Thursday, June 28, 2007


Three years of Sunless Suitcase. Hooray!! Celebrate!

I'm very proud of myself. Especially for keeping this thing running and not caving into the whole Myspace peer pressure. I'm still against it, and will not be changing my mind any time soon. Never!!

Anyways, three years.... yay. Let's celebrate three years with reviews of my three latest albums.

Page France - Page France and the Family Telephone

I saw Page France open for John Vanderslice last year and loved it. I fell for their happy clap-alongs. Their albums, however, never really reflected the live experience completely. Still good, just not as good. This latest album, on the other hand, is quite good. It's just happy and fun and just drives. Like a 45-minute duet between Bob Dylan and Sufjan Stevens.

White Stripes - Icky Thump

Great stuff here. The more I listen to Get Behind Me, Satan, the more bored I am by it. In fact, much of it sounds like Jack is bored. Icky Thump is definitely more of the crazed and ridiculously loud side of the White Stripes I love. Not all perfect here, though. I'm not crazy about the Spanish warcry "Conquest." However, pretty much every other song is just loud and wild and killer. "Bone Broke" and "Little Cream Soda" are a couple of the heaviest songs they've done. Also while "Rag and Bone" might be one of the most gimmicky songs they've done, I love it. Like Van Halen meets ZZ Top, or something.

Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger

Ryan Adams can be pretty easy to pick on, and I've done my fare share here. I've felt that he's relied too heavily on quantity over quality for years. He's had some moments since Gold, but nothing that even compares to his first two solo albums. I was definitely scared when I heard Sheryl Crow's name as a guest singer on his latest album. Oh boy. However, Easy Tiger is for sure a back-to-basics approach. It's great. "Goodnight Rose," "Two," and "Pearls on a String" sound like they could fit in easily on Gold. Ditto for Heartbreaker with "Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.," "Tears of Gold," and "Rip Off." He definitely suffers a bit from some lazy songwriting on "Halloweenhead," but it's not a totally unlistenable song. If you've liked Ryan Adams in the past, you will be happy here. Great stuff.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Ten years ago from yesterday I got my first job in television. Tape op. Pretty small fries. Just a few weeks before my 17th birthday.

Now I'm almost 27. I've since held about a million different positions at two different stations. Minus a couple of breaks for school, I've never really done much since. In fact, before I started at KTVO, I had only one other job. I worked the kitchen at a coffee shop, Gatsby's. It closed down in January, 1997. I finished off the rest of my school year before my sister got me in at KTVO (she was a teacher, but directed during the summers).

Thinking about everything as a whole, I've never really regretted my career path. However, I sometimes get a bit of an itch to try something else.... you know, like on payday. I don't really think much about other jobs, but I think it's healthy to try to think about other careers.

In fact, I'll do that now:

Real Estate Agent
Before I left KTVO, I worked my ass off making a 30 minute real estate show. You know, one of those shows where the clients send in some listings and we edit a slide show together with script. I hated working on that show. However, I really liked seeing all the houses. I love architecture. I occasionally pick up Architectural Record. Plus there's pretty descent money in this biz.
Plausibility: I know that I'd have to get certified, or something. How hard can that be? It's not like I'd have to get a doctorate. My biggest flaw would be that I'm a pretty honest guy, not a bullshitter. Still I'd say this is a possibility.

Giant Panda Caretaker
Since I saw the pandas in DC, I've been obsessed with them. I read all about pandas online. In the panda house, there was this glassed off room with some dudes watching the pandas on cameras. I could do that! I'm sure they'll have to write on charts and stuff, but it'd be great to watch them all day.
Plausibility: Not good. I'm guessing those guys are behavior scientists, or something. Probably have big fancy degrees in zoology. The closest education I have is when I spent 5th grade career day at the veterinarian's office.... and I threw up.

I know my bars. I like bars. I'm a pretty personable guy. There are these commercials that air here in Richmond for a bartender school. It's like a four-week course. Can't be that hard.
Plausibility: Well, I smoke a bunch in bars. I plan on quitting next month (again). If I worked in a bar, I'd be dead by 30. Plus one of my friends here worked in a bar through college. All he talks about is cleaning the bathrooms. Not pretty.

Hell yeah! I'd love to be a detective. Anybody watch Zodiac? Yeah, like Mark Ruffalo in that movie. I get obsessed with things pretty easily (see: giant pandas). I could obsess over solving something while hanging out in diners all day. Plus I drink coffee. All detectives drink coffee.
Plausibility: Maybe not. I don't know anything about criminal justice that I didn't learn in movies. Plus I think detectives start off as cops. Well, a cop? Maybe!

Human Resources
Now this is something I can do! Sounds a little boring. However, when I was a production manager, I was really fascinated with the human resources elements of the job. I was very good at it too. I still have our companies policy book pretty much memorized.
Plausibility: Pretty good! I like office jobs. I like human resources. My resume is pretty descently loaded with credentials. I miss management.... sometimes. I definitely see myself getting back into management someday.

Something at a Record Label
Especially something at an indie label. I know my indie music. Drag City a while back was hiring a musician liason, of sorts. Basically somebody to be the go-between guy for musicians and the label. I could do that!
Plausibility: Not good. I don't smoke pot. I think indie labels drug test to make sure you are ON drugs. I'm not.

You know, I'm pretty happy in television. Maybe I'll stick it out a while longer. The hours suck. The pay sucks. However, I still find the job constantly entertaining. Plus I'm still really freaking good at what I do. I'm happy where I am. Won't be here forever, but things are great. Don't want to leave while things are great. I'll just need to know when to leave, you know, like before I go insane someday and go living in the woods alone.

Wait a minute... what about a forest ranger!?

Monday, June 18, 2007

2 Concerts, 2 Days

Last Wednesday and Thursday I took in two separate concerts. Wednesday I was in DC to see Feist. On Thursday I saw Son Volt here in Richmond. First.... Wednesday:

My friends and I had this whole trip planned out for quite some time. We bought our Feist tickets a long time ago. Good thing too because the show sold out in around a week. Prior to the show we wanted something fun to do. Pretty simple decision: "Let's go to the zoo!"

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, more accurately. I hadn't been to any zoo in many, many years. It's probably been at least twelve years. I was excited because I love zoos; but at the National Zoo, there was only one thing I wanted to see:

The Pandas!!

After a quick stop by the cheetahs, we went right to the pandas. I really started to get worried because it was thundering quite a bit and starting to rain. We circled the panda pits and saw nothing. I was scared they had put them up because of the weather. By the time we got to the panda building, it was pouring rain. Then, suddenly, there they were!

That's Tai Shan, the young panda. He was the first one we saw. It was obviously lunchtime. Tai Shan was munching on a huge bamboo stick. Mei Xian, the mom, was eating some apples and panda biscuits. Tian Tian, the dad, was going to town on a big apple-filled ice block.

We must have spent an hour inside hanging out with the pandas. It was raining the whole time. When we were ready to leave, it had finally stopped raining. The pandas were napping, except Tian Tian who was taking a poo.

Pretty incredible sites. It'd never thought I'd see pandas, and it was worth it. The rest of the zoo was great too. Saw some tigers, a lion, elephants, an SUV-sized hippo, orangutans, about a thousand tamarins (those I loved), and many other cool animals.

Okay, we went to DC for Feist. At the end of dinner, it started pouring again. I volunteered to hail a cab in the rain. The one I got was probably the creepiest cabbie in DC, but somehow he got us to the 9:30 Club alive.

It was pretty cool being at the 9:30. This is a place I'd heard about before moving out here was even a thought.

The opener was Grizzly Bear. This band has been giving hard-ons to indie kids this year, but I'm not thrilled with anything I'd heard. I was more impressed with them after the show, but still not a big fan.

Okay, so Feist....
I mentioned a while back that this lady is an absolute superstar. My biggest proof was this show. She was just amazing. She had the crowd eating out her hand. Every song was spot-on. I just have chills thinking about her live versions of "When I Was a Young Girl" and "Sealion." She even pulled out a killer version of Broken Social Scene's "Major Label Debut." Feist and her whole band seemed absolutely thrilled to be there. Tons a great crowd banter. Every song was timed brilliantly.
I really can't say much more praise about this show. Definitely one of the best shows I've ever seen. Leslie Feist is a superstar. If you are lucky to be near her on this tour, you absolutely must see her.

Okay, so that was Wednesday. The next day we saw Son Volt. They played outdoors at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. It was part of their Groovin' in the Garden series, providing mom-friendly rock all summer long.
I forgot my camera at home, so these lousy pictures are courtesy of Neeley's work cellphone camera.

Looks like a pretty rotten place to watch a concert, but it actually wasn't bad at all. Except for the old folks in front of us.

I know these alt-country kids are getting older, but jeez. (Sorry, that was inappropriate.)

Now I know it seems like I love shitting on Jay Farrar on this site, but I actually don't enjoy it at all. This is a guy that I absolutely idolized when I was younger. He was my favorite musician, bar none. Post-Uncle Tupelo, I thought Farrar was much better than Tweedy. Wilco looked like a flash in the pan. Son Volt was going to be a revolution.
....or not. I just can't get into Farrar anymore. Sure The Search isn't a bad album, but that's mostly in comparison with anything after Sebastopol, his last good album. It all sounds more like a parody of the alt-country scene. It's boring.
Sadly, the show was pretty much the same for me. Absolutely nothing memorable. Every single song sounded exactly the same to me. Even when he pulled out the classic "Tear Stained Eye," it sounded exactly like every other song on the set. We actually left early... and it was at my request.
Oh well. Maybe it would be hard for anybody to follow a night with Feist. Jay Farrar especially. The trip to DC was spectacular. I'll always have Feist and the pandas!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wuss Rock

I've spent the last few weeks on a pretty tight budget (minus a trip to a strip club on Saturday.... it was peer pressure, I swear). Wilco's new album was the last on a long string of my most anticipated albums. Now I'm spending my limited music budget catching up on some releases that I passed on at first. My latest purchase this week is the new Travis album, The Boy With No Name.

I kinda had to debate whether or not I should pick this one up. I used to be really into this super-sappy wussy Brit-pop. I knew the party was over when I picked up Coldplay's last album, X&Y, when it came out in 2005. I really didn't like it. It just felt played-out and boring..... like I had heard it a million times before.

That sentiment still holds true now a couple of years later. Most of my really good friends here are big metalheads. Come on, how would it look if I'm in a car full of dudes and put on Coldplay? Pretty lame. Now there is plenty of sad sappy stuff that I love, but it always seems a little sleazier now. I like that. Will Oldham, anybody?

Okay, so.... Travis.

Travis is definitely grouped in with this sappy stuff I'm mentioning. The only difference with Travis is a little more personal for me. All of their last three album release dates have coincided with some pivotal moments in my life (chronologically: left college, got dumped, got a new car). That's a big reason I still dig Travis. Little too early to tell if this new album will change my life, or something. Especially since I don't think I'll be too terribly obsessed with it.

The album is good. Very good is some parts. However, when the album isn't as good, it's just not good at all. The single "Closer" is a perfect example of the latter. When I mention wuss rock, "Closer" could be an anthem. Just needlessly whiney..... we'll subcatagorize it as "breakup-rock." Maybe I just don't have much to whine about nowadays (except maybe the fact that I'm on a budget).

Now when I mention that the album can be very good, I really mean it. "Colder" is one hell of a song. It's a great reminder of how stirring Fran Healy's voice can be. Also the bonus track "Sailing Away" is just amazing. The Boy With No Name definitely has more positives than negatives. I'm happy about that. Weird.... happy about sad music. You know what I mean.

By the way, here's the video for "Selfish Jean" starring the super-awesome Demetri Martin:

Monday, June 04, 2007


Apologies for the lack of posting lately. These last few weeks have been pretty intense.

A couple of weeks ago I had to make an emergency trip back home for my grandmother's funeral. The whole situation was just terrible. She had been sick for several years and we were all prepared, including her. The way it happened is what makes everything so awful. She died from burns suffered in a house fire. My grandfather was able to pull her outside, but the house was a total loss. She survived for two weeks until finally passing.

The whole trip home was very surreal. I got to spend lots of good time with my extended family, seeing people I hadn't seen in years. Everybody was in pretty fair spirits. However, everybody had been dealing with this first-hand. I, on the other hand, was dealing with this a thousand miles away. It was really hard to grasp everything that was happening. I finally asked my cousin to take me to the house.

It was pretty shocking to see this house I had spent so much time in as a child in ruins. Really it wasn't the house that upset me as much as it was the stuff inside the house. My grandmother was a collector of just stuff.... random stuff from garage sales and flea markets. Seeing some of this stuff that had been in their house since before I was born destroyed just devastated me. There was a porcelain cat I used to sit on when I was a kid smashed. The mandolins my dad made when he was a kid were destroyed. The one thing I always remembered from that house was her cuckoo clock. I couldn't find it.

Everything back home is getting better now. My grandfather has an apartment now while he gets his insurance straightened out. He plans on rebuilding on the same property. Everybody is doing just fine, including me now. It was a pretty tough trip home, but there were many more positives about it than negative.

Wow, I planned on just a brief update and a promise to post more. Guess I had more on my mind than I thought! Thanks for reading that.