Monday, January 14, 2013

The Jazz Ingenue, Material Girl, Mustache Men, The 5 and Some Brothers

Somehow I haven't blogged since 2012. Ok, granted, it's still early January 2013, but I've gotten out of the habit of blogging regularly. I'm not feeling bad about this. Sometimes I get tired of my own voice and detailing my own exploits. Sometimes I just live the day. Sometimes I don't want to document and analyze. Sometimes I'm busy and I don't think you mind the break from me either now and then. I can be a bit much.

I didn't write an end of the year wrap up and reflect post for 2012 like I usually do. It was a good year. But I didn't feel like summarizing or reviewing it. I didn't make any resolutions for 2013 or pick a word to describe what I want 2013 to be. I'm going to keep doing the things I want and need to do. Keep running and exercising, keep eating better, keep reading and writing some, keep spending more time laughing with the people I love and like, keep challenging myself at work, and keep trying to do scary things so they become less scary.  And that brings me back to the one thing I do want to reflect on and make sure specifically I keep doing in 2013, and that's going to concerts, because they make me so damn happy.

2012 was a bang up year for live music in our house. I've already blogged about seeing my beloved Avett Brothers for the first time in March last year, but on top of that, Joe and I managed to see Cake, the Avett Brothers redux, and  Ben Folds Five. And I went with some girlfriends to see Madonna and Esperanza Spaulding.

I've always loved going to concerts. Ever since my parents took my friend Kelly and I to see Whitney Houston when I was in grade school, I fell in love with live music. Though Whitney was a little too gospel live for my taste at eight years old. But I fell in love with hearing the music loud and slightly altered, the energy, the rowdy audience, the communal feel of the whole thing, but mostly how powerful live music feels. It gets into your insides in a way that recorded music just can't. Though I guess if you turn up your iPod loud enough you'll feel it inside. But you get my point. I like it live.

So for my own pleasure and hopefully yours, though really this is selfishly more for me, here's a quick rundown of the shows, good and bad, but mostly quite good for 2012:

Cake was great live, just as I expected them to be based on the last time they blew us away at Starlight Theatre in 1999.  Mustaches and tattoos and piercings and talk of placenta, the Cake audience is diverse but mellow. And as we filed into the Uptown Theatre, which is a crazy multicolored old gem of a venue, we met up with our friends Tara and Mike and Michael, but we made an old people mistake. Instead of grabbing a spot standing on the floor near the stage, we grabbed seats upstairs. We should have stood close. Because I think we all felt a little old tucked away from the show up there in the rafters. Too far away from the energy. My bad. The show was wonderful though. Lots of spinning disco balls, all the classics mixed with their newer stuff, a random tree adoption, and our old college friends. One question though, who brings an 18 month old to a rock concert? Cake fans evidently.

Whoooo Hoooooooo

After seeing The Avett Brothers just one thin row of people back from the front of the stage in Springfield in March, I was anxious to see them again, and this time at the Crossroads, one of my favorite outdoor summer venues. My dad and stepmom, and my brother and his girlfriend were joining us, and my dad had no intention of standing in the July heat for six hours, so we bought bleacher seats. This kept us away from the stage, but not from the energy. That show was wild. Sweaty and rowdy and raucous, completely worth seeing them again! I'll see they every time they come to town. They are that good live. And it was a thrill to share the experience with my dad, who was my first major musical influence.  I've converted them into fans, or should I say, the concert did. And yeah, I'm wearing that shirt a lot. Like a nerd.

Oh, don't mind me, I'm just sitting here on the deck wearing my new Avett Bros t-shirt, reading and drinking a summer shandy Leinenkugel on this nearly perfect Friday night.

That same time we saw Cake in 1999, the headliner was Ben Folds Five. I think it might have been an off night that May night in 1999, Cake was better, Ben Folds seemed tired, but when Joe and I returned to Starlight on a gorgeous night this last September, Ben Folds and his Five were on fire.

Day 7: Do It Anyway!

The show was an excellent mix of old classics, ok, old college classics from the late 1990's, our time, and his newer hits that the younger people in the audience knew by heart. Kate Miller Heidke was a rauchy, funny opening act, though sadly the Fraggles weren't anywhere in sight, the show felt as fun and silly and enjoyable as if they had been. Ben Folds and his Five are aging well. I hope we are too.

One thing I love about my friends is that they all have varied taste in music. In October, my friend Hillary emailed and asked me if I wanted to go last minute to see Esperanza Spalding at the gorgeous Kauffman Center for Performing Arts. I said yes before I even gave it a thought. And then went, wait, who is Esperanza Spalding? I'm embarrassed as a jazz fan, raised in Kansas City, to not know who she was, but I won't make that mistake again. After quickly downloading her album onto my iPod, I fell in love before I even got to the show that night.

The lovely Esperanza Spalding and her big old' bass. Can't believe I'd never heard her music until today.

This lithe, incredibly gifted young jazz bassist blew me away. I'm thrilled Hillary invited me, one because we had a great evening and I had the chance to meet some fellow music fans (Esperanza groupies really!), but mostly because Hillary introduced me to Esperanza's music. It's modern jazz with a feel of old classic vocalists like Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. Esperanza is magic. And we got to meet her too. She's tiny, but she treats that bass like her plaything. I'm hooked.

And how else do you wrap up a solid year of concert favorites with a little new music thrown in? By seeing the queen of all of my childhood pop star dreams, Madonna. The lovely Kristen invited me to join her for her birthday present, two tickets to see the Material Girl in her first Kansas City show. And boy, what a show it was. It was beyond a show. And sadly I have no photos to share because I forgot my camera in the car. Like a moron.

But if I'd had my camera, most of the photos would have been of the audience. Because, girls and boys alike showed up in their Madonna finery: drag queens as Mistress Dita, teenagers dressed as Peaches from A League of Their Own, Marilyn Monroe impression Madonna, pointy Jean-Paul Gauthier styled Madonnas, roving gangs of 30 and 40 something women dressed in Like A Virgin 1980's garb, it was a festival of pop culture and sparkles, each costume better than the next. And thank god for that, because people watching became the activity of the night. Something Kristen and I enjoy almost as much as seeing Madonna. Which was a good thing because The Diva, now in her 50's, didn't take the stage until roughly 10:30 that night. Yes, I said 10:30pm. She made us wait for it. She built up the anticipation, she pumped us up for the performance until it felt like the frustration wouldn't end, and then she and her massive group of musicians and back up dancers took the stage and didn't let us look away for the next two hours. It was visual and aural overload. Double jointed dancers, automatic weapons, a full on marching band with Madonna as drum majorette, pantsless Madonna, Madonna's rear end on full Jumbotron display, tiny bra-ed Madonna. Where were we supposed to look? The answer: everywhere. She played a lot of her newer music, but the choreography and the lively ridiculous energy made that almost ok. I would have loved for her to take the stage at 9pm and play more of my favorites, but Madonna doesn't care what you want, and somehow we love her for that. Thanks again for inviting me, Kristen!

So that was 2012 in music. I'm scoping out concerts for 2013 already. Maybe The Black Keys, maybe the Avett Brothers again, maybe Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, and maybe a few bands I've never even heard of yet. I like that idea. Any recommendations?

Most photos by Joe Sands, with a few by me, and one from a very nice lady at the Kauffman Center.

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