Tuesday, August 24, 2010

tears for fears, live at the 9:30 club, washington, dc, 8/23/2010 (sold out)

Last night was a fine way to end my summer break with one of the best concerts I've been to in a while. When I first saw that Tears For Fears were playing the 9:30 Club in DC, I was thrilled. To see that founding members Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were touring together, even better. Then I saw the cost, which made me hesitate before jumping to buy tickets. Still, this wasn't any ol' band. This was a band I grew up with when Songs From the Big Chair came out. Thanks to my younger brother who had both "Songs" and their follow up masterpiece "The Seeds of Love" - two albums we listened to constantly, Tears For Fears would forever be a crucial part of my music-loving youth, exposing my teenage brain to a much bigger and bolder word of music. Yes, this was an important band, on both a personal level, and on a level which sold over 20 million albums worldwide. If I missed this show, I would have regretted it terribly and would have been kicking myself for years to come.

Their sold out performance at the roughly thousand-person capacity 9:30 club was nothing short of fantastic, as both Roland (the long-haired guy) and Curt (short hair) played and sang wonderfully from beginning to end, having lots of fun with the fans throughout the show. The crowd was great too - enthusiastic but not too over-the-top (or drunk, thankfully), singing, dancing and clapping along to some powerful live and faithful renditions of classics like "Shout", "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", "Head Over Heels", "Break it Down Again", "Pale Shelter", "Advice For the Young at Heart" and many more. The band performed "Mad Word" twice even, as an intro song, first using a recording of an orchestra and big chorus from their previous tour several years ago, with Smith coming out and singing along before Roland and the rest of the band ventured on stage to join him. Later they played a more faithful version of the original - a song that was brought to the attention of a whole new generation in the excellent film Donnie Darko a few years back. It was great seeing them in a more traditional rock band set up, minus the big orchestra and chorus, making the performance all the more intimate in such a relatively small venue where there are virtually no bad seats in the house. Not to be a nitpick but perhaps the low point of the show (for me at least) was when the band did a somewhat slow, brooding cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean". Don't get me wrong, they did a very good job, I'm just not an M.J. fan even remotely, and all I could think of as the song seemed to go on for a lifetime was, damn, they have a million other amazing songs of their own they could be playing right now and they're covering Michael Jackson? It could have been "The Working Hour", "Broken", "Change", "Year of the Knife", "Mothers' Talk" or many others that weren't played, but please, not a cover, of M.J., or of anyone for that matter! Well, all rants aside, "Billy Jean" was greeted by moderate enthusiasm, and despite that small segment of torture, again, brilliant show. Perhaps the biggest highlight was when opening act, singer-songwriter Wainwright, who joined the band for a good majority of their performance, sang the soulful "girly" vocals (as Orzabal jokingly referred to them as) on "Woman In Chains", originally sung by Oleta Adams on "The Seeds of Love" LP. I'm not big into singer-songwriters, but I was originally impressed by Wainwright's voice when he opened for Tears. When he sang during Woman in Chains, a good majority of the audience's jaws were on the floor, and left there for most of the duration of the song, as folks were too busy clapping for this man who was somehow performing the impossible before our very eyes and ears. No pun intended, but the performance of that magnificent song alone nearly brought me to tears - flawless. One thing about Tears for Fears is their mass appeal, which was evident in the variety of folks in the audience. As a friend of mine who went to the show with me said, the duo always have toed the line, sometimes getting (dangerously) close to that dreaded genre, "adult contemporary", yet somehow maintaining a sound that is still unique and experimental yet highly universal and accessible. Check 'em out if you get a chance. Tickets might seem a bit pricey (though no more expensive than a ball game or a five star meal), but if you like good music, and especially if you're a fan, don't hesitate to go and see them play. Who knows when they'll ever decide to tour again! For more info on the band and their tour, drop by their official website.

Friday, August 20, 2010

that place

"There's something about that place that's not quite right - something strange about the atmosphere."

Here's one I based on another Illo Friday drawing I did a couple of years ago. I think it's a real improvement, though there are things I like more about the older version.

*made for the Illustration Friday topic "atmosphere" , mixed media in A4 watercolor Moleskine, 8/2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

basking gammera

Kris and I never get tired of watching our turtle Gammera. Lately he seems to be slowing down, which he tends to do towards the end of Summer. He's been eating and swimming a lot less and has been spending more time basking under his sun lamp on top of his log. I bought the log - an artificial one by Zoo Med a few years ago, and it's the best purchase I've made for Gam. He loves it and uses it to climb and bask on, swim through, and even sleep in at night. It can be pricey, averaging forty dollars, but I found a good price HERE. I've even witnessed Gam underneath the log, shuffling back and forth, attempting to speed up the process of shedding his shell scutes - something he'll be doing soon. It looked as if he was stuck underneath the log, but after a while it took me some time to figure out what he was up to. One thing that is not recommended is the act of aiding a pet turtle in the shedding process, by trying to manually pull loose scutes off. This can do some real harm to the turtle's shell and overall health and doesn't help the animal in any way. In the meantime, Gam says "hi"!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

summer's end

I hate to jump the gun here, declaring an end to summer when August isn't even a quarter finished yet, but I guess it's the mindset I'm beginning to develop, as I always do this time of year. It's a time of bittersweet and mixed feelings. The days are already gradually shortening though the heat is still overbearing, making one wish for Autumn's speedy arrival, yet want to savor every last bit of summertime. It's time for me to get my mind mentally adjusted for the school year once again, and start making attempts at winding down and getting to sleep earlier and awake by the crack of dawn. I'll be taking on a much greater workload this school year as well, which makes me both anxious to get started, while reluctant to even think about what's in store. What I'll miss most about summer is the sounds of the season - sounds of life and its daily rhythms. Soon I won't hear the waves of cicada calls in the morning, the songs of various birds during the day, or the calming din of cricket chirps greeting the nightfall. It's easy to take these incredible, everyday sounds for granted, as one grows accustomed to their very presence. I've been trying to listen more closely to them lately, as well as look more observantly at my surroundings. I find that taking up a visual form of art, such as drawing or photography, actually makes this process of being more in tune with the present, easier. The same can be said for making music, or in my case, making an effort to listen to music, with an emphasis on the word listen. Ultimately, this can improve one's enjoyment and satisfaction with life, while the need to obtain more extraneous "things", which ultimately lead to a hollow and fleeting happiness, gradually decreases. Unfortunately, none of these things - the drawing, the photography, or the listening to music have ever improved my horrific sense of direction, as anyone who has ever known me will attest to. In the meantime, I finally have acquired one "thing" that I find very useful, a camera that takes decent macro shots. If there's one thing that signals an end to Summer more than anything else, in my humble opinion, it's the discovery of dead cicadas.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

the skies in late july

While the heat can be too much to bear sometimes during the summer, one of the best things about it is the skies. While in Akron earlier last month, I took lots of good shots of the dramatic cloud formations above me, and later in the month, the ones you see here were taken while in Leesburg, VA. I'm glad to have a little camera I can carry around and use on a whim, yet still get some quality photographs. Both the ones you see above and below were from when I was out and about.