There are probably only three1 currently-touring musical acts that I'm really interested in seeing live. Dia Frampton (and now even more so, Meg & Dia) is one of the three. So when I head Dia announce on Twitter that she would be touring and coming to San Diego, I went online and immediately bought tickets. And, not surprisingly, I'm glad I did.
If you missed out on Meg & Dia's earlier albums, you can still get a few of them from HelloMerch (and see the band's original line-up).
I'd never been to the Soma venue that Meg & Dia were playing, so I wasn't sure what to expect. There was plenty of parking, which was nice (maybe it would have been worse with more well-known performers), and it's located just down the street from the Sports Arena. The venue itself looks like an old movie theater and was standing room only inside the SideStage room (I don't know what the MainStage room looks like or what it offers for seating). By the end of the 3-hour show, my legs and feet were barking. I'm too old to stand in one place for hours.
Before the show started (I'd arrived early, not knowing what to expect), I picked up the HappySad CD (I'd been waiting to buy it because I was hoping there would be signed CDs or maybe a CD signing event, but if there was, I missed it). I was tempted to buy the vinyl record version of the album, but I decided to pass on it. Now I'm wishing I had picked up the vinyl.
The show started just before 8:00 with the first opening act, a local San Diego band I was unfamiliar with, Glamour Waves. Glamour Waves reminded me a little of No Doubt, mainly because the lead singer is a tiny little pixie with long blonde hair, which she constantly flipped around, and way too much weird eye makeup. She wore fishnet stockings and a t-shirt that fell down to mid-thigh. If there was anything on under the t-shirt, I didn't see it. The band consisted of the blonde lead-singing pixie, a guitarist, a bass player, 2 saxophone players, a trumpet player, and a drummer. The brass section didn't play in every song but they were a nice touch on the songs they did contribute to. I can't honestly say I cared much for any of Glamour Waves' music, but the acoustics of the room/volume of the amplification made it a big muffled mess so I couldn't really judge it fairly. The bass player was a character and the lead singer (I wish I had names, but I can't find anything online) was pretty enthusiastic. Sadly, the distorted, blaring audio made pretty much everything she said into muffled noise. It was like being inside a Peanuts cartoon. Part of the problem may have been the volume level of the microphone. I don't know. I do know that the speaking and singing of both was pretty much a solid wall of noise.
Next came an L.A. band I'd also never heard of, New Dialogue. This was a smaller band: a heavily tattooed female lead singer wearing leather short-shorts and a tube top, a male singer who also played guitar and reminded me of a Talking Heads cover band performer, a skinny mustached guy on guitar, a bearded guy on bass, and a drummer in a hoodie who looked like he was hiding from the law. Their songs were pretty generic and not all that interesting. And they also suffered from the same audio-difficulties of the previous act.
Finally, an hour later, Meg & Dia's crew got to work prepping the stage for their performance2. Meg & Dia's guitarist (co-guitarist - Meg also plays the guitar very well), Carlo Gimenez, was doing some fun crowd-work while walking back and forth across the stage. He was very entertaining - before he even picked up his guitar. There was no sign of a bass player. And the drummer was introduced as a new band member, so I don't know what happened there. The new drummer was a lot of fun to watch during the set, as he twirled him drumsticks and never missed a beat. Unfortunately, the percussion was too much for such a compact venue and just drowned out everything else (not just with Meg & Dia - it was a constant for all the bands). And maybe it was more familiarity with so much of their music, but I recognized and followed along with most of their songs (not the new ones on the album I'd just acquired, of course), There were a few songs that were more stripped down with just Dia's vocals and Meg on guitar and sometimes singling, too. Those were magical. One was Dear Heart, which is a song that I suspect was about the separation the sisters felt during the past several years following Dia's attempt to become a solo artist. Dia had to stop singing at one point because she started crying. She did recover and fish the song, but it was a touching moment.
Between songs were many stories told by both Meg and Dia. Events like shoe shopping and Dia's new jacket, and a few about their childhood. It was so interesting to hear about their actual life events. Also so sweet and wonderful was Dia's tiny sweet little voice saying "Thank you" at the end of every song. I loved it when Dia did the same thing on her last tour. She's so adorable. And I'd never seen Meg in person before, but...wow. She's even more gorgeous than Dia. I wish I'd been able to get a photo of Meg that captures just how attractive she is in real life because no photo I've ever seen does her justice. The Frampton sisters share some great genes.
Meg & Dia finished their set strongly with Monster, one of the not-stripped down songs. and even through the crowd was tiny and many left after Monster, enough weirdos stuck around and kept clapping and cheering to get Meg & Dia to come back and do an encore. Unfortunately, they hadn't done an encore in their earlier shows and Dia said they'd already performed all the songs they had prepared. Carlo came back on to the stage and whispered something off-microphone to the girls. After Meg and Dia discussed things (also off-mic), Dia announced that they were going to perform a stripped-down version of one of their new songs, Teenagers. And it was beautiful and amazing. And should have been on the album this way.
Here's the video for Monster. The live performance, and a more experienced Meg and Dia, made the live version of the song different - and maybe a little better. But there's something charming about the younger Frampton sisters' performance, too.
One final comment about this show. It was advertised as an "all ages show," but there were more than a few f-bombs lobbed during the between-song spoken bits, mostly from the male co-singer in New Dialogue. Only one came from Dia, though she did share a few other words of a non-f-bomb, yet still profane, variety. There were also a few songs that violated the "all ages" label - mostly from the two opening bands.
One final (and late) comment not-about-the-show: I just listened to a Podcast (Just A Tip with Megan Batoon) that Meg & Dia were guests on. I had never, prior to this episode, heard of this Podcast, but I really enjoyed it. It was, surprisingly, not very much about Meg & Dia's music and mainly just about dating. Throughout the episode, I struggled to tell Meg & Dia's voices apart, which seems weird because Meg has such a distinctive voice. Loved getting to know both girls just a little better.
There's still a bunch of stuff I plan to mention someday (mostly fun trips over the past year or so), but I think the book-blather tsunami is probably up next. Or maybe I'll squeeze in some Disneyland blathering. Or maybe a little Susie Cakes blather. Who knows?
1 The other two performers are Xenia (another discovery from The Voice) and Grace Vanderwaal (who I only found out about after she won her TV talent show, so I was late to the game). Admittedly, I wouldn't say no to Green Day, Chris Isaac, Living Colour, The Lemonheads, or many of the wandering 80s bands that pass through town, but I have been a little lax in seeing shows from many of the above when they passed through town over the past few years.
2 It was interesting to watch each band (with the help of a couple of guys who I assume work for the SOMA venue) setting everything up and tearing it down between each band's set.
When I listed my recent musical acquisitions, I neglected to mention another album (the vinyl kind) that I picked up last year in November that was nearly as satisfying as the Icicle Works album find: Bowie's Scary Monsters.
Scary Monsters is an even older album than Icicle Works (1980 vs 1984), but this record isn't 1980 vintage vinyl. It's a brand new new pressing on heavy-duty vinyl. And it didn't cost $10 (including shipping). Since I bought it from Amazon shipping was free, but the album itself was around $20.
Scary Monsters, David Bowie
There aren't a ton of songs on Scary Monsters that saw radio play back in the day, but it does have three songs that old geezers like me should be very familiar with: Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), Ashes to Ashes, and Fashion. Among the many cassettes in my trunks of treasure is a Scary Monsters cassette (and a bunch of other Bowie cassettes) that haven't been touched in years.
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) is, by far, my favorite song on the album. I don't know that it's a great Bowie song, but it holds a special place in my heart. And when I think about the song, it brings back memories of listening to this album as I walked home from a record store...somewhere, with my ancient non-Walkman cassette player hooked to my belt (absurdly huge by real Walkman standards), and orange-padded headphones perched upon my head. It was in California. Somewhere. Maybe Covina. Maybe Mira Mesa. I'm just not sure. I have a similar memory of acquiring Led Zeppelin IV.
Further Adventures in Leasing
My super-sweet Sentra lease ended a few months ago, so I had to go car shopping. I saw a Nissan Kicks on the lot, which looked kinda like a slightly smaller-scale Rogue1, and I thought it would be a fun upgrade from the Sentra.
The Kicks is pretty much the same size as a Sentra, with a slightly different shape, but the back seat seems much smaller than the Sentra's. And the Kick's mileage, which is supposed to be roughly equivalent to the Sentra, has been a few miles per gallon less than the Sentra's mileage (32.5 compared to 35.5 on average). But the Kick's stereo is way better than the old Sentra's (although a new Sentra's stereo probably would have been exactly the same) and the interior (even in the lowest-end model) is pretty sweet. It reminds me more of a Mini Cooper's interior style.
The Kicks cost a few thousand more than the Sentra, so I probably should have just gone with another Sentra since I really had no complaints with the Sentra I leased last time. I guess my inner-Veruca Salt (not the band - the film character) won out and I just had to have something new.
I got it in black, of course. I had a bunch of photos of the interior (including my sweet Batman car-seat cover), but I can;t find them.
The cubical, revisited
I've mentioned my cubicle decor here a few times since I started decorating it with comic books, so I'm going to do it again. When I first started going insane with the cubicle, I had just one huge wall to crap up. I probably had no more stuff on the walls then (or maybe even less stuff) than I do now, but it was a more public display of by complete dweebish-ness.
There have probably been other mentions, but these are the ones I can find (the Badbartopia search engine, powered by Google, needs an upgrade - it's on the list).
I've also recently brought a few toys in (sadly, these are new acquisitions and not just stuff I already owned) and I've crapped up the cube even more than before.
The current comic being displayed (for the past few weeks) is Innovation Comics's Quantum Leap. Innovation was a great publisher from the 80s-90s. They did a ton of book and TV adaptations (probably a few movies, too). They even did the first two Terry Pratchett Discworld novels (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic). Those will make an appearance on the wall one of these days.
There have been a few other additions to the cube, too. These currently include a few toys, a framked sketch from a ComicCon years ago, an American flag ('Merica!), the new Flight of the Conchords poster, and some of my favoriter Star Wars calendar pages.
Prior to Quantum Leap being on the wall, I also had several other series (more than I'm showing here - sometimes I don't get around to taking a photo). These included Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazaam (Mike Kunkel awesomeness), Thieves &Kings (Mark Oakley awesomeness), Umbrella Academy Vol 1 (the Netflix adaptation had just started), and the Marvel adaptation of The Wonderful Wizrd of Oz (very well done - Marvel also adapted the subsequent Oz books very well).
My cubicle was once the most crapped-up mess in the area2, but I have a new co-worker who may have exceeded the crap-per foot ratio of my cubicle. So at least my I look less hobo-ish by comparison now.
I actually broke out the old sketch pad a few months ago and doodled another Disney Princess. It turned out to look only a little like the princess I was trying to create, Anna from Frozen, but the things I got wrong (the football shaped head and the super-wide mouth) were kind of weird, so I'm not real sorry I screwed them up.
I also incorporated Jack-Jack into my Incredibles family doodle. I used a Jack-Jack doodle that I'd already drawn and just photo-chopped it into the family doodle, so it's probably not worth mentioning it. But that's never stopped me before.
I was planning to mention the Meg & Dia concert I went to this week before the fog of old age makes me forget how great it was, but I don't think I have it in me. There has probably been too much blathering for any sane person to consume at once already. Soon, though. Probably.
1 We purchased a vehicle we expected to be piling miles on, a Nissan Rogue. It's coming in well under mileage, so it probably should have also been leased since we're not planning to play the old car game anymore.
2 When I say "crapped-up," I'm referring to covered wall space. Otherwise, it's actually really clean.
Here's yet another topic I've been woefully bad about commenting on: music I've added to my collection over the past several months.
A few weeks ago, I purchased a CD that came out about five months ago (in April 2019). I had somehow not heard one word about this CD, despite loving the band that recorded the music on this CD dearly. I guess this is likely due to the sad state of music retailers - which for me is pretty much Target, Walmart, and occasionally Best Buy, none of which really cater to non-top 40 music fans. I don't count Amazon because I can't physically look through the music there - even though they were the only retailer that brought this CD to my attention when they guessed that I was a fan of the band (they get a lot of suggested products wrong, but occasionally get one right).
I'm sure I would have noticed this album, had it been on the shelf at a brick-and-mortar establishment. Another medium I don't spend much time on is the radio. If I was still listening to the radio, there's also a chance I would have heard about it sooner.
Maybe one of these days I'll blather about the Licorice Pizza record shop in Montclair. Or the Wherehouse stores that used to be all over the place. Or their lesser mall-equivalents in malls everywhere, Sam Goody. Ah, the things kids these days will never really appreciate...
The Cranberries, In The End
My favorite thing about this CD (the one I got from Amazon, anyway) is that it comes in a little hardback book. I don't know if other music retailers also sell it in a little book or if this is just a limited thing on Amazon, but I'd suggest getting the one on Amazon if the alternative is a jewel case. The book's cover has 4 kids representing each of the band members (who, I suspect, are children of the band members - but I could be wrong about that) in a junkyard, which is awesome. The interior of the book tells the story of the album's creation, has the lyrics for each of the songs, a page with what appears to be school photos of each of the band members, and a group photo with the kids from the cover and the surviving three band members. So much awesome.
It's sad that this will be the last time we'll hear Delores O'Riordan's lovely Irish lilt singing new Cranberries songs. Also sad is that the songs were final-demo versions and could have maybe used a little fine-tuning before being recorded for the final album. But that doesn't mean they're not great. The singing is beautiful, and the songs are worthy additions to the Cranberries catalog.
The album's title song couldn't be more representative of The Cranberries signature sound.
The Cranberries, Something Else
I'm super-bummed that this will be the final Cranberries album. But speaking of The Cranberries, I also picked up another Cranberries album a few months ago that I've also loved dearly. It was full (with three exceptions) of beautiful, haunting, acoustic (and orchestra-backed) versions of classic Cranberries songs. The three new songs are great, too.
Zombie, the Cranberries song that everyone knows, has a slowed-down tempo with acoustic and orchestra-backed instrumentals. It's amazing. As are the other songs. And the CD liner notes have a bunch of great photos, made even more special by the fact that this was the last album Delores's released before her untimely death.
There's another alternate version of Zombie, that was also released after Delores O'Riordan's untimely death in January 2019, by a band called Bad Wolves. Delores was supposed to provide vocals for the heavier-metal version of the song, but died the day before she was to record them. The Delores-free version of the song is still interesting, just not as amazing as it could have been.
Icicle Works, Icicle Works
I haven't only picked up The Cranberries music, though. I also added a 35 year-old album (yup, the vinyl kind) to ye aulde music collection. I've been trying to find this particular album on CD for years and never could. The closest I came was a greatest hits album on CD that was missing many of the songs of this album.
I still have this album on cassette in a trunk full of treasures. So when I found the vinyl-version online (it was a weird rabbit hole that started on Amazon and ended on discogs.com), I knew I had to get it. Even better, the record cost under $10, including shipping.
The sound quality of the record is amazing (my record player has a built in USB-ripping function so I ripped it so I could listen to the songs on my phone with my headphones). There's a little of the crackle and hiss that's present on all records in the ripped tracks, but it just adds character to the songs.
My favorite song of the album, Out of Season, was actually on the greatest hits album, but only a couple of the other tracks from this album were. And they all deserved to be counted as greatest hits. This is a great album.
Dia Frampton, Red
I mentioned Dia Frampton's latest album, Bruises, a few months ago. In that rant, I also mentioned a Meg & Dia CD I had also purchased on Amazon, Something Real (not to be confused with The Cranberries's Something Else). Since then, I've also purchased Dia's first solo album (the physical version, this time), Red.
When Red was released, I bought a few of the songs on Amazon (eventually buying them all individually). I had some digital music credits from Amazon, so I figured I'd just get the album that way. But I'm old and I like things I can hold in my hand, so I eventually bought the CD a few months ago. And it's so much more satisfying than the digital files. And it also included CD liner notes full of Dia-licious photos.
There's a ton of great music on this CD, but my favorite song has always been The Broken Ones. Sweet, sad, and too relatable.
Juliana Hatfield, Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton John
My favorite cover of any Police song is Juliana Hatfield's version of Every breath You Take. This was apparently supposed to be a bonus track on Beautiful Creature, but it's not on the CD I own. So all I have is this bootleg that I've had for years. The ragged bassline is epic.
So what, you ask, does any of that have to do with this CD? Well, I figured since I loved Juliana's Every breath You Take cover, I'd love the covers of Olivia Newton John's catalog just as much. But...I didn't even recognize several of the songs, so that was a little disappointing. Sadly, this album is more karaoke than re-imagining, but it's still a nice addition to my music collection because Juliana's voice is amazing. Sadly, there was no jewel case or CD liner notes, so you get a cardboard CD case and...well, that's it.
Physical is a fun song, even if it is pretty much the same as the original.
Earlier this year, I picked up a CD released in 2006 that was from one of my favorite bands, The Lemonheads, that I'd somehow missed completely (see my complaints above). Good 'ol Amazon finally brought it to my attention. I'd heard that Evan Dando had gone through some serious drug issues, but after reading a little more about it, I was surprised at all the drama there'd been. Drugs are bad, m'kay.
There were some interesting credits in the CD liner notes - three of which were to his wife at the time (now his ex-wife), english model, Elizabeth Moses. And the CD tray photo is a photo of Elizabeth Moses. I think drugs were the wedge that came between them, sadly. Ol' Evan was surely smitten in 2006.
My all-time favorite Lemonheads song is The Outdoor Type from Car, Button, Cloth. But the songs on The Lemonheads (a completely different band with the same lead singer, Evan Dando) are a lot less folksy-sounding than the Lemonheads I love and sound a lot more like the Hate You Friends-era Lemonheads. Not really my jam, but still...good.
The song on The Lemonheads that's closest thing to The Lemonheads songs I love is probably Baby's Home.
I had a chance to go see The Lemonheads when they toured San Diego in May, but I didn't make it.
Green Day, Insomniac
Late last year, I was ordering a book from the Barnes and Noble web site and I needed to spend about five dollars more to get free shipping. So I poked around the web site and found a Green Day CD that I didn't already have, Insomniac. I was familiar with a few of the songs, so I added it to the cart. It has the classics Geek Stink breath, Brain Stew, Jaded, and Walking Contradiction, but the rest of the CS is pretty forgettable in my old man opinion. It's not terrible, but I prefer the later Green Day stuff (this album is from 1995).
The real treat in getting the CD is the fold-out mini-poster. It's pretty sweet. All the CD art is really great - there's even art on the CD itself. I love it when a CD comes with surprises. Too many CDs now are just a single page cover and a nondescript CD - no effort at all. Cue the old man rant, "Back in my day..."
The best song on the album, in my opinion, is definitely Brain Stew. Classic Green Day.
And lastly, an album that's not exactly a music album, but is an album by the almost award-winning fourth-most-popular folk duo in New Zealand - so there is a good share of music to be found. But there's also a lot of comical reminiscing and a plethora amusing stories, El Guapo.
Flight of the Conchords, Flight of the Conchords Live in London
I've loved the Flight of the Conchords since I saw them on HBO and then accidentally bought the Season One soundtrack from Amazon many years ago. Season 2 was a little less great (I still bought the second season on DVD, but I didn't bother with the soundtrack). So when I saw the Live in London CD on the rack at Target, I added it to the cart and anticipated a 2-CD bonanza of awesomeness.
There are a bunch of new songs and a few of the classics - all performed live - with lots of stories and commentary by Bret and Jermaine. And like the Season One soundtrack, there's a poster inside the CD case, so that's great. It joined the Season One poster in the Cubicle of Despair.
My all-time favorite Flight of the Conchords song, Robots.
And here's one of the funny anecdotes, Complimentary Muffin. Lots of silliness. Not quite Pythonesque, but silly.
Man, this lame blathering took a long time to complete. I started a few weeks ago. I should be ashamed...