general admissions

I love concerts more than the average bear. I guess I’m a product of my environment in  that way. Concerts are as much a social activity in Nashville as hockey games are in Canada. [I have to admit, I have no idea what else there is to do up there besides hockey, except be bitter about your part in responsibility for Nickelback.]

I don’t claim to know everything about music, or to be particularly hip, or to know how to introduce you to Lady Gaga. But I have been to several concerts. And I have some sense of what irritates performers, fellow patrons, and-most importantly-my specific annoyances when it comes to concert behavior.

So in today’s effort-to-make-the-world-a-better-place, I bring you a list of concert do’s and don’ts. Or, to be more specific, things people do at shows that will get under your skin faster than a prison tattoo.

Wearing Band T-Shirts.

i don't care how much of the rest of your outfit you bought at american apparel, you still look ridiculous.

I have a few band T-shirts. I am not knocking the idea of buying t-shirts, or wearing cotton, or supporting the band you love. But don’t wear your Decemberists tee to their secret Soho show, even if you have aviator shades to offset it. You look like you’re trying too hard, or like you’re the type to sleep in the parking lot of the venue for three days in hopes of inhaling some exhaust fumes from the tour bus. Dress for going out: that’s what you’re doing. Save the t-shirt for the inevitable post-show nostalgia period. You’ll be so vintage if you wait a while.

Loud-As-All-Get-Out Talking.

David Sedaris gave me one of these at his reading, to use at my leisure, and told me he had a whole box. i am waiting for the perfect opportunity.

 

I love to talk. If it was something you could do competitively-like those people who totally gross me out with the whole hot dog speed-eating thing-I would be a champion. And I am not against talking at shows. Note the distinction. I am against Loud-As-All-Get-Out talking, especially while the music is being played.

I recognize that some venues, like cafes, are going to be more conducive to continuing of socializing. Volume control is the most important thing here. I am pretty sure everyone else there at the venue would rather hear a U2 cover than the results of your optometry check up.

Also, I try to use the “commentary” rather than “conversation” method when show-talking.

Conversation: “And then I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to eat at Shoney’s because they don’t serve, like, any organic food, you know?’ And then he says, ‘I am more important than some cows in California,’ and I told him that he was being insensitive to my needs, you know? Because the causes I support are a part of me, and, like, you know what I mean. Hey, can you stop singing along? I’m trying to tell you something here.”

Commentary: “Lead singer. Shirt-as-dress. Precarious Choice.”

Hamlet said “Brevity is the soul of wit.” It is also a large contributor to how bearable your company is at a show.

Shouting Out Requests [Unsolicited].

i will set aside my Pacifist principals and punch you in the face if you yell that in my ear one more time.

 

This combines the “trying too hard” element from the first item and the “loud-as-all-get-out” part of the second one, forming a heinous and obnoxious hybrid. The only time you may ever shout out a request-ever in the history of music that has been or will be made-is if the performer asks if anyone has any requests.

I don’t care if you have a favorite song. So does everyone else there. I don’t care how funny your friend will think it is if you shout a song by the wrong band. Your friend is not funny at all. And is not invited to my birthday party.

Set lists are set for a reason. They have already been determined, and probably won’t change much. Just be patient, the biggest crowd pleasers come as closers and encore numbers [and there is always an encore]. So, cool your jets. You’ll be happier than not by the end of the evening, and will come out of the experience without a black eye.

Arriving Freakishly Late/Leaving Prematurely.

don't be late. not even if you are a hilarious-looking shark.

Show etiquette is all about respect. [Other than the whole t-shirt thing, which is inconsequential other than the fact that it deeply annoys me.] I get that everyone runs late, and has to cut out early on occasion.

What I’m saying is, don’t make a habit of it, and don’t go about it in a too-cool-for-school fashion. This is not your friend’s neighbor’s not-really-party-just-hanging-out thing. This is a performance. You would not show up in the middle of a play, or leave before the final monologue of a movie. Same principles for shows. Let them finish. You most likely paid for it anyway.

[And if you must leave early or come in late, wait till a lull of some kind. Don’t make your entrance or exodus mid-song. It’s kind of a punk thing to do.]

Don’t Be a Drunkypants.

Having a drink with friends can be delightful, and is often the perfect compliment to a night out at your sonic experience of choice. And I enjoy a nice import or cocktail as much as the next girl. I do not, however, enjoy belligerence. And as fate would have it-perhaps as punishment for some unknown social crime-I seem to be nearest the most ridiculous patrons of a given listening experience the majority of the time.

[Example: being a few feet from Brett Dennen’s microphone stand and having to put up with some lady screaming “I LOVE THIS SONG. DON’T YOU? ISN’T HE AMAZING?” into the depths of my inner ear while Brett was singing a new song that none of us had ever heard, including my astute new friend.]

Let’s face it, the less Drunkypants you are, the more responsible you’re being. And the more responsible you are, the less likely you are to commit Concert Faux Pas 1-4. [And not being Drunky McDrunkerson automatically makes you more attractive. I promise.]

So there you have it. A list of tips for a foolproof concert experience. Follow my guidelines and you’ll never be kicked out of any venues, social circles, or the good graces of yours truly.

besides world peace

I have never done a formal Wish List Blog before. At least not in Recent Memory- which, if you’re me, only accounts for the past three days or so. It seems like kind of an 8-year-old thing to do, and that is about 1/3 of my looming chronological age. So, if it weirds you out to read it, or if reading it makes you think Judgmental Things about me, just ask me for my opinion about a non-incendiary topic like religion or politics

All right, let’s get down to brass tacks.

1. Money & Gift Cards

"I'm funny *and* creepy."Some people are worried that giving cash or a gift card is impersonal and that it will not be appreciated. I can assure you that is only true if the recipient is someone who doesn’t like to Go Places or Do Things, in which case they would have no need for money or a gift card. Places and things are both personal favorites of mine, and such options would give me the chance to enjoy plenty of them. I would be most grateful.

Especially effective applications for Money or Gift Cards: Fido, Pangaea, Rose Pepper Cantina, Flying Saucer, Boscos, any other local cafe or coffeehouse, bookstore, music venue, salon, Target

Cost: However much you want it to be, that’s the beauty of this option.

2. Clue: the Office Edition

This is amazing. And one of the few concrete items I can clearly admit that I want. I’ll spare you the details of the pieces, the rooms, and the characters for the sake of not completely geeking out on you. But I will tell you that one of the weapons is a George Foreman grill. Oh, and you should know that if I have a birthday party and someone gives me this, I will want to play it immediately. Can’t decide if that helps my case or not.

Oh, and my guess? Michael killed Toby in the break room. With a Dundee.

Cost: $25-35 [Amazon has it, but I’m sure other places do, too.]

3. Music (Live)

I love a good show. There are a couple coming to Nashville in late winter that I am particularly excited about. First, these guys.

CAKE will be at the Ryman Auditorium- I think the 20th of January (or around there). Tickets can be bought directly from the Ryman box office during regular business hours- or through Ticketmaster.

Then there’s this guy.

I love Josh Radin, his beautiful voice, and his brilliant songwriting. I have been so ready for him to play a small venue once he gets here- and I got my wish, at least that part of my wish.

He is playing Cannery Ballroom on Feb 4. Tickets can be bought here.

Cost: $17 (advance)

4. Disregard Everything I Suggest and Just Be You

osnap

You know I heard somewhere something about giving and receiving. And we all know one is clearly better than the other. That being said, I am 100% serious that I make wish lists because they are fun. I enjoy wishing for things and making non-essential lists, so it is the perfect arrangement for me.

It is not a mandate, not even a suggestion, or a formal request. My best gifts over the years have been found in the company and the experiences themselves. [Remember that Miss America interview- practice, practice, practice.] I have also received fabulous handmade gifts and creative spins on common gifts [personalized coupons rather than gift cards, the favorite book of the gift-giver, mix CDs, etc].

By the way, it has been an odd time of year for me personally and fiscally, but if I tell you your gift is forthcoming, I mean that. And you can hold me to it.

All in all, I have left front teeth, true love and diplomatic understanding for later, I simply beseech you all: have a great, peaceful season of receiving blessing and giving thanks.

1000 things

I’d like to introduce you all to my guest blogger.

I have probably listened to this song almost 20 times in the past day or two. Why? Am I in love? Blissfully happy? Completely attuned to and aware of the blessings that inundate me?

Not really.

Jason shows up here tonight because- just now, in throes of late-night mopery- I found something hidden in this song. Little does he know that, buried deep within his lullaby, there is a tiny, glittering, cocoa-filled Easter Egg of Truthiness.

SPOILER ALERT.

This song isn’t really about a pretty girl, or a kiss, or even about a perfect situation. This song is about a turning point.

“I’ve seen a thousand things, all in one place

But I stopped my counting when I saw your face.”

In this very challenging November, I cannot tell you how many times I have vented to friends, sobbed in front of relatives, and wrote angsty blog entries to try to find a little hope. And it wasn’t until tonight- in the stillness, with no one to talk to, that I was able to find it. How can one feel so much Love in a song by a stranger, in a serenade for someone else?

Although I can’t be certain why He times things this way, I am fairly sure it is a lot easier for me to listen to the consolations of G*d when I am being a bit quieter.

Things may not be better yet, but they will be.

My circumstances may be the same today as yesterday, but they will change.

This message was not delivered to me by a pixie peering through my bedroom window. I was not talking to my mom, or on the phone with a friend. There was no cosmic beam of light that appeared to dissipate my problems once I had this realization.

Divine Mercy and a single song have helped me to remember something very simple, and very important.

Fall is a time for turning.

image not available

“Tony, Tony, look around

Something’s lost and must be found!”

–  Prayer to St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of Lost Things

 

Last night I saw Matt Costa perform at the Exit/In with a bunch of good friends. We were right up front and I, for one,  had an incredible experience at the show. Great set, lots of new songs, and almost all of my favorites. Almost. I took many amazing photos. Color, black and white, sepia, you name it. I was close enough to have been able to tell him if his shoe was untied. The stage lights and the many bodies clamoring together kept me nice and toasty, in spite of the cold November rain falling right outside the door.

By the end of the show, most of my friends had scattered to warmer, drier places. But a few of us were left milling around, with the rest of the stragglers. I was going to throw away the cups we had left on the stage, when I saw Matt walking right toward me.

“Are you cleaning up other people’s messes?” he said to me. He is one of those people that manages to smile even while he is talking to you.

“Oh, no. Just cleaning up my own mess.” I assured him.

“Well you don’t have to do that. There are other people here to do that.”

He waited for me to set the cups back down in front of the monitor, and then we made our introductions. Since this is me we’re talking about, the grinning thing was mutual.

I thanked him for a good show, and he thanked me for enjoying myself. And I made a casual observation.

“There wasn’t really a whole lot of dancing space here up front.”

“Yeah, I know. I tried to do some dancing myself but. . .” and after a pause “So you can dance in that?” [You might be surprised how often people don’t believe me when I tell them I can dance, or at how many people try to use my wheelchair as an excuse for their own awkward feelings about dancing. I’m not, but you might be.]

“Yeah,” I said, “Here, come’re, I’ll show you.”

He looked at me uncertain, but after a second, came over, and I gave him an impromptu dance lesson. We did some little back and forth dance moves, and I taught him how to spin me in my chair, the way you might twirl any dance partner. [It’s really simple, by the way. I don’t restrict my lessons to indie celebrities, and would be glad to show any of you the ropes anytime.]

He was a very good spinner, in case you’re wondering.

We took a couple of pictures with one another, I thanked him again, and he promised to spin me next time. I told him it was a deal.

All the proof I've got

Doesn't quite look like me and Matt dancing, but it will have to do.

I got home so thrilled to overlook and upload my pictures, especially the ones Matt and I had taken together. He had been so friendly and sweet that I couldn’t wait to see how well my photos had captured all my happiness. But, true to my impeccable ability to drop, forget and lose anything of real value around the exact time I need something to go right in my life, for Heaven’s sake, I discovered that the camera was nowhere to be found. With no answer at the venue and no help from the place of business we had parked in front of, I am left to fear the worst. My camera, along with the happiest moments of my Saturday, and of the rest of my autumn, is gone for good.

A picture is worth a thousand words. So, if you loose so many of them, what is left to say?

It doesn’t really seem fair to me, even in hindsight. that my happiness should be taken from me so abruptly, and after such a brief stay, but I have been fighting tooth and nail to spin this positively. After all this has been a month of loss in all its forms, with little recover, and little relief.

And  right now- though you can bet your next cup of coffee that it’s still cold comfort- this is the best I can come up with: I may forget my camera, full of pictures of that concert, and of my best childhood friend’s new baby, none of which will ever be able to be shared, but I won’t forget the experiences I tried my best to capture there.

I won’t forget how it felt to hold sweet little Gabriella in my arms, or to have Matt twirl me around the room to no music at all, with a huge smile on his face.

There are some things I simply refuse to forget; some things I will never drop, leave behind, or let get soaked in rain and ground water. And I am crossing my fingers that I make the same impression on my dance partners.

i’d like to make myself believe (meeting Owl City)

Some call it Luck. Some call it Grace. Some call it leading a Charmed Life. I call it that feeling you get when you realize you could have done nothing to deserve some fantastic thing; and that you couldn’t have made it happen on your own accord. Whatever you call that feeling, that state of being, sometimes it’s all around me. Sometimes I breathe it in.

The writer and musician behind this song is named Adam Young, who performs under the name Owl City. [The video isn’t his version, but hearing children sing it really captures the innocence and wonder in the lyrics in a way I’m sure he would appreciate.] He is a synthesizer player from Owatonna, Minnesota – known for its large owl population.

He came to my attention through friends. (A couple of whom suggested we should get married.) I don’t listen to Top 40 enough to know more than one half of one line of a Lady Gaga song [true story; I don’t even really know who this Justin Beiber kid is]. I had no concept of Owl City the Pop Star.

I was immediately endeared to his sweet songs, his clear voice, and the excuse to blare uber-happy dancepop in my room when no one was home. As far as I was concerned, he was Adam Young- a guy from up north who likes to play keys and sing songs about moonbeams and playing on the beach- a guy whose reckless optimism was something I wanted to grab hold of and never let go. Adam became a guy I had to meet, if only to test my theory: that the mere positioning of the two of us in the same place would send daisies sprouting up, joining hands, and dancing about the room.

Since moving back home, I have been forced to come face to face with reality and saying hello, whether I wanted to or not. And let me tell you something, he doesn’t have big eyes, pretty hair, and Buddy Holly glasses. It has been a time of disappointment, frustration, and rejection at many junctures. It has been an endless uphill struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and to assume that light is not being cast by an oncoming train. The company of those I love and the parade of Little Things to be Thankful For have given me invaluable solace.

One of the Biggest Little Things has been music. And Adam’s in particular: often a departure into dreams, bliss, and outer space; it’s like getting 3 scoops of ice cream when all you’ve been getting are melty, artificially flavored Ice Pops- the yellow and green ones that no one really likes.

Anyone who knows me knows that meeting Adam is the stuff of legend among myself and my friends; fodder for thematic Twitter feeds and silly Facebook statuses. You hear people telling you to expect the unexpected. Well, I certainly wasn’t.

After arriving downtown and figuring out how to get into the venue, where we would be sitting, etc. I went back outside. Not having any clue what to do for hours before doors opened, I went around the back of the building; near where the opening bands were loading their equipment. I sat at the foot of the stairs by the backstage door: pretending not to feel more awkward and nervous than I could ever remember.

I made conversation with the roadies and the Local Boys opening for Adam (after we recognized each other from around town). A couple of my friends were on their crews and were able to keep me company for a bit. But I felt strange. Like an impostor of some kind. I kept trying to force myself to look at my phone- to try to make it seem less apparent what- or who- I was waiting for.

After a while, I heard synth sounds. It was sound check time. No one had even asked me to move an inch for about an hour, so I remained there to enjoy it. And I began to allow myself to think, “What if?”

But, even after waiting  for soundcheck to finish, there was no sign of anyone connected with the show going in or out. It was getting late, and I needed to be back in time for doors to make sure I got my spot. As a joke, I took a picture of the stairs leading up to the backstage door,  I typed in a clever caption, ready to upload it to Facebook.

And there he was, coming down the stairs, landing less than a foot away from me. I knew it was him. Because my insides were doing cartwheels. And I said, as if I had forgotten to ask him something, “Adam?”

“Yeah!” he said with a smile.

Okay, I was still alive. I hadn’t died on the spot. I could do this. I had this. Calm, cool collected. It’s just me and a guy from Minnesota with a fondness for warm weather and sea creatures. Proceed.

I introduced myself, telling him I had just wanted to say hi, if that was okay. “Sure! Nice to meet you!” I couldn’t help but smile. I just knew he’d be the type to end all his sentences with exclamation points.

I gave him a gift. A little owl zipper pouch. One of my favorite things that I carried everywhere until that moment.  He thanked me and said he loved it, putting it in his pocket.

I asked him if he’d been able to enjoy Nashville, but unfortunately, he had been under the weather.

Then it was picture time. One of the most remarkable things about this meeting is we were the only ones there: no line, no cameras, no crew, no entourage: just Adam and me. This presented a tiny problem.

“Who’s going to take the picture?” I said, laughing, “There’s, like, no one around.”

“You want me to just hold it out here and take it?” he said.

“Sure, we’ll ‘Myspace’ that!” I said [referring, of course, to the way everyone on Myspace takes their display photo].

And so we did. He asked my name again, I told him, along with our approximate seat spot. And after thanking him repeatedly for his time, I watched him go to the bus. At this point, I threw both my arms in the air in triumph. The roadies, who had kept their respectful distance and allowed Adam and I to have our moment, smiled and gave me the Thumbs Up.

I did what any level-headed person who is lucky enough to have frequent encounters with her favorite musicians would do: calmly stowed my phone, proceeded to the end of the block, turned the corner, and screamed like one of those extras in a Hard Days Night.

I went in, got my seat, met up with one of my childhood friends and my sister in law, and had a great time dancing the night away with a throng of hysterical teenage girls, feeling like a sympathetic chaperone. Of course, our photo greets me from a variety of places now. And seeing those delighted grins makes me think: I don’t deserve this kind of happy. And maybe I don’t. But I am holding on to it with both hands.

In one of his silliest songs, Adam Young writes:

“I’d rather pick flowers instead of fights.

And rather than flaunt my style, I’d flash you a smile of clean Pearly Whites”

Who knew so much of his work was autobiographical?

Thanks, Adam for making my day, my Spring, possibly my early 20s. I hope you’re feeling better today. I know I am.

see and be seen

This is Amos Lee. He is from Philadelphia. He used to be an elementary school teacher. He now plays tunes. He has 3 full-length studio records and a 2-song EP. He headlines tours nationwide and has had his at least one of his songs featured on a popular commercial. And he has a way of making one’s night.

I went to see Amos for the first time at Cannery Ballroom 2 years ago. Through the kindness of strangers, I was able to have a chance meeting with him, which I wrote about here. He was nothing but polite. He chatted and took a photo, and even sent a less-than-cordial tour manager after me to apologize to me for losing his cool. So doing, Amos became one of those artists- one of those people- you remember. Someone whose success you want to support.

I was able to see Amos a second time that year when his fall tour brought him to the 40 Watt Club in Athens. I didn’t get to talk to him then. But I promised myself that if I ever did, I would thank him  for how thoughtful he had been after meeting me.

Last night, I saw Amos for the third time at Mercy Lounge here in Nashville. He played a fabulous set with lots of favorites, some new material, and some cheeky banter peppered in, [Oh, and a Queen cover. Let’s not forget that]. I was right in front of him, but wasn’t sure he had actually seen me at all; he tends to sing with his eyes closed most of the time. When he made a comment at the end of the show about a song being written in 2009, I said [not yelling or anything], “It was a good year.” He looks at me and says “Really?”, as if he knew what 2009 had been like for me. I said “Yeah” with a lot of hesitation, feeling a tiny bit embarrassed and every bit found out. He smiled, pointed right at me and said, “For you, for you, but for me. . .” and continued to set up the song before he finished the second encore with it: it was about learning from the Less Than Great things that life hands to us sometimes. Given that 2009 was actually not that great for me, I appreciated it especially.

It was a great night; I had no complaints. I had nothing to do other than hope for the chance to reconnect.

After Amos left stage, Alicia, Holly and myself stood around “talking set list” with all the other shiny, happy people. It was a sold out crowd, so waiting for a lot of them to close their tabs and clear out seemed like a good idea at the time. And it was.

All of a sudden, Amos came darting out from backstage. He walked right past us and headed toward the back of the room by the bar, where he began talking to some people gathered there. I kept saying to myself “Calm, cool and collected, calm cool and collected”, and before you know it, I had been turned toward him and we were saying hello. He smiled. He is not a teeth-smiler, if you were curious.But he’s one of those people whose eyes help his smile along, so it is easy to tell when he is comfortable and sincere, “My hands are wet,” he said, as he shook mine, “but they’re clean.”

“Good to know,” I said.

Then, I said what I had wanted to say to him for almost two years, “Hey, man. I met you a couple years ago at Cannery. And there was this mean guy that yelled at me, and you told him to apologize, and he did. So, thanks for being a solid dude.”

He said, “No problem,” and smiled. Then he gave me a fist bump.

Realizing I had forgotten an important detail, I said, “My name’s Beth, by the way. What’s yours?”

After he said his name, he realized I was joking and we had a laugh.

He asked me if I had enjoyed the show. I said of course, and thanked him for a great performance.

I asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking some pictures. “Sure, let’s do it,” he said. And he crouched next to me and took a few with the group, after we fumbled around with our cameras to make sure they were on and working. I mumbled something about not knowing how to use my own camera, thinking about how many of his precious seconds I was taking up, and he said “It happens,” in a way that I knew meant he was alright  with waiting. Smile, smile. Snap. Snap. Snap. At some point, I called him back over for a Just-The-Two-of-Us shot to replace the crazy awkward one of me we had taken on our first encounter. I told him I had hated that first one (of me) and he said, “No, no, don’t hate it!” and rushed over to take the replacements.

While we were all chatting, I asked Amos if he missed being a teacher. He laughed and said no, not the paperwork and the bureaucracy. But of course, he missed the kids. I also admitted that even though I said 2009 was a good year, I didn’t really mean it. And we had a moment of griping before the obligatory “2010, baby”! I’m glad there’s at least one other person out there who likes to think the year is still new.

Amos was very kind, attentive, and appreciative. I lost count of how many times he thanked me and my friends for being there. And- just in case you were wondering if he actually did see me from the stage- he said at some point before we parted, “Thank you so much for coming out. Your smile lit me up.”

Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that every Happy Cell in my body did a standing backflip when he said that. I cannot explain how happy a simple statement like that can make someone feel. It means “I saw your face”; it means “we connected”, it means “your presence affected my life in a positive way, if only for a few moments”. If I could have picked my jaw up off the floor fast enough, I would have let him know: the sentiment is mutual.

This isn’t really a concert review; this isn’t a set list, a photo montage, or a crappy YouTube video. It’s a story of two people meeting: a meandering dreamer and a former schoolteacher. Somewhere amidst the frantic chatter and the nervous smiles lay the lesson that- just when you think you’ve found your path- you may be sent in another direction entirely; you may be led to even greater heights. It is a reminder that we can make an impression on someone and not know it; and vice versa.

I guess what I’m saying is, we should keep going; we never know where we’ll end up.We should keep smiling; people notice it; people need it. And it is one of the easiest and most rewarding things in the world to give.

*

“You get right down to the bottom of the barrel,

And then you float back on top. . .”

Thanks, Amos, for your kindness. It is invaluable. May all your Happy Cells get their exercise. Talk to you soon.