Thursday, September 26, 2019

Massive Attack @ Radio City Music Hall (9/26/2019)

This show was part of Massive Attack's tour to commemorate 20 years (well, 21) since the release of their landmark album Mezzanine.  The show had actually been rescheduled from the original date in March.  A pre-show email advised guests to arrive when the doors opened 60 minutes before the 8pm "strict" start time, as there would be no opener and the security lines would likely be long.  Well, they were right about the long lines, but it only took about 10 minutes to get through.  I was at my seat a few minutes before 8pm, but waited about an hour before Massive Attack took the stage a couple of minutes before 9pm.  It was somewhat understandable since the (sold out) seats weren't even half filled at 8pm, but still annoying to arrive on time and then have to wait an hour.

And the show itself was, to be honest, somewhat disappointing.  I figured that they would play all the songs off Mezzanine (they did), but also assumed that they would include a variety of songs from their other albums.  Instead, they played a bunch of covers that I didn't care much for.  So basically...half the show was good, and half of it wasn't.

I will give them props for including the major original guest vocalists from Mezzanine: Horace Andy and Elizabeth Fraser.  Also, the backing band (two drummers and all) did a pretty solid of recreating the (likely mostly originally electronic) music live; though they did overindulge in some wankery a few times.  I think 3D was the only one (besides the backing band) who stayed on stage the whole time; Daddy G and the guest vocalists seemed to be only out there when they needed to be.  The light show and screens were impressive, though often overly strobe-y.  The videos had a techno-dystopia theme in addition to being unabashedly anti right-wing politics (and Trump).  The show ended somewhat abruptly with no encore after a little more than 90 minutes.  The highlight of the show for me was clearly "Teardrop" with Elizabeth on vocals.

Overall, I'm glad I saw them live at least once.  But I wish they played more Massive Attack tunes.


Rating: 4.0/5

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Best Man Speech for Chike & Rachel

This is the pre-written version of the Best Man speech that I gave at Chike & Rachel's wedding last Saturday (6/8/19).  This does not include a few minor hand-written edits that I made that morning, nor a couple of lines that I ad-libbed during the actual speech.


Before I start, I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who was able to make it here today for this event.  My family and I are very happy to be able to share this day with you.


I want to start off by talking just a little bit about my dear brother Chike.  I apologize to those of you who are wanting to hear some funny stories about Chike as a kid, because I don’t really have any of those today - my memory isn’t exactly the greatest.  I will assert, though, that as the oldest brother, there definitely was a time that I could beat Chike up...I think...those days are long gone.  Or maybe it was just because I fought dirty as a kid.  Even with my hazy memory, I know that there was definitely a time when I was about 6 or 7 that I kicked Chike in the groin and made him pee blood.  Sooo...I’m hoping that he hasn’t been secretly plotting his revenge for 30 years.

But that is not to say that I ever worry about Chike hurting me.  As all of you know, he is a gentle giant.  Every time someone has realized that we were brothers, they have had nothing but the nicest things to say about Chike.  And it is all well deserved.

Growing up, I was a bit protective of both of my brothers, Chike and spite of a kick or two in the groin.  And I think this oldest-sibling-syndrome kept me from realizing for a long time just how remarkable a person that Chike is.  I knew he was a talented artist, but I was in denial for a long time that he could be as smart as I was when it comes to computers and technology.  But these days I am proud beyond words of how much success he has had in his career as a UX designer - already ascending to the ranks of director at (WWT) Asynchrony Labs.

On a personal level, I’m also happy with the relationship that Chike and I have.  We don’t need to say all that much to each other, but we have an understanding.  Although...there was this one time about 8 or 9 years ago when we were living together, and we both showed up to a mutual friend’s birthday party without knowing that the other person was going to be there.  Hmmm...perhaps we need to work on our communication just a little, tiny bit.

Kidding aside, I’m so happy and proud to have you, Chike, as a brother.  And I’m thankful that you have been able to step up to fill my absence since I moved to New York.  I know you’re definitely better at providing mom emotional support than I am, and I suspect perhaps also at tech support.


There was always something about Chike and Rachel’s relationship that led me to believe that it would work.  Rachel has always been there for Chike, and the rest of us, both in good times and in bad.  The same can be said for her mom, Patricia, who has graciously hosted not just Chike, but myself and my mom at their holiday gatherings.  When my dad died, Rachel and her family showed up for every memorial event that we had.  It’s inarguable to say that Rachel comes through in the clutch.  A couple of years ago when Chike was setting up the smart thermostat in their house, he ran into some trouble with some wiring in a very tight space in their furnace.  Needless to say, Rachel put aside her bemusement with his technological antics, and came through with a slender, but quite literal, helping hand.

But, in seriousness, it’s been clear to many of us that this wedding was inevitable.  I remember, on the day of my dad’s funeral, talking with some family members from out of town who were impressed by how much support Rachel and her family had shown during that time.  I particularly remember my Uncle Ezy who made it absolutely clear that he knew that Rachel was the one for Chike.  After describing his observations, he summed it up by saying: “Chike, that woman is an Orjih.”  And I couldn’t agree more.


Finally...I want to wrap this up by proposing a toast.  But before I do that I cannot forget to express my gratitude for perhaps the most important thing about this wedding.  Chike...I want to thank you...for taking the pressure off make my mom a mother-in-law and a grandmother.  Here’s to Chike and Rachel, and their beautiful babies.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Foals @ Brooklyn Steel (4/14/2019)

Preamble rant...  Seeing shows in NYC is kind of a pain.  Brooklyn Steel is less than 5 miles from my apartment, but it takes about an hour to get there via public transportation...especially when the MTA changes the subway routes/schedules due to weekend work.  Between that and my poorly picked spot in the crowd standing behind a group of giant (plausible basketball or volleyball player) dudes and next to a couple of groups of pot-smokers, the show started off with me feeling that I was getting too old for this concert-going business.

But after a good show and a fairly breezy journey home (pretty good timing on the subway, which was running the normal route by then), my mood has improved.  But not enough for a lengthy post - it's still pretty late.

I will give props to Foals for playing a lot of their older classics (though only one of my favorites) along with most of the new album (which is pretty strong, though a bit of a change in style).  Speaking of which, the new songs came off well.  They had lots of energy, and I think an extra couple of performers on stage.  Good stuff.


Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Top Albums of 2018

Following a previous down year, 2018 was the downest of years in music for me.  According to my statistics, I listened to less music in 2018 than I had in any other year since I joined the service in 2007.  These days my commutes are dominated by podcasts (I keep adding new ones, and have a hard time keeping up with the stream of episodes), and I can't really get into listening to music while at work.  So my music listening is mostly relegated to a bit of the time spent on my computer at home or on the weekends.  I still try to keep up with some of my usual avenues of discovering new music, but I seem destined to be stuck in the past in terms of music appreciation; who knows whether that will change at all this year.

Therefore...  In lieu of a meticulously considered ranking of favorite albums from last year, I will instead simply list some that I found noteworthy.  With no indication of which I thought were better than others.  I simply didn't listen to them enough to really form a decent opinion.  My main purpose in making these lists is to be able to look back in the future to get a sense of what I was really into in terms of music; maybe this will still be helpful in that regard.  I should note that having quantitative stats from is also really good for retrospecting.  Anyway, here's the "list":

Mimicking Birds - Layers of Us
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan - Dirt
Exitmusic - The Recognitions
Hearts Hearts - Goods/Gods
Beach House - 7
Big Red Machine - Big Red Machine
Low - Double Negative
Lupe Fiasco - DROGAS WAVE
Rubblebucket - Sun Machine
Mirah - Understanding
Mumford & Sons - Delta
Jacob Banks - Village
Foxing - Nearer My God

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Mike Birbiglia's The New One @ Cort Theatre (1/12/2019)

Mike Birbiglia's new comedy special has a 3+ month long stint on Broadway - a pretty amazing accomplishment.  And I think the show is deserving of it.  I didn't know anything about the show going into it, and I'm not sure if that made it fresher or not.  You can read reviews about it online (e.g., this one) if you want to know more, but that may (or may not) spoil a couple of the surprises.  I'll just say that Mike really hits his stride doing his trademark autobiographical story-telling with plenty of funny anecdotes and a couple of profound moments mixed in.  I really enjoyed it, and Fran was in stitches the whole time.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Language and Progress - A Conversation with Steven Pinker and John McWhorter @ The Anne L. Bernstein Theater (12/6/2018)

Since moving to New York, I have had the chance to attend a few talks by thinkers that I greatly admire - Sam Harris & Lawrence Krauss, Richard Dawkins & Brian Green.  It wasn't until this morning (in anticipation of tonight's event) that I considered that it might be worthwhile to blog about these types of events.  (I should perhaps also mention a Neil deGrasse Tyson talk that I saw a few years ago in St. Louis as another blog-worthy event.)

Tonight's event actually had a bit of a backstory.  It was originally supposed to be a conversation between Steven Pinker and Matt Dillahunty, and was promoted by Pangburn Philosophy.  However, that company folded about a month ago, so the event was cancelled along with several others.  Everything I have read and heard on the matter thus far indicates that Travis Pangburn was a fraudster who swindled both speakers that he had recruited and customers who had bought tickets for the events.  I should note, though, that although I knew about Pangburn ceasing operations, I didn't actually realize until last week that this specific event had been cancelled - it seems Pangburn didn't send out a notice to ticket-holders who had acquired tickets through his site.  And of course he wasn't providing refunds - the purchase confirmation notice says "No Refunds & No Exchanges. All Sales Are Final.".  Luckily, I saw Steven Pinker's retweet last week of this make-up event, with tickets being made available for *free*; so I jumped at the chance.

The event was held in a small theater on Broadway - I would guess it seated about a couple hundred people (though I'm terrible at these sorts of estimates), in contrast to the ~1500 at the originally scheduled venue.  Prior to the start, I noticed Steven and John chatting right next to the audience, and attempted to go say hello (as it seemed that a couple of other people just had); but the organizer (Jay Shapiro) stepped in, saying that there would be time for that afterward, as they were about to begin.

The talk was moderated by Shapiro, and consisted of about 30 minutes on linguistics, maybe 30 more on progress denial, and then another 45-ish more on audience questions.  Steven and John are both obviously brilliant guys, and pretty much agreed on everything that was discussed.  I can't say that I have any familiarity with linguistics, but some of the discussion on that topic was pretty interesting.  They dished on theories of the relationship between language and human thinking, a bit of what Chomsky got right and wrong, and other things that I can't remember.  Unfortunately, though, I also don't remember either of the couple insights that I found particularly interesting at the time.  After Jay transitioned them to ideas on progress and its denial, they discussed Steven's books on the subject, as well as John's categorization of many social justice proponents on the left as adhering to a religion.  I found that last bit particularly interesting (the rough outline is that such social justice proponents react strongly against reasonable arguments that don't adhere to their worldview in a dogmatic way similar to religion), and will try to spend some more time with his thoughts on that matter.

After the talk, I hung around a bit to take advantage of the intimate setting and try to meet the speakers.  I was fortunate enough to separately briefly chat with John, Steven, Jay, and Coleman Hughes (who was in attendance and had the first audience question).  I delivered a message from Fran to Steven telling him to keep up the good work and that she thought that his curls were almost as awesome as hers - he was happy to hear that last part.  I also got a little more background from Jay and John about how they hurriedly put the event together at the last minute.  All in all, it was a pretty cool event, and a nice way to end a birthday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Thom Yorke @ Kings Theatre (11/26/2018)

I had mixed expectations going into this show, so I'm not too disappointed that I didn't like it more than I did.  Thom is (obviously) a musical hero of mine - both because of Radiohead and much of his solo work.  I knew this wouldn't be like the shows he did as a band with Atoms for Peace, but wasn't sure how much this would be like a DJ set.  In the end, it was somewhere in between.

There was a lot of head-down button-pressing and knob-twiddling, but both Thom and Nigel did break out guitars for quite a few songs (plus a couple on keyboard for Thom).  Thom was also pretty animated, often dancing in his trademark awkwardly entertaining style.  Despite that, it's hard to give many points for performance during this show.  I didn't really like many of the new songs, and I might even go as far as to say that some of the ones that I knew were a ruined a bit by the new overly-electronic stylings and improvisational singing - "The Clock" being a prime example of this.  Seemingly every song had a newly conceived camouflage of an intro (and some also an outro), which were on the whole hit or miss - mostly miss.  There were definitely some highlights, though, including new tune "Not the News" and an excellent rendition of "Default".  Thom definitely still has some great pipes (as displayed during "Atoms for Peace" and "Suspirium"), even if he sometimes seems like he'd rather not try.  One might conjecture that his age showed a bit when he hilariously forgot a couple of lines during "Truth Ray", but I've known him to do this type of thing for a while.  I would be remiss if I did not point out that the visuals on the backing screens were pretty spectacular the whole show.

I'm probably being too harsh on this concert, though - mostly because I'm such a huge fan of Thom's work.  Despite the low-ish rating, I did enjoy a lot of it, and wouldn't dare ask for my time or money back.



Rating: 4.1/5