[Editor's Note: The London games have officially been declared open, and I for one am excited as hell -- so excited that I'm setting aside a whole blogweek to dive into the crazy stuff that's happened so far. So without further ado (please read the following words in a British accent), it is my honor to officially declare open You Hear That's "OMG! OLYMPICS!" week!]
OMG, YOU GUYS! OLYMPICS!
Can we talk about the opening ceremony for a quick second? About the Queen of England (kind of) jumping out of a helicopter? About the hilarious squadron of Industrial Revolution dudes dancing in tuxes and top hats? About the terrifying, 100-foot-tall Voldemort? About the above-pictured sparks-spewing rings that themselves looked like something lifted out of Harry Potter? I must admit to being a little underwhelmed by the first few minutes, with the cricket-playing and the maypole-winding and the over-the-top pastoral bliss, but things picked up significantly, and if you didn’t catch it, I highly recommend you set aside those 3 hours you have just lying around the house and indulge in the most schizophrenic display of national pride you’ll ever see.
Oh wait, I would make that recommendation if NBC wasn’t criminally out of touch with how people consume media these days. They’re militantly policing the interweb, taking down full streams of the opening ceremony wherever they pop up, offering instead chopped up highlights, each with an annoying commercial tacked on to the front. And don’t get me started on how they still think it’s OK to tape-delay events like this to get bigger ratings. Ugh. Dicks.
Wait a minute… this post was supposed to be a celebration! I’m not letting NBC throw an ice pack on my Olympic fever! Let’s look at the sunny side…
I have some pretty strange eating habits. Mind if I share one? I promise to make it snappy. It involves Hot Tamales, which are almost certainly Mrs. YHT’s favorite non-chocolate candy. Whenever I manage to wrest one away from her, I apply squishing pressure to either end of the capsule-shaped Tamale until it looks like how movies sometimes depict catastrophic explosions in space (it more closely resembles this yo-yo, but that’s not nearly as dramatic, is it?). Once the capsule’s modification is complete, down the hatch it goes. I don’t know how my Hot Tamale ritual started, and I sure as hell don’t know why it makes me so happy. It just does.
I have a listening habit just as idiosyncratic that I’d like to share, and unlike the candy custom above, you can join in on the fun right this very minute! It has to do with cover songs. Often, when I find a cover I really like, I’ll listen to it, then listen to the original version, then the cover again, then the original again, cover, original, cover, original, over and over, until I absolutely, positively have to take my headphones off and and pay attention to something else. A little crazy, right? I’d say it’s like being a tennis spectator, glancing left and right to follow a rally, but if I’m being honest, it’s more like being the ball. And as nutty as it may sound, I could go on forever like that, comparing the songs, finding little differences in the phrasing of the lyrics, trying to imagine why certain decisions were made during the respective recording processes.
Wanna play a little cover tennis? C’mooooooon, it’s super fun. I’ve picked out three pairs of tunes, and I’ve even assigned a tennis player (two of whom are competing in the London Olympics) to each pair, based on how obsessed with them I’ve become. So let’s crack open a new tube of balls, take a sniff — because it’s the best smell in the universe — and get to thwackin’!
Oh, sensory overload. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
You make me smile. You pick me up and take me away from where I’m standing. You crowd out rational thought, clearing bandwidth for an input onslaught. You make me forget everything, but I can’t forget you.
I walked into the National last Wednesday already overloaded, having tried to cram the entire Blitzen Trapper back catalogue into the fleeting hours leading up to the show. This was no easy accomplishment (as evinced by the fact that I failed to accomplish it), given that the Portland group has been on an album-a-year tear for nearly a half decade, their steady stream of high-impact songwriting resulting in a mountain of material that’s wildly rewarding climb.
The experience of seeing Blitzen Trapper live was just as overwhelming. There were so many notes. So many chords, key changes, harmonies, and brain-bending, soul-saving, dead-raising guitar solos… it was pure inundation, and I wish every one of you could have seen it (check here to see if they’re coming to a town near you).
My favorite example of Blitzen Trapper’s remarkable musical wealth (if you haven’t guessed already) has to be the lead guitar licks provided by frontman Eric Earley and guitarist/Moog-master Erik Menteer.
I love this video. I love it to death. I want to wad it up and carry it around in my pocket. OK, well I guess I technically already am carrying it around in my pocket, but you get the idea. This is going to sound crazy, but I’m convinced that this video of a “flash choir” performing “The New Rule” from Philip Glass’ opera Monsters of Grace has got to be one of the hippest unhip things I’ve ever seen.
Does one song give you enough information to write an entire concert review? No, it doesn’t. But can one song give you enough information to get ridiculously excited about a band? You betcha.
The plan was to make it to Gallery 5 in time to catch my first glimpse of The Snowy Owls, who were participating in this past Saturday’s “WRIR and The Commonwealth of Notions Presents: Volume Two” — a 10-band sampling of the Richmond music scene organized by WRIR’s Shannon Cleary. Unfortunately, I spent the majority of The Snowy Owls’ set eating trail mix while driving east on Monument Avenue, because I failed to leave on time AND forgot to eat dinner. Not my finest moment. The silver lining to my gold-star-worthy failure was extra shiny, however, because I made it to Gallery 5 in time to pay the $10 admission fee, snag a beer and settle into a spot near the back of the room as the first few notes of set closer “Yr Eyes” were starting up. In the four and a half minutes that followed, I learned a few important things…
I don’t know how you could go to a Neko Case concert and not fall in love with her.
For one thing, you’d have to hate hearing beautiful voices. Friday evening at the National in Richmond, VA was my first time seeing Case perform live, and I’m convinced that hers is a voice that you could listen to infinitely, as if hearing it were as natural and essential as respiration or a beating heart. Powerful without overpowering. Precise, but not robotic. Weighty, but nimble as all get-out. It was the main event, but it folded into songs comfortably, leaving plenty of room for backup singer Kelly Hogan to add depth and shape to the melodies (Hogan also served as Friday’s opening act – a feat of endurance that grew more and more impressive as the night went on).