We’ve been trying to see one of our favorite bands, Low, who were touring for their latest album, “Hey What,” until very recently. Maura bought me tickets to see them in Davenport, Iowa, for my birthday. We drove up, excited to finally hear some tracks off their latest album live, and the show was canceled due to COVID-19. We had a fun time in Davenport anyway, but it was a huge bummer. The show was rescheduled, and we planned to return to Davenport; we even booked the hotel, and we both came down with COVID. We found out they were finally going to come to Kansas City, opening for Death Cab for Cutie (weird match-up, in my opinion, but whatever). We bought tickets, but that show was postponed, and Low was no longer going to open. It seemed like we just weren’t meant to see them again! We did see them once several years ago at the old Record Bar when it was in Westport (we could walk home from there!) But the latest album was simply stunning; I still get chills and tear up when I listen to it. And I can’t help but turn it up a little too loud.

Alan Sparhawk’s and Mimi Parker’s harmonies over the cacophonous instrumentation and drums were, well, kind of beyond words. I really can’t do the albums justice here. It may not be for everyone, but I LOVED where they were going. Don’t get me wrong, they were (were! 😔) prolific; they didn’t create an album I didn’t like. You definitely have to be in the right mood for some of their early stuff, it can be very slow-paced, but it’s just as beautiful. The latest albums were getting a little more gritty and experimental, which contrasted wonderfully with their voices. Go ahead, listen and listen loud. I bet you will be moved. 

Sadly, we will never have the chance to see them perform live again; Mimi Parker died today after having fought ovarian cancer for the last couple of years. Alan posted the news and was instantly heartbroken. Partly because we’ve been trying so hard to see them over the last year or so, but primarily for her and Alan. I can’t even imagine what they went through and what he’s going through now. They worked so well together. Their music is beautiful, incomparable; there will be nothing like it in the world again. I love listening to their records via streaming, but live music was the true experience. That’s true for most musicians, but it was especially true for them. Farewell, Mimi Parker, and deepest condolences to you, Alan Sparhawk. Know that your fans are there for you.

Davenport, Iowa

So we drove to Davenport yesterday to see Low. It took about six hours with stops, not bad, but enough to mess with our backs. I like roadtrips with Maura, we talked and listened to some new tunes on the way up – the new Jack White is pretty good! Once we got to town, we settled into our hotel, then walked around to check out the downtown area. The venue – the Racoon Motel, was right down the street from where we were staying. Next door to it, we found a record shop, Ragged Records, where we found a nice little haul.

We grabbed some dinner at the Front Street Brewery, and I checked the Racoon Motel’s Facebook page while we were waiting on our food. The show had been canceled due to a couple of positive COVID tests. We were seriouly bummed. I’ve been imagining hearing Low’s latest music live for months and we were just hours away from doing so. The show was rescheduled for another Friday in July, which we will make work. We figured we were here so we might as well make a night of it, so we asked our waitress about other spots to check out nearby. She did not dissapoint; there are some pretty great bars in downtown Davenport. First, we figured we should check out the venue since we had come all this way, so we grabbed a beer there, commiserated with the staff, and checked out the stage – it’s a small area; it’s going to be very loud (in July)! After that, we went to a bar with a perfect name: Devon’s Complaint Dept.

They mixed some great drinks, and the bar had a cool retro vibe. We’ve been trying to get out more lately, but I can’t remember the last time we went bar hopping! It’s kind of a shame that we had to drive all the way to Davenport, but the drinks were tasty and way cheaper!

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, we discovered that it was hosting a youth dance competition. There were many families with young girls in way too much makeup and glittery outfits. I’m sure they were having the time of their lives, but we didn’t particularly enjoy the noise levels. The hotel has a central atrium around the rooms; they were very loud and echoey. They were running around until pretty late, which was so much fun for us after a night on the town! We ended up playing Low’s latest album in our hotel room mostly to drown out the noise.

The next morning, I woke up early, as I always do, and walked along the Mississippi. It was a nice walk, though it made me wish that KC had more down by our river front. I never knew that Pelicans like to visit the river this time of year, but I saw several of them!

Pelicans on the Mississippi

While it was a huge bummer to have the show rescheduled, it was good to get out of town for a bit. I guess we’ll see you again in July, Davenport, Iowa!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Anyone that knows me well, knows of my love for both music and humor. No one combines these better than “Weird” Al Yankovic. In my mind, it’s not my birthday until I hear his “Birthday Song”. Sadly, the lyrics ring truer every year. If you haven’t heard it, or it’s been a while, give it a listen:

The contrast between what should be a happy, carefree day and the realities of the world and the absurdity makes me strangely joyful. 

American Greetings (sorry Hallmark friends) has an app out called SmashUp that allows you to send custom messages from celebrities to celebrate your friends and family. “Weird” Al just announced that he had several SmashUps available and I just had to check it out. The resulting video makes me incomprehensibly happy:

I’m not going to get too sappy and deep about being middle-aged. I really just wanted to share something that made me happy today. Maura and I are going to get out and about today to celebrate our birthdays. Our wonderful but somewhat anxious dog is in daycare and she’ll be there overnight so that we don’t have to worry about her and what she might be doing to the window blinds. I hope all is well with everyone reading this. It’s nice that Spring is finally at least trying to make an appearance and that, at least for now, the infection rates are staying low – which brings right back to the song at beginning of my post. We’re living in some strange times, but there are still ways to find happiness. 

Speaking of ways to find happiness, my wonderful wife surprised me today with tickets to see one of our favorite bands, Low in Davenport, Iowa. Their latest album, “Hey What” is an emotional powerhouse, seriously, chills and sometimes tears, every time I listen. I’ve been trying to imagine hearing them play it live but now I won’t have to! I can’t wait!! 

It’s loud, sometimes grating but the contrast between their beautiful voices and the loud distortion-filled music is amazing. Again, if you haven’t heard it, sit with it a while: 

Thanks in advance for all the birthday wishes on social media, texts, and calls! Hopefully, as we slowly rejoin society and get out more, we’ll see you all soon! 

My Favorite Albums of 2016

2016 was a both wonderfully great year and a fantastically crappy year. I celebrated my ten year wedding anniversary and also ten years at the Kansas City Art Institute. I learned a lot, both professionally and personally. Legends died. A dangerous idiot was elected president of the United States.

Regardless, music is enduring. Here is a list of my favorites from last year (screw the top ten thing, I have a lot of favorites!) Featured you will find two soundtracks that I just can’t stop listening to, two albums by one band, the final albums by two of my favorite artist who happened to end their time on Earth this past year, songs about love, songs about life, songs about songs, songs about humanity, and songs just for fun. In no particular order:

  • Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Andrew Bird – Are You Serious
  • Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker
  • David Bowie – Black Star
  • Mac Quayle – Mr. Robot OST
  • Yello – Toy
  • Bon Iver – 22, A Million
  • Deerhoof – The Magic
  • Hope Sandoval and the Warm Intentions – Until the Hunter
  • Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
  • Jim James – Eternally Even
  • M83 – Junk
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  • Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger
  • Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Ramin Djawadi – Westworld OST
  • Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop – Love Letter for Fire
  • Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits
  • Thee Oh Sees – An Odd Entrances

Top ten Albums of 2014

Listed in no particular order, maybe, probably.

  • St Vincent – St. Vincent
  • tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
  • Sallie Ford – Slap Back
  • Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita
  • The New Basement Tapes – Lost on the River
  • Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
  • Beck – Morning Phase
  • Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
  • First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  • The Pixies – Indie Cindy
  • Warpaint – Warpaint
  • Broken Bells – After The Disco
  • Tobacco – Utilma II Massage

Oh, is that more than ten? Oops! Oh well! There was seriously a LOT of good music this year. I can’t wait to hear what 2015 has in store!

One edit: I guess the Nick Cave was out last year, so I’ll sub the New Basement Tapes, which should have made the list anyway.