By the time this is published I’ll have crossed the bridge into my triumphant, 40th year. While I am wracked with thoughts like “how the hell did THIS happen?” and “…but I still look like I am 25…” (just agree with me), I also realize that I haven’t said thanks to the many folks I don’t have the luxury of seeing or speaking to everyday. You know…people I am only acquainted with virtually or via the airwaves. Individuals who, despite distance and some mystery, still make my life extraordinarily fantastic. Who? Well…here goes:
Firstly, to the songs that fill my otherwise quiet days with song and emotion: bless you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: records and their tunes are the most loyal friends I have. They are ready and willing to hang out at a split-second’s notice, and they don’t drink or eat much (read: more for me). Oink.
To my 6 readers: yes! Thanks for being my audience and giving me feedback enough to keep on going. Seriously, to be brutally honest? Audience or not, I find getting my ramblings down and out rather than clogging up my head rather meditative. That said, if my words can make one person go out and listen to a record for the first time or revisit something that has been collecting dust on the shelves for ages? Huzzah! Worth the time it took to scribble things down nine times over. Ten, even.
To the music-hungry youth of the world: GO ON! Keep blogging..keep listening..skip lunch and buy vinyl! You have the time to immerse yourself in all that’s new and gorgeous, music-wise. Keep teaching me. I love it and I still have a lot to learn. Just agree to listen to me a little. I’ve been around the block several times and, well, I know my shit. Mostly.
Continue reading [Abby's Road] Danke schön, darlings… →
It is a gorgeous notion at its core, mirroring images of multi-culty folks, paws locked or arm and arm, hugging trees and drinking Cokes. This imagery, however, isn’t the stuff of reality if you pay society too much attention. Lucky for me, for as I run from the images of discord into the arms of what I know best, another interpretation of said word erases, if only for a few moments, the ugliness of the world around me. Escapism via music? You know it.
Touching on escape for a sec: I had my semi-annual mom-holiday visit last month (explaining away my Knox Road absence a little) which was, as it always is, lovely. We traveled together to Greece. Crete, specifically. As I’ve been there before I asked my mother where she’d like to visit. Matala was high on her list, its seaside cave living and sea air inspiring the likes of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan back in the day, two of her favorites. We chatted and planned our busier days from sunbeds alongside the Mediterranean. During the silent moments when I fretted about transportation around the island and getting from A to B painlessly, I couldn’t help but gravitate to some of the music she filled my childhood home with as solace. It seemed fitting. Kate and Anna McGarrigle and their simple harmonies proved quite meditative.
I suppose my love of close harmony all started when I was in junior high school, just before I really came in to my own musically as far as records and bands are concerned. When kids were deciding on sports or art or instruments, attempting to build a foundation of what mind-numbing guidance counselors referred to as “well-roundedness” (sigh), I settled on chorus and choir and succeeded in it competitively as an Alto II. I adored it. Bet you didn’t know that, right? I’m chock-full of surprises.
The beauty of the chorale or choir in this case was learning one voice part on my own. Perfecting it in its singularity. Only months later did voices from across the city/county/state came together for the first time. Prior to formal introductions and really meeting the other hundred or so voices in the room, upon a conductors cue the most amazing, unified 8-12 part harmony would resound. The hum of so many voices coming together in such a way lifts me up from behind my knees with gentle, invisible hands every time. For a few seconds I am weightless.
Continue reading [Abby's Road] Harmony. →
Known by Washington, DC’s 9:30 Club show-goers far and wide, Josh Burdette, beloved manager and crew chief, has passed away.
A fixture at the 9:30 since 1997, if you didn’t KNOW him know him you knew of him: his pierced face, quiet strength and wall-like stature keeping things flowing and orderly inside and outside of the V St. [...]
”People don’t want to hear it, do they?” she said.
No one said anything, because we weren’t sure where she was at.
“This is how I feel, every day, and people don’t want to know that. They want to know that I’m feeling what Tom Jones makes you feel. Or that Australian girl who used to be in ‘Neighbours’. But I feel like this, and they won’t play what I feel on the radio, because people that are sad don’t fit in.”
-Maureen, 51 and semi-suicidal, upon hearing Five Leaves Left for the first time in Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down.
She’s right, that Maureen.
As I put down my wine bottle and question myself daily about who I’ve become, I recently joined a gym (I swear I am going somewhere with this). I asked my better half, a master of seamless mixing, to put together some hour-long, no-break mixes so I don’t have to be subjected to the pap being piped in while sweating my ass off (as I’m in enough physical pain as it is when I’m there, you see). Though our musical tastes overlap right between Britpop and Post Rock, his electro leanings are way stronger than mine. Perfect for the fitness studio.
As I was exercising away one afternoon this, well, how do I put it lightly? This mindfuck (that’ll do) flowed through my ears. I was like..wait..is that…..?!? Yes..yes it is. It is exactly that.
For those of you wondering exactly what: Elliott Smith…all happy and dancy. That’s what.
This little yammer is not about cover songs or whether someone should mess around with Smith’s highly evocative catalog, as my jury’s still out on that one. It’s about what most music aficionados have, self-proclaimed or otherwise: a not so tidy package of records and artists we gravitate to when we are ascending or descending Sad Sack Mountain. That Smith cover, which I must admit is catchy as hell, was just a catalyst to listen to what I ordinarily reserve for the days I am feeling blue and hopeless while I was feeling particularly jolly. Doing so gives one (read: me) some clarity of instrumentation and song. Or whatever.
The top three artists for punishing myself while I am already down, in no particular order: Nick Drake, Tim Buckley and Elliott Smith, the runners up being Damon and Naomi, whose cover of Buckley’s “Song to the Siren” (DOUBLE WHAMMY) brings me to my knees in a river of my own tears every damn time. Everyevery. Interestingly enough I’ve never really been a singer songwriter girl. There is something about these men however, their words and the sound of them being ejected from their mouths, that draws me in when I am low. Sounds silly, but it’s like they get it. They’re my blanket. On those days they get me.
I listened. It doesn’t matter to which records. I listened. And while I was of sound mind I still sensed an overwhelming melancholic pall. Not because I was feeling sorry for myself. I got caught up in feeling sad for them as people. So tell me, am/was I wrong to feel such emotions? Like who am I to pity them, you know? Well…
Continue reading [Abby's Road] Songs in the key of ache →
I am a sucker when it comes to nostalgia. For the 4 regular readers I (might) have, you already know this. Just want to put it out there before I start my ramble. Right.
Firstly, holiday. We took off a few weeks ago, destination Poland, where my better half once studied and learned the language (thank Christ, because I’d have been screwed). He was really anxious to meet up with old friends; we were excited to catch the 4-day OFF Festival in Katowice, my first festival in over 10 years. How’d it go, you ask? Well, since you inquired…
This was the smoothest, most well-managed festival I have ever been to. After going to Reading, ATP and the like over the years, it is also the smallest, which explains a lot, plus they’ve had 7 years to perfect it. Topping at a mere 15K patrons, only 2K of which were campers, it was cozy. The ping-pong usage of the 4 stages, 2 on either side of the event property, combined with limiting alcoholic beverages to the festival gastronomy and lounge zones (dry stage and camping areas, huzzah!) left me feeling relaxed and able to concentrate wholly on the music, not Drunkie Marie attempting new dance moves while slurping vodka tonics in my personal space. At 50€ for all 4 days TOTAL (with camping, though we punked out and checked into a hotel after our first and only mosquito-laden tent night) and a line up like this it was, for us, a no-brainer. And, AND! The portable potties looked as good on the first day as the last. Chalk that miracle up to tidy festival-goers or a magical night cleaning staff, who knows. So, the music:
The front runner as far as performances by those I knew of already were The Soft Moon. Luckily they performed their dark and dancy introspective material at one of the two, smaller tented stages during the day so I had no idea the sun was shining outside of the open end. Brilliant. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1000 times: Captured Tracks knows what the hell they’re doing (note: anyone going to CT5 want to grab me some swag? I’m good for it). Electronic Polish duo UL/KR was/is my favorite discovery of the festival. Clear vocals in front of dreamy guitar and just enough digitally generated bloops to satisfy elektro-hounds and singer songwriter types alike. And before you say “but he’s singing in Polish….?!” remember, you listen(ed) to Sigur Rós and nobody knows what the fuck Jónsi is talking about.
The days were long, headliners, as with typical festival schedules, not starting until after midnight. GY!BE, My Bloody Valentine and Deerhunter, of course, were fantastic (THIS happened) so nothing much to say there. One headliner, however, lifted and crushed my heart, brain and stomach simultaneously. Enter: The Smashing Pumpkins and my good friend, Nostalgia.
Or should I say Billy Corgan and his band of Doppelganger Desperadoes.
Continue reading [Abby's Road] Strange and familiar fruit →
Good day, nerds. It’s been a while.
So. Swag. I collect a little bit of it. Band swag, I mean. You know, merch and such. Over the years I have accumulated a pretty lovely limited edition poster collection. I shell out the cash, try to keep them in decent condition throughout the gig (remember, they are limited so it’s essential to grab them before the show even starts) and bring the cumbersome bastards home. Of course they sit for a while and, eventually, wind up framed and grace the walls for everyone’s enjoyment. Badges as well. I love a good badge. T-Shirts not so much. When I was younger, yes. I still have many of them. These days the standard shirts are a little too boxy, the “ladies fit” a little too snug. When bands start cranking out a-line mini dresses with their faces splashed across the front maybe I’ll buy. Seems unlikely.
Or does it?
Let me preface this whole tirade by saying that I do own a pair of Of Montreal bikini underpants. Pink ones. Hypocritical? Probably. That being said…
Continue reading [Abby's Road] Here’s a wagon, get on it. →
This is going to be a sensitive one. Fair warning.
Summertime. We’re nearly there, though friends of mine in the eastern US have been sweating their asses off for some time now. Despite torrential downpours and some extreme flooding throughout Germany there have been a few gorgeous, sun-filled half-days sprinkled in for good measure. One of which was a week or so ago when I went to my first open-air gig (aside from a festival) in a very long time. It was in the center of the small town of Dachau, only about 20 minutes by SBahn from Munich: Grizzly Bear and an unremarkable opener I don’t care enough about to look up. Grizzly Bear was good. That’s all I have to say about them.
Now. I’ve spent the better part of 3 years living in western Europe and I am well aware of (and was prior to my move) the unbelievably ugly history a certain small group of folks from the place I now call my home have branded on the entire world, not to mention their relationship with my homeland as far as WWII is concerned. It must be said that the beauty of this country, of Bavaria, the people here, the art, the multicultural neighborhoods, the food, the architecture..everything… far outweigh the aforementioned historical stain. I have to admit I really didn’t pay the history that much attention aside from learning about it in school, realizing its horrors, lamenting on them and then going to math class. Right or wrong that’s the truth. Two summers ago I had the opportunity to visit Normandy, Omaha Beach specifically. The overwhelming sense of loss and sadness I felt while visiting there coupled with the complex emotions my better half, a German, was having were practically unbearable, but necessary. Then I came home and la la la life went on.
I love music. Not all of it. That’s a shite statement given by people who could give a fuck about music at all. “What bands and music do you listen to?” “Oh, you know…everything. The radio…” GAH. Anyhow, while I have definite favorites, my eardrums can bend toward specific and completely different genres depending upon my mood. “Even classical music, Abby? Operas?” Why yes, even classical music. Specifically Richard Wagner. I can almost feel the mood lowering.
Yes, Wilhelm Richard Wagner. You know him from such hits as “Flight of the Valkyries”. And the fact that he is one of the, if not the most controversial composer in history. I think the first time I heard Tristan und Isolde years ago I was enraptured. Hooked. It is just so. painfully. beautiful. You can read all you want about his life, his works, his successful attempt to bind theatre and stage and orchestration and opera and visual art into one glorious, spine-tingling bundle. His attempt to escape creditors, his affairs and his exile to Switzerland is gloriously gossipy. What always seems to stand out however, as it should, are his anti-Semitic political writings and, posthumously, the fancy a certain German political leader of the 1920s-40s took to his music. So. Quite the conundrum, right? Is it wrong, for obvious reasons, to listen?
Continue reading [Abby's Road] Songs of love and hate →
We are overrated – we humans, I think. While there is a propensity for kindness and love and the pleasant, gentle touches of friends, we are also noisy and hateful and we abuse each other and the land that breeds the means to our own good health and well being. Perhaps this is the reason behind only allowing a handful of folks into my life, as far as friendships are concerned. I have a hunger for closeness and platonic intimacy, obviously, as I have friends (new ones, even), yet seeing my own faults reflected in the actions of others is uncomfortable and depressing and therefore avoided a lot of the time. I have issues, you say? Well, of course I do. Fucking hell. So do you. So there.
Music is an escape. Sometimes a song can be so good it seems to have been created in an otherworldly musical Petri dish by ghostly hands unattached to a mere mortal. But alas, the rhythms blanketing one’s solitary existence are made by people. Though it would be magnificent to witness, the strings aren’t plucking themselves. The human element can lead to disappointment, not so much in the music as in the person behind it, often changing the way a song is heard and perceived. For example: will I continue to listen to Sonic Youth on occasion? Of course I will. That said, will I ever be able to listen to “Silver Rocket” again without thinking Thurston Moore is a complete asshole for shacking up and leading a double life with some young groupie bird who ultimately severed the matrimony of one of rock and roll’s great duos? Nope. We all make mistakes and he killed the awesome.
Continue reading [Abby's Road] Like Fire →
Remember way back…back when we were talking about the best of 2012 releases? Hard to believe it was nearly six months ago. At any rate, I rambled on about a few bands back then, one of which happens to be spinning (even more) incessantly on my turntable since I had the [...]
So. Last month I finally made it. After many youthful daydreams about the city from whose loins an infinite number of my musical faves sprung, it happened. How’d it go? Well. Manchester.
Firstly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the reason for my being in the drafty, NW England town: My Bloody Valentine live at the O2 Apollo. NOTE: I managed to wind my way around not writing a review following the release of mbv back in February when the entire blogosphere, megamagazines and even your grandma had something to say about the chaos surrounding it. Given everyone’s knowledge of my superfandom it was a bit too predictable for me to go on about how much I loved it at first listen (and still do). Bor-ing. Right. Anyway. Manchester. I was there to see MBV.
While I realize the possibility and reality that I am writing this to an audience who largely doesn’t give a fuck, I’m giving it a go anyway. I’m not stupid. When after seeing the line-up more than a handful of 2013 Coachella ticket buyers snorted on Twitter about having no idea who The Stone Roses were (“maybe the promoters meant The Rolling Stones WTF?”) I had serious reservations about mentioning anything about this, or continuing to write at all. Good loving lordy. But, I have faith that a few folks out there are interested. It is an important part of musical history, this Man/Madchester. Genius the likes of Martin Hannett and Tony Wilson cannot be ignored. To take a completely selfish view: I care about it and so should you.
Continue reading [Abby's Road] Oh Manchester, so much to answer for. →