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Originally posted 2007 on MySpace

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I *was* going to call this blog “Public Masturbation” but I didn’t want anyone thinking I was getting into the porno blog business.  When I say “public masturbation” I mean it figuratively.  Sort of.  I know.  Half of you are sighing with relief, and the other half are going “Oh, darn!”

 

And yes, you guessed it, I’m picking on musicians again.  In my line of work, they’re just such easy targets.  I really should find a more challenging group to pick on.  But it’s all meant in love.  Truly!  Some of my most adored bands are guilty of this particular sin, in one form or another.  Some of them literally *cough*. . . but this blog is about the figurative sort.   (And yes, this blog was inspired in part by yet another show that I went to this week!)

 

Now when I say some musicians are guilty of “public masturbation”, what I am referring to are those times during a show when an artist appears to be more concerned with pleasuring themselves or stroking their own. . ego. . .than they are with pleasing the audience.  There are three main ways (well, there are probably more, but I’ll keep it to three) in which this gratuitous self-gratification takes place:

 

1)     The hyper-extended guitar/drum solo

Yes, we know you’re a guitar god.  Yes, we know you like to show off.  That’s fine, but do us all a favor and please set a timer.  I can tolerate a 3 minute demonstration of your awe-inspiring skills.  But if you’re after a 15-20 minute elongated noodling session to showcase your superior dexterity, I start to feel. . .well, superfluous.  Like – I’m not really needed here, so I’ll just leave you and your guitar to get a room, thanks.

 

Now if you’re playing a 2 ½ – 3 hour set, I can certainly understand letting the drummer/guitarist/fiddle player showcase his talent while the band takes a quick break.  But there’s no need for that if your set is less than 2 hours long.  If you really need to show off, do us all a favor and write a song that actually features an impressive solo as part of the package.  (Hey!  What a concept!)  Any solo improv that starts to approach the five-minute mark (let alone go beyond) ceases to be interesting and starts to look an awful lot like. . . um, yeah.  Like the performer in question is far more interested in stroking himself on stage than in actually entertaining the audience.

 

2)     The stadium chant-off

We’ve all been a part of this one.  You know, where the band decides to play one side of the stadium against the other to see who can sing, chant or shout the loudest?  “OK, first this side!  OK now that side!  OK now how about all the folks in the back?  OK, let’s hear it from the folks in the nosebleed seats!  Oh come on, you can be louder than that!”  Et cetera, ad nauseum.  There’s really only one place this kind of thing belongs, and that’s in high school football stadiums/gymnasiums.

 

Yes, I know we all love to have “audience participation” – so fine.  Have a song or two where you drop the vocals and let the audience sing a verse or chorus.  That’s nice.  That keeps us all going with the flow.  As far as I can see the only purpose to going back and forth between different sides of the venue and seeing who can scream/applaud/shriek/clap the loudest is to feed your ego.   I’m sure it feels just great to have thousands of people screaming for you and following your direction.  But it doesn’t do anything for me (the paying customer, here!) except maybe provide me with a good point mid-show where I can sneak out to use the bathroom.  Not to mention that 15-20 minutes wasted in such a fashion is time that could have been spent in playing at least 3 songs that we now WON’T be hearing because you used up that time getting people to whoop and holler at you for no apparent reason.  Add that to the time spent in solo grandstanding as mentioned above and now I’m really starting to feel cheated out of the actual MUSIC that I came here to see and hear.

 

3)     Changing the arrangements of well-known songs

This one’s the dealbreaker for me.  I can deal with the first two – I may not be crazy about ‘em, but I’ll tolerate those antics if I really like the band.  Screwing around with hit songs, however, is a BIG no-no in my book.  There are some artists I really loved once who I will NOT go see again because I no longer trust them not to f**k up their own songs to the point that they are unrecognizable.

 

Yes, I know you’ve played these songs a billion times, day in, day out, maybe for years on end.  Yes, I know you’re sick to death of them, and that playing them the same way day in, day out is getting OLD already.  Too f’n bad.  You’re bored?  Then throw a couple of obscurities from your back catalog into your set and rotate the list.  If I’m one of those “I only know the hits” fans, I might be motivated to expand my knowledge of your repertoire.  And if I’m a die-hard fan, you just made my night.

 

But never. . . never, NEVER take one of your biggest hits – or heaven forbid, your ONE big hit – and turn it into some kind of down-tempo production with a reggae-samba beat just to make it more “interesting” for YOU.  I have seen SO many artists do s**t like that, and as far as I’m concerned, it ruins the show.   That is just total self-gratification at the expense of the audience’s pleasure – and y’know what?  If I’ve thrown down upwards of $200 for a 90-minute performance of songs I know and love, then I think *I* should be the one who gets pleasured here.  After all, shouldn’t the paying customer be the one who gets off?  People love to sing along to their favorite songs.  That’s what they come for, that’s what they pay for.  And if you go radically changing the arrangement of their favorite song – guess what?  You just screwed the audience (not in a nice way!) and they didn’t get what they came for.

 

Now I will admit that there have been a couple of rare occasions when a band has come up with a new arrangement for an old familiar song, and I’ve actually enjoyed it.  I might even come to prefer the new version to the original.  But that’s extremely rare.   I can also cut some slack to an artist who wants to test out a new song and then later makes changes to it.  But once you’ve committed a recording to a CD that you expect people to buy, please – PLEASE – leave it the hell alone!  Let people come to your show and enjoy the songs in the well-known arrangements that they’ve come to love.  After all, the audience are the folks who are PAYING to see you perform.  Shouldn’t you be making the effort to see that THEY leave satisfied?

 

As with anything, your mileage may vary.  I’m sure there are fans out there who love bands that publicly mas….uh, that play extended solos, lead rah-rah teams, or play “re-mixed” versions of their hits.  These just don’t happen to be things that float my boat – and I know I’m not alone.  I figure I’ve logged enough hours standing on my aching feet in crowded nightclubs and stadiums that I should have a license by now to share my observations about what works as entertainment, and what doesn’t.  And guess what?  There’s another side to this coin as well. . .and that’s all the annoying, disrespectful things that a clueless audience often inflicts on the entertainers they’ve come to see.  But that’s a blog for another time.  Never fear though – I *do* know how to do more than just bitch!  It’s just that ranting is so much fun….LOL.   But I promise – I’ve also got some blogs coming down the pike that will give some praiseworthy musicians the worship they deserve!

(Originally posted 2007 on MySpace)

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How do you tell the difference between good PR and worthless hype?  Or between diplomacy and complete bullshit?  It’s often difficult to know just where that line gets drawn.

In my business, there’s a lot of all of the above.  Not just on stage or in the media, but behind the scenes as well.  With my utter distaste for things like BS, insincerity and brown-nosing, it’s a wonder I’ve managed to maintain a successful career in this field at all.

Good PR is a necessity.  Career success often depends on successful public relations.  This business is all about relationships, on both sides of the curtain.  And diplomacy is important.  Yes, there’s a lot of ego-stroking, especially where the “talent” is concerned. Everyone understands that artists can be sensitive, and that being in the public eye can be stressful.  The ego often needs a lot of support to stand up under the scrutiny.

But when does “political correctness” cross over the line from being a kind of diplomacy that smooths ruffled feathers and makes people feel better about themselves, to being a kind of dishonesty that’s downright detrimental to the careers or well-being of others?  When is “diplomacy” simply the failure to call a spade a spade?

I’ve been accused on occasion of being “too honest”.  I think it’s because I have an aversion to sugar-coating something when I feel that the truth is important, or that the “dishonesty” does an injustice to those involved.  And yet, whenever I’m accused of being “honest to a fault” it usually takes me by surprise – because generally speaking, I (like most people) really hate offending others.

But I’m bothered by what seems to be a distaste for honesty in this business.  Nobody wants to hear the real deal – they just want their ego stroked, even when the truth would serve them better in the long run.  And there are those in management – or even middle management – who want to shield the “VIPs” from hearing unpleasant truths.   It’s often very much a case of “The Emporer’s New Clothes”.

Case in point.  In my job, I oversee a lot of events – usually promotions that the label or marketing staff has set up – and it’s my job to write a “recap” of these events.  Usually the recap goes something like this:

“The day’s events started off with a pre-show listening party at ABC retailer.  Posters were up for a full week prior to the event, inviting customers to come by, hear the new CD, eat free food and win prizes!  The store took several calls during the week from customers asking about the event.  Approximately 30 people showed up for the event, and several others came up to inquire about the free food, so we got a chance to tell them about Band XYZ’s new CD!  The staff proudly wore band T-shirts.  We also decided to leave the enter-to-win box in place for a week or two and do prize drawings to coincide with the record’s release.  The staff continued to play the new CD all through the night.

We then went over to the venue to see XYZ perform.  XYZ played a rousing set that brought the house down.  Attendance was a bit below capacity, but there were several hardcore fans who had driven over 6 hours to see the band.   Lead singer J— closed out the set with a dynamic performance that really showcased his powerful voice and personality.  The band met with fans and signed autographs after the show.”

Just once, I’d like to write a recap of the way things REALLY happened.  You know. .  “And now, the REST of the story!”  It would go something like this:

“The day’s events started off with a pre-show listening party at ABC retailer.  Posters were up for a full week prior to the event (to no avail, because no one came anyway), inviting customers to come by, hear the new CD, eat free food and win prizes!  The store took several calls during the week from customers asking about the event (but people quickly lost interest when they discovered the band wouldn’t actually be there).  Approximately 30 people showed up for the event ( using “music business math” which means 15 at best, and that’s counting all the employees as well as myself and the two friends I brought), and several others (the three homeless people who hang out on the corner) came up to inquire about the free food, so we got a chance to tell them about Band XYZ’s new CD!  (Not that they could afford to buy it anyway). The staff proudly (after I begged, bribed and otherwise coerced them into it) wore band T-shirts.  We decided to leave the enter-to-win box in place for a week or two and do prize drawings to coincide with the record’s release (because nobody entered to win any of these stupid-looking pink T-shirts so we couldn’t do a drawing that night as planned).  The staff continued to play the new CD all through the night (although the store had emptied out long before closing, several people complaining about “that loud obnoxious music” the store was playing as they left).

We then went over to the venue to see XYZ perform.  XYZ played a “rousing” (laced with profanity) set that brought the house down (caused about half the 30 people there to walk out before the third song ended).  Attendance was a bit below capacity (there were maybe 10 people left in the room by the end of the set), but there were several (three!) hardcore fans (psycho-stalkers) who had driven over 6 hours to see the band.   Lead singer J closed out the set with a dynamic performance that really showcased his powerful voice and personality (i.e he cussed out the audience and then had a meltdown, wanting to know what everyone’s motherf**ing problem was for not coming to his show).  The band met with fans (had to be dragged off the bus to meet with the psychost….ah, I mean the fans who refused to leave without meeting their idols) and cheerfully (drunkenly) signed autographs after the show.”

Of course I have my tongue stuck firmly in cheek here – I’ve long since learned to laugh at the difference between what you can “diplomatically” say in a recap vs. what the truth of the matter often is.  Mustn’t upset the label or the management staff. . .even though the fact is they really should have saved the money they spent on that “free food” (which ended up going home with store employees) and they should probably think twice about booking a band for a showcase on the first night of a long holiday weekend when there are three other major acts in town the same night.  But oh well.  And I’m not pointing the finger at any one band/label here. . .the above examples are really a composite of things that happened at different events.

Still – wouldn’t it better serve the folks who plan these events to know how difficult it can be to get people to travel to a retail store just to stand around and listen to a CD that they’ll be able to buy a week from now anyway?  Shouldn’t they be told when they’re wasting their time and money?  Shouldn’t they be made aware that the artists they manage are getting up on stage and driving away would-be fans?  Shouldn’t someone be explaining the basics of good PR to these artists?  But no. . .instead we bite our lip, grit our teeth and say “Oh yes, what a great idea!” when we’re asked to host an event that we know no one will come to. . .and then we use roundabout language to make it sound like the event was a success (tho admittedly many of those who’ve been around awhile have learned how to “read between the lines”).  And I don’t think I’ve ever personally witnessed anyone willing to chastise an artist for his or her self-destructive behavior.  Oh, I’m sure it happens from time to time behind closed doors, but all too often I’ve seen artists waltz merrily off to their doom because people are too afraid to crush that fragile ego with a healthy (career saving) dose of reality.

This is just one small part of the struggle between diplomacy vs. honesty that I face on a regular basis.  I’m not even sure how significant many of these little “truths” really are.  But I know that it’s often a challenge in this business to walk the line between being as diplomatic as possible, and giving people the honesty that I feel they need in order to make the best, most informed choices.

(Originally posted August 6, 2006 on MySpace)

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I just spent two days seeing nine bands at the R&R Triple-A (“Adult Album Alternative”) Radio Conference in Boulder.   I was impressed on many levels with the caliber of talent presented at the event.  Here’s a quick overview of the artists we enjoyed, along with links for you to check out their music!

Feist

 feist

Leslie Feist is a Canadian singer-songwriter who performs both as a solo artist and as a member of Broken Social Scene.  This was my first opportunity to see her live.  K and I were both seriously impressed!  Feist is a tiny little slip of a thing with a voice that belies her size.  She wields that voice like the musical instrument it is, from whispery-soft to belting tones. She’s one of those artists that I find hard to define.  K characterized her as “a more energetic Rickie Lee Jones”, but even that doesn’t quite cover it. The songs have interesting musical arrangements, and the instrumentation is intriguing, including rarely seen instruments like flugel horns and miniature metallophones.  I usually find it difficult to sit through an entire set of an artist where the music is largely unfamiliar, but when Feist ended her set, my reaction was “That’s it?  She’s done already?  We want more!” http://www.myspace.com/feist

 

Donovan Frankenreiter

 donavon

Donovan’s name is a familiar one to fans of Jack Johnson.  A former pro surfer and acoustic songwriter with a “tropical beach boy” persona, his latest album “Move By Yourself” is a lot more soulful 70s funk-flavored than his debut CD was. Mellow and laid-back, but with a definite groove.  I wish I could have enjoyed this concert while kicking back on a sunny beach with margarita in hand, rather than standing on a hard concrete floor for three hours and struggling to forget that it was at least two hours past my bedtime, but I highly recommend this CD to anyone who enjoys a laid-back groove or who misses the soul-funk rhythms of the 70s! http://www.myspace.com/donavonfrankenreiter

 

Keane

 Keane

What can I say about one of my favorite bands, and the primary reason I went to this conference?  Their debut album “Hopes and Fears” is on my list of all-time favorites, and still stands as one of the most beautiful-sounding albums I’ve ever heard.  Keane is a “piano rock” band (they don’t use guitars), and have often been compared to the likes of Coldplay, although in my opinion, songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley’s gorgeous keyboard melodies and lyrical talent combined with singer Tom Chaplin’s rare vocal style (oft described as “angelic”) puts them well above most other bands in their genre.  It’s one of the greatest privileges of my job to be able to watch a highly talented group like Keane evolve from promoting their music at an in-store event where few people know who they are, to entertaining a venue packed with adoring fans who are singing along with every word.  Of course, I could have lived without the drunk fans standing behind me, screaming endearments like “I want to have your baby!!” while spilling their drinks down my back, but alas. . .with fame there comes a price!  http://www.myspace.com/keane

 

Gran Bel Fisher

granbel                             

Universal puts out thousands of CDs every year.  I do my best to listen to as many as possible, and to be honest, I sometimes find it hard to distinguish one from the next.  So when I toss a CD in the player and it takes less than 30 seconds before I’m reaching over to turn it up and find myself paying rapt attention to every note, I know I’ve found a keeper.  Gran Bel Fisher’s debut CD “Full Moon Cigarette” is one of those rare finds.  To quote a recent review:  “The album contains soul-stirring tracks with melodically addictive choruses.  ‘Far Cry’ is an emotive expression of dislocation and alienation, while in ‘Moment’ GBFs multi-octave voice builds from a gentle Delta-blues croon to a ferocious, primal roar.  Elsewhere, the gorgeous ballad ‘Bound by Love’ explores the tension and release of heartache and solace while the anthemic ‘Crash and Burn’ showcases GBFs accomplished piano playing while simultaneously burning the whole place down.”  Highly recommended!!  http://www.myspace.com/granbelfisher

 

 Indigo Girls

 IG

I discovered the Indigo Girls in 1989, at a Gavin radio conference where they were performing songs from their debut release on Epic.  Two girls and two guitars, playing heartfelt songs with transcendant lyrics, amazing harmonies and a level of passion that resulted in several broken guitar strings.  I was immediately captivated and became a lifelong fan.  I could write several blogs about how their songs and lyrics have inspired me over the years (and perhaps one day I will!)  So it was with a strange sense of nostalgia and deja-vu that I watched them present yet another acoustic performance to a crowd full of radio folks this past week, showcasing songs from their debut release on Hollywood Records.  Having worked many of their Epic releases, and having felt a bit of sadness when they parted ways with Epic a couple of years ago (several years after I myself had already done the same), I was beyond thrilled to learn of their recent signing with Hollywood (which is distributed by Universal), and to know that I would once again have the honor of helping to promote their unique musical talents.  It’s an odd sensation to hold someone in such a high iconic regard, to have such awe for the depth of their lyrical insights, and still have them convey the sense of being the “girls next door”. I can’t wait for their new CD, “Despite Our Differences” which is out September 19th.  I truly can’t recommend this duo highly enough, although if you’re not familiar with the Indigo Girls, I would strongly suggest you begin with their self-titled album from 1989 and follow their evolution from there.  http://www.myspace.com/indigogirls

 

Jackie Greene

 jgreene

I first heard of Jackie Greene a little over two years ago.  A local singer-songwriter from the Sacramento, CA area, he was recommended to us by Beau Brummels singer Sal Valentino, whom K was doing some work with at the time.  Shortly thereafter, we were excited to learn that Jackie had been signed to Verve Forecast (a jazz-pop label distributed by Universal).  Jackie Greene’s live performances are already being described as legendary, and he is often compared to a young Bob Dylan – although in truth his sound is much more diverse and “runs the gamut from country-blues to roots-rock”.  After two years of hearing rave reviews for Jackie, we were thrilled to finally be able to see him perform live, and he definitely didn’t disappoint!  His latest album “American Myth” leans more towards the rock end of the spectrum, though with a definite blues influence.  K and I both found the new single “So Hard To Find My Way” to be delightfully reminiscent of 70s-era Boz Scaggs.  http://www.myspace.com/jackiegreene

 

Augustana

 augustana

One of the few bands we saw at the conference that aren’t on one of the labels I work with — they’re signed to my former alma mater, Sony/Epic.  Somewhere “between classic guitar-rock and ethereal Brit-Pop”, their songs were consistently engaging, each one as good as the next.  An excellent discovery and one I’ll definitely be looking to hear more of!  They’re out on the road this summer with the likes of the Goo Goo Dolls, The Fray and Snow Patrol.  Check em out!  http://www.myspace.com/augustana

[In a weird twist of fate, a couple of years after writing this I discovered that the singer is actually a distant cousin of mine...my mother's cousin's grandson...how bizarre is that?]

 Los Lobos

 loslobos

These guys have been in the business even longer than I have!  Known as the “definitive East LA Latin Rock band”, whose sound has inspired countless others, and who are the precursors to many Latin-based artists of today, their diverse repertoire combines rock, folk, blues, R&B, country, Latin, and whatever new sound they feel like exploring at the moment.  They’re continually out touring and playing live (at least in my homestate of California!)  Though many people know them primarily for their 1987 hit with “La Bamba”, Los Lobos has an amazing discography that spans at least three decades.  http://www.myspace.com/loslobos

 

Corinne Bailey Rae

 corinne

There’s a ton of buzz happening around Corinne Bailey Rae at the moment.  A supremely talented R&B vocalist, she’s been called a “soulful Norah Jones” and compared to the likes of Billie Holiday and Macy Gray.  She’s the only other artist we saw at the conference who isn’t distributed by Universal — however, we are delighted that our own Gran Bel Fisher has the opening slot on Corinne’s current tour! http://www.myspace.com/corinnebaileyrae

(Originally published July 22, 2006 on MySpace – this one’s for all the holiday travelers!)

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I just wanted to share my exciting day with everyone.  I took a brief trip back to the Bay Area this week for a business meeting, and followed it with a couple of vacation days so I could do a whirlwind visit with a few friends and family members.  I had a 9:00 a.m. flight back to Denver on Thursday morning.  Or so I thought.

 united2

I should have had my first suspicion that things weren’t going well when I tried to check in at the kiosk, and instead of a boarding pass I received a “departure management document” and was told to get my seat assignment at the gate.  So I headed to the gate — after going through the usual security checkpoint process, which necessitated repacking my bags as well as removing and replacing various items of clothing and accessories on my body.  Geez, they might as well do a strip search. . .

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(Please note that this post was written even BEFORE the body scanners and new “enhanced” security measures were implemented!)

I arrived at the gate to find a long line of people waiting for boarding assignments.

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After several minutes of fruitless standing around, we were all instructed to find a seat and wait for our names to be called.

My second clue that things were about to go south should have been when they started asking for volunteers to give up their seats.  This is a normal process on overbooked flights — which most of them are.  However, they usually don’t ask for 30 volunteers all at once.  I really wanted to get home, and in fact was supposed to be working that day.  So I held my ground and crossed my fingers.  To no avail.

Apparently the plane that was supposed to fly out at 9:00 a.m. had ‘mechanical difficulties’.  Rather than cancel the entire flight, they replaced the plane with a smaller aircraft.

 smallplane

A much smaller aircraft.   The end result was that approximately 50 people got bumped off the flight, including yours truly.

By the time they gave us the bad news, and had us line back up for reassignment, the majority of the other flights leaving that day had already been filled by the people with schedules flexible enough to allow them to volunteer for being bumped.  I got to the counter just in time to learn that the 2:15 p.m. flight had reached capacity and that the next available flight to Denver didn’t leave until 8:00 p.m. that evening.  Having arrived at the airport at 7:00 a.m. I did not relish the thought of spending 13 hours sitting at SFO.

 13hours

I asked to be shuttled to one of the other Bay Area airports.  The agent managed to find me a flight leaving from Oakland at 1:45 p.m.

As luck would have it, Thursday was a “spare the air” day and as a result, the BART transit system was offering free rides.  BART’s connection to the SFO airport is a relatively new thing.  Fortunately, it made transferring to the Oakland airport a relatively painless process.  Although I did have to catch a shuttle from the Oakland BART stop to the actual airport, it went fairly smoothly.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unfortunately, upon arrival I discovered that the 1:45 p.m. flight was being pushed back to 3:15 p.m.  Inclement weather at the plane’s port of departure was to blame.   A subsequent flight that was scheduled to leave at 3:30 p.m. was then cancelled.  Shortly after, we discovered that the 3:15 (formerly 1:45) flight was now being pushed back to 3:50 p.m.  I suspect the delay was to allow for the accommodation of at least a few of the unlucky would-be 3:30 flight passengers, who now faced the unhappy prospect of spending the night at the airport.

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The hours rolled slowly by.  We were able to confirm that the plane which was coming to pick us up had made its scheduled connection stop in Denver and was now airbound and en route to Oakland.  Things were looking hopeful.  The plane arrived, and we were all lined up in the boarding area, more than ready to start our journey homeward.

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“I’m so sorry”, said the agent at the ticket counter, “but we just discovered that the plane has a flat tire!  It will take us approximately..oh, 40 minutes or so to fix it!”

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Siiiiiiggggghhhhhh. . . . . . .back to our seats.

 sleeping

The plane finally departed just prior to 5:00 p.m. PST, landing in Denver around 8:30 p.m. Mountain time.   I had some important documents to deliver to an account, which I had planned to send for overnight delivery upon arriving home early Thursday. . .but of course that didn’t happen.  So I called the account to see what time they closed, and if I could drop off said documents on my way home.  They closed at 9:00 p.m.  By this time it was approximately 8:50 (I parked in the economy lot and it was a loooong walk from the main terminal).  I hightailed it onto the freeway and managed to make it to the store just after it closed but luckily, before the staff had left.  I made my delivery and continued homeward.  At long last, I arrived home around 10:00 p.m.

Only 15 hours after I’d arrived at the SFO airport that morning and 10 hours later than I should have been home.

I have to go to Utah next month.  To hell with flying.  I am SO going to drive.

celica

(Originally published July 13, 2006 on MySpace)

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I’m having déjà vu. . .

I swear I had this exact same conversation with Qwest’s voice-recognition system last week . . . (you’ll need to click on the graphic to read it, sorry..)

cathy

Well, it was almost exactly the same.  Only mine went something like this (after entering my account number and pressing all the requisite 1′s 2′s and 3′s as requested. . .):

VRS:  Please indicate why you are calling!

Me:   I’d like to pay a bill. . .

VRS:   Did you say “bake a pancake”?

Me:   I said I’d like to PAY A BILL!!

VRS:   I’m sorry, you say you want a paper bull?

Me:  NO!!  I just want to  PAY   MY   BILL!!!!

 VRS:  I’m sorry, I’m having difficulty understanding you.

Me:   I!    WANT!    TO!    PAY!    MY!!    F**KING!!!    BILL!!!!!

 VRS:  Fine, I’ll transfer you to our pay-for-porn service at $3.50 per minute, starting now!  Please hold..

Me:  ARRRRRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!!!

If it couldn’t understand me, how on earth does it respond to people who DON’T speak English as their first language!??

I just HATE those bloody things..  devious

(Originally posted June 17, 2006 on MySpace)

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Well, I promised some lighter fare in my next blog.  So I figured I’d better go ahead and get this one posted, because I do have some other more philosophical ponderings percolating in my brain.  But for now. . .

I have a GIANT TOMATO in the middle of my room.

tomatoes2

No, nothing that drastic.  At least, I hope it doesnt start swallowing things without provocation.  In reality, I think it’s supposed to be a bean bag chair.  Yeah, right.  Except that this thing isn’t really a chair…it’s more like a mattress!!

Well, that’s what I get for ordering something from the internet without inspecting it first-hand.

I mean, I wanted something big.  Bigger than your average bean bag chair, anyway.  When I was a kid, some friends of ours had one that two of us could sit in at a time.  I envied that.  I had one of the little vinyl ones – bright orange, like a pumpkin – barely big enough for my own kid-sized butt.  It clashed mightily with my all-pink room.  Maybe that’s the curse of a bean bag chair, to always clash with the furnishings.

This one was supposed to match my living room, you see, which is done in earth tones with red accent pieces.  Red as in redwood, garnets, or perhaps a fine burgundy wine.  But this thing is redder than the Starsky & Hutch-mobile.  (Did I just seriously date myself, there?)

 starskyhutch1

 Lets just say it doesn’t quite match.

Still, I spent many a happy hour tucked into my bright orange bean bag chair as a kid.  And now that I have a place with a little extra space, I figured a bean bag chair would be both comfy and practical – extra seating for company, easily movable from room to room. . .

Easily movable, yeah.  With a crane.  It took two of us to get it up the stairs. The good news is, if I ever have a sleepover, it could double as a bed.  I’m not kidding!!!

Of course, it IS wicked comfy.  Me and my sweetie can share it and still have room for the cats.  It’s great for high-quality snuggle time while watching a movie.  And I can pull it as close to the TV as I want to (well, as long as there’s someone around to help.)

I just didn’t expect it to be quite so. . .BIG.   Or quite so. . .RED.   I really have no idea where I’m going to find room in my house for  this. . .this. .. thing that resembles a giant carnivorous vegetable.

I shouldn’t worry though.  It probably won’t be long until the cats claim it as their own.

 BusterBeanBag

 And then I’ll have a giant fur-covered carnivorous vegetable in the middle of my room!

(Originally posted June 2006 on MySpace – this one’s for Sara!  thoughtful)

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I had a couple of rather serious topics that I was going to blog on last week, but life and work threw a couple of roadblocks in my way.  One of those distractions took the form of a Snow Patrol concert.  And since I had to do a write-up on the show as part of my job, I thought I’d share my (slightly revised) review with you here.

For those of you not familiar with Snow Patrol, they’re a nifty Britpop band with key members originating in Ireland, but the band itself met and formed while attending University in Scotland.  They’ve toured with U2 and been compared to Coldplay (though frankly, I don’t see that much of a resemblance).  Here’s a pic of Snow Patrol on stage:

snowpatrol

Songs that you may be familiar with if you listen to alternative radio or watch VH1 are “Spitting Games”, “Run” and “Chocolate”.  They’re one of those bands whose song titles don’t always reflect themselves in the lyrics though, so you may not easily recognize the songs from their titles.  Check out their official website at www.snowpatrol.com.

Snow Patrol played to a packed house at the Paramount, a beautiful old theater that holds just under 2,000 people.

paramount

It’s one of my favorite venues because a) it’s small enough to feel intimate, b) it has reserved seating and c) it’s a non-smoking venue.  The audience was a pretty even mix of male to female, with perhaps just slightly more women than men.   There was a fairly impressive age range as well, from about 20-50.  Despite the Paramount being an all-ages venue, I didn’t see many people who appeared to be under the age of 20; but perhaps they were all down at the front of the dance floor.

Snow Patrol is for the most part a fairly mellow-sounding band, with a wonderfully melodic sound.  However, the sound tech must have mistakenly thought they were a heavy metal band, because the mix on the first two songs was way off, with overly loud/distorted guitars and a barely discernable vocal.  This was very disappointing to me, because the second song they did (“Chocolate”) is my absolute favorite, and the sound distortion just didn’t do justice to the beautiful melody of this song.  Fortunately, by the time the band rolled around to “Spitting Games” (about four songs in) the vocals were up and the sound had improved considerably.

My second and final gripe is for whoever decided that the band should be backlit throughout the entire set.  Not only did it render them into virtual silhouettes for most of the show; I’m still seeing spots from all the strobes and lights that were directed out into the audience from behind the band!  Here’s a photo that shows what the band looked like for most of the show.  Just imagine the colors changing with each song:

splights

The audience seemed mostly familiar with the songs from the previous album (Final Straw), but two songs from the new album (Eyes Open) that got a really great response from the audience were “Chasing Cars” (the deep purple lights/lasers were an especially nice touch) and “Shut Your Eyes”.  The latest single “Hands Open” was also well received by the audience.  [Note:  It appears I wasn't the only one who noticed the great response to "Chasing Cars" -- looks like this may become the next single. You can check it out now on their website.]

Lead singer Gary Lightbody was very chatty and friendly with the audience throughout the show, getting several laughs while plugging the new album (“It’s out now if you want to go steal it!”) and pleading contrition after momentarily forgetting the lyrics to “How To Be Dead”  (“Hey, I’m not a rapper, I can’t just make up sh*t!  Go ahead and throw things at me if you want to . . .purses, wallets, children. . .”)  Gals were begging him to keep on talking ’cause they loved hearing his accent!!

As the set neared its conclusion, the band played a few more tracks from the new album, including “Make This Go On Forever” and “You’re All I Have”.  The perennial crowd-pleaser “Run” from Final Straw had everyone singing along and raising their cell phones (“cell phones are the new lighters!“) as they watched the cool red and white lights spin their way through the crowd.

cellphones

“Light up, light up
As if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice
I’ll be right beside you dear

Louder louder
And we’ll run for our lives
I can hardly speak – I understand
Why you can’t raise your voice to say”

The evening was concluded with a two-song encore of “Open Your Eyes” and “Tiny Little Fractures”.  The crowd was on its feet for most of the show, and the near 90-minute set seemed much shorter.  Snow Patrol definitely left us wanting more, and looking forward to their (hopefully) speedy return!

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