Tag Archives: concert

MUSE 1/31/16

My son and I have just been to the best show, at least in the rock genre, that I’ve ever experienced. I got more than my money’s worth.

Why was it the best? You needed to be there, but here are some reasons:

Possibly the best performing band today. Matthew Bellamy was a concert pianist before he picked up a guitar. My untrained ears tell me he’s a very respectable pianist and I know he’s one of our top rock guitarists. Many rock artists with classical training give you rockified pop/classic, some sort of heavy-handed Kool-Aid which tells you they lack deep appreciation for either genre. But MB is straight-up rocker who just happens to have an incredible degree of musical understanding behind him. Several musical genres inform his work and make it rich.

They treat their audience well. There were mics set up at various points and MB and bassist Chris Wolstenhome rotated around to them to give a true in-the-round experience. Dom Howard on drums was at center stage. They must have done a couple miles on that stage. Matthew Bellamy is always moving, his performance is intense and physical, usually stalking the stage with his axe.

The stage rotated at times. There were lighted balloon drones doing synchronized movements above us. Explosions of person-shaped confetti. Black balloons (for Black Holes and Revelations) bouncing around the theater  which, when popped by bassist Wolstenhome, spewed confetti. A light show I won’t try to describe. Several huge translucent panels were lowered and images were projected on them (remember the images had to work from all angles, as you could see through them).

And all the elements: music, lyrics, visuals combine to create a total experience. The vision is dark, that of a futuristic techno-totalitarian dystopia. Sometimes there’s a slim secret hope for the downtrodden. Sometimes there’s a lovely lyrical pause in the steady beat of downward control. And sometimes we fight back! Dystopia, but they make it fun.

I would like to go back and experience “The Globalist” again. It was the big finale. It’s a gorgeous and riveting 10 minute experience. The grand effects and sadly evocative music combined really worked on me and actually made me think. During the concert.

They made it easy for the fans to be up close. This is a band which makes a point of expressing appreciation to its fans. Because of the configuration of the stage, it was easy to be close. I was at two to three people deep. Matthew Bellamy and Chris Wolstenhome were at times ten to fifteen feet away. I could see the individual hairs on their heads. I just never thought I’d get such a great “seat” to such a big band.

We bought floor tickets in order to have the option to get to the front and be close to the action, but I was cautious. It’s never easy to size up the type of crowd will be there with you. This is a hugely popular band…will we be crushed against the barrier, should we hang back?

When we entered the stadium, we saw there was no option but to be close to the stage. The floor was almost filled with the center stage and two wings in either direction. So we picked a spot around the center stage with just a few people gathering. I was ready to back away lest the crowd start pushing forward when MUSE came out, but it turned out to be a genial crowd. My son Atlee and I had so much fun!

People-confetti, light show, person-sized drones. My camera is really awful and I apologize.

Set list:


The Mercy of a Good Opening Band

Another concert, this time with my youngest daughter. My youngest wore a giant pink squid hat with tentacles and attracted some attention. I’m cultivating another concert buddy.

PASSENGER 006 dd with dh (She is a teenager and not 6 as this pic might suggest.)

We were at  the Electric Factory seeing someone who Maddy and her dear friend Hannah listen to.  We were assured that we would not like him. Even Maddy and Hannah didn’t seem to like him too much. So my husband and I knew that we would most likely not enjoy this inexplicably popular one hit performer who shall remain nameless because we definitely did not enjoy him.

But God who delights to show mercy to His beloved showered His mercy upon us and gave us a great opening band.

They are The Once. When Geraldine Hollett began singing, I knew the evening was saved. And when Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale struck in with their gorgeous harmony I was sold. Nothing compares to the stripped-down live sound of an ensemble’s essentials. Voices in harmony, a guitar, a mandolin/lute/banjo, and Geraldine’s hand drum (thing) were plenty impressive. Songs were lovely and evocative. I bought the CD at the merch table.


Even Maddy and Hannah commented that The Once was better than the headliner was going to be.

Set list was: The Town Where You Lived, We Are All Running, All the Hours, and Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling in Love with You (first time I’ve enjoyed that one), By the Glow of the Kerosene Light (tears), and two or three other songs I don’t know yet by title. But I loved every one. I will be getting CD #1, and the Christmas album will be added to our holiday repertoire.


I have endured countless forgettable opening bands, but this not my first pleasant surprise. A really good opening band is like a rare and unexpected gift. In February of 2013, we discovered The Lone Bellow as an opener at a TWLOHA concert; we went because Fiction Family was headlining. We were astonished, and we’ve seen them twice since. I’ll be looking for The Once to appear in our area now too.

We had a blast.


NIN 013

I saw Nine Inch Nails last night in Camden, NJ with daughter Eva and our friend Ken. She is a dedicated fan, and she considers it an accomplishment to take me to see them. Him. Trent Reznor.
I’m really still an outsider to his music, but I do appreciate it, and I do enjoy it. Anger, atheism and in-your-face language are prominent elements; I’m only formerly angry so it’s a stretch.  And if you’ve read my Dear Blank  you know my stance on language. And God. God Box

NIN is important to Eva. That’s why I was there.  We both find music necessary. To listen passively to music and then let it go is incomprehensible to both of us. We must understand what is being said, how it’s being said, what influenced the artist to say it, and evaluate the effectiveness of his methods.  Then we must choose to reject or to internalize it.

In My Concert Shoes I discussed the importance of sharing concert experiences with my daughters. Yo, they’re the most fun people I know.

Reznor’s music is refreshingly  honest. No teenage poser angst. Doubtful but still questioning, anger and despair in the search for answers. Sometimes a dialogue with God, though it may be an angry one. Drug abuse, exhaustion and recovery have influenced the work.  All is expressed in the most concise manner possible.

Artistic integrity is rarer than it should be. It sounds great.

He’s done an interesting thing. Trent Reznor has founded a genre which he still owns. You recognize a song by NIN without being told; nobody sounds like NIN. Reznor has branded NIN like no one has branded anything. (My daughter can explain his marketing genius.) But he has managed to keep the focus on the music rather than on his celebrity.

It was an amazing show. Soundgarden and all their pyramids opened, finished, lights went up, stage was re-set. Half the audience outside getting drinks, Trent Reznor walked unannounced across the stage to the mike, and began. Drummer started playing and drum set wheeled over, other band members joined. Then the lights went down.

NIN 006

There was no doubt that Trent Reznor was in control of the room.

Powerful, relentless, energetic sound. It is the most aggressive performance I’ve ever experienced. There are no breaks in the music or the visuals, no time to catch your breath. It is an onslaught. I felt assaulted.  But after all, it’s only music, so nobody gets hurt.

The visual show is even more an assault. Each and every song has a visual concept of its own. It’s gorgeous and overwhelming. There was a time I had to lower my head and close my eyes but I could still see the flashing lights. Moving light panels meticulously choreographed.  A light show in turn sultry, somber, blinding, dazzling, frenetic. The visual effects alone were worth the price of the show.

NIN 010      NIN 012

NIN 007    NIN 015

I sincerely apologize for my pictures.

Thank you Eva!  Thanks Ken!

My Concert Shoes

These are my concert shoes. I have worn them to every live show since October 1, 2010.  Which is a good few.


I found them in a bag of clothes given to us by a friend.  Knock-off chucks.They hadn’t been worn yet (the soles were clean) and they fit just right. I’ve received a lot of compliments on them over the years, and from some pretty cool people. I put them on to see the B-52s at the Electric Factory. That was October 1, 2010. I wore them two days later at the same venue to see Switchfoot for the first time.

I don’t have the chucks, which we called high tops then, that I wore to see the B-52s for the first time. But I might have been wearing retro 60’s clothes with heels. That was probably 1981.

I wore them last Friday night (May 2) to see Nickel Creek. Lucy and I are fans of this incredible band which was “on hiatus” for 6 1/2 years. Nickel Creek was no more and each of the members, Sean Watkins, Sara Watkins and Chris Thile, each branched off into multiple solo projects. Multiple projects! They are at the top of the list in their genre, and each one has mastered other genres as well, until genre distinctions become useless. Chris Thile helps you to appreciate how classical mandolin overlaps with bluegrass, how short is the journey from one genre to another, and that music is music is music is joy.


When the tour is over, there may never be a chance to see them together again.

So it was an important show to see. They were amazing.  You truly have to see them live to understand how good they are. These guys have been playing together since they were little kids and their virtuosity shows. And they are funny, witty, and charming, as performers tend to be when they are having a lot of fun.  Sara was particularly impressive.  I was not ready for how powerful and perfect her voice is. Sean’s guitar is clearly the backbone of the trio. Ever the quiet one onstage, it was he who came out after the show to shake hands and thank waiting fans. This is Lucy:


I was fighting a familiar train of thought during the Nickel Creek show.  It springs to mind at all good concerts and it goes like this: This is so wonderful I don’t want to forget it.  This music happening right now, this second, is passing. That part is over, it’s gone. Pay attention!  You want to remember this!  No, pay attention to what’s happening now!  Stop thinking this and pay attention! Stop thinking that too and pay attention!

It’s the old In the Moment  dilemma. I’m always thinking about how to hold onto the rare and amazing experience I’m enjoying, and that conflicts with my ability to enjoy it right now. I can’t help thinking that thinking about how special it is diminishes the power of the experience.


This Friday, I will wear my shoes to see The Aquabats at the TLA. It will be my husband, Lucy, Josh, Maddy and our friend Brandon. It will just be a lot of fun. And this will be a standing room show–yay!  All musical events less formal than classical concerts ought to be standing room! Someone should do something about this.

This summer I’ll wear my shoes to see NIN with my daughter Eva. That may raise a question or two from anyone who is tracking with the general theme of my blog; am I “proving all things”? Trent Reznor promotes a very different personal worldview than I do, and there are” language” differences as well. There are two reasons why I will go. First: as a musician, he has real integrity, which is rare these days. The music is honest, emotionally and artistically. Layers and layers of dense industrial sound, yet very melodic and relatable. Second: I would not miss an opportunity to experience this with my daughter.  Music is very important to Eva, to Lucy, and to me.  We spend a lot of time talking about music. It’s something we share and understand together. There’s no question that I will go.

Because cultivating the relationships I have been given is what I am still here for. Sharing experiences with each of my kids is the best thing I can do with my time, and I wouldn’t miss it. They are absolutely my favorite people on Earth.

Lucy gave me the ticket to see Nickel Creek for Mother’s Day. We’ve experienced a lot of concerts together…Switchfoot several times, Needtobreathe, John Mark McMillan, Family Force 5. And Fiction Family, where we met Sean Watkins before.

Eva is buying my ticket to NIN.  And Harry, Eva and I have our tickets to see Bryan Ferry in October! We have been successful: Eva knows that Bryan is The Man.  I am so proud.


My shoes will accompany me to more concerts til they fall apart, and it looks like that won’t be long.

In the Moment

Being “in the moment” is not easy.

Tonight I will miss seeing Switchfoot live for the first time since October 2010.  I need a concert fund.

Some form of Jon Foreman ( SF, Fiction Family with Sean Watkins at TWLOHA, other…) comes to Philadelphia at least once a year, and my daughter and I have seen him every time (except that free summer outdoor appearance when we both had coksackie).  We are both so so disappointed.  Seeing Switchfoot is just So. Much. Fun.

They are a superlative live band, owing to almost constant touring.  They just play so well.   And at some point during the night, Jon Foreman will make his way through the crowd– he obviously loves to do this.   If climbing is involved, all the better.   If you’re disappointed that you got stuck up in the balcony, be assured that Mr. Foreman will be passing your way during the evening.

I was born shy, introverted and self-conscious.  I struggled through every day of public school; I felt like my life depended on not being noticed.  But now, as  a middle aged, homeschooling, evangelical Christian mom, I have thrown off self-consciousness.

There are few things I enjoy more than being immersed in a tight crowd of strangers,  up against the stage for a live performance seeing a really good band

A few years ago,  I finally realized that at a rock show, no one is looking at me, no one can hear me no matter how loud I sing with the band, and I should just enjoy it.   I can forget myself, and just have fun.

I like to politely but firmly worm my way to the front, as close to the stage as possible.  There I must stand , holding my place, for the rest of the night.   So I might be standing there for 4  hours, because it may be two hours before the band I came to see appears.   At a general admission show, moving means losing your spot.

At a good live show, the real, actual, authentic music, played by the real authors of that music,  is happening right in front of me.  I’m IN the experience along with the band and the people around me.   If you are close to the stage, the band members can see you. Maybe they talk to you from onstage.  They play for the bunch of you, for tonight a circle of close friends singing the same language.  You, the band, and the other crowd members around you are all having an absolute blast together.

It’s a rare chance to be in the moment.  It’s hard to be in the moment as an adult, isn’t it?    Children are able to be fully present in the now.  We lose that ability as we mature.  It’s one thing I wish I hadn’t lost.  My mind is always preoccupied with ten things other than  what I’m doing now.

Concert-going  takes a lot of energy.   For me, it’s an expenditure way outside my energy envelope.  But all that effort focuses my mind and helps put me into the immediacy of the experience.  Then there is the enormous level of sound.  It all helps to blast me into the right now.  To experience this fun thing right now to the utmost.

Here’s a disclaimer.  I owe my Switchfoot fandom to my daughter Lucy, who is the real and foremost Switchfoot fan.  And the real Jon Foreman fan. Without her discerning ears I would never have discovered them!

And by the way, Lucy is by far my favorite live performer, and my most-often concert partner.

But I do seem to love a live show more than my kids. At times, most of them would rather hang in the back. As an art school kid I saw bands like Adam Ant, the Pretenders, the B-52s, Iggy Pop, Talking Heads, Robert Fripp, Bowie and Roxy Music; and clubbing, saw locals like The Speedies, The Tights, Eugene Chadbourne (and his rake), Pearl Harbor and the Explosions, Bunnydrums,  and many I’ve forgotten. Those were the days when real punk was just done, and was morphing into new wave. Those were my old days.

I didn’t have nearly so much fun in those old days.  I enjoyed it a lot, but I squandered chances to get up close, dance, jump up and down and yell.

In the last few years, I’ve seen Switchfoot (4x), Fiction Family, the B-52s, Kevin Max, Danzig, Needtobreathe, Relient K, Family Force 5 (2x), Muse, John Mark McMillan, and we’re about to see The Lone Bellow for the third time. (My ticket is a birthday gift.)

Some notable items from my recent resume:
With my daughter Eva  I saw Danzig with a migraine.   I hope to see more with Eva, without migraine.
I danced with Kevin Max.  Story:  Very small space, very small audience, and he couldn’t help seeing me.  I had a migraine and I yawned, even though I was having the time of my life.  In the middle of the song, he says,” Don’t go to sleep baby!”,  jumps down to the floor and starts dancing with me while he’s singing Stranded 72.5.  So much fun.

Most of the people we’ve seen, except for the mega- successful, have been kind enough to come out after the show to talk to us.  We’ve enjoyed meeting The Lone Bellow members: Kanene Pipkin, Zach Williams and Brian Elmquist, Soul Glow Activatur and Chapstique of Family Force 5, Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Drew Shirley of Switchfoot, Kevin Max (who thanked us personally about 5 times at that tiny venue), Sean Watkins of Fiction Family and Nickel Creek. Without exception, all were very kind. They’re just very talented regular people, after all.

I’m thankful I have had a chance to learn to relax –in public!  Now I’ll be looking for other ways to forget myself and enjoy.

Next:  my daughter Eva is taking me to see NIN this summer!

UPDATE:  I guess we’re eclectic.  My daughter Lucy has just gifted me with tickets to see Nickel Creek next Friday!  We two will be in the orchestra section of the Tower Theater.   This is, of course, a really special event because they broke up in 2009 and are doing a limited tour, probably never to be a unit again.  It’s a chance to see three artists who’ve gone on to great solo things…together.

Then, on May 9, a bunch of us will see The Aquabats, which is predicted to be super fun!

And there’s still Nine Inch Nails to see with Eva, who is also making me a gift of the tix.

I have great kids!