Joakim Noah’s Ark

Not to have a dramatic shift in tone (because you’ve all obviously been just waiting in suspense since August…), but what may have been my favorite Halloween just passed and a friend got married and I had some college besties in town and I have some free time on my hands tonight and I guess all those things a blog post make…

First I wanted to be Marge Simpson. I’ve been cultivating quite the mane and am not sure how much longer that will be the case and it seemed opportune. But then I remembered said wedding and going blue, permanently or temporarily, the night before seemed like a questionable decision. At some point in time, after my brother mentioned that Joakim Noah was the ugliest basketball player, my mom observed that my aforementioned mane actually sort of resembled Noah’s infamous… well, I hate to be repetitive, but “mane” might better suit him. (Spoiler alert: that’s not the last of the manes in this post.)

To quote one of said college besties: “The greatest travesty would be if you didn’t go as Joakim Noah.”

So the decision made itself, right? Then we realized there were biblical connections and next thing I knew I was having this text exchange:

animal names

Fair question (on his part), but stick with me. I think Christin got the ball rolling with Larry Bird and it went from there. We got to brainstorming and after numerous other text/email exchanges we had our Ark.

barracuda

Emilie arrived on Thursday night and we did some last minute Michaels shopping. Christin got in while I was at work so she and Em got a head start while brainstorming some eleventh-hour additions.

progressAnd then when I got off it was all hands on deck (almost literally!!!) to finish our costumes and build an ark before the great flood Caleb’s rehearsal dinner, which was a real lovely affair (and reunion of sorts).

2009-2014

2009-2014

Then it was go time. The night’s festivities included an impromptu pregame at my place when S&P friends showed up and then a stroll to my the party at my brother’s, not without our ark full of candy (an historically accurate detail, I believe) of course.

kevin durantelopes/joakim noahs/larry birds of a feather

kevin durantelopes/joakim noahs/larry birds of a feather

complete with ark

complete with ark

they came two by two, right?

they came two by two, right?

i even ran into a pair of malcolm frogdons at the party.

i even ran into a pair of malcolm frogdons at the party.

larry taking control of the ark for the journey home

larry taking control of the ark for the journey home

And in case you weren’t able to identify all of our ark passengers, I’ve put together this handy guide:

carmelo ANThony

carmelo ANThony

chris bosh the dinosaur (but apparently not the right dinosaur. it's a little-known fact that certain dinosaurs were also on the ark)

chris bosh the dinosaur (but apparently not the right dinosaur. it’s a little-known fact that certain dinosaurs were also on the ark)

kobee bryant

kobee bryant

christin's counterpart

kevin durantelope: christin’s counterpart

double cavalier pride!

joe hare-is: double cavalier pride!

kris humphries

kris HUMPhries

swam alongside the ark

kareem abdul jabarracuda; swam alongside the ark

don't want none.

lebronaconda don’t want none.

mike-bull jordan

mike-bull jordan

the last of the manes

jeremy lion (i said there’d be more manes!)

with seal the seal (cannot take photoshop credit for seal the seal)

shaquille o’seal with seal the seal (cannot take photoshop credit for seal the seal)

lamarlin odom: accompanied kareem

lamarlin odom: accompanied kareem

chris pauler bear

chris pauler bear

we had so many ideas for singletary and he didn't even make it on the ark somehow...

sean flamingotary (we had so many ideas for singletary and he didn’t even make it on the ark somehow…)

sean singleterrier

sean singleterrier

prawn singletary

prawn singletary

And we had some names that didn’t even get Photoshopped: Kevin Dove, London Purrantes, Justin Pantherson, Dennis Codman…

Also I learned that Joakim Noah’s charity is called… Well. You guessed it.

[Sidenote:] Admittedly after Halloween, I mentioned to Marlon that if we got a dog we could name it Kanye, and got pretty excited at the idea of Ollie running around town with Kanye West Highland Terrier.

ollie and kanye west highland terrier

Oh and let’s not forget– Caleb and Amanda had a really gorgeous wedding at the Clifton Inn. So happy for #teampeppers :).

group photo

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(Olliefield/)Three Things

I keep wanting to post about FoxOlliefield, but the task overwhelms me. <-That links to photos. I started making a Grooveshark version of the playlist, but it kept deleting songs after I added them (quite sure this wasn’t user error) so I only got 86 out of nearly 300 songs on it. Anyway, Emilie made a retrospective list of the only songs that really mattered, and by that I mean:

what rhymes with ‘hug me’?

(And we were so sure “Get Lucky” was going to be the Foxfield anthem… Pharrell’s just all over our charts right now. For a total change of “Get Lucky” pace, by the way, check out this downbeat-but-beautiful Daughter cover.)

Long story short, twas the bestie-best of times and it was wonderful having so many old friends in one place. Who says 13’s an unlucky number?!?!?!

girl pic foxfield

Alright but this post was originally supposed to just be “Three Things.”

Thing #1: My good friend Jack, formerly known as “The Tallest Man in Thung Song,” is an excellent photographer and I was just made aware of a really gorgeous blog he has of his work done in various locations across the globe. Give it a look:

Thing #2: My brother is a comedic genius:

Ketchup from Ryan Calonder on Vimeo.

Thing #3: This video’s awesome. Uses clips from glamorous ’80s and ’90s ads to make what really feels like a narrative. So amazing what having a soundtrack tricks your brain into thinking it’s seeing. Also just a cool track.

One year ago: The Ubud Market
Two years ago: Home Improvement
Three years ago: Chinese Transportation (maybe my favorite post from the whole time I was in China haha!)

Thoughts on Home

Without much commentary, because I haven’t really done much mulling-over of it, I wanted to include the opening words of Giles Morris‘ Read This First segment in this week’s C-ville. They just really resonated with me.

You can never go home again. The line expresses a quintessential sorrow embedded in the American dream. You move up and out. You can never go home again, because you left and became someone different. When you go back, no one will understand you, and the place you idealized can’t ever live up to the new tastes you’ve acquired. But is the message historical or progressive? Essential or didactic? Was it coined to communicate immigrant longing? Or as a warning to those who made the upwardly mobile journey from the provinces to the city? Or, more basically, does it say something about time and memory?

And since the phrase “American dream” found its way into the very first sentence (and since you know how I feel about media-less posts, and since I spent a good amount of time last week strangely engaged in this song) I’m going to throw in David Bowie’s “Young Americans” along with an insightful interpretation from SongMeanings.net. (Haha I don’t know if I should be embarrassed by admitting that I find myself doing investigating on that site with relative frequency.)

all the way from washington, her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor: “we live for just these twenty years… do we have to die for the fifty more?”

Several people have mentioned the allusion to the Beatles: “I heard the news today, oh boy.” …Remember the rest of the line? “About a lucky man who made the grade.” You see, Bowie’s song is about someone who has NOT “made the grade” that is collectively articulated as the American Dream. That, in a nutshell, is the point of the song: America bombards people with a litany of flashy expectations -Ford Mustangs, Barbie dolls, Daddy’s heroes (Sports, Hollywood, etc.) material success, etc., but the disconcerting reality is that few people ever attain this tantalizing vision of success, because it’s unrealistic, and when their adult lives turn out to be about divorce, alimony, and general failure, they are just confused. The speaker of Bowie’s song asks questions like “”We live for just these twenty years… Do we have to die for the fifty more?” and “Ain’t there a man who can say no more?” Because he is confused when he sees that a culture that only values youth and flashy things leaves everyone over 20 in the lurch. And there’s no Hollywood hero who will step in to save the day, because that’s just in the movies. In the final evaluation, those who fail to realize that the American Dream is, after all, a dream, will wind up in mid-life wondering what kind of meaning they were really supposed to have sought instead. The ironic part is that Bowie (who is British) is so smart that he manages to critique America without being obvious; most people mistakenly think this song is some kind of celebration of the American way of life. It’s not. It’s an intelligent critique of our shallow culture and the hollow expectations it encourages in place of anything that could actually provide meaning-religion, literature, learning, family, etc.

(Comment– which I don’t mean to say I relate to entirely, but certainly in some ways– by lazerpj. Full lyrics available here.)

But still a sick jam!

(Oh and don’t let me trick you into thinking I’m bummed out or anything… I’ve got housing sorted out for next year, I think I’ve got some second income about to kick in, and Foxfield 2013 begins in three days!!!)

Spring in Charlottesville

Almost exactly a month ago I announced that spring was springing!

spring is springing!But I… jumped the gun a little. It rained a lot, it sleeted a bit, it suddenly hit the 90s for most of last week… Spring seemed nowhere to be found in the mix.

I think it’s finally really here. I expect it’ll be short-lived, so all the more reason to enjoy every bit of these perfect temperatures and stunning colors everywhere we could choose to look.

cville spring downtown tulipscville spring trees skycville spring cherry blossom spudnutscville spring housecville spring purple flowers

i really want to eat the dandelion greens? http://allrecipes.com/recipe/dandelion-salad/

i really want to eat the dandelion greens? http://allrecipes.com/recipe/dandelion-salad/

the most epic game of hopscotch in the world

the most epic game of hopscotch in the world

cville spring red tulipscville spring petalscville spring birdhousecville spring pitbullcville spring cherry blossomcville spring pink tree skycville spring overhead tulip

oh yeah! and i made ollie a dog run out of a toilet paper roll and some duct tape. but then i just got him a longer leash haha.

oh yeah! and i made ollie a dog run out of a toilet paper roll and some duct tape. but then i just got him a longer leash haha.

Two years ago: Songkran

The City Market

I moved back to Charlottesville last December just in time to be able to attend the very last instance of the City Market for the season. I was both thankful and disappointed; the City Market was always something I was sure to include in any of my rave reviews of Charlottesville I’d impart upon any stranger I encountered in my travels who cared to listen. I didn’t like the idea of waiting all the way until April to shuffle myself over on a yawny Saturday morning to our splendid weekly Farmer’s Market.

But April is finally here!

charlottesville downtownI think today actually marked the City Market’s second appearance this year, but I wasn’t able to make it last week. All week I’ve been excited to walk Ollie over and check out the offerings, especially when I discovered that there would be something Tom Tom Fest-oriented going on as well.

Because apparently I’m just one hell of a curmudgeon these days I’ll lead off with the negative bits (but that means we end on the high notes!). They’re completely petty– the negative bits, I mean. Most of my pictures were pretty terrible and even the ones I managed to salvage leave a bit to be desired. But that was on account of the strong sunlight and I’d be a fool to complain about that. It’s obviously really early in the season so the selection was mostly limited to greens and herbs. But also, who cares, I got a basil plant and a dill plant, and some Swish chard, and some NoBull burgers, and some English muffins and had a great time. But I didn’t get a bagel as planned, because my silly dog started freaking out and barking at everyone and I had to take him away in shame. Lil pup got overwhelmed. Oh also I didn’t really notice anything that seemed to pertain to the Tom Tom Fest, but maybe my timing was just bad.

ollie city market

spot the scaredy pup

city market street

line out the door for the mexican food. (there was no door and it may not actually be mexican... don't hold either of those things against me)

line out the door for the mexican food. (there was no door and it may not actually be mexican… don’t hold either of those things against me)

brussels sproutstwin oaks ornamentals

turns out your business plan may have been sound, downing.

turns out your business plan may have been sound, downing.

city market plantsgrass fed beef

what is this, thailand?

what is this, thailand?

lots of arsty stuff as well... proper hippie get-up

lots of arsty stuff as well… proper hippie get-up

city market paintingscity market wrought ironcity market flowers

oh a jam saleslady at a farmer's market in a 4h tshirt... how cliché...

oh a jam saleslady at a farmer’s market in a 4h tshirt… how cliché…

city market crowns

crowns. because why the hell not?

favorite

favorite

okay maybe this is my favorite

okay maybe this is my favorite

the cville city market: where greenies and bbq can coexist peacefully.

the cville city market: where greenie’s and j&p bbq can coexist peacefully.

then i went home and made this nobull burger with sweet corn/sriracha hummus (corn+chick peas+tahini+olive oil+sriracha+S&P), herbed chevre (chevre+lemon+dill+pepepper), avocado and baby spinach on an english muffin.

then i went home and made this nobull burger with sweet corn/sriracha hummus (corn+chick peas+tahini+olive oil+sriracha+S&P), herbed chevre (chevre+lemon+dill+pepper), avocado and baby spinach on an english muffin.

Oh, and then I did see a bit of Tom Tom Fest stuff later anyway.

tom tom fest paramountlee park tom tom fest

Two years ago: The Waterfall Excursion
Three years ago: Huangshan Two (Or, a Journey through Middle Earth) (OR: “There and Back Again; A Hobbit’s Holiday”… I Just Can’t Decide)

Guerillas do Gorillaz; Flume does U Street Music Hall

Last week was a good week for me, musically. Awhile ago my brother was excited to inform me he’d been asked to play trumpet with local act Guerilla Tactics when they, appropriately enough, covered the first Gorillaz album (“Gorillaz,” as it so happens) for an April Fool’s Day show. Guerilla Tactics is generally a two-man operation: Tucker Rogers and Rob Bedford (aka DJ XSV), two old friends of mine from my first stint in Charlottesville. For this undertaking they obviously were going to need a little more than an acoustic guitar and some turntables (and a trumpet), however. Another old friend, Travis Elliott, took lead vocals; another Tucker and another Rob (Titus and Richmond, respectively), joined them on drums and bass, respectively; and the Bowden sisters rounded out the mix with Kristen on keys and Amy on violin (and kazoo!).

To the best of my knowledge this spectacle came together with precious few rehearsals and limited time (as well as a couple last-minute changes in the lineup) and I thought the results were well impressive. And despite being moved back from my normal Monday-night bedtime of 10 pm to the unthinkable hour of 11:30 in order to avoid competing with another show at the Jefferson that night, turnout was massive and, suffice it to say, the House was most certainly Rocked.

And… even with all the fun I was having I managed to take over an hour of video? That I’ve trimmed down into four videos and made a playlist from? Enjoy! (Video quality, as always, is definitely lacking but the audio’s decent enough.)

Track listing: April Fool’s Day “treat”, “Re-Hash”, “New Genius (Brother)”, “Punk”, “Sound Check (Gravity)”, “Double Bass”, “Rock the House” (featuring Aaron Ahlbrandt of Kings of Belmont), “19-2000”, “Latin Simone” (featuring Seth Green of Sons of Bill), “Slow Country”and the special encore, “Feel Good Inc.” (Also I apologize in advance for the nonsense chatter that, on occasion, can be heard in the background on my part… a friend and I decided that our only hope for remaining awake until such a late hour came in the form of $3 Jack & Gingers at the Virginian before the show…)

sibling shot! i love that i get to see these two so frequently :)

sibling shot! i love that i get to see these two so frequently

with the prompt 'pout.' (alas, i'm clearly far better-experienced in the ways of pouting than either of my brothers)

with the prompt ‘pout.’ (alas, i’m clearly far better-experienced in the ways of pouting than either of my brothers)

giving it another go

giving it another go

guerilla tacticsryan on stage

hadn't seen these lovely ladies in awhile!

hadn’t seen these lovely ladies in awhile!

having fun

genna matthew and ryan calonder... a match made in cville music heaven!

genna matthew and ryan calonder… a match made in cville music heaven!

Wednesday then found me saddling up to drive to DC to see Flume perform at U Street Music Hall with some friends. Flume (or “Harvey Streten,” as he may have once been known) is a 21-year-old DJ/producer from Australia that a friend had turned me on to awhile ago; U Street’s known to be a pretty dope venue; Nate said he’d take Ollie for the night… I couldn’t resist. And it was fun!

flume u street music hallI mean, there were a few drawbacks. He went on quite late and the set was fairly short (there were rumors that he’d come back on that kept us there later than we may have ordinarily stayed, but eventually we had to cut our losses). We also found ourselves musing that the first few tracks were sounding more or less like he’d just set his CD to “Play” (though even if this had truly been the case it still sounded extra-cool on the state-of-the-art soundsystem they’ve got there). And, this is probably my biggest lament, he didn’t play one of my favorite tracks, “Bring You Down”. That being said, before long he was doing some more novel and interesting things with both new and old songs, and all in all it was a right good time. (The same cannot be said for work on Thursday, but I suppose I was prepared for as much).

Here’s his most recent album:

(My favorites, in addition to “Bring You Down” are “Holdin On”, “Insane”, and “On Top”.)

One year ago: Ubud, Part One (and Getting There)
Two years ago: Krabi (yeah last week marked the two-year anniversary of my departure to Thailand!! So crazy…)
Three years ago: Hangzhou Two

Snow Day (and Maddy’s Lion Heart)

You may have heard we got a bit of snow in Virginia on Wednesday.

charlottesville snow

We had a little pool going at work over how much snow we’d end up  getting. Everyone thought Bryan was crazy for throwing down for eight inches, but he took every penny of that $9 pot. The office was closed and I braced myself for a day of lounging with the pup. (And a little bit of chasing him through Belmont in knee-high snow when he ran off from the playground again.)

I did a bit of baking as well. It was just the Toll House Cookie recipe from the back of their chocolate chips bag, except I only used one cup of chocolate chips and substituted the other cup with Heath bar pieces (an old trick I learned from Momma). Oh and I didn’t have vanilla extract so I used two teaspoons of vanilla almond milk instead. But they were good! Wish I had one now.

chocolate chip cookies

But the fact that we just had nearly a foot of snow dropped on us in Virginia should serve as evidence that we have a way to go before we’re out of scarf season, don’t you agree? Well today’s your lucky day because I found the perfect scarf for you.

The Burns family is like an extension of the Calonder family– for over twenty years we’ve been putting up with each other already! They lived across the street from us a whole lifetime ago in Colorado Springs and through the years and many moves on the parts of both families we’ve just remained phenomenally close. Maddy, a sophomore at Appalachian State, is their youngest and has had this Africa fascination for years now. She’s been passionately involved with Invisible Children since high school, and was able to actually go to Uganda a year or two ago for… some charitable purpose (pardon, the details are spotty for me). She’s now all lined up to go on a fantastic three-month excursion to Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan with a friend of hers to participate in a number of philanthropic endeavors. And she’s raising money to do it by knitting beautiful, high-quality scarves for an online “shop” she’s calling Lion Heart. And if that weren’t enough, there’s even an option to donate a scarf to cancer patients. She’s really just the sweetest, guys, so do take a look and see if there’s not something you’d be interested in?

i must become a lion-hearted girl, ready for a fight before i make the final sacrifice!

stop sign snowOne year ago: Mattayom 2 Menagerie (et al)
Two years ago: Chapora Fort and the Wednesday Market
Three years ago: Saw the Western Coast, Saw the Hospital

The Bikram Post

I know this isn’t the first time you’ve ever heard of Bikram (and probably isn’t the second or twentieth either); I know everyone who reads this (all two of you) surely has their mind made up already about which side of the fence they’re on when it comes to Bikram Yoga. You either dig the idea of slowly and silently Vogue-ing in the strangest of positions for 90 minutes in a 105 degree room or you don’t. I’m not trying to make believers of anyone.

But (and I know you’re on the verge of confronting me with a, ‘methinks thou doth protest too much’ at this point, but it’s true!) the truth is that I really didn’t intend this blog to be one big collection of YouTube videos, at least not entirely. I wanted it to be a way to kind of… hold myself accountable for a sort of healthy, creative lifestyle through documentation. As far as pursuing creative avenues, I’ll admit I’m slacking. I drew one picture of a wonk-eyed prince (in the style of the great Australian painter, Samuel Condon), and play bad covers on an out-of tune guitar for about an hour every other night. Ooh, I do have one project I’m kind of working on but not in a very disciplined manner at all. But I try not to get down on myself.

From a health perspective, I’m doing alright. I get plenty of (read: so much) sleep; I think I succeed in eating well more often than not (last weekend’s pizza bender notwithstanding); and I get a lot of walking in, between taking What’s-His-Face on daily tours of Belmont and getting to and from the office. But one of the big things I’d wanted to start doing upon moving here was get back into Bikram.

Charlottesville’s a great place for Bikram. That is to say, it has an awesome studio. My good friend and former roommate, Julia, developed such a passion for the practice through them that she became a certified instructor, going on to teach first in Cville and now in the Bronx. Kathy also was a dedicated yogi, completing a 30-day challenge fourth year (and going nearly every day when she was just visiting here, none of which I accompanied her for! So bad!). I had expected that now that I’m a big workin’ girl I wouldn’t run into the biggest obstacle to truly becoming an aficionada I faced as a student: expense. But ay, that $15 an hour gets spread thin every week, and though I went I think three times right when I moved back, after the holidays my good habits were done for.

calonder burns yoga thanksgiving

oh yeah, let’s not forget the calonder-burns family hot yoga session in cary the morning after thanksgiving!

that's right, even the pops-es decided to give it a go with us at the indigo hot yoga studio (http://indigohotyoga.com/).

that’s right, even the pops-es decided to give it a go with us at the indigo hot yoga studio (http://indigohotyoga.com/). also huge lolz to ryan in this picture…

But (and this is back on the subject of our studio here being so rad), good things come to those who make excuses for not going to yoga wait, and Bikram Yoga Cville had a great Valentine’s Day promotion: bring a date, sign up for an unlimited month, and your date gets one free. Or, as I interpreted it: steal your brother’s girlfriend for 90 minutes, and both-a-yas can split the price of one unlimited month, ya dig? So we went, both of us miserably out of practice in a fairly crowded session. The experience took its standard course for me: feel pretty hot, feel a little hotter, feel like I’m starting to tolerate it, get dizzy about halfway through the balance series, regain my composure around Triangle, wish the two-minute savasana would never end, lament my lack of back strength through the entire floor series (meanwhile wishing all the intermittent savasanas would never end), and feel like the limpest dampest rag that’s been wrung out a million times by the end of it. But in a good way, you know?

And now we’re both sitting on half-priced unlimited months! For added incentive, I made it this year’s lenten vow (haha) that I would go to yoga thrice a week (that and something about trying to eat vegan twice a week; totally doable, the only reason I wouldn’t would be laziness-with-a-hint-of-self-sabotage). My body (and miiiiiind) are excited for the new onslaught of exercise (yes, 270 hours a week is now an onslaught).

Oh, and here’s an article I’ve been sitting on for months, waiting to get into Bikram again and write about it! I think it’s actually the reason I wrote this post haha. It’s a piece called I Left the Room (so you don’t have to) from a blog I haven’t properly sat down to peruse called I Do Things So You Don’t Have ToThe author is prone to panic attacks and takes a humorous approach to having one that forced her to– gasp!— leave the room during one particular Bikram session.

A quick excerpt:

Oh, wait. That all happened to me. But come on. It’s still funny. You have to laugh, right? Anyway, it’s been quite a while since my ol’ friend panic attack paid a visit. But the day I signed up for my first Bikram yoga class, I had a feeling we might be meeting again.

You see, my young friends, the panic attacks were always triggered by heat and humidity and the feeling that you can’t breathe because there’s no air when it’s hot and you gasp and hyperventilate and OF COURSE there’s plenty of air but that doesn’t stop your brain from telling your body YEE-HAW! It’s fight-or-flight time, and you ain’t got no one to fight and there ain’t nowhere to fly.

And it goes on as such. Do give it a look:

"i left the room (so you don't have to)"

“i left the room (so you don’t have to)”

Oh and what the hell, I guess I’ll wish all you sappy fools a Happy Valentine’s Day as well. My date’s cashed out early, but sleep actually doesn’t sound too bad right now at all.

my snuggy valentine

my snuggy valentine

but don’t change a hair for me, not if you care for me, stay little valentine, stay…

“You mean that’s not just from a Kanye song?!”

One year ago: Valentine’s Cookies (ooh I miss these girls! I didn’t get to tell them goodbye:(…)
Two years ago: Tureya Ashram

The XX Lose Their Virginia-ty, Solar Bear Dominates Para Coffee, and… Something About Jeff Mangum

Perhaps you’ll judge by the fact that I’m posting that I figured out my incompatibility issues. (With technology, not men.) If anyone else ever runs into the issue of not being able to run or edit your .MTS video files from certain HD recording devices (in my case, a newer Sony CyberShot camera) on your Mac, I found this program (“ClipWrap” by Divergent Media) super helpful. That being said I’m only going to actually include videos of Solar Bear because a) there’s already plenty of good XX stuff out there and I’m scared of violating anymore copyright since my account already has a strike and b) we weren’t allowed taking photos or videos of any sort at Jeff Mangum.

street art a few blocks from the national

street art a few blocks from the national

polka dot street art richmondstreet art richmond

Anyway so yeah, last Tuesday Ryan and I saddled up when I got off work, drove to Richmond, got dinner with my friend Andrew, and met up with Ryan’s friend Chandler at the National. I’ll admit I was only even inspired to find out who the opener was that very morning at work, and so spent a good chunk of the day listening to the variety of Austra (pronounced “Ow”-stra rather than “Aw”-stra, apparently) offerings on YouTube. Though only days previous I’d made a mental curmudgeon-y note that it irked me when people and media try to call an artist “the New [insert other artist here]” I couldn’t help instantly drawing comparisons between Katie Stelmanis’ voice and that of my girl Florence Welch. Which I know is a bold remark to make indeed. But see for yourself:

The video I took of Austra did have Katie wishing her bass player sweet birthday wishes but again, cutting my losses.

katie stelmanis austra

austra katie stelmanis

Our late arrival and dinner meant we only caught about a song-and-a-half of Austra’s set, but I wasn’t too troubled by it. We grabbed a beer and settled into what we thought was a prime spot closer to the back, but whence we had a really good view. Unfortunately it doubled as the peanut gallery because there was a group of girls that apparently mistook the National for wherever it is they’d normally be getting trashed and catching up on every detail of the last seven months of their lives at the top of their lungs on a Tuesday night, but even this could diminish the greatness of an evening with the XX only so slightly.

the xx richmond

Chandler made the point that guitarist Romy and bassist Oliver are most definitely the face of the band, but that their producer/percussionist could certainly be seen as the glue that holds the group together (and his production might even be to thank for their sudden stardom). He’s even performed under the moniker “Jamie xx” for the past few years, and in other news you have him to [at least partially] thank for that Drake/Rihanna masterpiece. Anyway the whole show was rather exciting for me but I especially loved watching Jamie circulate amongst his array of instruments, at times using a brush on a cymbal with one hand while playing his drum machine with the other.

the xx richmond blue

the xx lights richmond

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the title of the post, after opening with “Angels” off their new album Coexist Oliver informed the crowd that not only was it their first show in Richmond, it was their first in Virginia. And I love the cheesiest of puns and the rest is history.

Not surprisingly, considering that they only have two albums and after watching their 45-50 minute live sets at Glastonbury and with the BBC Philharmonic (that second one’s really worth a listen, they sound great with the extra orchestration), their set was on the short side but with visualizations, crowd involvement, and of course a spot-on performance on their part that made it totally worth it. So I’ll close this portion with a segment of their Glastonbury show (with– surprise– Florence Welch!), and the video for “Islands” off their self-titled album, because it’s my opinion that everyone needs to see it.

xx richmond

So Solar Bear. I’ll paint you a picture of the rainiest of Charlottesville nights, where Ryan Calonder, Shivesh Puri, and whoever was checking their sound occupied the deserted loft of a local coffee shop. Shivesh manned a MacBook and a drum machine of his own, his acoustic guitar waiting patiently in the corner; Ryan had his new electric ukulele plugged in, its acoustic counterpart and a trumpet also at the ready. They’ve done small shows as “Solar Bear” a number of times, none of which I was able to see until this one. And on account of the rain, it was looking like it might turn into a private show for me until an assortment of adoring fans poured up the stairs at 7:15. In honor of the show we’d seen the night before they opened with an XX-inspired piece they’d put together that day (I believe). Ryan played an instrumental Beach House cover solo, then they rejoined to do one of Ryan’s originals, “Vagabond.” This was the highlight of the show for me; I’d heard the song before but never with their chilling harmonies. Oh and the lighting was really terrible… this videos are for listening to, not watching.

To reference the strike on my YouTube account yet again, I learned today that for the moment I’m not allowed uploading videos longer than 15 minutes :-/. So I had to cut out some stuff and break it into two videos. Shivesh played a number of solo pieces as well, despite what the videos might indicate (sorry!) and all-in-all I was well impressed with the way the two collaborated. Here’s Ryan doing his jam, “Summertime Girl” (I think is the name) and the two of them performing one of Shivesh’s originals.

Jeff Mangum!

There’s so much I want to say but this lavender tea is taking its toll and, not entirely unprecedentedly, this has gotten long. I think this more-or-less sums it up:

actually i WANTED a gif from earlier in the episode where april is surprised that he doesn't know her favorite band is neutral milk hotel and andy gets mad that mouse rat isn't her favorite band but, beggars can't be choosers. also thanks to this inspiration ryan rocked his mouse rat shirt at the concert, which i think was really an underappreciated touch.

actually i WANTED a gif from earlier in the episode where april is surprised that he doesn’t know her favorite band is neutral milk hotel and andy gets mad that mouse rat isn’t her favorite band but, beggars can’t be choosers. also thanks to this inspiration ryan rocked his mouse rat shirt at the concert, which i think was really an underappreciated touch.

A few months ago my friend Ben and I made an arrangement that he’d reserve his extra ticket to the show for me if I provided sleeping quarters for him and a few of his ‘idiot friends.’ I said he had me at ‘idiots,’ and so the idiot troupe piled into a car in DC post-Superbowl on Sunday to earn themselves a day of wine-tasting and gallivanting whilst I was slaving away in the office. Before long we’d enjoyed some of their souvenir wine, had a fantastic meal at Monsoon Siam (my first Thai meal since leaving Thailand, I realized!), grabbed a drink at the Box, and had headed round the corner to the Jefferson. It was my first show in the intimate venue (only opened after I graduated!) and I have to say I loved it. The sloped floors meant there wasn’t a bad “seat” in the house, the acoustics were good, and something about the place just lent itself to lots of crowd interactions with Mr Mangum himself. (He promised to sign someone’s album, he offered someone a prize when they correctly guessed “Oh Sister” was his next song… basically he was just great. He looked like a homeless person, but he was great.) I’ll admit to crossing my fingers for french horns and musical saws on stage, but there was something beautiful and simple about him commanding the stage with just a guitar. (Well, four guitars through which he rotated. And luckily! Because a string broke on one in the middle of one song.)

Again, no recording was allowed, but here’s a video of him playing at the Occupy movement in 2011 (at some point someone asks him to play Dylan and he says, “Dylan?! Haha, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I only know four chords…” or something to that effect, and it tickled me greatly):

Oh and I felt very drawn to one of the posters but we were in a rush to get out. Thanks Rob for hooking me up!

neutral milk hotel poster