Happy Halloween, Delray Style!
If you've never been to Delray Beach, Florida, you need to go. It's a cool town in many ways. We were there yesterday, and stumbled across a Halloween celebration that included contests for "best witches costume" and "best decorated bike." It was a hoot! There was also a contest for best witches cackle that was hilarious. There are some great pictures below of witches, decorated bikes, and the best Halloween business suit ever.
The last picture isn't Halloween related, but something you see routinely in the wealthier enclaves of the U.S.: yup, little tea-cup doggies in a stroller. Is this a weird but fun country or what?
Happy Halloween to all readers of BRP, and thanks for checking in! Eat lots of chocolate. Boo!
Your Long-Awaited Hokie Update
Hey, I know that you have been on the edge of your seat thinking, Bill, where in the hell is my Hokie football update? Well, your dreams are about to come true because here it is. I’ll make it short (maybe). And right now, it’s pretty sweet.
The last Hokie update saw me gloating over the thrashing of the Tar Heels of UNCheat. That game was a nice beat down of a haughty school that pays people to write papers for their athletes (that is, if they go to class). And it led to a very high ranking for this Hokie club: number 17. That was pretty heady stuff and BRP was feeling fine. And then, it was off to the Jiffy Pop Dome in Syracuse. Damn, back to reality.
Yup, the ‘Cuse beat the good guys pretty badly – a two touchdown loss and a quick exit from the rankings. Bummer, dude. But did our boys in Orange and Maroon let that ruin their season and go into the tank? Um, this is VT we are talking about, not, say, the University of Miami.
Speaking of scUM, they came to Blacksburg for a national ESPN Thursday night showdown. And VT pounded the hell out of them with a ferocious defense that sacked their QB eight times, and an efficient and proficient offense. It was a 21 point blowout victory for the good guys. And that was followed by a #25 ranking.
Next it was off to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh this week for another Thursday night nationally televised game against sPitt. Heinz Field has been a house of horrors for the Hokies (who had never won there), and the collective assessment of the Hokie flock was that this game was going to be tough. sPitt, like the Hokies, was 5-2, and had lost those two games by a total of 8 points. Uh oh. Well, our fears were justified as the Panthers played our boys tough. But, hey, not tough enough: the Hokies pulled off a 3 point victory, and BRP danced a little jig of delight at game’s end.
So that’s where we are. 6-2 and currently ranked #25 (which should jump this week). Oh wait, no, let me tell you one more thing. VT is in the Coastal Division of the ACC, just like UNCheat, scUM, and sPitt. So guess who has the inside track now for winning that division? I’m not counting my chickens (after all, every sports team that I root for ultimately breaks my heart), but hey, VT is in the driver’s seat having beaten the three best challengers in the division. So look heavenward, join hands with me, and ask the almighty for further good fortune for the Hokies. We still have some revenge work to do on Duke, a visit with Georgia Tech, the annual tussle with hated in-state rival UVa, and a non-conference journey to South Bend to play Notre Dame.
I hope I scratched your Hokie itch. Let’s do this thing. GO HOKIES!!!
Whoa, the United States Post Office has done something very cool! They have put out stamps of famous rock ‘n rollers, and they did a great job of it. Not only are the stamps themselves beautiful pieces of philately art, the back side looks like a 45 record jacket and features the stamp art blown up to a size that even I can appreciate without my glasses. And the stamp side has the look of the 45 “record” peaking out of the top of the sleeve. Check them out: Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. They also have Janis Joplin, but I’m not much of a Joplin fan so I used those ones already.
I haven’t had this much fun with stamps since I bought my Dad some Richard Nixon stamps many decades ago. My Dad hated Nixon, but he was frugal, and would never let something of value go to waste. I knew he would use them. These stamps were before the self-adhesive ones that we all use now. So I told my Dad that every time he used one of the Nixon stamps, he first had to lick Nixon’s backside. Hahaha, now that’s some sticky postal fun.
Do you like historic home tours? I do. I always find it interesting to see how famous/rich people lived in the past, how they treated their hired hands/slaves, and what opportunities and struggles they dealt with in their daily lives. One of my favorite homes of this nature is George Washington’s plantation, Mount Vernon, Virginia.
I had the opportunity to visit MV just a few weeks ago. We caught an absolutely stunning Fall day – check out the pictures, that sky is unretouched. It was warm, and the sunlight had that sweet October angle to it that allows for interesting shadows and vistas. It was beautiful.
One great thing about MV is its setting. It sits high up the bank of the Potomac River, and has 180 degree sightlines up and down the river. And it looks like it did back in the day because the Maryland side of the River has no visible development. It’s picturesque, quiet, elegant and lovely. No wonder GW wanted to spend a lot of time there as opposed to, say, Trenton.
I’ve been to MV many times, but not since we moved from DC (I know, I know, who moves north of the Mason-Dixon Line?!? An idiot, that’s who). Let me tell you, over the past decades they have done a ton to restore the plantation to its former grandeur, and the house itself has never looked better. The rooms are painted to the original colors, including one a very vibrant shade of green, and the furniture and accessories are mainly authentic. A very nice job indeed.
There is also a new museum with a number of interesting artifacts and great information about GW and the other inhabitants of the plantation; a restored grist mill in operating condition – a trip highlight; a restored distillery producing bourbon that is sold at remarkably expensive prices; and many other improvements to outbuildings, barns and the like. It is grand, and you can spend many hours there.
Washington was an interesting guy. Did you know that he is the only non-partisan president ever elected in the US? Or that he was unanimously elected by the Electoral College? He was also one of the wealthiest persons in the US. Historians regularly rank him in the top 3 of the all-time best American presidents. He was instrumental in setting the tenor for all US politicians to follow, both in demeanor and in policy, and was pragmatic about the size and involvement of the federal government in really important ways, such as defense, currency and debt management. Certainly, he was the right man at the right time, and in many, many ways, a great man. Oh, and he has probably the most famous false teeth in US history - see the last picture for those famous ivories.
Many people have said that while all the Founding Fathers were needed to launch this country, there was only one person that was absolutely essential to America’s success: GW. Upon hearing that Washington was going to retire at the end of the Revolutionary War, King George III said that if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world. Well, he did it, and he was a great man. Washington did set a model of humble behavior that resonated with the populace, and that sets him apart from most everyone else who has ever had power thrust upon them.
But GW was complicated, and not without fault. When you go to Mount Vernon, there is a lot of discussion about him being a slaveholder. Like many of the Founding Fathers, his wealth and estate shares this original sin of our great Republic. And while at death Washington’s will granted manumission of the slaves he directly owned, it’s a complicated story that applied to only about half of the slaves that lived on the plantation (the others were owned by the Custis family), and resulted in many slave families being split up. So he did them dirty during his lifetime, then accidentally screwed many of them again through his death wish beneficence. Anyway, the story of the slaves, who were the vast majority of the people who actually lived on the plantation, is told in the museum, and it is compelling and heartbreaking.
I took some photos, and even got a little artsy with the grist mill black and white. That was an amateur photographer mistake, of course, but I thought it came out kind of cool. Let me know what you think. Oh, and the grist mill still operates, and was cool – the waterwheel spun, and the corn was ground to meal. And check out those dentures! Yup, they are metal, and have teeth from animals and other humans embedded in them. No wonder the dude never smiled in pictures - ouch!
I hope you get the chance to visit Mount Vernon, too, and make sure you give yourself at least half a day. Oh, and drink a tall glass of patience before you get there. The plantation is crowded, and you have to pick and choose your moments to gain solace and perspective. But there are some things in life that are worth the crowd hassle, and Mount Vernon is one of them. It gives a keen insight into the complicated life of a general, landowner, president, and statesman.
This past year, I’ve seen a lot of live acts. Many of them don’t seem to care about being commercially successful, some of them are huge stars, and some are up-and-comers with blatant commercial aspirations. And then there is Catfish and the Bottlemen, a relatively new band out of Wales. They have a commercial knack to them for sure, but also would still be classified as an “indie” band. Whatever they are, they have a big following among millenials, and they rocked out at the Electric Factory on Friday.
CatB rock pretty hard – think the Strokes, Johnny Marr – and they have a very strong live act. Van McCann is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. And he is a great performer. While watching him, I kept thinking of the Clash lyrics from All They Young Punks:
I knew how to sing
Why' know an
They knew how to pose
An' one of them had a Les Paul
Heart attack machine
McCann knows how to sing and pose, and he knows how to move about the stage, interact with the crowd, and simply take command of the show and drive it. He is a pleasure to watch, and was really enjoyable.
The rest of the band is super solid, too. The most important guy, Bob Hall, the drummer, was simply aces. Johnny Bond, the lead guitarist, is solid, and the bassist, Benji Blakeway, grooved all night, too. Tight? Hells yeah. It’s clear that these guys take their craft seriously, and that they are looking to continue to grow their audience. The audience knew all the lyrics to all the songs, and were way fired up all night long. Everyone was up dancing and enjoying (except the VIP section in the balcony who weirdly stayed seated) and the Electric Factory was shaking.
The band used a lot of high-tech lighting. I think that lighting can be a gimmick sometimes, but if used properly, it can enhance the show to great effect. Catfish sometimes overdid it with the strobes, but they had a sophisticated lighting set that was overall pretty cool. Many newer bands forget about lighting, but just go see one of the huge acts, and you can understand the theatrical impact that lighting has on a live performance. Bands with a knack for attention just get these things implicitly, and Catfish has a knack for attention.
The Electric Factory isn’t my favorite venue, but it’s fine. I always think that it’s a fire trap – it takes a fair amount of time to exit, and they have these fences on the main level to separate the bar area from the general admission part. They have hung up some sound absorbing curtains on the walls, which has helped the acoustics. And it has an elevated stage which helps for site lines. But stand up venues should always have a sloped floor, and the EF doesn’t. And it’s kind of big, holding a few thousand. It’s not the Fillmore, which is really big, but EF can be pretty crowded.
The audience was pure millennial. It was funny to watch them take their selfies, and text all night during the show. (Is anyone else sick of texting culture? C’mon, be in the moment, man!) Anyway, it took a while to exit because each millennial was given a trophy simply for participating as audience members.
Here are some more pictures. Yes, I pushed my way pretty close to the front to grab these shots just for your enjoyment. So I hope you enjoy them. We’ll catch up again soon with some non-music fun. And of course, plenty of more music to come. See you on the flipside.
A couple of songs
I've heard some songs over the last two weeks, and even though they aren't new, I thought I would share them with you. I like them all, they cover a range of styles, and it's unlikely that I would ever have posted them except that they all just came back within my orbit recently. Here we go:
See you soon with a music review. Hope you enjoyed.
It's Teenage Time at BRP!
Did you ever really look forward to something so much and then have it meet your expectations? Isn’t the opposite more often true – the expectations are so high that there is basically no way that they can be met? Well, unfortunately, that was the latter experience for me in seeing a band I’ve wanted to catch live for years: Teenage Fanclub.
So here’s the dirt. I’ve been digging TFC for years. They play a slower pace of rock, but with great lyrics, incredible song structure and melodies, and wonderful vocal harmonies. There are three, yes three, songwriters in the band, and if you listen to each one’s tunes, they are all good craftsmen. They can rock out pretty good, too – when I say a slower pace of rock, I don’t mean coffee-shop-head-nodding stuff – plenty of guitar and feedback for those of us to like a little headbanging.
Anyway, I kept checking their website to see what their tour calendar looked like, and it was usually chock full. But only for cities in the UK. They seldom ventured to the better side of the Atlantic. I was actually contemplating a trip to the UK to miraculously coincide with one of their shows – hey Helen, who woulda thunk? – when lo and behold, they announced a US tour. I was psyched!
The tour logistics got a bit tricky. I’ve got a busy babysitting week in Philly and so couldn’t catch the show 15 miles away from my house. I ended up having to see their show in DC, but that’s cool – I’m from DC and like to go there anyway. So yes, it was back to the 9:30 Club on Friday night. Nice weather coincided, and there was also a fantastic harvest moon in view. Things were looking good.
Until the opening act. The opening act sucked. I mean big time. I won’t mention her name because I don’t want any promotion, even of the sideways variety, taking over here. At least I wasn’t the one in my group who was loudly ripping her only to find out her mom was sitting directly behind them. Hahaha, it wasn’t me this time with the size 10 in my mouth, but one of my buddies got a good taste of leather! Anyway I figured, ok, most times opening acts are not great, and that usually doesn’t reflect poorly on the headliner or their act. So after that “not out of the ordinary” disappointment, we moved our way skillfully up to the front of the stage, and were about 4 or 5 people back in order to see TFC. (You’ll see some solid close-up shots in the pictures below.) And then we waited for the main attraction.
On they came, and the anticipation rose. And they were good, for sure. But they could have been better. In fact, they only played a bit longer than 1.5 hours (they have 10 albums out with plenty of excellent material to go at least 2 hours). The band that they most reminded me of in terms of stage presence was The Jayhawks. Like the Jayhawks, another band with many great songs, they simply stood around, didn’t engage much with the crowd, and played their tunes. (There was one funny line about them opening a stadium show for the Foo Fighters, and someone in the crowd asking if they were Dave Grohl’s grandfather.) They played skillfully, the acoustics were good, and the crowd was into it. But it just lacked the extra electricity that elevates a show to another plane.
Nonetheless, they played a lot of their best songs – they alternated among the three songwriters, who sing their own songs. You should know that BRP is not the only big-time fan of TFC. Bandwagonesque, issued in 1991, won Spin’s album of the year award. Grand Prix, Songs from Northern Britain, and Howdy are also great albums, and should be in your collection. And they dipped heavily into these albums, playing The Concept, About You, Sparky’s Dream, Verisimilitude, I Need Direction, and others I can’t remember. They also played a few songs from their new album, Here.
There was plenty of guitar: in fact, sometimes three guitars and a bass. Solid drumming for sure. You would think that there doesn’t sound like much to complain about, and you would be right, except for that missing “it” factor. Oh well, it was still a great way to spend a lovely early Fall Friday evening in the Nation’s Capital. Check out the photos below for some of the action.
That’s it for me until this Friday, when, once again, it’s concert time. You’ll have to check back in a few days to catch who I saw and the review. I have some other things to report on as well – more ancient Greek stuff, a trip to Mount Vernon on a glorious October day – and plenty of more music items, including finishing up the ABCs. Oh, and some hot new bands that you should know about.
So with that, I’ll say goodbye. Thanks for reading, remain cool, laugh at Bob Dylan getting the Nobel Prize for literature, and party on.
I’m not really a festival guy at all, but I do like a great double-bill. When I saw that the English Beat and Squeeze were touring together, it was simply too tempting to pass up. So the BRP Fun Tour 2016 kicked into gear, the van was outfitted, and the noble rock ‘n roll road trip was once again put into motion.
The show was held at the “new” 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, and while that club has been open for probably 15 years or so, it was my first time there. I had done a lot of damage at the former 9:30 Club location when I lived in Northern Virginia, and I was looking forward to visiting the updated version. My take? It’s substantially bigger (probably holding 500 -700 people), has terrific acoustics and decent sight lines (a sloped floor would have been nice for those not 6’5”), and is a worthy venue on the national club circuit. But be careful of the door guards – the word “assholes” does a disservice to assholes everywhere. These guys have kicked it up a notch - they're well into the 'taint zone, if you catch my drift.
The English Beat
The English Beat opened the show with their typically zesty and playful set. I’ve seen EB about 4 times in the last 3 years, and they are one of the most fun bands around. Dave Wakeling is still the undisputed leader of the group, and the King of Ska does about ½ the vocals. The Ranking Roger replacement, King Schascha, is a presence on the stage with his long dreadlocks, dancing antics, solid vocals, and master of ceremonies island-flavored riffs. The rest of the band is terrific, too, with multiple keyboards and a great sax player.
You need to come ready to dance and party when these guys rip into the ska, and we did just that. EB played a lot of the songs everyone wanted to hear – Tears of a Clown, Can’t Get Used to Losing You, I Confess, Save It For Later (BRP’s personal favorite), Ranking Full Stop, Mirror In the Bathroom – but didn’t do Stand Down Margaret, Hands Off She’s Mine, or Rough Rider. Oh well, life’s not perfect, but sometimes its damn close. So regardless, it was terrific fun and the joint was jumping, even in buttoned down DC. And BRP danced his skinny butt off and sang along with the crowd like a rock ‘n roll grommie.
Here are some pictures. I know that you’ve gotten used to me pushing my way to the front to grab some awesome shots just for you, but on this night, I hung back a bit with our large group of guys and gals. I don’t know if you can tell, but everyone in the band other than King is wearing a collared golf shirt – nice touch! And yes, I continue on my string of seeing southpaw guitarists as Wakeling is a lefty.
EB left the stage, the roadies roadied, and drinks were bought and discharged. Next onto the stage was Squeeze. I love Squeeze and was hopped up for this show. But it came up a little shy. Yes, they played many of the requisite songs – Tempted; Another Nail For My Heart; Pulling Mussles; If I Didn’t Love You; Is That Love; Hourglass; Black Coffee in Bed; Take Me I’m Yours – and even dipped heavily into the early years with Slap and Tickle; an awesome version of Goodbye Girl; Cool for Cats, which I've never seen performed live by Squeeze; and Up The Junction. The band was super tight. And they looked good, too – Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook are pushing 60, but remain fit, dress stylishly, have all their hair, and still sound great.
So what was the problem? First, the dreaded new album songs. Hey guys, I love ya, but nobody is that interested in the new songs. You’ve been around since the new wave days in the early 80s and we want to hear the old stuff that hooked us in the first place. Second, a terrible cover song that you’ll never guess. Harper Valley PTA. Yup, Harper Valley PTA. WTF? You have more than sufficient material to fill a two hour show, and you pick that lame song? What next, a cover of Tiny Tim’s Tiptoe Through The Tulips? (Tilbrook plays the ukulele for a short period during the show). And finally, not one damn song from their great album Frank. Hey, I understand that everyone loves Cool For Cats, Argybargy and East Side Story, but BRP really digs Frank, too. Just one song next time, please? And where the hell was Piccadilly and In Quintessence, two of your all-time best songs?
But enough bitching. Squeeze played some great songs to an appreciative crowd, did so without much banter and in a rehearsed and professional manner, and had a very cool video display cranking all show long for those height-deprived individuals in the sold-out crowd. It was a great double bill, and a pretty sure-fire way to have some fun on a Tuesday night in the Nation’s Capital. The BRP road trip was digging it, and a big-ass suite at the Mayflower topped off a pretty fine evening. A couple of photos are below of the band.
What’s up next?
Funny you should ask. I’ll be back in DC on Friday and the photo below should answer your questions about what brings the Kid to DC twice in one week. Yes, Teenage Fanclub and again at the 9:30 Club - SOMEBODY SCREAM!!!!
Thanks for reading, as always, and catch up with you soon. I hope your Fall is cruising along well, and that you are adjusting to the dark and the chill. I hate that crap, so I better find out who is playing live in sunny Florida in the next few months. Rock on, young uns.
Your Hokie Football Update
So I know that this is the most important subject matter for you: the weekly Virginia Tech football update. Let me just say that I only give this when things are going well. And this was a damn good week in Hokie Land.
The Hokies started the week by being ranked for the first time this season. We debuted at number 25 in the AP Poll, but had to go on the road to play the #17 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC was fresh off of a huge road win against Florida State, was playing at home, had a high-powered offense, and was riding high. So this looked to be a tough game.
It was not. As I had earlier predicted to my VT buddies, the Hokies kicked UNC in the butt and romped to a 34-3 victory. It was a great game in all facets, but VT still has some areas for improvement. Figure that we will rise substantially in the polls this week.
This upcoming Saturday, the Hokies go to the Jiffy Pop Dome in Syracuse to take on the Orange. I've been to a game there before, and it is LOUD. So we'll see how that goes.
In other good news, the felons at the University of Miami used their work release time on Saturday to choke up a home loss to Florida State. So now VT is alone atop the ACC Coastal Division standings. And after the game against the 'Cuse, scUM comes to Blacksburg on a Thursday night for a classic ACC showdown.
Let's Go!! Hokies!!
Oops, one more football gloat: BRP has always been a Minnesota Vikings fan, and the Vikes destroyed a 3-1 Houston Texans team today to go to 5-0. Football never goes this well for me, so I'm going to bask in this while the sun is shining.
Much obliged for tolerating me yet again.
Ash Wednesday, 1977
God I love rock ‘n roll.
On any given day, there are thousands of bands playing live in all the towns, cities, and countries of the world. One of them is giving the performance of a lifetime, and is, at least on that one day, the best live band in the world. You don’t often get to experience such a live performance, and when you do, it is magical. Last Wednesday night at the Foundry in Philly, Ash was the best live band in the world.
I went to the show not in the best frame of mind. I’ve been working like a dog lately, and been frustrated as the devil with it. I hadn’t had more than 5 hours sleep in about two weeks. I was happy for the diversion, but exhausted, and the thought of going home and straight to sleep was compelling. But that would have been a stupid idea. Rather than swirl more about work in my head, I got to go see live rock ‘n roll.
The show was at the Foundry, a new place connected with Live Nation’s large Fillmore in Philly. To be exact, the Fillmore is in Fishtown, a hip but ugly and semi-dangerous neighborhood north of Center City, and is located almost directly under I-95. Yum. It’s also a pain to get there from the Main Line, and in order to feel like your car will still be there when you return for it, you have to pay to park – sometimes $20, but on this night, only $9. Anyway, the Foundry is Live Nation’s smaller “club within a club,” and maybe holds 300 people in a concrete paradise. But on Wednesday, there were far fewer people at the club; my guess would be about 100 people. Awful for the band, of course, but great for those of us smart enough to show up.
A Wilco-wannabe band opened up to about 30 people. I don’t remember the band’s name, which is lucky for them. Their first song wasn’t bad, but it was their best song, and I was glad to see them leave after their obligatory 30 minutes. Then we had to do the obligatory stand around for 30 minutes and watch the next band’s road crew get set up. Now, the Foundry is brand new, but apparently, Live Nation didn’t think that the bands that play there deserve a dressing room. Instead, they get a cheesy curtained off area at the back of the club, so we watched as the single roadie for Ash went back and forth across the room to discuss issues with the band, who were chilling out behind their curtain. Finally, it was show time.
Now, if you know Ash, you realize that they have two tremendous albums, 1977, which New Music Express named one of the top 500 albums of all time, and Free All Angels. One song from 1977, Kung Fu, was used on the outtakes trailer for Jackie Chan’s film Rumble In The Bronx, and that is worth checking out both for the song and Chan’s stunts. The band is a trio, led by Tim Wheeler on guitar/vocals, Mark Hamilton on bass and Rick McMurray on drums, and like a lot of trios, it’s amazing how much layered sound can come out of three guys.
Anyway, Ash comes on stage in Philly and says that they are playing the entire 1977 album in order, which they then proceed to do. Your blogger was in hog heaven. Given how many people were in the club, I was directly in front of Wheeler with ample room – check out the photos, I took a ton of them – and it was fantastic. The band was on fire, and just tore through 1977 as though the future of the free world depended on it. Everyone in the crowd, including yours truly, seemed to know all the words, and the band was clearly well-rehearsed on the songs and enjoyed playing them.
If they had followed up with the entirety of Free All Angels, the show would have been a “best of all time” candidate. But they followed 1977 with some b-sides, some of their early singles, and then concluded the show with Shining Bright and Burn Baby Burn, two of the best songs from Free All Angels. Wow! Rather than feeling exhausted at the end, I was fired up. Rock ‘n roll salvation!
As you look at the photos below, notice a couple of things. First, Wheeler is a Gibson man, and used about 4 different Gibson’s during the night. Second, Hamilton on bass can really strike rock ‘n roll poses. He is fun/funny to watch live – a big gangly guy playing his bass with a lot of style and verve. Finally, my pictures pretty much excluded McMurray on drums. Rick, my apologies – I got your drum kit in a number of shots, but didn’t get any of you personally. My bad.
So that was Ash Wednesday, 1977-style. I’ll be back soon as next week brings three more amazing bands into the BRP live music pantheon. They are the English Beat, Squeeze and Teenage Fanclub. Oh my, I am excited!! In the meantime, chill out, rock hard, enjoy the pics, and thanks for reading.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.