Wednesday, December 27, 2017

RTE Bonus: Top 5 of 2017

Today, someone on the internet posted a clickbait article, 'What You Were Supposed To Learn Between 2016 And 2018, Based On Your Zodiac Sign'. Here's what mine said:

And, that probably makes sense?  Someday, when I'm old and trying to stave off senility, I'll probably recall 2017 as "the year I started at Revel" or maybe "the year I started/tried doing stand-up comedy" or "the year Melissa and Beth finally came to visit me in California".  In the nearer range future, I hope to think of 2017 as "the year I started becoming at least somewhat less of a shitshow" and (in the tiniest, non-jinx-y voice imaginable) "the year Buffalo broke the drought".  And, maybe all that rolls up to 'find(ing) (my) passion again'.  Creating a new type of content has been fun.  Professional life in 2017 has been very rewarding after a 2016 period of stagnation/frustration.

But, regardless of the year and what I did/ didn't learn, one thing always remains the same: I saw some amazing music.  Without further adieu, in no particular order, here are my top five of 2017:

Bleachers at the Fox Theater in Oakland

I saw Bleachers at Outsidelands and loved them so much that I had to see them again.  Their show at The Fox was one of the dance-iest, tightest shows I saw all year - and one where the band was having just as much fun as the crowd.  I am 100% on board with everything that Jack Antonoff's "small music that's meant to be played big" philosophy has to offer.  This show was an absolute delight.

P!nk/ Andy Grammer at Kaaboo in San Diego

I've said this before, but how on earth did Ms. "I'm Coming Out So You Better Get This Party Started" turn out to be an artist who sings such ridiculously beautiful songs about heartache and the human condition?  She was charming, belting, and every single song was worthy of a full-scale sing along.  Did you know I was a P!nk superfan?  I did not, but I knew every word to every song.  And then she got wired up and flew over the crowd.  I yelled, I cried, I became best friends with every single person in that crowd because we shared something special.  Are you having any sort of crisis? Third-life?  Existential?  Listen to 'Glitter in the Air'.  It will help to know you're not the only person with those feelings.

On the flip-side, Andy Grammer's Sunday afternoon sunshine set was so perfectly charming and so perfectly SoCal.  Bonus points for his band because they were SO FUNKY.

Theo Katzman at the Independent

Have you listened to Theo Katzman's 'Hard Work' album?  Why not?  Does nobody ever listen to me when I tell them things?  His set at the Independent was fun, funky, and a seamless mix of genres.  He's a real deal musician with the swagger of a rockstar and I was smitten from the first chord.

John Mayer at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas

What more can I say about John Mayer?  I want the jukebox musical of my life to be scored by John Mayer.  His return to the solo stage was as magnificent as I imagined.

The Revivalists with Con Brio at the Showbox Theater in Seattle

2017 started with a "congrats on your new job" solo long week-end in Seattle.  Not content to just cram eight days worth of tourism into a three day week-end, I also looked for a show to see.  This was just the right kind of boogie down that I was looking for.  First, the lead singer of Con Brio has the presence and energy of a young Bruno Mars and their horn section is ridiculous.  Send, the Revivalists hit that 'modern Southern Rock' sweet spot that rocks my world seven ways to Sunday.

Honorable Mentions: Joshua Henry at the Marine Merchant Theater (for the #HamJam medley alone, even though the whole show was spectacular), Lea Michele at the Palace of Fine Arts (listen up, yo - I'm not saying I teared up during 'Don't Stop Believin', but I'm not saying I didn't)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Yeah We Talk About Getting Older/ But There's So Much We Haven't Done Yet

Who: Outsidelands
When: August 11-13, 2017
Where: Golden Gate Park/ San Francisco, CA
With: All the San Franciscans. All of them.
Of Note: This is going to get a little schmaltzy.

Day 1: Tove Lo, Sleigh Bells, Belle + Sebastian, Future Islands, RAC
Day 2: John Moreland, San Fermin, Joseph, Lemon Twigs, Vance Joy, Claude VonStroke, Empire of the Sun
Day 3: Jacob Banks, K.Flay, Bleachers, Young the Giant, Lorde, Shots Fired, The Who

Okay, so, Outsidelands was this week-end. And, as it's in my neighborhood, my choices are either to attend it or to leave the state. There is no in between. But, I love music and love festivals and bought a super duper early bird ticket (before the line up was announced early) and off to the park I went.

The first set I saw on Friday was one of the smartest pop acts of today, Tove Lo. I've seen her before and loved her and was excited to see what she'd do with a festival set. I got to the park, filled up my water bottle, grabbed a beer and headed over to the set. I was immediately struck with an overwhelming sense of dread... the crowd looked young. Like, younger than my nephews young. Like, I can't believe your parents let you out of the house dressed like that, young lady, young. Like, oh crap, I shouldn't even look at any of these guys because jailbait, young. And so, I took to the internet to deliver a series of "Reasons I'm too old to be at a music festival" - humorous anecdotes and observations about the week-end that showed I'm, maybe, no longer in their target demographic. But, guys, here's the thing... I still had SO MUCH FUN and LOVED IT ALL SO MUCH and AM SO GLAD I WENT despite feeling a little like I should have been chaperoning.

So, to counter everything I posted this week-end, here are three reasons I am absolutely not too old to go to a music festival:

 1. Festivals are easier when you can throw money at your problems/discomfort. I remember when Jenn Fish and I went to Bonnaroo and I had to hide sandwiches in my purse to avoid having to haul myself back out to the campsite in the middle of the day to eat because if I wanted to buy a t-shirt, I had exactly $14/day to spend on food/drinks. That's insane. Now? If I'm hungry, I grab food. If I want a beer, I buy one. If I don't feel like carrying a sweatshirt for the day but it gets cold? I buy a sweatshirt. Easy breezy.

2. I don't really give a shit what people think. Like, I hung out on my own for a fair amount of this week-end; I don't know a lot of people who love music as much as I do and the people I did know there often wanted to see different acts, were hard to track down, etc. I was not at all self-conscious or weirded out by that at all. I've grown into myself, become really comfortable with my ability to do things independently, and am (vanity about "dressing old" aside) almost completely unself-conscious these days. I danced when I wanted. Sat when I wanted. Did just as I pleased.

3. This isn't news but I fucking love live music. I love the energy and the sing alongs and the feeling that anything at all could happen on stage and I'll be there to see it. I love the moments from a performance that stay with you. I love seeing new bands on small stages and finding something new to be a fan of. I love super fans. I love the mutual circle between crowd and performer of giving and getting energy. There are few things in this world that make me giddier than a killer set.

So, I hope, that for as long as I am of sound mind, body, and finances, I hope I keep going to festivals. And, maybe, eventually, I'll go full on old-person with supportive, cushioned shoes and a full on field set up with a blanket and stadium chair. But either way, I know I'll be there.

So, now that I've faced my own mortality and aging (heavy stuff for a Monday morning), let's count down my favorite moments from the week-end. That sounds like a lot more fun.

In no particular order:

1. Joseph's whole set; they're a sister act kind of like Haim but less LA-y. I love their 'I'm Alone, No You're Not' album and live they were electric. Tight harmonies, high energy, and a whole lot of foot stomping. LOVE.

2. The most sexually charged baritone saxophone playing I've ever seen during the San Fermin set. They reminded me a bit of the Canadian group Stars - male and female lead vocalists who trade off, a whole lot of people on stage, a little bit ethereal. But, man, their saxophone player killed it.

3. The entire crowd singing along and dancing during Lorde's 'Greenlight'.

4. Hanging with Andrew and his roommate for Claude VonStroke, having a big old dance party while Andrew repeatedly insisted, "I"m just going to go be one of those EDM guys. That's who I am now."

5. Standing next to the SUPERIEST OF SUPER FANS for Lemon Twigs. This girl knew every word, every drum kick, and was having the time of her life. You go girl. (Though, I would recommend wearing a bra if you plan on jumping that much.)

6. Watching The Who destroy 'My Generation' while video footage of them destroying 'My Generation' 50+ years ago played behind them.

7. Seeing Tove Lo with new buddies Russ & Jake who, when she flashed the crowd, caused Russ to say, "Oh dear, this might be the start of my straight experimental phase." Jake replied, "I'm glad I saw that; it affirmed my love for men." I cracked right up.

8. Watching Jack Antonoff live his very best life and deliver a set that was so fun and so dance-able, and had so much energy. 'Rollercoaster' was a blast,  'Everybody Lost Somebody' was way more fun than it sounds, and it took me a minute to place 'Wild Heart' as a Sara B. song.   But, when he brought his dad on stage to play guitar and the band covered Fleetwood Mac's 'Go Your Own Way' while the whole crowd jumped up and down? That was pretty close to transcendent.

9. Speaking of covers, Vance Joy's 'Call Me Al' into his delightful 'Riptide' was a rollicking way to close his set. Plus! His floppy curls are just the cutest! (I just googled it; he's 29. That feels like fair game.)

10. RAC's set at the Panhandle while I skipped Gorillaz (just #notmyjam), was SO FUN and SO DANCE-Y and EXACTLY the way I wanted to end the first day. I've been singing 'Cheap Sunglasses' to myself all week-end.

And a bonus: The table-side magic at the Cocktail Magic area. The guy MADE A FOLDED UP ACE OF CLUBS APPEAR UNDER MY WATCH and I have no idea how he did it.

And so, another Outsidelands is in the books and, while I felt juuuuust a little long in the tooth, I am so, so very glad I went. Until next time!

And now! Some iPhone photos.  Just in case this whole post wasn't self-congratulatory enough:

What up Ranger Dave?

"If you're talking bodies...."

I didn't mention it above, but I also really loved the Future Islands set.  Their lead singer felt every single word he sang.  It was pretty special to watch. 

Pretty or sinister? 


Vance Joy! 

Jack Antonoff, living his best life. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

So Scared of Getting Older/ I'm Only Good at Being Young

Who: John Mayer with LANY
When: April 22, 2017
Where: T-Mobile Arena/ Las Vegas, NV
With: Alex
Of Note: #24hoursinVegas

[Insert standard jokes about dusting the cobwebs off of this place.]

So, in April, I flew to Vegas to see John Mayer because this was the first leg of his first solo tour in four years and I was not going to miss it, dammit. (Even if subsequent legs of the tour are coming to SF.)

My feelings for John Mayer have been well documented here at RTE. I adore him - and looking back at what I've written about the times I've seen him in the past still hold up. The sentiment that, "I feel a little like I've grown up with him," seems more applicable than ever. His most recent album -'The Search for Everything' - brings us a John that has learned a few lessons, seen a few things, and is a bit more honest. I feel you, dude.

When the first single, 'Love on the Weekend', dropped, I listed to it on repeat for a full weekend and was blown away, as I often am, by just how incredibly smart a lyricist he is and how he's able to so accurately capture a feeling or specific moment in a phrase. The one that most slayed me? "And I'll be dreamin' of the next time we can go/ Into another serotonin overflow" Seriously, who can use the phrase "serotonin overflow" in a pop song and have it be both meaningful and sexy? John Mayer can. Also, his inflection on "like only we can" is one of those phrases that burrowed into my soul and tried to live there.

His strategy on this album - dropping it four tracks at a time - was an interesting one. This also meant that I had the opportunity to savor each and every song on repeat for weeks before I had more music to contend with. One of the other stand-outs, 'Still Feel Like Your Man', got one of the funniest Twitter Q&As ever. The song is pretty upbeat, has a bit of funk on it. But, it's a heartbreak song. You see, poor John, still feels like your man even though he's not. And amidst leaving parties early, turning down the prettiest girl in the room, and feeling like he's "never going to find another you" (I LOVE IT WHEN SONG LYRICS REFERENCE OTHER SONG LYRICS), he mentions that he "still keeps your shampoo in my shower, in case you want to wash your hair." Someone asked him about that on Twitter and he made a joke that if that were sung in an actual ballad, it would be the saddest song in the whole world. Scent memory is a thing y'all.

Anyway, this whole album speaks to the existential dread of being in your mdioadfjod(ahem)-30s and trying to figure out if what you've done up to this point is right, what comes next, and how to get over the heartbreak/ crippling loneliness of life. (Did you know that anything can be about you if you're enough of a narcissist?) I mean, every track on this album is exquisite. I cannot tell you how incredibly stoked I was to see it toured.

So, I recruited Alex into #28hoursinVegas that turned into #23hoursinVegas that turned into #48hoursinVegas because the travel mojo was not on her side. Prior to Alex's arrival, I got drinks at a townie themed bar, danced with middle-aged Canadian ladies, kissed a PhD candidate (sorry Mom!), and got burnt to a crisp drinking pina coladas by the pool (so... the usual). Alex arrived and it was off to a fancy dinner and then the show.

Okay, so, the show. Opening band LANY was perfectly serviceable. I remember that they had a song telling California to suck it. I mean, I still live here but it's not like I'm a completely different person or anything so I enjoyed that very much. (Sidebar: they just released a new album and it is totally worth checking out.)

And then. And then. THE GLORY THAT IS JOHN MAYER. He broke the show up into sections, each with a Chapter-ed title card and variation in set. First up was Chapter 1: The Full Band, then Chapter 2: Acoustic, and so on. Chapter 3 was The Trio, which is the first time they've played together in years and showed off a completely different side of his musicianship. The set list was so cleverly constructed, mixing old and new and showing the evolution between them. (To wit: "I'm Going to Find Another You" and "Still Feel Like Your Man" back to back in the first encore. 2006 Continuum John Mayer is going be a little defiant, tell you to take your sweaters and be on your way. He'll find another you. 2017 John? He's going to turn down pretty ladies' advances and (creepily?) sniff your shampoo in the shower while he licks his wounds and gets over you.)

I love that 2017 John made a lot of fun of 'Your Body Is a Wonderland', providing mocking commentary throughout. (Though, when he talked about doing the song that put him on the map, I really thought it was going to be 'No Such Thing'.) 'Who Says' will always be a favorite of mine - again, a song from a John of a more defiant era. When followed by 'Helpless' ('The same drink that gets me out the door/ is the same drink that puts me on the floor') shows evolution.

The 'Acoustic' chapter was quiet and talk-y and if it wasn't an enormous arena, you would have thought you were at the recording of Joe's cafe. 'Stop This Train', a song about grappling with aging and what that means, had a tease of 'Homeward Bound' at the end. If he had actually played 'Homeward Bound', I might have combusted (songs with the word 'Home' in them being an emotional button of mine).

I could go on and on about how magical this show was. He seemed relaxed, at ease. He said he was having fun and that we were showing him how to re-examine his old catalog, that he was getting more out of playing it than ever. He was the perfect ratio of dreamboat to rockstar, pop idol to virtuoso. He was genial and appreciative of the crowd and everything you could ever want from a performer. This show meant a lot to me; I've been seeing this guy for almost 15 years and it's good to see both his return to form and that his take on life still mirrors some of my own outlook.

The only other thing I want to talk about is the 'Epilogue'. So the stage set up was a giant lightboard screen across the back of the stage. It didn't do anything other than have images and video projected on it throughout the show. For his second encore, John came out and sat down at a magically appearing piano and played the haunting 'You're Going to Live Forever In Me', a song that talks about the lasting impact the people you care about have on you - how bits of you are forged in each meaningful relationship and how you take pieces of those people with you. It's raw and open and I can't even think about it without tearing up. He sits and plays this while the screen behind him is lit up in bright white. At the end, he bids his final thanks, walks to the back of the stage, opens a door and walks out. MOST BALLER EXIT EVER.

Anyway, John Mayer. I love that dude. And someday, when I write a jukebox musical about my life, it's going to be to his music.

Who says you can't go home? 


Sunday, February 12, 2017

RTE Bonus: 2017 Grammys Significantly Delayed Blog

Standard disclaimer on how this is less fun on the west coast; I am social media unspoiled though so let's see what goes down.  Though, since Justin Bieber has publicly declared that the Grammys aren't relevant anymore, is there any point?

Kicking off with a heavy hitter, Adele right out of the gate.  Her hair and make-up look phenomenal and that dress is so much better than what she's worn in the past.  New styling team?  Her pipes remain as impressive as ever though, this song was not one that really did it for me.  Or maybe that spring where I did nothing but listen to '21' and cry on airplanes ruined Adele for me.

Is James Corden actually stuck in the stairs or is this a bit.  Oh, it's a bit.  Got it.  Was the point of that, "James Corden is good at physical comedy?"  Because this sequence is not doing a whole lot for me.  I have a lot of of love for James Corden because of a lot of his gimmicks, his appearance in 'Begin Again', but most of all for sending his parents to cover the Bills at Wembley.  Clock it, the first Trump burn at, what, five minutes in?  Can't wait for 45 to tweet about that post-haste.  I did not love that opening.

J-Lo!  I can't tell if the giant flower on her dress is genius or looks like it's going to eat her  neck.  The neckline and the slit are stunning.  She's stunning.  "This is when artists go to work..."  Subtle but powerful.  (I'm 4 for five on knowing those nominees, btw.)

And #NODAPL at 12 minutes or so in.  There are not many punches being pulled, huh?  This looks like he borrowed Katy Perry's 'Dark Horse' set from a couple of years ago.  I'm distracted by the constant back and forth of his hand; the in and out does not seem to match the lyrics.  I like the 'Feel it Coming' song a whole lot better than 'Starboy'.  Daft Punk looks particularly Darth-Vader-y this evening, eh?  This vamp on the end makes me wonder if he really, indeed, feels it coming.

Travolta looks good, yeah?  Less melt-y in the face than recent years?  What was up with the sunglasses though?  Looking for a link, I see that I never wrote about when I saw Keith Urban.  Alex must be very disappointed in me.  Both Keith and Carrie are so great, but this song is about as far from country music as anything either of them have ever done.  Carrie Underwood always makes me think about how, for one hot minute, American Idol was super relevant.  This is a lovely song, with the potential to be a club-banger.  Not what I would have expected from them.

JO-BRO! I've written about this in every live-blog but I really loved the Chainsmokers this year.  This category is interesting in that it's groups and collaborations. I get it, but they seem like pretty different things.  Why are these children taking their pants off?  I like that the camera just hot girl panned up them though.  That was, actually, quite charming.  I always like the, "this could be you," message.

Ah, Corden, don't step on the guys' nice moment.  I like that Sheeran is going full one-man show for this.  It's pretty impressive to see the layering live like this.  I do love this song.  It's super sexy to listen to.  Potentially less so to watch him sing it (sorry dude!).  I just checked the video to see if it lived up to my 2k17 'Wicked Games' update inspiration and I totally don't get the Fight Club thing.  I guess I will go back to just listening to it and getting the visuals just in my mind.  Nicely done though.

Oh, Katherine McPhee.  I miss 'Smash'.  A nice posthumous nod to Bowie.  McPhee is not who I would have pegged to accept on his behalf.

Seacrest doesn't age, eh?  I do not feel good about his velvet jacket.  Both of these songs are a bit weepy inducing on their own.  Together, they lack a bit of punch.  The 'Seven Years' song reminds of the Five for Fighting '100 Years to Live' song that made me cry a bunch in college.  These are both great vocalists.  He is outshining her, both in fashion and vocals.  That was lovely.

Aw, it must be a trip to be Tina Knowles.  Bey looks like Cleopatra, yeah?  Or Cleopatra mixed with the Virgin Mary.  This hologram stuff is pretty amazing - so far super visually stunning and this table segment is really compelling choreography.  I love that she's gone full on performance art this year with this and the MTV Lemonade mix.  I mean, she'll get back to pop smashes, for sure, but I love that she's just putting her truth out there.  And Jay-Z has the, "I can't believe that I am so lucky," face, which is nice to see.

Man, I feel a little out of touch on my country music. I've heard all these songs but didn't realize they were the big ones of the year.  I'm confused about the skirt of her dress.

This is a pretty cute bit, with all the celebrities in the carpool karaoke.  I like that he's trying to get all the people to sing and they're just like, "Uh, Neil Diamond has got this.  We're good."  "SO GOOD SO GOOD SO GOOD."  That was pretty adorable.

Yay!  Bruno Mars!! I love gold lame suit Bruno best, but am enjoying athleisure Bruno with the Nike Cortez.  I love that he makes this look absolutely effortless.  Like, he is crushing some vocals, running perfectly synchronized movement, doing a little popping, and he looks like he could just be hanging out at home or something.  He is so fricking talented.  Yes, please, talk to me.  I like that J-Lo, Rihanna, Chrissy Teigan, and Faith Hill all look equally smitten.

Oh man, this is stunning.  I am a sucker for all acoustic covers of 'Teenage Dream' but this is pretty special.  Ah, Katy's blonde.  I am confused by the sunglasses.  Oh, they're literal rose-colored glasses.  Is this Katy Perry's big political move?  Rejecting white picket fence America?  I am distracted by her sneakers.  The rotating house/ screen image is really compelling imagery.  Oh whoa, the house was all held by people.  Interesting staging, good on you KP.  Oh! And now it's Constitution time!  I am not 100% sure what the message of the song was other than just general malcontent with the USA 2017 but it was interesting.

You have to wonder what some of the country musicians who gain their support from the deep red think about all this and if showing up here is going to garner any backlash for them.  Though, everyone they've panned to - Dierks, Keith, etc. - probably don't align as far right as that.  It's not like we're talking Toby Keith.

The Corden tweet bit was cute.  'Bring back LL Cool J.'  Ha!

I love these duets.  Nothing will ever outdo my favorite one - Sara Bareilles and Carole King but this is pretty great.  Gary Clark Jr. is one of those guys who is so much cooler than most people could ever dream of being.  Blue Ivy in that hot pink suit is also so much cooler than most people.

Beyonce is such a class act; that was polite, on point, made her point, and succinct.  What a treasure.

(I wish Joel McHale's new show was better.  He's so charming but that pilot was rough so I gave up on it.)

That is a lot of sparkles on one stage, ladies.  Marren looks appropriately stunned to be on stage with Ms. Keys.  All these super deep vee necklines make me worried for everyone's skin; I have awful allergic reactions to double sided tape and I have to imagine I'm not unique in that.

Why is there an octopus on the back of Corden's jacket?

This is lovely but I always think of George Michael as such a fun musician, and such a role model for male pop stars in terms of what's possible that I would have liked to see this super-group style.  Oh man, bold move to stop it and start again.  Do Adele and George Michael have a special bond that I missed?

(I like the line "The ball should bounce the same for everyone."  I wonder if that Nike commercial was in direct response to the Under Armour press kerfluffle.)

Hahahahahahaha, James Corden's dad and Heidi Klum were adorable.  Nick Jonas looks significantly less entertained by this.

Do you think Sophia is ever going to get out of the SHU?  That is a dress, yo.  They are really pushing the political shout-outs on this.  Gaga with Metallica, huh?  Oh dear, his microphone is off.  The extras pretending to mosh (? thrash? dance?) to this are terrible and kind of distracting.  This is not really my cup of tea, if I'm being honest.

I like Dwight Yokam.  This Strugil Simpson performance is lovely, clean, well-sung, amazing horns, and a sax solo that crushed it?  I'm considering this an aural palette cleanser after the last one.

And now it is late and I am going to go to bed.  I will perhaps finish the second half tomorrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Repeat Songs of the Week

New Year, new music, right?

Theo Katzman / Hard Work

I've written about how charmed I was by Theo Katzman when I first saw him.  His new album, Heartbreak Hits, is outstanding from beginning to end - a full profile of what a broken heart feels like.  'Hard Work' is a stand-out for its spot on sentiment (I put in the work, why can't I reap the benefits?) and it's rocking chorus.

Ben Phipps / I Don't Think So

This is pure pop magic with a side of knowing when to call it quits.

Adam Levine / No One Else Like You

I have no idea how I'd never seen the movie 'Begin Again' but once I did, I listened to the soundtrack non-stop.  Though I didn't 100% believe Keira Knightley as a powerhouse of vocal talent, her acting was lovely and Mark Ruffalo was outstanding.  Adam Levine as as the recently douche-ified star boyfriend, James Corden as the dedicated friend, and Hailee Steinfeld as the sullen daughter round out an outstanding cast.

John Mayer / Love on the Weekend

Is there anything better than a pop song that uses the words "seratonin overflow"?  I don't think so.  I am so delighted that John Mayer is making new music.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

RTE Bonus: 2016 American Music Awards Significantly Delayed Blog

Usual disclaimers about how this is much less fun from the west coast and on DVR.

I know I say this every time but I love Bruno Mars.  I like that he's traveling with a band of hpye men, though I miss his horn section.  Whoa - how did I miss that Bruno is the heir apparent to MJ?  This dance break is outstanding.  Is the use of pop and locking in reference to "pop, pop it's showtime?"

Gigi Hadid is a model, right?  Has she ever had a speaking job before?  I'm not sure this would be the place to start?  I like that she's called out both the electoral college and Melania in the first four minutes.  Though that impression was kind of weak sauce.  Much like the VMAs, I feel like I still know things about music but if the presenters are what the children are into, I am out of touch.  Jay Pharaoh's Donald impression is hilarious though.

These three look like they could orchestrate a complicated murder and get away with it, stage a hostile corporate takeover without breaking a sweat or a nail, or star in a girl-power rendition of Oceans 11.  Damn ladies.

Twenty One Pilots - this seems heartfelt but exceedingly awkward.  I feel like I've seen them at a festival at some point.

Man, they are savaging Trump.  Has he tweeted about how unfair it is yet?

Why is Naomi's sister from the 90210 reboot introducing this guy?  Is she relevant now?

Oh, this isn't the hot one.  Are they all going to have solo careers?  Don't we already have an Ed Sheeran, making this particular song/performance redundant?

I like that a girl group is having this moment.  I feel like for every one Fifth Harmony (or Spice Girls or Danity Kane), there's like eight N'Sync's/O-Towns/One Directions/etc.

Aww! Cheryl Burke! Are they trying to bring younger viewers to DWTS?

Nina & Julianne - these two are BFFs, right?  Oh, they are doing a bit about that.  I like that I've internalized that piece of celebrity gossip.  Well, homeboy had a 66.67% chance of winning, so good on him.  This song really was ubiquitous.

I know that this song is played everywhere, always but man, I still love it.  There is something so very compelling about the sing-song melody that I just can't shake.  He sounds much better here than he did at the VMAs.  I also like that it addresses self-awareness about problematic behavior, playing a song to death, and charged repetition of an anti-aging message.  But mostly the sing-song melody and familiar chord structure.

JAMES BAY!!!  I love him so much.  This is just lovely.  My favorite song from this album is probably 'If You Ever Want to Be in Love' but the whole thing is spectacular.

Shawn Mendes is a child from the internet, right?  That was his whole deal?  I like his tiny little performance cube with the crazy lighting.  This sounds just like it does on the radio!  Oh, a little white boy reggae thrown in.  I dig.

Huh, I may have a fundamental misunderstanding of what EDM is.  Or these nominees are the most pop music accessible version of what EDM could be considered . I feel like all these songs are much more lyrically driven than I would assume EDM to be.  Interesting.  Or, is it just because of the lack of orchestration/actual instruments more than the "feel" of the song?  People who know things about this, please educate me.

I really liked the Weeknd's summer jam last year 'Can't Feel My Face'.  This song makes me kind of crazy because I have no idea what a 'Star Boy' is.  Ah, urbandictionary tells me that a 'starboy' is a womanizer/philanderer.  That seems like an odd thing to sing about.  If that's true, I feel like every time this is played, it needs to be immediately followed by Britt's 'Womanizer'.

Why does this category have five nominations when the rest have three?  Also, they are doing a poor job of not putting the picture on the screen before the presenters announce the winners.  I really like this song and sing it when I... work from home. (Ba-dum-bum!)  Unrelated, I wonder how many pounds of extensions are on that stage?  Aw, poor girls, they totally don't get that they're being played off.

This bit is a train wreck.  Olivia, you're better than this.  Tim McGraw has not aged in some not insignificant number of years.  Also, he's been winning these things longer than some of these kids have been alive.  Did he just say "my soul soldier"?  That seems like a really weird, and kind of icky phrase.

I'm digging Ariana's jungle girl squad.  The cuts to people dancing in the audience is pretty awkward.  Ah,here are the dude dancers.

The irritation of that Taylor Swift commercial was worth it to see Drake doing the gym thing to 'Bad Blood'.  This is pretty amazing.

Ah, there's the hot one.  Good on him for breaking out first?

Chrissy Teigan is kind of the best.  She slays on social media on a regular basis and cracks me up on Lip Sync Battle.  I feel like what they share publicly of their relationship is always so charming.  This is super sweet.  And good on him, the problem is never that there's too much love in the world.  I also like the Gap Denim back-up singers and the syncopated drum track on this.  Well done sir, you continue to be a delight.

Why is Twenty One Pilots wearing the weird Kanye thing over their faces?  This did not do a whole lot for me.

They're simulcasting the Biebs, huh?  All the press about him yelling at his fans for screaming too much and singing along too loudly has cracked me up.  Like, dude, you've got one job.  It's to act appreciative of the people losing their shit about you and sometimes do some singing.  I wonder what the people in the AMA theater are doing right now.  This can't be thrilling to watch on screen in that room.  I wonder how much those crying people paid to be that close to the stage.  I meant to see that movie where Andy Samberg skewers pop stars but didn't.  Perfectly serviceable, JB, perfectly serviceable.

Soundtrack?  What an odd category.  Heidi looks like an Emmy.  Oh sweetie, that was real grief.  Good on her for getting through it.

I'm not sure how I feel about soulful crooner Gaga.

I love Mark Cuban.  Man, another Trump ding and a Hamilton shout out.  I like that the FL/GA Line was like, "Oh shoot, God!  Let's not alienate our cash cow red states by participating in this liberal Trump bashing!"  That seems like a cynical view to take.  Maybe that's not fair.

I knew they weren't going to win, but I adore the X Ambassadors.  Their debut album was bonkers, in a good way.  I did enjoy the Twenty One Pilot guy's treatise on live music.  You go, dude.

Green Day is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame already?  How old am I?  Whoa, that is a really explicit anti-Trump message.  One of the guys I work with keeps saying that the political unrest in the country is going to bring about another '60s musician activist movement.  I read an article that predicted a resurgence of '80s protest punk.  I'm all for either.  That was pretty intense and pretty great.

What up RDJ?!  I did not know he sang, particularly not with Sting.  It is pretty incredible to think of the impact this guy has had on the modern musical landscape.  And his voice is still - nearly - as good as its always been.  I do love 'Message in a Bottle'.  I sometimes think it's weird that the stalker song has had such a prominent place in pop culture.  Like, we get it's not romantic, right?

Nikki doing double duty, alright then.  I'm going to be honest and say that it is very late and I'm going to fast forward through it.

Aw!  The Edge of Seventeen kids.  I saw that movie today and really, really enjoyed it.  It was one of those smart, talk-y, really well acted movies that are right up my alley.  Kind of like if Mark Duplass wrote a teen movie.  I would recommend it.  It was also great to see how much Blake Jenner's acting has improved since Glee.

Selena looks lovely in that red dress; I love a ball gown at a show with so many short, sparkly numbers.  Oh man, she's serving up some realness.  I have no idea what the drama she's talking about is but I know she's taken some lumps in the media but, that seemed like the most authentic thing that's happened all night.  Good on you, lady - a message of self-acceptance is always a good thing and I'm glad you got through... whatever you got through.

Oh, the Jenny McCarthy/Donnie Wahlburg show must be on an ABC owned network.  This makes sense, she's had a hell of a year.

I thought NBC locked Adam up in a peacock cage when The Voice wasn't filming?  (Ba-dum-bum!) I've said this before too, and it might be controversial, but I have loved last five years Maroon Five after having been somewhat lukewarm on 'Songs About Jane' era M5.  They have tapped into such an amazing, hook-y pop music face and it rings more real on them than early '00s mopey alt-rockers.  And, speaking of dudes that owe Sting a musical debt; there is definitely some clear influence and stylistic influence there.  Also, hot damn, Adam Levine is super, duper hot.  This is another great song and great performance.

And there we have it!  Awards chosen by the fans!  Or something!  That was a whole bunch of good to great performances and way more Trump-bashing than I expected from this venue.  Not a bad Sunday evening on TV!  

Monday, August 29, 2016

RTE Bonus: 2016 VMAs "Live Blog"

These shows are so much less fun to watch on the west coast.  With that statement out of the way, let's see how much of an old person I am; are the VMAs still relevant to me?  Let's find out.

That is some intense shoulder choreography!  I am so confused by the butt flaps on the back of Rihanna's outfit.  What are those random things hanging off of her?  Also, what is the stage design here?  What are those big, white puffy things?  I love the dancers in all white and they are making some really cool shapes around her.  Is she supposed to be singing live or are we suspending disbelief?  Because sometimes she holds the microphone up and looks like she's singing and other times she ... doesn't.

Man, Rihanna has a lot of hits!  Her story is a cool one - the way she got discovered, etc.  Or, at least the version in the book 'The Song Machine' is a really interesting "making of a star" story.  No 'Umbrella'?  Solid opening!

Oh, she's performing three more times.  I anticipate 'Umbrella' will come later.

These twitter people are terrible.  Oh wait, is this Key & Peele doing some awful bit?  This is really, truly, completely awful.  Is this what the children find funny?  This is going on forever.

In determining how out of touch I am, I'm giving myself +1 relevance point for knowing all of Rihanna's works.  Minus one for HATING all of these commentators (if indeed the kids are into them).

DIDDY!!!!  In honor of his presence, I'd like to give you my favorite Diddy quote from Making the Band, "Now white girls can dance and have asses?"  I am intrigued by his open front, sheer cardigan thing.  I know 3/4 of these nominees.  CANADA represent!  "Drake is stuck in traffic?"  That's amazing.

The camera really wants reaction shots from Nick Jonas.  He's not giving them much.

I feel like the backstage reporter is just yelling tumblr catchphrases.  Cute dress though.

Oh Hailee, I am not sure how I feel about your dress.  I'm always wary of garments with arrow like imagery in the crotchal region.  I loved her so much in True Grit.

Why is Chance the Rapper dressed like a missing Mario brother?

I'm a little confused by spin class; those are some badass giant legs framing the stage though.  I also question doing spin class in those heels.  This also reminds me of an under appreciated MTV show hosted by Haylie Duff, where they cast the replacement Elle Woods for Legally Blonde, the Musical.  One of the challenges was to sing the show while on bikes to increase cardio strength.  These guys seem right out of Olivia Newton-John's 'Physical' video.  Nikki's hair looks amazing.  That was solid.
I think I'm going to be a lot happier if I fast forward through all these awful commentator segments.

Isn't she a coach, not a co-host?  Maybe I misheard that.  Man, remember when Alicia Keys first came out with 'Fallin'' and we'd never heard anything else like it ever?  I still think that song stands as one of the most interesting, unique commercial radio hits.  Man, she is having a moment here.  Damn, what a voice.  What is Nick Cannon wearing?  I know all those songs!  I like that Rihanna, essentially, just won the 'Best Male Video'.

Phelps!  I read an article about how his ankles rotate 15-20 degrees more than a normal person's ankles, meaning that his giant feet actually function like flippers because he gets more leverage than a normal person.  "I've got the golds but he's got the platinum."  That was adorable.

I don't know this guy; this song has a pretty hypnotic feeling though I could do without the mock sirens.  I dig his super shiny sneakers.

Oh Kanye.  Kim K. looks gorgeous.  I don't follow anything Kardashian but I've read a bunch of pieces about how great their marriage is.  I have no idea if it's true but some of the paparazzi shots of him helping her across puddles, etc. are adorable.  Though, I wonder if he makes Kim role-play Beyonce in the bedroom. I am really confused by this rambling monologue but appreciate he name checked Anna Wintour and Ray-J.  Disney, Jobs, West?

Man, the 80s aerobic aesthetic is getting a lot of mileage tonight.  This lady had to have had a large number of wardrobe malfunctions filming this, right?  Whoa, Now she's a cat?  I am very unclear about what I just saw.  I dig the track.  Really confused about the video.

Naomi Campbell is 46?  She's so gorgeous.

This seems much more like she's actually singing.  I love all these dancers.  I love that it looked like she was in the crowd but they just made a crowd set and filled it with dancers.  That was not as strong as the first medley, but still very good, obviously.

Why is the cancer guy from 'Fault in Our Stars' dressed like the guy from My Chemical Romance?

Why are they making Nick Jonas sing in a diner?  And why is he wearing a leather tracksuit?  Oh look, another Jonas!  He makes some weird faces when he sings.  Not a dealbreaker, obviously but still.  Oh man, that one background guy is living his very best life, singing along and jumping on a table to dance.  I hope he won a contest to be there or something.  I like this song; I feel like most of what solo Nick Jonas has done has been enjoyable.  And he looks so happy!  Good on you, Nick Jonas.

Serena!  What happened to Venus?  I feel like for years, it was always where the two of them were in the standings but over the last several years it's just been Serena.  That is quite the dress, and she seems so excited to be doing this introduction.

Oh man, Beyonce looks terrifying.  Like, are we sure we haven't ceded control of the planet to her based on that look on her face?  And now she's bathed in flames?  #actualtargaryan?  Whoa.  That is some violent imagery.  I feel like being on Beyonce's bad side would be the scariest thing ever.  That is a haunting shot - the baseball bat as she walks away.  I kind of love that she's had enough commercial success that now she's doing this really high concept stuff because she wants to, because she can.  Aww, Bey, you're all sweaty from slaying, you don't need the Cruella coat.  And now she literally burns the place down.  Makes sense.  Holy shit.  I mean, 100 years from now, people are going to reference Beyonce in the same way that we reference Athena or Hera from Greek mythology.  When someone asks what was worshiped at the turn of the millennium in America, it's going to be Beyonce, right?  She's such a presence in our cultural landscape and such an icon and as much as I love commercial Beyonce, I adore that she is out of fucks to give.

I knew all those songs!  Man, this is a lady-centric night so far!  Ha!  Oh, that one stepped on that other one's dress.  Good recovery.

I read a Fortune story on Kim K. about how she made $46 million from her app in its first two years.  Which, damn, girl.

BRIT BRIT!!!  This shadow screen is really cool; I like the hands effect.  I'm not sure chartreuse is anyone's best color.  I feel like this is return to form Britney.  She's lucid, interested in performing, dancing is on point.  Nothing has thrilled me more than her comeback.  It's Britney, bitch! indeed.

Yay Olympic gymnasts!  Holy crap, is that a drone?  Well, Laurie Hernandez is the clear stand-out to go be a spokesperson someday.  In addition to all of her other talents and super powers, does Beyonce also have freakishly strong earlobes?  Those earrings are huge.

I love the show black-ish.  This intro is amazing, if a bit manic.  "You reach into your wallet..." Ha!  Does Rihanna have a mullet now?  And, what is that thing stuck to her leg?  Oh, that's the top of her boot folded over.  Are these leotard/ tall boot outfits in homage to Beyonce?  The first Rihanna performance was my favorite.

Oh, here's where my age shows.  I only know two of the best new artist nominees.  But, one of the ones I know is a winner, so maybe that makes it better?  Though, I had no idea Joe Jonas was in this group.  Oops.

Aw, Troye Sivan.  I listed to him SO MUCH in Australia.

I LOVE THIS SONG SO MUCH.  The lilting back-melody, the sing-song chorus, and a rousing declaration that "we ain't ever getting older"; this is one of my favorite radio songs of this year.  This guy seems super pumped to be here!  Underboob is having a moment tonight too, apparently.  I feel like these guys have to just be so excited to have been included in this.  And, yay, confetti!

I refuse to listen to your freestyle about the bathroom, dude.

Fallon doing Lochte doing Bieber.  Okay.  This is not as funny as Fallon thinks it is.  Can you imagine being Beyonce's daughter?  I feel like there's a joke to be made about changing the name to the BMAs or something.  I can't quite get there.

Mary J!  That is a serious jumpsuit.

Oh good, the mullet is gone.  Whew, this is really gorgeous.  I love that this song has so much tension; you want it to go faster and the piano pulsing makes you think it's going to but it doesn't.  This horn section is no joke. Also, that conductor is having a really great time.  Apparently Drake got out of traffic.  She looks like she's waiting to be asked to prom or something.  He seems so thrilled just to be on the same stage as her.  This is pretty adorable.

(It seems tacky to mention but I hope somewhere, Chris Brown is sitting in a basement feeling like absolute shit about himself.)

Okay, so, my assessment of the VMAs as it relates to me...  I'm still pretty up on the music MTV is actively promoting; I knew all the performers, most of the nominees.  I mean, one would question if kids today care about Britney; it kind of felt like she was the "nostalgia" act (which, let's not unpack that).  I have, apparently, aged out of the comedy that MTV promotes though.  Yikes.

One other thing I'd note is that for the current political climate, it was great that this show was so diverse.  The biggest, most celebrated artists were both black females.  So many of the presenters and nominees were not white guys.  I'm not sure if it was intentional, but with everything that's going on in the current national rhetoric and the election, etc. it was nice to see so much diversity represented so positively.

It's arguable how relevant the VMAs are in 2016, but watching them totally didn't make me feel old.