An evening with David Mitchell and Lana Wachowski

A lovely evening. Mitchell read from the first passage of Slade House (which I read a week or so ago, I’ll try to tell you about it soon!) and then he and Wachowski had a lovely conversation about art and immortality and writing between genres (as it were).

There were quite a number of moments I wish I could have recorded, but here are the two I wrote down.

On writing between genres, or being told your book should/shouldn’t have something because you’re not in X genre:
“If a book needs a dragon, it should have a dragon.”

On reading reviews: he said he certainly never reads the bad ones, because they’re so demoralizing and haunt you for months, but then he said he doesn’t read the good ones either:
“…even the good ones are wasps at the picnic of a calm mind.”

WOW what an image.

I’ve been a huge fan of his books for a long time now (the other book I took with me to have signed was Black Swan Green, which is one of my all-time favorite books) and it was wonderful to hear Nathan (the first character in Slade House) read in his voice. He doesn’t have a straight-up English accent, there’s a bit of a lisping quality around his Rs that I wondered if originates from his time in Japan/Asia…

I can’t wait to see what he writes next.

In Concert: Greg Laswell

What a wonderful evening. Not only does this guy give possibly the best stage banter I’ve ever heard–at one point I was laughing so hard my cheekbones hurt–but his tunes are beautiful.

He played both my favorites (Sweet Dream and [his cover of] Your Ghost) and I went home very happy.

I try to avoid seeing the same people over and over, but I would buy tickets to see him again in a heartbeat!

Also: SPACE in Evanston = awesome. Small, intimate, good acoustics, reserved seating (if you pay for it), lovely.

In Concert: Purple Apple

Teenagers, just starting out. But dang you can really see [hear] some potential there. Some sassy well-done originals. Some great covers. (They killed on Joan Jett.) I’m excited to see where they go from here.

The lead singer is my friend’s niece. The dude who mixes their stuff is my other friend’s brother. Obviously I would probably not have heard of them otherwise. But I brought people to the show who didn’t have those connections and they saw the potential as well!

In Concert: Joseph Arthur

Of course if you’ve listened to his albums, you know this dude is multi-talented, can swing from style to style, can sing in various ranges, etc., etc…but hearing him live STILL blew my mind.

He made every song sound fresh and new, but not in that “I must sing this so it sounds nothing like it does on the album” way that some groups seem so intent on live. More in a “this song is a platform for me to show you a new creation” way.

All by himself up on stage but he filled the room with sound like he was a 10-piece band. So awesome.

Live at Lollapalooza: Friday

As has become my custom, I only go to the least crowded day now that it doesn’t change venues (and as a result, in my opinion, gets more and more attendees). And then I had to cancel going to Monolith (my preferred festival) due to school work. It was not a great summer of live shows for me (just as it wasn’t a great year for music overall chez Duff).

The Knux – These guys were so great, really the highlight of the day (and since they were the first band, I saw, it is definitely a little bit downhill from there). It wasn’t raining that hard yet, they were UP, UP, UP energy wise and I loved it. I just wish they had played “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

White Lies – I hadn’t planned to check these guys out but turned out they were on the field I needed to meet up with people at so I did. And I liked what I heard!

Bon Iver – I’ve seen him/them four times now and there isn’t that much variation in their show. I just kinda listened in the background; I don’t think an outdoor venue is the greatest for them (and nothing will probably ever beat when I saw them at the Lakeshore Theater, a TINY spot right around the corner from my house).

Ben Folds and Fleet Foxes – I don’t really remember what I thought of these sets. I know, WHY am I writing this up in January when it was in August. I know.

Of Montreal – These guys just put on such a SHOW, whether you are a fan or not. Always something to see.

Depeche Mode – Totally disappointing. They played only a VERY FEW songs from the albums I love. I didn’t love this set.

Best of October

The best movie I saw in October was a three-way tie between Zach and Miri Make a Porno, Let the Right One In, and Hunger, all of which I saw at the Chicago Film Festival. In regular movie releases, I also really liked The Duchess.
The best book I read in October was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. I also really liked Conversations at Curlow Creek, by David Malouf, my favorite Aussie author.
The best gig I went to in October would be Fujiya & Miyagi. I didn’t write up any of the October shows so here’s the quick and dirty: Liam Finn, was completely unlike his album, super into experimental, extemporaneous, and jam band-type style if you can be a jam band when there are only two people on stage; Catie Curtis sang some really nice sweet songs, but also some goofy stuff that isn’t really my thing. And Fujiya & Miyagi was good, they sounded great, people were into it, the beats were hoppin’….but at some point all the songs start to sound the same. Felt like we heard an hour of one long song with a great beat.
My favorite tunes in October were the latest albums from Keane and Ray LaMontagne and my top two favorite songs were “Honey Let Me Sing You a Song” Matt Hires and the First Aid Kit cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song”.
Random personal highlights: My dad came to visit and joined wholeheartedly in my 365 project and it was outstanding.
Lowlights? Fallout at secondary browsing location continued. My Morning Jacket concert cancelled and then I wound up blowing off a Joseph Arthur concert as I just didn’t have any energy that day. Also had a weird shiatsu massage that bruised/hurt my back so badly I could barely sit in a chair for two days afterward

In Concert: My Morning Jacket

Intense show. Some of the songs sounded really good (“Highly Suspicious” and “I’m Amazed”), their harmonies were really pretty. But unless you are into jam bands (I’m not), you probably want to skip seeing them live as I would conservatively estimate that two out of every three songs devolved into a 15-minute Allman Bros-type jam session. (And it was probably closer to three out of four, frankly.) A few per concert would be fine. Two out of three songs? Kinda boring. I’m just more into lyrics. Or the combination of lyrics, harmonies AND the music.
The rest of the crowd seemed to be totally into it.
Our other question was: Jim James, are you prone to chills?

Live Tunes: Winter.

At this point last year, I had already gone to all the concerts I would be going to. Oddly, it’s December 26, but I still have some live music left to see in 2008!! But I’ve only bought tickets to one thing so far in 2009, which is equally odd. I better start checking concert listings!!
Dec 27: My Morning Jacket!!! (The rescheduling of the October show that got cancelled.)
Dec 31: The Sea & The Cake! (with Cathy coming to visit! Yay!)
Feb 7: Griffin House (with Steph coming down for the night! Yay!)

English Folk Night at the Bottom Lounge.

We/Or/Me – Didn’t like these guys. Too slow and depressing and totally slit your wrists to music. Whoops, did I say that out loud? Musically I’m sure they were fine. It was just way too mellow for me at that moment. We retired to the outer bar and the photobooth to pep ourselves back up.
Mumford & Sons – If you’ve been reading, then you must already know I absolutely LOVED these guys. Lead has a very distinctive voice, band sports unusual instruments, lots of harmonies and earnestness. They put on a great show, I am completely obsessed with a few of their only five tunes I’ve been able to get recordings of so far (this one), and I would highly recommend them should they stop by your town.
Laura Marling – She has an interesting voice but I wasn’t really feelin’ it.
Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit – Liked these guys. Certainly the most “rock” folk of the evening and a slightly more polished set than the others (not that polish is always a good thing, but they stood out as seemingly a more experienced touring band). But almost more entertaining than the music was watching members of the previous bands dancing in the audience. Clearly they are all having a great time touring together.

Live at Monolith

So Monolith has become (by far) my favorite music festival, after several years going to both Lollapalooza and Pitchfork. Since it takes place in a place actually intended for music, rather than a random field, it has a) real bathrooms and b) built-in SEATING for the main stage (yes, seating, can you believe it) and c) NO DIRT and those are just three of the many reasons it was more pleasant.

Also instead of getting up early and staying out late and going to see 900 bands a day, we were big time lazybones, didn’t show up until post noon, heard a few bands, and then went home to hot tubs and good beer and pizza and Wii and board games and puppy kisses and time with friends. Ah. Sweet.

Friday (9/13):

Cut Copy – Yay! So upbeat and fun. These guys got the crowd moving, crazy dancing times. People were INTO it, big time, and it was super early.

The Fratellis – Surprisingly, even though I think they are just as good as Cut Copy (and have more material), the crowd didn’t seem engaged. They still sounded good, to me, but something was missing between them and the audience.

Vampire Weekend – Really, I am not a fan of this band. I guess I just don’t get why people listen to their pale imitation rather than say the actual African bands they are mimicking and/or stealing from depending on your point of view. One of my frequent partners in concertgoing crime in Chicago is an Anthro PhD who has spent beaucoup de temps in Africa and this is a HUGE pet peeve for her. Anyway, I am not a real fan, not planning to buy their album…. but they DID put on a pretty good show. Good stage banter, crowd was into it. It was a pleasant hour of the afternoon….

[And then we went home! See, I told you, totally lazy “we’ll see a few bands and then we’ll relax”! It was awesome!]

Saturday (9/14):

The Avett Brothers – Yay yay yay!!! I couldn’t wait to see these guys, they were one of my main reasons for wanting to go. And did they ever bring it. So much energy on stage, just pouring everything they have into it. Sounded great. I even stood up and danced! Can you believe it! *

The Kills – They were late going onstage and it seemed like maybe it was a sound or wiring issue or something? The band seemed annoyed / made comments to the crowd about us being nicer than the people who worked there or something? But they still sounded great. Not as upbeat as their set at Lollapalooza, but really rocking out. I dug it.

Band of Horses – Wowza. This was a completely magical set. They came onstage right as darkness really settled in and the stage lights went purple and the music was spooky and ethereal and lilting through the crowd and I almost started crying just over the beauty of it all. Lovely.

[And then we went home!]

*Oh, you have not seen me at concerts? Yeah, I dance more in my own apartment than ever at a concert. At concerts I am very intent. On the listening part. I might move my knees. Generally that is it. See, I am shorter than everyone and oftentimes I find I have to really concentrate to be able to hear over the annoying people talking who are all taller than me and thus their mouths are right above my ears and they are inhibiting the my being able to hear the music part of the concert which is generally the whole reason I went.