Friday, December 30, 2016

Was 2016 the worst? In many ways, yes. But...

More moments like this in 2017, please.
I won't even attempt to touch on the litany of tragic events that made 2016 such a difficult year publicly. And I certainly don't feel like going into the darker personal corners of the last twelve months. But I will admit that despite much of the misery there was also lots of personal growth and new opportunities that are setting me up for a brighter future in the longterm, even if the short-term will carry plenty of their own struggles.

So with that in mind, I think 2017 is where, collectively, we need to pull ourselves out of the fetal position and approach life with a new hope, a dedication to being actively involved in local communities in positive ways, and an acceptance that we can only truly have responsibility over our own actions, so only worry about what you can do personally.

Of course I won't judge you harshly at all if you want to cast one final "good riddance!" to 2016. Have at it, and then forge ahead!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Get energized.



I think we could al use a blast of positivity, so let's all fall back into the sheer glee of this golden oldie. I hope you find the vibe infectious and it brightens up your day, if even for only a few minutes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Looking for a ray of light or two, please.

2016 really seems to be refusing to go out with a flurry of body blows and bad news.

All the more reason to look at ensuring 2017 is filled with new hope.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What a way to spend a final week off!

Mich was struck down by some sort of death virus last week, and now it seems it is my turn to suffer. Ah well, you take the good with the bad—at least I have a valid excuse to just sit on the couch and binge watch TV, right?

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy holidays from The Kopenys!


Hopefully most of these have been delivered so I can finally share this here!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Video of the year.



For so many reasons, none of which I probably really need to go into here. I can finally admit that I don't think I shed as many tears over a death since my dad passed as I did when Bowie left us. And of course I later realized that the emotions stirred up by Bowie's exit were directly related to emotions connected to my dad. But it took a while to figure that out.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Well that was fast!

I can't really go into detail, yet, but I got some exciting news today. It reminded me that events happen and are aligned in timing for a reason. And if we can just simply accept that then we tend to move forward at a greater velocity than we thought possible.

In other words, you just gotta have faith.* So to make up for the inscrutable—by design—words above, let's balance them with something a little more silly and fun.



*Non-denominational. Just "faith."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last night a DJ saved my life. Oh wait, that was me.

Ten years ago I lived around the corner from a bar my two friends had just opened in Logan Square. The Burlington became my second home for quite a few years, and I still have an extremely soft spot for the joint.

Of course now most of my friends who used to rage ten years ago now have kids or—like me—have finally settled down into some semblance of a normal lifestyle sans the late nghts, which means it's rare to gather that whole crew in a single spot at any time. However last night our friend Brent was in town, so Lizz who sued to sling drinks on Tuesdays back in the day hopped behind the bar for a guest stint and I hopped back into the DJ booth.

Of course, we're all older, so whereas in the past we would would've carried on until the sun came up, last night most of us headed home closer to 11. It was nice to DJ for a while, play a few new tunes and a few that would've been in the regular rotation way back when, and then leave at a reasonable hour.

Here was the soundtrack to the party.

Setlist from The Burlington, December 20, 2017

Peter Bjorn and John - Second Chance (RAC Mix)
Car Seat Headrest - Just What I Needed / Not Just What I Needed (Original Version)
Holy Fuck - Lovely Allen
Colony House - You And I
Vanessa Paradis - The Future Song
Kishi Bashi - Hey Big Star
York Street Hustle - We Can Work It Out (DJ Apt One Edit)
Notorious B.I.G. - Party And Bullshit (Ratatat Remix)
Urban Dance Squad - A Deeper Shade Of Soul
Field Music - Terrapin
Stars - Cherry Baby
Badfinger - Baby Blue (U.S. Single Mix)
LCD Soundsystem -All My Friends
Darryl Hall And John Oates - Head Above Water
Led Savy Fav - Let's Get Out Of Here
Cheerleader - On Your Side
The Hollies - Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)
INXS - Heaven Scent
Superchunk - This Summer
Spacehog - In The Meantime
Starfucker - Biggie Smalls
Wolf Gang - Lions In Cages
Daft Punk - Get Lucky (Drop Out Orchestra Edit)
David Bowie - Golden Years
Genesis - Turn It On Again
Daniel Wade - Back Home For Christmas
Blur - On Your Own
The Atomic Numbers - In Your Power
Jay Bennett - Replace You
Pink Floyd - The Gold It's In The...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Many, many moments with OK Go.

OK Go at The Metro in 2010, photo by me.
Last night's Colbert re-ran OK Go's appearance on the show from a few weeks ago. "The One Moment" was our wedding recessional music, which would get me teary eyed enough, but my own history with the band goes back to their early days as an art-pop group whose flyers were absolutely everywhere you turned in Chicago, usually hyping shows at The Empty Bottle. And I remember the local backlash from the indie underground when they got signed to a label, which is really funny since years later they would abandon that label and go a DIY route that most indie bands have abandoned.

The band is filled with true artists with restless minds, which explains their run of mind-bending and astonishing videos. The only downside is that most people know them as "that band with the videos" and not as the great songwriters and stunning live performers they are. Their music is the backbone of all they do, and they are a rare band who has gotten better and better with each new album instead of delivering diminishing returns or treading stylistic water.

I'm sure you've seen the video for "The One Moment" by now (but if for some reason you haven't, you really should watch it), but this live performance of the song helps deliver on the emotional power of the song powered by the sheer exuberance of a band that is doing the think they love most in the wold—playing music that delivers on the feels while still making you want to hop around with abandon and a big ol' smile on your face.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Power-pop for your holiday!

Daniel Wade just released a holiday single for free / pay-what-you-want. It's been almost three years since his amazing series of EPs was released so it's a welcome opportunity to hear some new music from the guy.

"Back Home For Christmas" is, predictably for him, blessed with killer hooks and a ton of energy. This is a worthy addition to any holiday playlist, so stream it or snag it below!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Rockin' my turntable in 2016!


It's live! My favorite 20 albums of 2016.

This year I haven't looked at any other lists yet*, but the early feedback is mine has a nice mix of the known and unknown so please head over to Chicagoist and check it out!

*And now that mine is done I can head over to finally dig into Rob Mitchum's spreadsheet and marvel at his stats skills.

UPDATED: I added a lovely collage at the top of the post, constructed courtesy The By Gods.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Whole again!

It is shocking how, once you are forced to drag an old computer out of storage, how poorly it performs. Which drives you to buy a new computer.

But then you wait forever and what feels like ever for the new one to arrive (because outside your phone you have almost zero tools to get much done online so you're stuck with more basic correspondence and not much else (which actually ends up not being all that bad since it kind of forces you to unplug from anything that isn't more essential to the things you need to do now and today)).

But then the wait is actually over!

And you sink comfortably into reorganizing years of files on a new system, swearing that this time you will keep everything nice and tidy and organized and impeccably backed up only to have the new machine erase all your iTunes playlists and you remember that nothing is perfect, not even the brand, brand new.

And life returns to normal and you are fine with that.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

You & I & I & You.



I don't know much about Colony House—looks like the last time I got an email about the band was 2014—but it looks like they have a new album coming out next month. I stumbled across this video wile channel surfing and the tune has me hoping for a January of dance rock. But that's not why I'm sharing this; I simply love the start-stop rewind storytelling the video employs. In some ways it looks super simple but I found it really inventive.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sometimes funny ha-ha is also funny hurts-hurts.

Courtesy The Second City
Check out my review of the brand new Second City mainstage show that opens to the public this Thursday. I am interested to see how much it morphs during its run to grapple with our currently unusually turbulent political and cultural landscape. It feels a little like, many of us, its still finding its way.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Let's listen to an uplifting tune part 2.

Here's another tune to motor you through the week.

(I might've shared this recently but who ares, it's great.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Let's listen to an uplifting tune part 1.

For the next few days, let's just gorge on some musical comfort food. Here's the first installment.

Monday, December 05, 2016

A special couple making sweet music together.



Thanks to Sam for sharing this shot of Mich and I DJing our own wedding party at The Hideout.

We look VERY SERIOUS ABOUT OUR MUSICAL SELECTIONS.*

*We were having a blast, trust me.

Friday, December 02, 2016

A new podcast worth adding to your probably already overstuffed feed.

Mike Watt
I listen to a LOT of podcasts. Thank goodness for 2X speed, right? So I try not to add new podcasts to my subscriptions all that often any more.

However every once in a while I test drive a new episode here and there from unfamiliar sources, and ever once in a great while I ended up getting sucked into not only subscribing but digging through a library of old episodes. Which is what happened with the Culture Creature podcast.

This episode with Ian MacKaye drew me in.

This episode with Mike Watt won me over.

This episode with Jesse Michaels totally surprised me. (Funny how little I know about the underground musicians I idolized in my late teens and early twenties, huh?)

Dig in and enjoy!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

I reviewed a bunch of new music.

Well, a bunch of new-ish to brand new music. I wrote up words about Sleigh Bells, Mike Watt, The Weeknd, Sting and Taylor Hawkins.

Obviously I've been hiding under a warm blanket of guitar rock for the most part. Thank god The Weeknd album came out to remind me that there is still some cool stuff going on in the world of pop as well. In a year that lacked even a Song Of The Summer™ I was beginning to worry.

Anyhoo, read my reviews, if you please.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

In these times we all need good news, and the news that Hiawata is back with new music is good indeed!


One of my favorite bands is Hiawata. I know, you probably have no idea who they are, and for that I pity you. They are virtually unknown in the States, but I hold the deep belief that if only I could get more people to listen to them, their stature would swiftly grow. They traffic in excellent indie-tinged power-pop and can write hook after hook, seemingly never having to rehash ideas.

C'mon, they are can't miss when it comes to the search for all that is groovy and right in the world! So if you are unfamiliar with the group, now is the time to grow acquainted with them.

They've been pretty quiet for a while, and various members have been tending to other musical projects, so I was beginning to worry that the band might be permanently on hiatus. Not so! According to a Norwegian music news site, the band is actually readying a new album for release, Hiawata 4EVER. So you can color me pretty excited.

Here's the first sample of what to expect from the new record. I see they haven't missed a step.



Dig it? Then I highly recommend delving into their back catalog on Spotify, iTunes, etc. Do it!

Monday, November 28, 2016

New week, new start—kick it off with a blast of sunshine to bring Pleasure into your life.


I know just about zero when it comes to Norway's Pleasure aside from that the band appears to exist only as a studio project by producer Fred Ball. I discovered them through Fluxblog years ago when he posted "Out Of Love" and it has been one of my go-to pick-me-up songs ever since.

I can't think of a better way to start the last week of November, a month that has been pretty dreary thus far, with this little laser beam of pop. Let's melt that fog all around us into a dozen smiling rainbows!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Re: 'Best of' lists in November .... HEAVY SIGH.


Y'all already know how I feel about this. Though this year even I will end up running a list in December instead of waiting for January. At least I know there won't be any surprise 11th hour drops by Beyoncé, Radiohead or Kanye...

Friday, November 25, 2016

Did you go shopping in the middle of the night for Black Friday sales?


Hey, to each their own. You'll get no judgement from me. Pickle the Kitten, on the other hand? As you can see from the above photo, she has no problem judging anyone.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gratitude. 2016 edition.

Just three of the things I am thankful for.
2016 has been a tough year all around. And I'll be honest, it doesn't look like it's getting any better, even with just a little over a month left in it. The general consensus around these parts is the quicker we show 2016 the exit, the better.

But I am still thankful for much, even amidst the dark eddies that swirl all about right now.

My wife, family, friends, cats, acquaintances, readers I either know or who I've never met, writers I've never met yet admired, writers who touched me by either making me happy or angry or both or really just made me feel, cute animal GIFs, inside jokes, kick ass box sets of either music or images or moving images or all of the above, Chicagoist, Bloom County, all the music both good and bad I listened to that proved that so many people are still striving to create and forward their art, friends getting their books published or albums released or art shown, clarity, hope, optimism, faith that people really do want a better future for all our kids even if we can't always agree on what that looks like or how we get there, finding a new pair of Doc Martens I love when I was worried that would never happen after the company retired the model of boots I depended on for 15 years or so, getting promoted at the 9-to-5, no traffic at all when coming back from the suburbs after Thanksgiving with my family, did I mention my cats (oh yeah, I did)—this woefully inadequate list only hints at all the things I have to be thankful for. I am full of gratitude for so much in my life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I am sore and my head is pounding.

Figure 1. My wife demonstrates proper bowling form.
Well folks, here we are at the end of another epically long day!

The 9-to-5 flowed right into somewhere I had to be between the office and bowling, which led right into an evening playing in the Chicago Media League, hampered by a headache I've had since last night that no amount of ibuprofen is beating into submission any time soon.* So if I'm walking down the street and my head spontaneously explodes now we know why.

After a first week's respite someone decided to play "Sister Ray"—a song that has been a long-running joke over the years of Media Bowling but I thought had finally been put to bed. Had it been earlier in the evening that would have been one thing, but it blasted on through our final 6 frames of the night and after three games as a three-person team rolling for four, not to mention my splitting headache, the tune couldn't have popped up at a worse time.

Ah well. I survived.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Poster Kids for rock.


Wrote a brief blurb about the Poster Children reunion shows on Wednesday at Schubas. Couldn't resist re-sharing the witty title I came up with. Get it? So witty!

Anyway, really looking forward to going back in time with this show since it's to celebrate the re-release of Dasiychian Reaction, an album that no matter how high I cranked the volume was never loud enough for me. I wanted to drown in those songs. And it still stands up as a really great album today, oh so many years later.

So, "If You See Kay"...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Move ... your booty.



You know what? How about a new video with music that's just fin and makes you wanna groove. And a dash of Reggie Watts. I think that's just what the doctor ordered today...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Now THIS is a box set!


Been digging through the Pink Floyd The Early Years 1965-1972 box set. Yup, I plunked down an ungodly sum of money for it. But it's also one of those rare box sets that actually, exhaustively digs through the audio and visual archives to reveal stuff that's must-have for fans. A bunch of the music has been available on bootleg form since forever but it is so lovely to hear cleaned up, original versions instead of 36th generation multi-cassette dubs.

And it came at just the right time. Prior to last Tuesday I was submerged in 2016 releases as I was starting to piece together my best of 2016 music list, but since last Wednesday I've found I've really just needed to submerge myself in sounds that reassure and are familiar. This set mixes the known with the thrill of discovery so it's been a nice salve. The video components are also pretty mind-blowing. I'm only on the first Bluray disc and already I'm seeing stuff I never saw. It's also a trip to see the band when they are so young. Roger Waters, in interviews, is already so Roger Waters, and seeing Syd Barrett moving around and talking gives a tiny glimpse that leads to a deeper understanding of just how oddly charismatic he really was.

Anyway, if you're a fan, and have the cash, this is really worth it (even the additional collateral is super cool).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The benefits of being REAL busy.

Mich and I have been running non-stop all day. Work was super busy for me (in the good way—the way where time flies and there don't seem to be enough hours in the day yet you still manage to get everything done) and then we both had after work commitments before we met up and kicked off the first night of the new season of the Chicago Media Bowling League (we beat AV Club/Clickhole, 2 games to 1, BTW). So yeah, right now I'm just sitting here exhausted, slightly stunned, and feeling pretty accomplished.

Wait, it's only Tuesday?!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Trump.

First, this is not O.K. but before even that, a palate cleanser.

Look. Breathe. Then continue reading.

Do not protest the election results. They were legal. Were they incredibly flawed when you look at popular vote against Electoral College numbers? Yup. But they were legal.

Does this mean we should wait and see if this guy rises to the occasion?

Hell no.

If anything, Trump's election proves our process is fatally flawed. But it also shows a great number of us ( a HUGE number, if you will) hadn't a clue just how pissed off the other half of people that voted are. And I say "half that voted" because 50% or so of U.S. voters DIDN'T VOTE.

WTF?

Trump doesn't know what he's gotten himself into.* He thought he could be a public figure with a supporting machine doing the actual work. When Trump met Obama it became clear he didn't even realize he'd have to create his own staff from the ground up.

(Which means he truly is a D.C. outsider since he's obviously never been close to any actual cog that, you know, makes the basic government work.)

That said, do we owe Trump time to see if he gets it right?

Hell no.

We need to watch the man. And watch his—so far, truly disturbing—staff appointees. And if you see someone who is morally reckless feeling that Trump's election entitles them to threaten any other human being it is now our duty to call those people out on it. And protect those who may come under fire.

Many repeat the "Not my president" phrase, but I think they need to parse that a little more closely.

Donald Trump is the U.S. President, but he's not the President that reflects the spirit of the U.S. I believe in.

Not even remotely.

Hell no.

*I have made this as a joking statement quite a few times ("Oh boy, isn't Trump gonna be surprised being President is actually a job and not a title!" said I, har de har) in the past amongst friends. It was funnier back then.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Nope. Not getting any better.

How do you know how to react to something that has no precedence? I simply can't see any way in which our political situation ends well. I am trying to be hopeful, and trying to believe this may spur actually community involvement by others just as stunned and in shock as I, but I don't know. I just don't know.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taking it slowly.

There is lots I want to say, but I need time to figure out how to say it. Usually I can work through complicated emotions and situations by writing about them but, for the first time, that's not working for me. Yet.

Some things haven't changed. The people I love still love me, and I love them.

Together we'll figure this out.

We will all figure this out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The day after.

Today was not a good day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Monday, November 07, 2016

It's almost time.

I can't believe I'm this nervous about an election, again.

Friday, November 04, 2016

72.

I love this photo.
My dad would have been 72 today. This will be his first birthday since he passed away that I won't be toasting his memory with Jim Beam—from what I recall one of his primary spirits of choice.

I think he'd be O.K. with that. In fact, I know he would.

Happy birthday dad.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Cubs win! Cubs win?!

The Cubs know who's boss.
Wow. Wow. Wow.

I wrote something about the Cubs last year and it still holds true, only now the fans' story has a happy ending!

And here's something I wrote about the team in 2003, right after randomly happening to attend a game where they clinched a divisional title.

Random notes:

  • Usually I bristle at fans who say "we won" or "we did it" since IMHO it's the athlete's that "did" it. In the case of the Cubs I think the fans have 100% earned the right to say "we did it" given the century plus of suffering the team has put its hardcore fans through.
  • My posts i link to above both mention the same fear: winning the World Series wold fundamentally change what made the Cubs special. I hope I'm sincerely hope I'm wrong about that.
  • That final game was some amazing baseball, and filled with the appropriate amount of drama to mark such a landmark accomplishment.
  • I'm not gonna say who it was, but I may or may not be related to a lifelong Cardinals fan who I actually caught rooting out loud for the Cubs to win during Game 7.
  • Two things I thought would never ever happen actually happened—the Cubs won the World Series and I was sober for the whole thing.
  • It's a really good time to be in Chicago right now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Hey, what's the deal with Letters To Cleo's reunion?


I did a quick interview with Kay Hanley of Letters T Cleo in advance of their Chicago shows this weekend. Read all about it.

Their new EP is really good. And if you want to hear Hanley talk about the '90s Boston music scene, she was also a guest on a recent episode of the Dig Me Out podcast.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Coping skills.

In the past I would treat anxiety by feeding it with even more anxiety. Now I treat anxiety by attacking the root of whatever is causing the anxiety and moving on.

It's something so simple, yet it took me quite a while to figure out!

Monday, October 31, 2016

When I first heard 'Being There' I almost fell off my barstool.


That title is a true story.

Learn more about it in my look back at Wilco's Being There. The album turned 20 over the weekend and I still think it's an amazing piece of work that was completely unexpected given the expectations of the band at the time.

And as a bonus, my piece is couched in a slightly more personal recollection of the time, so that sets it apart from most of the other pieces out there on this subject's anniversary!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Total musical blindspot. Whoops!



Usually it's me teasing younger co-workers about not being aware of music everyone should know. Today it was my turn to be on the receiving end of that teasing when they discovered I had never heard of this song or the group that did it after I was riffing off someone saying "jagged edge," surmising that's be a great name for a metal band out of south Florida. I had no idea a group already had that name, and judging by my co-workers and pretty much every other breathing being I am the only one who didn't.

Shhhhh ... don't tel Mich. I don't want her to know I was unaware of a song that featured Nelly!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Too tired to even sing you a song.

I was looking for some music to pep up my evening and realized that even searching for a song was too exhausting an endeavor. Instead, here is a picture I took.


Adorable, ain't she?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I wore tie-dye yesterday.



I have never worn tie-dye in my life. Ever. Thank god it didn't make me break into hives or projectile vomit the second it touched my skin.

The things I'll do for the company holiday video when the actor we had cast for the part couldn't make it.*

*I'll admit it; I had fun acting the part and hope it looks as goofy and hilarious as it felt.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Beginning to sound like a broken record.

So busy around these parts. SO BUSY. I keep waiting to catch a breathe and I know one must be coming soon. I long for a vacation, I think. I've been out of town a couple times recently but those weren't exactly the kinds of trips that led to peaceful relaxation and mental recharging. Sadly no opportunity to do just that appears to be on the horizon any time soon.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Green Day's "small club" show was pretty freaking great.


31 songs? Check. Well over two hours play time? Check. Pretty much every hit and deep cut you might want to hear? Check! Amazing set? Check, check, check!

See my photos and read my review on Chicagoist.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Hey Heyrocco!


I saw Heyrocco play a couple of songs Wednesday night. I had to miss part of their set because the band went on 40 minutes late, which wasn't their fault at all. I should have known that a small indie bill might push it's start time back in hopes of a larger crowd. Unfortunately Cute is What We Aim For (who I didn't even know was still around!) was playing a few doors down and had siphoned off most of the all ages punk/indie/what-have-you crowd.

ANYWAY.

So I caught part of Heyrocco's set, and luckily bought an old CD and a new t-shirt from their drummer I the show. Had I waited I would've walked away empty handed and that woud've made me sad. Wah wah.

What does not make me sad is the band's music. They're heavily indebted to '90s indie guitar rock, with a really hefty chunk of that debt owed a certain Seattle-based label, but to my ears it's all good. Check out a track from their latest EP below. Download it for free if you dig it.

And if you really dig it consider picking up either the band's new EP or their latest full length since they are both quite good.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Post-debate dizziness.

Mich shared these with me this morning.




Oh, 2016 election; I can't wait for you to be over.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My coffee keeps getting cold.

The last couple days (wait, has it only been two?!) has seen an alarming uptick in the disturbing trend of me pouring cups of coffee, going to sip from them a few minutes later then discovering they are ice cold—because, in fact, more like 4o minutes has passed and not a few, because I am so buried in what I'm doing.

I need to start setting more alarms on my fitness tracker to snap me out of these deep mental dives and give my brain a few moments to come up for air and breathe. At the same time, at least I'm busy, which is better than not!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The return of my taste buds!

I made a remarkable discovery upon the eve of my 50th day sans alcohol: yesterday I was eating some potato chips and they were exploding in my mouth. Little daggers of salt and pepper felt as if they were pricking every nerve ending along my tongue and roof of my mouth. I just assumed it was because the chips were over-seasoned.

This morning, I was drinking my customary cup of pre-gym Bustelo coffee and thought to myself, "Is there sugar in this?" But that was impossible (unless there was a sugar imp hiding in my kitchen, throwing tiny fistfuls of the stuff in my coffee when I wasn't looking). In fact I was realizing that Bustelo had a natural sweetness to it that I had never tasted before.

Apparently when you stop drinking the booze, taste returns in new and exciting ways!* And considering the fact that my taste has probably been blown for decades it's no surprise that these new sensations are exciting, if a tad scary.**

Quitting drinking continues to be the best decision I could have made and the benefits continue to surprise me!

*This is incredibly surprising for me, especially since I must confess an uptick in smoking since I quit drinking, and I had always assumed the smoking is what was numbing my taste buds. Apparently alcohol was the much larger culprit!
**I really did think there was something wrong with those potato chips and that coffee at first.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What a lovely weekend.

Photo by me
It's been two back-to-back weekends of travel, but the last few days were quite lovely as Mich and I attended our friends Sam and Scott's nuptials in rural Pennsylvania.

We need more weekends like that.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump is so insane he probably thinks this song is a compliment.


Franz Ferdinand breaks their recording silence with this brand new track, part of Shepard Fairey's 30 Days 30, Songs project.

Dig the print above that's inspired by the song? Buy it and help support the Center for Popular Democracy "and their efforts towards Universal Voting Rights."

Thursday, October 13, 2016

And sometimes things don't work out, and that's O.K.

Today has been an exercise in learning bad news and rolling with it. In the past this would have probably set off an internal tantrum or grousing or some other sort of negative reaction, but given things I've learned and been personally working on this development has actually been met with acceptance. I'm starting to truly get the notion that things happen for a reason and you need to try and see that reason and the positive results it can trigger instead of getting hung up on an event that doesn't go your way and not moving past it.

I know this probably sounds rudimentary but sometimes it takes the longest to actually learn (and live) the simplest things.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

That legendary Nirvana gig I didn't attend.


25 years ago today Nirvana played the Metro, Kurt and Courtney started dating, Dave smashed his drum set, and it sounds like everyone involved kept the party going way into the night.

I wrote a piece on it for Chicagoist, so head on over and relive the glory.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Whirlwind.

Was out of town for the weekend attending a gathering with Mich's family. But there's been a lot of activity around these parts and it's all very exciting if a tad overwhelming! More on this soon, but for now we're just trying to keep up!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why can't our elections be decided through sing-offs and/or dance-offs?


Last night's debate was dismal. Thanks to Nell for finding this—it doesn't change anything but it makes me dream of an alternate reality where the candidates work in harmony to build a conversation instead of simply trying to destroy each other.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Big things are happening. RILLY BIG THINGS.

That's all I can really say. But I think these rilly big things are also rilly good things. So cross your fingers and help me think good thoughts.

Also, I am up rilly early because I can't stop thinking about these things. I think that's good? Right? Right?!

Thursday, October 06, 2016

A Giant Dog are your pop lifeguards of the day.

A Giant Dog, photo by Sean Daigle
I saw A Giant Dog a few months ago on a weeknight at The Empty Bottle. It was one of those times I didn't even make the connection that I'd listened to their new album months before, so when I went home that night jazzed about their live show* I was taken aback when I went searching for their LP only to realize I already had it!

Sometimes that first listen doesn't really make an impression, huh? However after seeing the show I was able to—fairly or not—hear the music differently and found myself enjoying the disc quite a bit more.

All of this is to say, give A Giant Dog a chance. And today is an excellent day to do so since they just released a new video!



*Once I got past the kind of over-the-top stereotypical stage antics of their singer** I was able to really get into the show.

**Don't get me wrong, I was clearly in the minority reading the performance asa bit canned; everyone else was way into it and I admit I found that crowd enthusiasm infectious.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Free Letters To Cleo, including new music!

Letters To Cleo is back, y'all! they have a new EP coming out soon (which is fabulous, trust me) and leading up to it they're offering up a tune from it, alongside some odds and ends from their back catalog, as a free (or pay what you want) download. And catch the band on a limited tour if they're coming through your town (they hit Double Door in Chicago on November 4).

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Gorillaz—phase four!



This is prettier on Twitter, but the video above tells the whole story as well...

Monday, October 03, 2016

Gettin' domestic. And other stuff.

Sigur Rós, photo by me.
I saw Sigur Rós on Friday and it was lovely. Their albums have given me feels in the past, but I have to admit the couple of times I've seen the band I didn't make an emotional connection to the music, and this show was no different. So I feel a weird sense of disconnection when I read posts and see photos with captions from other attendees that evening, detailing how the sounds brought them to tears and deeply moved them. I mean, I've been moved to tears at plenty of shows, but I seem emotionally immune to Sigur Rós' live sets. So be it; they're still a phenomenal live band regardless.

Other than that it was an unremarkable weekend, save one big event. But I won't talk about that event just yet. I know, THE SUSPENSE! Actually for the most part the weekend was spent with Mich ad I just hanging around, running various errands, and laying low. Gloriously so. In fact it was such a low-key weekend I was fast asleep by 8:30 p.m. Sunday evening! Someone buy me a shawl and walker now, I've already got the cat.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Dive right in.



I've been listening to the new Saint Motel album coming out next month. Their Lollapalooza set was a joy to behold and while the album doesn't quite capture that lightning it's still pretty, pop fun. Anyway, here's the video for the latest single "You Can Be You," a song that ranks high on the hummability-after-initial-listen scale. And even better, you can really "dig" into the 360º video, so play around with it* and have fun (and a great weekend)!

*Drag your vantage point around with your courser unless you're on a mobile device in which case you should open the video up in the YouTube app where it's even better and you can literally just move the screen around and immerse yourself in the action.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gratitude.

The amount of positive vibes and public and private messages of support related to yesterday's post have truly stunned and humbled me. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Thirty days.

Today marks the longest time I've gone without an alcoholic beverage in 30 days since 1995. Tomorrow will mark the longest time I've gone without a drink since the late '80s (!).

I decided a while ago it was time to make a change, a transformation, since I'm roughly halfway (only halfway, hopefully!) through my life and I'd like to make my coming years as awesome as possible. And part of that means approaching them with a clear head and a renewed focus on spirituality and doing the right things for the people (and world) around me. And putting bad habits behind me.

I know 30 days doesn't sound like a really long time, but it's just the beginning for me. I'll go into more detail about all of this at a later time, but I just wanted to share the positive news.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Lester Holt's finest work to date.

Lester Holt was a longtime Chicago reporter before his well deserved leap to the national media stage. I thought he did a great job last night of moderating in a firm yet fair manner during the Presidential debate, and he should be extremely proud of that. But I still believe this golden oldie is my favorite video piece of his, and everyone who has served on a jury in Cook County is sure to agree with me.



My friends, that is a power mustache.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The great debate.

I learned two things listening to tonight's debate over the radio:

  1. Hillary has what it takes to be a good president. The end. Vote for her.
  2. Donald Trump seems to believe that repeating a lie over and over and over again must have the magical power of making that lie eventually true. At least I hope that's what he was thinking, otherwise I am even more frightened than I already should be.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Politics.

I am simply perplexed. Vote Hillary. The end. Are you a liberal who simply doesn't like Hillary so you'll cast your vote for a third party candidate? Now is not the time to "take a stand." It will be your fault if we end up handing the country over to a dangerous, unstable, man-child / demagogue.

Think about that. Then do the right thing. More people are on the side of right in this election; let's not annihilate our country by allowing a catastrophe to emerge from a fracture of semantics.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I've always preferred Cat Power's funkier side.



Not new by any stretch—I've been digging the single since it dropped months ago—but I finally got around to listening to the rest of Cassius' Ibifornia and it reminded me just what a sublime little track this is, especially when stretched out to 8+ minutes. So dig the single edit then hunt out the full-length version if you want to throw an extended private dance party at your desk / couch / wherever you may be located at right this moment.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Post-fest fever.

If there's one thing I can count on, it's that I will often catch a terrible summer cold / flu after any music festival. I used to think it was because I'd abuse my body for too many days in a row, but now I realize it's probably just brought on by fields of blowing dust and the germs of a couple thousand people assaulting me non-stop over three to four days.

In other words: I'm dying right now. Hack hack cough cough!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Riot Fest 2016—it's a wrap! And a few additional notes from me...

Some guy totally ruined my excellent selfie!
Riot Fest was a blast this year. There were the usual naysayers who griped and grumbled about some things, but my personal experience was great. Here are a few quick notes about things we didn't get to address in our coverage on Chicagoist.

Morrissey
People complained about his 30 minute pre-show video (some blaming Riot Fest itself for "stalling" under the misconception Morrissey was being difficult about appearing) when this is something he shows BEFORE EVERY SINGLE SHOW HE PLAYS. There were also complaints about vendors not being allowed to sell meat during his set, which I admit was a bit of a stretch but also his prerogative given his highly principled stand against eating meat. I mean, theoretically he could have tried to ask for what he usually does and ban all meat sales, period.

And finally people were upset he didn't play a hits-heavy set, but I walked away satisfied, especially given his powerful performance of the rather prescient 2006 song "Ganglord." I thought his set was, in general, pretty punk rock.*

The layout
Riot Fest finally hit on near perfection with the layout of stages, food and vendors. The grounds were extremely easy to navigate and aside from particularly packed sets on the Rock Stage where the crowds reached back into gently rolling hills, I didn't encounter anything even remotely resembling a bottleneck. This includes exiting through the main gates at the end of each day. Kudos.

The bars
I didn't drink this year (more on that later) but I LOVED the fact that instead of generic beer tents, the bars were sponsored by Liar's Club, Cobra Lounge, Double Door, Motoblot and Reggie's—all local establishments with deep and vibrant roots into the local music scene. And they served beer in cans instead of out of kegs, which seemed to make the drinkers I ran into pretty happy.

Free water
O.K., this is the one area that could use work. Maybe next year they'll figure out how to add more water stations?

The crowd for Andrew W.K.just before everything went completely bonkers.
Happy discoveries
I had just about zero downtime this year because even when I wasn't covering a set I was supposed to catch for the Chicagoist reviews, I tended to stumble across pleasant surprises all weekend long. This included an intimate set by a band that shows future promise, The Walters; Violent Soho, an act that sounds like old school '90s aggressive fuzz pop Chicago and made me appreciate their latest album in a different light; the over-the-top reductive silliness of All Time Low, which I found kind of endearing in an odd way; The Vandals, duh; the crazy fun of Chevy Metal, which hadn't even been on my radar; the absolute power and insane crowd of The Wonder Years; and my way-to-late-to-the-party new appreciation for Motion City Soundtrack. And that's on top of what I had planned to cover and was responsible for.

The Misfits
It was packed and the sound varied depending on where you were, but I walked away happy and heard just about every single song by that band I could possibly want to see live. After too many years of either seeing The Misfits or Glenn Danzig at Riot Fest it was a true joy to see the band get back together. And if you were one of the casual fans who left early because you didn't get it, you fucked up.

The neighborhood
So far the only report of violence in the "bad" neighborhood Riot Fest's new home of Douglas Park I've seen involved a Riot Fest attendee on Riot Fest attendee attack. I even took a walk through the other side of the park—which is truly gorgeous—and enjoyed some quiet time by its lagoon (pond?) and lush greenery. Sure, Humboldt park was closer to where I live, but this location seems to offer Riot Fest great logistics, lovely surroundings and a supportive local community all too happy to set up numerous food stands and bring some more cash into the neighborhood, from what I could see. (And from what I can tell, there are quite a few Humboldt Park businesses none too happy with their Alderman for driving Riot Fest away...)

It's impossible for me to look at this photo and not laugh.
DIY
Riot Fest is still run by a small team. When you see how huge it's become—and believe me you don't know a fraction of what goes into it since attendees are completely oblivious to the small city hidden behind those screened fences surrounding the concert grounds—it's even more impressive that it's still a privately held affair. Even the handful of sponsors were aligned with the fest's philosophies and pretty much completely unobtrusive. No stages with corporate names to b seen here!

Sobriety and gratitude
This was my first Riot Fest where I didn't drink a drop of booze. And I still really enjoyed myself. I was graciously given a pass with lots of access but all I partook in was the free water and coffee. There was free food as well, but I spent my money on the local vendors on the festival grounds instead. I reckoned it was the very least I cold do when gifted with great access while others paid a pretty penny for their tickets. In fact this was the first year I was sober for all the major music festivals and it just made me appreciate even more just how lucky I am to attend these events and take in so many great bands. I've been writing about music for 27 years now, and I never take anything for granted just because I've been doing this for so long. Every concert is still an event for me (no matter how much I might grumble at times about being tired or sore or exhausted) an I hope it will always stay that way.

Thanks again, Riot Fest. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Check out our coverage on Chicagoist:

*I'm still bummed some people misinterpreted our Morrissey-related headline on Saturday and didn't actually read our piece since I think they missed the nuance that hed was trying to convey, something that actually taking in Stephen's thoughtful review of Morrissey's set would have immediately countered and clarified. Stop just reading headlines and pretending you get all the content of an article out of them, people!

Friday, September 16, 2016

My dogs are barking.

Day one of Riot Fest is over and my feet are broken. Seriously. I'm hobbling around like an old man! The forecast called for rain so I wore my boots, which are on their last legs (oof, no pun intended) instead of something sensible. And then it didn't rain.

Oh, how were the bands? Good enough to make me forget about the agony my lower extremities were in until I returned home!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"How does he skate in those jeans?"



This has been making the rounds again, so I'm sharing it for those who might have missed it. It could've easily been titled When Grunge Ruled The World™ if it weren't for the fact this clip was shot about four years after the death of "grunge."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tele Novella's "Heavy Baloon."



Tele Novella's new album is a nice like slice of catchy, old school indie rock, and "Heavy Balloon" is my favorite trackoff it. So I'm pleased to see they chose it for their first video!

If you live in Chicago they play Redline Tap on September 30.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cheerleader is my new band crush and they might just be yours as well.


I hit up three shows in three days over this weekend, and they were all good.* But the biggest surprise was Cheerleader's opening set at last night's Caveman show at Schubas.** Prior to a couple hours earlier that Sunday I had never heard of Philadelphia's Cheerleader. I walked out of the venue a fan and haven't been able to stop streaming their debut full-length, The Sunshine Of Your Youth,  today.

Cheerleader describes themselves as an "Indie Haze-Pop Quintet from Philadelphia" but that kind of undercuts their actual sound, since their songs are filled with bouncy hooks and a rhythm section that demands you dance, not gaze dreamily into the distance. And there's just something so solidly optimistic about their sound—something that doesn't feel like it happens all that often any more without the results being stifling. The Sunshine Of Your Youth is wide open and welcoming. So give into it.

If you only have time for a song or two, jump to "A Million Ways" or "Perfect Vision," and then just try not to listen to all the other songs. You'll be hooked.



*For the record: Friday was Matthew Sweet and Material Reissue at Park West and Saturday was Band Of Skulls—who were far better than I had expected and may now be my favorite frontrunner of all the heavy blues based bands, even outstripping The Black Keys at this point.

**Caveman was also really good, even pulling out a cover of The Stone Roses' "I Wanna Be Adored" for their encore, but to my ears the night really belonged to Cheerleader.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Wicked "Warszawa" cover!

Donny McCaslin's jazz combo backed David Bowie on his final album Blackstar a.k.a. Blackstar, and the band just released a mid-period Bowie cover of Warszawa. They take the song's gently swelling synth basis and blow it into another dimension of tension through the band's instrumentation and inventive arrangement.

Dig it.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

What does ACD stand for?

Figure 1, keeping me grounded
I'm glad you asked. It stands for "Associate Creative Director," which coincidentally is my new job title. That's right kids, little Tankboy got a promotion! That means I'm the day-to-day creative lead on a whole bunch of accounts and I can't tell you how excited I am to tackle this new-ish role (like any promotion, I've already been handling most if not all of the tasks the role demands on my current accounts—it's how you get promoted, silly!).

This is really exciting news, and I am eternally beholden to all of my awesome co-workers—nay, teammates—who I have worked along side over the past few years. I can't wait to take this next step of my closerlook journey with such an amazing group of people.

Of course, the only person not impressed by this news? Pickle the Kitten (see Figure 1, above). She helps keep me humble.

Let's celebrate with a song! This one has no lyrical connection or meaning, I just have always found it super sonically bubbly and catchy and it does kind of mirror my current mood sound-wise.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

This is not a parody. In fact this TV show ran for FIVE seasons!!!



Notice that the only person sexualized in these opening credits is Lorenzo Lama. Presumably because Lorenzo didn't want anyone else to seem sexier than him.

Please be careful watching this since there is a chance your jaw will break as it plummets to the floor.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

This needs to be a stand-alone sitcom in the Marvel Universe.



I love that Marvel has a sense of humor, but I love even more that Chris Hemsworth pulls this off while still remaining convincingly in character.

Bonus points for the extra Avenger cameo.
.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Takin' today off....

...because I don't feel like laboring on Labor Day. I've actually been up and busy since 6 a.m. so it's not like I'm completely work free today, but I think I can skip a post that requires too much effort. Oh holy heck, just typing this counts as effort, right? Auuuugh! Looks like I labored on this post on Labor Day—albeit just a bit—after all!

Friday, September 02, 2016

Day before the holiday weekend.

The office is nearly empty.

I think I'm the only left who actually has any work to do.

And we are all counting down the seconds until the clock strikes three and we are free, free, FREE for the looooong holiday weekend!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Decreasing poundage.

I'm down almost 20 pounds over the last three months. And I expect I'll drop anther 10 to 15 in the next three. The first half of this weight decrease was probably driven by unhealthy habits, the next half will be driven by building positive habits. I'm looking forward to getting in even better shape the right way!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Cartwheels and such!

Up until today it had been a bit of a week. Well, weeks. I haven't been feeling well and a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff has kept me incredibly occupied. I can't go into all the details here, but today was a nigh perfect day. Early workout, lunch by a rooftop pool, extremely good news, and optimism infecting my future all came together to craft one of the best days I've had all year.

Oh! And the latest Bloom County book I pre-ordered months ago showed up, and I completely forgot that it included an actual autograph from Berkeley Breathed on the frontispiece!

Color me a pretty happy, if somewhat exhausted, boy right now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Creepy crawly.



I'm not really familiar with K. Flay but I got sent a copy of her new EP, and while it's O.K. (not really knocking me out on every level) the lead off track "Blood In The Cut" is quite nice. It's a sultry little burner that crawls along like a menacing wolf creeping through the dark underbrush barely illuminated by a moon half hidden behind a bank of menacing clouds.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Big, big day.

I know I don't usually post inscrutable stuff here, so for once indulge me and let me write this for myself. Big steps are being made starting today that will have far reaching impact and a deeply positive effect.

Maybe sometime I'll spill the beans. Maybe I never will.

You'll just have to wait and find out!

Oh yeah, I also got two new tattoos yesterday. They ended up a little bigger than I think I envisioned, and I'm still getting used to them. But they mean something to me—that even extends beyond the obvious Bowie nod—that reaches deep into my family and will serve as a mile marker for future actions.

At least that's the thinking.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Yesterday marked my 4700th post here.

Photo by Epic Fireworks
That a lot of posts! I mean, maybe not to folks who are required to kick out 5-8 posts (or more) a day for their job. But for a little website I quietly started in May of 2002 and has only ever written on a labor of love (and sometimes anguish) I'd say it's a reasonably impressive milestone.

So a sparkling cider toast to this little site—I mean, it is still underage so we'll hold off on the champagne for for now—and to you as well, no matter how long you've been visiting here.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Today was a good day.

Excellent presentation at work. Excellent fried chicken for lunch. Excellent progress in my James Bond movie watching. Excellent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Rachael has a new song.

Photo by Laura Crosta
You should listen to it. Also I managed to get my hands on the new album and it is amazing. I can't wait to write about it closer to its release date.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

New routine.

Lately I've been spending a lot of time on my porch. I get home from work, make some dinner and listen to podcasts. And after the sun goes down I break out the iHome and listen to some tunes to catch up on all the music I get sent. And if I'm not doing that I've started to mainline the entire James Bond series from start to finish.

I know, this sounds boring but it's not.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Wilco Schmilco.

At the last second I ended up seeing Wilco at Millennium Park last night and I'm glad I did. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen them play and I've been following the band since the very beginning. (My next door nighbor in college was the drummer for Uncle Tupelo's little sister so I got clued into them really early on.)

Anyway, their new album is super mellow, so I was afraid last nights show would be as well. Hoo boy was I wrong.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Step by step.

It's been a year. But I'm finally committed to taking steps to fix the stuff that has gone wrong over the past few months. It's both scary and freeing because I feel like I've finally turned a corner and suddenly discovered the right direction I should be moving.

Hang in there, kid.

This summer can bite me.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Direct hit to the head.



I know you're probably allergic to the concept of a punk rock concept album but this one is so, so good. Also, the last time I saw Direct Hit! I think I got a concussion. Or broke my cheek bone. But I still love them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

My friends, they have talents.


I've hit the point where my incredibly talented musician friends literally just make music for themselves. Lizz sent me these tracks a while ago and I only recently got a chance to listen to them and was (as usual) blown away what she, Blake, Nixon, and their drummer whose name I can never remember (but he's talented!) can put together.

Of course what Lizz didn't tell me is that they quietly released the track for free LAST JUNE. That's kind of how I can tell old musician friends from new ones: the old ones never even tell me when new music is out because they don't care. Of course they want people to hear it, but they don't need to lean on the exposure I can give them in order to attract other people to validate their art. They just do it.

And I find that inspirational. And it's kind of how music should be, right? Do it for yourself, and if other people come to find it ... well that's just gravy.