Saturday, December 09, 2017

Mogwai @ Terminal 5 (12/8/2017)

The short story is that Mogwai's new stuff is not as good as some of their older stuff, and the more new stuff they play the less good the show is.  I didn't prep much for this show, but I don't think that affected my impression of it too much (though there were certainly a few songs that I didn't recognize).  Their setlist spanned their catalog, which was good for some variety; but their mid-career material (especially Happy Songs for Happy People and Mr. Beast) is their best work in my opinion.  The stage setup and lights were interesting, though not mind-blowing.  I could have done without a couple of sections of excessively loud noise, and the accompanying hearing loss (I need to start taking ear plugs to shows).  It was also weird to see them play a couple of songs with undistorted vocals; one was from the new album, and one I didn't recognize.

Rating: 4.2/5

Friday, November 03, 2017

alt-J @ Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts (11/3/2017)

I was a little worried going into this show because I feel like alt-J's album from this year (Relaxer) is without question their weakest yet, but things turned out better than expected.  The band apparently knows not to play the songs from the album that are garbage.  The setlist spanned their entire backlog so far, and they played pretty much every good song that they have, save for "Hunger of the Pine".  In addition, the light show was on point.  The visuals were stimulating and matched the music well, but at the same time kept the musicians somewhat out of focus.  I have nothing to complain about regarding their performance - it was enjoyable from start to finish.

One thing they did that I haven't seen at a concert before...  At the end of the show they put up credits that named the band, visual artist, crew, etc (and then put up a Thank You).

Rating: 4.7/5

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Hundred Waters @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (10/7/17)

I don't know what it is about too-cool-for-school Brooklyn, but in my humble opinion 10:40 is too late for the main act to come on stage.  I arrived a little before 10pm (doors were @ 8, first act @ 9), thinking that I might be a little late for Hundred  Waters; I was obviously wrong.  They were scheduled to come on third at 10:30, and were about 10 minutes late to start.

Things were pretty good once Hundred Waters started.  They played a lot from their most recent album release (Communicating), but I was pleasantly surprised that they played a few from the prior EP (Currency) - the title track from that EP is my favorite song of theirs this year.  The slow songs from the new album didn't do that much for me, but there were a couple (such as the title track, which they opened with) that I appreciate more now after seeing live.  I was surprised that they didn't play "Xtalk", and wish they would have.  They had 3 dancers perform onstage on a couple of their songs, including that first one.  Overall, I wasn't quite as impressed as the first time I saw them, but it was still a good show.

As an aside, the Music Hall of Williamsburg is a solid venue.  It has a pretty intimate feel without being just a dive.  The layout with the mezzanine also allows it to get pretty loud when the crowd is cheering hard.

Rating: 4.3/5

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Interpol @ Forest Hills Stadium (9/23/17)

Yeah...having that pole prominently block my view of center stage didn't help my feelings about this show.  But it was still mostly good, regardless.  Per the e-mailed schedule, Interpol was supposed to take the stage at 8:10pm.  Running on CPT like I normally do, I didn't give myself too much travel time buffer to get there before they were scheduled to start (though I had heard Battles and Deerhoof before, I didn't really want to sit through either of their performances).  And then I ran into NYC MTA subway maintenance woes - the E line was not running at the stop closest to the temp corporate apartment I was staying in.  So I had to hoof it over to catch the R a few blocks north, and that train was experiencing delays.  I made it to the stadium around 8:30, but was lucky to find out that Interpol hadn't taken the stage yet - they got on around 8:40 or 8:45.

As planned, they played Turn on the Bright Lights from start to finish - it was the 15th anniversary of their debut album's release.  They also played another song from that era, but I had never heard it before.  After a break they came out for an encore, but only got through 3 or 4 songs before they were stopped due to the strict 10pm curfew.  Maybe starting late wasn't that great after all.

Performance-wise, they were mostly on point.  Paul's vocals sounded a bit off on quite a few songs, but I'm not sure if it was him, the sound mix, the acoustics in the stadium, or some combination thereof.  It would have been nice to hear them play a few more songs, especially more of the newer material.  So the shortened show and sub-optimal view from my seat gives this concert a lower score than it would deserve in ideal conditions.

Rating 4.3/5

Thursday, September 21, 2017

MuteMath @ Brooklyn Steel (9/20/2017)

This was my first show after moving to NYC.  I timed my arrival pretty well, getting there just as the second opener was finishing up.  MuteMath played for close to an hour and 45 minutes.  I wasn't feeling it that much for the first part of their set (during which they played a few of the new tunes), which had me a bit worried.  But things eventually picked up through the intermission and one-song encore ("Typical", of course), and I was on a pretty good high when I left (in addition to a bit of hearing loss).  They did seem to play a bunch of the songs differently than they have in the past (or at least differently from the album versions), and I'm not sure if that's related to Darren's (the original drummer) departure or not.  Paul had some nice dance moves and a few antics, including bringing his daughter out for one song.  Their stage setup was all white, including their clothes and instruments, which went well with the video projection.  I was a little disappointed in the energy of the crowd; it may not have sold out, which I wouldn't have guessed for an NYC show, even on a Wednesday night.  The venue was pretty cool, though.

Rating 4.4/5

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Travel challenge update

I just returned from a couple of weeks in Southeast Asia, so it's probably a worthy time to post an update on my travel challenge.  Assuming that I can count the 5-hour tour to Seoul during my layover in South Korea, I am now ahead in both states and countries.  While I've actually crossed off a few places from my last five-year travel plan, I'm not sure where I'm headed next.  In any case, here's the updated list:

#     Country             State
8Czech RepublicIdaho
22New ZealandNew Jersey
23NigeriaNew Mexico
24NorwayNew York
29South Korea?South Dakota

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

I Am My Father's Son

My father died almost 2 weeks ago (on June 21).  The following is a tribute to him that I read at memorial events over the past weekend (wake-keeping and funeral).

I Am My Father’s Son

I am my father's son.  Too often we hear of kids who say that they never want to be like their mother or father when they grow up.  This has never been the case for me - I have always admired my dad.  This is not to say that I’ve always wanted to be exactly like him; we grew up in too different of times and environments for that to be the case.  But as I have grown older it has become increasingly apparent to me how much he has shaped my worldview and the trajectory of my life

All of my big life decisions have been made after consultation with my dad, whether he knew it or not. A friend pointed this out to me after I graduated college, and it still rings true today.  Starting with college...he came up with the list of schools that I applied to, took me to visit a few of them, and helped me decide what to major in.  He was a key part of my post-graduation plans, and helped me decide to take the job in St. Louis instead of immediately beginning graduate school.

While I was in college he and I had a couple of long discussions where he impressed upon me the importance of owning a house that I can call home.  When I began working I chose to live in my parents’ house for a few years in order to save up for my own house, as well as help my mom while my dad was in Kuwait.  It was one of the greatest joys of my life when I surprised both of my parents after contracting my house.

Pa was never one for debt if it was avoidable.  He would only spend the money that he had, even when he was making an expensive purchase like a new car.  So, of course, when it came time for me to buy a car, I had to pay in cash just like him.

Despite his many successes in life, he was not one to be extravagant or boastful.  He was simply concerned with taking care of his family and providing them the best life possible.  I have come to appreciate this more in recent years as I see the results of his sacrifices.  In the last few years he often expressed how proud he was of me and my brothers, which always filled me with great emotion.  While I’m sure he did this as well while I was younger, at the time I was naively focused on the moments of sternness.  Although effusive affection was not in his nature due to his upbringing, my mom and I would agree that by the end he had become a veritable softie in comparison to when I was a child.

As I move on to further big life decisions, I will miss having my chief advisor and role model.  My dad married my mom when he was 38 years old, so I guess that gives me 3 years to find a wife if I want to be just like him.  But when that time comes I won’t be able to call mom and dad to get advice or share the news.  It will have to be just mom.  And as much as that hurts, it will be alright because I have the best mom in the world.  And one last thing that my dad and I shared is a great love for her.