October 2013 Archives

(Except it was seven times, in the past two months.)

Anyone who's spent more than a few minutes talking with me will quickly pick up how obsessed I am with music. Increasingly, I suspect that music is the true love of my life and everything else I do is a dalliance in comparison. I love living in New York because odds are high that if a band is going to tour in the US at all, they'll have a show in Manhattan or Brooklyn.

The longer I've lived here, the more addicted I've become to concerts. Music transforms when it's played live - I hear things that production glosses or smooths over, and I get to watch the mechanics of how the sound is created. To see people coming together and producing something so extraordinarily layered and beautiful is nothing short of a magic show for me, and that energy is something that has become essential to my well-being and happiness.

This fall, I lucked out and have gotten to see some truly extraordinary concerts. I've also been on a streak for the past year or two of having really great opening acts - one of my current new favorite bands, Milagres, opened for a James Iha performance at the Mercury Lounge last year, and I couldn't believe my good luck to stumble upon something so damn good.

It started at the end of August. I was lamenting the paucity of exciting summer concerts this year, so I was really ready for a great show.

Bat for Lashes at Webster Hall, August 30

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The opening act was a terrific San Diego group called Barbarian. Sometimes on the day of concerts, I look up the opening act and listen to whatever I can find online. When I searched for Barbarian on Spotify, I found the album fitting the description of a band that "hits your ears with warm surf pop fuzz, '80 post punk and goth pop, and a hint of '60s garage rock," but I also found a not so lovely metal band with the same name.



I was quite happy to get the warm and fuzzy slightly psychedelic band full of adorable guys instead. My friend Penelope and I literally couldn't decide which one we'd most want to be our boyfriend.



One of them even turned into Pacific Rock Jesus when he put his tambourine on his head.



Delighted and thoroughly charmed by such a strong opener, I got all excited because I've been wanting to see Bat for Lashes live since 2008. I actually had the chance to see her for one of those $15 Brooklyn shows, but I wasn't sure if the coworkers who would eventually become some of my best friends would be up for a concert with me. I'd been kicking myself since then, but I was also kind of chuckling at the irony that Penelope went from a girl I was too nervous to ask to a concert in case she thought my music taste was insipid, to my most frequent concert buddy.



And wow, it was everything I imagined it would be and then some. Natasha Khan (who has such a pretty real name that I don't really understand why she goes by Bat for Lashes) has one of those voices that is full of clarity and subtlety. Listening to recordings, I knew I wanted to hear the breathy touches and flowing warmth in person.



What I didn't realize was what a charming, engaging performer she was too. Everyone around me had a big smile and gushy expression on, full of that summery lightness and pure joy. Not a small feat for a Manhattan crowd, but that's the kind of radiance and exuberance she evokes.

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I got obsessed with her brightly-colored psychedelic jumpsuit, which was also modeled by Shanali on Australia's Next Top Model (don't judge). I tracked it down and learned it was designed by Romance Was Born as part of a collection that strikes me as Peter Max by way of Lisa Frank (in a good way), thanks to a collaboration with Tanya Shultz.



We also stood by a woman wearing a flared macrame maxi dress, with long wavy hair and lots of stringy bits hanging off her. She had the look of the type of person who would open her arms to the sides and take up a lot of space hippie dancing (she was), so everyone gave her a wide berth, I think sharing my fear of accidentally getting tangled up in some of her woven parts. Penelope and I amused ourselves with Macrame's antics for the whole concert and noted the efficacy of claiming space by dancing enthusiastically.

Passion Pit at Hudson River Park, September 7

I can't possibly count the amount of times I listen to Passion Pit albums when I'm walking around places. Before the Black Keys album "Brothers," it was basically the soundtrack to my art history thesis, and I listened to "Manners" nearly every day while walking through Penn Station on my way to the lab I worked at then. Marching in time to "Sleepyhead" is a surprisingly entertaining way to navigate the city. They just keep getting better, so I was dying for a chance to see them live and dance my face off.



Our opener was Best Coast, who were solid if a bit repetitive. I've never fully understood the hype, but at least I heard a lot more in them live than I had in their recordings.

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The real opener was Mother Nature, with a spectacularly lovely and unseasonably windy day. After such a hot and sweaty summer, temperatures in the 70s were absolutely perfect for an outdoor concert surrounded by 20-year-olds (I mean, actual NYU freshmen, seriously).

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We adopted the Macrame strategy of space-consumption in the midst of a tightly-packed crowd by what a sour-faced girl behind me called "that girl's erratic dancing" right at the moment when I was wondering why she couldn't get her fist out of my backside.

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It was exactly the stress-relieving, sweaty, high-energy release I needed and it was even more fun than I imagined it would be.

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Michael Angelakos reminds me of Wayne Coyne with the way he mesmerizes and energizes a crowd. It's truly infectious energy, and I love it.

Washed Out at Terminal 5, September 18

Next was a random Wednesday night show at a venue I'd previously sworn off. The trick with Terminal 5 is that you have to get there early enough to get a spot in the first few rows back from the stage. Any deeper, and you spend the entire time getting jostled by people trying to move forward or back, getting hit by backpacks, or having actual teenagers shout over the music about which of their friends has the Molly. Going up to the second or third floor reveals just how terrible the acoustics are, so for me, being one of those super-early front folk is the way to be.

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The opening act was HAERTS, a tremendous Brooklyn electropop band that Penelope and I both fell for immediately.

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I have such a deep love for chillwave and ambient electronic music, but I wasn't sure how it would translate to a concert. Some of the hauntingly beautiful tones and reverberations might not fly in a huge club full of sweaty people at the end of summer. I was so glad to be so wrong - they keyed it up with extra beats and more dance-friendly instrumentation, while keeping the profoundly lovely atmosphere and complexity that I so loved.

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The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Ernest Greene is a real musical genius, and Washed Out is making the incredibly smart, viscerally exciting kind of music that I wish I could. There are so many great videos online from that show, but I'm partial to this one of "Amor Fati" because I actually remember the moment during this song when my mind blew open and I realized I was completely at peace with the world and lost inside the music. Swoon.

The xx, Radio City Music Hall, September 23

This year's birthday concert for Penelope was The xx, whom we'd seen together a few summers ago in Central Park. Our seats were a ways back, so my photos from this concert suck, but they went from basic stage lights to something closer to a laser show, which was fantastically entertaining in Radio City.

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The opening act was once again great, Poli├ža, but I haven't loved their recorded music anywhere near as much as I loved them live.

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The xx were spectacular. They are another band that I listen to so much when I'm walking around the city that their music is as familiar as my heartbeat. Since the last time we saw them, they've expanded their sound and pushed what they're so good at. They play like a group that was flat-out born to play together, and hearing Jamie Smith mixing live was incredible.

(Sean Hayes, le poisson rouge, September 25)

This show admittedly isn't counting in my favorite bands list because I barely knew Sean Hayes's music going into the show. I did, however, fall in love with it while I was there, and I'm delighted to have had such a tremendous time. I'm glad he's included in one of the best months of concerts of my life.

Atoms for Peace, Barclays Center, September 27

Later in the same week that I saw the xx and Sean Hayes, I saw perhaps my favorite living musician, Thom Yorke, with Atoms for Peace at Barclays Center.

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James Holden opened and was as terrific as you might expect. He had some ace projections going and an overall high level of artistry and sensitivity in his music. I dug it.

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My photos are again garbage, but how can you even begin to describe what it's like to hear Thom Yorke live? I saw him a few years back with Atoms for Peace at Roseland, and it felt like we made eye contact while he was playing piano. But at that show I couldn't really hear what the band was doing. Say what you will about stadium concerts, but the sound at Barclays has its moments.

I saw the interview that Flea and Thom Yorke gave on The Daily Show a few days later, and I thought one of the great points was that Thom sought Flea out because he played the bass like it was a lead instrument (or I guess, he made it a lead instrument). I think they've changed from being Thom Yorke's live band to a real artistic collaboration, and I love it.

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Of course, my head nearly exploded when they played the U.N.K.L.E. song "Rabbit In Your Headlights." If you've spent as many years obsessing about Thom Yorke as I have, you'll see right away why this was such an exciting setlist.

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And at one point, the lights changed to darting red pulses behind watery blue shimmers, and my mind flashed to this painting and a bunch of stuff about light on water, and I felt some deep connection with the universe. Like, Thom Yorke's voice hovered at the same pitch as languid late afternoon sunlight, then the intensity of so much percussion sparkled it away into a cosmic instant of crazy fleeting perfection dancing off water. I was in some kind of heaven.

I can't believe that's only through September. I'm going to split this baby into two parts so the October shows don't get rushed and half-assed way down here in infinite-scroll land. Until then, I invite you to obsessively search YouTube for live footage from each of these shows as I will be doing. I'm sure you'll see straight away why I've been having one of the best concert seasons ever.

It's not like...

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I am frequently guilty of sarcastic passive-aggression, overusing the phrasing:

It's not like XYZ... but ABC.
Where XYZ is the harshest, most direct way of saying what I really mean and ABC is the gentler, hopefully more socially palatable way of sugar-coating it, while knowing that the suggestion of XYZ will linger in one's subconscious.

Example 1:

It's not like I think people who make frequent grammatical errors are lazy at best and most likely also stupid.... but I do question how hard it is to use the correct form of "you're" if you're a college graduate and communicate in sentences more than once a month.

Example 2:

It's not like I've given up all hope of men in their 20s and 30s acting like substantive human beings because they're all in some shallow, materialistic protracted adolescence with massive entitlement complexes... but it really does seem like decent eligible guys my age are in short supply these days.

So, it's not like I've basically replaced blogging with Facebooking and Twittering.... but with the mobile apps and more quickly consumed format, it sure is easier to sputter out a few dozen brief things than to elaborately express one.

I read one of those Buzzfeed lists of things that are suddenly true if you're in your 30s, full of humorously spot-on generalizations. One of the ones that stuck out most in my memory, even though I really only chuckled at the time, was along the lines of, "All of your friends are posting on Facebook about having babies and running marathons." I hadn't really thought about it, but yeah, most of my closest friends from college are married, have kids, or have obsessively taken up running (sometimes all three). I'm genuinely happy for them, and I am delighted to see pictures of their kids and hear what they're up to (no buts here). I also realize that these basic facts of finding a partner, owning homes, procreating, or exercising regularly do seem like miraculous, unattainable accomplishments to me.

(Putting aside the fact that I ran cross-country in high school, damnit, and I can still run a 5k no matter what kind of shape I'm in because that was just a fraction of our daily practice and it's not that long a distance.)

I find myself increasingly reticent to share my thoughts or experiences because, you know, I cooked a really delicious lasagna... they created life and that little person they made out of nothing but sexytimes and love is wearing a ridiculously cute Halloween costume. I found just the right shade of shiny magenta nail polish.... they ran a half-marathon and set a new personal best. And it's not that I'm comparing myself to my friends and acquaintances because yikes, then I'd have to smugly run a 5k right off a cliff of self-pity and despair, but increasingly I feel like maybe I just want to keep stuff to myself because I can't really expect anyone to care what I do.

Except I care. I do a lot of really awesome, fun stuff. I have extraordinary experiences every day and do something pretty seriously exciting and enjoyable at least once a week. I'm tired of my own quietness and reservation, tired of only posting foursquare check-ins but never following up on what those places and events were like. I give the barest sketchy impression of what I do, when it is really in my nature to over-share with lush, Baroque canvases and tapestries of experience.

So prepare yourself. An unmitigated parade of Vickiliciousness is coming this way soon.

My beautiful Smokey

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We lost my sweet kitty Tuesday night. I am still a bit of a wreck, but I have always said that I know he can't live forever and I wished that when it was his time, it would be quick and he would not suffer. All things considered, he went as gracefully and peacefully as one could hope for, and I am endlessly thankful for that deep benevolence in the universe.

Everyone who met him said he was extraordinarily sweet and gentle. He had a truly beautiful temperament, welcoming guests by jumping into their laps or sitting next to them purring. He sought people out, double-meowing at them or reaching out to pat them with his soft little paws. He made people and other animals feel special with his warmth and genuine affection.

Since my junior year of college, he's been my constant companion and beloved little shadow. I can't count the times he sat beside me or in my lap while I wrote papers, worked in my studio, or just curled up to watch movies or read. My buddy was there for me through so much, and for nearly 12 years I've gone to sleep holding him and kissing his little head. I know that I am endlessly lucky for having so much time together (especially considering they thought he was 8 when I adopted him), and I am deeply grateful to have so many beautiful memories.

I loved him with all my heart, and I miss him terribly, but I'm comforted knowing he had such a long, happy life. His last day on earth was one of the prettiest autumn days I've seen, and we spent almost all of it together. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I am relieved that he got the gentle, natural exit from this world that he deserved.

Rest in peace, baby. I love you.

Man plans and God laughs

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Things I've Wanted to Do or Be Over the Years

  • Artist (always)
  • Writer: fiction, poetry, and essays
  • Travel / nature photographer
  • High school art teacher, traveling to a new country each summer
  • Actor / playwright
  • Neuroscientist, specializing in movement disorders and / or the nutritional / metabolic links in Alzheimer's disease
  • PhD in art history, writing about gardens, architecture, and depictions of nature in art
  • Art conservator / Art conservation scientist
  • PhD in macromolecular chemistry (polymers) and materials science, work in eco-chemistry, improving the efficacy of green cleaning products and the biodegradability of detergents and plastics
  • Textile designer / Fashion designer
  • Singer-songwriter / electronic musician

And if you're curious about the approximate chronology...

Main Academic and Career Pursuits So Far

  • First undergraduate major: Neuroscience
  • Switched to second undergraduate major: Studio Arts, with a minor in Literature and Psychology
  • Taught high school classes in drawing and poetry while I was in college, decided I did not want to be a teacher
  • First master's degree: MFA in Painting
  • Added second master's degree: MS in the Theory, Criticism, and History of Art, Design, and Architecture
  • While studying materials, techniques & conservation of art in Venice, decided I wanted to be an art conservator, started working in a chemistry lab
  • Decided I wanted to be an art conservation scientist
  • Started taking chemistry classes for art conservation school and decided I wanted to be a chemist - matriculated in a BS in Chemistry and planned to pay off student loans by working several years in industry doing quality control and product development
  • Had to leave school one year shy of my second bachelor's after accruing lifetime aggregate limit of student loan debt
  • Current job (not on the above list, but I like it and feel lucky to have it)

I'm not sure I really have a point, except that life has a way of turning out completely differently than one plans. This is the first time in my life that I have absolutely no idea what the future holds, and I am not actively pursuing anything else.

Maybe I should work on my banjo playing.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2013 is the previous archive.

November 2013 is the next archive.

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