"If You Put All Of Us In A Blender You Get A Girlyman"*

    A big thing happened last night.  A thing big enough to justify this blog coming back from the dead.  Jamie, Jim Bernard, and I trekked down to the Entry to see Girlyman play.  It’s hard to explain why this is such a monumental event, but I’ll try…

    Hadar is a guy that all three of us know.  I think I’ve only met him once and it was a long time ago, but he’s still a guy close to my heart.  He and his wife are some of the sweetest, most caring people that I’ve ever known.  They commit random acts of kindness on a regular basis and judging by their wide circle of close friends, others feel the same way.

    Hadar and his wife Lois are very successful people.  They live in NYC, work hard and play hard.  They love to see live music.  They see live music more than anyone else I know.  Hadar has a blog that he keeps mainly for the purpose of recording the details from all of the shows that he and Lois see.  Most every time they see a show, Hadar writes a lengthy wrap of the show on his blog.  Jamie, Jim and I all read Hadar’s blog.  Hadar and Lois frequent many different bands, but the nexus of their relationship with live music seems to be Girlyman.  They love a lot of music and a lot of musicians, but they LOVE Girlyman.

    Until last night I didn’t realize that Jim is a bit of a Girlyman fan himself.  After having dinner with Hadar one night long ago and hearing all about the wonder of Girlyman, he bought all of their CD’s and listened over and over.  I guess Jim is like that with music.  Jamie and I are armchair fans.  We own a CD or two and listen from time to time, but neither one of us has ever been captivated by the band.

    Last night when we hit the club I was there more for Hadar than I was for myself.  The night felt really big.  Finally it was time to see this band that Hadar writes so much about, this band that Hadar and Lois have seen 21 times in 3.5 years, this band that Hadar and Lois have backed financially when they’ve been in a tight spot, this band that even though Hadar and Lois see so much live music, is still their favorite band.  Yes, it was a big night.  I think Jamie and Jim felt sort of the same.  Being able to see the band with other faithful readers of Hadar’s blog also made the night seem more special.

    The other big part of the night was being able to blog about it the next day the way that Hadar always does.  Jamie, Jim and I were all really excited about this part of the experience as well.  It’s like everything coming full circle.

    I felt odd at the show.  Both like a spectator, watching diehard fans belt out every song, and like an insider, having read so much about them and knowing Hadar.


    The show opened with “See to See” which is off their new album and it was one of my favorites of the night.  Ty (Tylan) sings lead vocal on this song and I really liked her voice.  She’s an alto and I’m partial to altos.  I found myself digging the songs best when she sang lead vocal.  For the record, Ty is the woman in the middle, Doris the woman on the left and Nate the guy on the right.  Their drummer J.J. is back behind Doris, but from the photo it’s hard to tell.  She was set back pretty far from the others due to the configuration of the stage.

    The second song of the night “Joyful Sign” was too bouncy and poppy for my taste.  “Easy Bake Ovens” came next, which is one of Jim’s favorites.

    After these first songs, Doris told a story about her recent struggle with Leukemia and how she suffered from depression afterward.  It was a very honest and raw story and while she shared it was obvious that the whole band had been a real and integral part of her struggle.  It struck me that they were very cohesive, very together, very much like a family, very different in this respect from any other band I’ve seen.  Today I spent some time reading about the band and discovered that the 3 original members of the band were roommates for 8 years in a 900 foot apt. in Brooklyn and two of the members have been friends since 2nd grade; guess that’s where all of the cohesion comes from.

    I enjoyed the rest of the show, especially the encore which was an awesome rendition of the BeeGees “Staying Alive”, but I enjoyed most getting a first hand take on Girlyman.  After reading about them for so long, it was gratifying to see them in person.  Nate has a great stage presence, he’s definitely the one leading the charge with the quips and stories, but they all blend and fit so well together that it’s more like getting a glimpse at a private conversation than it is the typical stage banter.  Ty struck me as the most reserved of the group, but also the most surprising.  When she smiled her whole face changed and she really lit up.  I loved Doris’ dress (like I wanted one for my own) and admired her for being so vulnerable on stage talking about her cancer and depression.

    Girlyman isn’t quite my aesthetic in the land of music, but they’re close and I can see why Hadar loves them so much and why they have such a devoted fan base.  Seeing them live was magical in this weird amalgamation of so many words read, so much admiration and love for Hadar and Lois, and then finally getting the concrete evidence of seeing their favorite band live.  I think because I’ve only ever seen Hadar and Lois once, it was a way to get to see them through their love of music.  I don’t know exactly, but it was a great night.

    When Girlyman return to town, I’ll be at the next show.  They are growing on me.  Jamie and I listened to their music this afternoon and I’ll listen to more of it again soon.  In true Hadar fashion we stole away with the set list and had it signed by the band members.  This is a classic part of most of Hadar’s posts.  He almost always has a picture of the setlist.  We also grabbed a picture with the band.

    Girlyman Signed set list 20120211 Jamie Jim Tammy and Girlyman

    Hadar we saw Girlyman last night!  Thanks for turning us on to a great band and for sharing your love of music with us all!!!

    *One explanation given by the band as to their name.  It’s a commonly asked question and one that I’ll admit to having asked in my head whenever I thought of their name.


    U2 At TCF Bank Stadium

    I wish I could go again.  It was that great…

    I saw my first U2 show in 1987.  I was sixteen.  It was magic.  To date it was the best show I’ve ever seen.  The whole place was filled with energy, crazy love energy.  It was weird and wonderful and beyond description.  I think it was spiritual.  I’m not kidding.

    I saw my second U2 show in 1992.  I was twenty-one.  It was a bitter disappointment.  I was disillusioned.  This band that I had devoted myself to was different and I wasn’t digging it.  The 1987 show was stripped down, bare bones, serious, heart-felt and genuine.  The 1992 show was a re-making of the band.  I knew the music had changed, but I thought the show would be the same.  It was the polar opposite of the first show.  Commercial, loud, in-your-face, staged, and loaded with irony.  I missed the irony; I missed the U2 I’d grown up with and I decided to turn my back on this new U2.

    Of course U2 didn’t know any of this and they went on making great music, touring and quickly becoming the biggest band of my generation.  I still bought their albums, but I didn’t really listen to the music the way I had before.  The Zoo TV tour had broken my heart.  They came back to the Twin Cities three times and played to sold out audiences.  I was not among the crowd.

    They say time heals all wounds and last Saturday my U2 wound was finally healed.  A mere 24 years after that awesome Joshua Tree tour, I returned to U2 land and fell in love all over again.  They are still awesome.

    This concert was a blend of the other two shows I’ve seen.  It was a big production and there was lots of glitz and glam, but it had a heartfelt sincerity and energy that I had missed during the Zoo TV tour.  And honestly, it was just good to see the boys again.

    They played a lovely mix of songs.  Lots of old and new, a couple of cover tunes, and even a song off Boy.  My favorites included “I Will Follow”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “Stand By Me”, and “Hallelujah”.  It poured rain and we got soaking wet as did everyone else, band included.  The crazy stage screen contraption did all kinds of cool stuff, the boys rocked out, the fans sang, and all 60,000 people spent the whole show standing.  It was beautiful.

    The journey home was an epic, complete with two dead cell phones, a two mile walk, and lots of bus waiting and futile cab hailing.  Finally at 12:45pm, one and one-half hours after the show ended, a small man originally from another country, took notice of my flailing arms, stopped his cab, and delivered us home.  What a nice man.  I’m not sure we would be home yet if it wasn’t for that man and his cab.

    I won’t be missing another show, ever.  If they come here and I’m alive and kicking, I’ll be there!

    Music To My Ears

    My husband is a pretty cool guy.  Turns out he has some pretty cool ideas in his head as well.  He told me several years ago that the best way to change something you don’t like or push for something you do like is to vote with your dollars.  Good advice.  He also encouraged me to branch out musically and stop listening to “old” music as a mainstay and instead investigate what’s out there now.  More good advice.

    For me the music of my youth is more powerful than the music of maturity.  I don’t think music today is any less awesome than it was in my teens and twenties, it could easily be better, but my ability to connect to it isn’t as strong.  Angst is worth a certain something and most of my angst has left the building.

    I can still sit back and belt my heart out to the Indigo Girls, Pink Floyd, The Cure or Trip Shakespeare, and all of the old feelings come flooding back.  It’s reassuring, powerful and easy to get stuck there instead of foraging ahead.  We have some friends in NYC who are a few years older than us and they are constantly on the look out for new music.  They see live music 4 or 5 times a week.  Their love of music blows me away.  I’m inspired by them to keep appreciating the new instead of holing away with my past.  The past is a nice place to visit, but it’s not the place I want to live.

    I prefer concerts in places where you get a comfy chair and maybe a nice meal.  A venue where you sit back and take in the music in a relaxed sort of way.  Maybe at the very end you stand up for one song and do a little light dancing.  It’s all very civil and nice and proper.  The band performs for you and you listen and appreciate.  But, every once in awhile I head out to First Avenue or a similar venue to remind myself of what music is like when it’s one of the most important things in your life.  It’s not comfortable, quiet, or relaxed, but for me it’s a bigger, brighter and more participatory experience.  It’s still not something I’m up for very often, but getting in touch with that sort of feeling is the best way for me to remember the past and live in the present.

    Resolution - Resolved!

    To you the faithful reader of this seldom written blog, I have personal progress to report: Big Smith has been seen, heard, experienced. After careful consideration of the available venues in which to fulfill destiny, The Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kansas was selected. My good friend Amy did her master’s program at the University in Lawrence and I had visited her once and liked the town. It’s always fun to hang out in a college town for a few days now-and-again. It reminds me both of my quickly passing/passed youth and also about how different life and everything has become in the last 18 years (hard to believe) since the epic college road first began.

    So, on to the journey. My co-pilot Jamie and I piled into the big, blue station wagon on Friday afternoon after lunching with Mazie. She was left in the ever-loving arms of Grandma Rosalin where much fun and laughter has ensued since our leaving (we’ve kept in touch via mobile phone technology). We drove the 7 hours west and south, glimpsed the ever-greening grass and buds breaking way into leaves as we rolled ever further away from that big, cold Minneapolis place. We arrived at The Springhill Suites in Lawrence shortly before 9pm and after checking out our somewhat strange hotel (it’s built in the space between the railroad tracks and the river, which is just wide enough to house such a hotel and makes for an odd experience) we walked our butts down to the Bottleneck to check out the action.

    Blue Mountain, a band Jamie feels affinity for, opened up the night. They were fun and joyous and generally a good time, but made the Big Smith wait longer. Finally at 11:30pm, a mere 1 1/2 hours after my usual bedtime, Big Smith took stage. They opened with a song I knew well and all was good. They ended up playing for 2 1/4 hours, straight, no break. The members were all in top-notch form and the dancing commenced, continued, slowed and finally stomped it’s way into exhausted on-looking. The dancing at a Big Smith show is really amazing. It seems that a certain sameness overtakes the crowd and everyone begins stomping, twirling, jumping and generally behaving hoe-downish. The moves are infectious and I’ve never had as much fun dancing anywhere as I have every time I see Big Smith play.

    Conclusion: Things in real-life are rarely as great as memory recalls them to be. I think Big Smith lived up to my memories as well as could be expected. The only let down of the evening was me. I don’t have the same stamina to keep at the dancing and enjoying myself in the wee-hours of the morning that I once possessed. But, despite my general lack of late-night fitness, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was only at 1:30am, 2 hours after Big Smith began plucking and 3 1/2 hours after my normal bedtime, that I wished the evening would just end already. Today I’m tired, but I feel whole and complete, as if the missing Big Smith part of me has finally been returned.