Wednesday, August 25, 2010


i've been to plenty of shows over the years. more than i can count, actually. i try to keep tickets from all of them, but it's no use anymore. seeing music played live is simply a joy. we've heard the studio-recorded albums, but hearing the band reproduce their music live and in person is a different experience.

my favorite live bands have plenty of energy (squad five-o, the avett brothers) or play their music undeniably well (thrice, jimmy eat world). listening to their music at home reminds me of the performances i've witnessed and gives an extra layer to the fandom of these bands.

but i don't need to tell you that. you've been to concerts. you know what i'm talking about. so i'll cut to the chase. here are a few of the most memorable moments from the most memorable shows i've been to.

Yellowcard - Club Laga, December 2003

Yellowcard is simply one of the best live bands I've seen. My first encounter was at the Warped Tour of this same year, but after that tour I started listening to Ocean Avenue and was jazzed to see them live again. This was the last show I'd see at my favorite venue of all time. The most memorable moment came when violin player Sean Mackin performed his signature backflip off an amp during "October Nights". It's an electrifying move, especially when the old fans know it's coming.

Squad Five-O - Someone's garage in Tarentum, PA, December 2004

Squad Five-O might be the best live band I've seen. During a stretch of seeing these boys 4 times in a year, a show was relocated from the South Side to a random garage in Tarentum, PA. My attendance almost did not happen because I was offered Steelers tickets, but Kristin, Dana, and myself ended up going to the most surreal concert experience I've been to. Bottom line: Jeff Fortson swinging from the garage door track and punching out a light bulb.

Brand New, Thrice, and mewithoutYou - AJ Palumbo Center, December 2007

This was the greatest non-Squad, non-Avett concert I've been to. The lineup was simply disgusting. Brand New is one of my favorite bands and this was the first time I saw them. I hadn't listened to Thrice much, but they quickly became a new favorite after this show (I've seen them twice since). mewithoutYou puts out a fantastic live performance every time, thanks in part to the eccentric personality of lead man Aaron Weiss. No one moment stood out in particular, but I recall being more excited for this concert than any in my life. Thrice's performance of "The Earth Will Shake" is burned into my memory and Brand New brought a pair of drumsets (and probably a pile of drugs).

MxPx - Post-Gazette Pavilion, Warped Tour 2004

I've seen plenty of memorable performance by MxPx. My first experience in high school at Metropol was fantastic and they brought an impressive redemptive performance in 2007 on a loaded Tooth and Nail tour (Sullivan, Run Kid Run, The Classic Crime, The Fold). The most memorable moment, though, came on the Vans Warped Tour in 2004. Mike, Tom, and Yuri were in rare form, pulling together an intense 30-minute set. The set was so intense that it became very hard to breathe in the pit. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the band, or maybe it was the fact that this was our first pit of the day, but MxPx almost rocked us too hard to breathe that day.

The Avett Brothers - Kent Stage, Kent, OH, March 2008

I've saved the best for last. The Avett Brothers were not my favorite band when I first started listening to them, but thanks to encouragement from a couple close friends and a crush on a concert-going friend, I found myself in the middle of Ohio seeing a bluegrass/folk band that was about to blow my mind. The Avett Brothers bring it every single night. They're full of unprecedented energy, authenticity, and love. This show led to 8 concerts in 3 states over the next 2+ years.

The most memorable moment: an unprecedented second encore. The Bros played the best set I've seen from them with plenty of classics, followed by a nasty encore featuring the newly-released Murder in the City and Pretty Girl from Chile. After that, the show was over, until 1/3 of the crowd didn't leave. 100-150 people were left, singing the "la-las" from Go to Sleep, hoping the boys would come back out. The Avetts came back out with wifebeaters on, clearly having retired for the night until the crowd remained. They threw down a verse from the rarely-played Tales of Coming News before hitting an emotional high with Salvation Song. An unbelievable end to an unforgettable beginning of a musical love affair.

Honorable mention: Jimmy Eat World's flawlessness at Carnegie Library and Music Hall, finally seeing Blindside open for POD after 2 tries at Purple Door, Reese Roper wearing a Barney costume on the Purple Door stage for Five Iron Frenzy, seeing a dude dropped on his head during The Ataris at Warped Tour, Green Day (one of the best live bands in the world) with my sister and brother-in law.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

favorites of music series

i love music. it gives us a soundtrack to our lives. it often expresses emotions and thoughts which we cannot verbalize ourselves.

i also love lists. i enjoy ranking things and determining which things are best, or at least better than others.

thirdly, i clearly love reflection. i enjoy taking a look back at what once was and what has shaped the world and my existence today.

those statements being made, i will begin a new blog series today ranking my favorite albums, artists, and songs. i'll be going through my music library to find favorites from different genres and time periods in my life that have lasted in my memory today. my goal is to share this music with you, but also to allow me to reflect on what's happened in my life, musically, to bring me to this point. also, august is boring and school is starting soon, so it's something fun to do!

please read and respond. my favorites won't be your favorites. there are plenty of albums i haven't listened to or have forgotten about, so tell me. these are my preferences.

i'll start the series with a list of the 5 most important albums in the shaping of my musical tastes, in no particular order.

Squad Five-O - Squad Five-O

If I had to pick the most influential, it'd be this one. I'm sure most of you haven't even heard of Squad Five-O, but this Philly/Georgia quintet fused the style and energy of The Rolling Stones and The Clash into one hip, energetic, classic composition. Jeff Fortson was the frontman and will only be rivaled in my heart by Scott Avett. His energy and confidence on stage was electrifying. Their lyrics were plain and true. Squad was believable and enjoyable, flat out.

This album is important to me because it showed me what true rock and roll is all about. Brandon Gulish had me listen to this album on the way to play football in 12th grade and my life has never been the same.

Key tracks: I Don't Wanna Change the World, I Just Want to Change Your Mind; Wasted (With You); Don't Come Runnin'

The Avett Brothers - Emotionalism

It took me a long time to warm up to these guys, but once I ignored the fact that the Avetts' genre (bluegrass/folk/country) isn't my favorite, I saw the core. The core of energy, truth, and incredible songwriting. Emotionalism isn't my favorite album of theirs (see: Mignonette), but it was the introduction for me. I listened to this album for the first time on a stroll to see my newborn nephew, Joshua, at Magee Women's Hospital in February 2008 (thanks to a suggestion from Andrew Armstrong). The quiet walk in south Oakland allowed for an uninhibited listen to the truth behind the lyrics of these boys from North Carolina. Eight concerts later, The Avett Brothers are far and away my favorite band, starting with that stroll with Emotionalism.

Key tracks: Paranoia in Bb Major; Shame; The Ballad of Love and Hate

MxPx - At the Show

There isn't too much room for live albums on lists like these, but this album is second in importance only to SFO. This one was also passed along to me by Brandon Gulish; this time in 10th grade. It was an introduction to music that wasn't on the radio. MxPx's energy is undeniable, as is apparent on a live recording. This was a collection of their best stuff, recorded shortly after their best studio album was released (Slowly Going the Way of the Buffalo). This album was my go-to on long road trips and got me through a lot of tough times. MxPx was the reminder that simple, fast tunes about life in general were all you needed sometimes.

Key tracks: Chick Magnet; I'm Ok, You're Ok; Under Lock and Key

Brand New - Deja Entendu

Deja Entendu was the definition of my early college years. I missed the boat on the whole pop-punk/emo infusion from Brand New and Taking Back Sunday in high school, so when I happened across Deja Entendu in college it became my anthem. It's dark and depressing, perfect for those days when it just seems like the world is against you. I have plenty of fond memories from walking around campus with this album in my ears, shutting out the world along the way. This is Brand New's masterpiece.

Key tracks: The Quiet Things that No One Ever Knows; Jaws Theme Swimming; Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades

Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

I resisted Bright Eyes for a long time. Super-emo, super-depressing at times, yet a lyrical genius. Conor Oberst has become an indie music legend through finding "a liquid cure for my land-locked blues", suggesting that "we must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul", and encouraging us that "i'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery". His lyrics are infectious and we can all relate to them in one way or another. This album is on the list because the songwriting is impeccable. After you listen to any track on I'm Wide Awake, you feel like picking up a guitar and singing the truth.

Key tracks: First Day of My Life; At the Bottom of Everything; Land Locked Blues