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

This Week in Links: January 20-January 26

Wow… this was a very slow Week in Links. Could have probably extended it to another fortnight but… nah.

So that gives me liberty to throw back to a link I ended up shelving last week because the post was already so long:

scoby craigslistExcept– boom— it’s not even actually a link anymore because for whatever reason the post ended up being deleted :(. Maybe they think I was hawking an illegal substance? (brb… making sure it’s legal to make your own kombucha in this POLICE STATE. […tell me you all know I’m joking?]). But no matter, because I was still successful in spreading the progeny of Claire and Collette’s “Thomas”-in-Thailand (someone did ask if mine had a name, girls!) to three– nay, four!– lucky individuals in the Charlottesville area. Soon we’ll have a veritable army of kombucha brewers ’round here.

So onto the slim-pickings of the links by which I was actually entertained this week:

When a friend was telling me about roommate problems, I suggested she write a passive-aggressive (thanks to cheerleading I will never misspell that word) note to him. Then I remembered there was a site about that that I hadn’t been to in years and decided it was high time I got reacquainted. I was almost immediately rewarded with this:

passive aggressive note to mom

though you’ll frequently hear me saying i’m not sure i want kids, if i do decide to go ahead and procreate one of these days, i’ll be pretty disappointed if, at some point in his or her childhood, i don’t receive an almost verbatim version of this note.

At some point I came across this article on HuffPost, about what some of our favorite celebrities were doing before (or in addition to) making it big:

did you know about this emilie? after you were just reminding me about your lifelong dream to play the banjo.

did you know about this emilie? after you were just reminding me about your lifelong dream to play the banjo.

I’ve seen a few variations of this floating around the ‘book and while, admittedly, I probably will never do any of them, these “Life Hacks” (as I guess the kids are calling them these days) are good and creative ideas. That frequently employ recycling?

this one's actually maybe made for me right now because i've re-entered a fifth-grade-esque phase of nail polish compulsion.

this one’s actually maybe made for me right now because i’ve re-entered a fifth-grade-esque phase of nail polish compulsion.

Oh, and thanks to some highly coveted connections I have with the 2009 Trustees Board, I landed myself a spot in our Class of 2009 Winter E-news Alumni Profiles section. Celebrity status (though not quite as good as that one time I was in the Chinese newspaper…).

angela calonder winter alumni profile

And that’s really all I  got this week, darlings! Though it’s not like me to leave a post sitting at 381 words so I guess I could quickly include some of the music/other entertainment that’s gotten me by this week:

[Haha… just started gushing and gushing about “Icky Thump” to the point that it’s going to get its own post.]

I really enjoyed watching Jay-Z’s 2001 performance on MTV’S Unplugged (though I swear, if I have to hear/read one more person bitch about how there’s no more music on MTV… we get it, it’s defying its own acronym at this point, reality shows are annoying and pedestrian, you’re very very upset. But guess what, there are roughly a billion other places to listen to and watch music these days. And no one cares. To quote my eighth grade History teacher, ‘The horse is dead!’). I certainly think of hip-hop as something that could be difficult to, er, unplug, but I guess with the Roots behind you anything is possible. Mary J Blige also makes an appearance at the end, which was a nice addition. I’ve been feeling kind of sad that I was so hellbent on choosing between the likes of Blink-182 and Eminem (in my school it was very gauche to be into both punk rock and rap) back in middle school rather than just embracing everything. I missed out on so much for so long!

A couple of searches and subsequent clicks (found out Gwyneth Paltrow sang back-up for “Song Cry” at a Jay-Z performance in London a few years back, attempted to find a video of this) landed me at a video of Gwyneth Paltrow rapping “Gangsta Gangsta”? Which I found endearing because I too have dabbled in the lucrative industry of white-woman-rap. (Not gonna link to it though haha.)

celeb gossip blogs really want us to hate her but i just… can’t.

But more importantly, I discovered the wonder of listening to standup comedy in the office. It makes the hours fly and keeps your spirits up all day. You might emit an embarrassing chuckle or two, but I’ve decided it was worth it. Notable sets for me this week were Margaret Cho (thanks Chris Kelly, you created this monster), Craig Ferguson (wasn’t at all sure what to expect here but I was pretty entertained the whole time), Louis CK (been watching so much Parks and Rec lately it seemed a shame not to. Also that links to a bloopers reel that you should probably click right now.), Robin Williams (always a classic, and, notably, back in 1986 Qaddafi, gun control, and Clint Eastwood were still the buzzwords), and Mitch Hedburg (also, essentially, a bloopers reel).

And most importantly is that my friend Kyle turned me onto the Bird and the Bee, and specifically their Hall and Oates tribute album.

And then he told me about Live from Daryl’s House, specifically that time Chromeo showed up:

And just to close the subject, two of my favorite pieces of Hall and Oates-related literature: It’s been “A Night”  and Three Exciting Pieces of News from 2birds1blog.

One year ago: Penang, Again (Part Three)
Two years ago: Darjeeling; Leaving Kolkata
Three years ago: Assorted Updates