Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rob Thomas at The Fox

I love every chance to go to the Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta, from rainy Saturday afternoons of my childhood playing make believe with sisters and friends in its exotic spaces while we were supposed to be watching Doris Day and Rock Hudson elevate dysfunction, to stage plays and concerts and one silent film accompanied by orchestra. I've never had a bad time at The Fox.

The Youngest graciously accepted my invitation to come along, and we met up with some friends of his before the concert, first at their beautiful Ansley Park home and then at Livingston in the Georgian Terrace. It was great to see this iconic hotel's jawdroppingly beautiful transformation, even if I was sorry to miss Carolina Liar and the first part of One Republic. We don't get things just right every time, and the opportunity to get to know the friends I'd heard so much about was worth it.

Thomas opened with "Fire on the Mountain" and to a standing, singing audience's obvious adoration and quickly thanked everyone for choosing to be there, recognizing the value of time and resources spent, pledging to give everything he had to make the experience worth it. It sounded real and he lived up to it. Alternating between the keyboards and guitar reminds us he's the musician behind the sound, but we are there to hear him sing his words, words about beauty in our broken places, about our imperfect struggle to connect with others and ourselves, words about joy and pain.

There was a wonderful feature article by Erik Hedegaard in the August 6th issue of Rolling Stone, "Confessions of an Unapologetic Pop Star" subtitled, "How did Rob Thomas survive a violent redneck childhood to become one of the top songwriters of his generation?" It goes a long way towards explaining the angst and points out how unfairly he's been stereotyped. Unfortunately, they've removed the content from the online edition, so if you want to read it, I guess you'll have to go to the library. How weird is that?

He played a hearty seventeen song setlist of tunes from Something To Be and Cradlesong (plus Little Wonders), before his Matchbox Twenty bandmates, Paul Doucette, Kyle Cook and Brian Yale joined him on stage for two songs for the highly aroused crowd. Just as his words speak to the complexities and nuances of human being and interaction, his expansive relationships with his former bandmates teach by example. Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty are not mutually exclusive, and if one eclipses the other, neither is less for that. We should all embrace growth so magnanimously. It made me want to go listen to Paul Doucette's current work for The Break and Repair Method.

Thomas closed with a beautiful, haunting version of "Smooth", like I've never heard and that I couldn't find anywhere online, followed by "This is How a Heart Breaks", ending too abruptly. It felt like no encore, felt weird. I know now that the whole thing was an encore from the time MB20 came on stage, and that their arrival sort of interrupted what would have been the concert's end, so it just felt like no encore. Sometimes I'm easily confused. This did lead to an interesting conversation about encores in general, and what they mean, and whether or not this is something an audience earns or something to which an artist is obligated, but I digress (sort of).

Here's some homemade video from the Matchbox Twenty portion of the concert. The Youngest mentioned during the show that Thomas takes the red plaid shirt to a whole new level. I expect we'll see more vids of the show as time passes. From our seats towards the back there was a sea of cellphones held high all the way to the stage.

So, maybe Thomas isn't edgy or cool, but I don't really care. There are folks in this world for whom being cool is easy, who saunter through their days certain and secure, free of anxiety and self-doubt. Rob Thomas is for the rest of us.


I thank @brenyb from Twitter for convincing me not to sell the tickets, for linking the above video, for pointing out the Rolling Stone piece and providing a copy of it, sending me the set list, and helping me embrace my inner groupie geek. Maybe I'll do it again. Maybe next time I'll have better seats, take pictures, take notes and write a proper review. Maybe next time will be December 5th in Biloxi. You just never know.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I bought tickets to see Rob Thomas at The Fox this Wednesday, September 30. It was an impulsive thing to do, on a Friday night in July, before what will hereinafter and forevermore be referred to as The Wedding (more on this, another time). I was hanging out on Twitter using TweetDeck, following folks who were tagging tweets with #Real Time or #Bill Maher, which I always look forward to watching, especially having just discovered that Rob Thomas was scheduled to do the show, except he was stuck, his flight delayed in New York, and he wasn't going to make the appearance he'd scheduled in a stop-over in Los Angeles as he headed off to tour, New Zealand, I think, or was it Australia?

Well, that was the small and embarrassingly late Ah Ha! moment: Rob Thomas is touring, with a new album out, so he could be coming to Atlanta. Blessed with the internet, which got me into this impulse buy opportunity in the first place, I discovered that was, in fact, the case, and that he was scheduled to play The Fabulous Fox, an extraordinary venue, so I did it.

Since then, I've wondered whether or not this whole thing is advisable. First of all, it's sold out so I can easily sell the tickets, which might even fund the replacement of the glass face of my beloved iPhone. It broke so surprisingly easily. The pain this shattered face brings me only serves to emphasize the inappropriate affection I've felt for this, well, device (it seems more like a person, really), from the moment I held it, also in July (big month for major purchases, it seems). Love in my pocket, a thing of beauty and function, enabling picture sharing on Facebook & Twitter with just a few touches and one click to take the picture, but I digress (remind me later, though, to tell you all about what my iPhone can do).

Now, I've seen some live music since the last time I saw Rob Thomas perform, on stage with Matchbox 20 at Chastain Amphitheater August 2, 1998 (Soul Asylum opened - I had to look it up), but, excluding small clubs and Jazzfest, that was the last real concert I attended, and it was fabulous, a legendary event (at least in our family), The Youngest & Middle Son's first concert. They were 10 & 13. I'm an old fan, from the beginning, and I love it all, but his first solo album, Something To Be is by far my favorite thing he's done, with or without Matchbox 20, one of those rare albums, a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts.

When I was tagged on Facebook for a meme called My Soundtrack, it directed, "Using song titles from only one artist, cleverly answer the following questions," I chose Rob/M20. Here's what I posted:

Are you male or female: "Problem Girl"

Describe yourself: "Unwell"

How do you feel about yourself: "Ever The Same "

Describe where you currently live: "Fallin' to Pieces "

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: "Back 2 Good"

Your best friend is: "All I Need "

Your favorite color is: "Black and White People"

You know that: "This is How a Heart Breaks"

What's the weather like: "Mad Season" (close 2nd: "Cold")

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: "Bent "

What is life to you: "Something To Be"

What is the best advice you have to give:"How Far We've Come"

If you could change your name, what would it be: "My, My, My "

Your favorite food is: "Crutch"

In addition, a friend from New Orleans left the following comment on my post:

You know I saw a lot of bands when I worked at the House of Blues...and this guy Thomas was the biggest surprise I ever had. I really didn't like the music that much until I saw him perform. He blew me away.

So I guess I'm going to go. Despite the fact that I'm a total wuss & have to work on Thursday and don't normally do such things on work nights, at least not recently, not since I've been sick, and I'm exhausted just thinking of it, but you only live once, right?

I know. I'm pathetic, and I've been a very bad blogger (and not just because of my affection for stream of consciousness run on sentences). Sleep. Work. Eat. Okay, sometimes Twitter. Okay, sometimes go to New Orleans, and maybe the mountains, and, once recently, La Jolla, CA. More on that later. I promise.

Peace, y'all.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Tide Rose

The Tide Rose in New Orleans last weekend, and I was still inspired by the NOLA Bloggers. The attendance was greater than previous years, the posters and t-shirts more beautiful, the keynote more riveting and the panels and parties, the participants and reparte, more wonderful than ever. Who thought that possible? The hard part about going to Rising Tide from out of town (and of insisting on driving) is that I don't get much chance to blog about it because I'm busy driving home in the immediate aftermath. That's also the worst thing about working the sign in table too. Live blogging is for those seated among the attendees (well, except perhaps for Liprap who maintained the RT Blog while also working the sign in and buy swag table with me *jealous raspberry at her mad skillz*), and Maitri killed it in this series of live posts. Killed it.

Harry Shearer's Keynote was excellent, and much of its content ended up published as a blog post at HuffPo. He came early and caught most of the Culture Panel (my fav) and stayed for a long time shaking hands, posing for pictures, signing books, talking, listening. The lunch by Cafe Reconcile was amazing (thanks, David). If you don't know what Cafe Reconcile's about, then this is the one link in this post to click. In addition to their noble purpose and good works, Reconcile produces fabulous food. White Beans and Shrimp, Crawfish Pasta, Greens, Cornbread... oh, my! The afternoon was the Politics Panel & we closed with the Sports Panel, playing to the worn out but die hard crowd.

Coming home late Sunday and straight to work Monday was rough, but there's no rest for these bloggers, and it's taken just about all the focus I can muster while also working full time (and work's been an intense dead run this week) to follow their creative bursts burning up the internet tubes with inspired and energetic plans for next year's event. It will be bigger and better than ever before and I'll be sharing specifics soon. We came away from Rising Tide pumped.

Harry Shearer: Comments at Rising Tide IV in New Orleans (22 Aug 2009) from Crystal Kile on Vimeo.

I came away from it all resolved to be a better blogger and with renewed devotion to New Orleans, more specifically, New Orleanians. I'm also increasingly convinced that self-censorship rooted in fear of what folks I know or work with or may one day know or work with will think if I speak my heart makes for bad blogging, the kind that's gone on here for too long. As we approach the coming 4th anniversary of New Orleans' flood that followed the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, the NOLA Blogosphere is full of eloquent posts about Rising Tide as well as the anniversary, but I'll direct you to Scout Prime's Farewell Post at First Draft:

I am just an American who felt strongly about the necessity of this country to right the wrong that had been done to the Gulf Coast and in particular New Orleans. I believed and still do believe that it is a moral imperative and that in not doing so we, as a country, as a community, risk losing our soul. I would submit that as a society we lost our moral compass when bodies were allowed to remain in the streets of N.O. for days and weeks, or in homes for months and even a year in some cases, as the powers that be argued over who would foot the bill to recover the remains of the victims of the flooding of New Orleans. There is something very wrong when such a thing can occur in a great nation.

Read her post. Watch her videos. Take a few moments to think, as this anniversary approaches, about how we can be a better country, how we can find our national soul. We've come a long way, but we still have far to go.

Peace, out, y'all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rising Tide IV

Rising Tide IV is coming Saturday, August 22, 2009. Harry Shearer is the Keynote Speaker and there are panels planned on New Orleans' Culture, Health Care & Sports. There will be a cocktail meet and greet on Friday (details later) as well as a catered lunch. This is always a great event, characterized by lively interaction with incredibly interesting folks (and great food and plenty drink).

Many thanks to Greg Peters for another amazing poster. This year's conference theme is "Sinking To Great Heights". Quoting Greg's poster description: "The figure represents Yemaja, a Yoruba Orisha and owner of all waters, patron of fishermen and wreck survivors, and manifestation of the feminine principle of creation."

Details will unfold on the Rising Tide Conference Blog.

Y'all come. Seriously. Registration is available here.

Note: Dambala has a great further explanation of the Orisha pictured here over at American Zombie. Of course he does.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

True Love or not True Love

This started as a comment on World Class New Orleans, to Mr. Clio's excellent post A Toxic Culture for the Heart (what I had to go through to get Facebook out of those links is a'whole'nother post). Writing in reference to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's infidelity scandal, one of his points is that we glorify "following our heart" and then punish those who do. I think often about the emotionally unhealthy nature of much of the music I listened to growing up, and its profound effects on me, especially in the context of the rest of popular and family cultures. Hours of "I'm Your Puppet" (just the best example, one of too many) over and over accompanied by melodramatic heart-bursting pining can't lead to anything good. It cost me a fortune, in more ways than one, to escape this way of being.

Perhaps I've over-corrected, driven by a love for my children that requires me to at least try to put them first as the best way of insuring my own happiness; and maybe I'm lying to myself by insisting that the notion of "true love" as a goal or priority is self-indulgent drivel, or more importantly, at least at my age, icky.

When I see someone like Sanford doing this kind of damage to those they claim to love and citing "falling in love" as an excuse, it's repulsive. They put their own grandiose gratification above the well-being of their families. Gross and immature, this seems worse to me than Bill Clinton or even Larry Craig just wanting to get a little on the side. I'm not advocating detached sexual dalliances, but somehow that seems more honest. There are lots of valid reasons to leave a marriage. Even the Catholic Church provides a way of escaping impossible union, and I think it's totally okay for someone who's fought the good fight, tried everything they could to make it work and come to the realization that it can't be done because no one can do it alone, to go and seek happiness with dignity; but, please, lose the drama.

Mr. Clio's description of cultural glorification of "searching for true love" as "bait-and-switch" is exactly right. What works in a novel or a movie becomes destructive in real life. We've been taught wrong. What we should be seeking is a quieter, more day to day, way of living love. It's just not as much fun to watch.

What I find most telling about the whole Sanford mess is that the people closest to him hung his ass out to dry. His family and staff just let him have it. His Lieutenant Governor called attention to his absence. His communications people had no safety net in place, no damage control deployed in his behalf. His wife, his former campaign manager, knew exactly what she was doing when she told the world she didn't have a clue where he'd gone. They must really hate this guy.