game Hungry Hungry Hippos which was all I could think of when we checked in. And I'm sure the noise of that game would have really pissed off our highway/train noise sensitive neighbor. (He chose highway, by the way.)

So after checking in, taking a nap, washing all the cheese off our faces, and changing clothes, we headed out for dinner before the concert, at a little restaurant that Joe found on Yelp called The Big Easy Grill. This isn't a fancy place. It's in a strip mall. You can watch the cooks working from your table, there are maybe 8 tables in the whole place, and one waiter. But the food was outstanding. Spicy and crispy perfect Po' Boy sandwiches, sweet potato fries, fried oysters, and excellent Jambalaya. We needed sustenance for the long night of standing, jumping, dancing and merriment ahead. So well fed, we headed over to the venue to get in line.


Waiting for the doors to open.

On the campus of Drury University, the O'Reilly Family Center, holds a few thousand seats, and plenty of floor space which we stood on for the next four hours. So after waiting in line, and working some magic to get the staff to open up the will call window (which was illogically closed for some reason) we headed into the show. Since we got there about an hour before the doors opened, we were very close to the front of the line and able to get nearly front row standing spots. It was wonderful. See?

Oh we are so close to the stage!


Surrounded by a bunch of chatty, friendly 22-25 year olds, we certainly weren't the oldest people in the crowd, but maybe the oldest people that close to the stage. All the older fans had the smarts to buy actual seats. But we wanted to be close to the stage and we got our wish. And since this isn't exactly a serious moshing crowd, there was minimal pushing/shoving/surfing going on. Because as Murtaugh says "I'm too old for this shit." We made friends with the people all around us since we had time to kill before the show started. We took random photos, we speculated about the set list, and then it was show time.


Here's the set list, because I am that kind of nerd. Though I certainly wasn't the only one. The 23 year old guy standing behind me politely tapped me on the arm and asked me if I was writing down the set list since I pulled out my phone at the beginning of each song. I rather sheepishly said yes, thinking the light on my phone was irritating him, but he gave me a big smile and asked if he could just crib off my song titles. It made the whole thing that much more fun, knowing I was surrounded by like minded nerds. So the show, oh, the show. It was glorious.

And It Spread
I Killed Sally's Lover
Die Die Die
Distraction #74
Down With The Shine
Go to Sleep
January Wedding
Will You Return?
The Once and Future Carpenter
Living of Love
Tine Man
Backwards With Time
When I Drink
Murder in the City
Just a Closer Walk with Thee
The Fall
I and Love and You
Pretty Girl from Cedar Lane
Left on Laura Left on Lisa
Talk on Indolence
Kick Drum Heart

Prettiest Thing
Ballad of Love and Hate
Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
Laundry Room


The show. It was everything I wanted it to be. They played 99% of the songs I love. All of the energy and raw talent and chaos and enthusiasm and passion for performance that they exhibit every time I've seen a recorded performance of one of their concerts. Seth, in particular, seems incredibly grateful and appreciative of the crowd and our support, constantly thanking us with his soft lilting Southern accent. They all just seem kind. And incredibly talented. So anyway, back to the music.


These guys attack the songs and the stage with all of themselves. They played for nearly three straight hours. They dove headlong into the music with such an excitement and joy that it's visible through out. They love the music and the lyrics they've written, and the songs always sounds more free and vibrant and unpolished than their recorded albums. There is no Rick Rubin on stage to smooth out the shouting and screaming and the angsty memory of the regret of love lost pouring out of that guitar.


This isn't a flashy stage show with wild artistic lighting and moving back drops. The focus is on the music, the emotion, the care with which the music and lyrics are crafted and the frenzy and intensity that the band brings to the stage. It's contagious. I danced and sang along for three straight hours. Exhausted and invigorated by the whole thing.


What I love about The Avett Brothers is the combination of skillful musicianship and what feels like a truly American, thoroughly unique hybrid of musical genres that they've rendered down into their own style. So the music itself kills me with it's melodies and bridges and occasionally intentional disharmony, and then the lyrics. A song like Laundry Room takes me back to being a giddy teenager with the blush of first love. I listen to 10,000 Words and I feel the struggle of trying to create and write and wrangle the right words to express myself. January Wedding and I'm a newlywed again. I and Love and You is filled with regrets and mistakes and change. Listen to Colorshow and I want to let all my strangeness out for the world to see. Their lyrics reach something in me that is emotional, and tender and hurt and it heals something by letting me feel those emotions for just three perfect minutes. It's a fleeting, beautiful three minutes.


And this concert was three perfect hours. Joe took some amazing photos, these are obviously his scattered throughout, because we were so close and the iPhone camera is so good, I feel like he managed a pretty excellent capture of the vibe of the concert. The fervor, the sometimes sad, sometimes angry, sometimes joyful physicality of the performance will stick with me for a long time.


Today I bought tickets for their July concert here in Kansas City. I hope it will equal their Springfield performance. Really I have no doubt that it will. But mostly I can't wait to see them in Kansas City since my parents and brother are joining Joe and I at the show. I want to share this experience with them. Because even if I'm the only one in our group who is quite so o.b.s.e.s.s.e.d, I know they'll enjoy themselves. I think it would be impossible for them not to. The Avett Brothers just won't let them. And neither will I.


Globey. Breakfast with my guy. Crepes and coffee in a restaurant I want to own.

After the excitement of the night, we went back to our hippo room and collapsed. We woke up fairly early the next day, got dressed, and headed out for breakfast at what has to be one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. The Aviary, is a cafe and creperie, and if I owned a restaurant it is exactly what I would want mine to be, in pretty much every way. Gorgeous old white tile, eclectic art all over, globes and candles hanging down, a huge glass and metal tree sculpture in the middle of the room, comfy booths and cafe tables scattered about, it's lovely and sweet. You could watch the chef making crepes from a little window that overlooked our table. Our check arrived in the library card flap of a small picture book. Oh, the twee adorableness was overwhelming. And the menu, full of crepes and baked goods and homemade delights, it was amazing. Seriously. See me in my happiness coma below. Eggs Benedict crepe in my belly and coffee in my hand. I would almost drive to Springfield just to eat at The Aviary again.



And that draws our weekend to a close. We drove home in the gloomy rain, but with smiles on our faces. I cleaned up my set list on the way home, bouncing around the songs on Joe's iPod to find some of the more obscure titles. We talked and relaxed and relived the weekend, because sometimes isn't that the best part? Talking about it, remembering it again, crafting the story in our heads, cementing the memory with our own words and descriptions of the experience. It was simply one of the top five concerts I've ever attended. And my saying that here, to you, cements it. Now go and buy some Avett Brothers music, right now. Go on!


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Delightful Photogenic Narcissism

Hey, guess what? 7 Days is back!
What is 7 Days, you ask?
Well, I say, where have you been? How could you have missed it?

But I don't want to give you a complex and send you away feeling embarrassed. I'm not like that.

So here's your answer: 7 Days is a Flickr group, comprised of like minded photographically inclined ladies and gents who take a picture of themselves everyday for a week, there are two themed days, share the picture and any interesting accompanying story, and then we comment and joke and chatter with each other for a week. It's great. Some of us are amazing professional, serious type photographers (like Joe and several others,) and then those like me who tend to use our cell phones and the Diptic app to make our photos look cooler than they really are! Or as my brother in law would say, those of us that "like to artsify the f*ck out of them." 7 Days happens four times a year and I've joined in the fun several times since about 2009, thanks to the lovely Bethany.

So here are my shots for this round from the first half of the week! From convertibles to popsicles, it's be a pretty good week. Go check out some of the other fantastic shots, stories and people over here!

Convertible Hair: Day 1 - Saturday, March 24
This is me, riding shotgun in Joe's convertible on our way back from seeing a little musical theatre, Million Dollar Quartet, about Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis and Carl Perkins at Sun Studios in the 1950's. I believe my hair was dancing to "That's All Right, Mama" on our drive home. Next we are headed out to dinner with some friends and a late viewing of Hunger Games. This is a big Saturday win.

Blinded: Day 2 - Sunday, March 25 (The theme for the day was "Light.")
I'm cranky. I got nothing. Here's some light from the blinds in our living room. It looks kind of cool. I'll be less cranky tomorrow. I think. Joe hopes.

Like Ruby Slippers for Your Fingers: Day 3- Monday, March 26
I'm not a big manicure person. I hardly ever even paint my fingernails myself. Now I love a pedicure, but manicures always get jacked up fast, I'm like a little kid with chipped fingernails in three hours. But my lovely friend Caroline told me we should buy manicure Groupons for one of those fancy gel manicures that even a little kid can't chip in a day. So I've got sparkly red nails thanks to Maria and a much better mood. I mean how could you not with SPARKLES?!

Daredevil: Day 4 - Tuesday, March 27
Oh, I'm a risk taker. I'm into living dangerously.  I like to run along the edge and swim in the deep end. Eating a red popsicle on my lunch break while wearing a white jacket. What crazy thing will I do next? Sky dive? Swim with sharks? Forget to use my turn signal when changing lanes? Watch out, I'm wild!

Today's theme is "Fresh" and I'm sitting here totally uninspired. We'll see what happens. Though I'm pretty sure I've maxed out my usage of collage already this round. I might have to break out a real camera and put the phone away. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I Like Weird Stuff and I Cannot Lie


I might have mentioned once or twice that Joe is one of the planning team members for a photography club here in Kansas City called Digital Dimensions. In addition to their monthly meeting,s where they get together and share tips, critique each others work and generally hang out with other photo nerd types while swapping stories about lenses and what not, they also plan some creative fun field trips out and about in town, and on the road. I tag along now and then, like the Garment District Tour last year and then last month, when they headed over to Weird Stuff Antiques and basically swarmed the place like a infestation of very cheerful locusts, wearing at least one camera, if not two, per person.


I swarmed with them, wearing the requisite camera around the neck (Joe's back-up D50) and once the very accommodating staff of the place had settled down, and Joe and I fled upstairs to escape the crowd, we had a grand old time taking pictures of some of the most random items ever collected in one location. Though I had a brief moment of regret when we first walked in and I saw that every nook and cranny of this place was full of weird stuff and photographers clamoring for better angles. It was overwhelming. And tight. And a little suffocating.  Every conceivable corner and direction seemed full. Joe saw the panic spread across my face and said, hey, let's go upstairs. So we did, and it was nearly empty of people. Perfect.


An enormous room upstairs filled with rows and rows of chairs, bizarre old paintings that your grandma bought back in the 1960's, and a random saddle. Because why not add a saddle to the mix. This big open space was a delightful sea of strange, used and slightly damaged.


This set of chairs was a perfect set from the 1950's with a matching table, but sadly the vinyl was splitting and the stuffing was escaping on one chair.


Gorgeous stained glass windows that if I had a larger house I would have taken home with me.


Ever had the need for a enormous toothbrush, boxing glove, Sketcher tennis shoe or crayon? I can tell you where to rent that. Rental only though, dang it.


This pretty lady is very well protected if you opt to take her for a motorcycle ride. Though clearly she's had some kind of previous accident that caused a little nose damage.


Joe tried to make me pose for a bunch of pictures, but I wasn't cooperative. I told him to focus on the inanimate weird stuff and leave the living weird stuff alone.


Do you know of an artist whom I could hire to create a duplicate of this masterpiece on the hood of my CRV?


After taking pictures of all the bizarre goodies upstairs, we crossed our fingers that the downstairs had cleared out a bit, so we wandered down. The space was cleared out a bit by now, so we split up and went on a quest for the goofy, the irreverent, the charming and the eclectic. Deer heads and beer signs and santas and gorilla suits and pinball machines next to bicycles and stacks of 45's.


Yes, Joe is wearing two cameras. He is cooler than you, or me.


Lots of nude mannequins. They are very tempting with their oddly smooth rears just waiting to be goosed.


We bought a big S for Sands. It's now on the photo wall. Just in case we forget how to spell our last name.


Vintage dirty bikes look so cool. Rows and rows and rows of them. Waiting to head off on adventures, or to the farmer's market or to the sock hop, whatever.


Like stepping into Sun Studios. Holding one of these mics I kept expecting Jerry Lee Lewis or Johnny Cash to walk in and start singing.


I wanted those yellow boots. Bad. Joe stopped me since they were a size 7 and I wear an 11. They might not have felt so good on the feets.


Wear 8 tracks go to die.


Loved so hard she lost her hair.




I almost bought this chalk figurine of Charlie McCarthy that was a carnival prize from the 1950's. He looked so sad and beat up and yet still sparkly and dapper. Joe was not as in love with this little treasure as I was, plus he was a little expensive for a whim, so he stayed here with the other Weird stuff. But isn't their something sweetly forlorn in his expression?


This sign was the perfect description of the tip-toeing and brushing up against strangers that is required when shopping in the crowded little treasure trove. It's crowded even without fellow shoppers.


I loved this book of records, with each 45 lovingly transcribed in the front. Someone loved their jazz and had very nice penmanship. And to think they've stopped teaching cursive in schools. This is too pretty to stop teaching.


So we spent a couple of hours in this haven to the past, to the beloved and discarded, the goofy, the old, the damaged and the salvaged. Wandering through the history and the amusement and the detritus of other people's lives. It was wonderful. I think we all need a little more weird in our lives. I know I do.  I look forward to going again very soon. And I really hope Charlie McCarthy is still there, because I think I have the perfect spot just waiting for him at home.

Giddy up

All photos are either mine or Joe's, it's about 1/2 and 1/2. If you really want to know I could tell you who's is who's, but it's late and I'm tired and they all fit so nicely together I don't want to bother with labels right now. Have a wonderfully weird night! And talk to you tomorrow!