Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rock the Republic

Very cool festival in downtown Bryan. This is year 2. It has been supremely well organized. Tons of security, vendors, shows and venues. Marketing seems to have fallen short though. I found out about it the day before, thanks to Corinna & Wayne. Bless you, dear friends! They are the kind of couple who don't mind having me as a third wheel. How cool is that? I loved walking from venue to venue, cracking jokes, eating funnel cakes (too sticky!) together. These nights I've been glad to be me, here. That's something to hold onto.

Crowds have been thin however, and while I don't mind having front row spots for every show, I worry that they won't have the bucks to put it on again next year. It was $25 for all 3 nights & that includes as many shows as you can take in. The beautiful weather, light breezes and temps in the low 70s came for free.

Note: Being able to attend two shows like this, back to back, is the silver lining in the cloud of being single. I expressed gratitude to the universe for this perk. Yes, many, many days I feel overwhelmed and bereft of my Prince Charming-ish (tongue in cheek!), but being able to enjoy these two nights of music with two great people was a treat. For the last night, tonight!, shows start after bedtime & the kids have been invited to sleepover with their friends, so that we can all hit that last night while our children slumber peacefully. Triple cool.

Our batting average @ this local festival has been impressive, even better than at SXSW, honestly, in terms of the ratio of bands seen to sheer awesomeness. Both nights (tonight finishes up the festival) have yielded stunning bands, like jaw-dropping, hand-clapping good. These are the keepers I've heard thusfar. Even the other shows were enjoyable. These were just the standouts, the groups I WILL see again. I wish all of you could have been there with us!

Thursday night -
Loved three groups outta Austin.
1) Bright Light Social Hour. Thought I had happened upon a Stillwater show (the fictitious 70s rock band in "Almost Famous"). They had a bluesy Led Zeppelin meets the Black Crowes vibe. Lots and lots of long hair. ("Hairography," said Corinna.) Lots and lots of enormous mustaches. I heard a little Drive-by Truckers in them. I also saw some truck driver styles on stage. This was my first moment of, "Wow, they have some serious performers at this festival. I'm gonna listen hard."

2) Wiretree. An indie ensemble reminiscent of the Shins. Lead singer had a lovely plaintive voice and a geeky chic vibe (flat front pants, thick glasses, etc.). Liked them a bunch. They would be great to listen to in a coffee shop, just super easy on the ears. Theirs is the kind of music I like to sing myself. ("Hey, mind if I join you on stage? Oh, you do? A problem? Sorry, my bad. I'll just ... sit back down.")

3) Quiet Company. A big band with a brass section, everybody wearing three piece suits and ties. Very polished and cool. I thought they sounded a bit like Okkervil River, as in, the lead singer could yell really effectively. He had a great voice and a passionate energy. Up and down from his keyboard to the guitar. The trombonist was going crazy on his moves. Very fun to watch. I would drive to see them again for sure. I hope they come here or I hope I catch them in Austin.

plus 4) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. One of my fav former students is in this band, and I was impressed with the show. I was probably the oldest person at the show ... and the most tired (couldn't stop yawning), but I liked their songs and hooks. They call themselves a Death Cab for Cutie kinda band. And I love DCFC.

Friday night -
1) The Orbans. A band out of Fort Worth but the lead singer is from Bryan. His aunt and uncle were cheering in the front section. And his voice was stellar. High and clear, great emoting. I wondered if the name of the group is a tip to Roy Orbison. Hard to tell. They had an Eagles kind of sound with layered male harmonies that impressed me. Everybody in the band - the keyboardist, bassist, lead guitarist and lead singer all sang harmonies. The sound was alt country in places, but rockabilly in other places. We got to talk to the drummer and lead singer after the show too. Super fun! I just wanted to apologize for there only being 20 people in the audience. That was a little awkward, to look behind us and see ... an open downtown plaza. Oh well, their loss (their meaning Blinn & TAMU students). But wait, OUR loss too if the Rock the Republic promoters can't get funds to secure next year's acts. Grumble, grumble. Corinna might volunteer her services to consult on marketing. She had some good ideas!

2) Band of Heathens. Also out of Austin, this band has something very unique about it - three lead singers/lead guitarists. They also have a great drummer and bassist, but the three guys in front EACH has an amazing memorable voice, a cool look (one was a young Tim McGraw, another looked SoCal skater cool, and the third, my fav, looked like Luke Wilson's fraternal twin with long dark wavy hair, black mustache and Padres jersey). Each guy took turn singing lead & they all provided harmonies. One of the guys played a lap steel, another played a Hammond organ, plus guitar guitar guitar. The lap steel lead guy also had a robin's egg blue Epiphone round body guitar that I would have liked to have "borrowed" for aesthetic reasons. It was the prettiest guitar I've seen in a long time.

This kind of live music - loud, local, lovely - really lifts my spirits. The bass was so loud on Friday night that it lifted my heart rate as well. "Arrhythmia anyone?" asked Wayne. Yes, we could literally FEEL the music. But especially in an outdoor venue watched over by a gorgeous October Texas moon, it wasn't too much at all. (Echoes of Neil Young's "Harvest". Actually, the Orbans had a Neil Young undertone, especially in the soulful guitar.) Bring on the volume!

Here's one of my favs from the Orbans, "Like a Liar":

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gallows humor

More Season 4 fun ... I watched the third DVD in my 30 Rock boxset and really enjoyed the following moment(s) from one of the episodes included. A recurring plotline on the show is that Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) is trying to earn an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar & Tony). Toward that end, his entourage has encouraged him to make a hard-hitting movie over his summer hiatus about growing up in the South Bronx, instead of playing the title role in "Garfield III: Feline Groovy" ("The title is a pun," says Tracy, "Since cats have grooves in their paws." LOL!) However, Tracy is not willing, initially, to revisit his memories of growing up neglected in foster care in the South Bronx.

The series has already touched on Tracy's troubled past. In Season 1, Tracy takes Liz to his old neighborhood, for example, and earlier in Season 4, a joke is made about not being able to locate Tracy's mom for a special Mother's Day episode.  ("But I told you what I remembered about her," says Tracy. "Yes, you told us 'She was wearing a red shirt in 1984'," replies the show's producer Pete, with an eye roll.)

After his entourage (Kenneth and Dot Com, no Grizz in sight) finally drags him up to the South Bronx, Tracy sees a familiar stairwell and experiences a kind of breakthrough ... his repressed childhood memories come flooding back and he is overcome with emotion, sharing the various horrors he lived through.

p.s. I know it's not especially funny to joke about terrible childhoods, but I think the show does a good job of keeping it funny. My favorite line just might be the one about a pack of wild dogs taking over and successfully running a Wendy's. Or the one about finding a child's shoe in his burrito.