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Archive for May, 2009

Double festival weekend

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Thursday was actually the start of the Herndon Festival – we’d decided on a quick Indian meal, so I got that ready before Jill got home, then headed over to catch the rest of Ruthie Foster as the rain had stopped. She had a smokin’ blues vibe going, but soon she was done and the fireworks were going off.

Friday Jill managed to get done with stuff early and we headed over to the Cafe Stage to see Luke Brindley – he was solo and it was rainy, but still got things going. Then we headed over to Mediterranean Breeze to get some dinner – a gyro for me and a Greek salad for Jill. We ate them as Lenka delivered a solid set of piano pop, then headed home.

Saturday the lure of ’80s hair metal won, so I drove up to Columbia for the M3 Rock Festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I got there in time to see Slaughter, but that didn’t turn out to be such a good idea, the vocals were terrible (don’t know if that’s the way it is or they were having a bad day). Jani Lane (ex-Warrant was up next), and his voice was fine, just didn’t care as much for his attitude. I’ve never cared that much for Dokken, so I caught a bit of their set as I went to see Steel Panther on the side stage. They didn’t live up to the hype, so I headed back to the main stage.

One of the bands I was looking forwards to seeing was Kix. Certainly the premier hard rock band from the area, they’ve always drawn huge hometown crowds and Saturday was no exception. I saw them a couple times back in the ’90s, and I was pleased to note that it was like that band had time travelled to today – a great show. Frontman Steve Whiteman is still in good shape, and funny as hell.

After Kix finished, I caught some of L.A. Guns at the side stage, pretty good sounding, but I couldn’t stay for too long as my boys were playing next. Extreme played all their hits, a couple new ones (but not the single oddly) – a shortened version of their show from last year, but still a lot of fun. After they finished I headed out for more festival fun.

I made it back to Herndon in time to catch Glen Burtnik‘s second set, and that was good, solo stuff along with Beatles and Police covers, as well as the big hit he wrote. We watched the fireworks from where we stood, then headed back.

We got up very early for a Sunday, as Jill had been training to run in the 5K (which started at 7:40), and I decided on Friday to run it with her. That may have been a mistake – I did get through it ok, but I’m feeling it now.

I wasn’t planning on going to the festival today, but after we got home I went online and decided to check out the schedule. First up on the Cafe Stage this morning was Kristina and Dan Furey, remarkable since I know them from working with Dan. So I scooted over and grabbed a seat just after they started. I’ve had their CD for a couple years, but they’re just getting started playing gigs, but they sounded pretty good for that. I also ran into another former coworker and caught up a bit after the show.

In the afternoon I lazed around, mostly reading, though I did start another set of auctions. Jill made lunch and got dinner ready, which we took with us to our first free show at Wolf Trap (thanks,
94.7 Fresh). Also our first show there of the summer season, tonight’s show was Three Girls and Their Buddy, Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Shawn Colvin
with Buddy Miller.

It was a summer song swap type of evening – we’d seen a similar show when Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin toured with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Dar Williams a couple years back (in addition to all the song swaps at FRFF). The show was good – Patty harmonized on Emmylou’s “Red Dirt Girl” and did “Heavenly Day”, also Shawn did “Shotgun Down the Avalanche”. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the whole show as Jill’s working a 12 tomorrow, but we did hear was pretty good, plus the weather was outstanding.

Summer concerts

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Summer is here, and so are the shows. The free Herndon Festival kicked off last night and runs through Sunday. Budget cuts mean no big headliner on Sunday, but tonight is the shimmering piano pop of Lenka and tomorrow is a conflict between the pop-rock of Glen Burtnik (ex-Styx and ELO2) and the psychedlic-folk of Gandalf Murphy and The Slambovian Circus of Dreams. That’s not as big a conflict for me since the latter will be at FRFF, but there’s another struggle for me tomorrow as the M3 Rock Festival takes place at Merriweather Post Pavilion with lots of ’80s and ’90s metal acts, and I try not to miss Extreme when they come to town.

Sunday is the first of eight Wolf Trap shows for us (and seven of those are free, from three different sources – contests can be fun) with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Shawn Colvin with Buddy Miller switching off. We saw the tour that Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin were on a couple years ago with Mary Chapin Carpenter and Dar Williams – this should be a good show on a summer evening. Next weekend is Celebrate Fairfax, which starts next Friday with Blues Traveler and continues on Saturday with The Fixx in the afternoon, plus emmet swimming is playing in the parking lot of a bar in Arlington later that day.

Tuesday, June 9th the tour with the coolest name comes to Merriweather Post Pavilion as NIN and Jane’s Addiction form NIN/JA (makes me think of Voltron). I probably will not make that, as shows on weeknights in Maryland are reserved for special occasions that are worth the pain of getting there. On Thursday, June 11th we’ll be at Wolf Trap as Elvis Costello pulls a Plant/Krauss move by releasing a country influenced album produced by T-Bone Burnett, then touring with him and his hand picked musicians. Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood will be in town at the Verizon Center Saturday, June 13th, but we’ll likely skip that in favor of local boy Todd Wright for another free show at Acoustic on the Green in Leesburg. No Doubt’s playing the next night over at Nissan Pavilion, not sure if we’ll try and go to that.

The Alexandria Waterfront Festival is June 20th and 21st, and the good music lineup is on the 20th with Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers and Pat McGee Band. If that’s going on too late for us (we’ve got other stuff that starts early that day), there’s a free show at Music Under The Stars in Herndon with Livingston Taylor. The 21st has Aerosmith at Nissan Pavilion but with ZZ Top (WTF?).

On Wednesday, June 24th, we will definitely be at Wolf Trap for the Regeneration Tour, short sets with a bunch of ’80s pop acts. We had a lot of fun at last year’s show, and this year ABC returns bringing with them Berlin, Wang Chung and Cutting Crew. Friday, June 26th gives us two choices of free shows, The Pietasters in DC at the Carter Barron Amphitheater or Love Seed Mama Jump walking distance at Friday Night Live!.

Saturday, June 27th brings something truly different as we’ll go to Annapolis to see Jake Armerding (often joins efo on stage) perform at a house concert on a boat – of course there’s only one song going through my mind when I hear “three hour boat ride”… Both that day and the next is the Northern Virginia Summer BrewFest, Lloyd Dobler Effect will be playing on Sunday.

Wilco plays Wolf Trap for the second time on Wednesday, June 8th, bringing along Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) – I’m definitely going to that. Saturday July 11th Billy Joel and Elton John play the first concert at Nationals Park, but I’ve seen them before, may go see Luke Brindley for free at Acoustic on the Green or The Sketches at Iota that night. Go-Go king Chuck Brown headlines the Reston Festival the next night, another free show.

Robbie Schaefer of efo plays a free show at Royal Lake Park on Friday, July 17th, then we’re off to New York and our seventh Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Unfortunately efo will not be there this year, but lots of other acts we love like Ellis Paul and Girlyman, plus our friends at Camp Edhead/Shantytowne (with more electricity this year).

Green Day is playing Verizon Center on Wednesday, July 29th, but that’s both a weekday and right after we get back from vacation, so doubtful. Gov’t Mule plays the new Sunset Concerts at National Harbor on Thursday, July 30th, but that’s also doubtful (make it across the Wilson Bridge during rush hour?) – alternately Tool plays the Patriot Center that night.

Dream Theater and Queensryche headline the Prgressive Nation tour at Merriweather on Saturday, August 1st, but we’ll skip that for Tori Amos at Constitution Hall (I never miss her if I can help it). We’ll see Dave Matthews Band for the first time this year (second at ACL) when they stop by Nissan on Saturday, August 8th, then I’ll see an older generation of hippies at Hippiefest at Wolf Trap on Tuesday, August 11th. Thursday, August 13th we keep the vibe going with a tribute to Woodstock’s 40th anniversary at Strathmore featuring Jon Carroll and efo. I finish off the week in the grandest of styles by taking in Phish at Merriweather on Saturday the 15th.

Next we get the blues with Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal on Sunday, August 16th, then get the classic rock out at the Steve Miller Band on Thursday, August 20th, and finally bring on the kitchen party with Great Big Sea on Friday August 21st, all three shows at Wolf Trap. A tough choice awaits me on Saturday, August 22nd – I’ve never seen Mötley Crüe (performing Dr. Feelgood in its entirety) or Whitesnake, and one’s at Nissan and the other’s at Merriweather.

Last year’s broadcast with live music of the first The Lord of the Rings was great fun, they’re doing the second August 28th and 29th at Wolf Trap. Also rumored for that weekend is the Virgin Festival with Weezer and Blink-182. We finish off the summer seeing Pat McGee solo for the first time at Rams Head Tavern.

How to save a TV show

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

They’ve announced all the shows that have been renewed or canceled, and there are some surprises. Pushing Daisies and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles did get the ax as expected (although the last three episodes of Pushing Daisies will be aired starting this Saturday), while Castle and Dollhouse were renewed (Dollhouse was a shock, but I’ll always watch more Joss). But the biggest shock was Chuck, and I think it was due to the fans unintentionally creating a situation that harkens back to the 1950s.

In one of the later episodes of the season, there was a bit of blatant product placement of a Subway sandwich, but the discussion of it was obviously written by the show’s writers – funny and flippant. So when news that Chuck might be canceled came out, instead of sending hot dog buns or frozen yogurt containers to NBC execs, fans started a Facebook campaign to have people buy Subway sandwiches the day of the finale, then comment at the stores and online why they were doing it.

Apparently it worked – according to the Facebook page, thousands of cards and emails were received by Subway, and they in turn went to NBC to ask if they could partner with them, and that ended up bringing the show back. I don’t think it will be detrimental to the show – they already integrate a number of retail establishments currently, and using a real one won’t hold them back too much. What’s interesting about that is it feels like the 1950s, when TV shows had a single sponsor. I think this is the way to save shows now – target a single advertiser and show them that the demographic they want is both watching the show and willing to vote with their wallet to support it.

I’m happy to see Chuck come back (as I’m sure my friends who run the #1 Yvonne Strahovski site are), and with it scheduled to come back following the Winter Olympics next year, NBC could really give it a big promotional push. It’ll be interesting to see what tactics fans use next year to save shows since this technique worked well – too bad for Pushing Daisies’ sake nobody contacted Sara Lee.

Working out and Bangles

Monday, May 25th, 2009

Friday we both had long days, finished it off with some burgers that I didn’t have much luck with on the grill (falling apart), but they tasted just fine.

Saturday I started out strong – I bought the new EA Sports Active for the Wii, and did my first session, it was pretty good. Next I made some breakfast, then since it was hot we all retired to the basement. Illa napped and was (reluctantly) brushed while Jill and I read. I actually read a book, I’d started a trilogy on my trip and wanted to finish the third book while the others were fresh in my mind. I also got outside to walk Illa and trim some grass.

I was planning on grilling hot dogs for dinner, but Jill was in the mood for Don Pablo’s, so we headed over there. We had queso (of course), but it came out late, probably for the best as we didn’t finish it for once. Jill had the combo fajitas, and I had the grilled chicken taco trio, with an extra side of veggies. Next we headed over to the State Theatre in Falls Church to see The Bangles, whom I’d never seen. I wasn’t sure what to expect as tix weren’t cheap, but the place was close to sold out. The bad thing about that was we had to stand in back. The good thing was they played some crucial hits early, and we didn’t stay ’til the end – My exact words to Jill were “I’m staying until they play ‘Hazy Shade Of Winter’, and wouldn’t you know they played that first (we didn’t leave right away).

Sunday I once again woke and trained on the Wii (harder this time), didn’t make breakfast ’cause Jill went and got bagels. We did some long overdue work on the front and back yards, weeding and trimming. I finally finished my book in the afternoon, and I made a salad and grilled steaks for dinner. Afterwards we watched 3 out of the last 4 hours of 24, but by then Jill was falling asleep. I was too busy being bothered by the fictitious landmarks (Washington Central Metro stop? Get on I-70 from DC).

Today I was very slow to get up, as my muscles had decided to rebel after two days of working out. Good thing the program had called for a day of rest, ’cause that’s what I did. Aside from making breakfast (omelette), lunch (hot dogs) and dinner (ribs), I didn’t do much, mostly read comics and surfed. We did watch the finale of 24 (huh?) and the premiere of Glee (we both liked it, too bad the final 30 seconds weren’t on our recording thanks to stupid AI running over and I had to find it online).

Phish-ing with strings

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Last night I endured the soul crushing drive to Baltimore during rush hour. It took nearly three hours, and I got to my seat only about a minute before the performance began. But I made an exception to my no-weeknight-shows-in-Maryland rule for a reason, and that was Trey Anastasio (from Phish) playing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. It was a very Phish friendly audience – nearly every move Trey made elicited loud cheering, which was especially odd during some of the softer pieces (during some of the much louder cheering after the pieces ended, one of the violinists would clamp her hands over her ears, one hand still holding her bow).

It was quite a performance, and the sound was mixed well, the guitar only overpowering the orchestra when necessary. The bulk of songs from the night were Phish songs with new parts for the orchestra to play, along with one new 30 minute piece, Time Turns Elastic written by Trey and Don Hart. Dedicating Water In The Sky to his sister who recently passed away was moving, but my favorites were the instrumental Guyute and the encore of If I Could.

Keane-ly felt

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Last night Keane returned to town, this time for a show at Constitution Hall. I had hoped to catch them when I was in LA, but didn’t, and I wouldn’t have another opportunity. I hadn’t purchased a ticket, so I used my friend Craig and found one for nearly half off. I made a quick Indian meal for Jill and I, then headed into DC. I took a gamble that nearby parking would be easier to obtain more than an hour after the show started, and I was right. I walked over, met my seller at the door, and headed to my seat.

I’d timed it perfectly, caught the last few songs from the second act, and was ready for Keane when they came out. They put on a great show as usual – wasn’t as nice as the last time they were in town at the 9:30 Club, but mostly due to the always inconsistent sound at Constitution Hall (very bass heavy last night). The new album has some more synth pop songs, as well as guitar, but live the new songs fit in well with the older ones. As you might expect the set was weighted with songs off the first album, and they all got huge responses (especially “Everybody’s Changing” and “Somewhere Only We Know”). But the “Crystal Ball” and “Is It Any Wonder?” (singles off the second) were also popular, as well as “Spiralling” off the new one. Tom’s voice still is amazing, and there’s added texture live now that they’ve added a bassist/percussionist.

LA is nice, but it’s nice to be home

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Thursday was my final day at the conference and I was ready to go home. I’ve said in the past I don’t want to go back to school, and this was too much like school (sit all day in darkened rooms, taking notes). I had checked out of my hotel in the morning and checked my backpack at the conference, so afterwards I was ready to go. I took the subway over to Union Station where I needed to catch the bus to the airport.

In looking around at nearby restaurants, I discovered some nice reviews of the restaurant in Union Station itself, Traxx. And it was pretty good, pork loin chop plus beer equals yum. One problem – the chop was a little pink in the center, and I ate some, which resulted in some gastrointestinal distress later in the evening.

After dinner, I headed over to the buses, caught mine, and was soon at the airport. I got to my gate, sat down and realized why I was feeling some déjà vu – we’d eaten at the restaurant across the way on our way to Hawaii in January. I read away the time before boarding, and the flight itself was fine, just that the aforementioned distress and sitting next to two preteens combined for not much sleep, about an hour (one had a Taylor Swift poster book, should have taken it for a friend of mine).

Friday morning foggy and early we landed at Dulles, and Jill was soon there to pick me up. No rest for the weary, though, as the house needed cleaning. Jill went off to Union Station (East coast version) around noon as I finished cleaning, then I finally sat down to read the paper. That may have been a mistake, as I didn’t make it past the front page before falling asleep. Jill returned with her mom and grandmom before I’d slept for too long, and I managed a bit of conversation before nodding off again. I got up and had the Five Guys burger they’d brought me, before going downstairs and napping a little more. Jill fixed a very tasty salad and a tart from TJ’s for dinner later, and we got to chat a little more before bed.

Saturday they all went out for the day at the Smithsonian. It was Jill’s official graduation weekend, but she decided since not many of her classmates were participating and it would cost additional money to skip it. I slept in and was feeling pretty good. I walked Illa, read papers and watched some TV. After they came back, we went out to dinner at Hooked for some tasty seafood (the sushi was good as usual, but I had the crab legs for the first time – delectable). Usually Jill and I could agree on three desserts to share for the trio, but we couldn’t that night and I went for the cookies and she had the chocolate cake.

Sunday I was woken around 6:30 by the power going out, and then a neurotic dog needing comfort for that, and I go up after that. I made hollandaise sauce for breakfast, saw we were out of milk and went out and got that, then discovered the English muffins they’d picked up the other day were cinnamon raisin, and decided to do all the shopping I needed to for the day then. After I got back, I made Eggs Benedict, then they left to shop and I marinated the chicken drumsticks in an impromptu marinade after searching for chicken marinades online.

They got back and we read for a while, then I started on the rest of dinner – Caesar salad, as well as prepping the asparagus to grill. My dad, mom and sister showed up around 5, and I started grilling. It took a while, but dinner was tasty, and my sister brought blackberry pie and ice cream for dessert. A fun night – Illa was the center of attention as usual. An early night for all of us – seems everyone had to be up early today.

People are strange

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

And by that I mean me, of course. Why did I wear a Windows Mobile hat all day in the hope of being spotted and winning a phone? Especially when I had already won a second one (this time a Blackjack) this week before lunch? Who knows – people go crazy for swag, and I guess I’m no exception (although I’m not bringing home that much stuff).

I actually made it to the Convention Center with plenty of time for breakfast, got a croissant and egg sandwich and sausage. Lunch was the best yet, all Mexican – fajitas and enchiladas (though not even close to dinner on Sunday). After it was over, I had planned on going over to Grand Central for dinner. I did, but they had just closed, so I headed back to the hotel since I hadn’t made a back up plan. I thought about just hitting the Carl’s Jr. across the street, but decided it was silly to do that when I was staying in the middle of Koreatown. So I put a couple beers on ice, then did a quick search for good takeout nearby. One place repeatedly mentioned was BCD Tofu House, and it was only a little more than a block away, so I headed out.

I ordered my takeout, went outside to wait, and had it and was on my way quickly. It was a nice touch to add a piece of cardboard to the bottom of the plastic bad, ensuring everything arrived in perfect condition. I started with the soup – soondubu (or tofu), which included oysters, clams, whole shrimp, beef, and tofu. It was very spicy (which was good), but there wasn’t much of the protein, and lots of tofu (not a big fan). Luckily I’d also gotten an order of the pork bulgogi, and plopping the pork and onions in the soup resulted in a very satisfying meal (there was also kimchee, always a treat).

After dinner I was experiencing a lousy wireless connection, so went to the lobby to surf for a while before Lost. Yeah, I wished I coulda seen it in HD like the rest of the season, but I hate being spoiled, so I couldn’t wait. It was a fabulous season finale – the last season should be interesting. I may not blog again for a couple days, headed home on a red eye tomorrow night.

A Bittersweet night

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I was already running late in the morning, then I got stopped by a transit cop. Apparently unlike every other transit system I’ve been on (and at this point I’m closing in on 20 in five different countries), the one way ticket I assumed covered my trip from the hotel to the convention center only covers you until you board another train (so if you had to connect twice you’d pay three times). LA, this is the stupidest idea about transit ever – no wonder it hasn’t totally caught on here.

I had to grab a hard boiled egg and a yogurt on the way to my first session – happily it was the most informative one yet. And the whole day was full of win, found lots of good information and the lunch was decent (Caesar salad and beef tenderloins with pasta and Gorgonzola). One fail – I tried several times and in different locations to access the Microsoft wireless, but never succeeded – good thing it works nicely at the hotel.

Before my last session I called Jill, and that worked nicely, since it was about 7 her time, and I wasn’t in a rush to get somewhere. Which I was as soon as the last session was over, on my way back to Hollywood and Highland, and soon eating a juicy In-N-Out Double Double. I had to eat on the go, as I had to quickly get eight blocks east, but I will say it was very good. I couldn’t compare it to the previous night’s one, but I would say it at least equals Five Guys (which I think very highly of for a fast food burger).

I finally got to the Hotel Cafe minutes before the first act. They do things a little different there – the cover is usually $10 for the whole night, and you just need to tell them which act you came to see. I was there to see The Bittersweets, who’d opened for Catie Curtis a couple weeks earlier and we missed most of their set. When I saw they were performing here I was determined to catch the full set, and I wasn’t disappointed. For one thing, they had their third member with them on pedal steel and harmonica adding more textures, plus I was more familiar with their music (you can download a free cd’s worth of music here). Again the high point was their off mic finale of “When The War Is Over” with “Falling Slowly” woven in the middle. Unfortunately word of their prowess had not reached the beautiful people in LA, and there was only about 10 people there by the end. I went and talked to (lead vox) and she was amused I had seen them in Vienna and now here, plus I picked up their first CD (already have the new one).

After that I decided to check out the next act, Michelle Malone, whom I decided was Chrissie Hynde, if of course Ms. Hynde was a southern raised blues player. I enjoyed her (and my favorite cocktail), but it was getting late, so I headed back to the hotel to relax (and web surf, of course).

My new favorite store

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Is Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Browsing through used CDs while a concert is going on? Awesome.

The day was good, breakfast (eggs and sausage) and lunch (Asian style chicken and pork) weren’t bad, and the sessions were decent. After they were over, there was a reception in the vendor area, where they stole my idea of mini foods. I tried the mini Reuben, but it wasn’t that great (although I did like the idea of made to order salads served in Chinese takeout containers), plus it was incredibly crowded, and I had something better to do.

So I took the subway to Hollywood & Vine, and walked over to Amoeba. There was a little time before the show, so I remembered to call Jill before she went to bed, and we finished right as the Meat Puppets started. I was never a huge fan, although I did see them 3 times in 1994 (at the HFStival and opening for Blind Melon and Stone Temple Pilots) and I haven’t followed them for a while, but it was good. I only knew two of the songs – I’d checked them out online and listened to the first single, plus they played “Comin’ Down” from Too High to Die. I couldn’t resist browsing after a while, good thing as I was still going strong for a while after they finished.

I went looking for dinner, but I went 0 for 2 on the places I’d researched (apparently tough for some restaurants to survive in the area). The third time was the charm, but then a place like Lucky Devils must have some luck. And I felt lucky – they were on the list of best burger places in LA, and it was an easy choice after I read the words “Kobe Diablo burger”. The “fire slaw” it came with was interesting – and Jill friendly (no mayo), but the burger was the star – delicious beef (actually a Wagyu/Angus mix) with bacon and hot sauce. I thought I wasn’t having dessert, but the toasted pecan shake is quite a treat (and you know I couldn’t resist after the waitress told me they drizzled a chocolate jalapeño sauce over it). I headed back to the room to watch Castle before going online for a bit.