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Friday night at the Empty Bottle

18 Feb

It finally happened. I left a show a mere three songs into the headlining act. It had nothing to do with the performance of the band, Twin Sister. In fact, they sounded pretty damned good live, and their lead singer, Andrea Estrella, was hypnotizing. Her breathy, ethereal, My Little Pony-tinged voice lent a polish to Twin Sister’s songs that would have otherwise rendered them lukewarm.

Twin Sister's frontwoman

That’s about all I can say regarding Twin Sister because of our early departure. When you’re constantly yawning into your PBR, fearful that you’ll fall asleep if you blink for too long, it’s time to go.

The first opener was Summer Girlfriends, and they were just NOT doin’ it for me. I was hopeful when I saw six young ladies head up to the stage and don their guitars over pounds of sequins, I really was. But when all eight sounds sound EXACTLY the same–same power chords, same boring bass lines, same drum beat–it’s hard to get into a groove.

Ava Luna played next, and I had high hopes for this group, as I’d seen them open up for Toro y Moi at Lincoln Hall last fall. What really makes this band special is the interplay between the three vocalists: one male (lead) and two female. They’ve got the two- and three-part harmonies down to a science, and it’s clear that any one of the singers can open up and sing lead when the time calls. I’m not sure how long Ava Luna’s been together, but the rhythm section is super tight, and the chemistry between the entire band can be electric at times. They kind of lose me when they stray from their catchy, repetitive vocal melody hooks and heavy rhythms, but overall they played a good set. Check out the tracks “Past the Barbary” and “Clips” on grooveshark.

Next time I hit up the Bottle for a show, I’ll be sure to get closer to the stage (rather than in the back near the bar) as to avoid listening to terrible attempts at getting laid by gross dudes with bald heads and soul patches. That aside, I really like the venue–cheap drinks, decent sound, and the perfect amount of grunge.

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Going Down

20 Jan

The scene: You walk into an empty elevator where someone has recently committed a fart-and-flee. Kinda gross, but you can easily breathe through your mouth on the ride down to the lobby. But of course, the elevator slows down before you’ve reached the ground level.

“DING!”

To your utmost horror, a pleasant-looking but headphoned twenty-something woman steps into the box and turns to face the front.

Do you say something?!

“Uhh, it smelled like shit when I got in here. Haha! Someone reeeeally must have ripped one, huh?!” This is then followed by awkward, nervous laughter that would ultimately prove to the formerly unassuming now uncomfortable passenger that you did, in fact, unapologetically butt-burp in confined quarters.

Or, you can go the stoic route, pretending nothing happened as you know that she’s silently judging you for committing such a shameful office act.

It really was a lose-lose.

Phantom elevator flatulator: 1, Dani: 0.

Getting a little steamy…

21 Jul

Ever heard of a shower beer? In essence, it’s simple: a beer that you enjoy in the shower. Pretty self-explanatory.

It was my freshman year of college and my roommate (and volleyball teammate) suggested that I try one after a long day of class and practice.

“So wait, you take a beer… INTO the shower with you?! Mmmm, I don’t really get it.”  Maybe I didn’t get it because the only beer we had was Busch heavy. In a can.

“Dani, come on. Don’t be an amateur. You just put it on the floor outside the shower. Obviously.”

Ok. If anyone has ever lived in a place with communal showers, you know that anything that touches the ground in said showers becomes instantly infested with any number of fungi, including but not limited to: the common wart, athlete’s foot, ringworm, etc.  (I knew a girl who dropped her bath pouf on the floor of the shower for 2 seconds, and broke out into a scaly, red rash on her chest that lasted for a week. Ew.)  In essence, as long as I didn’t touch the bottom of the can, all was well.

At this point in my college career, I wasn’t much of a beer drinker at all, instead preferring disgusting cheap mixed drinks. So what came next was as much of a shock to me as all of those nasty vodka shots were a shock to my liver: I LOVED my shower beer. Busch light tasted like Cristal (ok, maybe Korbel, but still) when I cracked it open and took my first guzzle in the tiny, steamy shower stall.  By far, it was the most refreshing drink I’d ever had.

Now, four years later, I still INSIST that people try a shower beer if they never have, and I ridicule them for their poor taste if they have tried it and don’t like it.  Still, there are a few components that are necessary in order to make the most of your shower beer experience:

  • a shower with a ledge large enough to hold your delicious shower beer (or an alcove that looks like it could have been specifically designed for a SB)
  • a beer koozie
  • roommates who don’t use all the hot water (the steamy shower/cold beer juxtaposition is key here)

Glass bottles tend to be my favorite choice for a SB, but cans work just fine, too. A shower cocktail or glass of wine, on the other hand…. NOT so good.  I haven’t personally tried it, but I encouraged my roommate to do so one time with her full cocktail (bc I thought it would be fun to simultaneously drink shower drinks! In separate bathrooms!).  The drink that started out as a vodka cranberry was now a vodka, water, cranberry, tresemme, and softsoap concoction that even Lindsay Lohan wouldn’t touch.

Just beware: once you try a shower beer, you might not be able to imagine bathing without one, which could be a problem for all you morning showerers out there…

no shirt, no shoes… COME ON IN!

3 Jul

It’s pretty normal to see a general lack of clothing when you’re at an outdoor musical festival like Lolla. It’s hot, it’s sticky, and inhibitions are usually nowhere to be found.

I was not, however, prepared for the spectacle I witnessed at Edward Maya at the Congress Theater last night. Never have I seen so many cutout shirts, f**k me pumps, panties being worn as shorts, bras as tops, or bump-its in the same location. I won’t even get started on the dudes (Ed Hardy and tribal tattoos–need I say more?).

Needless to say, this isn’t quite my scene, nor was it the scene of any of the people I was with. Why were we even there, you ask?

The answer is simple: comped tickets.

Normally, I’ve always had an amazing time at the Congress–Passion Pit, Thievery Corporation, and Zappa Plays Zappa still stand as three of my favorite live shows–so it seemed silly to turn down FREE tickets. I mean, how bad could it really be?

Well, I’m not even going to comment on the music, especially since we didn’t even stay to hear the main act.

The goal for the night quickly became to dance as gawkily and unattractively as possible in order to keep the creepers at bay. As a result, the following dance moves were born:

  • the “hinge” — place one leg in a sturdy, athletic stance. point toe of other leg out, then twist toe in to bring knees together. Repeat.
  • the “pulling-the-kleenex-out-of-the-box” — with bent arms held out directly in front of body, rapidly alternate arms, grabbing kleenex out of an imaginary box in front of your chest, flicking wrist vigorously after each pull.
  • the “sexy seduction dance” (credit: Annie) — eyebrows perpetually raised in a “seductive” manner, this involves doing a sort of tango with absolutely no touching involved. Best used if 20 feet or more of open space is available to dart back and forth around your partner, of course never breaking the drunken alluring gaze.

I’m planning on taking these moves with me for the next season of So You Think You Can Dance. Auditions for my backup dancers will be held soon–stay tuned!

the night that vikings stormed lincoln hall

1 Jul

What is it about Scandinavian musicians that makes them so inherently cool?!

Sigur Rós, Lykke Li, Little Dragon, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (aka NHOP–wizard of the upright bass); the list goes on. And, c’mon: no one except for Björk could pull off a dress fashioned out of a swan.

I mean, these folks could probably make a bass clarinet seem hip onstage.

Oh wait, Jaga Jazzist already did that. Tenfold.

Wednesday night at Lincoln Hall, nine talented, tall, blonde, bearded Norwegian men took to the stage and absolutely killed it. I’d only very recently become a fan of Jaga Jazzist (thanks Justin!), who have been  described as experimental jazz (these guys cite Coltrane and Charles Mingus as two of their biggest influences). But if I had to describe them, it would probably go something like this: heady modern jazz, flavored with a tasty rack of electronics, an innate sense of fluidity and dynamics, and a dash of Zappa. Add an explosive live show, and you’ve got Jaga Jazzist.

Sure, I was expecting some talented musicians. From the keyboardists, guitarists, and two bass players (yup, one on electric, one on upright, often playing simultaneously) to the tromboner, trumpet player and multi-woodwind player (soprano sax, bass clarinet, flute), everyone was obviously on top of their shit. Then there was the drummer: a pointy-bearded time bomb waiting to go off. Sometimes drummers are just necessary members of the band, there to keep time and/or spontaneously combust. Martin Horntveth was the heart that pumped out to the other eight Jaga organs, controlling the dynamics, groove, and atmosphere, not to mention mesmerizing the entire crowd, particularly when he addressed us with his irresistible nordic accent.

But what really got me was how tight this band was. They segued seamlessly from song to song, bringing the crowd on a journey that sometimes had us headbanging to a ridiculous off-meter groove, sometimes trying not to breathe as the spotlight shone only on the vibes, singularly captivating everyone in the venue with a haunting melody.

For me, the most memorable song of the night was the title track off Jaga’s latest album, One-armed Bandit. The relentless bass line–doubled in the bass clarinet–coupled with catchy melodies in the keys and woodwinds and countermelodies in the brass and vibes make this song groove so hard. Add in Hornsveth’s complex, intense beats and you’ve got a mind-blowing live number.

Now (maybe this is just the Captain Morgan that we downed in the alley before the show talking, but still), I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Jaga Jazzist is the best live show I’ve seen in a looooong time. I think this band might be just exactly what I’ve been looking for…

I can go for that!

27 Jun

“You know it’s an old crowd when someone has their oxygen tank with them.” — A verbatim quote from my mom, who served as my date to the Hall and Oates concert at Ravinia on Sunday night.

It wasn’t our first time at a concert together (I believe that prize goes to Elton John–I was 10 and to this day I still kick myself for complaining about not hearing Lion King songs, instead picking my nose as Elton poured his heart out into the mic and keys during during Rocket Man, Tiny Dancer, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Hakuna f*ing Matata.).  Still, it was definitely a treat. Not to mention part of my slightly self-indulgent Mother’s Day present.

Anywho, despite the slightly older crowd, Daryl and John didn’t fail to deliver. In fact, I think the popping noises I heard during the show weren’t feedback from the monitors, but the sounds of creaky old hips coming back to life after years of inactivity. (No post-menopausal women were injured in the making of this concert).

True, H&O looked a little different than I remember from the super-80s headshot cover of The Very Best of… Daryl’s apparently obsessed with aviator shades, and his mane and beard make him look like Aslan the Lion; John’s opted out of his 70s porn stash in favor of a caterpillar-esque soul patch.  But they played every old crowd-pleaser, starting with Maneater and  Method of Modern Love, Say it Isn’t So and She’s Gone, working their way into the “Sara” songs, and finally segueing into a spectacular 10-minute version of I Can’t Go For That, probably my favorite H&O song of all time.

The backing band is made up of a drummer, bass player, guitarist, backing vox/aux percussionist, and a sax/flute player–all pretty solid. You can tell that these guys have been playing together for awhile.  Still, I have to say that the solos were lukewarm.  The guitarist seemed like he was afraid to step on Daryl’s toes, and every time the sax player crooned for longer than 16 bars, I found myself yawning–or pouring another glass of wine. However, it was completely different story when the long-haired dude picked up his flute–that guy could seriously blow! I’m always in the mood for some yahzz or rock flute a la Ron Burgundy or Ian Anderson. Probably the most inventive soloing came when Daryl and the backing vocalist had a little back-and-forth tizzy during I Can’t Go for That.

But let’s be real, we didn’t come for face-melting solos. We came to hear unapologetic 70s/80s pop at its finest, and that’s what we got.  While my mom and I headed for the Ravinia exit gates before the encore started to make sure we caught the train back downtown, we could still hear the music clearly from the Metra platform.  The finale consisted of Rich Girl and You Make My Dreams Come True, two more examples of H&0’s uncanny ability to produce songs that get incessantly stuck in your head for days and make you bust a serious move.

I couldn’t ask for anything more–I got the songs that I used to love when my mom blasted them in the house when I was just a wee lass, that I pretended to hate in high school because they were “corny” and “lame,” that I finally fell in love with again when I realized that music isn’t about being cool; it’s about reveling in something that makes you feel how you want: pensive, bitter, carefree, intense, or in this case, ecstatically nostalgic.

Daryl, John–thanks for a great night.  Now invite me on Live from Daryl’s House and let’s talk about your hairstyle choices.