Clarendon, etc.

Saturday Jill went out early, and I read the paper on the deck next Illa as the rain held off for a while. Next I got ready and headed out, first to Reston for the library booksale, then over to Clarendon for Clarendon Day. It may have been raining, but it was the first performance by EFG, a band with members of Everything, Egypt, Earth to Andy and Fighting Gravity. Since the singer was the vocalist for Fighting Gravity, we got what I was hoping for, a number of classic tracks including “Forgotten”, “Mission Bells” and “Socks And A Smile” (with some nice ska in the last one). They also did Everything’s “Hooch” (going into EU’s “The Butt”, another local hit) and a number of covers, most notably Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (with some “Another One Bites The Dust” at the end). They finished the set with the Fighting Gravity classic “All I Need Is A Holiday”, mashing it up with Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So”, then came back with an encore of “Ring Of Fire”.

Afterwards I wondered around the vendors, tried a tasty barbecued chicken flatbread from Willow before doing a little CD and beer shopping on the way home. Jill was watching TV so I surfed for a while, then made a salad and grilled some steaks for dinner. It was pretty late by the time we finished eating, Jill went to bed and I caught up on Glee. Today I took Illa for a walk, then read the paper while the Skins lost a close one. We did some cleaning after the game, including finally putting away the camping gear. I did a bunch of computer stuff, then grilled burgers and made oven fries for dinner. We watched Dollhouse and Simpsons before heading to bed, both pretty good.

Back to Del Merei

Wednesday night we met up with Chris and Jess. It had to be then because of their packed schedule, but Jill ended up getting out of work later then scheduled while working a 12 hour shift, so we didn’t make it over to Alexandria until nearly 9PM. However Del Merei Grille was very close to Chris’ mom’s house where they were staying, and we managed to get there and order before the kitchen closed. It was worth the rush, we shared some of the frickles (still way salty), deviled eggs and taquitos, then Jill and I split the lolla rossa salad. Jill had the jambalaya, and I really enjoyed the brandied peach glazed shrimp. The sweet corn risotto it came with was good, but the hush puppies were amazing. They tasted just like the ones from Chesapeake Bay Seafood House (RIP), which is the highest compliment I could give. Jess and Chris followed my recommendation for dessert, so we all had the carrot cake with the frosting on the side, om nom nom.

Mini golf and pro football

Saturday Jill was out doing errands, and after a nice long run/walk with Illa, we settled on the deck to soak up some Vitamin D and read the paper. I watched some TV in the afternoon, then Jill wanted to play mini golf, so we headed over to Woody’s to play Perils of the Lost Jungle. Wow, they’ve made a lot of changes since we were there last, and it’s a lot of fun. Of course, it’s even more fun when you win.

I grilled steak for dinner, and it was great. No reason to go to a steakhouse, and we haven’t been to one for a couple years. Two new good ideas for the dinner: Jill suggested roasting the potatoes with some whole garlic cloves in the oven, and I mashed some garlic and herb cheese together with some butter to go on top the steaks, both came out perfectly.

Today we went to the Skins game. I’d planned on going to this one for a while, but I bid on an eBay auction Thursday morning, won it in the afternoon, and they arrived by overnight shipping Friday afternoon. We arrived at FedEx Field right before kickoff via Metro, but opted to answer the call of nature and get some chow and drinks before sitting down. Good thing nothing happened on the first two possessions.

The seats were pretty sweet, 8 rows up in the corner of the western end zone. Too bad there wasn’t more offense in the game, but we were happy with the win. We actually were just leaving the stadium during the last play – we assumed the defense would make the final stop. The trip back was a little crowded, but still fairly easy.

On the way back Jill said she was in the mood for Thai food – her treat, and I couldn’t argue with that. One idea I had was to cook the edamame we’d gotten from the CSA in the same way we’d had it at the Cultured Pearl: steamed, then sauteed in oil with garlic, salt and red pepper flakes. It came out pretty good, and Jill agreed. The food from Thai Luang was delicious as well. I had the crispy duck and Jill had the green curry, both as spicy as they needed to be.

From Adrianne to Zukerman

Last night we headed over to Jammin’ Java. Jill really likes Natalia Zukerman, so we made a rare school night visit there, getting there right before the show started. I was under the impression that she was going on first and that Adrianne was the headliner from the listing, but it turned out to be a co-bill where they took turns playing songs, and mostly joining in on each other’s songs. We weren’t familiar with Adrianne, but we should have been – she’s written a lot of songs with Nate Borofsky, and if we hadn’t skipped the Girlyman show at Wolf Trap in April we would have seen her open for them. Both made good choices on songs they played (including “Howard Hughes” by Natalia and “Burn Me Up” by Adrianne), and ended their first set with a pair of fun covers: Adrianne tackling Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and Natalia with Peter Mulvey’s “Shirt”. Unfortunately with the break they took it was after 9:30 before they started playing again, so we had to leave, but it was good to see what we did.

Natalia Zukerman & Adrianne

Pat McGee & Vertical Horizon

Friday was our usual lazy night, quick pizza and a bit of reading, then out like a light. Saturday Jill was out running errands for a while, and after I walked Illa the weather wasn’t nice enough to go outside, so I stayed inside reading. I did grill some burgers for an early dinner, then we headed over to Belmont for our first Loudoun Summer Music Fest show of the season. They were a bit disorganized at first, but we got in ok and grabbed some seats in the third row. We saw our friend Linda and one of my coworkers before things started.

We saw some of opener Shane Gamble, but didn’t know him too well. Pat McGee came out with his hair newly shorn (lost a bet with his daughter) and most of his band (no keys? and playing 10 minutes away from the Todder?), but they rocked the place, including an epic “Can’t Miss What You Never Had” and a great “Rebecca”.


They folks running the show had a Twitter contest a couple days before, and I won, so we got a meet and greet. Initially it was before they went on, but they moved it to between the headliners so we could meet both. First up was Vertical Horizon, who I was psyched to talk to since legendary Rush drummer Neil Peart plays on three songs on their new album. We only got a few moments to talk, but he managed to convey what a thrill it was to play with Neil.

us & Matt

We had to wait for Pat McGee and the guys to finish packing their equipment away, so we got to feel completely out of place “backstage” (really just behind a low fence where everyone can see you, though the bands had trailers). We did finally get to see everyone, Pat seemed moderately impressed with my concert stats, and Brian slipped us some news that his next album would have vocals by a number of singers we like.

us & Pat

Vertical Horizon started almost as soon as we got back out front, but while they were quite good, the bass was cranked up at least twice as loud as before, driving us towards the back and eventually the car (they sounded great from there), leaving when they still had a couple songs to go.

Today I made French toast for us for breakfast, then Jill and I went to some open houses in Reston (it’s time). I had a bunch of computer stuff to do in the early afternoon while she was out, managed to finish most of what I wanted to do. I made a BLT and cracked a beer before the Redskins game, and read the paper while their offense just got steamrolled (some nice defense and special teams play, though).

I made a tomato chutney over baked chicken and steamed chard for dinner, then we watched the VMAs. Weird night, funny to think Katy Perry and Joe Perry are related, my favorite moment was Beyonce giving her spot to Taylor Swift because that a$$hat Kanye took Taylor’s.

25 years of concerts and the top 25

Yes, it’s been 25 years since my first concert. My dad got the tix and took me to see Rush at the Capital Centre. He went to the ticket counter right at 10AM as requested, and no one else was buying tix in Crystal City, so he scored third row seats. It would take me nearly 20 years to do better than that, and considerably more money. Opener Helix didn’t make much of an impression (other than the idea that singers in a metal band aren’t very impressive when they use a trampoline), but Rush was mindblowing.

For the first couple years, I mostly went to Rush shows, then slowly started branching out. It wasn’t until 15 years ago when I deliberately made a goal of seeing 100 different artists that year that I really got into concert going as a full time hobby.

My current total of different artists seen now stands at 1153. The most shows seen by a single artist is local band Eddie From Ohio at 81 (including solo appearances), close behind is locals emmet swimming at 71 with Todd Wright (from local bands The Excentrics and Getaway Car) at 49. For nationals, Dave Matthews (with and without his band) is at 36, while Rush is tied with locals Pat McGee Band at 18 (though the latter will break that tie on Saturday).

I thought about making a top 25 list with the best concert from each year, but it’s pretty thin the first couple years, so I’m just going to select my favorite concerts ever:

25. We’re About 9/Girlyman/Da Vinci’s Notebook at the Oh Sweet Harmony workshop at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival on July 26th, 2003
It’s not often I can point to a single moment that made me a fan of a band, but Girlyman showing how the chorus to “Postcards From Mexico” worked was it. And I’ve got it on video.

24. Great Big Sea at Wolf Trap on August 21st, 2009
Sometimes it’s about where you are. Like front row for a band who know you can sing along on every song with, and they don’t let up for a solid two hours.

23. Tori Amos at Pier Six Pavilion on August 24th, 2005
Partly just because we managed to be walking around early and caught the soundcheck, partly because it was a nice summer night, but mostly because she put on a great show.

22. Eddie From Ohio on Carnival’s Holiday in Doc Holiday’s for Edhead Cruise III on November 14th, 2003
I can’t forget the show we got engaged at, can I?

21. Faith No More/Metallica/Guns N’ Roses at RFK Stadium on July 17th, 1992
At the time the two biggest bands in the world, and the only mosh pit I’ve ever been in.

20. Mike Clem’s Traveling Harmony Revue at Camp Edhead at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival on July 23rd, 2005
Mike Clem (from Eddie From Ohio) leads a raucous singalong until early in the morning steps away from our tent. One of my favorite FRFF memories.

19. Rage Against The Machine at the Patriot Center on August 21st, 1996
The most energy I’ve ever seen in one location. They refused to turn the house lights off the entire show, and the crowd still tore the barricades apart.

18. The Thorns/The Jayhawks at the 9:30 Club on June 26, 2003
Two of the great harmony bands touring together. The show was so great that my car being broken into wasn’t as bad as it might have been.

17. Smashing Pumpkins at the 9:30 Club on January 6th, 1996
For the grand opening of the new 9:30 Club, they got the hottest band in the land, and my co-owner at the record store managed to get tickets from the record company. It was my first experience at an overpacked 9:30 Club (and not my last), but still incredible.

16. Dave Matthews at Paramount Theatre for Groundwork 2001 on October 14th, 2001
I’ve already gone on at length about this one.

15. Extreme at Bank Of America Pavilion on June 30, 2006
Their original lineup back together for the first time in 10 years, in amazing form, plus one of the last concerts with Boston’s Brad Delp.

14. Paul Simon and friends at the Warner Theatre for the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song on May 23rd, 2007
An incredible roster of artists, but most meaningful to me was getting to see Paul play “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

13. Sarah McLachlan/Barenaked Ladies on NCL Jewel in Stardust Theater for Ships and Dip V on February 5th, 2009
They really gave it their all – at the time we thought it was because it was the last night of the cruise, but it turned out to be Steven’s last show with them, a tart but sweet memory.

12. Billy Idol/Coldplay/Foo Fighters at M & T Bank Stadium for the HFStival on May 14th, 2005
11. R.E.M./Pearl Jam/James Taylor/Dixie Chicks/Dave Matthews Band/Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at MCI Center for Vote For Change on October 11th, 2004
10. Nine Inch Nails/Metallica/Aerosmith at Woodstock ’94 on August 13th, 1994
9. Dave Matthews Band/Kelly Clarkson/Bon Jovi/Smashing Pumpkins/Roger Waters/The Police at Giants Stadium for Live Earth on July 7th, 2007
I love festivals, and it’s the chance to see artist after amazing artist that really make it memorable.

8. Aerosmith at Foxboro Stadium for the WBCN River Rave on May 26th, 2001
This was also at a festival, but a single moment. When they play “Sweet Emotion”, Tom Hamilton plays a long bass intro, and just as they broke into the main part of the song, lightning split the sky directly behind them. Best light show ever.

7. Brian May at Hammerjacks on March 5th, 1993
The solo CD had not left my CD player for nearly a month when I heard on 98 Rock the Queen guitarist was doing a last minute show in Baltimore. Amazing show with all his great solo songs and a number of Queen ones. I went with a girl I worked with on the school paper, and she ended getting us back stage just in time to meet him before he left.

6. Jimmy Page & Robert Plant at US Air Arena on March 23rd, 1995
I’m sorry I didn’t make the Zep reunion in 2007, but the pair of shows they put on in 1995 felt like a reunion (I recently found videos for both shows, gotta give the edge to the second one).

5. Pearl Jam at Patriot Center on April 8th, 1994
I don’t know if I can ever properly describe what it was like before this show. We had just gotten the news that Kurt Cobain had died and this show was his wake. Eddie Vedder can surf a crowd like he can surf a wave.

4. Rush at AmSouth Amphitheatre on August 14th, 2002
I vowed to see these guys from the front row, and it was cheaper to buy airfare to Nashville, rent a room and a car and buy a front row ticket there then just buy one front row ticket in DC. Oh well, still an incredible night, plus I made it out of the venue so fast I saw Neil’s van leaving.

3. Paul McCartney with Ringo Starr at Radio City Music Hall for Change Begins Within on April 4th, 2009
Never got a chance to see George, wasn’t passing up a chance to see the last two Beatles together. Totally worth it.

2. David Gilmour with Richard Wright at Massey Hall, April 9th, 2006
I did see the Waters-less Pink Floyd twice, but “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Echoes” in a small theater blew the top of my head off.

1. Queen + Paul Rodgers at Continental Airlines Arena on October 16th, 2005
I was hoping for a show like this for years. I saw U2 for the second time a week later. They might as well been a tribute band, this show set the bar so high I wonder if it will ever be hit again.

Limping into the 5th anniversary

And by limping I mean literally. Thursday morning I was walking Illa with some new shoes that have only fabric covering when he decided he needed to go see another dog that was out, and in the process of restraining him he managed to land all 75 pounds on my not very protected foot. Ow. The middle toe on my right foot is still pretty black and blue, although I’ve mostly stopped limping.

Friday was the actual 5th anniversary, but we knew we wouldn’t want to celebrate on a Friday so hadn’t made plans. Good idea, as we were both tired and had leftovers – I even went to bed first.

Saturday was the first of three glorious days of sleeping in. This was also the first weekend in a while where we didn’t have any big plans or shows. The big accomplishments for me (aside from a lot of reading) was downloading and converting all the music for artists at ACL I hadn’t already obtained CDs for, as well as making two DVDs. Jill almost finished a knitting project, but ran out of yarn.

Jill requested pulled pork sandwiches on Saturday, though she had to go out twice as she managed to not pick up two items on her five item long shopping list (ok, I enjoyed that). I tried a new BBQ sauce recipe, but wasn’t enamored of it.

Sunday we celebrated by heading over to 2941 for an early dinner – we’d been there for brunch and lunch, but never for dinner. We were the first customers, and scored a nice table overlooking the lake. Both our eyes went to the four course tasting menu, so we ended up making the same choice for the first three course (very unusual for us).

We started with the Maine lobster summer roll, looked like a sushi assembly but tasted like lobster salad, though the caviar left it a tad too salty. Next up was a creamy gnocchi soup, very tasty but still a bit salty. It went down well with the onsite baked bread, I really enjoyed that. The main course of Wagyu beef strips on green beans and a warm tomato sauce was the highlight, each flavor set off the other perfectly. For dessert I had the figs, and Jill had a plate of fresh fruit.

Today was the Herndon Labor Day Jazz & Wine Festival, and Jill headed over early to do some tasting. I joined her and the Jewells to check out Bill Evans Soulgrass Acoustic with Tony Trischka (great mixture of jazz and bluegrass), but the rain which was drizzling at first increased in tempo, driving most folks away. Jill and I went to the Breeze to order pizzas, then came back. Only Stuart was left, but we were witness to some smoking bluegrass with Michael Daves on tenor and Tony Trischka on banjo (who was Bela Fleck’s teacher).

We had a lovely evening with the Jewells after we picked up the pizzas. We also picked up some salad fixings so Janice could make a Greek salad (they already had fresh feta, tomatoes and olives). We chatted for a good long while, but headed home as everyone has to head out early tomorrow.