Friday, August 24, 2012

The life of an injured sap.

Warning:  Bummer alert...

So, I've officially been on crutches for over 6 months of this year.  Let me tell you, I wish I could chuck those crutches out the window and never ever see them again.  But, I can't.  My foot is injured, likely a bone bruise in the talus bone, and for all I know, I could be on crutches for a while longer.  I've been working, and don't get me wrong, I love my job, but I'm on my foot off and on which couldn't help the bruise in my foot...  I work at a childcare center, helping out with kids.  I swear, those kids are the life blood of me now.  A smile from a child can pretty much melt away all the pain and problems in the world.

I just recently went in for an MRI to get my foot checked out, and MRI's are expensive.  Then another doctors bill came in the mail today.  I don't have health insurance, and couldn't afford it anyway.  So, it's going to be a frustrating bill to pay.  I know everyone in the world has their own problems, and maybe I don't really have it all that bad.  Fortunately my parents are supporting me right now, and if it wasn't for them, I'd probably be in a ditch somewhere on the side of a road.  It's just frustrating...that's all.  The most frustrating thing, however, is I have no idea when my foot will be healed.  I go see a doc next week to get the results from the doc, and hopefully get some good news.

Anyway, I should probably just be glad I'm not in a wheelchair.  I don't know what I'd do if that was the case... Perhaps being injured for so long makes me a bit more sympathetic to those folks.  And, it's been a good lesson in patience.  That's for sure.

Well, anyway...enough of my ramblings.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gaslight Anthem show in Portland 7/2012

The Gaslight Anthem, bar none, has been my favorite band for the last few years.  I decided that, as they were playing a show in Portland, OR, and I hadn't seen them for quite some time... I needed to go.

Due to my foot having some tendonitis issues, I took the bus from Spokane, WA to Seattle.  Met up with a couple of my best friends and stayed the night in Black Diamond.  The next morning we went on an adventure, like we usually do, and drove up to Mowich lake.  Spent some time walking (and crutch hopping) around the lake that was surrounded by a couple feet of snow.  

Picture of the lake I took with my phone (sorry for the poor quality):

Then it came time to get back to my friend's place, grab my stuff and head to Seattle.  I had factored in a good 15 minutes of spare time to catch the bus; however, Seattle traffic posed a bit of a problem, and I narrowly made it to my bus destined for Portland.  Fortunately it all worked out, and I had a few minutes to spare.

The concert was amazing!  I seemed to do okay on crutches, with the exception of stepping on some lady's foot.  (If, for some reason, you happen to read this... I am really, really, really sorry.  :(  I hope your foot is okay and that you won't need crutches!) Gaslight played an epic show, like always, along with all of my favorite songs.  With the exception of a couple, but I was okay with that.  The energy of the show was as good as any Gaslight concert I've been to, and Brian Fallon (lead singer) also did some talking and shared a couple stories, which was fun.  They also played a few new songs from their upcoming album "Handwritten."  I'm excited to say this will be released on July 24th...or 15 days from now.  :)  One of the new songs they played was, "Here Comes My Man," which is written from a woman's perspective.  Brian talked about how the band has always been labeled as "The Working Man's Band," and how some people might wonder, "Why did you write a song from a woman's perspective?"  But, lyrically, the song is quite amazing, and as always, Brian never ceases to amaze.

A picture from the concert I took with my phone...  (again, sorry for the poor quality, but it's proof that I was there!)

Overall, it was a great weekend, and seeing my friends, along with my favorite band, made the 20 hour (round trip) bus ride worth it!

Set List (in order of play) included:

Great Expectations
Casanova, Baby!
Old White Lincoln
Even Cowboys Get the Blues
Diamond Church Street Choir
I'da Called You Woody, Joe
Angry Johnny and the Radio
Biloxi Parish
Film Noir
The Patient Ferris Wheel
Senior and The Queen
American Slang
The Queen of Lower Chelsea
Here's Looking at You, Kid

She Loves You
Here Comes My Man (new)
Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts
Wherefore Art Thou, Elvis?
The '59 Sound
Baba O'Riley (The Who, cover)

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The beauty of acoustic music

Well, it's been awhile since I've posted here.  Anyway, I thought I'd write about the beauty of the acoustic guitar.

I’ve always been fascinated by the guitar and what sounds you can make from it.  Take Tommy Emanuel for example.  He plays classical or finger-style guitar and can create so many sounds from it.  Just look at his version of Classical Gas.  It’s just too good for words.  I recently discovered the artist Trace Bundy and heard his version of Pachelbel’s Canon.  Then of course there is Sungha Jung who could play Pachelbel’s Canon before I probably even learned to kick a football.  See:  He’s obviously a child prodigy, which is worthy of another whole blog.  But, the guitar can produce so many different sounds through the finger-style art of playing.  Take Andres Segovia for example.  His song Austrias is really a fascinating composition, and it can practically reach into your soul.  I know there are quite a few other artists out there who play (or played) this style as well that are worth mentioning:  Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Mason Williams, Steve Morse from Kansas…the list goes on.  But, it simply can’t be stated enough.  Classical guitar is just plain beautiful.  So much so, that singing along with it almost ruins certain songs.  Well, of course it can also make a song even better.  Stairway to Heaven is one song that comes to mind.  But, the sounds that a good musician can make on an acoustic guitar can likely put a frustrated mind at ease.

One of my favorite songs by U2 would have to be "Where The Streets Have No Name."  Trace Bundy composed a beautiful rendition of it on the guitar, which is definitely worth checking out.  So, I will leave you with this, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

So...why vinyl?

My opinions and elaborations on the state of the US music culture concerning its audio format

                It seems that over the last 30 years or so, music has become more and more digitally processed.  I can see how this is more convenient and consumes less space.  On the other hand, where oh where did vinyl go?  While there are still bands that produce their records on vinyl format, it seems to becoming less and less over time.

                So, why buy vinyl records?  If you haven’t listened to an album on vinyl after listening to it on cd, you have no room to talk.  I’m sorry, but there is a difference in the quality of sound on a vinyl record.  It might be best described as a warmer sound.  But, really you just have to listen.  You have to sit down, remove all the distractions, if possible, and center your attention on the music.  Obviously it helps to have a nice set of speakers, but even if they’re the same speakers you listen to your CDs on, you should notice a distinct difference.  Yes, it might also help to have a nice record player, and a fancy needle or cartridge.  But simply put, vinyl sounds better.  The music could range from classical to rock to punk rock, but the same song you’d hear on a CD honestly won’t sound quite the same.

                Sure, your average mp3 player can just about hold an entire record collection and fit in your pocket, and you can plug it into your car stereo and listen to those endless hours of music on a long road trip.  At the same time, a good sized vinyl collection can take up half of a room…okay maybe if it’s an entire collection of rock music ranging from Abba to ZZ Top.  But, yes, it takes up more room.  On the other hand, the quality of sound floating off the record and into your ears seems light years ahead, when in fact LP records were introduced well before the baby-boomers generation.  All I can say, is I’m glad that vinyl is not dead.

                Fortunately for many vinyl junkies, there are still a handful of independent record stores out there.  I can’t speak how they are holding up in this time of economic struggle, but fortunately they are still out there selling records and keeping people happy.  Also, it’s fun to go into a record store and thumb through records.  You might find a few gems, and walk out with some great music, or you might simply find a record that might have a good song or two, but admire the cool cover art.  That’s another great thing about vinyl; the sweet cover art.  But, really, getting lost in a record store can be like going back in time and dusting off an old book.

                I can see for some people, it’s an investment.  It’s obviously cheaper to buy an mp3 player and download all your music from the internet.  If you want to invest in vinyl, you have to buy an amplifier, a turntable, speakers and all those wonderful wire components.  Then you have to figure out how to set it up.  Although, I’m sure if you look, there’s a Youtube video on that.  Of course, you could always try to get one of those turntable/speaker all-in-one units.  But, when it comes down to it, it’s more expensive…especially if you buy a nice needle or turntable cartridge.  However, if you truly have an appreciation for music and sound quality, I feel it's a worthwhile investment.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Punk Rock

For this blog, I thought I would elaborate a bit on the history of punk rock music.  If you are unfamiliar, punk rock is a scene that grew out of traditional rock in the mid 1970's.  Leading bands include The Ramones in the US, along with The Clash and The Sex Pistols in the UK.  There were many groups, such as Jimi Hendrix, who had a style of playing that was difficult to compete with.  Thus, punk bands established themselves in scenes that typically rejected association with the main stream.  Below is a song written by the Clash, "Should I Stay, Or Should I Go."

Much of the sound involved was short, "hard-edged" and fast paced music, and the lyrics written were often political and anti-establishment based.  A more recent song by the band Against Me, entitled "I Was A Teenage Anarchist," is a prime example.  Some lyrics that stand out are "Don't you remember, when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?"  Talk about anti-establishment!  As you would imagine, punk music generally appeals to young kids who don't really care much for societal norms, rules and politics.

The Ramones became influenced by The Beach Boys, and out of this "punk pop" was born.  In the late 1970's a couple bands in the U.K. infused their edgy punk music with catchy pop sounds.  One of such, being The Undertones.  They wrote a song called "Teenage Kicks," with lyrics describing calling the girl down the street "cause I'm all alone" and infusing it with catchy punk pop sounds.  These bands influenced the likes of punk pop icons Green Day and The Offspring, whose sounds have appealed to younger crowds as well.

Out of punk rock, punk pop and other genres of punk, the alternative music scene was created.  Many of today's alternative bands could give credit to the punk scene.  Kurt Cobain from Seattle's former band Nirvana, once said, "Punk is musical's saying, doing and playing what you want."  Thus, if it wasn't for bands such as The Clash, The Sex Pistols and The Ramones, we wouldn't have half the music we do today.

By the 1990's, punk rock was well ingrained in Western culture.  Certain aspects of punk music were often used to categorize successful bands as "rebels."  Marketers used this style and "hipness" of punk to their advantage.  In 1993 the Subaru auto group had an add saying that their Subaru Impreza was "like punk rock."  Now, I must admit, I drive a Subaru Impreza.  Because of this, I have a feeling I will feel much much better about blasting some punk rock in my car!

Thanks for reading!

*Credit for much of this article goes to Wikipedia and Youtube.  Above mentioned band names are credit and copyright to respective bands mentioned.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Where Would I be Without The Gaslight Anthem?

An essay I wrote about how my favorite band, The Gaslight Anthem, has impacted my life, with a little bit of faith mixed in. *

                It was a cold, blustery winter day in Puyallup, Washington as I was driving my work truck, rocking out to the local alternative music station.  The Gaslight Anthem’s big hit, “The ’59 Sound” came on and it was almost like a spiritual event.  I couldn’t help but imagine myself playing the drums along with the band...and I don’t even play the drums!  Yet, after hearing that song a few times on the radio, I was convinced.  I needed to buy the album.  So I did.  When I found out it came in at the local bookstore, I rushed to pick it up, listened to the whole cd start to finish and absolutely loved it!  They had the perfect infusion of rock and soul that I needed.  I’ve always loved The Gaslight Anthem because their lyrics have a lot of meaning and resonate in my life, they have a great sound that inspires me, and they put on one of the best live shows I’ve seen.

                The song “The ’59 Sound” came about when singer Brian Fallon lost a close friend and he couldn’t be there.  He writes, “I was playing a show down the road when the spirit left your body.”  In an interview, he says that a lot of it’s about growing up and realizing “those days” are gone, and you have to move forward.  So, I found that to really hit home for me.  I’ve realized that friends will come and go, but if you’re not moving forward in life, well, you might as well be standing still.  Just imagine standing still forever…it seems impossible.  I know I sure couldn’t. 

                Their first record is entitled, Sink or Swim, a great title for an up-and-coming band.  They really seem to live by this philosophy too.  One of my favorite songs off this album is “1930.”  It is apparently written based on Brian Fallon’s grandmother who died from Alzheimer’s disease.    He writes some beautiful lyrics, including, “So I’m saying my goodbyes to your deep blue eyes, ‘cause I don’t know how to say, ‘Stay still in the pain.’”  Of course, at first I didn’t realize this, and I just assumed it was about a girlfriend he lost, and he was dealing with the heartache.  I find the beautiful thing about music and poetry, however, is that you can imagine what the writer is trying to express and tailor it to your feelings and emotions.  As a wise friend of mine once said, “Whatever floats you boat!”

                In early 2010, I lost a cousin of mine.  This is, by far, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life.  In these types of situations, no matter how much you try to make sense of things, you never ever will.  This challenged my faith in ways I’d never imagine.  But, I felt God was always there, coaching me along. Yet, my favorite band was as well.  I think the meaning behind The Gaslight’s song, “The ’59 Sound,” resonated with me much more there, and helped me during my darker days in life.

                I struggled a lot during this time, obviously, and seemed to lack a lot of energy at my job.  I would get angry, and, on occasion, get fairly temperamental.  But, it was a lot of faith and the punk rock sound of Gaslight’s music, specifically from their Sink or Swim album, which helped me through this time.  There were days where I felt like giving up, but their music kept me going.  One of the songs, “Red in the Morning,” seemed to help.  Brian sings, “Let it ride, let it ride, let it roll off your mind, don’t say a single word, get back inside.”  Now, I’m sure that could be interpreted multiple ways.  Yet, it is these words coupled with the distorted sounds of the guitar and the scratchy albeit angry voice of Brian’s that helped me.  From a psychological standpoint, perhaps the anger in some of their early music caused me to be angrier.  However, I know the majority of it was grief, and the music was a good outlet for the pain I experienced.  Likewise, their music from this album gave me a lot of needed energy to help during those long and tiring days at work.  After all, it was either “Sink or Swim,” and I decided to swim.

                I think everyone can admit to feeling alone at times.  Gaslight wrote a beautiful song entitled “Blue Jeans and White T-Shirts,” in which Brian describes his love for “Virginia.”  He writes, “Took a lifetime just to get over her, you always said my momma tried.”  Now, I won’t say if or how that that might resonate in my life.  After all, my intention is not to write a love story here.  Just listening to that song is enough of a love story.  However, I’ve always felt the beautiful lyrics and moody sound of the song have been somewhat comforting.  There have been a number of nights in my life where I would listen to it and it would help me fall asleep.

One final song off their latest album, American Slang, is a great song about a man who talks about his past.  The so called “glory days.”  This song, entitled “Old Haunts,” resonated with me because I often feel I look back to my past.  There were days where my good friends and I would just take off for the weekend and go hiking or camping.  As I get older, those days seem to become less and less.  Brian writes, “Don’t sing me your songs about the good times, those days are gone and you should just let them go, God help the man who says if you’d have known me when, old haunts are for forgotten ghosts.”  This beautifully describes how you should let those days go.  Instead of dreading on how life used to be much better, or “if you’d have known me when,” I forget that it’s important to look to the future.  There are still good days ahead, and you just need to go pour yourself a drink and not worry about what was…that is, if you’re of age of course.  If not, whatever works.  Just remember that life isn’t about the past.  We can take comfort in good memories, but, as Brian writes, “Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts.”

I also find Gaslight’s sound inspiring.  I had been learning how to play the guitar maybe six months before I became hooked on them.  The band has two guitarists, a drummer and bass player, and I love the sound of their guitars.  Their lead guitarist, Alex Rosamilia, can play beautiful bluesy guitar riffs that seem to reach deep within.  I began learning how to play some of their songs, and still continue to be challenged in learning their music.  After all, a big part of my life is finding ways to challenge myself.

They also know how to put on a great live show.  I’ve seen quite a few bands in concert, from The Killers and Green Day to Bon Jovi.  By far, The Gaslight Anthem is the best band I’ve seen live.  They always seem to appreciate their fans more than most bands and Brian will usually introduce a song or two with a story, which makes it much more interesting.  They also have a lot of energy and you can see the drive that has brought them to where they are today.  At one point, I took a trip to New York City to see them play in their home state of New Jersey.  It just seemed right seeing as how they were playing on my birthday.  But, it was a great experience to see them play in front of their fans back home, and they even played a six song encore!  Last year in October, they signed on with Mercury records.  This was a pretty major change for them, and there is much talk about a new album coming out this June.

As you can see, there is a lot of meaning behind the music they write.  Their lyrics reach deep into the human heart, and they have an inspiring sound.  Gaslight has launched themselves into the world of rock and roll with their drive and relentless energy, and they will always be my favorite band.  I guess you could say that The Gaslight Anthem brings a little bit of light to my life, and they “fill up my tank with gas.”

* All lyrics and song titles are copyright of The Gaslight Anthem, Side One Dummy Records and XOXO Records.  They are used with permission from the Fair Use Copyright Act of 1976, from title 17 of the United States code.