Riot Fest 2014 Reflections

Ramblings, Reflections, and Tiny Confessions

(Concise Music Journalism this Is Not…)

Back in MY day, music festivals TOURED, dammit. None of this all day-weekend 80 hundred bands kinda thing. I went to the first four Lollapalooza tours from 1991-1994, a period spanning high school into college. I stayed in Kalamazoo in the summer of 1995 for theatre stuff, and then didn’t Metallica headline at one point? I mean, no offense to Metallica (I dig ’em), but Metallica? Whatever. I’ve not gone back to Lolla even though it sits in my own backyard.

I would’ve last year. For The Cure of course. Alas, I was unavoidabley out of town, and that post-Lolla Monday, I sulked on my hotel bed in Stratford, Ontario while my husband and his parents went swimming. I watched the video of the entire set on my phone. I wished I’d been there, despite all the…people.

So when Riot Fest announced The Cure as a headliner, it was a no brainer that I’d go. If I missed them AGAIN for this their second summer in a row in Chicago, then I’d officially suck and have to turn in my Cure card. I bit the bullet and got a 3-day pass (thank you, honey!) as they hadn’t announced each day’s line-ups (that’s how they get ya!) and I didn’t want to stress over single-day ticket stuff. No VIP thing for me (I was tempted by the better bathrooms and lounges…) For the last September of my 30s, I thought I’d “slum it with the kids” and just deal with the mess. Didn’t imagine how messy it was going to be. But we were all in this together: the “babies” (literal babies and teen-and-20-somethings both) and the more vintage of us. And really, there was something for everyone based on age and styles. I had an awesome time, and now that my bones are like Oh, you’re not going to be standing in mud all day? and they don’t hate me so much, I get back into the groove of my week and take some time to reflect on my adventure.


The early weather forecasts for this first Riot day had called for cloudy and 72. Yeah, not so much. Ever the Boy Scout, I packed my satchel with essentials including a travel poncho, sanitizer, earplugs (!), water bottle, sunscreen (for later in the weekend…), my ticket folded into a plastic bag, and Cold-Eze to fight the cold I picked up on Monday after my dentist appointment. I was actually feeling better by the weekend, but ya know, keeping myself in check. Properly layered with my outer jacket good for any light to moderate rain. I made it to Ashland after work and took the bus down to North. Was going to take the North bus, but kept waiting and waiting and, eff it I’ll walk. I joined up with others doing to same thing and talked with Javier and Kristie (??) along the way. We parted ways at the gate. Hope they had fun.

Okay, so here we. My goal was for a 5:00 arrival, and I made it with time to spare. My first band of the weekend was The Hotelier over at the smaller Revolt Stage. Found a tree on the edges of the healthy crowd to hold off the rain that was somewhere between a mist and a light drizzle. Good opening act for me! They describe themselves as a anti-pop anarcho punk band, but they still have some catchy pop sensibilities. In the best, accessible way if I’m making sense. I preferred when the vocals were melodic and clear over when they got screamy. The inner sanctum of the crowd was way into them, and they had their fans who knew the words and communally thrashed their heads. My favorite was the dude in the pink plastic hat thing. Looking forward to listening to more of their recordings.

After a little time to peruse the spiky jewelry and t-shirts with cool stuff on them that I’d never buy or wear and getting better acquainted with the lay of the land, I was back at the Revolt Stage for From Indian Lakes. They brought a more chill Northern California vibe. A slightly cleaner sound, though I felt like the bass levels were way up in general on this stage. Listening to them as I type, and I dig how they can switch from Fleet Foxes mellow (but not as wispy if that makes sense) to punk rock heavy without missing a beat. Again, I look forward to listening to more of their stuff.

Good starting at this smaller stage. Got me acclimated to the festival, the crowds, the people watching opportunities, and I didn’t feel like the world was pressing in on my organs. That would be later. From there, I made my way to the main Riot Stage and saw my friend Anna. Cool! I helped lead her to the left side of the sound booth where her friend Trish said to meet her. The weather was getting worse–colder and rainier. But I was good. Anna not as much. Trish arrived, and we were there in time for Gogol Bordello. They obviously have a large fan base, and I know they’ve been around, but they’re new to me. A Gypsy punk band with a Ukrainian lead singer (Eugene Hütz from Everything Is Illuminated!) The music is exactly what you’d expect, and it was awesome! One song intro sounded very traditional, and I said to Anna, this is the part of the show where Ernie’s mother starts dancing a traditional Romanian peasant dance. Loved every second! So now I’m sold, and I’ll listen to them more. During the show, the rain fell harder, but Trish had an umbrella even though they were on the No-no list. Since were further back, I didn’t feel so bad. From my angle, I loved watching the Pokeman and lit-up Mario on sticks bouncing in the crowd. The girls were done and over it for the evening after GB. So as the crowd moved out, I moved up and got a pretty sweet spot for Jane’s Addiction.

The rain continued, but never so torrential that I was like I hate my life. My poncho never did make it out of my bag, though it probably should have. My layers and Makers Mark baseball cap kept me decently dry, but I asked a lot of them. Got to talking to folks waiting with me. A few of my vintage who also remembered seeing Jane’s headline the first Lollapalooza tour. Tim and Desiree. And nutty Jean from Pensacola, Florida who flew up here primarily for Jane’s. She wasn’t letting anything rain on HER parade, yo. She loved how everyone in Chicago was so nice to her and made her feel like a part of the city. Glad we’re doing our part to be hospitable.

So Jane’s: effin rad. A handful of bands were set to play an entire album in its entirety. Jane’s played all of Nothing’s Shocking from “Up the Beach” to “Pigs in Zen,” and including of course “Jane Says” (when they brought out the kettle drum), “Mountain Song,” and “Standing in the Shower…Thinking.” I hadn’t listened to it straight through in a while so I had fun listening and remembering. Perry Ferrel was crazy and cooky as ever and I loved him for it. Dave Navaro was tank- topped and rocker-hot as usual. Perry would just start monologuing about whatever, including how he could take a bubble bath on stage with all the rain water. A few times, a bass note would hit and it felt like the who city shook, like something was off with the sound booth (guess bass is a tricky wicket). Glad I had my earplugs. Looked like Dave yelled at one of the stage guys about it after the second time it happened. Perry did make his way into the crowd on my side. I was just out of reach, but I was so close. Jean freaked out, and was very explicit about the brick she shit. Ha! I grabbed a couple photos that turned out decent enough. Pretty awesome! The closed with a couple songs of Ritual de lo Habitual which is the album I got into them with, really based on my age and time of life and all that. “Been Caught Stealing,” where at the first Lolla, Perry introed the song by asking the crowd, “Do you like my pants? Well, why don’t you steal ’em?!” The closed with “Stop!” which is one of my faves. No “Classic Girl” unfortunately. In fact they stopped a few minutes early, I think cos of the rain. Looked like the fire marshall was on stage there. Perry was afraid we’d all catch pneumonia. With all that rain (among other rules…), there were of course no bonfires behind me like on the hill at Lolla where when I looked back during Jane’s, I counted at least 14 of them. Listening to Shocking as I type. I only have Ritual on cassette with the censored cover. Of all my old faves, that one never made the digital transition. Not even a CD from the South Bend library. I should fix that. Jean and I walked part of the way to the gate together. We gave each other a big wet hug before parting ways. I hope she had a fun rest of her weekend!

Getting home. Best way really was the North Ave bus to the Red Line. I waited in line to get on one of the extra long CTA buses, and managed to snag the last seat across from the back door because the couple sitting there kept smiling at folks so no one sat next to them. I didn’t even notice their moves and saw the empty seat. Getting out of the way plus getting off my muddy (!) feet were my motives. Very friendly folks. Didn’t catch their names. But the guy, a cute buzz cut Latino was jovial and conversational. He asked a number of questions including what art form I’d perform on (he named a plaza) in Madrid, and how many wash cloths I could stack on my erect penis (we got a little more in depth about the varietals involved, but I’ll spare you all that as perhaps I’ve already gotten a little TMI here, ha.) We all talked about our experience so far, comparing notes and commiserating/celebrating the rain and mud.

When my new friends got off at the Blue Line, another couple sat next to me. A New York couple where the fella was very tattooed and I think ear gauged. We got to talking, and then they asked me the best way to get back to Lincoln Park. I started to suggest they take the Red Line one stop up to Fullerton, but then I didn’t know which part of LP they needed to go. Further up to the Halsted and Diversey area. Since the Red Line station is right at Halsted, they I think asked if they could walk, and I said Yeah, that it was only a half mile up. BUT. As I rode up the train toward Fullerton, I realized I had them walking up from Fullerton and not North, which adds another mile to their walk. Ugh! I felt SO bad. Like Mortified at my dingbattedness. My brain did not reboot from the earlier part of the conversation. So yeah, I should’ve had them come with me to the train and then they could walk from there. Here I was trying to be nice and helpful and welcoming to our fair city and I totally bombed. I was like They hate me! I am cursed! If they see me the rest of the weekend they’re going to kick my ass. I knew where they were staying and even thought of calling the hotel to leave a message apologizing. But that would’ve been weird, eh? So, I Tweeted my apology along with sending it through the more traditional Through the Universe route. My Tweet was randomly re-tweeted by a couple folks with not very many followers. Not sure if they were trying to help or laughing at me. I deserve both I guess. At least my new friends who probably hate me got to pass such Chicago cultural institutions such as Steppenwolf and Kingston Mines. So there’s that. Again, SORRY! I obsessed about it some, but as I started thinking about how I’d write about it (here and through more creative means), I calmed down. The power of turning ridiculousness into art. 🙂

Saturday Wait, Sunday Always Comes to Late (Click “more” for the rest! Scroll Down for The Cure.)

Read More

Albums of My Decade ~ 2005

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1 ~ 1999-2004. Instead of this being “Part 2,” well, I finished writing up 2005, so I thought I’d post.  The rest will come as they will.   Happy New Year! 🙂


Brokeback Mountain ~ Soundtrack. Haunting score for an amazing movie.  This album also introduced me to Teddy Thompson and Jackie Greene.  And only has minimal Rufus Wainwright who I can only take in small doses.

Depeche Mode ~ Playing the Angel. The last DM album in my collection was Violator on cassette (in a time before my laptop, iTunes, and replacing my cassettes with borrowed CD’s).  My friend Nikki snagged some floor seats for their Chicago stop.  So I snatched up the CD (I think at Virgin!) and recharged my love of the band, the last spike being in 11th grade.  It’s a more mature DM with a dark groove that drew me in.  Dark, but still accessible (accessibility may be what’s lacking in the new one, which I have, but really haven’t given a chance).  Fave songs are “Suffer Well” and “Precious.”  The concert was amazing, complete with old favorites that took me back to different times.

The Fray ~ How to Save a Life. Didn’t really get into this until 2006-07 when it exploded onto the world.  The whole album is amazing and I never get tired of the title song.  This album is the good memories from our time in South Bend, Indiana.  Haven’t picked up the new one yet.

Girlyman ~ Little Star. Discovered them when they opened for Dar on that year’s tour.  A gay-lesbian folk trio—how awesome!  Gorgeous harmonies, some banjo playing, and my first folk-star crush (Nate!).  Fave songs are “One the Air,” “Young James Dean,” and “This Is Me.”  This is their 2nd album (my copy’s signed as well), and their 4th just came out.  Don’t have anything else, though would like to.  If I never get around to it, I’ll always have this little gem.  Thanks!

Amos Lee ~ Amos Lee. Another random Virgin Music purchase that was totally on sale, Lee’s first album is soulful folk, a comfortable pairing with the first John Mayer.  Good chill out music without being boring, appropriate music for friends over.  Faves are “Seen it All Before” and “Love in the Lies.”  Like Girlyman, I don’t have any subsequent releases, but this one will always have a place in my heart.

Madonna ~ Confessions on a Dance Floor. American Life wasn’t bad, but this was the Madonna album we were waiting for!  The best dance album since Kylie’s for me this decade.  We first listened to it on AOL before the official release in November.  We rented a car for the holiday travels, rode with MK and this got us home.  As I wrote, the trip was “like Too Wong Foo, but without the break down.”

Jason Mraz ~ MR. A-Z. At first, it seemed like a sophomore slump for Jason.  BUT.  It’s definitely grown on me over the years and I love-love it.  “Life is Wonderful” is a fave Mraz song.

Dar Williams ~ My Better Self.  Another solid Dar offering.  A kind of return to form and clocks in 12 minutes longer than Beauty.  Dar’s signature mix of the quirky, serious, political are on here.  “Teen For God” gives us another side of the “Christians and the Pagans” story.  “Empire” is not playing nice, but doesn’t get ranty either.  “The Hudson” is an all time Dar fave, which I still haven’t seen her play live.  It takes us on a journey just as rivers do, and is the perfect album ender.

Albums of My Decade ~ Part 1

Okay, Friends.  I’m definitely one who is prone to year-decade-etc in review.  My journals are full of them.  There are Lists Aplenty this year, being the end of a decade (and please don’t tell me the new decade actually starts in 2011, for real.)  So far, the only List I’ve been feeling is a Musical one.  So, here are the Albums of My Decade!  It’s pretty different from Rolling Stone Mag’s list–no Coldplay found here, yo.

There are a few “rules” to keep me sane.  First, these are albums I acquired myself (purchased CD’s and those received as gift, iTunes and other downloads, etc.)  Maybe a couple that Ernie picked up that I “borrowed.”  Other albums were in my sphere, but I need to focus, people!   There have also been individual songs that made my decade (including those found on mix CD’s from Ernie), but I’m sticking to albums. Though I may break this rule.  We’ll see….  I’m listing the albums by year of release, which for the most part is when I acquired them/they entrenched into my soul, but there are a few instances when I got into them later.  I don’t include Greatest Hits and other compilations (though The Jesus & Mary Chain’s 21 Singles, Pat Benatar’s Greatest Hits and The Cure’s Join the Dots box set would apply), or albums from decades past that I acquired in the last (say, that Chet Baker With Stings album I love or when I finally got around to picking up R.E.M’s Up album.)

This list isn’t exactly always hip.  I’ve gotten less hip as the decade’s progressed, but oh well.  I’m not a ravenous music consumer.  There’s stuff out there I love but don’t have.  I like what I like and buy what I buy, so there you go.



A couple albums that crossed the Decade Threshold for me….

Dido ~ No Angel. She tied me over between Sarah McLachlan albums, but also proved amazing on her own.  Beautifully angelic turn-of-the-century dream chill pop.  This album got me through many sleepy Amtrak trips home.

Lucy Kaplansky ~ Ten Year Night. Discovered via Dar Williams, this was my first Lucy album purchased before seeing her with Dar and John Gorka in the summer of 1999.  Beautiful folk music (or “chick with guitar” music as Ernie calls it) riding the line between singer-songwriter and country (and hanging out on the side I prefer.)  This album = futzing around the kitchen of my Barry Street apartment, either on my own or with my roomie, Sarah.


Barenaked Ladies ~ Maroon. This is actually the only BNL studio album I own.  “Pinch Me” and “Falling for the First Time” would be on my list of Favorite Songs Ever.  I just made you say ‘underwear.’

Bon Jovi ~ Crush. The best Bon Jovi of the decade by far!  Rocking comeback after 5 years off.  This album for me was high school meets 20-something.  Well written and still has some grit.  The next two albums didn’t quite measure up, and I haven’t gotten around to picking up the last two.   I’ll always have “It’s My Life.”

The Cure ~ Bloodflowers. Much anticipated post-Wild Mood Swings album!  We were promised a return to the darkness of Disintegration (which is sacred ground itself and hard to compare the new album to after a decade plus of listening).  Not an album for the casual Cure fan or faint-at-heart, but still beautiful and agonizing and one I’ll listen to in full every once in a while.  That summer’s Dream Tour saw me at two AMAZING shows, especially 2nd row in Detroit, where my buddy Chris were totally 17 again.

David Gray ~ White Ladder. I mean, “Babylon” come on!  And “This Year’s Love” and “Please Forgive Me,”  Bliss.   It’s folk, it’s electric, he’s Welsh, what is this?!  I sometimes wonder if it has held up over the years.  Sarah and I had this on constant rotation.  Joined Dido on the train.


Madonna ~ Music. It makes the people come together.  Yeah.  Not as brilliant as Ray of Light, but a hell of a ride.  The cowgirl thing worked for me.  The “Don’t Tell Me” video is still playing in the Roscoe’s front bar TV screen in my mind.  Saw the Drowned World Tour the following year in her home town (or home state at least).  I managed to avoid knowing the set list ahead of time, so it was all new to me.


Carrie Newcomer ~ Age of Possibility. Another folk find of mine along the way.  Soulful, earthy, storytelling.  Saw her opening for Lucy and on her own at Shuba’s.  This and her next album were living alone in my studio on Aldine with a boyfriend around the corner.  “This Too Will Pass” was later put on a tribute CD for my mom.

Anthony Rapp ~ Look Around. My favorite RENT cast member solo album.  “Just Some Guy” would make it onto the earliest of mix tapes for Ernie (yeah, I was still doing tapes at this point…)  Saw him perform many of these songs live with his band at Halsted Market Days.  Got to meet him.  Then he performed solo at Un-Common Ground.  Awesome.

Dar Williams ~ The Green World. Dar did kind of become my post-Sarah M. female singer-songwriter obsession.  And holds that title today.  “After All” is an all time Dar fave.  I’ll always associate the opening drums and notes of “Playing to the Firmament” with my week-after-9/11 breakdown with my dear MK.  I saw her live this tour for my 3rd time–and first time with a full band.  I went with a friend from the bars, Dan, I think.  I grabbed the journal I thought this concert entry might be in, but then got sucked into reading lots of other things, and finally set it aside.  Not sure how much of 2000 I want to relive.  Anyway, still love this album!


Band of Brothers ~ Score/Soundtrack. This music didn’t take over my soul until 2006 when I finally got around to seeing the film when I borrowed my brother’s DVD’s.  Now, it’s my most played single album I own according to iTunes and  Beautiful!  The late Michael Kamen’s score with a dash of Beethoven plus all the film images they conjure, yeah, that’s it.

Lucy Kaplansky ~ Every Single Day. Another solid offering from Lucy!   My favorite of hers this decade (released on 9-11!).  I did pick up her next one, The Red Thread, and there’s another one I don’t have.  But  this and Ten Year mean the most to me.  “Written on the Back of His Hand” and “Broken Things” are highlights.  I also took a trip home and took my brother, Steve, to her concert at The Ark in Ann Arbor.  That was a pretty awesome night.  We met her afterward (though I’d met her a couple times), but Steve hadn’t.  We now both have signed copies.

John Mayer ~ Room For Squares. Probably my fave of the year!  He’s kind of a folky guy, but more rock.  I was needing that.  And so young, so innocent, SO not dating Jessica Simpson.  “No Such Thing” “3×5” and “Love Song for No One” = Joy.  Favorite Songs Ever for sure.

R.E.M. ~ Reveal. Big time R.E.M. fan here.  Not their best of the decade, but still a good one.  My fave track: “She Just Wants to Be.”




Norah Jones ~ Come Away with Me.  It’s jazz, it’s pop, it’s amazing!  I was seduced along with everyone else to “Don’t Know Why.”  The title track makes me wish I could actually sing.  I’ve liked her stuff since, but this is one that matters most to me.

Ben Kweller ~ Sha Sha. Picked up this debut after his 2nd album came out.  This may even surpass that one.  “In Other Words” is a Fave Song Ever.

Last Five Years ~ Cast Recording. Jason Robert Brown’s delicious off Broadway musical/song cycle about a couple’s five years together–she sings backwards in time and he sings forward and they meet in the middle.  An actor and a writer trying to make it work.  Before acquiring the whole CD myself, Ernie put “If I Didn’t Believe In You” on a mix CD for me, and it still drives me (and probably him too) to near sobs.  “Summer In Ohio” rules.

Kylie Minogue ~ Fever. Hey, it’s that chick who had that “Locomotion” song when I was in 9th grade!  Wait, I’m gay now and she’s a dance-pop diva.  It’s infectious pop perfection in an time when I thought I was somewhat less prone to the latest hot dance track (read: I’m not single any more and not at Roscoe’s as much).  I just can’t get you out of my head!  This one never made it into my iTunes for some reason.  Importing now!  (Sidebar: I love how she’s my friend CMT’s guilty pleasure!)

Carrie Newcomer ~ Gathering of Spirits. Along with her previous album, this is early decade folk at its best for me.  “Holy is the Day is Spent” blends the spiritual, worldly, and every day life.  The title track makes me think of all my friends.  “I’ll Go Too” has gone on lullaby CD’s for friends and family.


Sarah McLachlan ~ Afterglow. Oh, Sarah.  How I worshiped you in the ’90’s.  How “Good Enough” saved my life.  This, her only “real” album of the decade is still beautiful and spoke to me in a about-t0-be married-almost 30-something angsty kind of way, as opposed to a 20-something-college-kid angsty kind of way.  “Push” and “Answer” say it all.  Awaiting a new full length non-remix-live-greatest hits-Christmas album in the new decade….

Jason Mraz ~ Waiting for My Rocket to Come. So begins my love affair with Mr. A-Z.  No, we didn’t follow his rise on the indie coffee house scene, and to those old fans, we’re all posers (and maybe some of the BRAND new fans are posers to me), but Ernie and I saw the video for “You and I Both” and were hooked.  “On Love, In Sadness” is a Fave Song Ever.  A deserted island album for sure.

Dar Williams ~ The Beauty of the Rain. Is how it falls, how it falls….  Another beautiful, if not as epic than The Green World, album from Dar.  This album is winter into spring and the first sighting of boys-showing-skin, wearing- shorts-jogging along the lakefront.

Elefant ~ Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid. Okay, I love these guys.  First heard them when a manager at work played this album while we finished our late night side work.  Bass heavy, dancey, groovy, and melodic.  The American singer sounds British–love his voice.  With that, I think this is the band that wanted to be The Killers for me before Brandon Flowers and Company broke.  Good walking around the City music.  I’ll give an Honorable Mention to their 2nd and only other album, The Black Magic Show (2006), which is a little more–psychedelic, but still bouncy.   “Uh Oh Hello” is a Fave Song Ever.  I think I need to have an Elefant listening party.


The Cure ~ The Cure. This is what I wrote in ’04: I love the new album. It grows on me more and more. But I don’t listen to it with the heart of 17-year-old anymore. There are plenty of actual 17-year- olds to do that. This is their time, I guess. I listen as someone who loves their music, who gets goofy over a crafty Cure pop song and who dives head on into the sonic epics (I LOVE “The Promise”!!!) Someone who hears a familiar strain in a new song (that riff in “Fake” gets me every time) and can celebrate the past 15 years of life and listening to their music. Someone who listens to “Taking Off” and thinks about my annoying waiter job but knows that I now have a wonderful partner in life who makes all the bullshit not matter, who rubs my feet and cracks my back and pours the wine. Someone who’s about to turn 30 and maybe isn’t as “Lost” as he once was, but damned if I don’t know what Robert is whaling about.

Green Day ~ American Idiot. Some times things just really work out.  Time, mood, needs, talent, energy, etc. all come together.  And the creation of the album has an interesting story.  This was another rock album that I think we all kinda needed.  I know I was fed up with the country, especially goings on in the White House and that year’s election and all.  The music is loud and aggressive (with softer moments of course) and the storytelling epic.  I love Billy’s voice and the harmonies with the band.  Thanks, guys!

Patty Griffin ~ Impossible Dream. This was the first album of hers I picked up since her debut, Living With Ghosts (1996), and I absolutely love it.  Another train CD, it’s a genre blender that comes out pure Americana.  The piano ballads, “Kite Song” and “Mother of God” transform me, as do “Rowing Song” and “Useless Desires”.

The Killers ~ Hot Fuss. Yay, a NEW band that made me feel young again!  And a rock star crush to rival Billie Joe Armstrong (which started with Dookie and was revived with American Idiot.) This is where Rolling Stone and I actually agree!  That opening bass riff was enough to get a lot of us going.  This is warm weather walks along the lake and music to get me home from my lunch shifts.  Love all their stuff, but this is the best.

Ben Kweller ~ On My Way. This was a total impulse buy at the Virgin Music Megastore (R.I.P.) one day before or after work.  They had listening stations for new releases and this CD was a part of all that.  Love his piano heavy Texas singed rock bordering on alt-country.  And his voice.  I’ve found I’m picky about male singer’s voices.  “Living Life” and “Believer” immediately made it onto a mix CD (yes, I eventually graduated) for Ernie.

R.E.M. ~ Around the Sun. Funny thing is, I didn’t even know this was coming out until I saw it on the shelves at Virgin!  I know Stipe and Company would rather forget about this one.  All the press surrounding Accelerate referred to this one as just  The Last Album, but that’s so not fair!  I remember hearing that this was basically a glorified Michael Stipe singer-songwriter solo album.  But okay, admission: That’s kinda what I love about this one.  I love the stripped down reflective nature of it.  It’s wandering around on a Fall day, and is still the one most entrenched in my soul since Automatic for the People. “Leaving New York” “Make it Okay” and “I Wanted to Be Wrong” are faves.

~ ~ ~ ~

That does it for Part 1.  Stay tuned for the rest of the decade, plus more Honorable Mentions, and maybe an individual song or two….


I Used to Tell People that My Parents Named Me after Michael Jackson…

…and my brother, Stephen after Stevie Nicks. 😛


Okay.  So, I feel like I should take some time to at least get a few thoughts out beyond Facebook status updates. Something that is a little longer lasting.

I heard the news Thursday on NPR. I turned it on in the middle of the story and thought the piece was about his rehearsing for the tour.  Then I heard about the coma.  And shortly thereafter that he was dead.  My Facebook home page was already flooding.  I’ve added my words.  And this WordPress post will feed into my Facebook so it’s all one big pot, really.

And of course I was like What the Fuck?

It begins: Fall 1982.  Arthur Johnson, a schoolmate from Mrs. Cox’s 3rd Grade classroom brings  his Thriller album (on vinyl of course) to my 3rd Grade classroom, Mrs. Brady’s room.  I don’t remember the occasion—was it a party, special day, or just a bit of show and tell?  Mrs. Brady put on the record and Arthur starts dancing.  I don’t know if he moon walked per se, as according the sources, the above video from May 1983 was the moon walk’s debut. Either way, I, a white boy in an ever increasingly racially mixed school, am enthralled, and want more.  I must own this.  This was the moment I transitioned from storybook records whose chimes told me to turn the page.  Beyond Sesame Street records and the Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music soundtracks.  This was it.

I went home that day and asked my parents if we had any Michael Jackson records.  One of them—not sure if was Mom or Dad—handed me our copy of Off the Wall, and I said, “This isn’t Michael Jackson!” I’d taken in the cover of Arthur’s Thriller album, and this was NOT the same guy!  In my world, anyway.

For my 8th birthday, I received my very own copy of Thriller.  Along with the my copy of the Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cookbook, which I still use today, and in fact just finished a couple batches of Snickerdoodles for the weekend’s Pride festivities.

From here, I unleash a bit of a brainstorm of MJ moments….

Family gatherings will undoubtedly include a Michael Jackson number or two, lip synced and danced by myself. My version of “You Wanna Be Startin’ Something” involved gym shorts and sweatbands and exercise-esque choreography that put Olivia Newton John to shame. No track from the Thriller album was safe.  My production of the song “Thriller” was carefully planned, involved turning off all the lights, my little brothers, and a dagger-esque letter opener that is still at arm’s reach from my computer.

I invited some of my friends over one day because we were going to make our OWN “Thriller” video with my dad’s film home movie camera.  If only I’d had a digital recorder then!  Chris, AJ (then maybe still Andy), and Michelle came over and my grand vision of multi locations—the corner at the end of the block, my garage, etc.  was slightly rehearsed, never filmed, but Mom still made lunch.

One of our former babysitters and neighborhood friends, Katie, would teach me the choreography to “PYT” she learned in her dance class.  Katie died suddenly this past May.

I watched the Making of Thriller video many many times with Michelle and her mom, Pattie. That’s when I saw the above “Billie Jean” clip. The penultimate viewing was a party where she invited several of our classmates and we made our own pizzas (because Pattie was a lunch mother at school and she had the hookup to the place that provided our pizza lunches).  Talk about Awesome.  We marveled at the special effects and made fun of the Jackson 5’s “Can you Feel It?” video.  We kept shouting “No!”  At least Michelle and I would every time we watched.

Before Detroit had cable—and therefore MTV, my main source to see his videos was Channel 4’s (our NBC station) music video show that came on a 4:00 after school.  Many of my 80’s video memories come from that show.  Madonna, Cindy Lauper, Lionel Ritchie, “Ghostbusters,” etc.

My bedroom was covered in Michael Jackson posters, whether my little brother liked it or not!  My jacket was covered in MJ buttons, many of which were purchased at this little shop in the middle of Livonia Mall.  I learned about sales tax when my 99 cent button cost me $1.03. I think this store had the coveted “Human Nature” tapestry.  Some buttons I bought at the pro shop of Riverside Roller Rink.  They had an MJ night once and I entered their lookalike contest.  I did the “Human Nature” cover—I wore white pants, white shirt, and yellow sweater vest.  I wore my homemade glove—one of my mother’s old evening gloves glue-sticked and glittered.  I made my own socks, too.  I was jealous of any friend who had the official gear—gloves, socks, jackets.  I was deprived of these things as a child.  Heh.  So I made due.  I believe this was the night I acquired my MJ sunglasses—my fold up knock-off Ferraris with his signature etched into the glass.

I did all the moves as best I could.

I scowled, and probably laughed at people who called him Michael Jackass and Michael Jerkson (Michelle’s father and grandfather respectively).

I told my Aunt Nellie I loved Michael Jackson and she told me that boys couldn’t love other boys.  That moment made it into my play, The Melted Lampshade. But this was before I knew anything about anything and way before MJ’s scandals.  I loved this music, his dancing, his soul, his everything, even if I didn’t understand it all.  He was my first obsession.  Before Madonna, Heart, Bon Jovi, The Monkees, Sarah McLachlan, Dar Williams, The Cure.

We were maybe going to see the Jacksons on the Victory tour for my 10th birthday, but that fell through.  I had a big ol’ party at Chuck E. Cheese’s instead.  Which was awesome and many Transformers were acquired.  But the concert woulda been sweet.

My brother, Mark, posted on Facebook about how my mother met him once, when she worked at Detroit Children’s Hospital, and MJ was in town working some business deal that eventually fell through.  Mom was a tutor and was with the kids when he came to visit.  She asked me to help give some insight into him. By this time, he had fallen into scandal and parody and songs I didn’t really know.  She told me how, she held onto one little boy, and Michael went up to him and said, Hello.  The boy was quiet and Mom said, “He’s shy.”  Michael smiled, slipped down his sunglasses, revealing his eyes, and said something like, “I can tell,” or “I know,” but not in a sarcastic way or anything.  J  Mark posted on his FB “R.I.P. Mom, Michael Jackson, and Farah Fawcett.”  And I was like “What do YOU know about Farah?” and he said, “Nothing!” 😛

I know there are MJ-themed photos of me in various photo albums at my dad’s.  I’ll have to find get my hands on them.

I never picked up Bad or any subsequent albums, but followed along on the radio and MTV and all that, up to a point until some of the clips MTV has been showing these past few days I barely or don’t remember at all.  I moved on, but still have what I have and can look beyond all the crazy (and the Amy Pohler sketches on SNL) to all the goodness. Oh, and I saw the “We are the World” video for the first time in a million years.  What a trip!  And what was Dan Ackeroyd doing there by the way? 😛

I was at Roscoe’s the other night and they closed the dance floor with a remix of “Thriller.” That was pretty darn cool.

My FB quiz “What Hit MJ song are You?” resulted in this:

You are “Stranger In Moscow” – Michael Jackson’s song about feeling lonely in a different city, in a different culture and within yourself. You are a poetic soul. You are very sensitive. You prefer a book to a film. If you choose a film, it’s a film which will make you think. Small things can bring lots of joy and lots of pain into your life. Sometimes you like walking alone in the rain. You like the feeling on the raindrops on your face. You wish the rain could take away all your bad thoughts. You are a good person. Try to enjoy little good things more than the bad things.

Didn’t know it, but the description pretty much fits.  Caught the video on MTV (btw, it takes Michael Jackson DYING for MTV to play music videos again it would seem!)  I’ll end with it:

Thank you, Michael.  For real. 🙂

A little Robert for You.

Cure & Smith, Robert

Until next time when I post about various exciting goings on, I share this amazing photo of Robert Smith from The Disintegration era.  The album was part of’s Unlucky in Love list of albums for an anti-Valentine’s Day.  While I’m quite happy with my Valentine, the thoughts about this album and many of the others are lovely.  Especially the ones about the Best Cure Album Ever.


Happy New Year!

64/365 ~ Perform Random Acts of Shakespeare.

Happy 2009!  I realized the other night that this was the last New Year’s Eve that people can wear glasses made out of the new year. I mean, that impaired vision from the 1 in 2010 plus alcohols spells trouble, if ya ask me.

To get a little nostalgic for a moment, ten years ago, New Years Eve 1998-99 was spent at Roscoe’s. It was my first New Year’s Eve in Chicago, and I hung out with Raul, Franz, and the rest of my Roscoe’s gang. Somewhere I have a Polaroid that was taken that night. At midnight, I was on the stage–I’m pretty sure with Raul–at the back of the dance floor. Prince’s “1999” blasted and balloons filled with cash fell from the ceiling. I got $5. Sweet. That was the night I bumped into my friend Eric in town with his boyfriend (also Eric) and friends from Ann Arbor.  If I remember correctly, as the night evolved, I hung out with them and we may have gone elsewhere? Not sure. That was also the night it started snowing. Real hard. ‘Twas Chicago’s worst blizzard in 20 years. I think I could see out of 3 inches of my garden apartment bedroom window. My roommie, Sarah, and I marched through the snow to meet the Erics and Co at the Boystown I-HOP. Our waiter’s name was Sugar Tits. It was a bitch getting downtown to my office job that Monday. All the Red Line cars were packed by the time it reached Addison. I took the Clark bus instead. Good times. 🙂

So, like my new sweatshirt?  Ernie’s folks gave it to me for Christmas.  Cool.  This photo is from my 365 Flickr project.  Click the photo to get over there.

Enjoying the break from school.  I’ll start thinking about the next semester maybe Monday.  Not before.  Catching up and forging ahead.  Organized some writerly things on my computer and in my head.  Like breaking up the short story collection that was my unfinished NaNo project.  Now they have their own folders and I can give them some individual love and attention.  Now  I just gotta give them that love and attention.

Photo stuff, thinking about life, watching movies, thinking about dusting but not quite getting to it.  Contemplating whether to buy the physical CD of the new Killers album or downloading the delux version from iTunes.  I’m a little old school, still, so it’s not a no-brainer like it might be for some of the “kids” out there. 🙂  Probably will download.  Extra songs and the new video.  Also need to acquire (somehow…)  Teddy Thompson’s new album, A Piece of What You Need.  I’ve fallen in love with his 2006 album, Separate Ways, this fall.  I want to be his voice some times.  Have I mentioned that here?

Hey, so just saw that my UnAbridged Bookstore in Chicago (where Ernie and I met once upon a time…) started up their own WordPress blog.  Check it out!

More musings in the works….  Enjoy the down time.

Status Report

I am currently:

~ Enjoying October–or High Holy Month as I call it.  My fruit chutney has been made.  Pumpkin bread is in the works.  Fall decorations are out.  The bike ride to school along the river is amazing–even in the rain.

~ Working to make an upcoming submission deadline.  If I don’t make it, I suck, right?

~ Enjoying the new Dar Williams and Shawn Mullins albums–and basking in the afterglow of their concert last month in September.  I’d like to post about all that and some other music related items some day.

~ Looking forward to the new Cure and Killers albums!  Awaiting the Teddy Thompson album I ordered from Amazon.

~ Working on the Mid-Term exam for my classes.

~ Trying to get through the Raymond Carver collection I picked up in August while visiting my nephew in North Carolina.  SO good–it’s just taking me forever to read non-school stuff this semester.

~ Looking forward to eventually reading the new Sarah Vowell book, The Wordy Shipmate.  I caught her on Talk of the Nation and The Daily Show yesterday. (Click to watch the clip, seriously!)  Tried to get through to NPR, but failed. 🙁  I love her.

~ Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2008!

~ Listening to the Greatest American Hero theme.

~ Going to see The Mushroom Picker at Notre Dame tonight.  It has two of my favorite things–solo performance and World War II.

~ Surviving Notre Dame home football weekends at the restaurant.

~ Being annoying by the obnoxious neighbors across the street.

~ Slightly bored with the Election.  Can we just get it over with already?  Though I am enjoying the Tina Fey as Palin bits.  Amazing.

~ Still going through Australia photos!

~ Trying to keep up with everything else.

~ Thinking that should about cover it for now. 🙂

Punkins for Sale!

A Night Like This is Just Like Heaven

That's some history there, my friends.

Yeah I took that. How cool is that?! 13th row + zoom lens = Joy. 🙂 The fact that these days camera policies are more relaxed, being allowed to have a camera was quite the novelty. I didn’t go too crazy as I didn’t want the night to be all about the photos. But still WAY cool! Check out the complete set HERE.

Thanks to the fabulous work of Craig over at Chain of Flowers, I don’t have to obsess over keeping track of the set list. Especially when I totally blanked on the name of “Us or Them,” and angry number from the last album. Craig gets live reports! He’s kept quite the extensive archive. Check it out, and also check out the affiliated COF News Blog. Any real Cure fan checks this daily. 🙂 No, seriously. Here’s the complete set list from the Cleveland, Ohio show, June 18, 2008:

Tape (intro), Open, Fascination Street, A Night Like This, The End of the World, Lovesong, Want, Pictures of You, Lullaby, The Perfect Boy, From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea, Kyoto Song, Hot Hot Hot, The Only One, Charlotte Sometimes, Torture, Sleep When I’m Dead, Push, Inbetween Days, Just Like Heaven, Primary, Us or Them, Never Enough, Wrong Number, One Hundred Years, End

1st encore: At Night, M, Play For Today, A Forest
2nd encore: Three Imaginary Boys, Fire In Cairo, Boys Don’t Cry, Jumping Someone Else’s Train, Grinding Halt, 10:15 Saturday Night, Killing An Arab

That’s 3 hours! Not for the weak. It was hot and sweaty and fabulous and Ernie would’ve had a miserable time except for when they played a select few songs. Still a good mix of pop hits and hardcore fan faves, as well as three new songs off the new album (out in September). I’m bummed that they didn’t play the current single, “Freakshow.” I’ve been bouncing around that to several times a day. I’m also bummed that they didn’t play “The Blood,” one of my all time faves that I STILL haven’t seen live, even though they’ve played it 7 times this tour (yes, COF has kept track), and now that my show’s over, I’m comparing notes, especially for the Chicago show I would’ve been to if it weren’t for that whole Australia think. I’ve been avoiding that thus far. They’ve also played “The Big Hand” a handful of times. Holy cripity! That’s like a B-side (though many feel it shoulda made the Wish album cut.)

But enough of my nitpicking non-appreciative fan stuff. 😛 The show was AMAZING!!! My neck is still sore from dancing and bopping around. For the most part I had room to move. At first, I there was an empty seat on my right, but a few songs in, this girl made her way in. Not sure if she was a late single ticket holder or someone who snuck in from a not as groovy seat. The couples on either side of me would sometimes leave to get drinks. Silly. I just don’t get that. I played all instruments in my air band. I rocked.

So cool to have Porl back. Yay! His rocking out the piano solo on “Just Like Heaven” on his guitar was amazing. (No keyboards now in case ya didn’t know). I love Simon’s bass line on “Torture” and Jason’s drumming on “Push” was worthy of Greek gods. Yep. Robert doesn’t dance around a lot, but I did catch a shot him with his arms all up in the air. “Pictures of You” made me think of friends. “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” is always brilliant live. I don’t think I’ve ever seen “Kyoto Song” live. I need to make a little tally of all the songs I’ve seen live (with the help of COF of course) cos I’m nerdy like that. I loved the 3IB encore even though there were some fans who would’ve probably preferred the Faith encore. Idunno, I think I was in the mood for the cleaner groovier stuff. For a second, I thought they were going to segue into “Another Journey By Train,” the b-side to “Jumping.” A slight heart palpitation, but then they moved into “Grinding Halt” which had fists flying in the air. Yum!

I have my blue t-shirt and my tour book. *Love* I wore my “High” crab necklace.

I stalked the tour bus area for a while and met Shawn, a frequent COF commenter. Now, I am definitely a Cure nerd, but Shawn was rattling of names of remixes like they were his children. 🙂 I say that in the most celebratory way! Even I know so much. So we chatted, then joined another group on the other side of the bus area. But no luck. It was late and cold and my devotion was being slightly tested, but I hung out with peeps until we got a tip off that they might be heading back to the hotel soon. They were staying at the Ritz. Another guy I met, Howard, had met them outside the hotel earlier in the day. Damn! Had I done a little more research and gotten into town a little earlier…. Ah well. By 3 AM, we all decided to bail. The South Dakota girls weren’t coming back we figured. Howard decided to head out, and Heather and her son gave me a ride back to my hotel–the Comfort Inn right across the street from the stadium. No concert traffic for me! So, A for effort, right. Just being in the band’s presence so close (though not as close as those killer 2nd row tix on the Detroit Dream Tour stop in 2000) and being surrounded by their music live was all I could ask for. It really was a religious experience. I feel closer to any sort of higher power at a Cure show than I ever did in Church. I assume that each Cure show I go to is the last (unless, like I had tix for another show on the tour). Since who knows when or if they’ll be back. Still, we legions of Cure freaks wonder if they’ll tour again when the album actually comes out. Hmm….

Cure Bound!!!

In case there’s anyone out there who does not know already, The Cure is my ultimate favorite band in the universe and beyond. When they announced their North American tour for this past fall, my friend Nikki and I snatched up Main Floor tix for the Chicago show. But then they postponed the tour for spring. My worst fear came to fruition when the new Chicago date would not work for me. At all. Will be slightly out of town then.
BUT with the new schedule, they added more US dates. This morning, I hopped into the Cleveland pre-sale and snatched up a single ticket. Yeah, I’m going by myself. As much as I’d love to go with Nikki, she didn’t want to go to both, as she has to save money for stalking Duran Duran 🙂 . My best friend, Chris, WILL be going to the Chicago show (we ended up getting different sets of tix based on limits). So, I’m like, I’ll go myself to Cleveland if I have to.
I can’t not go. Not an option. It’s been four years, and who the hell knows when the NEXT time will be. We’re still not sure when the next ALBUM will be out. Latest I heard was early June….
Ticketmaster kept spitting out Lower Level, which woulda been find and all. But with a little patience, I landed a 13th row ticket! 13th row for their 13th album. Left side, I think Porl’s side. I’m SOOO excited! Their music has been so integral to my being for almost 20 years (I was a pre-Disintegration era convert). Cure fans get obsessive. I’ll proudly own up to it.
This will be my 6th Cure show. 1992, 1996, 2000 (twice, including 2nd row in Detroit!), and 2004. Could’ve gone in 1989, but I was stupid and didn’t take my other friend, Chris, up on the offer.
Some day I may post deeper thoughts on various songs, albums, etc. Would be a cool personal project.
Currently listening to Mixed Up in celebration. I realized I never got around to ripping it into my iTunes. Crazy!