Sunday, November 23, 2008

M83 at the Bottom Lounge - Nov 21

Last Friday I went to the Bottom Lounge on the near west side to see two bands, M83 and School of Seven Bells. It turned out to be a pretty good night, so it ended up being worth standing outside in the 20 degree weather for it.

First off, a note to all of the Chicago venues out there: If you have the start time of your show marked as 9 pm on your website, on the tickets, and pretty much anywhere else that the info is available, THEN START THE SHOW AT 9 PM!!!! That does not mean don't open the doors until 9 pm, especially during the winter when people are freezing their asses off outside. Obviously, the Bottom Lounge was guilty of that last night, as the Metro has been many times before as well.

So this was actually my first trip to the Bottom Lounge. I believe it opened early this year or late last year, so it' still relatively new. They've been booking alot of really good shows there, so I'm sure I'll be back there soon enough. Thankfully it's a three block walk from a Green line stop, so that is always good news to me. I would guess it holds maybe 500 people or so inside, so it's not a huge place, which is always good.

I do have one big complaint about the interior setup of the venue. The stage is set up so that the left and right 1/3 of the stage have the PA speakers hanging from the ceiling. The problem is, that they have a speaker box that hangs almost all the way down to the stage, and I can tell you that the lowest point is about 6 feet, 1 inch from the ground. How do I know this exact height? Because I'm 6' 2", and my head was right against the bottom of the speaker cabinet the whole night. As you can guess, this cut off a chunk of my view of the stage, so I can only imagine how bad it is for anyone behind me, or even further to my side right on the stage.

So anyways, on to the music. As you can guess from me being stuck outside a lot longer than I planned, the show started at 10 pm instead of 9. First up was the band School of Seven Bells, who I was actually looking forward to seeing. The band has only three people, one of them being Benjamin Curtis, formerly of the band Secret Machines, the other two being sisters from some other band I've never heard of.

The only time I've seen Secret Machines was at Lolapallooza 2006 (the original full lineup anyways, not the current version of the band touring). They were great at that show, and Curtis's bombastic guitar was a key portion of their sound. Sadly, not much of that was seen at the School of Seven Bells set. Curtis was the only interesting thing about the band, as he spent his time tapping around on various footpedals while his fellow band members stood almost perfectly still and droned on.

The few enjoyable moments of their set came when the band made attempts to sound more like one of their influences, My Bloody Valentine. There was no drummer, they were only playing with recordings of bass and drums, but when they went more towards MBV's massive, swirling sound, it went better. They've got ways to go as a band, they'll need to come up with something a little more interesting from here on out.

M83 took the stage thankfully quickly after a quick set up. The band is from France, and the best way most people describe them is that they sound like the lost band on the soundtrack to every John Hughes 1980's movie. They'd fit perfectly between whatever Psychedlic Furs song is on the soundtrack, and right before the big hit song rolling over the credits. They have a very dreamy sound at many points, which gives way to massives washes of walls of guitars.

The band is basically one guy, Anthony Gonzalez, but the touring version was a four piece. They did a great job of recreating the dreamy sound of the songs live, thanks in part to Gonzalez's equipment, which looked half like a Moog and half like a computer of some sort. They jumped around between his last two cd's, and things dragged a bit at some points since some of the songs went on for a minute or two too long in some cases.

Midway through the set, they played their two "hit" songs, "Graveyard Girl" (from his new album) and "Teen Angst" from his previous album. I thought they might have peaked early because of that, but shortly after that, the set somehow morphed into a dance party once again, much like a live version of the Girl Talk show from a few weeks before.

It ended up being a very good time, and luckilly it wasn't a sweaty mess in the Bottom Lounge during the sets before the freezing walk back to the train station.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Battle of the English Majors

The lovely Mrs. MookieDaddy and I have had a long standing disagreement over a certain word. Yes, when you have two English majors in a couple, this is the kind of thing that happens...

We've long debated the spelling of the word "meh," as in:
Person: "Hey Scott, what do you think of the new Butch Walker cd?"
Scott: "Meh."

For those not familiar with the word and its usage, it's about one rung below "eh" and one higher than "nah." There's a very distinct difference there I'm sure you can appreciate.

Michele, for the longest time, has insisted that the spelling of the word is "mech." I've insisted that this is incorrect, since when I think of "mech," I think of this. I've insisted all these years that the correct spelling is "meh," as proven by an episode of the Simpsons when the kids are asked what they though of something, and their reply was "meh," which Lisa even spells out specifically as "m-e-h, meh."

Well, I'm proud to say that I received official vindication this week, when this story appeared in the Chicago Tribune (story is also here through Yahoo if the Trib article is blocked).

It was a very proud moment for me, one I will savor for some time.

Scott: 1, Michele: 0

Monday, November 17, 2008

Big Bird in Dora Underwear

Well, I'm sure that probably got your attention...

Home early from class tonight for once, so I have some time to write for once. Things are good for us once again, just crazy busy as always. Can't wait for Turkey day next week to head over to Grandma P's house and stuff ourselves silly with food. I think Bella is actually going to give me a run for my money in terms of the amount of food we'll be eating though.

Grandma G came to town for a little visit last weekend, it was a good time, Bella was extremely happy to spends lots of QT with Grandma, which doesn't happen enough. Bella even got to have a "sleepover" with Grandma and shared her big girl bed with her, and actually did not try kicking her out of bed throughout the whole night.

We're also working hard on potty training Bella at this point. She's responding pretty well so far, we're taking it slow though and not pressuring her too hard or anything. Michele bought her some Dora undies to encourage her to try it, and Bella decided to put them on her Big Bird doll with Grandma.

I'll be going to see a couple of bands I've never seen before at a newer bar in the city, the Bottom Lounge, on Friday night. I'll report after that one. Only about 5 more weeks left for me in this round of classes, I'll be ecstatic once that is done.

We'll hopefully post more soon...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Girl Talk at the Congress Theater 11/8

On Saturday night, I did one thing I didn't think I'd ever be typing about on this blog or pretty much anywhere else: I danced for nearly two hours straight.

Good god, the thought of that still frightens me. There was a good reason for it though, the set by Girl Talk at the Congress Theater. I wrote a few months back about Girl Talk (and if you still have not downloaded Feed The Animals for free, shame on you!), and already saw him once at Lollapalooza this year, but it was just not right seeing him do his thing outside in Grant Park midday in 90 degree weather. The perfect spot for him was in a club at night, so I was very optimistic about this one.

I believe the Congress holds somewhere around 2000 people, and for the first hour or so, it looks like barely a quarter of that was there. And to top that off, about 99% of those were under the age of 18. I was officially going to be in Dirty Old Man status at that point, I was avoiding looking around too much because a) I didn't want to give the authorities any reason to come after me, and b) I didn't want to be remnded that I was driving a car before most of those in the audience were born.

As my friend Brian wrote on his blog, I sent him and Michele (she was at home with Bella and Grandma G) a text that only said effectively "I am f-cking old." We picked out a spot at the back of the venue next to the soundboard to stay away from the kids, and to have a less embarassing spot in case we did decide to bust a move during Girl Talk's set.

There were three opening "bands" unfortunately, so it was going to be a long haul til we got to Girl Talk. The first was a rapper and dj named Hollywood Holt. They were mildly entertaining, they put on a pretty energetic set that was pretty stereotypical for a rap set (a song about butts, put your hands in the air, when I say "this," you say "that," etc.). Little did I know that was going to be the brightest spot for a while.

Next up was a rap duo whose name I have to track down again, but it really won't be worth the effort to do that. You pretty much know what you are in for when a rap duo's opening song is "Krak Attack," and it sounds just about as good as you expect. The duo went on for about 40 minutes, and their set was so bad that Brian and I had more fun laughing at it than anything else. It was also sadly the second time this year I had to see the Krak Monster perform, since he did the same thing before Girl Talk at Lollapalooza this year. It's a very sad thing when I see the Krak Monster perform more times than Radiohead in one year.

After that painful experience, the room was pretty full, and we next had to watch the "punk" band Dead End. I'm being generous calling them a punk band, since they pretty much played the same song (and were the only ones to use instruments all night) that all sounded exactly the same for another 30 or 40 minutes. They may have played a song per minute or something, I don't even know, I was pretty numb by the end of it.

The crowd was pretty stoked by the time Girl Talk was ready to take the stage, which was right around 10 pm. So yes, I thought most of the kids would have to go home soon after that for the curfew, but they instead ended up being among the 40 or 50 people up on stage dancing throughout Girl Talk's 2 hour set.

Since pretty much all of you haven't heard Girl Talk (aka dj Greg Gillis) yet, again, it's only one guy who has hundreds of samples on a laptop, and he puts together songs that you would never guess in a million years would go together well, and makes fantastic dance music out of it. One way I can describe it is that he takes hundreds of puzzles, takes bits and pieces from each puzzle, jams them all together and makes a brilliant new puzzle, and continues to do this non-stop for 2 hours straight.

The crowd ate up every moment of it, from where I could see, the whole room was dancing almost throughout the entire set. The best way I can describe it is to think of when you see a person going to a concert or dance club in a movie, and everyone in the club is dancing around like crazy, it's one of the few times a concert is actually like that, except that it's not some annoying bass beat repeating constantly for an hour.

Thankfully the crowd that surrounded us by this point was the old farts (you know, 25 year olds), so I didn't feel as bad at that point. It's one of the few times I've seen a crowd that was genuinely into a performance from beginning to end. It's also one of the few times I've ever seen people bring cameras into a show, and had 95% of the pictures taken of the crowd themselves, not everyone taking pics of the performers on the stage. It was honstely one of the best concert crowd experiences I've had, it was people thrilled to be living in the moment and actually loving being a part of this thing at that point in time.

The crowd was in Girl Talk's hands from beginning to end, roaring any time there was a mild dip in the music, and saving one of the biggest roars of the night when a Time magazine cover with Barack Obama on the front rolled on to the screen. Call it a rollover of the thrill of Tuesday night, it worked either way.

There was a brief time during the middle of the set when somehow the sound in the venue dipped to about 50% of the volume from the rest of the set, and the crowd almost all stopped dancing at that time. Gillis noticed this after a minute or two, and once he and the people working the soundboard figured out the problem, the sound was back at full volume, and the crowd roared and danced along again. Gillis also took a moment or two during the show to note that despite playing to several thousand people at Lollapalooza and various other festivals through the year, this was his biggest show ever as a headliner, and he was ecstatic and extremely appreciative to the crowd for that.

After nearly two hours of insanely great music, Gillis, now stripped down to only his boxer shorts, jumped on to the crowd and crowd surfed his way all the way to the sound board right behind us. It was a great end to the night as he stood triumphantly on the soundboard while greatfully thanking the crowd for the night once again.

I could only think that seeing Girl Talk on New Year's Eve would be one of the greatest parties on Earth (aside from seeing the Flaming Lips on NYE 2001 as I did), but assuming that word will spread about shows like this, that will be tough to get in to see. Download Feed the Animals if you haven't already, and if you ever get the opprotunity, go and see him live.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Good times

As you all can probably guess, we're pretty happy over here at la casa de Pacyna tonight.

It's going to be a very tough 4 years ahead for our country, but for the first time in a long time, I've got great confidence in the man who will be running the show. We'll just have to hope that it all works out the way they have talked about it to this point.

We couldn't have asked for a better gift on our 8 year anniversary. Even Bella decided to stay awake til 10:30, even though she wasn't watching her new President "Obamba" making his speech, she was saying "mommy" about 20 times into her wireless receiver. Oh well, I'm sure she just knew we should have been downtown in Grant Park celebrating as well.

We'll see how it all goes from here, but for the first time in a long time, I've got a great deal of hope for our country's future.

Good night everybody.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Bella had two costumes for Halloween this week. We brought the skunk costume (or as Bella says, "stunk") back from last year for the first part of Halloween at her daycare. She then was a princess butterfly for the actual day of trick or treating around our house.

Bella had a lot of fun trick or treating, we almost hit every single house on our block, which is a pretty long block, so our candy stash is pretty well filled for the next few months.

The first two shots are Bella trick or treating at Grandma's house, the others are on Halloween.