J’aime Montreal. Beaucoup.

This weekend we crossed the Canadian border for the first time! Which by the way, is rather much easier than I thought. It took a whole of 2 seconds–we showed border patrol our passports, they asked us about 3 questions (where are you coming from, how long are you staying, are you bringing in any firearms or controlled substances?), and then we were pushed on through. Whoopee!

We stayed in Montreal for a night to go to the 2007 Osheaga Music Festival at a national park there. The hotel we stayed at was very decently priced (Hotel St. Denis), and actually a close walk to the Metro Station, which we found out the festival was only one metro stop away from!

Montreal was pretty sweet. Nearly everyone is bi-lingual, French is commonly the first language used but most people can easily switch to English. I tried to use my minimal French as much as possible. Nearly everyone was very friendly and helpful, which was a relief to see. We stayed in the Latin Quarter which is part of Vieux Montreal (“Old Montreal”). It was a very artistic quarter with a few concert venues, a univeristy and some great street cafes. Being there definitely brought back memories of France, there is certainly a European vibe. (Sans any snootiness).

The Osheaga festival was absolutely amazing. The park itself lays aside a canal and has beautiful open spaces. There are several works of outside art which are monuments there, such as Buckminster Fuller’s giant Geodesic Dome. For the festival, several artists made cute little cutouts of woodland characters to stick all around the woods nearby.

There were 4 stages of music for this weekend long event (we only went for a day), plus a large indoor tent in which local artists showed videos and displayed paintings and photographs. 2 artists worked on a mural throughout the festival which was to be completed when the festival finished. There was a “maze” of art and several booths in which local crafters sold their wares.

We lucked out in the food department as there was a vegetarian/vegan stand! Other stands sold more than just your standard veggie burgers, including an African food stand which looked and smelled oh-so tempting. (We didn’t end up eating there but judging by the LONG lines, it was popular). They served beer and wine there and suprisingly, though there was no alcohol limit, out of the thousands (and we mean THOUSANDS!) of people at the festival, no one was rip-roaring drunk or obnoxious. However, the stench of weed was everywhere, and it seemed like security looked the other way. That’s Canada for ya!

There were a lot of very cool, very nice people are age, I’d say a real “indie” crowd was there. By the end of the night, there was an enormous bunch of people! Everyone seemed to be having fun and for the amount of people there, there was little hint of any bad goings-on. We wonder if the festival represented what most of Canada is like- relaxed and friendly, and focusing on more important things than caring about people smoking pot (like recycling (which there was a whole “recycling team” at Osheaga which picked up everything), and Fair Trade (there was a big fair trade booth there). It was a welcome sight to be part of such a laissez-faire atmosphere…

The music was outstanding! There was not a single band who disappointed, everyone put on a GREAT live show. It would take forever to post about everyone , but I’ll just list who we saw playing there (we only saw 2 out of the 4 stages as some bands where playing at the same time on the other side of the park). Apostle of Hustle, Rahzel (considered the “Godfather of beatboxing”), Jamie T (who sounded like the Streets mixed with the Clash), Editors (who definitely had a cool Interpol vibe), Xavier Cafeine (a Montreal born punk singer who was crazy!), Blonde Redhead (whom we love love love!), Patrick Watson (he had a unique sound all of his own), Stars (another Montreal-based band who had great stage presence and were friends of Feist), Feist herself (she rules!!!), Dumas (who is very popular in Canada; we were laughing at this because one of our good friends, Andy Dumas, always goes by “Dumas”), Damien Rice (we saw him before and were concerned about him performing solo w/out Lisa Hannigan, but he blew us away! The most surprising hit of the fest!), and….the headliners….Smashing Pumpkins!

Blonde Redhead were great, the lead singer wore a funky dress and danced around like a hippy in an LSD forest (it was quite cute, actually.). Where she sat to play the keyboard was made to look like a giant black horse.

Feist was amazing as usual but, since she hails from Canada, she had an extra special connection with the crowd!

Damien Rice was a total knockout, rocking out guitar solos like a bad mutha! You’d forget he was known for mostly “folk ballad” type music…

Pumpkins were great! It was exciting to see them live after being fans since Siamese Dream! We tried to stay awake as they were the last show of the day and we had been standing in the hot sun since 1pm (it was going until 11). But we stayed awake and it was worth it. They played a handful of older songs like “Tonight”, and “Bullet w/ Butterfly wings”, but most of their material was from their newest album, Zeitgeist. All the same it was pretty darn good.

There was so much dirt in the open fields that when we got to our hotel our shoes looked like we had been in a mine–there was an inch thick of dust covering them. When I washed my face the white face towel was nearly black-ugh! But we slept VERY well after that busy day.

The next morning after we checked out, we were so pleased to find a little bakery that specialized in delicacies from Lyon. We had a nice little breakfast of croissants au beurre, baguette toast and frothy coffee that brought back sweet memories.

It was time to say “Au Revoir” to Canada after that, but we’ve officially fallen in love with the place and feel very lucky to have been able to have such a fine visit. We hope we’ll visit again sometime soon!

Addendum 9/11/07–I forgot to add a couple of interesting tidbits from our trip:

1. The Cafe in Lyon was called “La Brioche Lyonnais”

2. Chris did a good job speaking a little bit of French

3. There was a band called Thunderheist that we caught the tail end of their performance. We were totally intrigued then, and now after checking them on myspace, we love them! (Thunderheist, come perform your booty-shakin beats in the U.S. Soon!)

4. At the festival we spotted some unusual dressers, including a guy who wore and Indian headdress and whose friend dressed up as a cow. (We now have strong suspicious as to where all that weed came from….)

5. The most unusual perfomance by far must’ve been a duo called Hank Pine and Lily Fawn. Lily Fawn wears fawn ears, tap dances, sings vaudeville ditties and plays the saw. Hank Pine is dressed like a chemical warmonger mixed with the hamburglar, plays electric guitar, screams like a banshee, and carries around a garbage bag which he claims to be his dead girlfriend.

Better than closer to fine

On Friday we went to Lowell, Mass for their summer music festival. They have bands almost every week and sometimes more than two a week and it is just nice.

We went to see the Indigo Girls with Melissa Ferrick as an opener.

We arrived at Lowell a few hours before the concert was to start and it was crazy busy. Last year when we went to see Dar Williams we had to problem setting up our blanket then going and heading out to town. Not so with the Indigo girls. The place apparently opened at 8am for a bit then they closed the gates till 6pm and there was a lot of people there, always a good sign of things to come.

We decided to go to a cute little cafe for a snack while we waited for the gates to open again. During this time Kathy pounded me at Scrabble even when she gave me points for all these made up words I spelled. After a nice banana-and-nutella crepe, we decided to head back.

So we headed back to drop our blanket down, and went to grab a drink before the concert started. I had a dirty martini and Kathy had a frozen blueberry martini. They were so-so.

There was definitely an aura of general amicability in the air when we sat down on our blankets. Everyone was there to have a good time, no matter what their background may be.

I do have to say that Indigo Girls concerts tend to attract a unique crowd of people; this isn’t just your regular old apple-pie folk concert. People from all walks of life: young and old, punk and proper, gay and straight. The Indigo Girls tell stories with their music that attract all who have lived some part of what they sing.

Melissa Ferrick opened for them and did a stellar job. She made the crowd laugh with her random jokes and jams in between sets. She did a real funny version of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Give it Away now”.

Last year the Indigo Girls had to cut their concert short because of thunderstorms. There was no alternative arena set up, and when there’s an outdoor concert, wires + lightning= bad news. So they were only able to play a short set.

This year hopes were high as most of the day was clear and there wasn’t a drop in sight. Well, as luck would have it, the Indigo Girls no sooner than commented on what a lovely night it was then a few raindrops fell after their second song. Everyone looked at each other like “Oh,no, not again!”, but they continued on, and luckily Mother Nature was kind enough to let them finish their set without any more rain.

And what a set it was. The two are impeccable live. They sang all of their hits and a few beautiful gems from their new album. They had that “southern hospitality thang” going on with alot of “thanks, ya’ll” in between songs. They played well over an hour and a half and sang several songs for their encore. Perhaps it was the warm, inviting summer air and the all around good vibes from everyone there, but the music just reached into our souls and spread goodness all around. When “the girls” began to strum the first chords of “Closer to Fine” everyone just stood up and cheered…

What do we have to say about the night? It was “Closer to Fine”; in fact, even better than closer to fine.

EQX-Fest 2007!

This past Monday we headed up to Saratoga Springs, NY (about an hour north of Albany) for the first annual “WEQX fest”. WEQX is a local alternative station that has been around for many years, and is sadly the only independent radio station left on the East Coast! They decided to host a music festival at the beautiful Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in the Saratoga state park.
The weather was gorgeous albeit steamy, and the day was filled with great live music. Unfortunately the headliners, Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party (THE Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction fame), backed out due to personnel changes at the last minute, but we still got to rock out to some excellent perfomers.
There were LOTS of teenagers there and at first we felt a little old to be there; but I mean, c’mon, this wasn’t Britney Spears fest! However later in the day we saw some older folks (and some OLDER folks, like a sassy granny who was moshing along to Shiny Toy Guns!), so it made us feel better:)There were 3 stages for the event, a small stage where local lesser-knowns could show of their talents, a small stage for “opening performers” out in the west field, and the main BIG stage where the headlining bands were to perform.

At the local stage (EQXposure), the bands that played were Sunset Aside, Maggie Mayday, the Loyalty and Lughead. Sunset Aside was most unimpressive, they appeared to be a bunch of 13 year olds screaming like lunatics and not even sounding harmonious. The Loyalty were decent, Maggie Mayday and Lughead sounded best. It was nice to let some local bands get their name out there.

The West Stage perfomers included The Urgency, Shiny Toy Guns, and TV on the Radio.
The Urgency was a decent festival band; they were cute and energetic but really had nothing unique to offer. It was very cute, however, that one band members’ dad was there to pass out website info to everyone and to brag about his son’s band :).

Shiny Toy Guns did a bang-up job performing, despite the stereo system blowing out through the second song and the sound being quite damaged thereafter. They had incredible energy and were very personable–no diva-esque complaining about the sound system here. They didn’t quite fit the festival genre (they’re more the kind of music you’d expect to see in a crowded disco hall with strobelights) but they put on a great show and were pretty badass. The male lead singer looked like a benevolent, chubbier Russell Crowe, and the female lead looked like a tiny little girl-but she could pack a punch with her voice!

TV on The Radio put on an extremely impressive performance. They were an unusual looking bunch-the lead singer was a tall, gangly fellow wearing giant orange glasses and a messenger boy cap, and he did this cool/odd movement of hopping/dashing across the stage when he sang. One of the guitarists looked a bit like Frodo, and had chimes on the end of his guitar, which led to a jangly effect not unlike the guitars of Sonic Youth. Sweet! The other guitarist and vocalist had a prolific beard, so much so that Chris and I decided to affectionately dub him “Beard Al Yankovich”. We had only known this band from their one radio hit, “Wolf Like Me”, but from hearing them live we have a whole new appreciation for their eclectic sound, their energy and their musical “depth” if you will. It was a sweltering, cloudless hour that they perfomed on stage and the sunlight was directly pointing at the lead singer, who looked like at any minute he’d pass out. He kept on going, and instead of guzzling down the six bottles of Poland Spring that were left next to his microphone, he generously doused them on the hot concert goers, joking, “This concert was brought to you by Poland Spring, everyone!”. That’s love. And I’d be remiss to not mention that I love them even more because the title of their latest album is called “Return to Cookie Mountain”.

After a short break, we all headed into the big main stage for the “main event”. The starting perfomer was the Nightwatchman, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame. He was the most passionate perfomer we saw at the festival, putting his entire body and soul into his politically-based songs. All I can say was “Wow”. Who else but a former Rage Against the Machine Member could get a crowd moshing to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”?.

The next perfomer was Matisyahu. Forgive me for being so cliche as to use text message language, but can I just say–to see him live–OMG!! He was wow,wow wow. Damn, that hassidic jew got soul! He can beatbox like the rest of them and get us all swooning to his reggae jams in the evening breeze. His guitarist gets five stars for blowing us away with his energy. Matisyahu had a couple of great guests, including another beatboxing friend and a hassidic buddy who hopped around stage for a couple songs and got the crowd going.

When all was said and done it was nearly 10 pm and we decided not to stay for 311. No offense to 311, but we decided since we had a long drive home and Satellite Party wasn’t going to perfom, we should head home.

All in all, a great fest and a great day! Pics with comments to come soon.

Thanks for reading, y’all; we love ya!

Green River Festival, 2007

This past Saturday we spent a wonderful afternoon in the scorching heat of the field in front of GCC. Was it worth the exhaustion and sunburn the day after? Hell yeah. Why? The Green River Festival, of course! This was the first time that Chris and I went to this event, but apparently it’s been going strong for 21 years. We couldn’t have asked for a better day–the weather was hot but absolutely gorgeous, not a raindrop in the sky. We got to meet up with our good friends Leah and Dave later in the day, which made it much more fun. We also ran into a few of Chris’ coworkers, one of whom came with her hubby because he was working in the Turn it Up music tent. She hung out on our blanket for a while and we chatted.
Before I go on about how awesome the music was, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much there
was to do for the whole family. There was an activity tent for kids and a scheduled Mardi Gras parade that all the kids could participate in, there were several booths from local charities and vendors, a huge back field in which folks were flying kites and playing catch, and a balloon watch, which albeit expensive (225 bucks a person to be launched in the air!) was fun to watch.
Now, the music. Ahhh, the music. Suffice it to say that the music of the day could be summed up in just one word: Unbelievable. How lucky were we, the tiny little Pioneer Valley, to have been graciously afforded stellar performances by the likes of James Hunter, Neko Case, and the show-stopping legend Buddy Guy? Pretty damn lucky. Each performer played a generous set and the stage sound was excellent (props to the sound guys!).

First perfomers of the day were the Kennedys and Raini Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, local folk singers who have been performing around the area for years. They were also featured on the second stage in the lower fields, which consisted of mostly local bands playing in the shade.

Erin McKewon was next for the main stage, in all of her 5 foot energetic glory. She has a great knack for rockabilly swing and she got the crowd pumped.

British jazz singer James Hunter followed suit, and his set got everyone dancing. I don’t know how he does it, but this white Brit has the power to conjure up the ghost of Otis Retting and make you forget he’s white or British. He was very entertaining with funny quips in between songs; overall his set was a ton of fun!

The next performance was by Southern Culture on the Skids. Think the White Trash, down home southern version of the B-52’s. They were a riot to see live; the lead singer was wearing some kind of Thomas-Dolby inspired green visor hat, and the backup girl sported a red-hot beehive wig. With songs like “There’s too much Pork for Just one Fork”, “Corn Liquor”, and “Doublewide”, how can you go wrong? They ended their set with a piece called “8-piece bucket”, which involved inviting audience members on stage to throw wings of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Nice!

Neko Case began her set by commenting on how it’s been a while since she’s performed on a stage covered in kentucky fried chicken :). Neko, oh Neko, how can this petite red-head conjure up such an enormous, soulful sound? She and her backup singer Kelly Hogan did an utterly stunning, gracious set. She got very silly with the audience and her bandmates in between songs, but when the time came to sing (except for one part in which she had to sneeze!), she was ever serious. She played a fantastic set with goodies from Blacklisted and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and a couple from Furnace Room Lullaby (her first solo (post New Pornographers) album in which she called her band “Neko Case and Her Boyfriends”). Her music is the kind that you can climb inside and experience the largeness of a feeling you can’t otherwise put in words. We love you Neko!

The final perfomer I am still in shock over seeing. I can’t believe Buddy Guy played at our humble little festival, and I don’t know how they got him to do it, but he did. It was OH so magical. Buddy Guy is an undisputed legend, and it was hard to believe he was up there in age (71!) when he took to the stage and played his heart out. If you heard blues played on the radio before and weren’t a big fan of it, you MUST see it live. You have to see it live in order to truly feel it, and boy did we feel it that night. Buddy kept saying what a great time he was having, he was gonna play all night (and he nearly did-a good 45 minutes over his alloted set time!). The energy was palpable and magnetic. He played his heart out, and man I swore we saw smoke emanating from that guitar! It was sheer magic. He then dumfounded us all by jumping into the crowd and playing in the audience, inviting others to sing with him including one lucky little child whom he let strum on his guitar. It made the event all the more intimate and unforgettable. Wow, Buddy Guy, in the presence of us mere mortals! He appeared reluctant when he finally ended his set (with a great performance of imitating other guitar legends), but he generously flung out a dozen or so guitar picks into the squealing audience. SO worth it. We’re still reeling from the magic!

All in all it was a fantastic day and we look forward to next year’s festival-woo hoo!

Chris wanted to add his story of a particularly adorable event at the show (my ovaries are hurting):

While watching Neko Case I had made a new friend named Stella. I was watching her perform and caught out of the corner of my eye something. I turned and there was this very cute little girl who was just bopping around. I did a little wave to her and she then made a direct bee line for the blanket I was sitting on. Ok, I am a total sucker for cute little kids but she was adorable and just seemed like a truly happy giggly little girl. Maybe she knew I had the sucker quality in me and that if she could talk and ask for a new car I would have bought her one 🙂
So we spent the next part of a little while playing the “sharing the grass clippings” game and the showing me her shoes while giggling. She then played the game of figuring out my ear rings and of course the ever popular picking of the clover flowers. Definitely made me want a clone of her. Eventually, her moms left since it was getting late and we waved goodbye. Of course hearing her tiny little goodbye made me all googly. Sigggh….

2 Mikes and a Beer.

June 28th, Chris and I saw comedians Mike Showalter and Michael Ian Black at the Iron Horse in Northampton. They are 2 hilarious people from The State, Stella, and VH1’s I love the 80’s. It was our first time at the Iron Horse and we thought it was pretty cozy and cool. All of the tables had close proximity to the stage and they had good food and drinks. The negatives were no A.C. (and lots of sweaty college kids), only 2 stalls for the bathroom in the entire place when it gets crowded, and a leaky pipe downstairs. But all in all it was all good.
The show started a little bit late because apparently Mike Showalter forgot that the show was that night and thought it was the following night–so he rushed down in a rental car from Brooklyn NY. He was a bit out of it due to the mixup but still hilarious and adorable nonetheless. Some of his highlights included the definition of “jumpy leg syndrome”, working with Mel Gibson, and writing a letter to his loud downstairs neighbors about a “quiet” party-“I am going to have a quiet party tonight in which I will be sitting at home diligently painting ceramic figurines of 17th century French peasants”.
But Michael Ian Black stole the show. His jokes are absolutely cruel and yet so hilarious (cruelarious?). He managed to make us laugh about naughty personal ads from The Advocate, Nazis, questions about his sexual orientation, John Kerry bumper stickers and working from home scams. Best of all were his “blog poems” and we found clips of both from YouTube: Enjoy, enjoy. (See Below)
(We must add that a really funny female comedian opened up for both of them, but we can find no mention of her name on the bill or on any websites anywhere. We’ll update the blog if we find it out, but she was great too!)

Michael Ian Black “Emotions”
[flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B5hnpd6s-wQ%5D

Michael Ian Black “If I had a Slave”
[flash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLRX33ikwsw%5D

Enjoy Troy.

This weekend we went to the 4th Annual River Street Festival in Troy. It was FREE (free parking and everything!) and we heard that They Might be Giants would be playing there for free! Troy is about an hour and 45 minutes from us, and although most of what we heard about Troy wasn’t very positive (my sis went to RPI there and in that area it was a PIT), we decided why not give it a try. The “free” thing being the operative word.
Well, we lucked out that the weather was nice and it didn’t thunderstorm as it was predicted, it was just hot as hell. There was actually a pretty dope arsty scene in the area of Troy that we were, and we stopped into some neat little antique stores and cafes. We had some kickass Lebanese food for cheap, some Gelato (!!) from a cute little cafe, and some great vodka-infused lemonade from a bar called Daisy Baker’s, which looked like it was in a renovated church. The bartender was the epitome of a sassy new yorker and we loved her. She was telling people, “what do ya want? I’m the only person behind the bar, here, so cut me some slack alrrigggght?”. Apparently her vodka-lemonade concoction was invented in a drunken frenzy the night before.
There were some great live bands sponsored by WEQX, the Vermont alternative station–we were extremely impressed by Mink and Stars of Track and Field in particular.
Later in the day, it was indeed announced that They Might be Giants were playing! I was suprised that they would be doing a free concert in Troy, and I assumed that it would be short. When they got on stage we were so impressed. First of all, I was happy to see that they are just as deliciously dorky in real life as they sound, and they still got it going on. They were having WAY too much fun performing and getting the crowd involved. They played several songs from their new upcoming album, “The Else”, and we were thrilled to hear the oldies-but-goodies, “Istanbul”, “Particle Man”, and “Birdhouse in your soul”. There were also some great songs that we had never heard before that involved: Telephoning the Dead; Creating an Impromptu conga line with the audience (who totally messed it up!); a sort of Drinking Song; and a song about Messopotamians. They played a good hour long set and had so much energy it was hard to believe they were any older. Then for encore they came back and did four more songs! All for a free concert–TMBG Rules! We would definitely go to this festival again, and now that we know they weren’t lying about the free good music and the area wasn’t a piece of crap, we would invite other people to go with us next summer too!

Troy 2 Troy 3

Top Ten Reasons Why Feist Rules

This past Saturday, June 9th we went to Boston to see the singer Feist. We were happy to find out that it was gay pride day in Boston, but a little bummed that we had missed the parade and all of the festivities! However, despite me having an atrocious cold and the weather being less than favorable, we had an enjoyable day out, even though we got lost on our way to Fanueill Hall (c’mon, you know you’ve all gotten lost in Boston at least once!). Feist was playing at the Berkelee performance center at Berkelee College of Music. Continue reading

Pittsburgh, road trip to see Kristen Hersh (of Throwing Muses fame).

This past weekend, Chris and I decided to go on a Memorial Day weekend adventure and take a roadtrip to Pittsburgh, PA to see Kristen Hersh (of Throwing Muses fame). It was a 9 1/2 hour non-stop drive, but we broke it up into 2 days on the way down. The first day of the drive was pretty pleasant although it was 90 degrees outside. We were kinda dissapointed to find that many of the pit stops alongside 87 had very little in the way of vegetarian options or anything healthy–it was lots of KFC and a weird burger joint called “Fuddruckers” which brings to mind all kinds of nasty thoughts. C’mon, is it too much to ask for a veggie sandwich? or at least a Starbucks? So we mainly subsisted on french fries and ice cream–and on the rare occasion that a Starbucks WAS spotted, iced coffee.
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She wants Revenge, OK Go, the Lashes

writeup by kathy
May 15th, 2006, Nothern Lights, NY

As a celebration for the end of my 2 year stint in the dental hygiene program (quite an accomplishment for both me AND Chris!), we scored tickets for a super-cheap concert playing in Northern Lights, an obscure concert arena in Clifton Township, NY. It was about a 2 hour drive to get there, but hey, even WITH the price of gas it was a cheap concert! The cool thing was that because it was a school night, AND because Northern Lights was such a faraway little arena, there weren’t a lot of people waiting in line. While we were in line, we met a brother and sister from Saratoga, Danielle and Tim. They were hilarious! Tim bought Danielle tickets as a belated birthday gift. We ended up hanging around with them the entire night.
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