2015: The Best / Worst in Music

I might do a few of these year-in-review posts for a few various things so I’ll keep the, brief. I’m not making a top 10 list, or anything that in depth – just picking my favorite thing, and in my opinion the worst, or most disappointing thing this year.

This first one will be a look at my picks for best and worst album for 2015.

BEST ALBUM
Lord HuronStrange Trails (playlist on YouTube to check out)
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I’ve been hooked on Lord Huron since their debut album, ‘Lonesome Dreams‘ back in 2012. In fact it doesn’t even seem like that it was that long ago. It took nearly three years for their sophomore effort and what we got was thankfully an album that continued everything that was great about the first.

The sound of the music on Lonesome Dreams could be described as almost ethereal – the kind of music you’d hear in the background as you’re hiking through the Grand Canyon under starlit skies with the Milky Way shining in a beautiful arc over you from horizon to horizon. While Strange Trails doesn’t quite emulate the same feeling, it’s not far off. The band continues with song after song of addictive guitar riffs and vocal catches that you can’t get out of your head. It almost seems as if the album is a single song with multiple movements. If you’re weary of it, or it doesn’t seem to catch you right away, my suggestion is to go back to Lonesome Dreams, and get lost in that album (you’ll immediately recognize the first track, then let it glide seamlessly into tracks 2, 3, & the rest.) Then come back to Strange Trails and it will feel much better.

Almost all the songs are noteworthy, but I’ll say that some stand outs include (in no particular order): Cursed, Fool For Love, Hurricane, La Belle Fleur Sauvage, & Meet Me In The Woods.

Bonus: If you’re curious about the backstory to their debut album, Lonesome Dreams, do some googling on this fella named George Ranger Johnson, and read about the history of the band – it will make you appreciate their creativity even more.

Runner Up:
Wilco – Star Wars
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Wilco, the kings of alt-Dad-rock, is in my top 3 favorite bands of all time. Even still, with this fantastic out-of-nowhere surprise album full of great music, I couldn’t put them in front of Lord Huron. Even so, Star Wars should be on your must listen list.

WORST ALBUM:
Phantogram & Big Boi – Big Grams
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I’m sure there are worse albums-  and in fact I know there are. But to me, this was the worst. Well, most disappointing anyway. I couldn’t even get through the whole thing.

Look, I love Phantogram. Their first two albums were fabulous. I know they walk the line between alt-rock and techno-hip-hop, or something like that, but it worked. Well.

But now all that talent is pretty much wasted. I, personally, could give two shits about Big Boi – but his participation in this group relegated the talents of Phantogram’s soaring lead vocalist Sarah Barthel to a backup whiner, and Josh Carter to hip-hop drum machinist. Just awful. I hope this was a one time thing.

At least we’ve got Phantogram’s 3rd album to look forward to soon.
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So there you have it. If you need some new music to listen to, give the above a try. And if you want your ears to bleed, you know where to go for that too.

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Brit Floyd @ the Bayou Music Center

Towards the end of July I had the privilege of getting as close to an actual Pink Floyd concert as I’ll ever get. Pink Floyd has IMG_1551been one of my favorite – if not the favorite – bands since I started really being into music (around middle school). I was too young to know about or go to their show at the Carrier Dome in 1994 on their Division Bell tour. But, after experiencing it via VHS on the P*U*L*S*E release 6 years later, I wish I had.

Enter Brit Floyd – a tribute band that really throws everything they have at making the spectacle as close to the real thing as possible. And they do it well. And they’ve been doing it for a while, too. They’ve got everything one needs for imitating Floyd’s big stage theatrics, and they can do it in whatever sized venue is around.

And I was blown away.

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Not to mention I was pretty giddy the whole night. My wife had wanted to get us tickets as a birthday present a few years ago but the dates ended up not working – so when I saw they were coming to Houston, we were definitely there.


So, the band itself is pretty spot on. They’ve got a guy that does a great David Gilmour, and a guy that does a pretty good Roger Waters. They’ve also got a group of fabulous back-up singers, featuring the lovely Ola Bienkowska belting out those amazing vocals during Great Gig In The Sky. Musically, they are nearly spot on. Sure, they each have their own style that is slightly different from the original Floyd members – and that’s probably for the best. The stage show is equally as impressive – and I can’t imagine the money these guys have to fork over for rights to use the same basic stage show as Floyd, not to mention the film footage, and animations straight out of The Wall. In the end, Floyd fans get the next best thing to the real thing. Now, I’m only 34, but the crowd was full of people my age – and mostly older. And there is nothing more awesome than old people rocking out. It’s a spectacle that makes you want to rock out with them. So that’s what we did.


The set was full of songs any Floyd fan would be hoping for – as well as some really excellent surprises. It was a good mix of the really old, the classic, and ‘modern’ Floyd. Highlights from the old were definitely See Emily Play, and an awesome Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun. For me, the biggest highlight came when they busted Sheep out of nowhere. I also must give them major props for learning and playing rather fantastically the ‘new’ song from the ‘new’ album: Louder Than Words. Add to that a poignant version of The Final Cut, a jump up & down rocking’ Run Like Hell, and a phenomenal Comfortably Numb with a solo that would make Gilmour proud.

Here is the setlist for the night:

Breathe ->
On the Run ->
Time / Breathe reprise ->
Great Gig In The Sky
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
See Emily Play
The Happiest Days of Our Lives ->
Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2
Keep Talking
On The Turning Away
Sheep
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Intermission
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One of These Days
Louder Than Words
Money
Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
Have A Cigar
Wish You Were Here
The Final Cut
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Intermission
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Comfortably Numb
The Show Must Go On
In The Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting For The Worms
The Trial
Outside The Wall

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I hope Brit Floyd comes around again sometime soon – because we’ll be there. If they come around you, and you’re a Pink Floyd fan definitely make a point to go.

Pics & vids I took from the show have been scattered throughout this post, and there are more below. I didn’t take any really long videos because I don’t have a lot of storage go my iPhone and I wanted more short clips instead of just a few long clips. Check them out, and check out Brit Floyd.

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Garth Brooks @ The Toyota Center

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but dammit I love Garth Brooks. I’m not a fan of country music – but I love me some Garth.

I was super pumped when he finally announced Houston dates – and I was able to get tickets to the late Saturday night show in the company box. I haven’t seen Garth since about 1997 I think when he came to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The shows were running long and hard – and even though the late shows were supposed to start at 10:30pm, we didn’t even get in the building until around 11pm – with the show starting around 11:30. But, Garth railed through an amazing show (like always) and played until around 2am. Just phenomenal.

I’m usually apt to snap some pics at shows for fun – but I was pretty much rocking out the whole time so I only grabbed a few pics and a few quick vids.

If you ever get a chance to go see Garth Brooks – take it. You don’t have to be a cowboy or a redneck or even a big country music fan. His music has much more widespread appeal and damn does he know how to play to the audience and just have a blast.

I believe this was during The River. Lighters have long since been replaced by cell phones. Still, a great site to see.

I believe this was during The River. Lighters have long since been replaced by cell phones. Still, a great site to see.

Some video of The Thunder Rolls

Grab ahold of anything an hold on tight!

Grab ahold of anything an hold on tight!

Towards the end of the show it got crazy: Fever

Love ya, Garth!

Bob Seger rocked our Valentine’s Day, & Ready2Roll MS 150 Training; Weeks 4 & 5

So last weekend was Valentine’s Day, and because we had some hoopla scheduled we skipped the Ready 2 Roll training ride. Not a big deal. So, no pictures from last week. Instead, we went with another couple to the Hobby Center in downtown Houston to see a show: Kinky Boots. And it was fabulous. Lots of fun, super funny, and even as a guy who doesn’t attend many musicals – had a great soundtrack. Highly recommended – not for the kids though. Just adults.

After the show we went further into downtown to Prohibition Supperclub & Bar for a special Valentine’s Day dinner. It was a pretty swell place. We didn’t see the show there, as we had just come from one – but we’re planning on catching one in the future.

But, as we parted way with our friends after dinner, the wife and I continued down to the Toyota Center, as I had surprised her with tickets to see Bob Seger from the company’s box in the arena. And let me tell you – that guy can still rock. What a show. His voice was great, he was all over the stage having a great time, interacting with the audience. There wasn’t anything elaborate about his performance, but it was a solid rock & roll show. We had a goddamn blast. We both love Seger, and regretting not going to see him a number of years ago when we swung through Syracuse (we’re talking like a decade ago, here). My iPhone can’t take pictures from distances, so here are a few hard to see pics during the show, and a video I took of Old Time Rock & Roll, along with the setlist from setlist.fmIMG_0749 IMG_0751

IMG_0756 Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 11.39.34 PMHighlights included Main Street, Hollywood NightsLike A Rock – which was started with just Bob sitting at the mic with his guitar and slowly built. Damn good. And California Stars. I had read he was playing this but didn’t tell my wife – I was really hoping he’d play it and have her be surprised. This was the song we danced to at our wedding. We are both huge Wilco fans, and we’ll be seeing them in April at the Bayou Music Center. It basically brought her to tears, and my Valentine’s Day mission was a success. Also, Bob rocked his cover of it. I grabbed a concert poster to be framed and added to my collection, too. All in all, it was a fantastic day with friends, and kick ass music. If he’s coming around your neck of the woods – go! He sounds so good. Always remember, you can come back baby. Rock & roll never forgets.

So that was last week. This week we wavered on heading to the training ride because the weather forecast was a bit wishy-washy and it was also pretty far away and neither of us felt like getting up at 5am. So we slept in, and went for our own training ride in Terry Hershey and George Bush Parks. We missed having lovely rest stops with food, but it was excellent to get on the bikes since we hadn’t in two weeks.

We eeked out almost 30 miles, but the wind was really bad.
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We normally could push about 50 miles on this route but due to the weather and the lack of practice over the last two weeks we took it easy.
We started at the Tollway 8 underpass.
IMG_0394 Selfie in motion. (Don’t try this at home kids)IMG_0392 It was a cloudy day, but it was pushing 70*, even with the 15mph winds. Here’s heading west in Terry Hershey Park.IMG_0382IMG_0389Part of the Terry Hershey Extension that heads underneath I-10. This is a cool little tunnel-y underpass.IMG_0391IMG_0388Love this bike. IMG_0387We stopped here in George Bush Park for a quick rest.
IMG_0384Look Ma! No hands! My wife was impressed (and annoyed) I was able to pedal over 16mph, with no hands, into the wind, and take pictures. IMG_0385Making the turn southward along Highway 6 in GBP – almost directly into that damn wind.
IMG_0383IMG_0393IMG_0381I have this section of THP set up as a course on Map My Ride – though going in the opposite direction. Here we are trying to outrun some raindrops that started to fall.IMG_0390There’s this nasty quick and really steep little hill just past Wilcrest Dr, and thanks to the light rain mixing with the loose sand/gravel at the base of the hill I nearly wiped out as I was started to pedal hard to climb. Rear wheel just decided to go out from under me to the right. Thankfully it wasn’t bad enough where I went down, I recovered from the slide, and made it up the hill as usual. But it sucks how badly a little wetness can screw you. Especially when you have slick tires and not knobby ones.IMG_0396I took this, and did a little editing, because I noticed the other day while I was commuting home (I take the same route through the park) that it reminded me of something, and all that popped into my head was:

“The way is shut. It was made by those who are dead. And the dead keep it. The way is shut.”IMG_0358It just looked so dismal and dead. Great way to wrap up the post, right? Depressing!

Next week, we plan to be back on the regular schedule with the Ready 2 Roll series. I’m not sure where we’re headed but I hope the weather holds and it’s not too far of a drive.

Please remember to donate to our fundraisers for the MS150 as well! Time is drawing near! Find links to donate to my wife and I on this page.

Thanks!

Houston’s Toyota Center will take you for everything you’ve got before you even get your tickets.

I love music, and I love concerts. I understand some artists and bands command a higher price ticket than others – and I’m usually OK with that. I mean, I paid $94 in 2001 for a decent 100 level seat towards the back of the Carrier Dome to see Billy Joel & Elton John blow my mind. Worth every penny. I’ve paid roughly $40-60 to see Dave Matthews Band roughly 23 times since the late 90’s. Hell, I saw Peter Frampton in an incredibly small venue for almost $90 a ticket. Again, worth it.

What I’m sick of is the extra fees and bullshit that brokers like Ticketmaster tacks on to the cost of a ticket. “Convenience fees” can nail you anywhere from $5-25 per ticket. I still don’t know what that even means. I’d think it’s actually easier, and most cost effective to have the tickets ordered through the self-sustaining online system – this way there are no phone operators to hold things up (or pay), or people in box offices doing much the same. Oh, and don’t forget another $5 for “order processing.” Again, bullshit because a computer did it. Whatever. Just suck the money out of me.

We all hate it. But we’ve paid it, bitching about it all the way.

BUT WAIT. IT GOT WORSE.

So I wanted to go see Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – because they rock your face off – here at the Toyota Center in Houston. We’ve seen them twice before and damn it’s always a kick ass show. So I went through the motions online to buy tickets and the below picture is what I was faced with:

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So let me get this straight…
If I want to have my tickets mailed to me – you know, like normal – I have to pay an additional $25? WTF. Same goes for picking them up at the venue at the Will Call window. $25? Seriously? The only free option is this Flash Seats nonsense – which is apparently an app they are forcing you to download to your smartphone and use to display your tickets to the ushers at the venue. What if you don’t have a smartphone? I didn’t until last month. And even so, what if I don’t want to put some random garbage application on it? I want my tickets mailed to me. For free – or a small nominal fee it sometimes was.

So now, for me and the wife to see Tom Petty, it’s cost $160 for mediocre seats? Seriously – look – section 423? C’mon. Here’s the seating chart:
Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.28.17 PMWhat’s even more annoying, is this is specific to the Toyota Center. I went onto Live Nation to check out a different stop on the tour: Darien Lake PAC in New York State. I went through the motions of buying tickets, and here’s what I found:
Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 10.31.21 PMAside from them also trying to get you to download a completely different app on your smartphone for free access to your tickets, if you just want them mailed to you it’s only $3.50. That’s at least reasonable. Though, if you think about it, this whole situation is basically just the ticket brokers holding onto your tickets until you pay a ransom to have them released to you.

You’re probably sitting there, reading this, ready to say “Dan. Just download the app. So what?” And to that I say: I shouldn’t have to. Nor do I want to put some random app I’ve never heard of on my phone just because some crappy system a stadium uses is forcing me to.

Anyway, needless to say we haven’t yet purchased tickets to go see Tom Petty.

Friday’s Jam

It’s been a while. But this is so worth it.

I love me some Billy Joel. I love what Jimmy Fallon has done with Late Night. And I love this.

 

Friday’s Jam

This has always been one of my favorite classical pieces.

Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, Played masterfully and mind blowingly here by Valentina Lisitsa

It’s only been played better by Tom & Jerry

Friday’s Jam

Heard this on XM the other day, and just enjoyed it. Apparently it’s a few years old. Guess I’m out of the loop. Oh who am I kidding I was never in the loop.

Lord Huron – Ends of the Earth