A Wild and Exhausting Summer

I am exhausted. And I may even be writing this just to get that point across. I am also writing this on my 30th birthday – which is apparently a significant thing. Apparently, I am now old, can be officially called an ‘Uncle’, and as my parents and relatives subtly remind me – my prospects in the arranged marriage market have now taken a deep hit. I am also writing this 2 days after my birthday celebration which involved the highest rate of alcohol consumption and (rather short lived) general feelings of invincibility I have experienced in the last 5-6 years – a combination that culminated in my very own “I AM A GOLDEN GOD!” moment (OK maybe not that dramatic). I am also writing this after a full day and a half of (completely necessary) recovery. But more importantly, I am writing this at the end of a wild, wild summer.

I AM A GOLDEN GOD!!

The idea of seasons took its time for me to get used to. It was at least 2-3 years after my arrival in the US that I realized that I cannot be as active in the winter as I am in the summer. And more importantly, that it was OK not to be going out and traveling all the time in the winter. At the other end of that realization was my effort to be as active as possible during the months of April to October. It is a change in my lifestyle that I have come to accommodate over the past few years, and am now actually quite content with the new mental states that I find myself in at various times of the year.

For the past few years, ever since I started working, I have tried to reach a particular point in my mental state around late October/early November. It is a state of mind wherein I can honestly tell myself, “I have done everything I possibly could this summer, and now I am ready for the winter.” I have been largely successful these past few years in achieving that state of mind around October/November – just in time for the winter to set in.

This year, I reached that state of mind in the first week of August.

This summer has been one long continuum punctuated with concerts, music festivals, weekend travels, night-outs at bars, work, poker, games of Settlers of Catan, games of bags (a.k.a Cornhole), lots of records and CD shopping and of working out. It has had its moments – from very intense and stressful to very peaceful and relaxing. 4 trips to Chicago, 4 to Kansas City, twice to Wisconsin (including my 4th visit to House on The Rock is as many years), 3 music festivals, 3 night-outs at an establishment that I’d rather not specify (one of which culminated in my rather memorable 530 AM question “Is that the fuckin’ sun?“), 30+ bands seen live, a month long stay in a resort at Storm Lake (for work), God only knows how many gallons of alcohol consumed, late late nights (more like early mornings) at the neighborhood bar, God only knows how many new friends made, and all this while working on a high profile highway project in the state of Iowa.

This is probably the point I post a meme summing it all up:

Yes. It was really exhausting. And I would do it all over again.

In all seriousness, I reached a point of complete exhaustion the first week of August. I had been on a non-stop schedule of weekend travel/concerts/general fun for over 3 months. And after my trip to Milwaukee the first weekend of August, I just felt I was done – which was really understandable. But the fact that I did not have any concerts/travel scheduled for the next 3 weeks made the timing just spot on. So the break was most welcome, which I spent doing exactly nothing. (OK I will admit I continued my obsession with Japanese crime novels during that time.) And towards the end of August, I got my energy back and was traveling around all over again.

In the end, I look back at these past 6 months with a sense of satisfaction that I haven’t felt in a while. This satisfaction came with a new found appreciation for just being fortunate enough to have the time, resources and physical ability to do all the things I did. It also came with a sense of pride for realizing that my passion and curiosity for exploring what’s out there are not going away. It came with the true understanding that I am really only as old as I want to be. It also came with the realization that I have a group of friends that I can truly depend on, and a neighborhood that I can call my own. This is the closest I have come to feeling like I am home here in the US, and I truly feel fortunate that I have all this.

My 30th birthday celebration was probably the last ‘exhausting’ activity this year. My concert calendar is now empty till January, and I am going sober for the next 4-5 weeks. But perhaps, more importantly, my parents are going to be here a week from today for a month. What better way to do the cool down lap this year than just feasting on mom’s food? There may yet be one final weekend trip this year where I get to take my parents out.

But all in all, I can confidently say that yes, I am indeed ready for the winter.

2014 in Review: All the Concerts – Part II

First of all, I find it hard to acknowledge that I am actually typing a part 2 to anything. I mostly always intend to write a part 2 and just leave it at that. So, yay! I guess… With that out of the way, here below is my recollection of the 2nd half of the concerts from 2014 – a year that proved to be the best one yet for both quality and quantity of concerts.

The entire lineup of Fleetwood Mac
                    The entire lineup of Fleetwood Mac

12. Fleetwood Mac at United Center in Chicago, IL: What do you know? Never thought I would see this band Live ever in my life and I now got the opportunity to do so twice within a year. This time Christine McVie joined the group and the lineup was complete. All the songs I had longed to listen to Live – all of them – I finally got to do so. Everything from ‘Over My Head’ to ‘Say you love me’ to ‘Everywhere’ to my personal favorite ‘Little Lies’. Christine sounds fabulous Live and Lindsay Buckingham is such an under-rated guitarist. Mick Fleetwood is up there with the likes of George Clinton and Mick Jagger – people who are simply incapable of understanding the idea of growing old! Last time I saw the band, I wrote that this was a band which had nothing left to prove. And now with a second massive tour within a year, these people who are in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, are showing the world that passion and energy defies age. I am just glad to have been here to witness that.

13. Creedence Clearwater Revisited at Downtown Denver, CO: Absolutely accidental and free concert that I had not planned in any way. Come to think of it, I didn’t even know that half the original band was touring with a new vocalist and guitar player under the same acronym. I essentially just happened to be in downtown Denver on the first day of my solo vacation exploring Colorado.And that was also the day they had a food festival going on with CCR as the headlining group for the musical entertainment. Me. Not. Complaining.

Creedence Clearwater Revisited in Denver
Creedence Clearwater Revisited in Denver

Any apprehensions I had about the vocalist was easily put aside. John Fogerty himself couldn’t have done any better. It was about a 90 to 100 minute show that featured all their best hits – ‘Born on the Bayou’, ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Have you ever Seen the Rain?’, ‘Fortune Son’, and a 20 minute rendition of ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ that included a bass solo and a drum solo. What a way to start my Colorado vacation!

14. Seun Kuti at Englert Theater, Iowa City, IA: If you know Fela Kuti, you probably figured that Seun Kuti was one his 10,000 sons from his 1,000 wives. If you don’t know who Fela Kuti is, you WILL find out. Wait. You are still reading this? Go Google Fela and make your life worthwhile. Anyway, with Fela dead and everything, I was making a remark to my close friend (same guy who strongly suggested Ziggy Marley and who also helped me discover Fela) that we may never get to see an Afrobeat concert ever. And right next week, we found ourselves front row to see Seun Kuti. I regret I was not sufficiently inebriated for this adventure but it was still a memorable show. I was mostly glad to just be able to attend an Afrobeat show. And that it was Fela’s son made it a huge bonus! Fairly similar music and style as his father, Seun Kuti had still carved out his own identity from his music. I clearly remember everyone dancing the entire time at the show – never a dull moment in Afrobeat!

15. Handsome Family at Englert Theater, Iowa City, IA: No TV show had got me captivated to an extent that The Wire did a few years back. Damages and Breaking Bad came close but still lacked that final punch I longed for. In came True Detective. I felt that punch right the first time I heard that opening track by Handsome Family. I still cannot think of a better song that would set just the perfect mood for the show than ‘Far from any Road’ by Handsome Family. I was an instant fan. The show at Englert Theater was particularly unique as the audience was seated ‘on stage’ with the band occupying a smaller portion of the stage. It was as close as I would ever come to an Unplugged concert – except I was probably even more close to the band here. I do not believe a more intimate setting is possible for a concert. In any case, they played everything from ‘Sister’s tiny hands’, ‘Bottomless Hole’, ‘Giant of Illinois’ and of course ‘Far from any Road’. Before they played the True Detective song, the band remarked something along the lines of: “Before True Detective, nobody really knew us. Now we can afford shoes!” It was perhaps an exaggeration – both of the state of not-so-popular musicians and the impact of a primetime HBO show feature can have on a band – but it definitely showed the couple’s (yes they are husband and wife) passion to just make dark and depressing songs. After the show, I was able to personally thank them for making such dark and depressing themed songs. They are a great sounding alternate country band and you should definitely check it out. ‘Through the Trees’ would be the album I would start with.

16. King Crimson at The Vic in Chicago, IL: If someone had asked me if I would ever see King Crimson Live about a year ago, I would have placed a sizable bet  against it happening. There was simply no way a band that started in the 1960’s, progressed through the decades with an ever changing lineup and whose frontman was close to 70 years old could ever reform again – let alone hold a multi-continental tour. But, they did just that – AND they had Gavin Harrison in the drumming department. No fuckin’ kidding! The show was more of a symphony than a concert. The kind of symphony wherein a group of highly highly highly highly highly highly talented and skilled musicians played some of the most intricate pieces in rock history in a manner only those present could appreciate – and feel blessed. Yes. I wanted them to play a bunch of songs that I liked from the KC era that I was familiar with. I suppose they did. But that took a backseat to just the sheer awesomeness of their musicianship. There have been very very few times that I have been left in awe to that extent when it came to musical concerts. I have been to many Indian classical music shows where the coordination and skill displayed by the musicians is impeccable. And this seemed to surpass even that. The highlight of the show was clearly the band playing ‘Lark’s Tongue in Aspic’ – both parts. With 3 drummers on stage, the coordination and timing had to be spot on – and it was more than just spot on. Gavin Harrison’s drum solo will always be remembered. Robert Fripp essentially just sat in a chair all show looking at a screen scrolling music notes and played the guitar to perfection. Jakko Jakszyk was the vocalist for the touring band and he did a great job at channeling the angst in the show ending ’21st Century Schizoid Man’. Perhaps the only man even trying to put on a show was Mel Collins on his sax. But all this doesn’t seem to matter when one is enveloped by a quality of music that is simply too audacious even to attempt to play Live. It wouldn’t have mattered if you knew who or what King Crimson was. If you had just showed up, the band would have still blown your mind away.

As a side note, I have to mention that I was easily the youngest guy in the whole theater. I was younger than at least half of the median age of the rest of the crowd. I was sitting between two old men who were discussing their experiences of seeing KC Live on their tour in the 70’s. I suppose music does transcend barriers. But am also left to wonder if the next generation will ever even know who or what King Crimson is.

17. St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Wooly’s in Des Moines, IA: Southern soul music has never been a genre that made me feel like I should explore. SPBB changed all that one day when I heard ‘Call Me’ on the radio in my car. The only thought in my head as I heard it was ‘I need that CD and I need it right fuckin’ now!’. And I got the CD within an hour and listened to it on a loop for god knows how long. My friend described the singer’s voice as ‘He opens his mouth and Ottis Redding comes out!’ and he is absolutely right. Great voice from a lead singer who was brought up to become a Pastor/preacher. And you can see it in his Live performance – it really did look like he was preaching his songs to the crowd. But the reason I fell in love with this band was mainly due to the bassist. There was such an intense moment of inspiration for me when I heard through their album, that I picked up my bass and started playing it non- stop till my hands couldn’t take it any more. And I hadn’t played my bass for over 4 months at that point. I met the bassist outside the venue and was talking to him. He told me that him and the band members try to listen to new music all the time – to keep feeling inspired. And I responded to him by saying, ‘Well, just know that it is now you who are inspiring others with your music.’

18. Pearl Jam at Pinnacle Center in Lincoln, NE: I would pay to watch Eddie Vader SPEAK in a Live setting. So when the band played for close to 3 hours and over 25 songs, everything was a bonus. ‘Black’ has always held a close spot in my life. And I have discovered other gems as I have explored their other albums. The concert itself was not what I had hoped for – mainly because I got seats in the nosebleed section.

Pearl Jam from nosebleed section
Pearl Jam from nosebleed section

That pretty much set a bar on how great my experience would be. No complaints about the sound, but there is only so much one can enjoy seated at the back and top of an indoor arena. I believe there is one more Pearl Jam album in the works in the near future and another tour as well. Will make sure I make amends during that tour.

19. Amon Amarth at Wooly’s in Des Moines, IA: I will openly admit that heavy metal as a genre in itself is a ship that sailed a long time ago. I will fondly remember headbanging to a lot of metal bands in my adolescence but I am past that phase now. I still do go to metal shows if there is a familiar band playing in town. But that is pretty much it. I had never put in the effort to actively explore unfamiliar metal bands. Amon Amarth proved to be an exception. I started listening to the band only after I came to know that they would be playing in town. And I am extremely glad that I put in the effort to listen to them. This is a band whose ‘metal’ aspect of their music is purposeful and direct – and not present just because they are a heavy metal band. Their riffs and hooks complement that metal sound. And I was an instant fan. The concert was high energy and never a dull moment. I found myself headbanging and jumping around like I hadn’t done in ages. The lead singer even humored the crowd by asking them to repeat the lyrics after him, and then proceeded to say “This is death fuckin’ metal! It doesn’t matter what the lyrics are!” and then ripped straight into the chorus of Pursuit of Vikings!

I have to note that there was a certain spark of inspiration in me when the band played Pursuit of Vikings and Runes to My Memory among many other of their best songs. I truly felt alive in those moments. And that was when I realized that of all the genres of the bands I go to watch live, heavy metal is still the one with which I feel the strongest and the most raw connection. Perhaps I should start listening to metal again after all.

20. Trombone Shorty at Wooly’s, Des Moines, IA: Never heard of him before I learnt that he was playing in town. The band was the main act for the show with St. Paul and the Broken Bones. But it didn’t matter one bit after the band took stage. The quality and upbeat nature of the music was more than sufficient to make it a great show.

21. Antemasque at Majestic Theater, Detroit, MI: I was heartbroken when I learnt that The Mars Volta had disbanded. But I suppose Omar grew tired of putting out only 10,000 albums that previous year and wanted to make more music. So the end result was The Mars Volta reformed under a different name and with a different sound – with Flea on bass no less. No prog rock anymore, just straight up infectious punk. It appears that Cedric’s voice is something that suits punk just fine. And with Omar’s minimal guitar riffs, this is a surprisingly easy to listen record with a lot of great hooks. The show was high energy – with most of the energy coming from Cedric who was pretty much in his own world. Except perhaps for that one time when he had the bouncers kick a couple of idiots in the crowd out of the show. I was just glad that I got to see Omar and Cedric back together and making music and playing concerts again. It doesn’t matter under what name or what genre they make their music, because the quality is always going to be there.

22. Future Islands at Wooly’s, Des Moines, IA: One more band I wasn’t familiar with until I learnt that they were going to be in town. Their latest album SINGLES is what introduced me to the genre of synthpop. It was also one of the albums I listened to plenty of times during, and which set the mood for, my solo Colorado trip. The show was fabulous with their enigmatic frontman showing the crowd why he is considered one of the best at putting on a show. ‘Like The Moon’ is one of the top 5 songs I discovered in 2014. Minimal beats and a haunting bassline with dark vocals and great melody. Will be watching the band again in 2015.

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So there it is. My best year so far for concerts. My schedule for 2015 is building up slowly but I don’t think it would ever get near or surpass 2014. Steven Wilson, Wilco, Tame Impala, TV on the Radio, Weezer and more area already on the books and hopefully more will get added on.

2014 in Review: All the Concerts (Part 1)

Clearly, this is becoming an annual event for me: recollecting and reliving the highlights from the previous year. This post may be 4 months late, but this is me not being concerned about it. 2014 was the best year for me so far with regard to concerts. The quality and quantity of concerts was so good that I even contemplated writing a mid-year review just so my annual post wouldn’t get too long. Since that did not happen, here we are gain. I am still splitting this into two posts. In any case, this is still a long post below – and only because I have so much to recollect and say.

1. Wolf Eyes at Mission Creek Festival, Iowa City, IA: My first true noise concert. This was held in the basement of the Yacht Club in Iowa City and started at 1 AM. The stage was about 8′ X 5′ and about 1 ft off the ground level. The crowd (including me) was exactly 3 ft away from the band. And I was also about 2 ft from the blaring speakers. The music (if you can call it that) of Wolf Eyes grew steadily in cacophony as their set went on. The noise of the guitar, the energy and intensity of the guitarist and vocalist (both of whom were jumping around so hard that they kept bumping into each other), and just the image of the noise-maker (that’s what I will call him) having a soundboard for a fanny pack and a gas mask on his face was sufficient to make my night. Their best song (again, if you can call it that) was their last one when all they did was create a 20 minute ‘jam’ with noise of all types and intensities. By the time that last jam hit its climax, I had an extremely strong urge to take the nearest chair and start smashing everything around me with it. And the fact that I couldn’t do so will remain as one of biggest regrets of my life. Such is the power of the music (again, if you can call it that) of Wolf Eyes. And it is a compliment to their art in as much as how it made me feel that night.

And if you have no idea what I am talking about, here is  sample Wolf Eyes song (again, if you can call it that):

And here is a pic of the noise-maker with the world’s most awesome fanny pack.

The World's Most Awesome Fanny Pack
The World’s Most Awesome Fanny Pack

2. Warpaint at Mission Creek Festival, Iowa City, IA: I watched this band under strange circumstances. I essentially thought it was the opening act until I found out otherwise the next day. I fell in love with their sound instantly – not having heard any of their songs before. This is the band that essentially introduced me to dream pop. A 4 piece all-female lineup with great bass sounds, haunting vocals and a sound that I had been seeking all my life without even knowing it. This is one of the few times you fall in love with a band after you hear their music for the first time – and that too in a live setting. Become a big fan of them since then and have their double LP on vinyl now!

Shout out to other Mission Creek acts including Circuit des Yeux (a one-woman project of something I cannot define but which I keep find crawling under my skin) and Earth (guitar drone, and then more guitar drone).

3. Eric Johnson at Wooly’s in Des Moines, IA: An hour and a half of great guitar work from one of the most well respected guitarists in the industry. Some of his songs brought back great memories of me sitting in my hostel room with His Holiness and my roommate and listening to Cliffs of Dover. I have never had much respect for guys like Yngwie Malmsteen who mostly just exhibit their shredding abilities. Sure that is a skill to admire but nothing ever comes out of it. Eric Johnson is at the other end of the argument – a man who CAN shred but does so when it makes the songs better. His focus is first on melody and harmony – not on showing off his skills. On stage, he was a very affable character who revealed that he was actually born in Iowa and that his grandma still lives here.

4. Mogwai at Wooly’s in Des Moines, IA: When my cousin first made me listen to Mogwai under certain ‘elevated’ conditions, I just hated the band. I didn’t want anything to do with it ever again. A year later, I gave the band one more chance and bought their ‘The Hawk is Howling’ album. Since then, there was no looking back. The sound of Post rock is pretty much epitomized by Mogwai. And so I was all smiles when I learnt they were going to be playing at Wooly’s. I particularly fell in love with their then latest album Rave Tapes and was listening to it on a loop for the longest time. No Medicine for Regret still stands as my personal favorite of the band’s entire catalog. They did not play that song at the concert but there was one moment of true inspiration that I will always remember. It came at about the 1 min mark when the song’s chorus (if you can call it that) just begins. I had listened to that song dozens of times by then. But that moment when the band reached that note LIVE and that transition into the chorus happened, I went into a different world. And I didn’t even need to be high. Of course, the highlight of the evening for me was ‘I am Jim Morrison, I am Dead.’ Very satisfying to see them Live.

I am Jim Morrison, I am Dead
I am Jim Morrison, I am Dead

5. Envy Corps at Wooly’s, (and 8035 Music Festival) Des Moines, IA: A Des Moines/Ames based band that you never have and would never hear of (unless you are reading this now). The lead singer would easily win the ‘Sounds Like Thom Yorke’ contest – even if Thom Yorke himself participated in it. The band’s It Culls You album is probably their best and deserve so much more credit than they are are currently getting. One of my best discoveries from last year. Ended up seeing them twice last year. Would do so again at the first opportunity.

6. Guided By Voices at Wooly’s, Des Moines, IA: I had never been to a punk concert before. And I was not familiar with the band either. But I decided to check it out. In the end, this was the longest concert (over 3 hours with 3 encores) I had ever been to. There is something authentic about a band with 50+ year old members play a straight up punk show with high energy – especially as the singer consumed a full bottle of Jack Daniel’s on stage during the show. It was probably the attitude that made it a good show. I will probably never invest in exploring the band as such but I was just glad I went to the show.

7. Cake at 8035 Festival, Des Moines, IA: When the lead singer of a band quotes from xkcd during the interlude of one of the songs, it is something worth remembering for a long, long time. But Cake’s John McCrea had the entire crowd in his complete control even without the help of xkcd. Performing the band’s songs – the equivalent of deadpan humor in movies – you could almost believe he was an evangelical leader preaching to a crowd of eager minds. ‘Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell’ was perhaps the best example of this. This was perhaps the best portrayal of putting on a great show without having to try too hard.To me personally, the band’s best feature is the bassist and the way he incorporates  bass lines with an appropriate groove to complement the rhythm of the songs. Perhaps, one of the other reasons I will remember this concert is because I got to hear a cover of War Pigs where the iconic guitar solo was played with the trumpet.

8. Ziggy Marley at 8035 Festival, Des Moines, IA:  I have only listened to reggae music in passing. Always enjoyed it and found it very relaxing, but had never put in the effort to explore it any deeper. But I suppose I was sober all that time I listened to reggae (as pointed out by a good friend and a Ziggy concert veteran). So when Ziggy Marley played for an hour and a half on a hot summer day, I made sure I was sufficiently inebriated. And how glad I was to have been drunk then. So much so, that I now strongly believe that everyone on this planet should get drunk and/or high and attend a reggae concert as a matter of general principle. If it is not on your bucket list, it should be. And if you do not agree, I am OK if you are shot dead right now. In all seriousness, that hour and a half was the most carefree I have been in a long, long, long time. No worries, no concerns, no expectations, no obligations. For that hour and a half, everything was just right and I just knew that I was where I was supposed to be at that point in time. This is not even an exaggeration. I have been to many shows where the music has taken me places. This one just made me believe everything was awesome wherever I already was.

9. Conor Oberst at 8035 Festival, Des Moines, IA: The Ziggy Marley show was followed with Conor (of the Bright Eyes fame). And what a contrast it was. Nothing wrong with the show. Just that the sad and depressing music was in stark contrast with the I-feel-awesome music of Ziggy. Yes, I am a big fan of sad and depressing music, which is why I went into a profound gloom during his show. It was easy too – considering how drunk I was. Good show, I guess. But don’t remember it for the right reasons in hindsight.

10. Portugal. The Man at Brenton Skating Plaza, Des Moines, IA:  It had been a while since I encountered an album that had me listening to it for months on end. But Portugal. The Man’s ‘Evil Friends’ filled that void. And that August night in East Village, I had one of the most memorable experiences at a concert in recent history. This concert went from being good to great for the most basic of reasons: great tunes, good performance, and sufficient inebriation. That was it. Songs that you could and wanted to sing along to, dance to, a crowd of people around you with the same intentions- all under the influence of sufficient amount of alcohol. That was all it took. The fact that the band started the show with a cover of Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 and ended the show with Baba O’Reilly ended up just as a bonus. This is a band that I will be following very very closely for the rest of my life (or their’s). And I cannot recommend Evil Friends enough. Special mention to the artwork on the album (I have even framed the album cover from my vinyl).

11. Grouplove at Brenton Skating Plaza, Des Moines, IA: Was not at all familiar with this band, but they were actually the main act when Portugal. The Man played. By the time PTM’s show was done, I was already at a point where everything else was a bonus. But Grouplove did not disappoint. Same ingredients: great tunes, catchy music, great to sing along to (if you knew the songs) and great to jump around or dance to – all with a crowd of fellow inebriated folks.

In part 2 I will be recollecting Fleetwood Mac (full lineup!), Handsome Family, King Crimson (!), CCR, Amon Amarath, Seun Kuti, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Trombone Shorty, Pearl Jam, and Antemasque.

2013 in Review: All the Concerts

Hopefully I get to do this every year. 2012 was awesome. 2013 started off awesome but kinda tapered down towards the end. But it still had some phenomenal highlights. Here is a quick recap:

1. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines: So this officially made Grace Potter the band I had seen the most number of times Live at 3. And I will watch her live again and again and again. I still maintain that there is nobody else I have seen who can match her stage presence. Having said that, her concert at the Nitefall on the River series in 2012 had set the bar so high that it was never going to be matched again. Memorable experience for sure and I will donate my money without a blink of my eye to see her perform Live again. She really means it when she says that she performs every concert like it is her last.

2. Bosnian Rainbows at Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis: After my good friend introduced me to the universe of Omar-Rodriguez Lopez, I was always going to go watch Bosnian Rainbows – his latest venture – in Minneapolis. Dude looks like he just got out of high school and he really gets into his music.

Bosnian Rainbows at Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis

Terri Gender Bender knows how to put on a show and I loved the sound. Best part of the show was when – at the end – Omar thanked the crowd at the bar for coming out and supporting the band. He did that by speaking directly to the crowd instead of talking into the mic. Respect.  Full Review here. 

3. Sigur Ros at Starlight Theater in Kansas City: What can I say? I think the correct terminology is ‘a religious experience’ or ‘a spiritual experience’. I was going through a very gloomy stage of my life largely due to the never ending winter. It had taken a toll on me and I was barely surviving. And then when I watched them Live, it was close to being a life altering experience. It is one of those experiences when you reach a higher state of consciousness and you have an epiphany about your life. No need for any drugs, just the sadness in his voice is sufficient. As I wrote in my detailed recollection, “I do not know if I found the answer I was looking for. But I definitely found the answer I needed to know.”

4. Steven Wilson at Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis: Having missed his previous two visits to the US (Blackfield and first solo tour), I had to make sure that I saw him Live this time around. Conveniently playing at Minneapolis over the weekend too. So pretty much a no brainer and everything else had to just wait. His latest album ‘The Raven…” is his best piece of work since Deadwing. Drive Home and The Watchmaker along with The Raven moved me close to tears. But the song I really was looking forward to and one that had grown on me was ‘Deform to form a Star’ from his earlier album.

Steven Wilson at Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis

Not disappointed. I ended up buying The Raven T-Shirt (the one with the spooky moon) and it has been one shirt that has attracted a lot of attention everywhere I went. No seriously, I have had a whole bunch of people come to me and talk to me about it everywhere I went.

5. Opeth with Katatonia at Wooly’s in Des Moines: Opeth was in Des Moines! Do you believe it?!?? It had been like ages since I had listened to Opeth. I had seen them Live at IITM a long ass time ago. But this time I was watching them in a significantly smaller venue – like all of 10 ft away and with a glass of Jameson in my hands. Always better with Jameson in my hands. He played Hessian Peel. That made my day. I will freely admit I had stopped listening to metal for a while by then. But Opeth with Katatonia in Des Moines?? Well, I just had to see them Live as a matter of general principle. Fully satisfied.

6. Fleetwood Mac at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines: This is a band I had wanted to see Live since high school. One of the few bands whose music connected to me at a very fundamental level. Stevie Nicks’ live voice is different than what it sounds on the albums. But then if I wanted to listen to her sound like she does on the album, I would just play the album. And that is what made the concert really good. The band just sounded different – with more of a live music feel. I think it is important that I fully attest to the fact that Lindsay Buckingham has an awesome awesome voice – and he is an extremely underrated guitar player. Mick Fleetwood is OLD. But I don’t think he knows that. Dude was drumming the shit out of every song – and THEN he decided to do a drum solo. Talk about passion. The only thing disappointing about the sound was John’s bass. It was barely audible. Extremely disappointing considering how much I grew up inspired by those basslines.

They played every single song I wanted them to. Of course there was no Christine, so they only played those that had Stevie/Lindsay on the vocals. Best surprise was when they played ‘Sisters on the moon’ and ‘Gold Dust Woman’! Did not see those coming at all! 

Apart from the songs themselves, one aspect of the concert I truly admired was the genuine acknowledgement and appreciation the band members showed to the crowd for their continued support. It was the appreciation of a band that has been around for decades together, who have seen it all, who have everything they ever wanted, who have absolutely nothing left to prove to anybody, and who realize that after all these years they are only around because their fans want them to be around. Stevie Nicks spoke at length to the crowd before the last song actually explaining how she felt about all the support she has received from the band’s fans all through her career. Truly remarkable gesture from the band and the crowd knew it. 

All in all, very very satisfying concert – more so because it was something I had pretty much given up on ever witnessing. Could have been even better if it wasn’t for that annoying 40 something woman in front of me who kept dancing like she had the entire place to herself – hitting people around her without as much as a sense of space. I get it – people enjoy music differently. But then, still, f*** you.

7. 80-35 Music Festival in Des Moines: This was 2 days of awesome fun. This was the first time that I truly experienced a music festival – everything it has to offer. I realized that music festivals are not about watching a lot of your favorite bands play in one place. It is more about just wandering around and finding a band that you had no idea about playing some wonderful music and being drawn to it. The festival was skewed more towards alternative and indie rock bands, but also included a few folk, acoustic bands and a bunch of DJs. Biggest discovery for me was Deerhunter, Yeasayers and Umphrey’s McGee. Deerhunter especially. Who knew I would just walk into some noise  influenced band at a music festival in Des Moines? Always loved the summer atmosphere on display during the festival. Reminds me of why it is OK to live through the god forsaken winter.

8. Telescopes with LSD and the Search for God: This was right after the 8035 festival and it was all noise and shoegaze. As I wrote in my detailed recollection, as far as the sound goes, well, FUCK! I felt that I had finally got what I was unknowingly looking for all my life. That one sound that would just ‘hit the spot’. The Telescope’s noise and shoegaze hit the spot alright. And more importantly, it opened me up to a whole new set of bands and sounds. Perfect Noise and mindblowing Shoegaze. Special shout out to LSD and the Search for God. Awesome Stoner music.

9. Blue Oyster Cult at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines: Free show at the State Fair! WoW! I didn’t know these guys were still even playing. The only day I was able to go the fair, I caught these guys playing all their hits – every one of them. Fuckin’ A!

10. Tame Impala and The National at Starlight Theater in Kansas City: The best album of 2013 as far as I have explored music is Tame Impala’s Lonerism. Finally a band that knows how to use the bass guitar. Tame Impala is the biggest discovery I have made in all of 2013 and I got to see them live. It was a short setlist – a little more than an hour – but they played most of their new album. You just got to check out their latest album.

The National was the main act but I had personally gone there to see Tame Impala. But clearly The National is awesome. The vocalist dude could sing one song in a haunting melancholic voice and the next he would be screaming like he was in a hardcore punk rock band. Great songs too.

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So that was it. All the concerts I went to in 2013. 2014 has so far started off slow, but am looking forward to seeing Mogwai in Des Moines. I am also going to make an additional effort to visit the local smaller venues more frequently. After all, music is music. Where I discover it doesn’t make any difference.

2012 in Review: All My Concerts

So this post has been sitting in my draft box for quite a while now. And then after I read about this particular concerto-phile’s recap of her year in concerts, I just had to put forth my own recap. After all, I have her beat pretty damn good! 😛

Living in Des Moines in Iowa, there are two ways to look at the ability to go to concerts. The more popular frame of reference, and one that is perhaps quite obvious too, involves noting the glaring lack of big name bands coming to town and instead choosing to go to any or all of the bigger cities around Des Moines – Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, Kansas City et al. It is almost like the bands just don’t SEE Iowa – they simply go around it. Now the other line of thinking essentially involves the ability to travel to ANY of these aforementioned bigger cities (and that too on a date of my convenience) to see most of the big acts that travel through the United States. Needless to say, I choose to classify myself under the latter category of people. And have I reaped my rewards or what?!!?

I have said this before but I will say it again.

When I want to go to a concert, the universe conspires with me to make it happen.

And again, I can only hope not to get jinxed by saying so. But in all seriousness, looking back to 2012, there is simply no other way of interpreting the sheer number AND quality of the concerts I went to. So here goes:

1. Puscifer in Omaha, NE: There is something about Maynard Keenan’s Live voice  that can take you to a place you haven’t been before. I had seen him Live as A Perfect Circle in 2011 and I was haunted then. Puscifer was even better. The show itself was more like a theater play complete with props and filler videos showing Maynard Keenan as General Douche. It was clear that he wanted to do more than just sing. He wanted to teach. (Among the many memorable quotes, sample this: “Good aliens listen to Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and the Glee soundtrack. Bad aliens listen to Tool!”) And the concert was handcrafted to help in that regard. I wrote 1 part of what was supposed to be a 2 part review back then. But clearly, no amount of reviewing can capture the calling of that haunting voice when you hear it Live. Add to that the most unlikeliest of scripting for a concert, and you probably already know you will be thinking about it for a long time to come.

2. George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic All Stars in Council Bluffs, IA: Funk has been something I discovered only in the past one year (and to this day, I cannot figure out why). Funkadelic, on the other hand, well –  let’s just say I knew every single note of Maggot Brain. I have very fond memories, from back in undergrad, of being in a ‘higher’ state of mind and playing the song’s arpeggios on my acoustic and on an infinite loop. So what if Eddie Hazel is no more? Michael Hampton played the whole song note for note – 10 ft in front of me, and at a bar. But that was just the beginning. George Clinton maybe 71 years old, but the energy he shows on stage is more fitting for a 25 year old. Still singing with a respectable voice, he even smoked a joint on stage. Sir, You have my seal of approval! I am just glad that I got to see him live and in such an intimate setting before age (finally) takes over him.

3. Megadeth and Rob Zombie in Sioux City, IA: I had seen Megadeth once before in Bangalore, the most significant memory from which was the extremely horrible sound quality on stage. And I had vowed to watch them again if I ever got the chance to. I did get the opportunity and I did take it. Much closer to Dave Mustaine and the band this time around, I headbanged my way through Hangar 18, In My Darkest Hour, Holy Wars and much more. Redemption was indeed complete.

I have to admit I have not listened to much of Rob Zombie. But it barely mattered. That dude has a stage presence incomparable to any I have seen.  Filled with massive and creepy robotic props, he lit the stage on fire – quite literally too! The pyrotechnics was phenomenal and I headbanged some more.

It had been a while since I had been to an outright loud metal concert and this will surely take care of that need for the near future. On a side note, I have to add that I had an extremely bad inflammation in my neck muscle as a result of all the headbanging. It took more than 6 months for the pain to reduce to manageable levels. The real awkward moment was when I had to explain the cause to the doctor.

Comfortably Numb
Comfortably Numb

4. Roger Waters at Wrigley Field in Chicago : What can I say? He was the first person I saw Live all the way back in 2002 in Bangalore in what was my first concert ever. And I had always fantasized about watching The Wall played Live with the same settings from the 1970s. I guess I really did indeed get to live out that fantasy. The simple fact of the matter is that The Wall just sounds too damn good in a stadium. This is not just something you will brag about when you are talking to your friends about concerts. This is the kind of stuff you tell your grandchildren about. This is the kind of stuff you can look back on and know that you made the right choices all your life to have ended up at Wrigley Field on June 8 2012.

In any case, I did recollect my full experience from the concert some time back and I am so glad I did it.  (I still pride myself over the fact that I convinced my friend to cough up $300 for the ticket through a text message. Practically conned her into wiring me the money!)

5. Radiohead in Chicago: I had never been a fan of Radiohead (apart from Karma Police) for the longest time. Other than the result of a handful of friends strongly recommending the band to me, I somehow was never able to get into their music. Then something happened about a year ago when I went back to NITK to say hello to my undergrad Professors. I stayed over at my cousin’s hostel room and let us just say certain ‘completely natural’ things were consumed. It was at this point that my esteemed cousin (also the official slacker of NITK)  told me he would play a song and wanted me to tell him how I felt. About 5 mins later, I am in a trance. The song has taken me places I had never been before. I particularly recollect this very strong and desperate feeling building inside me just wishing that the song wouldn’t end. But when it did end, I just asked my cousin which song it was. And to this day, I have a crystal clear memory of what he said, and more importantly, how he said it. He told me: “The song’s name is ‘How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found Again'”. It was almost like a revelation – like I had suddenly become aware of some arcane, hidden mysterious knowledge. It was probably in the way he said it, but for a moment, I believed that the song really possessed the secret of how to disappear completely and never be found again. And then, right at that very moment, I began to worship Radiohead. 

Radiohead in Tinley Park, Chicago

So it was kind of ironic (to my cousin) when I learnt that Radiohead would be playing in Chicago the same weekend that Roger Waters was playing at Wrigley Field. A $15 ticket later, I found myself at Tinley Park with both my hands over my head, mouth open and staring in simple disbelief to the sheer profundity of the situation. There may not have been any natural substances this time around, but I perhaps didn’t need them.  Thom Yorke’s voice is up there with all the best voices I have heard Live. And yes, he will take you places too! They played one of the longest setlists and I have a recording of the entire concert that I keep listening to even today. Another instance when I just wish it didn’t have to end.

Black Sabbath at Lollapalooza

6. Black Sabbath in Chicago: There are certain things that can make life worth living and help validate all those choices you have made all your life. The night I saw Black Sabbath at Lollapalooza will definitely rank high up on that list of things. To see the very people who have defined 2 generations of music, to whom so many many bands today owe their influences – to see them play all those songs right in front of you is a tremendous experience. Black Sabbath played EVERY single song that I wanted them to. Every one of them – including Snowblind and Fairies Wear Boots. Considering this was their ONLY show in North America after Toni got diagnosed with cancer, I just feel so blessed and fortunate to have been there. I might have already seen Ozzy at Ozzfest, but this is something I will tell my grandchildren and probably put it on my epitaph.

6. Grace Potter and The Nocturnals in Des Moines: If you like going to concerts, you must go to a Grace Potter show as a matter of general principle. This is irrespective of whether you like her music or if you have even heard of her at all. If Grace Potter and The Nocturnals are playing in your city, you simply MUST go! Yes it definitely helps if you like her music – a catchy and melodious blend of pop, rock and even some country – but you will love her shows nonetheless. I had seen her at Kansrocksas in 2011 for the first time ever and I didn’t even know who she was back then. And so when I learnt that she was coming to Des Moines, there was simply no way I was going to miss the show.

Grace Potter and The Nocturnals in Des Moines

She played for over 2.5 hours, a setlist that included a Rolling Stones cover (because it was Mick Jagger’s birthday) and a Heart cover (Crazy on You). Her new album has more than a few songs co-written by Dan Auberbach (of The Black Keys) and when played Live, they can really get you in the groove! Add to that, Grace Potter’s passion and enthusiasm on stage along with her beautiful voice, and you have a concert experience worth remembering. In an interview just before the concert, she had remarked, “I play every concert like it is my last.” And she is not lying. Not by any stretch. There were periods during the show when it seemed that the audience let the music take a backseat and instead let her performance fill their experience. Her stage presence will rival any performer that has ever played at a concert. And those who have seen her Live will definitely attest to that.

That Grace Potter show by the river and overlooking downtown Des Moines is definitely among the top 5 concerts I have ever been to.

Special mention to Natalie Prass -the opening act for Grace Potter. Some of the best music I had heard in ages and definitely one of the best voices around right now. Must check it out.

7. Death Cab for Cutie in Des Moines: I just like Death Cab. There is no other way to put it. Simple, straightforward melodious alternative music with songs (almost exclusively) about breakups and troubled relationships. Ben Gibbard plays a good show and I was definitely happy to see so many of the songs I loved played Live at 80/35 music festival.

8. Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan in Omaha: Simply put, I grew up with the music of Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler’s voice was synonymous with and perhaps the cause of my transition from death metal to more classic rock. And for the longest time, I have been troubled by the fact that I could not watch him Live when he came to play in Bangalore. Not to mention my good friends who did go to the concert have constantly reminded me of that ever since. I could not care less that Mark Knopfler was playing mainly his solo songs when I came to know about his concert in Omaha. I just had to see him Live to absolve myself of my past misdeeds. And really, you did not need to know any of his solo songs to let his voice mesmerize you. He still has that voice for sure – not changed one bit. And that was all that I needed to hear. A lot of my friends went to see him in the current tour and were disappointed that he only played ‘So Far Away’ from his Dire Straits catalog. But fact is, his solo songs are equally good and I am not sure if my friends were familiar with his solo work. In any case, I had a bonus thrown my way when I heard him play the intro to ‘Brothers in Arms’. Turns out, that was the only show in his entire tour (at least that I am aware of) wherein he played Brothers in Arms in addition to So Far Away –  and I do not have any complaints about that!

And then came on Bob Dylan. Well, I knew his voice was shot and all that – but still, he was Bob Dylan. So I was looking forward to him playing as well. If Mark Knopfler’s voice had the ability to mesmerize you, Bob Dylan’s voice had the ability to give any death metal  band’s vocalist a run for his money! No kidding – it was THAT bad. It was so bad that I could not even know which song he was singing. His songs were reminiscent of the Hindu priest conducting a ceremony – wherein his long and incomprehensible chanting is followed by a loud and prominent SWAAHA! at the end. I realized Dylan was playing one of my favorite songs  – Tangled up in Blue –  only about halfway through the song when I deciphered him speaking out the words “Tangled up in Blue”. His current concerts really are a disgrace to the legacy that he seeks to leave. So much so, I actually walked out of his concert before he was done. Even for the sake of it, I would not recommend anyone paying money to watch Bob Dylan live. Not anymore definitely.

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So there you have it! A long post recollecting my best experiences from 2012. Without a doubt, I have a lot to look back upon and so I consider 2012 successful. I already have a nice run of concerts coming up for 2013. Already watched Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (AGAIN) Live in Des Moines. Upcoming are Omar Rodriguez’s new band Bosnian Rainbows, Fleetwood Mac, Steven Wilson and Sigur Ros. All tickets have been purchased and I am looking forward to these things like always. Maybe I will write a separate review for each of these this time around. Maybe.

Remembering THAT Weekend in Chicago: Part I – Roger Waters Live

NOTE: This post (and the next) is easily more than 2 months late. But figured it was something that had to be said before I forget. All pics courtesy my good friend who got conned into coming to the concert through a text message! 🙂 Anyway, here goes: 

At the risk of jinxing myself in the future, allow me to share with you a recent realization. It goes thus:

When I want to go to a concert, the universe conspires with me in helping me achieve that aim.

And so it has been for the past so many months, when I had the opportunity to watch a number of bands live.  And so it was again a couple of months ago, when I was blessed to see two of the biggest acts  in a span of 3 days: Roger Waters and Radiohead. Yes, you read that right – Roger Waters AND Radiohead, within 3 days.

I do not intend for this post to be a review of the concerts at all. Instead, I want to write down what this meant to me and how it made me feel. The Radiohead experience will be documented in the next post.

ROGER WATERS – THE WALL LIVE @ The Wrigley Stadium, Chicago

I had seen Roger Waters Live before, when he had come to Bangalore, India way back in 2002 – and when the music of Floyd had just begun to grow on me. I do remember that experience quite well but not vividly enough. That concert was good, but it was completely devoid of all the reasons a Floyd concert is known for – lighting, multimedia, props, the ‘wall’ et al. And so when I found out that Waters was planning to do the highly acclaimed The Wall tour for the second time  all around the world, my plans just got made for me. (I also used my chicanery to convince a friend of mine to cough up $300 and to drive  2 hrs to give me company for this event! Turned out I could have easily conned her of that money!)

The Wall is really an album. Irrespective of how much more popular certain singles may have become over the decades, the complete essence of the work is revealed only when listened to as a complete single unit – not as a collection of discrete singles. And for those of you who know a little more of the history of this album, you will be aware of how Roger Waters initially did NOT prefer to play this album in stadiums. The irony, of course, was that The Wall sounded like it had been specifically made to be played Live in large stadiums. Over time, Waters did embrace the stadium experience and went back to them over and over again. And so it was, that he brought The Wall show to Wrigley Field in Chicago on the 8th of June 2012.

Me at Wrigley Field for the Roger Waters Concert

A lot of musicians – past and present- are capable of filling in entire stadiums and arenas during the peak of their careers. But so very few are capable of repeating that act 45 years into their music career – and very much in their twilight. Roger Waters is one of those few. And Wrigley field was indeed sold out with people of ALL ages –  young and old – paying big bucks (I paid close to $300) to watch this one man play his magnum opus for possibly the last time ever. Waters has publicly stated that this could very well be his last tour, describing it as his ‘swan song’. And I was never going to miss that for anything in the world.

And like the album, my experience was something that can only be described as a whole, single unit – not as a collection of how I felt when each song was played. This happens only when a number of factors come together to take the whole experience to a whole new level: a place where you haven’t been before. And they were ALL there that night for sure. The huge and gigantic wall, the hypnotizing and jaw dropping art and multimedia  projected on the wall, the massive surround sound speakers in full effect, Roger Water’s (surprisingly) crisp clear vocals singing with all the venom and purpose in the world, and not to forget the music itself – ALL came together in the right proportions and combinations to make this concert into an experience like none other.

But every such an experience has to have a peak –  a point during which you transcend everything around you and break that invisible barrier into the realm of that higher state of mind; something that will make you look back at that experience one day and mark it as a reference point in your life. During the show, that point came with the words:

“Is there anybody out there?”

Comfortably Numb

Sure, I might have heard it a thousand times before, and I for sure know every single note and bar on the song. But watching Roger Waters sing that same song live in that haunting setting, and watching one of the 3 stand-in guitarists (for Gilmour obviously) standing on top of the wall rip through that captivating guitar solo with note to note perfection, I realized that this song still has the ability to give me the jitters and make my hair stand on its end.

Special note on the stand-in guitarist at the top of the wall: he really did play the full solo NOTE for NOTE. No attempts at improvisations and no mess ups. And as far as I was concerned, I didn’t attempt to sing along to the song, and I realized not many around me were trying to either. I guess there are few songs you just don’t sing along to (and a few guitar solos you don’t improvise)  – at a concert. You just shut the fuck up and  experience it – and then feel blessed.

But in all seriousness, watching him perform on stage with the energy and passion of a 25 year old, I realized that all this had to mean something more to him than just a way to remind people around the world of the legacy that he leaves. And he did have something to say for sure. Interpreting The Wall album through a contemporary looking glass replete with references to today’s problems – the government, capitalism, religion and war- was always the idea and motivation behind this tour. (Waters himself has said this). And I have to admit, I was also thoroughly impressed with the clarity in his voice at this age (68?), and even while singing at a high pitch.

At the end of the day, I left Wrigley Field happy and thoroughly satisfied that I had experienced The Wall album the way it was meant to be – in a stadium, with surround sound, a massive wall, hypnotizing multimedia and the man who created it all.

Blessed I am indeed.

Updates: One Year after Des Moines 101

Turns out, I have completed more than a year living in Des Moines, Iowa. Well, since my initial ramblings about Des Moines in my Des Moines 101 post about a year ago, I would say it has been an eventful time. For the most part, things have become progressively better and continue to do so. And without my own knowledge, I appear to have created some really beautiful memories to look back upon and smile about. Let’s see. Where do I start now?

1. How about Omaha? The city I grew to love and cherish. Turns out, within a few weeks after coming to Des Moines and setting up house in early March, I was sent to live in a hotel for the next 9 months till the end of the year! Well, thats pretty much how it worked out. I was sent out to work in the field and as a result, ended up staying at a hotel for 10-14 day stretches. My field work was at Council Bluffs, a small city in Iowa known for its casinos on the banks of the Missouri river. On the other side of the river is this city that really grew on me: Omaha, Nebraska.

Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge

It was a beautiful place indeed. Slightly larger than Des Moines, but still equally peaceful. A lot more places to visit and a lot more things to do – not the least of which is one of America’s largest zoos and a fairly impressive pedestrian bridge across the Missouri river. It was always a pleasure to walk the downtown area too- specifically in and around the Old Market square, a small area of a few blocks radiating a distinct European feel. Old records stores, microbreweries, handicraft shops, coffee stalls lining the sidewalk everywhere.

I had a fairly good time while I was out there. But perhaps, the best was saved for the last, when I had a truly wonderful time in the closing weeks with a friend I just happened to have met then. It was a memorable 11 days that we got to spend together, working in -15 deg C temperature outside during the day, and then having dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking downtown Omaha across the Missouri river. Those long conversations about books over coffee, jokes on geotech over beer, and walking the snow-laden roads of the Old Market Square when it was still snowing – these are perhaps the things that I will remember when someone asks me about my time out in the field. Great way to wind up my field work.

2. But perhaps my time out in the field will be remembered more for the gamut of cars that I had the opportunity to drive. I pretty much exhausted all that Hertz and Enterprise had to offer over the 9 months. The most memorable of those was driving the bright red Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and the 2011 Dodge Charger. I am pretty sure I have almost every full size car I can probably think of. And for all that renting that my company did, I now have more than 2 weeks of free rentals with Hertz. Talk about a double edged sword (or its opposite!).

3. All the concerts I attended the past year. I don’t know where to start. Started with Jeff Beck at Minneapolis; Deep Purple (2nd time) in Chicago; Black Keys, Goo Goo Dolls, Michelle Branch, Korn and Disturbed in Council Bluffs; A Perfect Circle, STS9, Black Keys (again) and Muse at Kansrocksas in Kansas City; the Doobie Brothers at Elk County, WI; and Guns N Roses and Puscifer at Omaha. Those who know me very well are fully aware of my obsession with the whole concert experience. To me, it can appear that everything I do in life ultimately serves as a means to an end – the end being the concert experience. The past year’s concerts have been truly remarkable and I have been thoroughly satisfied. I now have a whole bunch of them lined up for the next few months!

Axl Rose at Omaha

4. All my travels. Perhaps THE most memorable times I have had in the past year – easily. I wasn’t even aware of the travel bug in me until I got my lazy ass out of the bed and decided to drive close to a 1000 miles in less than 24 hours! ( I am not sure I could do it again, but I maybe wrong). My vacations have been quite regular and remarkable.

It started off with me wanting to watch Jeff Beck live in Minneapolis on a Sunday. I bought tickets on Friday and set out on a long, roundabout trip to Minneapolis early Sunday morning – just by myself. Ended up going to La Crosse, Lake City, Red Wing and a whole bunch of other places I had absolutely no plan to visit – all on my way to Minneapolis. Reached the city at around 6 pm, watched the concert till 1030, headed back to Des Moines and reached home at 315 AM, and drove to Council Bluffs at 6AM! Close to 1000 miles it was and like I said, I am not sure if I could do that again! Great time nevertheless!

Then there was this trip to Missouri – again by myself. I had a week off at work and decided I needed a vacation. A truly beautiful and attractive state. I wrote about my trip in detail here. 4 days or so I spent there.

My trip to Wisconsin – that was really an on the fly vacation. Found out the Doobie Brothers were playing a concert in nearby Wisconsin. I decided to use that as an excuse to take another vacation. This time I had some company. A 3 day trip covering Madison, House on the Rocks, Lake Geneva and the concert itself. I could write pages about each place – seriously. Especially the House on the Rocks –  a remarkable and surreal experience, you actually feel you are bending both space and time in there (AMERICAN GODS – ring a bell?). That last line is really not an exaggeration. The more your ignorance and unawareness about the place, the more you allow yourself to be captivated in the strangest way possible!

Speed and Tranquility

And then there was my trip to Yellowstone National Park, the Beartooth Highway and the Grand Tetons. I should shoot myself before I attempt to convey all that I felt and experienced during those 5 days in a small part of a post. I had been there in October last year. And today it stands as one of my proudest experiences in all my life! That is right. Note that I didn’t just say memorable or remarkable. I was left so much in awe of the whole experience, that I truly feel proud of it. Hard to think of anything else I could have possibly done that could have made me feel better than this. Maybe it had something to do with the exquisite and jaw dropping scenery; maybe it had something to do with racing a Chevrolet Camaro at 120 mph through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons; maybe it had something to do with the joy of discovering a barely known gem of a drive – the Beartooth Highway; or maybe it was a bit of everything. But damn me if I don’t get my lazy ass down to writing a whole post (or a bunch of posts) about those phenomenal few days in Montana and Wyoming!

5. My Vinyl collection. This has come as a real surprise to myself. I was never much of a collector of anything. But now I own and totally admire my still growing collection of about a 100 vinyl records. This is something I have come to have some real passion for and I take a lot of pleasure in buying and listening to these old records on my record player. How I came about this and my thoughts on the very idea of the vinyl really needs a more elaborate treatment but that really is another post in itself.

6. The Moment. It was maybe sometime in November last year. I was sitting in my home on my couch with a beer in hand, watching a movie. I paused the movie for a bit. Still sitting on the couch and still with the beer in my hand, I looked around. I saw that I had an apartment all for myself; I looked at my projector beaming a 10′ by 15′ image on the wall; I looked at the  JBL 5.1 Home theater audio system; I saw my vinyl player and my sizeable collection; I saw my bass guitar and amp; then I looked at my camera and tripod lying in the corner;  I saw my car parked outside my house; and then I thought:

Fuck me! I have everything I had EVER wanted to own in my entire life!

And right then, at that moment, was the strong feeling of having arrived somewhere. As much as I am not a believer in fate or destiny, I just knew, that at that very moment, I was perhaps exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt right in place.

And that was awesome.