Guest bl-gged by Mrs. 30Hz…
I was due to have a baby on April 8. I elected to have my very healthy and beautiful baby girl induced on April 1 for a variety of reasons, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that at least one of those reasons was so that I could attend the Imagine Dragons concert at the Brillobox on April 12. Yup, that’s right. I planned a baby around a concert. (There were also medical reasons why I induced as well, but this is a blog about music, not the messy birthing process. Ugh.) Listen, potential haters, my husband claims bl-gging is a form of therapy and if there’s anything a new mom needs it’s therapy. So I took this opportunity to attend a show and participate in guest bl-gging, aka “therapy.
I fell in love with Imagine Dragons about eight weeks ago. I’d listened to their six-song EP for about the twenty-seventh time on my iPod at work one day when I decided to see if maybe, just maybe, they were going to come within 300 miles of Pittsburgh. My husband claims Pittsburgh isn’t such a destitute concert destination anymore, but I’m not sold yet. Imagine my shock when I learned the Dragons would be IN Pittsburgh on April 12 at Brillobox. A small indie band (that I wanted to see) coming to Pittsburgh precisely when I needed them to come to Pittsburgh. Unheard of. I purchased two tickets, cleared babysitting duties with my visiting mom and informed my husband that come hell or high water we were having this baby in time for me to attend this show.
Despite delivering my child, our second, in plenty of time to recover before the show – life threw an awesome curveball and my mother, through no fault of her own, was absolutely unavailable to babysit on April 12. Great. My husband immediately offered up his mother, and while she is a great choice, I declined.
My husband attends countless concerts, sporting events and movies at night without me and has an absolutely wonderful time doing so. I have no problem with this. Seriously. I encourage it. The man is a part-time stay at home father so I consider these outings an absolute necessity in an effort to maintain his sanity. However, the main reason Jay has such a wonderful time on his nights out is because he does not have to spend one second worrying about the kids or about getting home at a reasonable hour for the babysitter. I wanted a piece of this luxury. And so, at the risk of seriously pissing him off, I told him his butt was staying home while I went to the concert. If I hadn’t just finished carrying around another child for 9 months he might have told me where to stuff it. But he didn’t. Because he’s part saint.
I quickly coerced another mom-friend into attending the show with me. This was my first time to Brillobox and I have to say, what an awesome venue. Great sound and the “feel” of the place was exactly what I wanted for my intimate indie-band show. And I loved the wallpaper in that place. I can’t help it, I’m a girl. I notice these things.
TeamMate perform at the Brillobox, note the wallpaper. Photo by Wick Photography (wickphotography.com)
Imagine Dragons started on time – a big thank you to them considering my finite time out of the house as a nursing mom. I was shocked when they came on stage. Sorry if I offend anyone, least of all the band themselves, but surely I can’t be the only one with this reaction. For those of you who haven’t heard their EP, let me give you some background. The songs are generally upbeat indie-pop. Guster meets Yeasayer or Hot Chip. “On Top of the World” and “Round and Round” both cause rampant chair dancing in the car (I can’t call it car dancing because I just think of models at the auto show, but I digress). My two-year old is partial to “My Fault,” despite its more somber tone, although her true favorite is “Radioactive,” a minimalist-ish song with simple lyrics and pounding bass and percussion. I’ll admit it. Once she started singing the chorus to “Radioactive” under her breath in the car, I was hooked.
Anyway, back to the point. Imagine Dragons looks like a grunge band, flannels and all. Being from Vegas, I anticipated some leather and glam- not a band that got lost on their way to Seattle. Preconceptions aside, their lead singer is the perfect frontman and struck a great report with the young Pittsburgh crowd. And man can he club that bass drum. Yes, the lead singer plays an enormous bass drum through almost every song as he sings. A bigass bass drum people! There is really no better sight than watching a lead singer belt out a chorus while slamming a bass drum. Not something you see every day. Certain songs include a serious round of man-on-drum love. I hope that bass drum has a name. If I find out that the drum remains unnamed I’ll be very disappointed.
Where do you even buy plaid in Vegas?
Sadly the baby’s schedule didn’t let me stay for the Jezebels… a regrettable misfortune. I’m pretty sure Jay is still ashamed of me for not attending. Still, what a great event for my first night out after the baby.
Regarding nights out after having a baby, I have to admit I’m a little taken aback by the shocked responses by so many of my friends when they found out I attended a concert less than two weeks after having a baby. I’m confused. Does having a baby mean my love for going out and listening to great music abruptly dies? I have to confess I don’t understand why people in my age group, specifically parents, only seem to attend concerts of mega-artists such as U2 or Jimmy Buffet (so help me I do not understand this country’s obsession with that man) is in town. I recently saw a magazine ad that really ticked me off. It said “Before I have kids, I will do _____” When did having kids become a death sentence worthy of a “bucket list?”
I ripped this from another blog (Just Thinking) that spent more time pondering this absurd notion of the Baby Bucket List. Click the image to go right to her post.
It is entirely possible that you can raise children to enjoy music other than Radio Disney. As both I and my husband have noted on this blog, my daughter’s favorite bands include The Knack, The Cars, The Killers, The Black Keys and now Imagine Dragons. I’ll overlook her love of Huey Lewis— an obsession for which I am wholly not responsible. (If you’ve read any of this bl-g, I’m betting you know the guilty party.) Even better – when we attended a Kooks concert last fall, Jay and I actually felt guilt when they played “Junk of the Heart” – at the time, her absolute favorite song in the world– that she was not present to hear it live. Then we couldn’t decide if she’d come to understand that “tunes” came from real people playing instruments and that led to a much longer debate about what she actually thinks is happening if she thinks about it at all.
As a parent, I get a lot more out of attending a concert these days than just the live music. While I can appreciate the “big” show that a band like U2 puts on, I much prefer to hear bands live and in small venues. They remind me just how good they are at what they do (despite a considerable lack of appreciation), how much better music can be live, and that there is passion in this world beyond the crazy parents, crazy politics and crazy callers on sports radio shows. I love that about concerts. Some of my friends recently said over dinner that they were hoping their daughters became doctors or lawyers. People still predominantly think this way, that there are only two “successful” career paths. I’m a lawyer and I think this is complete rubbish. I enjoy my job (more often than not), but that doesn’t mean they will. Jay and I regularly comment that we would be ecstatic if one of our daughters turned into a passionate musician, artist or chef. I want my kids to dream, to know their passion. I want them to… wait for it… imagine dragons.
Until next time, reader(s). Here’s one of the better Imagine Dragons live clips on Youtube and it’s still not a very good capture of the band. If you’re going to shows, get some video loaded up, people. I’m just not very tech savvy.
I joined the U2 fanbase just after the release of Achtung Baby. I was 13 and mired in a two-year monogamous relationship with early 90s hip-hop. And then as night follows day I made my way through Joshua Tree, War, and Boy like a fat kid at the McDonald’s dollar menu. By the time I began high school I’d acquired every album except October (what was wrong with October, I have no idea) including Wide Awake in America EP and the Live at Red Rocks Under a Blood Red Sky.
Hi. You may not remember us but we're a band from Pittsburgh that had a couple of big songs in the 90's back when it would have been cool to sit next to us at a U2 show.
My first show came in 1997. The PopMart Tour at Three Rivers Stadium. Three members of Rusted Root sat just to our left and we all basked in the glow of the 40′ lemon. They opened with “Mofo” – a song they have since disowned. More about this is a moment.
I heard a bit not too long ago about U2 being the best U2 cover band in the world. I forget who said it. Props to whoever that was: I’ve used it in conversation thrice and at least peripherally taken it to heart. While I was pretty excited to be attending my first U2 show in ten years this past Tuesday, I was also acknowledging that there was some truth behind the jest. But as I watched this show in all its lavish overabundance, I couldn’t get this thought out of my head. Had this band, a longtime favorite artist, a staple on my desert island record list (Achtung Baby, FYI) become so self-aware that it had ceased to be itself? Let’s ponder this together for a moment while I rattle off a few thoughts from the show.
Some things I learned on Tuesday night:
360 Tour at Heinz Field, pre-game, err... pre-show. Super-sized for effect.
There is no better way to kill a raucous, stadium rattling crowd stirred by “I Will Follow” than to play “Get On Your Boots”. The song is such a tease. Opens with a gut thumping Adam Clayton bass groove before it succumbs under the weight of its inane, repetitive chorus and schizophrenic tempo. Sure a few innocents wooed when the song began, clearly caught up in the moment. But then I stood in awe of how a single song could stop a show dead. Stone cold. No Line on the Horizon isn’t a terrible record. It boasts a subtlety that How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb lacked. But that song, for the love of all that is holy, just absolutely cannot be the record’s ambassador. I didn’t even bother putting it on my iPod. Which is a shame.
I like the Pop album a lot. I listen to it with regularity. There. It’s out there. I said it. And therefore I find the disownership of the record disappointing. During the show, we got a whiff of “Discotheque” in a reverb-laden medley among other snippets from “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones, “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” (a much better cut from No Line on the Horizon) and “Life During Wartime” by the Talking Heads. I consider this even more disappointing than when Bono and the Edge played it as an acoustic breaktime for Adam and Larry. It’s called goddamn “Discotheque” and you play beneath a disco ball on top of a 30′ spire above the stage. Now you consider this remedial 90’s pop-tronica too embarrassing? Play “Mofo.” Play “Discotheque.” These are great arena- and stadium-thumping songs. Embrace the chaos. Own up to the album. And I’d bet these tracks would get a bigger reaction than anything from Zooropa, No Line or Atomic Bomb (save “Vertigo”). Pop just isn’t as bad as everyone remembers. I promise. It’s not perfect but there’s something innocent and infectious about its imperfect birth into this world. If you have any nostalgia for those killer (and sometimes not so killer) electro-grooves of the late 90’s, give it another shot.
Even Bono can't hide his man-crush on the Edge.
Confession: I have an enormous man-crush on the Edge. Confession: I have developed a secondary man-crush on Larry Mullen which has displaced my former secondary man-crush on Bono. Mostly because I kind of feel for Larry and even Adam (though he’s become too sparkly) because they almost always seem like the third and fourth wheel at a kickass party.
Speaking of Zooropa… this is a solid, subtle album that was never embraced by the U2 fanbase. Why doesn’t anyone listen to it? If “Boots” killed the buzz on Tuesday, “Stay (Faraway, So Close)” just left everyone confused because they lumped it into a marathon of songs produced during the Achtung Baby era (which it was). Later they played “Zooropa” from behind a honeycomb of monitors and everyone just fell into their seats. Granted it’s a chill song and there are better tracks from the album… soooo… during “Zooropa” I stopped paying attention to the music and instead considered who would play each of the band members in a U2 movie. Here are my thoughts: Okay, I didn’t really have any profound thoughts except that Anton Yelchin (from Star Trek) is Larry Mullen. Spot on. I’m inking Colin Ferrell for Bono. It’s the attitude. Plus we need star-power to headline a solid ensemble cast and nobody’s more bloody Irish in Hollywood than Colin Ferrell.
Only he knows if he's Anton Yelchin or a young Larry Mullen.
But back to the rumble…
I write about Music because it moves me. If this music didn’t still affect me I wouldn’t be compelled to spend free time writing this rumble for this bl-g. As someone that writes about music I feel that I’m expected to write through a veil of cynicism, like Vaseline on a camera lens. And because of this expectation I find it difficult to write anything about U2. If I gush, I’m docked cred points for being a fanboy. If I’m negative, I’m disingenuous. I thought about the quip again. U2 is the best U2 cover band. And while I believe that there is some truth to that in that there are similar truths about any band that has been around long enough to reinvent itself three or four times over. After a decade or more we are no more the same people as they are the same band. We become covers of ourselves going through some of the motions established by our more successful, more handsome, younger selves. My friends expect me to be Jay, to live up to their perception of Jay. Sarcastic and full of useless knowledge about music and movies. I talk baseball and hockey whenever possible but don’t ask me about work because my work is my writing and it doesn’t pay any bills. And I oblige them. A band must experience a similar identity crisis each time they step on stage to play songs that they could no longer have written. Consider U2’s origin. Consider where they are now. Our environment shapes our creative output. Our muses and motivations come as much from external stimuli as they do internal.
Really? You're above playing an honest version of "Discotheque?"
I cannot lambaste U2 nor praise without reservation. I admire. I reflect. I grovel at the feet of the Edge for just a sample of his swag. Was the fourth show as thrilling as the first? In some ways yes. In others I can’t help but be disappointed. I found myself a little overcome when they played a snipped of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” which segued seamlessly into “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I immediately felt guilty about calling U2 a U2 cover band. Were they the same band? Of course not, but they, like us, still feel that connection to their music and to their fans (who, let me tell you, haven’t nearly aged as gracefully). They weren’t merely going through the motions, fawning over their fans for coos and playing old favorites for applause. This could be argued (because it really is all perception), but Bono engaged and conversed with the fans, talking Pittsburgh-centric matters with a unique ease and candor, name dropping Perry Como, Andy Warhol and Bo the White House dog (this in particular caused a stir — Bono knowing more about Pittsburgh in some small way than the Pittsburghers themselves). He talked about their first performance in Pittsburgh in 1981 and called down to the crowd for the name of the club. It came as no surprise that a sizable portion of the crowd cried out “The Decade” without hesitation. I could only remark to my wife how amazing that must have been. She seemed shocked that I bothered to state something so obvious. I’d just never thought about U2 like that, a small intimate club — a short, by necessity set list, Bono and his old Euro mullet commanding a crowd with only the 11 songs from Boy and a few from the forthcoming October. Where would the 40’ lemon go? How could Bono grapple onto a glowing microphone hanging from the rafters and swing out over the crowd during “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me?”
Pittsburghers moving up in the world.
And there it is. There’s the problem inherent to calling U2 a cover band.
Maybe they could have played those early shows inside the Lemon.
This is my perception of U2. I’m just as guilty as the next asshole complaining that they don’t play such and such song and don’t write songs like they used to or play them exactly the same way they played them in 1984 (or in my case 1992). I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band play Phillips Arena in Atlanta nearly ten years ago now. I knew the songs on his Greatest Hits CD. I went with my (to-be) wife and her mother and couldn’t help but admire that I probably knew less than 50% of the songs he played. I didn’t have the history with Bruce that I have with U2. With Bruce I could just sit back and admire the spectacle rather than complain that U2 didn’t $%#$ing play “New Years Day” or how they insist on massacring “Discotheque.”
Being part hipster, I understand the underlying criticism. Widespread popularity has made them fodder for Top 40 radio rather than rebel music. It’s uncool to love U2 – even if you own all of their early records on vinyl. It’s like trying to use an expired passport to cross the border. There will always be people out there more excited to hear a song by the Au Pairs than anything by Bono and Co. The Au Pairs have been largely forgotten, relegated to the collections of 80’s Post-Punk enthusiasts. U2 survived. And they just keep going, for better or worse. But that doesn’t lessen our attachment to that music with which we originally fell in love (whether it was in 1981 or 1991 or 2001. If we love, we forgive. I will forgive “Get On Your Boots.” Others will forgive Pop or everything after Rattle and Hum. Others can’t forgive and give up entirely. They go back to listening to the Au Pairs because, other than completely disappearing, they never had the opportunity to disappoint their fans. The rest of us will continue to pay $100 per ticket to be conflicted, exhilarated and in constant awe.
Hi. We're the Au Pairs. You may not remember us but we're a British band that had a few killer jams in the early 80's when it would have been cool to... oh nevermind.